The Devil in the Garden of Eden
The men and women who moved from Meade County to Chula Vista and other areas of California were farm workers with limited prospects in Kentucky. Despite its occasional droughts, earthquakes, and the 1916 floods caused by a break in the lower Otay Dam, destroying homes and killing more than 20 people, California provided emigrants with a living based on citrus crops, celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and other produce. Chula Vista, for a while, became the largest lemon producing center in the world. Most of the Meade County people found work in the citrus groves. The Japanese and Mexican immigrants along with migrants from the eastern United States were ripe for organizing by the Wobblies. The radical anarchist I. W. W. seeing an opportunity to exploit the agricultural workers for their anarchist goals set up operations in California.
Other industries provided jobs. Railroads were built, and in 1916 the Hercules Powder Company began the design and construction of a 30 acre Kelp processing plant in Chula Vista. The kelp, harvested by a fleet of boats, was processed to make a smokeless powder for explosives and cordite. The Hercules kelp harvesting fleet was the largest in the world at that time. They supplied the British with explosives and cordite throughout WW I.
The opportunities to make some money, and then return to Meade County appealed to some of the men. Houston Pollock returned first, and wrote his brother Eugene about a farm that belonged to Oscar Burke only a few miles from the family home. In it he told Eugene that the farm would cost $1300.00 and Eugene should send what money he could. Ed Shelman told Houston that if they paid part of the $1300.00 down, he would fix the rest for them. The deed would be made in both Eugene and Houston’s name. Both men returned home. Some of those that returned brought with them some geologic samples of fool’s gold. Fool’s gold is iron pyrite that glitters and looks just like gold. There is an anecdotal story about a farmer in northwest Meade County that brought back a large box of fool’s gold. He purportedly salted his farm with the worthless pyrite, and managed to sell his farm for a considerable profit. While this story may or may not be true, it derives from the Meade County migration that is part of our history and lore.
By June of 1911, the I. W. W. had begun to lose members. Exact numbers of their membership cannot be determined. Having become the target of lawmen, vigilantes, the Ku Klux Klan, and others including the United States government, they chose as a target the “Sugar King,” J. D. Spreckels, a wealthy businessman who was trying to build a railroad through the Corrisso Gorge on the border between Baja California in Mexico, and California not far from Chula Vista. The targeting of Spreckels was to provide I. W. W. funding in order to take Baja California from Mexico by armed insurrection. The Wobblies would then form a communist country of their own. They decided to commandeer the San Diego and Arizona Railroad and make Spreckles pay to support the army. Whether they were going to ransom the rail train, other property or the employees of Spreckles is unclear. General Price and Captain Mosby, the I. W. W. insurrectionist’s military officers, and several hundreds of their army began operations.
On May 8th, 1911 the Wobblie army began cutting telegraph wires along the railroad track leading to Tijuana, Mexico. On the 9th of May they attacked Tijuana and drove most of the inhabitants to the United States. They killed the Mayor, burnt the church and the bull ring. The next day General Price put his men aboard the construction trains to ensure the railroad men did not interfere. Construction crews were laying rails near the Redondo Valley heading toward Tecate. The I. W. W. army began taking railroad supplies from the trains and giving worthless receipts in return. Sport the railroad’s bulldog mascot, not liking the way his friends were being treated, proceeded to bite Wobblie Quartermaster Melford on the behind.
On May 19th, the I. W. W. army raided a construction camp and took charge of a train. Conductor McCormick objected and by some fast talking took his train back, and returned to San Diego. He was advised not to be so forceful with the insurrectionists, but he told them not to worry. Spreckles vowed he would rather lose everything than have one of his employees harmed. Five days later General Price arrested a party of railroad workers and held them in the Tijuana Jail. Conductor McCormick talked them free the next morning. On May 29th, General Price collected a large sum of money from Wobblie supporters, and with it disappeared. Before he left, he ordered Captain Smith to take charge, but Smith refused. Captain Mosby, who had been wounded in a fight at Tecate, took charge. General Price, probably as a way to make sure he took command, promoted Mosby to General. More railroad workers were arrested and Quartermaster Melford, careful to avoid Sport, appropriated more supplies.
Leaving a few soldiers to guard Tijuana, General Mosby took the bulk of his army in the direction of Ensenada; however, hearing 1,400 Mexican Federals were approaching, Mosby took charge of McCormick’s train and headed it south with less than 130 men remaining. The little I. W. W. force stacked bales of straw on a flat car as a barricade, and at a place called Frenchman’s Ranch, the Federals fired machine guns from hills beside the tracks with deadly effect. Mosby raced back to Tijuana where he stopped the train straddling the border. By this time the United States Army had massed at the Mexican border on the California side to intercept the Wobblies, and avoid an international incident. Mosby was in the caboose on the Mexican side, and he asked if he could surrender to the American army. The few insurrectionists left alive were fearful of the Mexicans because in the battle at Frenchman’s Ranch, they had killed 21 Federals. Mosby laid his guns on the table in the caboose, and was allowed to surrender to the U. S. Army. Thus ended the war Wobblies had with Mexico, June 22nd, 1911. Poncho Villa would start another conflict five years later.
The question comes to mind, were there Meade County men in the Wobblies? While it’s impossible to tell, I think it unlikely. Excepting Grangers, most Kentucky farmers were fiercely independent, usually not flush with cash and unlikely to pay Union dues, and forty six years earlier many Meade County men supported the losing side during the Civil War, and would be reluctant to join in this fight. There is no doubt in my mind that Meade County, folks working in construction, transportation, mining, and agriculture, were inconvenienced by the affair. The largest area Meade County people settled, Chula Vista was, and it continues to be rich in agricultural produce as well as manufacturing. The brochures that were sent out by the San Diego Land Company drew people from our area when times were hard. There are still descendants of people from Meade County there today.]]>
Reasons for the Migration
Some years ago I wrote a story with Peggy Greenwell about a Meade County migration to places in California. Interestingly several people have recently asked me about the Brandy industry, World War I, the migration, and the depression. While reacquainting myself with the subject, I discovered new and interesting things. Every now and then, when the stars align just so, divergent events converge in extraordinary ways. So it is with Meade County, Kentucky, California, International Workers of the World, the Mexican Government, an apple-blight, World War I, and the Great Depression. Over a forty year period, many Meade County people were displaced from their homes and migrated west. Some did so because of a lack of jobs, the Great Depression, illness, or the desire for a new start. Some returned with money they earned and resumed their place in Meade County society and some stayed in California. At least one returned in a coffin. Some may have been caught up in a war with Mexico about which few have ever heard.
I think everyone knows that at one time Meade County was known for its distilleries and for manufacturing brandy. We have Brandy Road and Apple Jack Road named for this production. Near Ekron, stands one of the last distilleries in the county to cease operation. Meade County was known for vast apple orchards from which the Apple Jack Brandy was distilled, and from whence it got its name. Sometime in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, blight descended on the apple trees and over a period of years they began dying. As the trees died it affected the job market and the farms. Without the apples, the farmers suffered from the loss of produce sales, the distilleries could not sustain themselves, combined together unemployment resulted, and the depression came early to Meade County. World events caused further unrest in all of America.
In 1905 a Marxist labor organization formed based on the philosophy of Karl Marx. It was originally named the International Workers of the World. Nicknamed the “Wobblies,” It originated in Chicago, Illinois and was a militant-anarchist-insurrectionist labor union formed by William “Big Bill” Haywood, and Mary Harris “Mother” Jones. It shunned legal practices like arbitration, collective bargaining, and plant shut downs (legal strikes) legitimate labor Unions used. Instead it advocated the use of armed conflict and violent illegal, “wild cat” strikes. The Wobblies advocated the overthrow of capitalism in favor of an industrial democracy, during a period when Karl Marx advocated the armed Bolshevik revolution in Russia. The I.W.W. sponsored violent strikes in Leadville, Cripple Creek, and Telluride, Colorado, and Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, as well as other eastern and western states. One of the I.W.W. leaders a Mr. Joe Hill was executed for a murder he committed in Utah. The Wobblies had organizers in the vicinity of San Diego, California, and vigilantes suspected of being supported by the sheriff opposed them there. In Georgia five of their number were tarred and feathered by black robed Klansmen. At the same time, Meade County residents were venturing west in search of prosperity in California.
Among those that moved west in 1908, were Houston and Eugen Pollock of Raymond, Kentucky. Busch Stiff also went west as did a number of Meade County men and boys and more from Union Star, Kentucky. Stiff died in California but his body was returned to Meade County, and he is buried in the Raymond Baptist Church Cemetery. The relatives of Austin Knott, and Garfield and Bony Johnson were three of the Meade County boys who went west to pick citrus of oranges and lemons in southern California. Lots of men moved west. Some went into mining and moved to Sacramento and San Francisco, California. Many found a haven in a suburb of San Diego, called Chula Vista.
Chula Vista is a Spanish name meaning “beautiful View.” The history of Chula Vista goes back thousands of years when it was inhabited by Native Americans, Yuman speaking Indians of the Kumeyaay, tribe. Descendants of these Indians live there today. Chula Vista was part of a large Spanish land grant called Rancho Del Ray. Later the Mexican Government named the land “Rancho Del la Nation, “The National Ranch,” when it formed its own government in 1831. The United States claimed California in 1850, after the Mexican War. Ownership changed in 1868, and in the 1880s several directors of the Santa Fe Railroad, and a Colonel William G. Dickerson, a professional town planner were brought to the area by Frank Kimball. The land was purchased for its real estate potential. These men wanted to attract new settlers, and to do so they distributed promotional material advertising across the country stating that 5,000 acres were being subdivided into five acre lots with avenues and streets 80 feet in width running each way. This tract, they wrote, “known as Chula Vista lies but a mile from the thriving place of National City. These five acre lots sold for $1,500.00 each in 1887, and by 1889 ten houses were under construction. It was to this area the Meade County migration headed. The migration was interrupted by World War I.
On April 6th, 1917 the United States declared war on the German Empire headed by Emperor Kaiser (the German word for Caesar) Wilhelm, the last emperor of the Western Roman Empire, while Czar (the Russian word for Caesar) Nicholas II, the last emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, was executed in the Russian Revolution. The first World War saw two things, with the death of Czar Nicholas II, and the exile of Kaiser Wilhelm it officially ended the ancient Roman Empire, and it saw the birth of communism. World War I ended at 11:00 O’clock, on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, and Meade County soldiers who contracted the dreaded Spanish Flu returned and spread the disease. Meade County people died from the epidemic as did those of other areas of the country. More people continued the move west. This movement was exacerbated by the “Great Depression.” People everywhere lost homes and farms, and the exodus of the homeless was aptly described by John Steinbeck in the prize-winning novel “The Grapes of Wrath.” The communist Bolshevik revolution in Russia, cemented the Marxist system there, encouraging many progressives to spread it to America like the epidemic disease it was. The I. W. W. Wobblies were one of those groups.
See Part II,
The Devil in the Garden of Eden, and the last Mexican War
Mailing a letter to log cabins
I have heard it said many times there is nothing new under the sun. While this statement is not literally correct, it is understandable, and I acquired my understanding when I began teaching school. The students were always asking questions like, “How is this information going to help me?” Or, “How will I use this?” It is at times like these that teachers have to make connections, that is, they have to find parallels in common everyday matters where they can show knowing this information will come in handy. It is probably easier for math teachers to make these connections than for history and social study teachers. Learning what went on one or two hundred years ago seems on the surface to have little relation to today. I have found that there are very real connections easily made making history relevant.
Let’s look at things in our daily life that connect to history. Matters like mailing a letter, the post office or mail box, the general store, log cabins, livery stables, automobile rental agencies, parking garages, fire alarms, fire plugs, and Grey Hound busses connect some things today with our history. After making these connections we can answer the question, is there is really anything new under the sun?
Did you ever wonder where the word post office, mailbox, or postman originated? Mail was sent years ago by horse and rider to and from the farms and cities. There was a horse and rider, and perhaps several that covered a postal route to collect and deliver mail. Someplace in our pioneer past, often near a cross road, there would be placed a sturdy post sunk deep into the ground. On the post would be a box where mail that was to be sent would be picked up by the horseman, known as a postman because of the posts to which he rode along his route. Mail that was to be sent would be left in the box, and mail that was placed there by the postman would be received. As time went on mail became an increasingly important matter; and, as schools were built and more people could read and write, post offices came into being. The postman could pick up letters for people on his route where they were presorted for him, and he could then deliver to the farms themselves. He left the mail in the private mail box similar to what we have today, or sometimes at general stores where people collected their mail. These general stores were the first rural post offices. Even if he had no mail to deliver, if the flag on a box was up the postman stopped to pick up a letter. Even today we still say post office boxes, post offices, and postmen, and we call the stamps we put on letters postage, all of which derives from a box on a post where letters could be sent and received during colonial times. Slowly we are replacing the term postman with mailman.
The general store came into being to supply rural communities with things they couldn’t make or procure on the farm. Coffee, Coal Oil, certain canned goods, some tools and farm implements, coffin liner, needles and thread, stoves, metal buckets, tubs and the like as well as some tools were products the general stores provided. Many general stores became the first post offices. General stores sold dried meat, hams, and cheese as well as crackers and pickles stored in barrels. Stick candy was carried as well as tobacco products. Rolling papers were carried because there were no factory made cigarettes. When I was a child there was usually a gas pump in front of the general store. It had a glass tube marked in gallons, and you pumped a lever that would fill the tube by the gallon. You would pump the liquid to the desired level, place the nozzle of the hose in your gas tank, and turn a switch and gravity would let the gas flow into your car. A refrigerated case would hold cold cuts and cheese, and the store would make you a sandwich. Today the general store is scarce, but the parallel connection is the convenience store. There are gas pumps in front of them and you can always buy stamps and money orders at them. Their product line is changed, but sandwiches and other food stuff is there and while they are more plentiful than the general stores, they are usually situated at a crossroad or other prominent intersection. Many of them will make you a sandwich, and although cigarette tobacco may not be found, rolling papers often are. I guess not much difference really.
When I mention log cabins and their modern connection, the first thing that comes to mind are the new big log homes built today, but that’s not the connection. Today’s log houses only imitate the log cabins and they take as much time to build as a modern brick house, three months or more. Log cabins began to dot Meade County, indeed all of Kentucky, during the 1700’s. They were built for two reasons: Firstly they could be built by a three or four man construction team, with one horse or mule and a few wood working tools, and completed and moved into within a week. They were quick to build, and the materials coming from the land on which they were built, made them economical. The floors were often hard packed dirt or puncheons (boards split from logs). There were seldom windows, and most cabins were held together by the weight of the logs. An open door served as an air conditioner, and the fireplace in one end of the cabin served as the furnace and cook stove. The need for quick low-cost housing has never been greater than it is today. So what is the parallel connection?
Today the prefabricated mobile home is our closest type of housing that satisfies the basic need of the original log cabins. Mobile homes are prefabricated and can be moved onto property ready to accept them in a matter of days, not months. Because they are made on a mass produced basis with standard floor plans they represent a lower cost dwelling. Over years the mobile home may not hold up as well as a conventional house, and will need repair and maintenance. So did the log cabins. The point is that for a starter home, or people who need a new house in a hurry can purchase one and set it up on their property. When I see a mobile home setting on a farm lot, I think about how things have evolved from one form of dwelling to another, but the reason for the dwelling is the same in 2015 as it was in 1770, speed of construction and economy.
Livery Stables, firefighting, to mass transportation
In making connections to the past you must think about what existed in history to satisfy a need, and contrast that with how we satisfy that need today. For example we drive cars and trucks for transportation. In bygone times, not that long off people rode horses and used horse drawn wagons. When you got off a train in town, and had miles to go to get to your final destination, you went to the livery stable where there would be horses for rent as well as buggies and wagons. The livery stable was the Hertz or Avis auto rental agency of their day, but a little more than that. If you were going to leave a town by railroad and you had to ride your horse or drive your buggy to get to the train station, you would board your horse at the livery where it would be fed and watered. On your return you would claim your horse and equipment, pay the boarding fee, and ride back home. How is this different from airport parking lots today? The only significant difference is that the automobile does not require food and water as did the horse. Thus, the parallel connection is made between the livery and the parking lot and car rental agencies today. While different, it is the same principle at work.
Fire alarms and fire plugs deserve some special mention when we connect them to today’s fire alarms and modern fire hydrants. Farm houses were situated on acreage often 160 acres called a homestead. Different quarters of the property were called the north 40 or south 40 or the east or west 40. The houses or cabins would often be placed on high ground, near the center of the property and an iron bell would be placed on a post in the yard. The bell when rung could be heard on neighboring farms. When there was a fire the bell would be rung continuously to call the men in from the fields and neighboring farms to fight the fire. Buckets of water would be passed along a line of volunteers to quench the fire. There is still a bell ringing at the firehouses and on the fire trucks today, although a blaring horn is often used as well. Very little has changed from the 1700’s with the exception of the modern equipment including the water mains and fire hydrants. Before the invention of fire hydrants there were fire plugs and fire cisterns.
The cities had buildings very close together, sometimes abutting each other. Except for small back yards, the rear of the buildings and houses faced an alley, commonly used for deliveries and garbage removal. Commercial buildings fronted on a sidewalk. Houses usually had a very small front yard and there was no way for a well to be dug for each building. Therefore, early on in cities like Louisville water mains were made from hollowed logs and buried on the south and west sides of streets and roads. Other utilities like natural gas and buried cables are on the east and north sides. These logs were drilled and tapped with threads. Water lines of lead or iron were screwed into the threads and run to the house or business. For this service you paid a tapping fee.
For fire protection, at intervals spaced along the wooden water mains, a larger hole was drilled into the hollow-log-water main. A wooden plug was hammered into the hole, and the wooden pipe and plug were buried. Once the plug was covered about two or three feet deep, a wooden post was driven into the ground to mark the place. The top of this post was painted red. This stake marked the location of the fire plug. The firemen’s first duty was to take shovels and uncover the plug. They knocked the plug out of the hole and the excavation filled with water. The pumper pumped by hand, with one end of its hose in the excavated hole and the other end with the nozzle held by the fireman, streamed water onto the fire. Today, located along iron mains, at about the same intervals, modern fire hydrants with valves that can be turned on and off, have been installed. Many people call these hydrants fire plugs even today. Brick lined cisterns were also installed at various intersections and storm water could be pumped from them onto a fire if one was close enough. Today our volunteer firemen still use private cisterns to save a house from burning. Have things really changed that much? Not really.
Lastly let’s discuss the matter of mass transportation. Today we have modern busses that carry us long distances from city to city, county to county, and state to state. The reason to use mass transportation today is not really different than the reason people required it one or two hundred years ago. Reasons to use mass transportation include not having an automobile or, in times past a horse, in sufficient shape to make the trip, the cost of a ticket is usually less than the cost of driving yourself and the driver knows the way and gets you there on time.
How did people 100 to 200 years ago satisfy this need? What is the parallel connection? In many parts of the United States the “stage coach” lines ran until the early 1900’s. They were the mass transportation of the time. You bought a ticket at the stage station, sometimes in a hotel, and as the horses needed water, rest or food, the stage would make periodic stops that provided that need and a respite for the passengers. Most coaches could offer a ride to six or eight passengers. The stage coach, made regular runs, and there was always one on which to ride. When I sometimes see a bus I think back to the time when they were horse drawn. In the cities open sided horse drawn trollies were employed to move people to and from places. These trollies were changed to overhead electrical powered vehicles in the late 1800’s and were in use until sometime in the 1940’s. I was born in 1945, and as a child, I rode on an old trolley a few times. These trollies gave way to the first city busses, which employed the same overhead electric lines. There was a pole affixed to the bus that connected to an overhead-electric line feeding electricity to a motor that powered the trolley and bus. Soon, after WWII the buses were fitted with gasoline or diesel engines. Now, once again, they are being replaced by battery powered electric motors. The major change in our mass transportation has been the replacement of the horse. So, when you see a city bus or a Grey Hound, remember these are just upgraded versions of the old stage coach.
To answer the question, “Is there really anything new under the Sun,” the answer must be yes and no, but the question really should be have our basic needs over the centuries changed? The answer to that is no! The manner in which we satisfy our needs of supplying ourselves with food, clothing and shelter have changed, but the need remains. I am sometimes amused when I visit a museum and watch and listen to the people as they comment over the exhibits and remark on how primitive our ancestors were. Not so! At one point in human development the first chipped stone spear point was a technological breakthrough that rivals the splitting of the atom today. Everything we have evolved from that ancient invention. We really aren’t as advanced as we think, our means of solving our basic needs have changed, but as a people we’re just as needy. The reputed last wild Indian in America was Ishi, a California Yana Indian. Ishi, who in the early 1900’s could not speak English, was amazed by all of our, then, modern inventions, and though impressed, he was surprised at how little we actually knew. He considered us as we would view very bright children, smart but not wise. All of this makes you wonder how much wisdom has been lost as we have advanced technologically, and what new means to satisfy an end will come next. I can’t wait to see, but I hope we don’t lose more wisdom in the process. GWF
Meade County today is a rural community modern in every respect. Our telecommunications are the latest as is the machinery that tills our soil, milks our cows, cuts our timber, and provides our transportation. This was not always the case. There was a time when Meade County inhabitants were immigrants from places east, and settled in this area to farm and build a better life for themselves and their families. Life was hard and because these men and women persevered we enjoy the fruits of their labor with almost no thought to the hardships they faced, and dangers they endured. It is these pioneer men and women we owe for the area in which we live. I’ve heard it said we dream about living the life our ancestors lived, and they dreamed about living the life we live. I suspect in many ways this statement is true, but both societies had advantages and disadvantages. There is no doubt however they lived in a dangerous time filled with hazards and inconvenience we can only imagine. This is a part of their story.
The Environment and People
Meade County lies at a significant geologic juncture of two Kentucky regions, the Pennyroyal and the Bluegrass. The regions are divided by the Muldraugh escarpment that runs from Salt River southwardly 60 miles or so, to a point south of Elizabethtown, Kentucky. To the east lies the Bluegrass Region and to the west the Pennyroyal. Meade County lies to the west and has, at its eastern juncture with the Bluegrass, high knobs 900 feet above sea level. They have steep forested sides with little flat land on their summits. The entire region is a karst area with sink holes good fast-flowing creeks and springs underlain with Mississippian Limestone plateaus. The sedimentary limestone deposits contain between their layers flint-like deposits of chert providing the raw materials from which Native Americans fashioned their spear and arrow points. The land in which Meade County lies was home to numerous species of animal life. Ducks, geese, doves, wild turkey, quail, and passenger pigeons along with deer, bear, elk, squirrel, rabbits, opossum, raccoon, and more dangerous species like wolf, bobcat and mountain lion abounded. The creeks and the Ohio River teemed with aquatic life. Black bass, bluegill, catfish, buffalo, shad, crappie, white bass, mussels, frogs, turtles, and other species of reptiles and amphibians were found within them. Excepting the mountain lion, passenger pigeon, elk, wolf, and black bear the wildlife in Meade County remains unchanged.
The fields and forests provided additional opportunities for forage. Mixed forests of beech, yellow poplar, sugar maple, oak, walnut and hickories provided food and raw materials for the pioneers. Understory growth along and beneath the forests provided other opportunities for sustenance such as blackberry, raspberry, hazelnut, wild strawberry, grapes, cherries, and mushrooms. Early pioneers were drawn to this natural abundance, as well as to the fertile land that had never seen the plow. The early European settlers were not the only people that were drawn to the area. For perhaps 13,000 years Native Americans had taken advantage of the abundant plant and animal life of Meade County. The earliest inhabitants were nomadic paleo-hunters that followed the migrating herds of prehistoric mega-fauna such as bison, mammoth, mastodon, dire wolf, giant sloth, and saber toothed cat. These animals were drawn to the many Kentucky salt licks and the crossing at the falls of the Ohio River. Early inhabitants were almost totally nomadic, but by five thousand years ago with the advent of horticulture and the extinction of some of the large prehistoric mega fauna, the Native Americans became semi nomadic, and eventually with the advent of agriculture, they became farmers less dependent on wild food, and settled into villages. These farming communities evolved into the mound building cultures with huge earthworks, palisaded-villages with central plazas, ceramics elaborate art work, and a priestly class. Something happened about the time of conquest that changed these people. It may have been deforestation, warfare, disease, or other natural calamities, but whatever the cause the people dispersed and evolved or devolved into the Shawnee, Delaware, Huron/Wyandotte, Cherokee, Mingo, Choctaw, Creek, and other nations that populated Kentucky at least part of the time. These were the people that the earliest settlers met and competed with in what can only be described as a clash of cultures.
Native Americans had no concept of land ownership. They did have a strong sense of territorial control and apportionment. Some land was considered Cherokee, some Shawnee, some Delaware, and some Mingo and Wyandotte. The Huron Indians were situated around the Great Lakes area. Indeed one of the lakes bears their name. They were associated with the water, fished, hunted, harvested wild rice, and traveled as most of the tribes and nations did along the waterways that served as fast routes of transportation. In this area the Huron were known locally as Wyandotte, and their villages dotted the riverside. The Indians as they were called by the settlers visited together sometimes combining in war parties or hunting expeditions. The Shawnee occupied territory in Ohio that was allowed to them by the Iroquois. The Shawnee immigrated, in the late 1600’s, from South Carolina. They had upper and lower villages on both sides of the Ohio River at its confluence with the Scioto River. The Cherokee were further south, and the Wyandotte to the west along the Ohio River, and in Indiana Territory. The Delaware and Mingo were east of the Shawnee in the area of eastern Ohio and extending to the colonial seacoast. All of these nations used Kentucky as a transportation route via the Warriors Path, and the rivers that provided quick transport. They also used the land as a communal hunting ground. Between these groups there was little warfare, and they often banded together to displace the white settlers who divided the sacred land with fences and right angles. The Native Americans concept of life was a great circle. Their villages, architecture, designs, ornaments, decorations, and ceramics were usually circular in nature sometimes inscribed with linear geometric patterns.
The culture clash was based on cultural differences, greed for land, suspicion of each for the other, and promises to the Indian that later proved untrue. It is true that the early settlers were content to neighbor with the Indian, in a live and let live manner, but competition coupled with occasional hostilities caused by lies told the Indians by surveyors dividing the land, made the Indians wary of any white people. The Indians in and around Kentucky were the eastern woodland cultures and looked very much alike in dress and form. Their customs and habits were similar as were their weapons and accoutrements. If one Native American group had a clash with whites all Indian groups were blamed although perhaps only one took part. Likewise, if one white cheated, lied, or harmed an Indian, war was made indiscriminately on all. Thus the culture clash came to be.
The Early Settlement of Meade County
One of the earliest confrontations between the Shawnee and the surveyors occurred in June of 1773. Thomas Bullitt, James Harrod, and Hancock Taylor with approximately 30 in their survey party, were joined by James, Robert, and George McAfee, Samuel Adams, and James McCoun on May 29th, at the mouth of the Kanawha River. Traveling west on the Ohio River, Bullitt took six men and traveled on foot to the Shawnee village of Chillicothe in hopes of avoiding an armed confrontation. The Native American custom at the time was that when visitors were coming from one Indian village to another they would send a runner announcing the visit. It was the polite and courteous thing to do. Bullitt ignorant of the custom found himself surrounded by bewildered Shawnee who quickly took him and his men prisoner. Otis Rice writes….”The next day about a hundred warriors brandishing tomahawks…..escorted the men to a tribal council house.” Bullitt was ordered to make a speech explaining why he was there. Rice continues…”In his address, more noted for its effect than for its honesty, Bullitt assured the Shawnee that Governor Dunmore….would pay them for the lands south of the Ohio, and promised them as “brothers” they could continue to hunt there.” The Shawnee agreed to leave the surveyors unmolested in their work. The lies that Bullitt told gave time for the surveyors to do their work, but contributed to worsened relations with the Shawnee and led a year and a half later to Dunmore’s war with the Indians. Warfare with the Native Americans would continue unabated in Kentucky for more than 20 years. In 1778 Squire Boone and John McKinney discovered a spring near the head of Doe Run, which he visited repeatedly. Although Squire and Daniel Boone visited Meade County, Squire Daniel’s younger brother was a more frequent visitor to this area. In 1780 Squire Boone entered a claim for 1000 acres for Joseph Patrick Henry at the Doe Run spring. In late fall or early winter of 1780-1781, John Essery with Samuel Wells were in Buck Grove. They were surveying an 810 acre site about three miles below Salt River when they were surprised and attacked by a roving band of Indians, likely Shawnee. During the attack they abandoned their equipment. In 1780 Daniel Boone built a hunting camp and planted a patch of corn at Boone Spring, near Big Spring, Kentucky. In 1783 Squire Boone visited the area of Hill Grove, and named it “Black Jack Grove.” It was later renamed Hill Grove.
The year 1782 has been called the year of the “tomahawk, knife, and fire.” From New York throughout the colonies including Ohio and Kentucky the English, allied with the Indians, combined to burn the pioneer settlements, stations and forts from the Mohawk Valley to Kentucky. Prisoners were tortured, scalped, and burned at the stake or ransomed in Detroit. Although the battle at the “Blue Licks” has been called the last official battle of the American Revolution, the warfare between the whites and the Indians continued long after the revolution was over. Squire Boone had left his brother’s fort at Boonesborough, and after a brief residence at Fort Harrod, in 1775 established “Painted Stone Fort” on Clear Creek near what is now Shelbyville, Kentucky. It was from here and another fort on Beargrass Creek that he made his incursions into the area of Meade County. While at Painted Stone Fort in 1781 he suffered a bullet wound to his right arm, and another in his side. The white renegade Simon Girty led the Shawnee raid on Painted Stone Fort. He bragged that he made Squire Boone’s shirt tails fly. At Boonesborough Squire was shot in the shoulder, and had suffered a tomahawk wound to his skull. His right arm was forever shorter than his left. In the fight where he was wounded by the tomahawk, he had killed one Indian when another settler with him was shot and killed by a second Indian. Squire engaged that warrior in hand to hand combat, and pushed him against a snake rail fence stabbing him with his short sword. The sword pierced the Indian and stuck into a rail of the fence. The Indian had a tomahawk in his raised hand trying to strike Boone, and was struggling to get free with his other hand. Squire was using all of his strength to hold the Indian’s upraised hand to keep himself from being axed while he kept a firm hold on the sword. They held each other positioned there, until weakening from the loss of blood, the Indian died. Squire described the incident later as the “best little Indian fight I was ever in.” Squire later returns to Meade County history.
The first permanent settlements in Meade County were made on Hill Grove, Stith’s Valley, Doe Run and Otter Creek. In 1784 Richard Stith settled in Stith Valley. In 1792 James Ross settled near the head of Doe Run, and James Tibbs built a round cabin at Blue Springs. Walter Finch built a cabin at Buffalo Spring. These two settlements were stockades, stations, or small forts. Usually they were cabins erected with no windows to the outside rear wall, and were arranged more or less in a rectangular form. Several cabins so built were joined by a palisade of logs some 12 feet high. The roofs of the cabins sloped down and inward toward the stockade. This was to remove more safely the fire arrows the Indians would shoot into stockade. Sometimes the stations would have one or more two story blockhouses positioned at the corners of the fort to serves as look-out towers. The upper part of the block house extended over the fort walls two to four feet allowing enfilade fire from above and down the walls in case of attack. The blockhouses were usually the residence of the single or unmarried men. These men were very important to the early settlements. They served as hunters to bring in game, scouts to discover what the Indians planned, and couriers between the settlements. In other words, they did the dangerous duty required by the settlements. The married men fought in all of the fights, but they had the regular duties of guarding and feeding the livestock, tending the crops, maintaining the fort, weapons, and equipment. Everyone worked. The women carried water from the springs and did all other chores such as cooking and washing that could be done while rearing children. They also acted as nurses and tended the wounded during attacks. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it provided as near as possible an equitable division of labor. Sometime prior to 1778 a fort was erected by persons unknown, at Wolf Creek then named “After Ohio,” however it did not become a permanent settlement until later.
(Be sure to read part 3 and learn about some of the Indian battles and “forting up.”)
The Battles and the forts
A fierce battle between the Indians and the whites occurred on east hill where Brandenburg is now located. Some Indians, likely Wyandot crossed the Ohio River from Indiana and beached their canoes in Flippen’s Run. There was a local Indian fighter, a large man, named Big Joe Logsdon. He and a party of hunters surprised the Wyandot band and began a running fight until after a brief stand in some heavy timber, the Wyandot decided to carry their dead back to Indiana. One lone warrior was shot by big Joe almost reaching the Indiana shore. Big Joe knew many Indian dialects, and customs. Later in 1780 General William Hardin and his men stopped to rest at Big Spring when the Indians compelled them to fight. A man named Sinclair was killed and scalped. He was buried at the head of Big Spring. Other battles were fought in Meade County particularly between the years of 1791 thru 1794. Most of the battles between the whites and Indians were not conducted in conventional ways. The rifles were single shot flint-locks that once discharged, except when fired from a safe defensive position, were useless unless used to club the enemy. Therefore, the warfare was more often hand to hand, with knife and tomahawk. It was upfront and personal. A man named Kingsley was hunting along Buck Creek across from present Brandenburg, when he was chased by a party of Wyandot. He could see that he could not out run them and crawled into a hollow log. After being unable to find Kingsley, some of the Indians sat down on the log in which he was hiding. They discussed what to do, and when they left he made his escape. According to Ridenour the last Indian killed in the Indian wars in Meade County was near Ekron, Kentucky. Stopping for a drink, a white party killed the man. This likely occurred in the 1800’s. Anecdotal information states that sometime in 1830, two Indians were shot while canoeing on the Ohio River at the Brandenburg landing. Confrontations continued into the 1820’s, but were sporadic, and most were on the Indiana side. In 1823 the county was formed.
The log cabins and their furnishings left a lot to be desired. Beds were simply a frame work of boards with rope stretched from side to side for bed springs. The mattresses were corn husks sewn between two layers of home spun cloth. Sometimes there were feather mattresses. Quilts and blankets were layered on the bed to keep out the cold. The fire places were simply rocks laid up about five feet high to form a fire box. The chimney was made from sticks chinked with mud or clay. They often times caught fire and would, unless pushed over, burn the cabin down. For this purpose a long usually forked pole would stand outside next to the chimney. The logs were usually round, and the bark would, if time was had, be removed. There were seldom glass windows, if there were windows at all. Openings were often only one door, making the cabins dark, but easier to defend in an attack.
There was a door and the hinges were normally made of leather. Most cabins were pegged with wooden pegs instead of nails. Floors were puncheon or dirt. That is, they were boards split from logs, so were seldom level, or they were hard packed dirt that posed a problem when it rained. The walls of the cabin usually had several shelves, a puncheon table and benches or homemade chairs. A ladder led to the loft where the children slept. The fire place served to heat the cabin, but in reality the only warmth was about a five foot radius directly in front of the hearth. The fireplace sucked in cold air from the nooks and crannies between the chinking and the daubing. The spaces between the logs were chinked, partially filled with anything available. Leaves, sticks, limbs, rocks or most anything else would suffice. Over the chinking there was placed a mixture of mud or clay and water and this was called daubing. Grass, straw, horsehair, or some other binder would be added to the mixture to make it more durable.
The only other furnishings besides shelves might be a cupboard or two, some pegs to hang clothes upon, or perhaps a mirror or painting. There would be cooking utensils, a Dutch oven, perhaps a black iron pot, a fry pan, and some hooks in the fireplace from which to hang the kettle. There was likely to be a dry sink and a pitcher, some cups or glasses and a gourd dipper. A spring would be nearby to furnish drinking water.
The stations and forts were not continuously occupied. The settlers usually had a cabin and sometimes a barn near their crops and not far from the fort. When an attack was imminent a bell was rung and the pioneers would come to the fort and do what was called “forting up.” That is they would move into the fort and live in very confined quarters. Because they could not leave their livestock to the Indians, they would bring their farm animals into the fort with them. For this reason the spring would be located outside the walls of the fort. If it was inside it would soon be spoiled. Conditions inside the fort were deplorable. Livestock, men, women, and children were crowded together. The stench from the animals and the manure impossible to avoid made the conditions unsanitary. Compound that situation with gunfire, fire arrows, bullet and arrow wounds and infections and disease became epidemic. A siege could last for as long as two weeks. Going to the spring to replenish the fort’s water supply meant risking being wounded or killed. The livestock and people had to have drinking water, and the barrels needed to be kept full to fight the fires. No one wanted to fort up.
Through all of this terrible time for both Native Americans and the white pioneers, the people that settled Meade County persevered. Since no permanent Native American villages existed in Kentucky except for some Cherokee communities close to the Tennessee border, Lower Shawnee Town on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River across from the Scioto, and a Shawnee pioneer trading post near the old fields at Winchester, Kentuckians did not displace the Indians from their homes. They did alter and restrict the communal hunting ground and limited Native American movement within its border. The real displacement of Native Americans occurred in Ohio, North Carolina, Indiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and throughout the New England and the Northwest Territory.
(See Part 4 the conclusion of the settlement of Meade County)
The Settlements and their way of life
After the wars with the Native Americans took place, ending officially in 1815, at least with the nations east of the Mississippi River, life in Meade County became less dangerous. Attacks on farms and homesteads dwindled. Farming and animal husbandry became the chief industries. Logging, salt making, lime processing, milling, and distilling were also industries. Later the lithograph industry flourished for a short while.
It is correct to say that the women who settled in Meade County were the most influential in civilizing the county. Soon after the earliest explorers and surveyors came to Meade and after the major Indian conflicts were over, the women demanded churches and schools in which to worship and educate the young be built. The earliest Baptist Church in the county was at Wolf Creek. Services were often brush arbor affairs held outside or in the homes and barns of the congregation. Services were held once a month, and some traveled by wagon or horseback 20 miles or more. This meant camping out or staying as the guests of those that lived nearer the churches. St. Theressa Catholic Church was the first in the county, and was originally located on Flint Island. Ministers were often circuit riders that preached at several churches. In the Baptist Church there was no pulpit, instead it was called a stand. The congregations sat on benches, they were not called pews. The hymns were “lined out.” Hymnals were expensive and many people couldn’t read, so the minister or his designate would sing the first line of the hymn and the congregation would sing it after him. In this way the melody and the words were learned. Baptisms were held at creeks, rivers, and ponds, in all types of weather. Sometimes ice had to be broken to submerge the convert. I think most people prayed their conversions came in warmer weather. In the outdoor church meetings men armed with Kentucky flintlock rifles stood as lookouts for Indian attacks. At the Goshen Baptist Church north of Laconia, Indiana in which Squire Boone preached, Indians would look in the windows of the church to watch the white settlers worship. No food would be allowed into the church. Thus, we get the saying “poor as a church mouse.” Our chili suppers and picnics on the grounds would not be found.
The second oldest Baptist Church was built in Hill Grove. The women, tired of meeting in barns and the houses of the congregation or making the arduous trip to Wolf Creek had the men build a church. Later it burned, and then there was a split. Soon other churches and denominations sprang up and as they did the county became more civilized. Schools were built and the children learned to read, write and cipher. Children attended school in the winter months, and were out for the spring, summer, and harvest times when the planting and harvesting required their labor. Even today the school is still traditionally out in the summer. Teachers were only required to have an eighth grade education. If you went further you were in high school, and that was the equivalent of being in college today.
Christmas was noted by small things like some fruit, nuts, or hard candy. A tree might be decorated with ribbons, colored paper, or natural materials. Candles might light the tree, but a bucket of water was always handy in case it caught on fire. Thanksgiving was normally just another Thursday except for a little more special meal. Books would be read out loud at night by candle light and later by coal oil lamps. Pleasures were simple. In the late fall and winter was hog killin’ time and meat was put up and cured and smoked for the winter.
The hogs roamed the woods and were rounded up by their owners in the fall. When the pigs were little, their ears were notched in a particular manner, and each owner’s mark was registered in the sheriff’s office. This settled many a fight and feud. Taking another man’s hog was literally taking food from his family. It was occasionally a shooting matter. A reportedly stolen hog was one of the incidents that led to the famous Hatfield/McCoy feud. Fence laws were different in early Meade County. Crops had to be fenced. Cattle and hogs roamed loose. The hogs would fatten on acorns during the fall, giving rise to the old saying “even a blind hog finds an acorn every once in a while.” The pork was either salt or sugar cured, and smoked. Sausage was made and salt pork was stored in barrels appropriately called hogsheads. First there was a layer of salt, then a layer of pork, and then a layer of salt, alternatingly until the barrels were filled. The smoke not only cured and dried the meat but also deterred the insects, “skippers,” from infesting the meat. The salt was obtained by either boiling water from the salt springs like those around Salt River, or allowing the water to evaporate where the fine white salt could be gathered. Two hundred gallons of good quality salt-spring-water would yield one bushel of salt.
People canned food. It was placed in blue Mason jars. Blackberries, peaches, pumpkin, squash, beans, corn, and other garden produce were put up for the winter. Corn was a field variety, and was used to feed the cattle and chickens. Enough was taken to the mill to be ground into meal and the typical bread on the kitchen table was cornbread. The stalks were chopped and used as fodder for the cattle. Wheat was sometimes grown and ground into white flour for biscuits and cakes. Apples and pears were cored, cut into circular slices, placed on wooden rods or strings and hung up to dry. These were later reconstituted and made into pies. The fall was a time for getting ready for the winter. It was a busy time. Tobacco was sold as the cash crop.
The winters were hard. Cords of wood were stored up and the fires were banked at night, so they could be quickly relit in the morning. It would get so cold in the cabins and houses that the water in the basins would freeze at night. People dressed warmly because there were outside chores that must be done winter and summer. Animals had to be fed and watered. Farmers, then and now had to go the ponds and break the ice so that the cattle could drink. In the winter, repairs were made to farm equipment and leather goods. Children who went barefoot all summer now wore shoes that were mended by their fathers and handed down as long as there was any usefulness left in them. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without,” was the Meade County farm motto.
There were no radios, televisions, game boys (whatever they are), movies, or theaters. People, often times played musical instruments by ear for entertainment. Roads were muddy and often impassable. Medical attention was usually unavailable, but there was someone, a woman or man nearby who could make herbal remedies or perform simple surgery such as sewing up a laceration. Wounds were disinfected by the use of whiskey or coal oil poured into the wound. There were no pain killers to speak of. Bad lacerations were cauterized to stem the flow of blood by searing the wound with a red hot poker. Infections and disease sometimes proved fatal. But through it all, Meade County people, nay, all Kentuckians were hearty souls and persevered through all the adversities, the Indian wars, the Civil War, and all the other wars, depressions, recessions, fires, floods, tornadoes, and ice storms. Our ancestors were men and women of great moral faith and physical strength, tested and found worthy. Sometimes when we are faced with obstacles that seem to us insurmountable and which pale beside those of our ancestors, we seem to pull through them some way. I think it is because of our Meade County and Kentucky pioneer heritage. These were special people and this is a special state and a special county. I’m so proud to live here.
Meade County Christmases were celebrated differently by people in their 80’s and 90’s, than today’s celebrations. People nearing retirement celebrated Christmas as their parents did, until after World War II. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ by gift giving commemorating the gifts given Jesus by three wise men of the Christmas story beautifully written in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Three Magi traveling from the east and following a star shown, over Christ’s manger, brought with them gifts of gold, Frankincense, and myrrh. From these first Christmas gifts comes our gift giving tradition.
Since Meade County was settled until about 1940 Christmas was celebrated differently than today. There would be a general store centered somewhere near a crossroad that farmers might frequent that would have items that could not be made on the farm. Among these commodities, coal oil for lamps, coffee beans to be ground at home, some canned goods, agricultural implements, wood burning stoves, skillets and kettles, knives of various sorts, needles and thread, headache powders, and for those that could afford it, candy. In the stores there might be articles of clothing, and a place for mail to be picked up and delivered, but by today’s standard there was little luxury. Clothing, flour, cornmeal, butter, canned goods, meat, and homespun cloth were put up at home. Seldom would a house or cabin be devoid of a spinning wheel. How then, did Meade County people celebrate Christmas?
Christmas in Meade has been celebrated in many ways, but always with gift giving or exchanging. Even the sending of Christmas Cards beginning in 1843, is a manner of gifting. Christmas was a time universally made festive in rural communities. It was looked forward to planned, and prepared for all year. At Christmas, the general store might add some products, but very few. Money was always in short supply on the farm. Therefore, store bought decorations and ornaments were not commonly found. Decorations were made by the farm families from natural materials. Sweet Gum and Sycamore tree seeds (ball shaped) were gathered. These seeds were carefully covered by metal foil that was peeled from the wrappers containing a stick of chewing gum. If one was careful, you could peel the tinsel from the paper, and smooth it with a finger nail. These wrappers, usually discarded were saved and placed in a box for December. The foil was carefully wrapped around the seed balls and with needle and thread made ready to decorate the tree. Bits of colored paper ribbon and string were saved for decorations. In school the children made chains of colored paper to use as garland. At home a kettle of popcorn might be popped and strung alternately with colored seeds as a garland for the tree. Cedar boughs and Holly with their festive red and blue berries would be brought in and used for decoration, and sometimes a Cedar wreath was hung in welcome on the door. Mistletoe, an ancient Celtic fertility symbol would be gathered on a rafter and used as an excuse to kiss. The tree was usually a Red Cedar or Yellow Pine cut with two boards nailed across its trunk to provide a stand. Candles would be lighted to illuminate the trees. The candles on the tree were lit by an adult, and a bucket of water was at hand to put out any fire.
Christmas was celebrated at three places, school, church, and home. The school house was important because it was one of only two or three social centers in the farming community. At the school, a party would be held where the students would receive maybe their only gifts of the season. There would be homemade cakes, pies, candy and such brought by the teachers and the mothers of the students. Games would be played, and gifts exchanged, more often the gifts were homemade candy or cookies. Sometimes music was played and carols sung without regard to the separation of church and state. Usually a mesh stocking would be handed out that might contain some nuts, candy or fruit, some pencils, and a Coca Cola Ruler, provided by area salesmen. In speaking with a number of people like Larry Greenwell, and Virginia Fischer, the Coke rulers were fondly recalled. The church usually held a celebration on Christmas Eve, or Christmas day to worship the true meaning of the holiday. After the service that was filled with music and caroling, the excited children (as well as the adults, although few would admit it) were treated to a visit by Saint Nicholas. He would also provide some simple gifts to be taken home by the young. The service concluded, the congregation would travel to their homes on horseback, in wagons, buggies, cars, or trucks.
The last place Christmas was celebrated was at home. The house or cabin was as festive as possible, and the children would go to bed in anticipation of what the morning would bring. Some children would place a plate on their kitchen chair, pulling it up near the tree, in hopes that Santa would fill it with treats, and maybe a toy. Others would look for gifts under the tree or in a stocking hung from the fireplace mantle. I suspect the children hung the largest stocking or sock they had. Christmas morning came and the children might find another piece of fruit, some chocolate drops or other candy like a peppermint cane, hard candy, some nuts, and perhaps a small store bought or homemade toy. The chocolate drops always seemed to be carried in the general stores at Christmas. They were little round mounds that appeared to be chocolate colored lard. They were white inside, and outside, looked like chocolate but did not quite taste of it. The candy to me had little if any taste, but was always a part of our Christmas. They can still be found in markets today. A festive meal, usually chicken or ham, with a special cake or pie for desert was eaten.
When I was a boy Christmas was different from today. It seems to me that when the soldiers and sailors came home from World War II, things in our culture changed. Firstly there were new materials and inventions that came out of the war effort. Plastics, synthetic rubber, aluminum, and food stuffs used in the war effort now the war was over, needed new customers. Aluminum used to make fighter planes lighter and longer flying now were used to make light weight colorful metal glassware, bowls, coolers and the like, finally replacing tin cans. Electricity, subdivisions, supermarkets, air conditioning and central heat became commonplace within a few years, and that included the farm. Television, hi-fidelity records, and transistor radios changed our society. Televised programs, with their commercial ads encouraged the purchase of new products. Christmas then became more commercial. Store owners ran Christmas sales and a new type of store came into being. Instead of the general store, meat market, and green grocer there became the supermarket. Later these large food stores had other stores beside them and shopping centers were developed. People left the farm and gravitated to the city where it was believed there were higher paying jobs. That chance for higher pay, I think cost us a more culturally valuable, but admittedly less intrinsic toll.
I was born just before the end of WWII. My first Christmases were simple affairs. I lived in Louisville part of my life, and on the farm at other times. It seems to me that my parents tried to give me and my brother, Steve, a better Christmas than they had. Our Christmas changed. Trees were decorated with modern glass ornaments and tinsel cut into strips and carefully smoothed of wrinkles by my Dad’s fingernail before being draped on the tree mimicked icicles. We had electric lights which were a pain. When one bulb went out, wired in series, they all went out and you had to remove and replace each bulb to find the bad one. Bulbs didn’t last as long in those days. My grandparents Fischer, had lights that looked like little candles, and were filled with a liquid that bubbled up to the top ending in a molded glass flame. On Christmas morning, I would get wooden Tinker Toys. They were round dowels that would fit in holes in spools that were drilled to receive them. There were slits in the end of the dowels where a piece of colored card board could be fitted. These could then be assembled into a windmill. While I could never make a windmill, the simple toy kept me busy for hours. One early Christmas I also got small differently-colored-rectangular wooden stool (I think it was bought as a potty training aid for it was kept in the bathroom). I received wooden pegs of different sizes and shapes including a hammer with which to drive them into a board with like sized holes. There always seemed to be a Hi-Li Paddle under the tree. It was a wooden paddle with a rubber band stapled to the paddle connecting it to a rubber ball. The idea was to keep the paddle hitting the ball continuously. That was a skill I never really mastered beyond two or three times in a row. To my regret Mom found another use for the paddle after the ball and rubber band were gone. My mother always saw to it there were jacks and a rubber ball under the tree. Since she had two boys I suspect she liked them herself. The jacks reminded me of a medieval torture device. They were made of metal, and had six points connected in the middle. Four of the points had little round knobs on them. The other two were rather sharp. I could never get the hang of bouncing the ball and scooping up the jacks. It must be a girl thing for my female cousins tried and tried to teach me to no avail. The girls themselves were very adept. I also could never jump rope, I couldn’t remember the verses and I was constantly getting tangled and tripping myself. Frequently a jack would get lost and my Dad would always find it at night when he stepped on it in the dark unaware of its presence. Even though it was Christmas, I can remember some unchristian words being uttered when it was encountered. Steve and I would giggle but not loud enough to be heard. My brother and I usually got a toy car or airplane, a ball or bat, and some clothes. We would later exchange gifts with aunts, uncles, and grandparents, and usually eat a meal together with the relatives. We would then come home to watch Christmas shows on T.V. and play with our treasures. We celebrate differently today. Our parents and all our aunts, save one, our uncles, and some cousins have all passed. Even friends have dwindled with time. It is not sad really, just the way of things.
When I was a child, I looked forward to the season, and I never worried about Christmas continuing and evolving as it must, in our ever changing society. I confess that I am a little concerned now. Our country was founded by a diversity of religions, races, cultures, and heritages. This diversity made us stronger. To be sure we have societal upheavals, depressions, wars, religious and political disagreement, but it seems to me that the knowledge, understanding, and celebration of our diversity is part of what made us what we are, and continues to strengthens us as a nation and a people. Striving for political correctness and attempting to make everyone included in all things, even when they would rather not, we weaken all traditions and risk losing our diversity. I don’t think we want to exchange diversity for uniformity. If we are not careful we might do just that. So I say, “In whatever way you celebrate the season, have a Happy Holiday and a Merry Christmas.”
Thanksgiving, like many of our holidays has origins in European history. In almost every culture, there has been some sort of harvest or year end celebration. The famous Oktoberfest or Bavarian beer festival is a part of Erntedankfest, held in early October. In bygone times Celtic Britain’s year ended October 31st, and marked not only the harvest, but also the time things died. A celebration was held then that has since become Halloween. Our national holiday of Thanksgiving commemorates the time when the pilgrims of Plymouth Colony celebrated with the Wampanoag Indians a week of feasting and socializing. The Native Americans had helped feed the colony and ensured the survival of these strangers. From that first Thanksgiving onward, the commemoration had been held but on different days in different states. On October 1st, 1863, at Abraham Lincoln’s direction, Secretary of State Seward drafted the official proclamation making the last Thursday in November a National day of Thanksgiving.
Since Thanksgiving became a national holiday, it has been celebrated sometimes indifferently in rural communities like Meade County. Thanksgiving was celebrated in cities and towns, by a day off work to visit, feast, and give thanks to God, with family and friends. In the farming communities the day was looked forward to, but often went uncelebrated except for a little more festive meal more appropriate for a Sunday. Life on the farm meant work needed to be done every day, even on Sundays. Livestock had to be fed, wood carried, and water drawn just to stay alive. More often if there was a day of leisure, it was Sunday. Any Thursday was just another day. If a farmer had a day job, Thanksgiving Day was used to strip tobacco, or to catch up on the maintenance of farm equipment, although a more festive table was set.
As time went on, and particularly after WWII ended and soldiers returned home, Thanksgiving became more of a celebration on the farm. Several farming traditions built up around Thanksgiving. One of those traditions became the first rabbit hunt of the year. When I was a boy, Opening day of rabbit season began on Thanksgiving Day, and the men would get to the farm Thanksgiving Eve, or early Thursday morning in time for a breakfast of homemade jams and jellies, biscuits, gravy, slab bacon, eggs, sausage, and hot coffee. The mornings were crisp and clear and with double barrel, single shot, bolt action, and pump shotguns the men, boys, and dogs took to the fields. As a boy there was nothing headier than to tag along and listen to the men tell stories about their dogs and past hunts. It was the way boys learned how to mix with men and learn the ways of men. At such times the boys would seldom speak unless asked a question, but would laugh as loud and as enthusiastically as any of the men when a funny story was told. In those precious times family lore was learned and passed on to the boys by the stories told by the men, only to be repeated verbatim by the boys as men, in years yet to come when they passed them on to their sons and grandsons.
Thanksgiving was not just for the men and boys, the women folk and girls socialized in much the same way. In those days it seemed easier to know where you belonged, your purpose in life, and to be comfortable in your own skin. Men did the jobs that needed to be done and that could not be done while rearing children. Women did those things that could be done while rearing a child. Most of these activities took place in and around the house. The division of labor was decided along those lines, and the men and women respected each other for what they did. There was no women’s work or men’s work. Each did what they knew how to do, and had to do, to make a decent life on the farm. Skills like sewing, knitting, crocheting, and quilting that would serve the girls as homemakers were taught at an early age. Preparing and preserving food, feeding the family, raising the children and keeping the household was the province of the farm wife. The girls helped the women and learned their ways every bit as much as the boys learned from their fathers and grandfathers. The family lore of the pioneer women and their redoubtable courage, perseverance, and independence, were passed on to and instilled in the girls. Thanksgiving then became a family reunion of sorts. The meal would be ready to put on the table, perfectly set by the girls. It didn’t matter that all the plates and silverware didn’t match or that a few people had a Mason jar from which to drink. Company got the good glass. Special platters or bowls that had been handed down in the family would be proudly used. Stories would be told about the women who owned them and what they had cooked and placed in them. Many times those same dishes were in them again. Thus Thanksgiving traditions were born.
The hunting party would return about noon and clean the catch of the day. Rabbit would be fried, a turkey stuffed with cornbread dressing might be roasting in the stove, but more often a chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes would be on the table. Sausage, and bacon left from the morning would be warmed over and set out. Biscuits and cornbread would be baked, and there would be no dearth of deserts like pumpkin, sweet-potato, and maybe a pecan or hickory nut pie would be warming. Coffee, water, and maybe tea would be drunk and this would likely be the only meal of the year where cranberries were served. The men, their wives, friends and family would sit down together, say grace, and dig in to a meal fit for the governor. A special table would be set for the children, and it was a rite of passage when on a given Thanksgiving a child was deemed old enough to be seated with the adults. After the meal the men would pitch in and take care of the chores, while the women did the dishes covering the food laden table with a tablecloth, keeping away the last flies of the year. Those men that had to work on Friday left for the long drive home, while others would sleep over to hunt on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning before returning homeward. Thanksgiving then became a time for family and bonding relationships between friends and relatives. It was a time for giving thanks to God, sharing, and remembering. Thanksgiving then, was not at all unlike a special Sunday. On reflection, the spirit of Thanksgiving was really celebrated in Meade County every week on Sundays. Sunday, after giving thanks in church, less work was done, more recreation and visiting happened, and the special meal was on the table to be shared by those that might drop by. The spirit of Thanksgiving was expressed 53 days a year on Meade County farms. It was celebrated on 52 Sundays and one special Thursday. I kind of miss those times. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.
Shirley Brown’s dad, Sherley Vandiver, was born Feb. 24, 1913 and died Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27, 1969. 22 years later his great grandson T.J. Carver was born on Nov. 27th. This year Thanksgiving is on Nov 27th again.
Thanksgiving in Meade County and in fact Kentucky, was a sparsely celebrated day. Part of the reason for that is that there were various dates set by individual states to commemorate the first Thanksgiving celebrated by the pilgrims at the Plymouth Bay Colony in Massachusetts.]]>
Gerald W. Fischer
Few people know that Meade County has a number of ghost towns. These towns were thriving, and some had populations of 1000 or more. The towns were known as Meadeville, Good Springs, Hill Grove, Garnettsville, Grayhampton, New Philadelphia, Little York, Swansville, Claysville, and Plain Dealing. Although there may be a smattering of farms and houses in the vicinity of these old towns, more often they are populated only by cemeteries and the spirits of those people who never completely died and went away. On moonlit nights or in broad daylight some of the apparitions of the old towns can be seen and heard.
Grayhampton is one such ghost town, originally a mill town with a population in 1895 of 275 people. There was a two room white frame schoolhouse in Grayhampton, and in 2010, Ms. Diana Burnett, the former Grayhampton/Camp Carlson historian, relayed a ghost story to me that she personally experienced. Fort Knox bought the town of Grayhampton in various transactions culminating finally in 1940. The people moved out or were relocated by the army. When the decision was made to turn part of the area into a recreational campground for soldiers, Nancy O’Malley of the University of Kentucky did an archaeological survey of the area, and Diana helped when time was available. One day Diana was expected to trowel the foundations of the old school building. The frame building had long since been demolished, and a road ran in front of the school, dividing the school building from the school yard directly across the road. Plans had been made to use this field, the former school yard for a new children’s recreation area.
Diana’s work was to carefully trowel the outside of the foundation and collect whatever artifacts that were encountered. She proceeded from the front of the building to the rear corner where she planned to make a left turn and trowel the rear foundation. Her back was to the road and the field. As she troweled, encountering marbles and bottle caps and such she heard a group of children go into the field, choose up sides and begin a baseball game. She could hear the balls being caught and the whack of the bat when it connected. The boys and girls cheered loudly and seemed to Diana to have a wonderful time. She was enjoying the sounds of the children as she did her work.
Soon she reached the rear corner, and decided to stand up, stretch and watch the game for a bit. As she rose the game was in full swing, with much laughter, talking, and shouted cheers. She stood up and turned to watch the game, but when she did the sounds stopped, and the field was completely empty. She looked around and realized this was a ghostly event. She ran as fast as she could to the office, where the manager told her he had just found something that she needed to see. He would not let her tell him about her experience until she looked at the photo he held in his hands. Frustrated and afraid, she quickly took the photo and saw that it was a picture of the school, taken from the building, near where she had turned to watch, and it showed the children in the field playing a game of baseball. A coincidence, maybe?
The Ghosts about Sue Mundy’s Capture
The most famous guerrilla warrior in Kentucky was Marcellous Jerome Clarke better known as “Sue Mundy.” Sue was captured on a farm in Meade County, with two other men, Henry Clay Magruder and Henry Medkiff. These men were in a skirmish on the Hancock, Breckenridge, County line, and Magruder was shot in the lung. Being a distant kin to John Cox, the men sought refuge and medical attention in the Cox tobacco barn. The doctor treating Magruder told on the men and they were captured on March 12th, 1865. Mundy was hanged for his crimes March 15th 1865, and Magruder met his fate the following October 20th. Medkiff was sentenced to death but it was commuted to a prison term, and then he was suddenly released becoming, after the war, a farm implement salesman near Irvington. Since none of the men died on the site you might ask, where did the ghosts come from?
During the 1930’s the old two story Cox farm house became a Negro orphanage. A number of boys were housed and cared for on the property. It is conceivable that some may have died there. In the family cemetery we discovered five grave stones that were not shown on the listing of graves in the Cox family papers. This could mean that the simple rough stones marked graves of people buried later, and maybe were some of the orphans. In about 1954 the Cox farm house was demolished. For years the property remained vacant until a new house was built nearby. The lady that owned that house died in a nursing facility in Elizabeth Town.
While doing some research on Sue Mundy I was told to ask a foreman of a work crew that lived in the house for permission to clean up the old cemetery and walk the historic site. The man was named Raul. He gave me permission, and then asked me if I was afraid of ghosts. I told him I wasn’t, and he proceeded to tell me the house was haunted. He said on a number of occasions late at night the men would awake to the sound of dishes falling out of the cabinets and crashing broken on the kitchen floor. They would run to the kitchen and find everything in order. On other occasions a radio would be heard playing in an empty upstairs bedroom but when the door was opened the music stopped and no radio was in the room. Doors could be heard opening and shutting. Raul told me that the men who lived and visited there believed the ghost was a woman. He also said that they liked her. He said we all get along together, she doesn’t bother us and we don’t bother her. We’re O.K. with each other. On another occasion when I visited Raul he was absent, working someplace else, and I spoke to one of the lady housekeepers that took care of the cleaning and washing. I asked her if she ever experienced a ghostly event, and she said, “Oh you mean the little boy.”
I told her that actually I was referring to the ghost of a lady, and she said she did not know much about her, but regularly when she and her associate would look out the upstairs window often a little boy would be standing in the field near the cemetery staring up at them. Sometimes they would call out to him to wait, and they would run down the stairs but by the time they got down the stairs, he would be gone, disappeared. They would wave to him from the window and ask his name, but he would not wave back or speak to them. He just continued his silent stare. It was always the same boy wearing clothing that was old, worn, and out of style. Could it have been the ghost of an orphan that died on the site? Could the ghost of the woman, be a former owner of the nearby house, or someone else? You decide.
There is a story told by Alice Bounderant Scott in her book “The Doe Run Settlements,” about two men who were killed by Union guerrilla soldiers just outside of Garnettsville. This occurred in 1863. Mrs. Scott tells that two of Morgan’s men were captured by Union guerrilla soldiers. A guard was taking the two youthful prisoners up the hill toward the top, when they stopped at the home of Dr. Henry Pusey to get a drink of water from his well. Two ladies were present the Doctor’s wife and a patient Mrs. Hannah Williams. The two women spoke with the prisoners, and found they were from Louisville. After resting and getting water to drink, the guard took them up the hill and once out of sight shot the prisoners. Mrs. Pusey claimed the bodies, and prepared them to be sent to their families.
In April of 1863 a man named Jarrett or Duke and another, Dan Morgan Shacklett, were shot and killed between Meadeville, Kentucky and Louisville, likely in the vicinity of Garnettsville. Jarrett or Duke was cursing his captors, and the Captain gave the O.K. to shut him up by shooting him. The men were prisoners captured in the raid Captain Hare made on the “Sheep Shed Rocks.” It is possible that these men were in contact with Morgan and could be the same people that Mrs. Pusey prepared for burial. There was a contingent of Louisville men with these soldiers.
I have been told of an apparition that sometimes appears past the cemetery toward the top of the hill. One night some lady ghost hunters from E.V.P., “Entity Visual Paranormal,” went to that location with Shirley Brown and me. Shirley took a photograph of the women as they walked back to the cars. There was an orb following behind them high in the air. Could this be one of the dead Confederate soldiers?
Incident in Haunted Hollow
In 1899 John Boling wrote a story in the “Messenger” about an area known only as haunted hollow. The haunted hollow he referred to was across from Meade County in Indiana. The place described as down river from Mauckport. The article had a headline that read, “Ghouls Operated Years Ago.” Ghouls of course are defined as those that exhume the dead and prey upon their flesh. The area was thought to be haunted, curious things happened there, and people shunned the place known to contain the graves of Native Americans. He wrote, “My brother, Jim Cain and I obtained a skiff and went down the Ohio below Mauckport to “Haunted Hollow.” Our object was to examine the Indian burial ground located there, and our trip paid dividends.” The expedition met with a very old man that lived nearby the hollow named Jimmie Trotter. He told the men that the river bottom that contained the graves had been largely washed away. By walking along the yellow banks and digging into the walls where dark stains appeared the men collected several skeletal long bones and an intact skull with all 32 teeth present. A doctor J. M. Hardin examined the skull and pronounced, “This is a skull of a very old human. All 32 teeth are present and although much worn, are sound and would have given years more good service.” Undoubtedly the Indian cemetery and the skeletal remains gave rise to the notion the hollow was haunted. It may have been, and may be yet today.
The Apparition at the Battletown School
There was a visitor to one of the historical societies meetings on a night when Shirley Brown was speaking about her great-great-great aunt Leah Smock. Leah came from the area near Battletown formerly called Staples. It is a wild and remote forested area even today. The lady was a former worker at the school. She spoke to me after the meeting and asked if I thought the ghost at the school was associated with the ghost of Leah Smock. Since I did not know about the story of the apparition at the school I asked that she tell me. She related to me that a number of people have glimpsed the figure of a man walking the halls when no one is about.
The first time she saw the apparition was when she was working late one night, and a door was opened onto the corridor she was busy looking at some papers, but noticed someone, a man, had moved past the open door. She thought it must be the custodian who was also working late. She got up and looked down the hall but saw no one. After a while she decided to go to the custodian and see if he had been up the hallway. He was busily working on a project and had not been away from his work. The lady told me that they looked in each room, the restrooms storage areas, and the hallways and found no one present in the building. Other people she said had seen similar, fleeting apparitions in the school or on the lawn outside.
Meade County’s Most Famous Ghost
There is one ghost sighting that’s the most documented in Meade County. It is also the most repeated in Meade County folk lore, and that is the legend of the ghost of the beautiful witch Leah Smock. There are diverse opinions about whether Leah is really a witch. It is a debatable issue. Most of the old people who knew first hand reports of Leah like Cowboy Bennett think she was a very intelligent, beautiful girl, who knew the magic of herbs and natural cures. She was also thought to possess powerful intuition and maybe had the second sight, or be able to predict through natural or supernatural reasoning, things yet to be. She was very intelligent. Among other things she was accused of driving two boys who teased her, to go out of their minds. She supposedly cursed and caused the death of two fine horses when their owner forbade her petting them, and caused the death of an infant whose mother refused to let Leah hold the child. Causing crops to fail and other calamities were attributed to her. A posse visited her father’s farm when she was alone, locked her or tied her, in a smokehouse, and set it on fire burning her to death. She is the only known person to have been burnt as a witch in the United States. Salem witches were hanged or stoned to death.
Shortly after she was burned her ghost appeared to her mother at the remains of the smoke house. Her body was taken to a remote place and became the first burial in what is now called the Betsy Daily Cemetery. Not long after she was buried a hunter saw her ghost standing at her grave looking down. In both instances her apparition was dressed in in a white garment with cords at the sleeves and waist. She had long black hair and was very pretty. Her form did not touch the ground, and she was invisible below the knees. She was surrounded by a purple haze or aura. The town’s folk were so afraid they carried a wagon load of rock to the grave, and dug down into it filling the grave with stones to keep her spirit from rising. It didn’t work. She has been seen many times, and people who visited her grave sometimes became confused and could not find their way back to their cars. The walk to the cemetery is a long hard one of a mile or more. Sometimes, even today cooper’s tools are found on her grave. Her father made barrels and she helped him. Hunters in the area cannot bring down game and sometimes see her. Leah had a love and a sense about animals, and could control and gentle even dogs that were known to bite. It is said her love of animals cause the hunters to miss their mark. Snakes are sometimes seen sunning atop her grave. She has made herself known even until today causing computers to malfunction or reverse images to occur when people are writing about her or copying photographs of her grave. A film crew’s equipment failed to operate at her grave after it was repeatedly tested and found to function elsewhere. Remarkable and beautiful Leah is Meade Counties’ most famous ghost, and witch.
Have a happy Halloween everyone.]]>
Did a Meade County Rebel and John Hunt Morgan Win the Battle of Chickamauga?
Gerald W. Fischer
There is an untold story about John Hunt Morgan’s “Great Raid,” and how it was aided by a Meade County, rebel captain, a gun runner with stolen arms, and their redoubtable band of Confederate raiders. Morgan’s raid is often considered by many to be of no major importance indeed, it is often labeled as an exercise in futility perpetrated by a vainglorious General to create headlines while scaring Hoosiers and Buckeyes. Some insist that Morgan’s raid led to the demise of the Confederate army. In fact, Morgan’s raid kept the Confederate army in the field almost two years longer, and directly led to what is arguably the greatest Confederate victory of the war. A little known fact about this raid is the part played by a group of local Meade County Confederate guerrillas that delayed the Union army ordered to stop John Hunt Morgan from crossing the Ohio River. Although some of the evidence is circumstantial, the historical record and the course the Union army took to wipe out and kill these Meade County men are indisputable facts. Our story begins with geographically diverse events near Tullahoma, Tennessee and in the cities of Louisville and Brandenburg, Kentucky.
People in the north said the south was blessed to have General Braxton Bragg leading a Confederate army, most of those in the south that were peers, subordinates or superiors of General Bragg would argue that the Confederacy was cursed with him. Bragg had one important defender, and that was Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who fought in the Mexican War with Bragg, and was rescued by him. The bond between Davis and Bragg kept the general in the army. Bragg was so accustomed to retreating after losing a fight, when he finally won a victory at Perryville, Kentucky he did what he did best and retreated to Tennessee. After threatening Louisville and Cincinnati with his 16,800 Confederates, on October 8th, 1862 he met Don Carlos Buell’s, Union army of 55,396 men at Perryville, Kentucky. Only one corps of Buell’s army was actively engaged, about 20,000 men, and they were beaten in part, by Joe Wheeler’s 1,200 Confederate Cavalry. Ironically, 10 months later Wheeler gave the final approval for Morgan’s great raid. While it is doubtful Bragg could have won against the full 3 corps of Buell’s army, he did win a tactical victory, but by retreating it turned into a strategic defeat. Union casualties were substantially higher.
In the spring of 1863 Bragg found himself in Tullahoma, with his now 44,411 man army of Tennessee, and his 14,000 man cavalry outnumbered opposing Union General Rosecrans, by 7000. Rosecrans had a total force of 61,217 men. Rosecrans wanted to wait to attack Bragg until he could get reinforcements from Generals Judah, Burnside, Burbridge, and Hobson. Between them a force variously numbered between 15,000 and 30,000 men could quickly be transported by rail and more than double Bragg’s strength. Bragg wanted to withdraw to Chattanooga or Chickamauga to a better defensive position, but feared to do so while Rosecrans was in front of him. Rosecrans, Bragg thought, would wait to attack until he was reinforced. Those reinforcements could now be on the way. What was he to do?
John Morgan was a man of action, and being under siege for weeks did not suit him. He was assigned to Bragg, and was under Bragg’s command subject to General Joe Wheeler’s approval. Wheeler, a hero of Perryville, was given command of all Confederate Cavalry. Morgan approached Bragg with a plan. If he could take 2,500 men he could make a raid toward Louisville, and draw away the reinforcements that could support Rosecrans. Judah and Burnside would have to divert their army to Louisville to protect the city. Hobson would have to leave half of his force behind if he had any chance to catch Morgan, and Rosecrans, without reinforcements, would be too timid to attack Bragg as he made his withdrawal. Since Bragg would still have a significant advantage of 5,000 more cavalry than Rosecrans, he could afford to let Morgan make his raid. The die was cast.
Although Bragg only allowed 1,500 men to make Morgan’s raid, Wheeler allowed a few hundred more, and Morgan thru some shenanigans managed to leave with about 2,600 men. Morgan lost 250 men more or less at Tebbs Bend, 125 men at Springfield and Bardstown, and sent 130 men on a feint toward Louisville from Lebanon Junction, entering Brandenburg with about 2,080 men. The rest of the raid is a history we all know. It was the longest raid of the war, it went further north than Gettysburg, and drew Judah, Burnside, Burbridge’s, and Hobson’s forces away from Rosecrans allowing Bragg time to withdraw. This was a diversionary raid and, in that regard, was entirely successful. Morgan would have crossed back to Kentucky east of Cincinnati, but couldn’t because of heavy rains and flooding. Having little choice, he kept up the raid until he surrendered, but by then his objective had been met. It is true that he lost his entire command except for a handful that escaped down river and the 13 that later escaped Federal Prison with him and Thomas Hines. There is no doubt that loss of trained cavalry hurt the Confederacy, but the loss of his command was calculated into the formula to save Bragg’s army. The loss was deemed acceptable by the Confederacy, and the army of Tennessee not only was saved, but also fought well into 1865, winning its biggest victory against Rosecrans at Chickamauga Creek in September of 1863.
Meanwhile, closer to home, one man left the Federal Home guard in Louisville and another deserted in Brandenburg, Kentucky. James Gorsuch was a Federal turned Rebel, from Portland. He robbed the Portland armory of their Lincoln rifles, stole a boat, and carried the arms south to the Confederacy. He is reputed to be the first man from Kentucky to run guns south. In 1862 Captain William Kendall Shacklett left the Brandenburg Federal Home Guard, and joined the Confederate army at Big Springs. Gorsuch and Shacklett joined together to form a guerrilla band. They operated in the Big Spring, Meadeville, Guston area. That section was a hot bed of Confederate sympathy. In 1862 the Home Guard armory at the Meade County Courthouse was robbed of its rifles. Likely Shacklett and Gorsuch perpetrated the crime. Shacklett, affectionately called Billy by his friends and neighbors began recruiting his Confederates. Some of the men in that force were Tom Tobin, Jarrett, John Cain, Seelye, Jess Taylor, John Wimp, Dan and Billy Shacklett, Dick Hedges and Duke. These men were active in July of 1863, when Morgan came into Brandenburg.
When Morgan crossed into Kentucky, Hobson was about 24 hours behind him, but Morgan fought at several places along his route allowing Hobson to make up time. When Morgan began ferrying his men to the north shore of Indiana, Hobson was just hours behind him. He had come up from the south east, and was heading north toward Elizabeth Town and thence to Brandenburg. Hobson’s force was roughly equal to that of Morgan. Many people say that he got a bad case of Morganitis meaning he was afraid, but that is just not true. Hobson was a hero of the Mexican War, and was not afraid of a fight. Indeed, his advance guard did engage Morgan’s rear guard at the intersection of Broadway and Main Streets, where a brisk midnight firefight broke out.
Hobson’s main force was traveling north of E-Town toward Big Springs, when they reached the town of Meadeville, about 5 miles to the north where they were held up for seven hours. History does not record who held up Hobson, but I surmise it was the guerrillas of Shacklett and Gorsuch. These men with their 30 to 50 rebels likely cut down trees and laid ambuscades creating night time havoc for Hobson and his already fatigued men. The seven hour delay was barely enough time for Morgan to get his men across the river, because Morgan had sent the boats back one last time to ferry his rear guard when Hobson’s advance guard attacked. The only thing besides the delay that helped save them was the heavy fog that rolled in and obscured the fight so the rear guard could steal across the river. Morgan crossed over July 9th, and10th, 1863.
The Union authorities were so angered by Hobson’s impediment at Meadeville, that nineteen days later, on July 29th, 1863, Union Captain Joseph Hare with 100 men of the 34th Kentucky Mounted Infantry, attached to the 24th Michigan Infantry, with two negroes and pack mules marched to Meadeville making a surprise attack on Billy Shacklett and James Gorsuch at a place known as the Sheep Shed. William and Dan Morgan Shacklett as well as their cousin John Wimp and compatriot James Gorsuch were killed. Men named Duke, Garrett or Jarrett were also killed. Reports vary, but someplace between 7 and 11 guerrillas met their end. Dan Morgan, Jarrett, Duke, and John Wimp were murdered after surrendering. Because he had a revolver placed under his nose and fired into his skull while lying unconscious or dead on the ground, James Gorsuch may also have been murdered. One of the men was murdered near Garnettsville while cursing his captors he was shot dead from his horse. Billy was mortally wounded in the battle and died later that night in the Barnes house with his wife Anne and daughter Juliet at his bedside.
On September 18-20, the Battle of Chickamauga was fought. Because of Morgan’s diversionary raid Bragg was able to redeploy his army improving his defensive position. When General Rosecrans army was finally forced to confront Bragg, he found that General James Longstreet had reinforced Bragg. Confederate Generals James Longstreet, Braxton Bragg, and John Bell Hood carried the day. Although Union General George Thomas made a valiant stand, earning him the title “The Rock of Chickamauga,” Rosecrans and his men fled the field chased by Bragg’s ragged Rebel soldiers. This humiliating rout of the Union army ended not only Rosecrans Tullahoma campaign, but also his career. He was relieved of command and it was handed over to Thomas. This was a sweeping Confederate victory, and likely would not have happened if Hobson was not held up for those 7 critical hours at Meadeville, Kentucky. Morgan’s raid did what it was supposed to do, and the full effects of it culminated in the victory at Chickamauga. Could the mystery of the delay that prohibited Hobson from catching Morgan be because of a patriotic Meade County Confederate named William Kendall Shacklett? You bet it could! GWF
Author’s Note: In March of this year I met with three Meade County historians and genealogists at the home of Peggy Greenwell, a local Meade County artist. In attendance were Patty Wemes Mattingly, Shirley Brown, Peggy and me. Each lady had assembled information about the log cabin at Carter’s Corner that has over the years become an important local landmark in Meade and Breckenridge Counties. Together we outlined much of the history of Doctor Phillip Nevitt pertaining to his cabin. Thanks to these ladies, as well as John “Dicky” Hardin, Cindy Henning, Patty Staples Fackler, Fran Fischer, and Rose Nevitt Stivers for contributions they have made to this history. GWF
There is a place about two miles west of Payneville, Kentucky on the north east corner of the intersection of highway #144 and Liberty Road that has been a center of activity for northwestern Meade County, and Eastern Breckenridge County for nearly one hundred and ten years. Lately, a mystery has been discovered that gives some insight into the man that built the cabin at the corner and his personality. The cabin sits on property adjacent to a family owned tavern that shares the same important center of activity with the cabin itself. Appropriately it’s named “The Corner Tavern.”
The cabin is interesting for several reasons. It is built in what the pioneers called “the round” that is the logs were erected when they were round, and unhewn. The earliest log houses in Kentucky were built in the round, for two reasons, firstly, they needed to be built quickly and it took time to hew the logs. Secondly, the first people into Kentucky were the men on “long hunts” to kill deer for their hides that brought a dollar for the skin of an adult male. Hence, we call the dollar a “buck,” yet today. Men did not care much whether the cabin was pretty or not. They were more interested in whether it kept out the weather and was sturdy enough to withstand an attack by the Shawnee, Wyandotte, or Cherokee Indians.
It was not until the women moved into the cabins and wanted their homes to reflect the straight angular looks of their frame houses back east that the hewn log cabins began to dot the landscape. Then the logs were hewn by hand, and erected with dove tailed joints that approximated the more modern look. After the hewn log cabins replaced the cabins in the round, and the country in Meade County became safe enough from Indian attacks for industries other than hunting and farming to be developed, saw mills came into existence. Then the hewn cabins were sided over with framing to make the frontier look even more civilized for the ladies. It is still amazing to me that a pretty face and a smile can make men do almost anything.
In 1903 or 1904 Doctor Phillip Henry Nevitt started and completed construction on the cabin at the corner in the “round,” or with unhewn logs. This was at a time when log cabins were quite out of style, and those made with round logs were even more so, giving insight into the good doctor’s appreciation of the past. Houses at the time were made from conventional dimensioned lumber framed with wood siding. It mattered not that they were not as substantial as the old log homes. As he built the cabin he secretly constructed some personalization of his own that only recently has come to light.
Phillip H. Nevitt’s grandparents were Kate and Henry Nevitt. Catherine Elizabeth McNamara a little girl known as Kate was born in Ireland in 1844. Her father Henry immigrated to the United States and moved to Brandenburg where he became a riverboat captain and made his residence whatever boat he captained as he traversed the Ohio River.
Brandenburg was a rough western Kentucky town in those days, and there the attractive girl Kate became a woman. Catherine probably lived aboard a riverboat with her father and in the environs of Meade County and Brandenburg at least for part of the time. For Kate met was courted by, and married Henry Nevitt, a native of Meade born in 1845. Henry’s parents named him after the famous Kentuckian Henry Clay. Henry was 16 at the start of the Civil War, and like many of the men in Meade County he became a Confederate soldier. At the age of 18, in 1863, Henry joined General John Hunt Morgan’s force when he made his great raid. Henry was poor like most of the farming community during the war, and it is not clear how he acquired a horse to ride with Morgan, but he must have done so, for the Confederate cavalry troops had to provide their own horses.
Henry rode with Morgan and his “terrible men,” actually boys like Henry, until he was captured and sent to Camp Douglas in Chicago. There in the squalor and unsanitary conditions of the notorious prison camp, Henry contracted tuberculosis. When the war ended Henry made his way back to Meade County, likely walking most of the way. It was probably some place along the Ohio River they met, and it could have been in Brandenburg but, in whatever way or place it happened, they met and married. Henry decided to take his new bride back to the farm. Over the years Henry’s health declined, and in 1882 he died. He left behind his wife and seven children. Kate was left with a farm that was nearly played out and unproductive, but she had the help of her father-in-law Phillip Nevitt.
Phillip Nevitt was a good farmer of modest means, and he supported Kate and her children by hiring farm hands to help with the work, and providing money when he could. Make no mistake, Kate’s life was hard, but made easier by Phillip. Kate and Phillip became close, and they made a pact that since there was not enough money to provide for all of the children, they would select one male child to be educated to the best extent they could afford. It was hoped that the one selected would then provide for the mother and whatever family members needed help until they were able to stand on their own. The child they selected was Phillip Henry Nevitt, named for his grandfather. Phillip was born December 26th 1879, and was three years old at the death of his father.
The older children worked the farm, and Phillip was sent to school becoming a prosperous doctor in Meade County, Kentucky, after graduating from the Louisville Medical College in March of 1901. At that time a doctor had to serve one year as an intern for another licensed doctor to complete his training. After completing his internship Phillip Nevitt began building his home and office at the corner of Highway #144 and Liberty Road in 1903.
After his practice was established and his house was built, Phillip and Virginia Rhodes were married on December 22nd, 1905 at the Holy Guardian Angel Church in Irvington, Kentucky. S. A. Holleran was the pastor, and the wedding was witnessed by Mr. and Mrs. Lafayette Rhodes.
It is known from court records that Phillip was practicing on his own hook in 1902 when on November 9th he filed suit for medical services rendered to Mrs. Henry Powell in the amount of $2.50. On November 29th 1905 he filed suit to recover $15.64 from Bill Reesor for services rendered to his child, and a suit for $29.49 for services rendered to Charlie Faith’s child. Phillip was not only taking care of his wife and household, but also his mother and family. Making sure there was money enough to go around was a touch and go situation in the early years.
Virginia and Phillip had three children, William Henry, George, and Mary Virginia Nevitt. Doctor Nevitt either moved or expanded his medical services because in 1910 he opened an office in Stephensport, Kentucky. He joined the U. S. Army during WW I and in 1920 was advertising for a position as doctor in a small town with good roads, or as an industrial doctor in mining or manufacturing. He was living in the Crescent Hotel in Louisville. By 1920 he was practicing at least some of the time in Louisville. In 1940 he was listed on the census as working for Veterans Administration in Louisville, Kentucky. As time went on Phillip prospered and he enjoyed big game hunting and the shooting sports. He hunted big game animals as far away as New Mexico. In looking closely at his photograph next to a covered wagon while hunting in New Mexico, one can almost see the image of his father when he rode with Morgan. I detect a faraway look in his eye almost defiant. Phillip died in St. Joseph’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky October 28th, 1954 at the age of 74. His wife died nearly seven months later on May 20th, 1955.
Doctor Nevitt’s house at one time was home to various members of his family and others. Joseph Randall and Joseph Bertrand Nevitt lived there as well as Patty Wemes Mattingly, and Bill and Laverne Wemes. Dave Maifeld lives there now, and has since 1987. Once when Patty Staples Fackler was a girl, she and her mother Catherine Staples and maybe her brother Ronnie were taking Bernice Osborne to her home near Andyville after some errand running or grocery shopping in Brandenburg. Bernice mentioned she would like to stop by the log cabin to visit a friend who had suffered a fall.
Once inside the log house her friend took them upstairs to show where she had fallen through the trap door. When she fell through the ceiling, she landed on the kitchen table, and had not been as seriously injured as would have if it had not broken her fall. Recently when the cabin was undergoing some remodeling above the ceiling some cedar bridging was found placed there by doctor Nevitt to connect together the rafters. When it was exposed it could be seen that the bridging spelled his initials. Oddly, this could only be seen until some demolition had taken place and it was exposed. Doctor Nevitt, like most men and women, had a complex personality he was a builder, benefactor, healer, husband, father, hunter, soldier, and a man content to build things in secret only he could know about and appreciate. I would like to have made the acquaintance of this Meade County man.