Lexington's First Cabin
The following data is extracted from David and Margaret Mitchell Genealogy.
The statement has been repeated by each generation of descendants that David Mitchell built the first cabin in Lexington. This statement was made in his day. The fact was a thing of no consequence to David, and personally, we may believe, he said very little about it. But his children repeated it and he allowed them to do so. As the town grew rapidly into importance and was by right entitled to be the capital of the state, David's descendants made very much of the fact. It was of great interest to them something of which to boast.
Now, it is impossible for us to believe that David Mitchell would have tolerated the currency of such a statement if it had not been the truth. His descendants, too, were people of the strictest integrity, and they could not have allowed themselves to circulate a falsehood, even in the interest of a unique and conspicuous honor. Yet no tradition has been handed down from parent. to child among the descendants of David Mitchell with more persistency than this one-"He built the first cabin in the town of Lexington."
However, we are not left to tradition alone for proof. In Dr. Richard H. Collins' history of Kentucky (Vol. 2, p. 1'i9) copies of depositions are given which were taken at Lexington in May, 1804, for a case pending in the Harrison County Court, in which the fact, whether or not the town of Lexington was in existence at the time of Bowman's expedition against the Indians in Ohio in May, 1779 Several of the deponents seemed not to be clear that there was such a place. The historian then goes on to say that in the same series of depositions-all taken in the summer of 1804 to prove another matter located forty miles north of Lexington-are some which are more to the point.
"David Mitchell deposed that he was not in Bowman's expedition in May, 1'i79, but at the time was a resident in Lexington: he killed meat for the garrison while the army was out; he recollected of fourteen citizens coming over from Harrodsburgh to settle in Lexington about the 14th of April in that year: Robert Patterson and John Morrison were two.
Josiah Collins deposed that he had come from Harrodsburgh to Lexington in April, 1'x'79. Major John Morrison deposed that he became a resident in April, 1779. Capt. Samuel Johnson deposed that in April, 1'i79, Col. Robert Patterson with himself and others made a settlement at the town of Lexington.
From the foregoing testimony it is clear that David Mitchell was on the site of Lexington a while at least before the arrival of Col. Patterson and his company, who then proceeded to construct the fort. It is not to be thought that David Mitchell during these few days or weeks before had not begun a shelter for himself. But it is most reasonable to believe that he constructed his cabin out of the trees at his hand, and was occupying it when the troops from Harrodsburgh arrived. Col. Patterson and Major Morrison were oldtime Pennsylvania friends of David Mitchell and quite likely shared the shelter of the cabin with David the first night of their settlement in the place. This cabin was the first of a row, which formed one side of the fort. A Biographical history of recent date says that Col. Robert Patterson built the first house on the site of the present city of Lexington. If, by the word "house" a building other than a cabin is meant then it may be true that Col. Patterson did build it. But the contention is that David Mitchell, and not Col. Patterson or any other man, built the first cabin on the site of that now very distinguished and important city. It is quite probable that the compiler of the biographical statement meant that Col. Patterson built the first fort at Lexington, which is true.
David Mitchell had an object in being so early on the ground. He had come on from his Pennsylvania home to break his ground in early spring time, and, to plant his corn and thus secure the corn grant, which Virginia offered to such planters; also, to prepare for himself and his family a dwelling prior to his returning and bringing the latter with him, which he did the following fall.
Source: David and Margaret Mitchell Genealogy