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During the pre-Civil War period, the Mount Sterling-Pound Gap Road was Eastern Kentucky’s main highway. Horses, cattle and hogs raised in Central Kentucky were driven over the road to livestock markets in Abingdon, Lynchburg, and other Virginia towns, and it was also used by the Iron-Salt trade. Originally a series of Indian trails, it was maintained and improved at state expense by local contractors using picks and shovels and horse-drawn graders.

The first survey of the road was authorized in 1817. It began at Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, and extended southeast through Hazel Green, Licking Station, Prestonsburg, Laynesville and Pikeville to the Virginia State Line at Pound Gap. Horses, cattle and hogs raised in Central Kentucky were driven over the road to livestock markets in Abingdon, Lynchburg, and other Virginia towns, and it was also used by the Iron-Salt trade. Freighters using wagons drawn by oxen carried salt from the salt mines in Saltville, Virginia to markets in Central Kentucky and returned to Virginia carrying iron ingots smelted in the Bath County ironworks. 

The state appropriated $2,700 for the road in 1824 and $23,000 in 1836, $8,000 of which was spent on the most rugged section of the road, the section extending from Pikeville to Pound Gap. The contractor who improved this section was Thomas May of Pike County, brother of Floyd County politician Samuel May and owner of a large farm on Shelby Creek.   

During the War Between the States, the road served as the main thoroughfare for troops moving between Central Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky. In the days preceding the Battle of Middle Creek, after vacating their trenches at Hager Hill, Marshall’s four regiments marched up the Prestonsburg Road to the mouth of Abbott Creek, where that road intersected the Pound Gap Road. Then they moved up Abbott Creek on the Pound Gap Road and over the ridge to this location, the Forks of Middle Creek, which was traversed by an alternate route of the Pound Gap Road.

Marshall decided to make his stand at the Forks for several reasons. He had received intelligence that Cranor’s 40th Ohio was moving east from Licking Station to reinforce Garfield. He also knew, of course, that Garfield was pursuing him from Paintsville. By placing his army at the Forks of Middle Creek, Marshall was in a position to intercept Cranor’s force if it advanced east along the Pound Gap Road and Garfield’s force if it advanced west along the Pound Gap Road from the mouth of Middle Creek. 

The position also afforded him a victory route and an escape route. If victorious, he could move his army via the Pound Gap Road into Central Kentucky. If defeated, he could escape by way of the road leading up the Left Fork of Middle Creek. As things turned out, he was forced to retreat from the position using the latter road. Marshall retreated through modern-day Goodloe and Pyramid, over Brushy Mountain, and down Brush Creek to Hueysville, where he established a camp at the
Joseph Gearheart Farm.

Tradition says that his men burned all the fence posts on the farm in order to keep themselves warm. An unidentified Confederate soldier died of his wounds during the encampment and was subsequently buried in the
Gearheart Cemetery. After camping for a week at Hueysville, Marshall moved his men farther up Right Beaver Creek to Martin’s Mill (modern-day Wayland), where they received a warm welcome from Confederate loyalist Johnny Martin, the neighborhood’s largest landowner.
The Mount Sterling-Pound Gap Road
Middle Creek Main Page
Why They Fought Here
The Opposing Commanders
The Confederate Waiting Game
The Artillery That Failed
The Union Command Post
The Confederate Command Post
The Union Assault
Monroe's Bayonet Charge
A Desperate Fight, But Few Casualties
The John M. Burns House
The Samuel May Farm
The Middle Creek Foundation
Middle Creek
Samuel May House
Archive Main Page
Colonel George W. Monroe
Colonel Ezekiel F. Clay
Colonel Lionel A. Sheldon
Colonel Don A. Pardee
Colonel Hiram Hawkins
Colonel Alfred C. Moore
Colonel John S. Williams
Colonel George W. Gallup
Dr. Stephen M. Ferguson
Civil War
The Skirmish
at Abbott Shoal