Sitting on the banks of the Licking River in present day Salyersville, KY,
near the site where Dr. Thomas Walker encamped in 1750 on his journey from the
Cumberland Gap on the Warrior's Trail to his residence at Castlewood, VA, lies a
small group of reconstructed cabins locally known as the Prater's Fort Log Cabin
Pioneer Village Complex.
Dr. Walker provided us with the first
description of this area telling that it was a "great sea of cane, teeming with
elk." He named the river Frederick's River and wrote that he could see an Indian
encampment across its banks. He called the nearby stream that pours into the
river "Falling Creek" and this was the stream he crossed to what he called
"Paint Creek" and on to what he named the "Louisa River."
The history of these log cabins and the
local historical society is so intertwined that it would be impossible to
separate the two. The Magoffin County Historical Society was organized in April
of 1978. Our first project was participating in the Kentucky Historical Society
cemetery mapping project for Magoffin County. As people became aware of our
existence we began receiving many requests for information about the area and we
began printing the JOURNAL OF THE MAGOFFIN COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY to preserve
and disseminate the history and genealogy that we were collecting.
Our projects began to blossom and 1979
found our group sponsoring the first Magoffin County Founder's Day. The central
aim of our first Annual Founder's Day was to research the family of William
"Uncle Billy" Adams, founder of Adamsville, forerunner of Salyersville. We
printed a 117 page Adams book that year and unveiled a large black granite
pyramid marker that we dedicated to the early founders of Magoffin County with
William Adams' name being the first inscribed.
The following year the Prater family was
the subject of Founder's Day as Archibald Prater, a Revolutionary War soldier,
was the first known settler in our area identified at that time as Prater's
The historical society acquired the old
Birchfield log home located on the Birch Branch of Burning Fork that year. The
original floor of the cabin was utilized during Founder's Days that year as a
stage area where various pageants, plays, music, and talent shows were held.
The following year another cabin, the
Williams family log home, was acquired from the mouth of Hell's Half Acre on
Paint Creek in neighboring Johnson County. This structure was built adjacent to
the stage area and a roof was added to the stage that was shingled with boards
rived on the spot by the late Arvel Salyer. His handiwork is still visible as
both cabins were shingled from the same red oak boards.
The third year the Salyer family was
honored, as Samuel Salyer had been the State Representative in 1859-1860 when
Magoffin County was formed from Floyd, Morgan, and Johnson counties.
The aforementioned pyramid marker now had
all four sides inscribed and books of local family history had been printed each
year. In addition, we continued to print our quarterly, a 40-page Journal and
also printed various marriage, cemetery, census, and other books, even an "Olde
Tyme Cookbook" with family stories added to the recipes of bygone times.
Another log home was reconstructed and an
additional stage area was built during our fourth year. This was a two-story
structure known as the Kennard home from the Middle Fork section of our county.
It had been used as the first school in that area. Ernie Conley rived enough
shingles from one huge tree to re-shingle this cabin and stage.
The Patrick families were honored this
fourth year and we purchased another large granite marker designed so that early
settler inscriptions for a number of years could be inscribed on it. These two
markers have become tourist attractions for our county.
Our fifth year, the year of the Arnett
family reunion, brought us another log building. This one was formerly known as
the Long Fork Church and School House. It had been built by residents of the
Long Fork community with each family who had school age children donating two
logs per family toward its construction. The side logs were thirty feet long. A
large bell was obtained from Mr. Earl May that had been the dinner bell of
another early pioneer of our county, Caleb May. Caleb May was the first
moderator of the Burning Springs Church that had been established in 1813 by
Elder Daniel Williams who had fought with Daniel Boone at Harrodsburg. This bell
is installed atop the Long Fork Cabin and its ringing during special occasions
and to bring in the new year is a nostalgic reminder of earlier days.
Our historical society bought land adjacent
to the Log Cabin Complex on the banks of the Licking River to be able to expand
our facilities for the larger crowds that are annually attracted to our
Founder's Day Festival. This property is located at 239 South Church Street and
the additional log homes reconstructed there are utilized as a county museum.
The property formerly known as the
Salyersville Post Office at 191 South Church Street in Salyersville, KY is now
the location of our Library and Archives Center. We maintain a large collection
of genealogical and historical materials that are used by patrons who travel to
our county from all parts of the United States to search out their eastern
Kentucky roots. This genealogy library is adjacent to the Lloyd M. Hall
Community Center and the Magoffin County Pioneer Village. In addition to being
stocked with research materials it is also used as a workshop for our group
where our books are printed. The family histories and numerous research books
have all been printed with only volunteer labor.
The work our society
does brings together people of all ages and all walks of life and we all work
towards a common goal, that of researching and recording for posterity all the
history and genealogy of the people of Magoffin County, Kentucky, past and
present. Our log cabin complex serves as a focal point for our activities and
keeps us ever mindful of our history and our goals for the future.