Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Saturday, December 5, 2020
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Photo from the Armstrong Archives
Courtview was built circa 1823 in the Federal style by Col. Richard Sutfield, a prominent local citizen and builder of several fine houses in town. The clear view from the front porch to the courthouse less than a mile away provided the house with its name and its unusual orientation facing away from the street. The interior has examples of woodwork attributed to master craftsman and Harrodsburg cabinetmaker, Matthew P. Lowery.
The James Harrod Trust marker reads:
"Occupying out-lot 5, Courtview is so named for its view of the courthouse when this Federal brick residence was built in 1823 by Col Richard M. Sutfield and his first wife, Elizabeth Thomas. Contains Matthew P. Lowery woodwork with unique mantel pieces for every room."
Saturday, November 21, 2020
St. Philips Episcopal Church is the only church in Harrodsburg's central business district that stands as it was originally built. The Gothic architectural design was the result of Bishop Smith’s desire to create something “worthy of town.” Harrodsburg was known at the time as “the Saratoga of the South” because of the throngs of wealthy Southerners, many of whom was Episcopalians, who came here for the benefits of the medicinal spring water. It has been called “the most perfect specimen of pure Gothic, exterior and Interior, of its size in Kentucky.”
St. Philips was dedicated in 1861 by its designer Bishop Benjamin Smith. The church sits on land rich in history, from Indian fights to the horrors of the Civil War. The land was the site of skirmishes in the late 18th century between the pioneers, including James Harrod's militia and the Indians. After the Battle of Perryville in 1862, the church was the site of General Leonidas Polk’s impassioned prayer for blessings on friend and foe alike.
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Photo from personal collection
The Benjamin Passmore House and Hotel was built by Passmore and has been a landmark on Broadway Street since it was built circa 1843. It has passed through many hands and has served - during its 168 years - as a hotel, stage coach stop, boarding house, grocery, and now the offices of the Harrodsburg Herald newspaper. When it was the Mercer House, there was an advertisement that read, “---the bar is furnished with pure liquors and the best will be sold by the barrel if desired.”
Saturday, November 14, 2020
Photo from Images of America: Harrodsburg
The “Hat Factory,” is a building which was the St. Andrew parish house when Father Myers was there. It was built in 1795 as an office for a hat factory on nearby Mooreland Avenue. In 1893, Dr. Graham sold it to St. Andrew for use as a parish house and later as a convent house for the school nuns. This historic house was the oldest brick building still standing in Harrodsburg and Mercer County until 2003, when it was bought by the Harrodsburg Baptist Church and demolished after 208 years of service to the community.
Friday, November 13, 2020
1749 ~ 1837
Eighth Virginia Regiment Revolutionary War
Settled Bowman Station, Kentucky, 1779
Colonel John Bowman
1733 ~ 1784
First County Lieutenant of Kentucky, 1778
Major Joseph Bowman
1752 ~ 1779
Second in Command to George Rogers Clark
Vincennes Expedition; Captured Cahokia
Captain Isaac Bowman
1757 ~ 1824
Erected by the Descendants of Abraham Bowman
Honoring Four Pioneer Brothers - 1928
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Post Card from my personal collection
Aspen Hall is an 1840 Greek Revival Manor House built on land that was originally part of Greenville Springs. This 9,000 square foot home was built by Dr. James Shannon, President of Bacon College, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has received a Kentucky Landmark Certificate by the Heritage Commission. Aspen Hall sits on an acre of land surrounded by magnolia trees, within walking distance of downtown Harrodsburg.
Sunday, November 1, 2020
Thursday, October 29, 2020
Friday, October 9, 2020
Anna Elliott Bohon was born on January 7, 1893 in Pike County, Kentucky and was educated at Pikeville Collegiate Institute, now Pikeville College. Her nursing education was at Dr. Hall’s Hospital School of Nursing, Cincinnati, Ohio. She did graduate work at Cincinnati General Hospital in children’s diseases. She studied and received a certificate in the technique of radiology from Hunter College of the City of New York. She did work at Post Graduate Hospital and Medical College in Chicago, took post graduate courses at Nazareth College, Louisville and City Hospital in Louisville, as well as other short studies at various institutes on X-ray technique, anesthesia, Red Cross staff aid service and operating problems of small hospitals.
Anna Elliott served in the Barrow Hospital Unit from Lexington, Kentucky in England during World War I and later with the Red Cross camp hospital in France.
Anna Elliott came to Harrodsburg February 1926 and was married to Henry Clay Bohon in February 1927. She became Superintendent of the A.D. Price Memorial Hospital at Harrodsburg in 1926 and gave practically all anesthetics at that hospital and its successor the James B. Haggin Memorial Hospital until her retirement.
She was Chairman of the Harrodsburg hospital board from 1940 to 1964 and was one of the leading forces in raising the money and making the plans for the building of the present James B. Haggin Memorial Hospital, now owned by Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center.
Mrs. Bohon helped organize the local Red Cross Blood Bank and was active in volunteer work there. Honors she received are: Harrodsburg Woman of the Year – 1950; Outstanding Club Woman of Kentucky, 1949-1950; Mercer County Citizen chosen by Harrodsburg Rotary Club – 1965; Memorial garden and new wing of James B. Haggin Hospital named in her honor – 1964; Woman of Achievement in the Community chosen by the Harrodsburg Business and Professional Women’s Club 1976; and Community Leader of America in 1969 edition of Community Leaders of America.
Anna Elliott Bohon, truly an outstanding woman of service to her community. The Anna Elliott Bohon Women's Club was organized in 1990 and is a philanthropic organization dedicated to serving the women and girls of Mercer County.
Monday, October 5, 2020
James Harrod Takes A Wife
Up until now, James Harrod had no interest in starting a family. Early in his career he had been too busy to find a girl and marry. But now Kentucky was growing, and he thought it would be nice to have a household and a wife to make it cozy. In early 1778, he took a shine to twenty-two year old widowed Ann Coburn McDaniel. Ann made a good match for James because he was one of the finest men in Kentucky. He was strong, energetic, and smart and gentle mannered and he had the best pieces of land in the country.
Ann was small, beautiful, cultured, and educated. She came to Kentucky in 1776 with her first husband, James McDaniel, who was killed by Native Americans the same year. In late 1777, Ann’s father, whom she lived with at Logan’s Station, was also killed and scalped by Native Americans while picking corn between Logan’s and Harrod’s forts. She had a two year old son, James McDonald, Jr., whom James Harrod would come to love as his own.
In mid-February 1778, the Harrod wedding took place at Logan’s Station. February was a quiet time at the fort because Indian tribesmen were in their camps, waiting for spring, and this gave settlers time for a big celebration. New supplies of jerked meat were stowed away and the ground was too frozen to prepare for the new crops, so it was time for a party.
Harrod’s wedding was probably typical for frontier affairs, with the groom arriving at noon and the celebration lasting until the next day. By today’s standards it was probably a boring affair with no silver, fine china, or pure Irish linen to cover the table; no beautiful flowers or soft music, just the seesaw of a screaming violin accompanied by tapping feet and clapping hands.
Ann had one ruffled dress and a brooch she brought across the mountains. James wore a new hunting shirt and leggings. Because it was such a long trip to Williamsburg to get a marriage license, James and Ann married without one. This would bother Ann in later years when she was involved in lawsuits over her inheritance. In later years she took great pains to prove the legality of her wedding.
The ceremony preceded a dinner of all the best the pioneers had to offer. The warm weather of this particular February had started a new flow of maple sap, so the couple had hasty pudding, a favorite dessert made with cornmeal mush and baked with molasses. Bear meat and venison with kraut were also favorite dishes. Gourds and wooden plates held food and there were a few pewter cups to hold milk or toddy.
A dried apple stack cake was a form of pioneer wedding cake that was served. Because wedding cakes were so expensive, neighbors brought cake layers to donate to the bride’s family. The dough would be rolled or pressed out into very thin layers and baked in cast iron skillets. The family of the bride cooked, sweetened, and spiced dried apples to spread between the layers of the cake. The number of layers in the wedding cake was a gauge of the bride’s popularity. The average cake had seven to eight layers, but sometimes there would be twelve or more. The dried apple stack cake recipe was supposedly brought to Kentucky by James Harrod along the Wilderness Trail.
After dinner the fun really began as the dancing started, with the bride and groom jigging off the first reel. Jokes and games were abundant and everyone had fun until the girls pulled the bride to one side and led her up to the cabin loft. When she was tucked securely into bed, the men carried the groom up the ladder and dropped him on the cornhusk mattress beside his bride.
Dancing continued in the room below with the occasional intermission to take drinks to the newlyweds. Closer to morning the women placed a huge bowl of kraut or hominy before the couple and the newlyweds had to eat it all before the guests below would leave them alone. By midmorning the last guest was gone and the couple went to their own home where another crowd would give them a rousing welcome.
Harrod’s new station at Boiling Springs was incomplete and too isolated for safety, so he took Ann straight on to Fort Harrod, where they lived until the next fall. Boiling Springs became Harrod’s Station and though no exact description exists, it is said to have been several cabins surrounded by a stockade. Also living with them were Samuel and Margaret Coburn (Ann Harrod’s parents) and her brother’s family, the James Coburns.
Ann got busy helping James to greet the many new settlers arriving to Harrod’s Town during the summer of 1778. She had to teach the women to make linsey, show them where to find the best herbs for the “itch,” and what to do for snakebites and fever.
Friday, October 2, 2020
In 1938, Harrodsburg was given the opportunity by its 6th district congressman to secure murals for the post office lobby which would depict the history of the town. This project was handled by the state Director of Federal Art under the Works Progress Administration (WPA). During this period, the WPA did numerous art projects in post offices around the country.
Photo by Keith Rightmyer
This photograph shows a mural depicting pioneers welcoming travelers to the fort and the bottom picture shows settlers at the spring collecting water. Because the murals are painted so high up the 12-feet high walls, it is hard to get adequate photographs, but these give a glimpse into what they look like. Next time you're at the Post Office, look up on the walls
Thursday, October 1, 2020
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Monday, September 28, 2020
Year of the Bloody Sevens
Along the American Revolutionary War’s western front, Kentuckians called 1777 the bloody “Year of the Three Sevens.” Cabins were torched, leaving bloated, mutilated corpses of men, women, and children. The nerves of the walking wounded were frayed and ragged as they surveyed the burned crops and the slaughtered cattle, hogs, and goats. Lack of food and ammunition led to starvation and overwhelming death.
The year 1777 opened with two months of calmness. The Native Americans committed no raids and seemed to have abandoned their wrath against Kentucky. The pioneers began to recover their spirits and venture away from the support and protection of the stockades. Unbeknownst to them, the British Governor of Canada was directing his Native American allies toward Kentucky with instructions to destroy the settlements there.
At first the Native Americans roamed around in small war parties causing mischief and mayhem. They would set fire to a cabin in Harrod’s Town, disappear into the woods, only to reappear and scalp a hunter. They would snatch infants from mothers at the gates of forts and other times they would just lie in wait. The white men were also coldblooded, collecting scalps and feeding Indian bodies to their dogs thinking it would make them ferocious.
March 5, 1777, the militia of Kentucky County started a regiment, with a company mustered from each settlement - Boonesborough, Harrodsburg, and Logan’s Station - and elections for officers were held at Fort Harrod and James Harrod was made a captain. Prior to this, every fort and every camp had its own selected chief, with but little order or subordination.
Most of the pioneers knew there were troublous times in store for Kentucky if the Native Americans should again take the warpath. At this time when the Kentucky settlements were in greatest need, they were also at their weakest stage. Indian attacks and the rumors of war had pretty well emptied the country. Three hundred people had left Kentucky and seven stations had been abandoned. Boonesborough, Harrodstown, and Logan’s Station alone survived, and the latter was temporarily abandoned in the early days of 1777. Many of the people from the abandoned forts had found refuge at Harrod’s Town. There were in essence only two settlements and a possible one hundred and fifty men in Kentucky. Although Harrod’s Town was made the capital of the new county, all Kentuckians had to work together in order to survive.
The first attack on March 6, 1777 at Fort Harrod was a Shawnee war party led by war Chief Blackfish. They ambushed three men at their maple sugar camp near the fort. One man was wounded and captured, but James Ray, who possessed what were possibly the longest legs on the western continent, made his escape and ran away while the Native Americans stood dumfounded at his speed. The last man hid in a hollow log and struggled to keep quiet as the Shawnees tortured and eventually killed the first man. When James Ray reached the fort, he gave the alarm and thirty men set out for the sugar camp. While Blackfish failed to take the fort, he did cause the delay of spring preparations for corn planting, so no corn was planted at Harrodsburg during 1777.
The Native Americans killed all the cattle they could find and continued to molest the fort throughout the year. On March 8, several men ventured out from Harrod’s Town to bring in corn from the corn cribs raised the previous year; it took them ten days.
On March 28, 1777, a large number of Native Americans again attacked Harrod’s Town. They divided into small parties and waylaid every path and avenue to the fort from the fields or forest, concealing themselves behind trees and bushes. They also attempted to cut off all supplies arriving at the fort.
By May 1, 1777, there were only eighty-four men fit for militia duty at Harrod’s Town, twenty-two at Boonesborough and fifteen at Logan’s Station. This made one hundred and twenty-two men fit for duty in Kentucky. Most of the cattle had been killed and most of the horses stolen. No corn was planted at Harrodsburg.
Hardly a week went by without one or two deaths because of ordinary activities near the fort. On June 22, 1777 one man carelessly wandered outside the fort above the Big Spring, against Harrod’s orders. He was killed and scalped by the Native Americans. They cut off his head and stuck it on a pole. For years after that, the boys living near the fort used to say that at night when the moon was full, they could see a ghost around the fort springs.
Photo from the Armstrong Archives
September 11, a party men to a settlement at the Cove Spring, five miles southeast of Harrodsburg to shell corn and bring back to the fort. The “corn crib skirmish” occurred on September 22 when a party of Native Americans came through a canebrake and fired upon the whites as they were shelling corn. This spirited little affair was known among the frontiersmen of the day as the Battle of Cove Spring.
Harrod never suffered any injuries during the numerous Indian attacks, but he did end up with two broken bones related to hunting trips, both incidents happening in the same way. Harrod liked to do his hunting on horseback because he needed the extra speed for chasing down buffalo, deer and elk, but managing a long rifle while mounted was risky. Both of Harrod’s accidents happened when he fired and his horse reared up, threw him off, and broke his thigh bones.
James Harrod tried to keep things running cheerfully and smoothly, but it was no fun to be cooped up in the fort all summer. Nerves were frayed and the women were quarreling and gossiping. The women were never safe outside the fort during the summer of 1777, but they could only stand the dirty, smelly clothes just so long before venturing into danger to clean them.
On September 2, 1777 the first court was held at Harrod’s Town. Harrod became a justice in Kentucky County.
Not only were the Indian attacks the most frequent and violent during this year, but the winter of 1777-1778 was the worst ever endured by the pioneers. The temperatures dropped to twenty degrees below zero. The rivers and springs froze solid and travel was impossible. The bears, the buffalo and smaller wildlife were found starved and frozen to death. There was no food or water and Indian attacks were almost daily. Many pioneer men, women and children died of starvation and dehydration. The pioneers were able to survive but they lost all of their livestock and many friends.
The Fort held. Fort Harrod was the only Kentucky fort never breached.
Friday, September 25, 2020
Photo from the Armstrong Archives
The Montgomery Lodge 18 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the organization sponsoring many of the street fairs, had their lodge room in the building known as the opera house, at the top of South Main Street in the top photograph. Inside the circle at the top of the building is the I.O.O.F. emblem, a three-link chain representing friendship, love, and truth. One explanation as to the meaning of their name “odd fellows” says they were “odd” because it was odd to find people who followed noble values in the 19th century.
Photo from the Armstrong Archives
This photograph shows members of the Odd Fellows Lodge gathered on Main Street. Only one or two men are identified, Charles Corn and D. M. Hutton (with the ribbon on his lapel), standing together at the center.
Thursday, September 24, 2020
The circa 1950 photograph above was the home of J. J. Newberry 5-10-25 Cent store. The store was owned by Jerry Newby and remained in operation from 1936 – 1975. Three large window fronts were changed often to display new and modern items. This was THE place to buy almost anything you needed in Harrodsburg. I remember buying my Trixie Belden Mystery books there, as well as my first embroidery equipment. In 1976, the store began to decrease inventory until it only carried furniture and appliances. It became known as the Discount House, though still owned by Jerry Newby.
Photo from the Armstrong Archives
Unfortunately, the store burned down in 1989, as seen in the above photograph. Firemen worked hard to save the building, while protecting nearby stores. They did manage to pull some furniture and appliances out, but the building was a total loss.
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
The Louisville store was another fixture on Main Street that managed to compete successfully and survive for 47 years, from 1941 to 1988. It was one of a chain of similar stores that operated throughout Kentucky. It was not a fancy store. It was a solid kind of place that sold things that would last – clothing for the family, material – a lot of women made their own clothes. They were an authorized dealer for Sportleigh coats, tailored right here in Harrodsburg, which sold for $22.95 and were featured in Vogue and Mademoiselle. In 1970, they did a complete renovation with “a new modern glass front, all new fixtures and wall-to-wall carpeting throughout. New and more merchandise was added.”
Tuesday, September 22, 2020
This photograph is Jimmy Taylor’s general store and gathering place, in business for over 50 years on Chiles Streets. When Taylor sold the property in 1969, it was to make room for progress. It was during the demolition a log structure, dated back as early as 1797, was found under the weather-boarding..
The following is a portion of a poem written by Harrodsburg resident, Tony Sexton, entitled “Jimmy Taylor’s Store:”
It’s good to live in a town where some things never change.
Like Jimmy Taylor’s store … It reminds us
the simplicity of life still remains for those who want it.
It’s good to know in our world of fast food chains and freeze dried coffee
There is still a store in our town selling taters by the pound.
Monday, September 21, 2020
The Transylvania Company
Later in March 1775, the Transylvania Company, led by Richard Henderson, helped negotiated the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals with the Cherokee Native Americans. Henderson was an important man in the east – a colonel in the militia, a noted orator, a judge – a self-made man who had dreams of a great fortune in the West. He had a vision of taking over Kentucky and making it a separate country with himself as supreme ruler, or at least a new colony with himself as governor.
The treaty was not really a treaty, but a deed. The company received some two hundred thousand acres of land lying roughly in the area bounded by the Kentucky, Cumberland, and Ohio Rivers. Henderson paid $10,000 in guns and other provisions for the land. However, the Cherokee did not mention they didn’t own the land.
Daniel Boone helped set up Henderson’s negotiations, perhaps for money or a promise of glory in the new regime. As he left the treaty site, the Cherokee Chief Dragging Canoe, shook Boone’s hand, but said: “We have given you a fine land brother, but you will find it under a cloud and a dark and bloody ground.” Boone left Sycamore Shoals with thirty men and orders from Henderson to establish the capitol of his Transylvania Empire and to build a road through the Cumberland Gap.
Boone and Henderson reached the banks of the Kentucky on the first of April 1775, and lost no time in clearing the land in anticipation of erecting a fort. Boonesborough would be only twenty-two miles from Harrodstown, as the crow flies. By April 22nd the fort was under way and lots had been laid off for the men.
Henderson had to move fast in establishing his settlements before the Native Americans could drive him out. He recorded in his journal he was afraid his experiment would be wrecked at the onset. He also worried about James Harrod. Henderson could not risk an open argument with Harrod; he must and would win his support.
In addition to problems with Henderson, James Harrod had another challenger. Colonel Thomas Slaughter brought a party of land seekers from North Carolina to Harrod’s Town. Upon their arrival, Harrod greeted them warmly and sent the newcomers out to begin their search for unclaimed land. When they realized Harrod’s men had already marked vast acreages, they began to grumble and accuse James of unfair tactics. Slaughter complained Harrod’s men had no right to mark every piece of land and secure all the good springs in the area.
Harrod replied his men had arrived first and had started a town. The men marking land were working for those who had returned to the settlement in order to bring out more supplies or their families. Everyone wanted good land and Kentucky was a new country with plenty of land for the all. Harrod chose his land about six miles from the settlement proper, in what is now Danville. He named his station Boiling Springs.
On May 7th Harrod and Slaughter came to Boonesborough to ask Henderson to settle their dispute. While Harrod and Slaughter argued, Colonel Henderson saw himself as an uneasy mediator. Henderson secretly favored Slaughter, but fearing Harrod’s wrath, refrained from voicing this conviction and tried to appear impartial. Henderson proposed that the different settlements in Kentucky should send delegates to Boonesborough on May 23, 1775, and form a representative government to make laws and rules to prevent trouble. The four distinct settlements – Boonesborough, Harrod’s Town, Boiling Spring Station, and Logan’s Station (formerly St. Asaph) – agreed to meet at Boonesborough to draw up a constitution and make laws.
Photo from George Washington Ranck
When the Transylvania Assembly held their meeting, it was the first American legislative assembly west of the Appalachians. They had nowhere to house the delegates, so they found the shade of a “giant divine elm” between Boone’s stockade and the unfinished Boonesborough fort as a suitable meeting place. This majestic tree stood on a beautiful plain, covered and perfumed by a turf of fine white clover which made a thick carpet of green up to the trunk. It is said that between the hours of ten and two, the shade of the elm would comfortably cover a hundred people.
As the host settlement, Boonesborough was allowed six delegates; Harrod’s Town, Boiling Springs, and Logan’s Station were allowed four delegates each. The eighteen elected delegates would make up the lower house of a legislature, but the land owners would constitute the upper house. Henderson would provide executive leadership, and the Assembly would collect land taxes of two shillings per hundred acres.
Henderson proceeded to discuss the problem facing the new assembly. Referring to English law instead of Virginia or North Carolina law, Henderson skirted the touchy subject of prior land claims. A three-man committee, including Harrod, was formed and drew up a statement to acknowledge an earnest desire to meet their legislative tasks. The first order of business was to draft a constitution for the new colony. Henderson wanted the constitution to have an elected assembly, with perpetual rents, and a power of veto reserved for the landowners.
The convention remained in session until the twenty-seventh, and during that time passed nine laws. These laws concerned themselves with a variety of topics: establishing courts, regulating the militia, punishing criminals, preventing profanity and Sabbath breaking, writs of attachment, clerk’s and sheriff’s fees, preserving the range, improving the breed of horses, and, finally, preserving the game. This last law was made necessary by the fact that the abundant game of the region was already fast disappearing because of reckless hunting by settlers.
The delegates agreed it was highly necessary to provide for courts, a militia, the collection of debts, and the punishment of criminals. Harrod served on a number of committees, including the one on lands in which he was chairman. He drew up regulations for the militia, helped amend the bill prohibiting profane swearing and Sabbath breaking, and also served on a committee with Daniel Boone for conserving game.
One of James Harrod’s major triumphs was the law providing for freedom of worship. This passed in spite of the fact that at the time, the Church of England was a state institution in Virginia. The religious provision must be accredited to the temper of the frontier delegates themselves, many of whom, like Harrod, were dissenters, Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, or indifferent churchgoers.
The assembly agreed to meet again in September 1775 and the delegates adjourned. The settlers returned to their surveying, clearing, and planting.
Creating Kentucky County
By late spring 1776, the pioneer population in Kentucky was estimated to be two hundred, and most of these people were in forts at Boonesborough, Harrod’s Town, and Logan’s Station. The area north of the Kentucky River had been abandoned.
During summer 1776 Kentucky County was formed and Harrod’s Fort became an organized body with laws enacted for its government. It became the first capitol of this vast and interesting territory. It gathered men of ability, energy, and determination whose lives were useful to their associates and a blessing to those who came after them. They not only served their own locality well, but did heroic service in behalf of their common country.
By June 1776, James Harrod’s truce with Richard Henderson abruptly ended and Harrod became an outspoken opponent of the Transylvania Company. He gained followers at the other stations. Jack Gabriel Jones joined Harrod in leading the second revolt. He was a lawyer and son of a prominent Virginia family and his abilities complemented with Harrod’s own natural leadership and charismatic abilities. Jones easily matched the Transylvania lawyers with elegant and rational arguments and knowledge of legislative methods. Later, more help came from George Rogers Clark who had a deep interest in Kentucky.
It was decided Kentucky needed to have its own delegates to assure a fair hearing. Harrod called a gathering to elect delegates to represent them in the General Assembly and to ask for separation from Fincastle County. Harrod also wanted to stop Henderson and his Cherokee land purchase, which would beat the pioneers out of their legal rights. Clark and Jones were elected as the delegates. The two were instructed by Harrod to appeal to Virginia to overthrow Transylvania and incorporate the country under her own government.
Harrod helped the men formulate the document as a defense of their land claims, based on bounty warrants granted by Governor Dunmore and on regular prior-occupancy laws of the colony. They claimed Henderson’s purchases were illegal on grounds Virginia had rights to it under their charter. They stated her citizens had “fought and bled for it”, and that had it not been for the defeat of the Shawnee at the Battle of Point Pleasant, the region would still be uninhabitable. In conclusion they asked that their delegates be recognized, stating they had already elected a committee of 21 men to maintain district order.
Harrod also petitioned for recognition of the new committee and drew attention to the impracticality of having only two delegates to sufficiently represent Fincastle County. He argued it was illogical to allow the colonist to remain impartial, since a group from North Carolina was also formulating a challenge to Virginia charter rights. Harrod knew Kentucky needed help and quickly because the overwhelmed frontier settlements were almost out of gunpowder. They also needed to settle the question of Virginia jurisdiction in order to hope for any future assistance the government.
George Rogers Clark - photo from James B. Longacre
When Clark and Jones arrived in Virginia, Clark visited the new Virginia governor, Patrick Henry, to secure his backing for the Harrod’s Town cause. Clark appeared before the Council at Williamsburg with a letter from Governor Henry, making the executive council aware of Kentucky’s shaky position and officially informing them of his support. Clark ran into opposition from several peers who did not approve of frontier expansion. After much debate and arguing that the western settlements could not survive without gunpowder, the proposal was accepted and Clark was granted five hundred pounds of gunpowder.
On August 23, 1776, the powder was sent to Fort Pitt in Pittsburgh. Clark sent a letter to Harrod to tell him to send a party to Fort Pitt to bring the powder home. Little did Clark know, but Harrod never received the letter.
The first court in Kentucky County was held on September 2, 1776. George Rogers Clark, Isaac Hite, Benjamin Logan, Robert Todd, Richard Callaway, John Kennedy, Nathaniel Henderson, Daniel Boone, James Derchester, and James Harrod were named justices of the peace. Levi Todd was appointed Clerk of Court.
With the help of Thomas Jefferson, Clark and Jones were able to bring out their bill and after a month of arguing and closed door maneuvers, the bill passed the House and the Senate on December 31, 1776. The legislature created Kentucky County. With the creation of Kentucky County, the territory was called “the political birth of Kentucky” and George Rogers Clark the “Founder of the Commonwealth.”
Clark and Jones finished their business in Virginia and prepared to return to Kentucky, but when a messenger from Fort Pitt reported that Harrod had not sent men to get the five hundred pounds of powder, their plans changed. Clark knew those twenty-five kegs of gun powder were vital to Kentucky’s defense, so they set out toward Pittsburg. Once at Fort Pitt, the pair recruited a small group of men to assist them in transporting the black powder down the Ohio and then up the Kentucky River to Fort Harrod.
Unfortunately, Clark’s every move was being shrewdly watched and evaluated by British and Indian enemies, but he was not to be manipulated. Clark and his men slipped out of Fort Pitt in the middle of the night and silently started their long trip down the half-frozen Ohio River with five hundred pounds of high quality, rifle-grade gunpowder. They quickly made their way down the big river, with the success or failure of Kentucky resting squarely on their shoulders. Clark and his companions were forced to move between numerous bands of angry Indian war parties. Unwilling to run the risk of losing his cargo, he buried the powder in several spots and continued downstream for a few miles before abandoning the boats and setting them adrift as a decoy.
Clark headed off to the nearest settlement, McClelland’s Station and sent a messenger to Harrod’s Town explaining what had happened and asking for a party to retrieve the gunpowder. Then Clark left to meet up with Harrod to recover the gunpowder.
James Harrod and about twenty others left Harrodsburg on the second of January 1777, to recover the powder. Within a short time and without incident, the men reclaimed the powder and returned to Fort Harrod. The brave settlers of Fort Harrod come through to save the day, retrieving the gunpowder and bringing it safely back to the fort through miles and miles of unfriendly, Indian wilderness.
Once at Fort Harrod, the powder was divided and quickly distributed to the many struggling Kentucky forts and stations. This important event saved the country because now the settlers could now defend the forts and hunt for food. There were now one hundred and fifty men fit for active duty and forty families split between Harrodsburg and Boonesborough.
When Virginia created Kentucky County on December 31, 1776, Harrod’s Town was selected the county seat. Fort Harrod became a stockade stronghold for the pioneer families until they could settle on lands of their own and proved refuge for the settlers when Native Americans were raiding. Many famous pioneers occupied the fort at some time during its eventful years. This was also the time that Benjamin Logan pushed his settlers to complete the stockade at Logan’s Station.
Historic photo from The Harrodsburg Herald The old Harrodsburg High School.
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