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Early Albemarle, like most 18th century communities, was close-knit. On the edges of the wilderness, Albemarle's first settlers had to rely on each other to help administer and protect the county. This interdependence led to some unexpected consequences. Through frequent interaction, ambitious and curious men came together, creating a community focused on western exploration. Certainly, individuals like James Maury, Peter Jefferson, Joshua Fry, and Thomas Walker came from different backgrounds, different countries, and had distinct interests for exploring the west, but each left accomplishments for future generations to build upon. Thomas Jefferson had many motivations in issuing Lewis and Clark's expedition. The benefits for travel and trade if a river passage to the Pacific Ocean would be phenomenal. Additionally, the world of science had so much to learn from the potential discoveries of western flora and fauna. The multi-layered motivations of Jefferson, Lewis, and Clark, reflect the institutions already in place in Albemarle County. Many believe that western exploration did not begin until 1803, but long before then, men in Albemarle County were making the first baby steps towards the Pacific Ocean. James Maury took steps with his imagination, theorizing what the west would be like, and inculcating his students with curiosity. Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson measured and documented the landscape, giving security to those who like themselves, wanted to reap the benefits of their land holdings. Fry, Jefferson, and their sons understood the potential the west held for trade and wealth. Dr. Thomas Walker explored and settled in areas further west than any other British colonist and inspired the minds of later generations. In discovering the Cumberland Gap, later generations would be able to settle beyond the Allegheny's, an unthinkable prospect 50 years before. Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark are products of a society which prized abundance, be it of wealth, land, or knowledge. By examining their predecessors, we see the first inspirations for the Corps of Discovery, who like their forefathers, were obsessed with what lay beyond the mountains.


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