Historical and Biographical
MOUNT VERNON, WILSON, FRUIT HILL AND STEWART PRECINCTS-EARLY SETTLERS IN MOUNT VERNON-TOPOGRAPHY OF NORTHEAST CHRIS-TIAN-SETTLEMENTS IN FRUIT HILL-THE ROBINSONS - WILSON PRE-CINCT PIONEERS-THE SETTLING OF STEWART CPRECINCT - CHURCHES, AND THEIR EARLY WORKS IN THIS PORTION OF THE COUNTY-THE HARD-SHELLS AND U NIVERSALISTS-SCHOOLS-COAL, ETC., ETC.
THERE is much of romance in the story of the first settlers who came to these Western wilds. They were allured by the spirit of adventure as well as the hope of bettering their condition, and to attain the realization of their dreams they braved the perils and privations of the journey to this vast Western wilderness. And what a journey! From Virginia and from -North and South Carolina to Kentucky. Surely only stout hearts and brave spirits dared make the venture. Braver spirits and stouter hearts never dared the perils of the way or faced the onset of a foe, than these same sturdy pioneers into the wilderness of the then " far West." They took their lives in their hands, and with their wives and families, on foot, on horseback and in rude wagons, made the journey. This, it is true, was "the dark and bloody ground," but this also was the " happy hunting ground " and the very " Canaan of Promise " to their imaginations. Dangers might lie on every side, and painted warriors lurk behind each tree, but beyond was a land of inviting plenty and abundance-beyond was a land of more than fabled wealth. Here were lands for the mere having-homes, food, raiment and freedom. Here were forests of fine timber, streams of flowing water and broad stretches of fertile prairie lands, deer, buffaloes, bears, turkeys and all the smaller game.
Mount Vernon Precinct.-To this part of the county of which we now write came principally emigrants from the Carolinas. They were a brave. adventurous set, and were well worthy to become the progenitors of so hardy a race as the present population of northeast Christian. The first, or one among the first, who came to the Mount Vernon Precinct was not from either of the Carolinas, nor from Virginia, but from the good old State of Pennsylvania, the Germany of America. He was a sturdy old German named Fritz, and located on the West Fork of Little River, where he carried on a blacksmith shop for many years. He had four sons, Solomon, William, Michael and John, and as many daughters, Polly, Betsey, Susan and Melinda. Sol was a gunsmith and a good one too, and was highly appreciated for his skill in this line by the hunters for miles around. Altogether they were an industrious, worthy family. They came as early as 1790-91, and perhaps earlier, and opened up the farm now owned by Messrs. Steele, Dulin and Shaw.
Another family that came about the same time but not from the same place, and settled on the West Fork, was that of William Shaw. At an early day he built a horse-mill on his place, which was resorted to from far and near. He had two sons, James and William, twins, and four or five daughters. The Shaws came from South Carolina. George Shaw, a grandson, still lives at the old place. William Cannon, a Carolinian, came about 1790 also, and located on the East Fork of Little River, about one mile north of Benjamin Harried. He remained till about 1812, when he and his family removed to the Wabash country, where, shortly after, he and his son Isaac and his son-in-law John Starks, were murdered and scalped by the Indians, and his wife and two daughters carried into captivity. Mrs. Cannon and her two daughters, after suffering many indignities and cruelties, were upon the conclusion of peace exchanged and restored by the Indians to their friends.
Several years later Joseph Hays moved in from either North or South Carolina, it is not now certain which, and settled on a place between the two forks of Little River, East and West Fork. He was a Methodist, perhaps one of the very first of this persuasion to settle in the neighborhood, and was highly esteemed for his piety and good works. He had a large family of daughters, one of whom, Polly, was an old maid. One day Larkin Harned, who was a youth just budding into manhood, and who was desirous of taking a lesson in love-making from some experienced hand before making his debut among the girls, called on Miss Polly. After hemming and hawing and blushing and stammering for a while in the vain effort to acquaint her with the object of his mission, he finally succeeded, when, much to his discomfiture, she leaned toward him with a peculiar gesture and a most maternal air, and said, "Larkin, I guess you need a little milk, son." Whether the youth improved upon the suggestion or not does not appear, but the lesson was effectual nevertheless, at least Larkin did not enter the lists again for several years. About the year 1800 there was quite an influx from Georgia, Virginia and the Carolinas into the county. Among others were 'William Warren, an old Revolutionary soldier, who bought the old Cannon place; Gideon Tighlman, a bachelor; Ezekiel Wood, Thomas and James Vaughn, and William Morrow, a brother-in-law of the Vaughns. Wood was a saddler, James Vaughn ran a distillery and Morrow was a farmer. The latter built on the present site of Mount Vernon. James Crabtree, a North Carolinian, in 1800 settled on the place where John Harrison now lives. He brought some fifty slaves with him, much fine furniture and silver plate, and maintained quite an air of state. Besides running a blacksmith shop and his farm, he is said to have manufactured both castor and linseed oils. He owned more than 1,000 acres of rich land, and besides was rich in sons and daughters. Their descendants still live in the county. About the same time, 1800, Benjamin and James Colvin Earned, brothers, moved to the county, the former settling on the head waters of Little River, the latter near by. When a young man, Benjamin worked at the salt works in Western Virginia and made more than one narrow escape from the hostiles of that region. With his family, some time before the beginning of the present century, he moved from Kanawha to Hardin County. While there the Indians massacred a family in the neighborhood, and were pursued by a party led by Bob Samuels and Peter Kennedy. They came up with them about daylight, attacked and after a fight in which one of their number was killed, succeeded in killing all but two of the enemy. One of these was desperately wounded, and was tracked by the blood, which he vainly endeavored to stanch by wads of leaves pressed into the orifice of his wound. On coming up with him he was summarily dispatched. Thus all but one of the marauding party were killed, and even he it is supposed by some died near by of wounds received in the fight. Some years afterward the body of an Indian was found in a cave near the scene of conflict, and was supposed to be the body of the missing brave. After this, the last Indian raid into that part of the State, Harned moved with his family to Christian. Mr. Larkin Earned, who lives on the Russellville road four miles from Hopkinsville, is a son of the old pioneer. The old Earned place is now owned by the
" eleventh " Wood. Dr. Pyles came about 1812 from South Carolina and settled on the Press Cushman farm. He raised a large family, and when not under the influence of intoxicants was esteemed by his neighbors as a good physician.
Farther up the country, in the precincts of Wilson, Fruit Hill and Stewart, and reaching to the extreme northern point of the county, where it wedges in between Muhlenburg and Hopkins, there were settlements made quite as early as those we have mentioned in the Mount Vernon Precinct. Indeed, it is an unquestioned fact that these and the other hill lands of the north part of Christian were the first to be generally populated, and their settlement was only antedated by the immediate settlement of John Montgomery and James Davis on the West Fork of Red River. The reason for this preference for the northern portion of the county was, as has been intimated, the convenience of building material, fuel and water, and perhaps the greater abundance of all kinds of game.
While that portion of the Mount Vernon Precinct lying immediately along the borders of Casky and Pembroke is very much of the same character topographically as those precincts, but a short distance to the north the country begins to take on less inviting and more rugged features. The gentle undulations gradually grow into pronounced hills, which increase in height and ruggedness till they rise to the apex of the water-sheds of Pond River and its tributaries. The character of the land also changes, the soil becoming thinner and less productive, and the sandstone rocks cropping out nearer the surface. This is the general complexion of these precincts, but there are many rich and productive spots to be found interspersed here and there between the hills and ridges and along the many water-courses, and everywhere there is a superabundance of good timber and pure, good water. It is especially eligible for the growth of fruits, and as a horticultural district may yet become a source of greater revenue to the county than the southern precincts with their more level and richer lands.
Fruit Hill Precinct.-The first comers into the Fruit Hill Precinct whose names can now be recalled came, pretty generally, from the Carolinas also, and a few from Georgia and Virginia about the year 1800. There were others doubtless who came earlier, but their names have been buried with them, and are lost to the pages of history. Thomas Barnett came either from Georgia or one of the Carolinas about the beginning of the century, and opened up a farm on the Hopkinsville & Greenvilie road, near where the Pleasant Hill Church stands. The last elk seen in Christian is supposed to have died on his place. Jerome Harned now owns the old place. About three miles north of Barnett's near the head waters of Little Caney, is the old Mathew Wilson farm, now owned by his son James, and which was also settled about the same time.
The Wilsons came from one of the Carolinas. Col. James Robinson and his brothers Abner and Green Robinson were long prominent citizens of this part of the county, and came from North Carolina. The Colonel was in the war of 1812, and commanded a regiment at the battle of New Orleans under Gen. Adair. He was a brave, quiet man, low and compact in figure, and very strong. He had a memorable fist encounter with one Wilkins, who is said to have been badly worsted by his antagonist. Green, the younger brother, moved to Illinois, and was killed in the Black Hawk war. Abner married Nancy Duty, was a good farmer, and a successful stock-raiser. He bred fine horses and took them to Lexington, where he disposed of them at a fine profit, and by this means helped to pay for the large tract of land he had purchased. He would labor on his farm all day, and at night go two miles to Blue Lick and kill deer for the-family. The father of these brothers was James Robinson, who came in 1788. He is written up in a preceding chapter. There were three daughters also-Patsy, Mahala and Nancy. The first married McFarland, the second Hugh Wilkins, and Nancy was killed by the falling limb of a tree when a child.
The Meachams, John, Andrew, Willis, Edmund and Wyatt, five brothers from one of the Carolinas, came also before or with the dawn of the nineteenth century, all settling in the same neighborhood on the Blue Lick of Pond River. They were Calvinistic or Hard-shell Baptists, and two of the brothers were preachers of that faith. John Spurlin, Quentin Stewart. a millwright, Rayford Petty and Matthew Wilson were also among the early pioneers. The latter was the father of James, Lemuel, William and John Wilson. The names of many of these old people, as the names of many others who came after them, are still preserved in their descendants, and their memories will ever be revered as the avants couriers of the present civilization.
Wilson Precinct.-Simultaneous with the settlement of the others, emigrants from the Carolinas and elsewhere moved into the Wilson Precinct. Among the first were the Murphys, Pitzers, Johnsons, etc. The latter came with Samuel Johnson, the father, from South Carolina in 1800 or thereabouts, and settled on the Blue Lick Fork of Pond River. Francis Pennington and several brothers came from one of the Carolinas to the county in 1800. Later on he moved to the place now owned by Mrs. Pennington. on the West Fork of Pond River, where he passed the remainder of his life. All the other brothers left the county at an early day. Nathaniel Grace, a man by the name of Murphy, Collier Butler, Willis Murdock, Henry Myers, and another family by the name of Wells, came about the same time as the Murphys, Pitzers, etc. Squire Benjamin Lacy, it is thought, came even earlier. His sons were named David, Luke and Ben. Jordan Bass came from South Carolina about the beginning of the century also, but passed on further up into the Stewart Precinct. He was an " Old Baptist," or Hard-shell, and it is related of him that he would violate the proprieties by taking a little too much " tea" occasionally. This sorely afflicted some of his brethren, who though rather fond of the article themselves were too conscientious or too circumspect to indulge to excess in public. On one occasion Bass got flagrantly drunk, and a consultation of his brethren was called. It was decided that brother Solomon should go and expostulate with him in the name of the church, and then report back at the next meeting. Solomon went, and was received by his erring brother with so profuse a hospitality that he himself had to be helped on his "nag" when he started to return. At the next meeting he reported favorably on the case, and assured his brethren the offender was duly penitent and would never again repeat the offense.
But unfortunately for the assurance the offense was repeated again, and very soon; and this time a brother James was sent to expostulate. Again Bass was delighted to see his brother coworker, and again set about to practice the same wiles on him. Mrs. Bass comprehending the situation hurried up her dinner in order, if possible, to prevent the catastrophe, but Bass ordered her to desist, which, like a dutiful spouse, she reluctantly did. The result was, that e'er the usual dinner-hour arrived, Bass had so plied him with the blandishments of his " five years old " that he had to be helped to bed rather than the table. Bass afterward joined the Free-Fill Baptists, and did better; but at the time refused to make any promises, saying he might break his promise, and then that would make him a liar as well-he hated drunkards, but be hated liars most. He had two sons-Sion and " Doctor" Joe, and several daughters. Aside from his weakness, he is said to have been a very good man.
Stewart Precinct.-Lod Dulin came to Stewart from South Carolina in 1808, and settled near the mouth of Hall's Creek on the place now owned by his grandson-Frank Dulin. He was a good farmer and an excellent citizen, and left a worthy family of five sons-Rice, E. G., Daniel M. and Lott W. In his younger days he had been a bricklayer by trade. Stephen B. Stewart from the same State came somewhat earlier, perhaps in the nineties, and located at the " Red House," on the road from White Plains to Madisonville. He built a horse-mill on his place, and did the grinding for his neighbors in a circuit of many miles. He had only one son, S. D. B. Stewart, though there were several daughters. Among the old Revolutionary soldiers who came at a very early day, are found the names of John Knight, of South Carolina, 1790; Dilmus Johnson, also of South Carolina, and present, slightly wounded, at the surrender of Cornwallis; and William Gray, of Spartansburg, S. C., who was in a number of engagements and all through the war, and who settled on the West Fork of Pond River three miles east of Crofton, where he afterward lived and died. Capt. Jonathan Clark, who deserves especial mention, is noticed in a previous chapter as a central figure in the early organization of the county. He was from the Pendleton District in South Carolina, and settled on the same stream as Gray, on the place now owned by John Lewis. He was both a magistrate and surveyor. owned a water-mill, and was altogether an enterprising and useful citizen.
Moses Lacey, Maryland; Robert Lewis, North Carolina, great bear hunter; Samuel Devina. John Hyde, Dudley Redd, - Atkinson, perhaps John and Daniel Hale, the Campbells and McLeans all came early, and settled within this precinct. These all came about the dawn of the nine-teenth or the close of the eighteenth century, and planted the seed of the present population of northeast Christian, and are therefore grouped together in this chapter. Most of them were of the Universalist or Old Baptist way of thinking, while only a small sprinkling of the other denominations was to be found interspersed here and there among them.
The Universalists still hold services in the old Macedonia Church, near W. B. Clark's, four miles east of Crofton. It is a frame, 30x60 feet, with a Masonic Lodge above, and built about 1860. It was a union church, and for some time jointly occupied by the Universalists and Missionary Baptists. Some of the original members of the former body were 0. A. West and wife, G. N. Johnson, G. H. Myers and wife, James M. Clark, E. R. Gray and wife and William Brown and his wife. Some of the ministers who have from time to time served them : Dr. R. Medley, Joab Clark, Dr. J. E. McCord, and his son Dr. William McCord. Owing to some disagreement among them about 1872-73 the Baptists built a log church of their own called New Macedonia, on the Scott's •Mill road near John A. Lewis, where they now worship.
The building is about feet, and comfortably seated. The original membership consisted of some seven or eight members, of whom were George Myers and wife, Mrs. Nancy Carr, John A. Lewis and wife and Needham Nixon and wife. The pastors who have been conspicuous for their piety and worth are, Revs. Spurlin, Mitclunn, Shandy Holland and E. Vaughn.
Vaughn's Chapel of the Methodist Episcopal Church South was organized about 1870 in the Mount Vernon Precinct. It has some 150 members. Among the early members were Hiram Steele and wife, J. D. Steele and wife, Samuel McClellan and wife, George W. Shaw and wife, Samuel P. Elgin, Robert Berry and wife, John Berry and wife, John . Campbell and family and others. Vaughn's Chapel was a combination of several smaller churches, which were absorbed in its formation. The church edifice was built in 1871, and cost some $2,000. The pastors have been: since 1871, J. W. Emerson; 1872-T3, William Alexander; 1874, Thomas Bottomley ; 1875, D: Spurrier ; 1876, J. F. Redford ; 1877-78, William T. Moore ; 1879-80, James A. Lewis; 1881, T. C. Peters ; 1882, J. W. Emerson; 1883, B. F. Orr.
Fairview Methodist Church was organized about 1852. It was formerly known as Providence Church, and was an old log-house situated one mile west of Fairview Village, and had been in existence for many years. The present church edifice is a frame, and was built in 1852. It is old and' much dilapidated, and efforts are now being made with good hopes of success to build a new house. The one in use cost about $1,400 when it was built. Rev. B. F. Orr is the present pastor.
Among the important Baptist churches may be mentioned the Pleasant Hill church on the Hopkinsville and Greenville road near William Wicks. It is a frame, about 40x60 feet, with a seating capacity of between 200 and 300m and was built about 1840. Among the early members were : Col. James Robinson (an Elder) and wife, Wyatt Meacham and wife, Mrs. E. A. Cash, Winchester Meacham, John West, George Myers, Robert Barnes, Mrs. Amy Weathers and Mrs. John West. Pastors: Revs. Robert Anderson, Robert Williams W. Meacham, Calvin Meacham, N. Lacy, James Spurlin and James Barrow.
The Rock Bridge, another Baptist church, was built about 1849-50. It is a log structure, and about 30x25 feet in dimensions. Nothing has been gathered as to its past or present membership, and only that the Revs. Spurlin and Meacham were for a time its pastors.
The Old Baptists, who had churches at Barren Spring, Rock Spring, Petersburg and elsewhere have fallen somewhat into decay, and are fast dying out or being absorbed into other denominations. With the exception of occasional services at Macedonia, they seldom have preaching anywhere.
The schools of this portion of the county compare favorably with those of other sections. Schools of the pioneer type were taught here very early. In later years schools supported by the public money have largely improved the educational facilities of this region. There is, however, room for still further improvement.
The Natural or Rock Bridge which is spoken of elsewhere is in the wedge shaped strip, running up between the West Fork or McFarland's Creek and Pond River. and about six or eight miles from the confluence of those streams.
There are some coal deposits in the northeast part of the county mostly in Stewart Precinct, but they have not been developed to an extent to render them valuable. Plenty of energy and enterprise with a liberal investment of capital will make Stewart one of the richest precincts in the county.-Tydings.
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