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In the early 1800s many thoughtful Americans believed that isolation and the difficulties of communication would force the Mississippi Valley settlements to form a separate nation. Hoping to hold the frontier, Congress in 1800 established a post route from Nashville to Natchez. The Trace, then a series of Indian trails, had drawn from the Secretary of State the bitter comment, "The passage of mail from Natchez is as tedious as from Europe when westerly winds prevail." To speed the mail, President Jefferson ordered the army to clear out the trail and make it a road. Postriders carrying letters, dispatches and newspapers helped bind the vast, turbulent frontier to the republic. However, their day passed. By the mid 1830s steamboats running from New Orleans to Pittsburgh robbed the Trace of its usefulness as a main post road.


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