On May 7, 1775, James Harrod and Thomas Slaughter went to Boonesborough to ask Richard Henderson to settle a land dispute. While Harrod and Slaughter argued, Colonel Henderson saw himself as an uneasy mediator. Henderson secretly favored Slaughter, who was in favor of Henderson’s Transylvania Company, but feared Harrod’s wrath, refrained from voicing this conviction and tried to appear impartial. Henderson proposed 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, Harrodstown, Boiling Spring Station, and Logan’s Station (formerly St. Asaph) – agreed to meet at Boonesborough to draw up a constitution and make laws.
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. It was a good enough place, Henderson expressed privately, for “a set of scoundrels, who scarcely believe in God or fear a devil”.
A three-man committee was formed, including Harrod, and they drew up a statement to acknowledge the wisdom of Henderson’s reasoning and expressed 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.
On the last day of the session he entered into a written agreement with the people. By the provisions of this contract, delegates were to be elected and meet annually, judges were to be appointed by the proprietors but answerable to the people, all civil and military officers were to be appointed by the proprietors, there should be a surveyor-general who should not be a partner in the purchase, and the legislative authority thereafter should consist of the delegates, a council of twelve men and the landowners.
The assembly agreed to meet again in September 1775 and the delegates adjourned. The settlers returned to their surveying, clearing, and planting. In Harrodstown they erected more cabins around the Town Creek, chinked the older buildings, and worked on construction of Fort Harrod. By the end of summer, Harrodstown boasted a seventy-acre cornfield and eight to ten cabins.