Nelson County Pioneers
Each month we will feature different historical information on the community.
You will find many Nelson County Pioneer surnames in each article. If you have additional information
on the genealogy of the Pioneers included in these articles and would like to share that information,
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First Forts & Stations
The need for defenses against Indian attack in early Kentucky was well
established before the major migration over the mountains began.
Beginning with the Indian's resentment of the explorers and surveyors, and then incited by the British into organized attacks on the settlements during the Revolution, the area that was to become Kentucky became almost uninhabitable during the late 1770s. In the 1780s, the organized defenses of George Rogers CLARK at the Falls of the Ohio (Louisville), James HARROD at Fort Harrod (Harrodsburg) and Benjamin LOGAN at St. Asaphs (Stanford) slowed the intensity of the attacks but the difficulty continued well into the 1790s. Various raids by the Indians into Kentucky were followed by retaliatory expeditions by the Kentucky settlers into Indiana and Ohio resulting in many deaths. It was not until Anthony WAYNE's victory over the Indians at the battle of Fallen Timbers in northwest Ohio in 1794 that the attacks were quieted.
We must depend on depositions from the land dispute cases for much of our information as to the nature of the defenses against the Indians. The terms Fort and Station are used interchangeably, but with very little detail. It would appear that a Fort was a group of adjoining cabins, completely stockaded, with reinforced gates and sometimes corner blockhouses. A Station was apparently a larger two- story log structure, reinforced for defense, in a group of nearby cabins. All settlers near the Forts and Stations took refuge there when an alarm sounded. Settlers who were not located near a Fort or Station designated a neighborhood cabin where they would gather their forces to hold off an attack until help reached them.
In spite of tradition, we find no record of any fortified location in the area that became early Nelson County before 1779. There had been considerable exploration, both from Harrodsburg and the Louisville area, and some cabins had been built for shelter or to establish claims, but the Indian dangers effectively discouraged actual settlement. As the migration expanded, the new settlers moved from the shelter of the first Forts and built their own as time passed in the 1780s, resulting in a number of later named locations. This commentary will only point out those that appear to have been the first in the general localities of early Nelson County.
The first Stations were probably built by individuals who were based at Harrodsburg. In 1779, Samuel CARTWRIGHT built his station on the headwaters of the Creek that still bears his name, at a location just north of Lebanon in present day Marion County. There were several cabins and the Station was a well known center of settlement activity for several years. At about the same time, Sandusky's Station was established by Wayne SANDUSKY on the headwaters of Pleasant Run, now at the county line between Washington and Marion Counties. Tradition credits the Station to James SANDUSKY in 1776, but it is like that there was only a simple hunting cabin there at the time, rather than a fortified Station. Another important Station in Nelson County was that of Samuel POTTINGER, who was guided by James HARROD to the Creek that still bears his name in 1779, where he built his cabin in 1780 and his Station in 1781. Many POTTINGER relatives followed to Pottinger's Creek, about 4 miles east of New Haven. In 1785, the settlement was swelled by the first major migration of Catholics from Maryland.
In the spring of 1780, the settlement movement from the Falls reached Nelson County. Isaac COX headed a party to a location on the east fork of Cox's Creek, about 6 miles north of Bardstown and built Cox's Station. A considerable settlement developed and the Land Office for Jefferson County was located here in 1783. Unfortunately, Isaac COX, himself, was an Indian casualty in 1788. Also in 1780, Thomas POLK and William KINCHELOE located on the west fork of Simpson's Creek about 4 miles southeast of Cox's Station. These last Stations were subjected to a surprise Indian night attack in 1782, with several casualties and captives taken. James ROGERS, another prominent figure in early Nelson County, selected his location between Buffalo and Cedar Creeks, 4 miles west of Bardstown, in 1779, and built a stockaded Fort in 1780. The principle structure, a two-story log cabin was later weather-boarded and survived until 1959 when it was dismantled. Samuel and Isaac GOODWIN also built a Station in 1780 on the Rolling Fork River near the mouth of the Beech Fork, about 12 miles southwest of Bardstown. The rivers were the highways of the time and the Station became a short-term residence for many migrants heading further south.
There were 3 major Stations founded about the same time in the Severn Valley settlement in Hardin County, which were the origins of Elizabethtown. These were built in a triangle, about a mile apart, by the families of Andrew HYNES, Thomas HELM and Samuel HAYCRAFT, and because of the concentration of defenders became a center from which retaliatory action against the Indian raids emanated. Closely associated with the Severn Valley settlement was William HARDIN's Fort in present Breckinridge County at Hardinsburg. Many migrants paused here on the way west into present Grayson and Ohio Counties. Another location of importance was the Fort of Phillip PHILLIPS, about a mile from present Hodgensville, where the first LARUE and HODGENS families settled.
Settlers from Logan's Station at St. Asaphs followed the Cumberland Trace into present Green County and built several Stations on the North side of the Green River. The most prominent was that of William PITMAN, established in 1780 near the mouth of Pitman's Creek about 2 miles west of present Greensburg, from which many land claims were located and surveyed in the area of Green and Taylor Counties. Also important was Skaggs Station on Brush Creek about 6 miles northwest of Greensburg, built by the SKAGGS brothers headed by James SKAGGS. Other Stations in the area were John GLOVER's Station, located where the green County Courthouse now stands in Greensburg; and Gray's Station, built by Jesse GRAY on Cane Creek, about 8 miles east of Greensburg. Most of these Stations were abandoned during the Indian troubles in 1782-3 but the settlers returned in 1784.
Published by the Nelson County Historical Society, 1982.
Benjamin Linn Fort
Col. James Rogers Fort
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