Early Kentucky history



Kentucky was first discovered in 1767, by a bold hunter named John Finley, who, with some companions, in that year crossed the Alleghanies and entered this unknown land. It was no easy enterprise. There was a mountain-region nearly fifty miles in width to cross, traversed by parallel ridges, all rugged, and some almost impassable. Yet the beautiful and fertile expanse which they beheld from the western slope repaid the hardy pioneers for their toil, and for months they wandered in this new Eden, which was full of game, and pleasantly salubrious in its climate, while unclaimed by those savage tenants whose presence filled with peril all other regions of the country. No Indians possessed the country. It was the hunting and battle region of Northern, Western, and Southern tribes, who frequently crossed its soil, yet never made it their home. Yet here desperate battles frequently took place, and the name of "the dark and bloody ground," which it subsequently received, was always appropriate.

The story told by Finley on his return was eagerly heard by Daniel Boone, a noted hunter of North Carolina, whither his parents had emigrated from Pennsylvania. In 1769 a party under the leadership of Boone crossed the mountains, and entered Kentucky by way of Cumberland Gap. His adventures in this region for several years succeeding were numerous and exciting. He acquired the reputation of a mighty hunter, became dreaded by the Indians, and, though on several occasions taken prisoner, always managed to escape from their hands. During this interval the Indian war known as Lord Dunmore's War broke out, through the assassination, by white fiends, of the family of the renowned Indian chief Logan. The borders of the Virginia frontier were terribly raided, and it needed an army of three thousand men to subdue the savages. In the final battle, which was desperately contested, two hundred and fifteen Virginians and several hundred Indian warriors were killed and wounded. The repulsed tribes fled in terror, and their whole country was devastated by the victors.

In this campaign Boone took part, and its conclusion was followed by a more rapid inflow of settlers into the region which he had explored, and which had become now more safe for white emigrants. Under his directions a strong fort was built at Boonsborough, on the left bank of the Kentucky River. To this frontier post came a party of adventurous settlers, under his leadership. It was a dangerous location. Lurking Indians waited to cut off any settler who ventured too far beyond the walls of the fort. At one time a daughter of Boone and two other girls, while canoeing on the river, were captured by savages. Boone rapidly pursued, and succeeded in surprising the captors and rescuing their prisoners. The story of the adventures of these pioneers is full of thrilling incidents, and their life was one of hairbreadth escapes. Finally Boone was taken prisoner, while out with a party making salt at the Salt Lick Springs. As the Indians were not resisted, the captives were well treated, taken to Detroit, and all ransomed except Boone, whom they would not surrender. They took him back with them to Chillicothe, the home of the tribe, and adopted him into the family of Blackfish, a distinguished Shawnee chief. The ceremony of adoption was a severe and painful one, as part of it consisted in the plucking out of all the hairs of the head, with the exception of the scalp-lock tuft, of three or four inches' diameter. Yet the shrewd and politic captive bore all these inflictions with equanimity, and managed to appear perfectly content with his lot.





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