Discover your family's story.
Enter a grandparent's name to get started.
The present State of Kentucky was visited by various parties at different times from 1747 to 1772. The first of these which gave promise of the return of the parties were those made in 1773 by surveyors sent out by Dunmore and others. An “improver’s cabin,” a square of small logs, but neither roofed nor inhabited, was erected this year in Bracken County, but there were none elsewhere in the country at this time. In May, 1774, Capt. James Harrod settled near Harrodsburg with thirty-one persons, and soon after Isaac Hite with ten men joined them. These men erected their cabins in various places in the immediate vicinity, and in the following year Harrod established another settlement at Boiling Spring, six miles south of Harrodsburg. These settlements were temporarily abandoned, but were resumed later in this year, when the Transylvania Company made its settlement at Boonesboro. These, with the settlement formed by Col. Benjamin Logan, in Lincoln County, formed the “Transylvania Colony,” and the nucleus of the State’s growth. A single cabin was built near the site of Maysville by Simon Kenton, and a similar improvement by Floyd near the site of Louisville in this year. Other similar outlying improvements were projected, but all were abandoned in the same year, save the colony settlements in the valley of the Kentucky River. In 1776 important permanent settlements were made at Georgetown, in Scott County, at Lees-town near Frankfort, and in Washington County. In 1777 Middle’s Station was established in Bourbon County, and at the Falls of the Ohio in 1778. In the following year were established Bryan’s Station, and a settlement by Robert Patterson at Lexington, in Fayette County; Bow-man’s Station in Mercer County; Brashear’s Station in Bullitt County; and Martin’s Station in Bourbon County. Each one of these stations and settlements was a center from which deployed an extended line of immigration, which chiefly confined the improvements to this valley. In this year the Virginia Legislature passed the celebrated Kentucky Land Law with very liberal settlement and pre-emption features, but out of which have grown some of the most difficult and vexatious land questions that have ever consumed the time of a court, or the substance of a litigant. The radical and incurable defect of the law was the neglect of Virginia to provide for the general survey of the whole country at the expense of the Government, and its regular subdivision,. as was subsequently done by the United States. The plan of division by ranges and meridian lines had not then been suggested, but the Transylvania Company had conceived the idea of surveying “by the four cardinal points, except where rivers or mountains make it too inconvenient,” and so far as this work proceeded was superior to what followed. By the Virginia . law each possessor of a warrant was allowed to locate the same where he pleased, and was required to survey it at his own cost; but his entry was required to be so exact that each subsequent locator might recognize the land already taken up. To make a good entry, therefore, required a precision and accuracy of description which the early surveyors were not competent to make. All vague entries were declared null and void, and countless unhappy, vexatious lawsuits occurred, in which scant justice was secured to any one. In the unskillful hands of hunters and pioneers of Kentucky, entries, surveys and patents were filed upon each other, crossing each other’s lines in inextricable confusion, the full fruition of which was not reached until the country became thickly settled.
The immediate effect of the law was to cause a flood of immigration. The adventurous pioneer hunter was succeeded by the less generous-hearted hunter of land; in this pursuit they fearlessly braved the tomahawk of the Indian, and the rigid exactions of the forest. The surveyor’s compass and chain were seen in the wilderness as frequently as the hunter’s rifle, and during the years 1779-81 the absorbing object was to enter, survey and obtain a patent for the richest portions of the country. The year 1781 was distinguished by a very large immigration, and by prodigious activity in land speculation. The savages seemed to rightly appreciate the inevitable consequences of this activity on the part of the whites, and redoubled their efforts to successfully resist the wide-spreading encroachments. Every portion of the land was kept in alarm; Indian ambushes were constantly pouring death and injury upon men, women and children. Many lives were lost, but the settlements made great and daily advances in defiance of all obstacles. The rich lands of Kentucky were the prize of the first occupants, and thousands rushed to seize them. A noticeable feature of the earliest settlements was the great disparity in the number of the sexes. Callaway and Boone brought their families here in September of 1775, and the latter’s wife and daughter were the first white females that stood upon the banks of the Kentucky. The wives and daughters of McGary, Hogan and Denton came about the same time, and were the first white women in Harrodsburg. In 1781 was a remarkable immigration of girls to Kentucky, and from that time onward few settlers came unattended by their families. In 1783 the Indians at first assumed a pacific attitude, and in the meantime the settlements made great advancement. Kenton, after a nine years’ interval, reclaimed his settlement at Maysville, where he was subsequently joined by others, and the general course of immigration henceforth was by the Ohio River to Maysville and thence to the interior.