This road played a major role in the settlement of Tennessee in the area from the Cumberland Plateau and the Cumberland River, It was not the first road through the area, but followed older paths at several points. It provided an adequate and relatively secure path to the west for early American settlers in the region.
The road was named for William Walton of Carthage, one of its surveyors and builders. In 1795, Walton, anticipating profits from the promotion of travel along the route, secured permission from Governor William Blount for the construction of the first section of the road which ran from North Carolina into Tennessee.
In 1799, he and two others were appointed to establish a new east-west road by Tennessee's General Assembly. They completed it in 1801 and it was officially designated the Cumberland Turnpike, but popularly was called the Walton Road.
It went 100 miles to Carthage and was 15 feet wide, free of stumps, leveled on the side of hills and with bridges or causeways built over streams. Mile markers were carved into trees every three miles. Tollgates and stands (inns) were established along the route.