Harrison County, Kentucky
of Bourbon, Scott, Harrison & Nicholas Counties, Kentucky
Edited by, William Henry Perrin, O.L. Baskin & Co., Chicago, 1882
SETTLEMENT OF THE COUNTY BY WHITE PEOPLE--LIFE IN THE WILDERNESS--ITS HARDSHIPS AND PRIVATIONS--ORGANIZATION OF THE COUNTY, AND ITS MACHINERY SET IN MOTION--THE ERECTION OF PUBLIC BUILDINGS--ELECTION PRECINCTS, POPULATIONS, ETC.--COUNTY OFFICERS.
“may they fame be made,
Great People! As the sands shalt thou become;
Thy growth is swift as morn; when night must fade,
The multitudinous earth shall sleep beneath thy shade!" ****
IT is a curious truth that when two living friends part, they are, as it were, dead to each other until they meet again. Letters may be interchanged, but the present of the one is not the presence of the other. That was a trite simile of a late writer, “that in this world we are like ships on the ocean--each striving alone amid the war of the elements; and in the far-forward distance shadowed before us are the dim outlines of the land of death. Some reach it soonest, but thither all are bound.” No sadder realization of the inscrutable decree that, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” is wanting than collecting the history of a country or people. Here, we look around for us for the old landmarks, and find them moldering in the graveyards. The pioneers who braved the perils of “flood and field,” to open up this country, have melted away like mists before the morning sun, and, as we said, repose quietly in the graveyard. The pioneers are all gone, and many of their children are now old and tottering toward the grave. Soon, they, too, will have disappeared, and fortunate is it for the historian that he has, through them, rescued from oblivion some of the facts pertaining to the settlement of this famed section.
Much of the early history of Harrison County is given in the first part of this volume, under the respective heads of “Geology,” “Pre-historic,” “Indians,” etc., and will not be recapitulated. But its history will be taken up with its settlement by the whites. From the most reliable data at hand, there is but little doubt that the section now embraced in Harrison County was seen by white people as early as 1775, though it is probable that no permanent settlement was made until a year or two later. Collins gives an account, which bears every evidence of being correct, of a company of men, who, in the spring of 1775, made a visit here “in search of lands to improve.” This company consisted of John Hinkston, John Haggin, John Martin, John Townsend, James Cooper, Daniel Callahan, Matthew Fenton, George Gray, William Hoskins, William Shields, Thomas Shores, Silas Train, Samuel Wilson and John Wood. “In the neighborhood between Paris and Cynthiana, they improved lands, made small clearings, built a cabin for each member of the company, named after some of them Hinkston and Townsend Creeks, and Cooper’s Run, and afterward settled Hinkston and Martin’s Stations. Of the settlement of Hinkston Station we gather the following: Col. John Hinkston, the grandfather of Thomas Hinkston, settled Hinkston Station in April, 1775. The station was on the old Buffalo trace or Indian route, from the big spring at Georgetown to the Lower Blue Licks in the present county of Nicholas, and on the farm now owned by John Lair, near Lair’s Station. There was quite a fierce engagement here with the Indians shortly after its settlement--Col. Hinkston being in command of the station, and the notorious renegade, Simon Girty, of the Indian forces. The ammunition gave out at the station, and Col. Hinkston was forced to surrender himself to the Indians. This he did under promise that the remainder of his men, and women and children, should be allowed to remain at the station unmolested, and he (Hinkston) to be furnished with Girty’s uniform, which would be a guaranty of safety while a prisoner. These conditions were complied with, and he was taken to the “broad ford” on the South Fork of the Licking, which is in the northern portion of this county, and about two miles north of what is now Cole[Page 218]mansville. He was there hid and guarded by a large number of Indians, who formed a circle around him, facing to the center, and thus lay down to sleep. When slumber closed upon them, his cords were untied by Mrs. Boyers, who was also a prisoner, and he sprang to his feet, seized a gun and ran to the bank of the river, which was here very deep, plunged in and swam safely to the other side, amide a perfect shower of bullets from the Indians who had been suddenly awakened, and were in hot pursuit. On the following day, he returned to the station, with his clothes torn, and presenting a very unnatural appearance. At first, he was not recognized by his friends at the station, but climbing into a tree he made himself known, when he received a hearty welcome as one who had come back from the jaws of death. The station was abandoned after this for a few years. John Townsend, on Townsend Creek, and John Cooper, on the waters of Hinkston, raised corn, in 1775, from which the latter furnished seed to a number of improvers in the same region in 1776.”
These improvements were made in conformity with a law of Virginia passed in 1774, donating 400 acres of land in Kentucky, to every person, who made an improvement, built a cabin, cleared a piece of ground and raised a crop of Indiana corn. This opportunity of procuring cheap farms brought many adventurous persons to Kentucky in 1775-76, and the company referred to, was, perhaps, the first visitors to what is now Harrison County, unless those pioneer hunters--Boone and Kenton--had passed through it on hunting excursions. Another company came to Harrison in 1776, among whom were George Bright, William Craig, James McMillen, Thomas Moore, William Nesbit, Col. Benjamin Harrison (the first Sheriff of Bourbon County), James McGraw, Robert Thompson, Joseph Peak, William Huston, Robert Kean and others. Several of these parties made improvements and raised crops during this year. In this way, many of the settlements were made in this part of the State. Men would come in squads, located lands, make the necessary improvements to entitle them to the 400 acres of land, and then leave them. The Indians were numerous, and opposed, with all the power which desperation in fuses, these encroachments of the whites, and sought every means to harass and murder them. Most of the parties mentioned above, were driven from their early improvements through fear of the Indians. Many of the settlements were attacked, the settlers captured, the settlements laid waste, and the whites either murdered or carried away as prisoners. Ruddel’s Station shared their fate. Ruddel’s was one of the early settlements made within the limits of the county. It was upon the site of the improvements made by Hinkston and others, and who were driven away by the Indians. Some years later, Isaac and James Ruddel, with a few companions, resettled it. Its capture is mentioned in another chapter of this work, among other Indiana depredations and barbarities. Thus the first occupation of the country by our ancestors was under difficulties and exposed to many dangers.
Hall’s sketches of the West has an extract from a letter written at Boonesboro by Col. Richard Henderson, one of the proprietors of the Transylvania Land Company, under date of June 12, 1775, shows something of the state of affairs here, and the interest manifested in securing the rich lands of Central Kentucky: “We are seated at the mouth of Otter Creek, on the Kentucky River, about 150 miles from the Ohio. To the west, about fifty miles from us, are two settlements within six or seven miles of one of the other. There were, some time ago, about one hundred at the two places, though now, perhaps, not more tan sixty or seventy--as many of them are gone up the Ohio, etc., and some returned by the way we came to Virginia and elsewhere. These men, in the cause of hunting provisions, lands, etc., are some of them constantly out, and scour the woods from the banks of the river near forty or fifty miles southward. On the opposite side of the Kentucky River, and north from us about forty miles is a settlement on the crown lands of about nineteen persons, and lower down toward the Ohio, on the same side, there are some other settlers, how many, or at what place, I can’t exactly learn. There is also a party of about ten or twelve, with a surveyor, who is employed in searching through that country, and laying off officer’s lands; they have been for more than three weeks within ten miles of us, and will be for several weeks longer, ranging up and down that country.” These last parties referred to were no doubt, the companies, whose settlement we have mentioned above. The surveyor was probably James Douglass, who surveyed much of the lands of what is now Bourbon, Harrison and Nicholas Counties.
An old manuscript written by Thomas Anderson, who came to Kentucky with his father’s family in 1783, and when he was but nine years old, in our possession, gives some rather interesting facts of their trip to this country and their settlement. Mr. Anderson was born in Pennsylvania, and when six years old his father removed to North Carolina, and came to Kentucky, as above stated, in 1783, locating in Lincoln County. Mr. Anderson thus describes the trip to Kentucky and their settlements in Lincoln and Harrison: “The first night after we started into the wilderness on our journey to Kentucky, the Indians surrounded our camps and stole eighteen horses, among them one of [Page 219] my father’s, which left us but two. This made it rather hard on them, one of which soon afterward gave out, and we left it on the way. My mother then had to walk and carry her child. We had four cows, and my father gave them for a young horse, which enabled us to bring our stuff through. We heard the Indians on the mountains round our camps when they got our horses. After we crossed the Cumberland River, part of the men went back and followed the Indians, but soon lost the trail, and so we lost our horses. My father settledd on land leased from Col. Harrod at Craig’s Station. We lived in a tent until we built our cabin, and during the time (while in the tent) a heavy snow fell, and one night a wolf came to the tent, and took a ham of bacon from under my head while I was asleep, and started away with it, but the dog attacked him and he let it fall. We tracked him to a canebrake not far away, but could not catch him.
“Old Mr. Gill had some hogs that had gone wild and live din the canebrake, and he told my father if he would catch them he might have half of them. So father found where the hogs slept by the side of an old log, and fed them for a few days at their bed. After awhile he built a strong pen around them with a trap door for them to go in. One morning he went there before day and sprung the trap door upon them and fastened them in. He then sent me after Mr. Gill, who came, and they divided the hogs. We tied and hauled them home and killed them. This was the first pork we had ever killed in Kentucky.” This was the way the first settlers lived in the Kentucky wilderness. Though this was in Lincoln County, it was but the same that the pioneers underwent in all parts of the State. Mr. Anderson thus describes their removal to and settlement in Harrison County in 1788:
“In 1788, my father removed to Harrison County, and settled on Indiana Creek, about four miles east of Cynthiana. There were but few settlers in the neighborhood then. Father came over the year before, and bought fifty acres of land from Frank Mann, for which he paid twenty shillings an acre. He also hired a man to build him a house, and we moved into it the spring of 1788. I came in the fall of 1787, although but fourteen years old, and worked all winter clearing ground and making rails; I made two thousand rails, cleared about ten acres of land, and during the time boarded with a man named Thomas Butler, who was a great hunter. When we settled here deer and bears were plenty between our house and Cynthiana. About a year after our settlement in Harrison, I was in the woods one day with Jo. Smith, when we heard what we at first thought was a locust, but it ‘sung’ too long for a locust, and so we concluded it must be a snake. Upon searching for it, I at last spied it--a large rattlesnake stretched out on a log. I got a stick and held it and cut its head off, then attempted to cut its rattles off, when it struck me on the wrist with its bloody neck as vicious as a tiger. Smith said I turned pale; I really thought it had bit me, until I reflected that I had cut its head off.” Mr. Anderson tells the following story that is illustrative of frontier life: “A boy about eight years old, was lost in the woods here in the spring of 1787. It was while my father was over here purchasing his land and arranging for having a cabin built, ad he turned out as did everybody else in the settlement, to look for the lost lad. He was not found for nine days, and when finally he was discovered, he had to be run down, for he had grown perfectly wild while lost. After they got him, and his excitement had somewhat worn off, he said he had often heard them blowing horns, and hallooing, but was afraid to show himself, lest they might prove to be Indians. He had lived on roots and nuts; had built a hut of sticks and bark, and made him a bed of leaves, and thus was playing Daniel Boone on a small scale.” These extracts have been given merely to illustrate the mode of life in the early times, and to show our readers what the pioneers of the beautiful Blue Grass Region had to withstand while subduing its canebrakes and forests. We will give one or more short extract from Mr. Anderson’s reminiscences of early life:* “Our mode of life when I was a boy was plain, our food was beef, fish, fowl, bread of light loaf and batter cakes; vegetables, Irish potatoes, cabbage, turnips, onions, greens, etc. Wild fruit was plenty, and use din many ways. Our clothing was all home-made. We raised flax and sheep in those days; the men and women all pulled flax together. The first to ripen was pulled first; the young girls and boys would have quite a party after the flax was pulled. The flax was rotted, then broke, swingled--the men would break it and the women would swingle--after which it was made into cloth by the women, and the cloth into clothing. We would shear the sheep about the middle of May; the men would do the shearing and the women washing the wool, and when dry, there would be wool-pickings, at which the young people would have quite a frolic. The wool was carded and spun at home--carded upon hand cards and spun upon the big wheel--and then wove into blankets, jeans, flannel, linsey, etc.; or knit into stockings as necessity required.” Such were the pioneer times over which the aged wavering mind loves to linger--times when
“Fancy yet brings, on her bright golden wings, Her beautiful pictures again from the past.”
We have seen how, when Bourbon County was formed, [Page 220] it was a vast territory of almost boundless dimensions, and how, as settlements increased, Scott County, in 1792, was formed out of the extensive territory of Woodford. So, as the population continued to increase, Harrison, in 1793, was erected from Bourbon’s “broad domain,” and from Scott--the two contributing liberally to its formation. Like Bourbon, Harrison comprised a large tract of country extending to the Ohio River, and from its original territory several counties have been wholly or in part created, viz.: Campbell in 1794; Pendleton and Boone in 1798; Owen in 1819; Grant in 1820; Kenton on 1840, and Robertson in 1867. Thus, Harrison may be very truly termed a prolific mother. The county is at presented bounded on the north by Pendleton County, on the northeast and east by Bracken, Robertson and Nicholas, on the south by Bourbon, and on the west and northwest by Scott and Grant Counties. It is watered and drained by the Licking River and its tributaries; the southern part lies in the Blue Grass Region proper, and partakes of the beautiful rolling surface of that famous land, while the northern part is inclined to be somewhat hilly and broken, but the entire county is rich and productive. Harrison received its name from Col. Benjamin Harrison, an early resident of Bourbon, the first Sheriff of that county, and its representative in the State at the time of the formation of this county. He was a native of Pennsylvania, and removed to Bourbon prior to its formation as a county in 1785, where he held many prominent positions, among them, in addition to those mentioned above, that the representative of Bourbon in several of the Danville Conventions. He was also a member of the convention that formed the first constitution of Kentucky. Cynthiana, the county-seat, is a beautiful little city, and was laid out in 1793. Its history will be found in subsequent chapters of this volume.
The first court of Harrison County was held in February, 1794. Robert Hinkston was the first Sheriff; Benjamin Harrison, Hugh Miller, Henry Coleman, Samuel McIlvain, Nathan Rawlings and Charles Zachary, Justices of the Peace, all of whom were sworn in February 4, 1794, and formed the first County Court; they elected William Moore, Clerk. They held their first court in the house of Morgan Van Meter; Richard Henderson was the first County Attorney; Daniel Lindsay the first Coroner; Archibald Hutchinson, Thomas Rankin and William Hall qualified as Constables. Henry Coleman was the first Surveyor, with Benjamin Harrison as Deputy; also John Little and Edward Coleman as Deputies. At this session of court, a ferry was granted to Benjamin Harrison across the Licking River; he was also appointed Commissioner of Tax. Among other business done was a tavern license granted to Robert Harrison in Cynthiana, for one year; also one to William Harrison; a ferry to Robert Harrison across South Licking, near the mouth of Gray’s Run, where the present bridge is. At the next session of the court held April1, 1794, called the Court of Quarter Sessions, the tavern rates were fixed as follows: Whisky, half a pint, 6d; breakfast, 1s; dinner, 1s 3d; dinner, 1s 3d; supper, 1s; bed, 6d; corn and oats, 2d per quart; stable and hay for one horse, twenty-four hours, 1s. The seat of justice was at this court fixed at Cynthiana, on ground laid off for that purpose. The court agreed with Robert Harrison to build a stray pen, “ten panels square, nine rails high, staked and ridered” and for which he was afterward allowed £7 10s. The court also agreed with Thomas Rankin to erect a “pair of stocks” on the public ground in Cynthiana.
Of the building of the first court house, the records give no account. But at the session of court held in October, 1797, an order was passed to repair the court house--it is supposed that one was built about 1794--as at the session of court held in June of that year, it was “ordered that public building for the county be erected.” The second court house was built in 1816. The plan was reported by a board of commissioners, comprised of Gresham Forrest, William Brown, William Moore, James Kelley and Thomas Holt, and was as follows: Brick upon a stone foundation, fifty feet in the clear, with a chimney at each corner. The first story twenty feet high, the second one in proportion, with “hip” roof, and cupola in center. Gallery over court room reached by two flights of stairs from opposite sides; the building entire cost about $12,000. A clerk’s office was erected on the square with two apartments, each sixteen feet square, and fire-proof. The plastering of the court house was first given to John Stamp for $750, but he failed to comply with contract, and it was given to Reuben Payne for $850. He did not finish the job--was paid $600 for the work done, and the remaining $200 was afterward (in 1820), appropriated to repair the rod and spire. This house was burned January 24, 1851. It had been insured by the Protective Insurance Company, of Hartford, Conn., and after a great deal of trouble and some litigation, a compromise was effected. A contract for a new court house was made with John Huddleson & Co. They did part of the work and failed, when a new contract was made as follows: with R.M. & W.B. Calhoun for carpenter work at $2,270; J.F. Harrick at $375 for painting and glazing; B.F. Pullen, of Paris, the plastering at 37½ cents per square yard, and $60 extra for plastering the pillars. A copper roof was afterward ordered instead of iron, and $800 appropriated for the difference in cost.
The first jail was built by Thomas Mounts in 1795, who [Page 221] received therefore £57 10s. A new jail was built in 1803, and, in 1804, Anthony Arnold the Jailer, protested against this jail, as being insufficient to hold prisoners. Another jail was built in 1852, which burned in 1862, and then the present one was built. More particulars are given of these public buildings in Mr. Marshall’s history of Cynthiana to be found elsewhere in this volume. The first division of the county into districts or precincts, of which we have any account, was in 1798, when it was “laid off into thirteen districts for the aid of Constables.” Without going into a description of all the changes, however, that have been made in its civil division, we will give it as districted at present, which is as follows: Cynthiana, No. 1; Sylvan Dell, No. 2; Richland, No. 3; Berry, No. 4; Rutland, No. 5; Unity, No. 6; Leesburg, No. 7, and Claysville, No. 8. In each of these precincts there are two Justices of the Peace and one Constable. These Justices of the Peace form the Board of Magistrates or the County Court, and, in connection with the County Judge, transact all county business. The Board of Magistrates at present is as follows: C.J. Land and R.J. Whitaker in No. 1; Peter Florence and David Ross in No. 2; John B. Jouett and J.N. Whitaker in No. 3; Charles Lail and James McMurtry in No. 4; T.W. Hardy, and W.N. Matthews in No. 5; N.J. Henry and H.M. Levi in No. 6; T.B. Arnett and R.J. Levi in No. 7; and R.G. Taylor and W.T. Asbury in No. 8.
Previous to the adoption of the new State Constitution in 1849-50, all county officers were appointive. When the new constitution went into effect in 1850, the same became elective. The first set of county officers under the new regime was as follows; P. Wherritt, Clerk; William B. Glane, Sheriff; John A. Berry, Deputy Sheriff; W.W. Trimble, County Attorney; H. Coffman, County Judge; Samuel C. Frazer, Coroner, and J.A. Thorp, Surveyor.
The present county officers are H.H. Haviland, County Judge; P. Wherritt, Clerk; William Lafferty, County Attorney; Enoch Craigmyle, Jailer; Aaron Dills, Coroner, and R.M. Collier, Sheriff. The first Board of Magistrates under the new State Constitution were, for No. 1, Samuel Williams and Edward Wait; for No. 2, Daniel Wait and D.H. Raymond; for No. 3, A.M. Cameron and D. Hardin; for No. 4, R.S. Haviland and S.A. Whittaker; for No. 5, J.P. Blair and M.D. Martin; for No. 6, Benj. Robinson and Joseph Miller; for No. 7, George Lemmon and E.D. Cason, and for No. 8, Benjamin Cummins and William English.
The County Poor House and Farm is a regular county institution. The Harrison County Poor House is located in Berry Precinct, and is kept by Mrs. Polly De Jarnette. She has kept it for the past twelve years and under a contract with the county. Newton Henry, Esq., is the Commissioner, and Dr. A.B. McGill, the physician in charge. The present buildings were erected in 1866, and consist of a large and commodious brick, and several small frame houses, the whole being sufficient to accommodate some fifty persons. The inmates at present number twenty, for which the keeper is paid $1.70 per head each week.--W.H. Perrin.
These reminiscences were written by Mr. Anderson when he was eighty-four
years of age, in good health,
and as he expressed it, “able to shoot a rifle as well as a boy twenty.”
Transcribed and edited by Philip Naff, August, 1999.
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