Casky, Pembroke and Longview Precincts, Christian County, Kentucky

He who attempts to present with unvarying accuracy the annals of a county or even a precinct, whose history reaches back through the long stretch of a century of years, imposes upon himself a task beset with many difficulties. These difficulties, manifold and perplexing in them-selves, are often augmented by conflicting statements and varying data furnished by well-meaning descendants of early settlers, as material from which to compile a true and faithful record of past events. To give facts and facts only should be the aim and ambition of him who professes to deal with the past, and in the pages which follow the writer inclines to those statements supported by the greater weight of testimony, and the more reasonable air of probability.

Little over a century ago this part of ” the far West ” was a vast wilderness, undisturbed by the aggressive presence of the white man. Its history begins with the initial settlement, in 1782-85, of the present Barker’s Mill Precinct, of Longview Magisterial District, by Davis and his contemporaries. This settlement was the nucleus around which the immediately succeeding after-comers grouped themselves, and for this reason more especially, the Precincts of Casky, Pembroke and Longview are taken together in this sketch. They comprehend within their several boundaries all that portion of southeastern Christian first settled by the whites, at least the major portion of it, and their present populations are the common out-growth of that settlement. Many of the time-honored names of the early settlers worn by their lineal descendants are still to be found in each of these precincts, while yet again the names of many others who were contemporaries, but have left no representatives, are lost to all save the faint traditions of the past. Immediately succeeding the Davises came the Galbraith brothers-John, Angus, Duncan and Daniel, who settled in the vicinity. They were “canny Scots,” and came here from North Carolina, where, during the struggle between England and her rebellious colonies, they had played the unpopular role of Tories. But if North Carolina was made uncomfortably hot as a place of residence for them by the returning heroes of that war after peace was declared, Kentucky they found no less uncongenial. As soon as they were recognized as ex-Tories, and it became known to their neighbors, they were not only completely tabooed socially by their families, but in many instances their unfriendliness, we are told, took the form of positive aggression. Like the uncomfortable chestnuts of fabled notoriety, by coming to Kentucky they had jumped from the heated oven sheer into the fire. Another family of the same ilk, who had come about the same time and from the same State, were the Blues, consisting of Neil, Sandy and John and their families. They also were Scotch, but not of the ” kirk ” as one would naturally suppose, but as tradition has it, good old Iron Jacket or Hard-shell Baptists. But Iron Jackets or Hard-shells though they might be, their encasements were not proof against the hot vials of wrath poured out upon them. With their belongings, they soon betook themselves to the farther wilds of Missouri, and there unrecognized and unknown they found surcease from further persecution and trouble. Another family who came about the same time or soon after from the State of North Carolina, but whose politics are not certainly known, was that of the McFaddens. There were two brothers of them, John and Jacob, and they pitched their tents, metaphorically, upon the land now owned by the Duerson brothers. John kept a race-horse and ran a still, or kept a still and ran a race-horse, and was altogether a fast “old boy” of those young days of the Commonwealth. But little is known of Jacob, but it is to be hoped he was less rapid than he of the race horse and still. John lived to be contemporary with many of the present day, and Curtis Wood says he remembers him well. He was a large, rawboned man, and used to boast he never had dared hit a man with his fists as hard as he could, for fear of killing him: he always slapped his antagonists over with his open palms. When sober, he was as sober as a judge, drunk or sober; and when drunk was as drunk as a drunken fiddler, sober or drunk. But drunk or sober he was a hard case, and by parity of reasoning, a Hard-shell salamander if not a Hard-shell Baptist.

These were some among the earliest settlers that came to the county. They found the whole southeastern part of the country a ” barren ” or prairie as we have before said, and though there was an abundance of game and water, there was great scarcity of fuel and building material. For the former they were limited to the roots that could be ” grubbed ” out of the ground, sometimes as large round as a man’s thigh and some-times larger. These were generally indicated by a shoot ‘or switch, the growth of a season, and were dug out with a mattock with great labor and effort. An expert hand could ” grub ” out one of these tap-roots, generally hickory, in about half an hour. For building material they were compelled to resort to distant groves on the outskirts of the 11 barrens,” though now and then small clumps of trees were to be found about particular springs and basins. There were only friendly Indians in the immediate neighborhood, yet occasional incursions were made by small marauding parties of Creeks and Shawanese from the territory farther on toward the Ohio River, and from these and any other dangers that might arise the pioneers resorted to the protection of forts or block-houses. On the old Fortson’s place there long stood a block-house, with loop-holes cut in the sides and a thick slab door made out of walnut. An anecdote in connection with this primitive structure is related of an old German who had just moved in. With his mind full of apprehension as to dangers from the Indians, he one day saw a party of five or six men in the distance, and magnifying them into a whole tribe of hostiles, started on -a dead run for the fort some eight miles distant. The inmates- at once prepared for defense, but in a short time were re-assured by the appearance of the hostiles themselves, who turned out to be a small party of hunters from an adjoining settlement.

At first breadstuffs were very scarce, and the settlers had to go to Russellville, in Logan County, or over into the State of Tennessee for their milling. After a while, however, Dr. Edward Rumsey, brother of the famous inventor of the steamboat, and father to the Hon. Edward Rumsey, moved into the neighborhood from Botetourt, Va., and being himself of an inventive turn of mind, erected a mill on the West Fork of Red River, to which they resorted. But as breadstuffs and other necessaries and conveniences of living began to increase, game, such as deer, bears, turkeys, etc., began to decrease, and the more nomadic elements of society, such as the professional hunters and trappers, began to seek for localities where they were more plenty. But as these folded their tents and; like the Arab, “stole silently away,” others came in to take their place and fill up the vacancy. Among these were the Moores, Gordons, Joneses, all related; the Gilmores, who settled the place afterward owned by David Parish, the father-in-law of James A. McKenzie, present Secretary of State. Many excellent families from Virginia and elsewhere, who had settled along the Tennessee line when the line was run, found themselves much to their dissatisfaction included within the boundaries of that State. It is said that Joshua Cates, who owned land thus “counted out,” though he did riot live on it, offered $1,000 to have the line so run as to include it within the boundaries of Kentucky, alleging as his reason for the preference that, ” new countries were always unhealthy.” The next influx of settlers came about the beginning of the century, and were, many of them, cultivated people for that day, and possessed of large estates of land and Negroes. Among them was Dr. Rumsey, who has been mentioned, and Dr. John F. Bell, who, though he came some time later, afterward bought the James Davis farm, the first land acquired and settled upon in the county. The Drs. Rumsey and Bell, especially the latter, were esteemed for their professional skill and great urbanity, and were for a long time the only physicians in a radius of many miles around. Bell first settled at Trenton, but afterward removed to his farm. Benjamin, Joseph and Thomas Kelly, brothers, came from Maryland in 1804 and settled on a place in the neighborhood of Dr. Rumsey; farmers, good, reputable citizens, and left large families. Ben’s sons were Roger F., Ben, William, James and Horace, and several daughters. Joseph’s sons were R. H. and Edwin, and several daughters. Thomas had two children -Dr. Duke Kelly, of Nashville, and Mrs. David S. Patton. Dr. Bell lived to a good old age, and died but a year or two ago; sons-John, Darwin, Cincinnatus, and five daughters. Robert Coleman, who came about this time from Culpeper County, Va., was a rare specimen of the genus homo. He was a lawyer by profession, and attended the courts at Hopkinsville, Russellville, Nashville and some say at Salem, in Caldwell County, then county seat of Livingston. It is related of him, by those who remember him as a practitioner at the Hopkinsville bar, that he al-ways brought food for himself and horse in a large cotton wallet, and would never go to a house of “entertainment” for his meals. On one occasion, while in the midst of an impassioned address to the jury on be-half of his client, he happened to look out of the door toward his horse, and seeing an old sow with his wallet under her feet in the mud, he excused himself to the Judge, ran out and recovered the sack, if not its contents, and returning took up the thread of his argument where he had left off, and finished as though nothing had ever happened to disturb his equanimity. He settled on the farm now owned by William Perkins, on the West Fork of Red River, three miles southeast of Pembroke. He was also a speculator in lands and Negroes, and in time acquired a large estate of both. He afterward built a 11 grist-mill ” on the West Fork near his residence, which was perhaps, next to Rumsey’s, the first in that portion of the county. His residence was a large two-story brick, the first in the county, and being conveniently situated, he opened it to the general public as a house of entertainment. In front was a large post, surmounted by a flaming sign on which was painted a lion rampant, and the comforting assurance to the weary traveler that here was to be had “entertainment for both man and beast.” This old Coleman residence, elegant in its day, stood till only a few years ago-1879, when it was torn down by the present owner, Isaac Garnett, and remodeled into a one-story cottage. John D. Jameson, of Hopkinsville, about 1820 married one of Coleman’s daughters, and removed to the neighborhood.

Early in the century several German families moved into the same neighborhood, but from what point of the compass, unless directly from Germany, cannot now be ascertained. Among them were the Kenners, Bollingers, Massies, etc., who are all supposed to have been related. Joseph Kenner, the founder of the Kenner family, was a raw Dutchman, and he, or one of his sons, is the man that ran away from the supposed Indians. About 1830 he got into dispute with a neighbor, one Ballard, over a calf. Both claimed it, and both brought forward voluminous testimony to prove their claims. But Kenner had it in possession, and “persesshun bein’ nine pints in the law,” he of course refused to give it up. Finally, after many hot words between them, through the kind offices of mutual friends, it was agreed to arbitrate the matter. The arbitrators were selected and the day agreed on, but before its arrival Kenner either to settle the matter in his own favor beyond peradventure or fearing the result of investigation killed it, and under cover of night carried the skin to a distant tanner. This transpiring on the day of arbitration, Ballard brought suit against Kenner before Squire Bradshaw for its price- $10. On the day of trial, Ballard’s witnesses swore they had seen it while in Kenner’s possession, and were satisfied it was Ballard’s calf. They recognized it by certain spots on its body, and the horns which were of unequal length. In rebuttal to this, however, others of Kenner’s neighbors swore as point blank the other way. They had known the calf quite as intimately, and were ready to swear it had always been on Kenner’s place, from the time of its birth till killed. Thus matters stood at even poise between them, inclining, if anything, in favor of the old Teuton, when one of his daughters was put on the stand. She was equally positive as to the identity of the calf; indeed, too much so, for on being asked the question if one of the calf’s horns was not somewhat shorter than the other promptly replied: “Nein ! nein ! dot ish a lie. It vas not shorter as de oder, but longer.” Ballard’s lawyer, in making his closing argument, insisted that the only statute covering the case was to be found in the Levitical code, and required that the trespasser should be made to repay its value four-fold. Squire Bradshaw, though giving judgment in his client’s favor, declined going so far back for either law or precedent. He adjudged the damages at $10, the supposed value of the calf. A reliable Negro man of Kenner’s long afterward told Squire Hord, now of Trenton, Todd County, that the calf was certainly Kenner’s, and had been born and reared on the place, and that the old gentleman only in-tended to end all complications, as he thought, by killing and skinning it.

Edwin Hall was another early settler and located on a farm adjoining the McFadden place. He was a good citizen and worthy man, but beyond this little else is known. The Hall place is now the property of Joseph Waddill. Azariah Davis was Hall’s nearest neighbor and built a saw-mill on his place. He was a regular land shark and gave the neighbors much trouble by picking flaws in their titles. Many of the original surveys on account of the high prairie or barrens grass were made on horseback, and subsequently were found to overrun the measure largely. Davis, ascertaining the fact, in many cases gave his neighbors great trouble. Squire Hord’s father, Thomas Hord, who settled on the farm now owned by Stephen Hanna near Salubria, at one time paid him several hundred dollars to get rid of him and avoid a lawsuit. Some have thought him to be a son or relative of James Davis, but the probabilities are he was neither. Edward Bradshaw was a native of Virginia, and when only a child removed with his parents to Jessamine County, Ky., and in 1803 to Christian County, and located on the farm now owned by Thomas Greene near Casky Station. His brothers, Benjamin and William Bradshaw, came to the county a few years later, and settled in Casky.

Daniel Benham came to the county at a very early day, and settled on the place now owned by Edward Welch, colored, one and a half miles northeast of Pembroke. He built a ” still ” on his place, and besides tanned leather in a small way. He afterward removed with his family to Texas. Robert Harrison was another ” old timer,” and located on the place now belonging to W. H. Fortson. Before his death he had a fine grove of red oaks blown down by a May cyclone, and utilized the timber by. having it sawed up into lumber. This was a great convenience to the people who in those days had to go, a long way off to get building material. Joshua Brockman came with his sister, Mrs. Mason, from Virginia and built on the farm now owned by John Lackey. His was a peculiar case. Though an invalid and confined to his bed for many years, such was his administrative ability he managed to carry on his farm with Slaves, and attended successfully to many other affairs at the same time. He died a bachelor possessed of much land and many Slaves, and was buried at the Bethel Cemetery. James Walsh, another early settler, was a carpenter and settled on the present Payne farm. He built a house for Maj. Isaac H. Evans once, over which he and the Major had a disagreement. In the course of their altercation Walsh said to Evans: ” Maj. Evans, I have a contemptible opinion of any one that would act as you have done in this mat-ter.” ” Sir,” said the Major in reply, ” I never knew you to have an opinion that wasn’t contemptible.” Should any reader by accident stumble upon this original anecdote in an old school reader or elsewhere, and find it attributed to somebody else, we hope he will give Walsh the benefit of the doubt, even though it should rob the Major of the honor of so neat a retort. Walsh was a good carpenter, and an estimable citizen every way, and left several worthy sons behind him, and it is to be hoped he never was really so colloquially worsted. A more authentic anecdote perhaps is told of one James Sanders, a Virginian from along the North Carolina border, and a neighbor of Walsh’s. Sanders during his first wife’s life-time had been a very profane man, but after his second marriage through his wife’s influence had become religious and joined the Baptist Church at Bethel. During the war a Federal soldier rode up to his front porch, and against his earnest protest, took a nicely tanned sheep-skin. In telling a friend of the occurrence afterward he said: ” I’ll tell you what, Davy ! I’ll be d -d (as I used to say) if I wasn’t mad enough to have cussed him right then and there.” The reformed swearer often has to correct him-self with an ” as I used to say.” The farm settled by James Sanders is now the property of Messrs. Garnett, Dudley and Williams.

James Harlan, from Mercer County and a relative of Hon. John M. Harlan, one of the present Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, came to the county at an early day, and settled on the farm now owned by W. D. Garnett. Little else is known of him than the fact that he was a good farmer and a worthy citizen. Another family, since distinguished by one of its representatives, was that of Samuel Davis, father of Jeff Davis, President of the late Southern Confederacy. For many years Mr. Davis lived in Fairview just over the Pembroke line in the house where his distinguished son was born. He was a County Surveyor, and highly respected by all who knew him. From some cause or other later on he became unfortunate in business, broke up and moved to Mississippi. A few years ago, when Mr. Davis came back to his native county to make an address, his friends drove him over to Fairview to see the old place. Among other early settlers were Austin Cason, a Virginian and a soldier of 1812, a very tall man. James Bowles came from North Carolina at a very early day, it is supposed about the time Bartholomew Wood came to the county. He settled near Casky in what was long known as the Bowles neighborhood. He left four or five sons: James, Austin, David and Gus and perhaps George, all of whom or a majority of them settled around him. Gus afterward married a grand daughter of Bat Wood. Thomas Hord, a very large man who weighed about 280 pounds, and Owen Smith, another soldier of 1812, and father of Capt. Thomas Smith, now of Florida. were other settlers. Smith was a man of fine humor, and very companionable, and what is unusual in such cases died possessed of a fine estate.

James Garnett came shortly after Thomas Hord from Virginia, and though poor at -first, by provident living and good management soon acquired a comfortable property. He was the father of Ben, Eldred, and James Garnett, the latter of whom married the daughter of James Davis, the first settler, or Azariah Davis, of whom we have spoken. James died a few months ago near Pembroke, lamented by his many friends. John Rawlins came from Maryland and brought with him a dried frog which he used in some way to cure horses for the big-head and other kindred diseases. He was a stanch Episcopalian, lived a long and useful life, and finally died at his old homestead. Joseph Casky, who is mentioned elsewhere, settled in Casky in the Bradshaw neighborhood and afterward removed to Casky Station. He reared a large family of sons-Robert, John, Joseph, James, Charles and William-and several daughters. Mr. Casky after the Revolutionary war, in which he served, lived with the father of Henry Clay and married a young lady who was either a relative or a ward of the family. Casky Station is named for the Casky family. James Hall came at an early day from Caroline County, Va., and settled one-half mile west from Pembroke, on the Garnett place. Hall was much opposed to railroads and said to Squire Hord when the present road was under contemplation, Davy, it’s bad enough to have the railroad run right through my place and cut it up, but I understand they are going to make a ‘ deposit ‘ on it, and blamed if I stand that.”


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These are only a few of the earlier settlers, selected here and there from about over the three precincts, but they will serve as examples of the rest. They were much above the average early settler ” in point of intelligence, cultivation and wealth, and have left a healthy, brawny progeny behind them. Generally they were possessed of large numbers of Negroes, who were made very serviceable in cultivating their large and productive farms, and when the war came on Christian County was one of the largest slave-holding counties in the State. The slaves were in the main well cared for, having comfortable houses, good and sufficient clothing and plenty of food. And as an evidence of this good treatment they were the happiest, best contented and most docile race to be found on the globe. There were exceptional cases of abuse and ill-treatment, it is true, but in such cases the hard task-master was universally held up to public opprobrium. The brutal master was classed among the petty tyrants of a community, and held in as little esteem as a brutal father, a wife-beater et id genus omne. There can be no question of these facts, and the candid historian must give them recognition. As to the questions of public policy and expediency involved in the sudden and wholesale liberation of the Negroes among their former owners, only the future can determine. It is an open, unsolved problem as yet, and it remains to be seen what the solution shall be. That the whites have been materially advantaged by the change is generally conceded, but, on the other hand, there are grave doubts in the minds of many eminent publicists and humanitarians as to the betterment of the Negroes themselves.

As a political factor the Negro has proved himself highly super-serviceable to the place-hunter and demagogue, thereby contributing much to the corruption of local and general politics, while as a social factor he has proved himself in every sense a pronounced and hopeless failure. So far the best efforts in his behalf by those who would elevate his condition morally as well as intellectually, have met with but poor encouragement. Left to himself and his own unbridled inclinations, he is peopling the land with a nation of bastards, wrapping himself in the loathsomeness of disease, and spreading foulness and contagion broadcast among his own kith and kindred. And the question is, a most startling question, how far shall his example influence and corrupt those who were his whilom masters, and are his present employers? The only possible solution of the whole question lies in his future mental, moral, if not social elevation, and it is the duty of every good citizen to heartily co-operate with well-directed effort to this end. With better methods backed by such co-operation, much may yet be done for the betterment of this helpless infant ward of the nation. Being almost universally slave-holders, and per consequence Southern in sentiment, when the war came the people in this portion of the county, as was natural, poured out their treasures most lavishly in defense of the Southern cause. Many of their best and bravest went out at the first sound of the tocsin of war, while others equally brave stayed behind to defend their homes and hearthstones. A few gallant spirits, it is true, went the other way, but the great bulk of her chivalry went into the Southern army. And what of the horrors, and sufferings, and sacrifices of those four years of bitter, deadly strife? Was it all in vain? No. Amid the wreck and waste of homes and fortunes they carved out for themselves a monument of most enduring fame. Though they did not conquer a peace they conquered the hearts of their enemies, and to-day they live embalmed in their love, admiration and esteem. Though at a fearful cost the lesson has been mutually salutary in this regard. With the return of peace came altered fortunes and relations to all. The Negro dazed with the splendor of his new fortunes refused to work, while his former master stunned with the magnitude of his calamities sat down to mourn. No amount of persuasion or intimidation could get Sambo back to his hoe and plow, as no amount of convincing could rob him of his illusory hope of a mule and a hundred acres of land. Only the logic of hunger and pinching want was finally equal to the task of disillusion and persuasion. At first he worked by chores and jobs, and only as the real truth began to dawn on his mind, did he set about in earnest to try to earn ” in the sweat of his brow,” a daily subsistence for himself and family. The twenty years that have passed since then have served to convince both master and man of this one fact, at least, that they are mutually dependent upon each other, and what affects the one necessarily in a greater or less degree affects the other.

But to recur to the early organization of society in this part of the county. At first there were but few schools taught in any of the rural districts, and in these only the rudimentary elements of an education were taught. Reading, writing and arithmetic, and seldom grammar or the higher branches were embraced in their curriculum. The term generally extended to the period of ten or eleven months, and in a majority of cases was all the schooling one received. The first school we have any account of was in the neighborhood of the first settlement on the place of Squire Hewlands. It was a common log-pen chinked and daubed, and stood in the woods on a hill on the old Nashville road. The door was of clap-boards, the benches, slabs or puncheons with wooden legs, while the only light that ever smiled in upon the master and his pupils, was either through the wide open door, or a long narrow opening in the side of the pen made by cutting out a section of one or more of the logs. Here for four mortal hours at a stretch, with dangling feet and bowing backs day after day, the future Solons of the State drank in the wisdom of their well-thumbed books. One of the first teachers in this old uncomfortable structure was a man by the name of Brown. D. Brown, perhaps for ” Done-Brown.” That he was a good teacher and a rigid disciplinarian is about all that can be recalled of’ him. Ile taught somewhere about the years 1825-28, but as the building was even then somewhat ancient and dilapidated, it is but presumable that others had long before taught in it. The next one to preside over its fortunes and guide and train its callow minds, was one Isaac H. Evans. As early as 1830-33, one Tompkins, a Virginian, taught on David Kenner’s place, and after him, one Hammond, about whose antecedents nothing is now known. This school was afterward moved to Madison Coleman’s place on Montgomery Creek, where in 1835-36 it was taught by Isaac Clark, then by Joseph Bell, and then again by Hammond. Another school was taught about the same time, 1835-40, by Ned Rudder, a Virginian, on the Finch farm, three or four miles east of Pembroke. At quite an early day W. H. Tandy, an amiable man and a good teacher, taught at Salubria in the old Finley Schoolhouse, which was also at the same time used as a preaching point by Cumberland Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists. He was an excellent pedagogue, and taught for many years with great acceptability. He was succeeded, about 1841, by William Casky, now a distinguished minister in the Cumber-land Presbyterian Church, then by William Rayne, still of Salubria, James Weaver, Mrs. Harriet Noll, Albert Lindsey, and last, but not least, Prof. Hendrick, a noted educator. These are some among the earlier schools, and the highest evidence of their efficiency is to be found in the character and the intelligence of the few who remain who were taught by them. At present the number of good schools taught in these precincts has largely increased, and there is scarcely a neighborhood that cannot boast one or more.


Perrin, William Henry, ed., Counties of Christian and Trigg, Kentucky, Historical and Biographical, Chicago : F. A. Battey Publishing Co., 1884.

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