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.