In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, and the Mayflower came over with the pilgrims in 1620, but it wasn’t until 1669 that European explorers to the New World reached beyond the Blue Ridge. On assignment from the colonial governor of Virginia, German physician John Lederer set out on three expeditions to Appalachia between 1669 and 1670, and he mapped the major landforms of Virginia during his travels. At the time, prevailing opinions indicated that California and the Indian Ocean would be found just west of the Appalachian Mountains, and Lederer’s expeditions were intended to find the most passable route for trade from the Atlantic Ocean to the Far East.

During his travels, he explored modern-day Virginia and North Carolina, meeting many Native Americans from a wide range of tribes, and twice crested the Blue Ridge Mountains to see the Shenandoah Valley and Allegheny Mountains beyond. Unable to find a clear passage through them, he turned back each time, heading north and south along the Appalachian range. Along the way, he took notes on his geographical observations as well as the Indian people he met, and he sketched out maps of the areas he explored.

Sir William Talbot, governor of Maryland, translated Lederer’s expedition notes from Latin to English and published them as “The Discoveries of John Lederer.” This account served later explorers with a rudimentary understanding of this central portion of the New World.

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