A century has passed since the settlement of Davis and Montgomery, and the first influx of whites is dead and gone. In all probability, there is not an individual living in Christian County who was here at the time of its formation; if so, they could have been little more than infants then. With the long lapse of time between then and now, and no source to draw from except the county records, it is not possible to give a correct list of the settlers prior to 1800. The oldest citizens now living can only give the names of those whom they have heard their elders speak of, for many of the very first settlers either died or went away before they were born, or before the period back to which their recollection extends. From the records of the county, and from all other sources at command, we find that among the earliest settlers, and the people living here when the county was formed, were the following: Jacob Barnett, Moses Shelby, Jonathan and Charles Logan, James Robinson and his sons Abner, James and Green, Brewer Reeves, Hugh Knox, Jonathan Ramsey, Benjamin Lacy, Matthew Wilson, Bartholomew Wood, Samuel Hardin, Abraham Stuart, Adam Lynn, Alexander Lewis, John Dennis, John Campbell, Samuel Means, William Armstrong, John Wilson, John Maberry, James Thompson, Young Ewing, John Clark, Obadiah Roberts, James Shaw, James Richey, James Henderson, John Caudry, Charles Hogan, Isaac Fitsworth, Michael Pirtle, Isaac Shoat, William Prince, Willis Hicks, Samuel Bradly, James Reeves, Michael Dillingham, George Robinson, Sr., Samuel Kinkeade, Julius Saunders, James Decon, Charles Staton, James Kerr, James Waddleton, Joseph Kuykendall, Robert Cravens, Capt. Harry Wood, George Bell, Peter Carpenter, Henry Wortman, James Kuykendall, Abraham Hicks, Henry Clark, James Lewis, David Smith, James Elliott, John Roberts, George, Benjamin and Joab Hardin, Francis Leofftus, Peter and John Shaffer, Benjamin Campbell, Thomas Vaughn, James Lockard, William Stroud, Sr., Edward Taylor, Henry Wolf, William Means, Levi Cornelius, John Mc-Daniel, Neil and Sandy Blue, ” Hal ” Brewer, Justinian Cartwright, Azariah Davis, William and Benjamin Dupuy, Joseph Cavender, Robert Warner, Edward Davis, John Wilcoxon, etc., etc. Little is known of the great majority of these people; of many of them absolutely nothing is known, except, as shown by the records, they were here prior to 1800, and where most of them lived no one knows. Some may have lived in the present County of Henderson, and some beyond the Cumberland River, for Christian County originally was large, and its boundaries far beyond what they are now. They have all passed away, and of the many no trace exists except their names inscribed in the old faded, musty records.
But little is known, as we have said, of the majority of those whose names we have mentioned, and of many of them nothing. But of the few of whom we have gathered some facts is James Robinson. It is not improbable that he was here next after Davis and Montgomery. If not, there could have been but few here between them, as it is a family tradition that he came as early as 1788. He was from North Carolina, and was a revolutionary soldier; entered the army at the beginning of the struggle, and carried his musket-and used it, too-until the sons of liberty conquered a peace before the walls of Yorktown. He returned home to find his wife dead, and his family scattered, and ever after may be termed a wanderer in the wilderness. The dark and bloody ground, as Kentucky was even then known, was attracting attention, and he wandered hither. He spent some time in the fort at Boonesboro, but, ever restless, he resumed his wanderings, and came to what is now Christian County, and built a cabin in the present Precinct of Wilson. Here he remained about a year, and returned to North Carolina, gathered up the scattered members of his family, and brought them to Kentucky. His sons who came here were Abner, James and Green. The first died in Wilson Precinct, where he settled; James commanded a regiment under Gen. Jackson in the battle of New Orleans, was the Captain of the Regulators spoken of elsewhere in this volume, and also died in Wilson Precinct. Green, the youngest of the brothers, was killed in the Black Hawk war. No braver and more valiant soldiers ever fought for their country than the old revolutionary hero, James Robinson, and his sons. Some years after he brought his family here, he went to Tennessee, and eventually died at Port Royal. In the chapter on Wilson Precinct, much more will be said of the Robinsons. They were men of note, and their footprints may still be seen in the community where they lived, and where descendants still perpetuate a name that should not be forgotten.
Many of the people mentioned above will be further noticed in subsequent chapters of this work, together with the names of other settlers. This brief glance at the pioneers is merely to show the occupation of the country prior to the organization of the county, and as we proceed we shall refer more fully to them. A few words of their life in the wilderness, and we will turn our attention to the formation of the county and its legal life. Hardships and Privations – Prior to 1800, Christian County was a vast waste, with only here and there meager settlements of hardy pioneers. Much of the county was an unbroken stretch of barrens or prairie land, inhabited by wild animals, the settlements being confined to the timber. These pioneers came here, they knew not why, and at once seemed to realize that to look behind them with regret was useless. Figuratively, they had put their hand to the plow, and looked not back.
The rifle and the fish-hook antedated the grater and the rude hand-mill in supplying food. The question of bread, after the first coming of a family, until they could clear ground to raise their home supply, was often a serious one indeed. Corn was the staple production, but even after it was raised there were no mills to grind it, and this made the grater a useful article in every household. Wheat was not grown for a number of years, as there were neither mills nor markets for it. Many of the earliest settlers squatted in the north part of the county, among the hills and the springs and the timber. The ground was light and fresh, and, while not so rich as in the barrens, yet, when the undergrowth of the forests was removed, and the large trees deadened, the cultivation of the ground was an easy matter. Believing the barrens would never be worth anything, except for pasturage, the good old pioneers from North Carolina sought the hills of the North, as we have said, where flowed perennial springs, and grew towering forest trees,
“in Whose tops The century-living crow grew old and died.”
The difficulties encountered here by the first settlers were very great. They were in a wilderness remote from any cultivated region, and ammunition, food, clothing and implements of industry were obtained with great difficulty. Then the merciless savage was not very far distant, and although, as a general thing, peaceable and friendly, it was in their nature to accept the slightest pretext for putting on the war-paint, the tomahawk and the scalping-knife. These threatened difficulties only increased danger, toil and suffering for the few and widely separated families. The accumulated dangers drew the people nearer together, and they lived in a state of comparative social equality. Aristocratic distinctions were left beyond the mountains, and the first society lines drawn were to separate the very bad from the general mass. No punctilious formalities marred their gatherings for ” raisings ” and ” log-rollings,” but all were happy and enjoyed themselves in seeing others happy. The rich and the poor dressed alike, the men wearing mostly hunting shirts and pants of buckskin, while the ladies attired themselves in coarse fabrics produced by their own hands.
But in this primitive state, and with all these difficulties surrounding them, and the hardships incident to a new country, the propriety of forming a new county began to be debated among the people. Toward the close of the year 1796, the contemplated project became a reality.
Additional of the Settlers
Among the early settlers already briefly alluded to is Bartholomew Wood, who originally owned the land upon which the city of Hopkinsville stands. He was prominent in its early history, and in the chapter devoted to that subject a sketch of Mr. Wood will be given. Jacob Barnett, Moses Shelby, Hugh Knox, Jonathan Logan and Brewer Reeves, were the first Justices of the Peace of the new county, but beyond the early service in that capacity, nothing is known of them. Charles Logan was the first Sheriff, and John Clark the first County Clerk. Obadiah Roberts was a son-in-law of Bartholomew Wood, and was the first man licensed to keep a tavern in Elizabeth, as Hopkinsville was then called. Benjamin Lacy settled near Pilot Rock, in 1796, and was from North Carolina. John Campbell was a surveyor, one of the first in the county. Young Ewing was one of the early politicians; was the first Clerk of the Circuit Court, the first regular Surveyor of the county, and is extensively noticed in the political history. James Kuykendall was the first Representative in the Legislature from Christian County-nothing further is known of him. The Hardins, a numerous family, were early settlers in what was then the northwest part of the county, and beyond the limits of the present boundaries. Adam Lynn was an early Justice of the Peace, and James Henderson was the first Assessor of the county. The Meanses were early settlers in what is now Union Schoolhouse Precinct. Michael Dillingham was indicted by the first Grand Jury for profane swearing, and afterward fined five shillings by the court for the offense. The county would soon have an inexhaustible treasury if it was to fine every one of its citizens five shillings now for profane swearing. The Cravenses settled very early in the west part of the county; John Mc-Daniel was an early settler in the same neighborhood, and is said to have been the ugliest man ever born into the world. Levi Cornelius was a sonin-law of Bartholomew Wood, and settled near Hopkinsville. Justinian Cartwright was the next County Clerk after John Clark. William Dupuy, Joseph Cavender and Robert Warner were Revolutionary soldiers. Ed-ward Davis was a son of James Davis, the pioneer. Of the others mentioned we have learned nothing definite.
The names of settlers who came in later than those mentioned were as follows: James Crabtree, the Dulins, the Bradshaws, James Clark, Joseph Kelley, the Galbraiths, the McFaddens, the Blues, Samuel Davis, the Ezells, James H. McLaughlan, the Meachams, Joshua Cates, Rezin Davidge, James McKenzie, Dr. Edward Rumsey, Jacob Walker, Laban Shipp, William Padfield, Alpheus Palmer, Matthew Patton, Maj. Thomas Long. Josiah Anderson, Thomas Allsbury, Judge Benjamin Shackelford, Larkin Akers, William Daniel, Richard Faulkner, Samuel Finley, Hawkins Goode, John Gray, Morgan Hopkins, George Cushman, Golden Williams, the Metcalfs, James Gilkey, John Johnson, Samuel Underwood, the Sheltons, John Wallace, Joseph Clark, James McKnight, Jacob Morris, Jerald Jackson, and a great many others who came in prior, perhaps, to 1810, and who will receive mention in the precinct chapters, and in the war history, under the head of Revolutionary soldiers. This chapter, we repeat, is not intended to give the complete settlement of the county, but merely a brief notice of some of the pioneers who were among its early citizens.
Jerald Jackson, one of the pioneers mentioned above, was an eccentric character. Whence he came no one knows, but he was here when there were but few settlements within the present bounds of Christian County. He was tall and ungainly, and the skin on his hands and face, through long exposure to the sunshine and storms, was almost as rough as the outer coat of a shell-bark hickory. He lived in camps and spent his time in hunting and trapping. His favorite retreat is said to have been on Brushy Fork of Treadwater, and he used to range over the great wilderness as far distant as Boone’s Fort (Boonesboro), in pursuit of game. He was peculiar and shrewd; he knew nothing of a Government of rigid laws and stern police regulations, and subjected to such could neither have thrived nor lived. He sought no acquaintances, but on the contrary avoided his kind so far as possible. When settlers began to come in, he sought the wilds of Missouri, and wandering through its forests became a voluntary subject of the King of Spain. But eventually he dragged his wearied limbs back to his old hunting-ground to die. He died in the north part of the county about 1812-13, and in death his peculiarities did not leave him. At his urgent request, it is said, he was buried on a high hill in the southwest part of Scates’ Mill Precinct, in a grave made of rocks on top of the ground, and to be covered with a large slab of rock which he had himself prepared for the purpose. He also requested his gun and tomahawk to be put into the grave with his body. His grave, we learn, is still to be seen, and is on or near the farm now owned by the heirs of Jacob Morris. Jackson was childish in his simplicity, but his requests as to his burial denote a superstition equal to the savages of the wilderness.
Jacob Morris came from South Carolina about the beginning of the present century, and settled in the northwest part of the present county as bounded. He made the journey on foot, carrying his ax on his shoulder, his wife riding a small pony and carrying a few articles of clothing. He died but a few years ago, upon the place of his settlement. Joseph Clark came here about the year 1803, from South Carolina, and settled first in what is now Fruit Hill Precinct. He was an early Justice of the Peace, and afterward became Sheriff of the county. James McKnight was an early settler in the same neighborhood. The Metcalfs, three brothers, also came from South Carolina, and settled in what is now Hamby Precinct. Another South Carolinian was George Cushman. He settled on the headwaters of the Sinking Fork, on the farm belonging to the estate of Allen Williams, as is supposed, previous to 1800. He built the first ” horse mill ” in that part of the county. Colden Williams was a Baptist preacher, and came about the time of Cushman. About the year 1815 he removed to Missouri. As early as 1805, there was a Hardshell Baptist Church on his place, where that peculiar sect were wont to worship.
Judge Benjamin Shackelford and Maj. Long are mentioned in other chapters of this work. Alpheus Palmer settled in the south part of the county, and was a relative of Gen. John M. Palmer, of Illinois. William Padfield was a commissioner to build the first brick court house in the county. James McKenzie has recently died in the northeast part of the county, at over a hundred years old. The Ezells settled down in the southwest part of the county. Samuel Davis settled in the eastern part of the county, but now just across the line in Todd County. He was the father of Hon. Jefferson Davis, the President of the ex-Confederacy, and the great soldier and statesman was born in a little unpretentious house, still standing in the eastern part of the village of Fairview.
James H. McLaughlan was the second Clerk of the Circuit Court-really the first regularly qualified clerk. Young Ewing had served a year or so as clerk pro tempore, but had never been commissioned as such. Mr. McLaughlan was regularly appointed by the Court, examined by the Court of Appeals, and duly commissioned by the Governor, in March, 1804. He was a faithful and efficient officer, and his records, still to be seen in the Clerk’s office, are models of neatness and elegance, and may be read with as much ease as print. He was a regularly licensed lawyer, but never practiced in the courts of Christian County. No disparagement of the efficient Clerks, who have held the office from time to time, is meant by the remark, that the county has never had a better one than James H. McLaughlan. He was an uncle of Joseph Duncan, who was, for a time, a Deputy Clerk under him, and who afterward was Governor of Illinois, and a famous soldier and politician.
The Galbraiths, McFaddens and Blues were from North Carolina and settled in the southeast part of the county in the immediate neighborhood where Davis and Montgomery built the block-house. Of the Galbraiths there were four brothers-John, Angus, Daniel and Duncan. As denoted by their names, they were of Scotch extraction, and it is said were North Carolina Tories, who had to leave that State after the close of the Revolutionary war. As settlements increased they sold out and removed to Missouri. The McFadden family comprised two brothers-Jacob and John; and the Blue family, three brothers-Neil, Sandy and John. They were all of Scotch descent, came here with the Galbraiths, and removed to Missouri with them. James Clark came from Pennsylvania in 1802, and first settled, with his parents, in Frankfort. The Bradshaws were from Virginia. There were Edward, Benjamin and William, and they came here early in the present century. They settled in the southeast part of the county. James Crabtree was from North Carolina, and settled in what is now Mount Vernon Precinct. He came soon after 1800, and brought some fifty slaves with him; also considerable fine furniture and silver plate, things hitherto quite scarce in the county. He was a prominent man, active and energetic, and farmed largely. He still has descendants living in the county. The Dulins settled in the north part of the county, and will be further noticed in the precinct history, as will be many others, whose names have already been given. The Cateses were early settlers in the county and were prominent citizens.
A remarkable character and an energetic business man was Joshua Cates. Few now living remember him personally, or that he was once an influential citizen of the county. He was no common man in anything,. not even in his eccentricities and peculiarities, for these were his most charming characteristics. It is said that he bore a strong resemblance to Napoleon Bonaparte, and that he was as great a man in his way as the little Corsican Lieutenant. He was not learned in the books, but he was rich and original in intellect, and rough sometimes in his speech, but still noble in a rugged way. He was as indifferent to fine dress as he was to the opinions of the world at large. He moved every-thing by his own prompting, and was as busy and energetic as the day was long. He did not eat or sleep like other people, but only indulged in these necessities (or luxuries) when nature compelled it, and whenever and wherever the feeling overtook him. He rarely sat down to his own table (or for that matter to any one else’s) but took a ‘ lunch in his fingers and went about his business, and when sleep overcame him, like Sancho Panza blessing its inventor, he lay down and slept, whether in his own house, on his own grounds, or by the roadside, and when exhausted nature was restored, he arose and resumed his work.
Joshua Cates was a native of South Carolina, and came to Christian County when its capital was the puniest of villages. One of his peculiarities was, and in this he differed from most of his contemporaries, he ” touched not, tasted not, handled not,” intoxicating drinks, and thus kept his head clear. Another peculiarity was an almost uncontrollable desire for land. He bought all the land he could get hold of, and it is said, did not always adhere strictly to the golden rule in his real estate transactions. An instance is related to the point: A man named Pursley, also a great land trader, was contemplating the purchase of a certain tract, when Cates went to him and said: ” Pursley, the title to the land is not good; not worth a cent, sir !” Thus warned, Pursley set about investigating the matter, and while so doing Cates bought the land and se-cured a deed to it. A favorite expression of Cates’ was: ” You observe sir,” and he used it on most all occasions. Meeting Pursley soon after the occurrence just noted, Pursley took him to task for what he considered his injustice toward him. Cates replied: ” Mr. Pursley, you observe. sir-” ” Yes, Capt. Cates,” said Pursley, ” I observe it all now.” Aside from his land speculations he was a great horse dealer and Negro trader. He bought horses and drove them to the southern markets, and would buy up the vicious Negroes and take them down South ” and thus rid the county of them. He was once shot by one of his own egroes and badly wounded, but eventually recovered, and ever after he carried holsters and pistols at his saddlebow, like an army officer. He went to Judge Shackelford’s one day, and while there, the Judge took his pistols out of the holsters to look at them, when he found that not only were neither of them loaded, but the bores were nearly closed up with rust. The Judge laughed at him for the neglected state of his arsenal, and told him that in the event of an attack they would not be of much service to him; but said Cates, ” Judge Shackelford, you observe sir, everybody don’t know that.”
Mr. Cates has been dead many years, and is forgotten by most of the citizens of the county. His last days were peculiarly sad, and called forth the warmest sympathy of his relatives and friends. Too great an activity and too much mental strain, excited by his various business enter-prises, impaired and unsettled his mind to a great degree, and for some time before his death he was incapable of attending to any business. Few more stirring and active men ever figured in the county. His great forte was trading, and he exercised his talents in that direction to the full measure of his ability. He reared a large family of sons and daughters, and the latter are said to have been among the most beautiful women in the county. His wife is remembered by some of the old people as one of the best and noblest of women, and one whom everybody that knew loved and honored. Many representatives and descendants of the busy old man are still living in the county.
With the foregoing pages devoted to the early settlers, and a few words of their wilderness life, we will take leave of them until we meet with them again in the chapters on the election districts. These pioneers were a hardy, fearless, and a self-reliant people; they were rude and simple in their habits and accomplishments, and devoid of all reckless extravagance. Fresh from the scenes-many of them-of the Revolutionary struggle, a free people, their manhood elevated, they shrank from no difficulty; but, with a stern, unflinching purpose, they went forth to subdue the wilderness, and subject it to the use of man. The women, too, bore their part in the great work, and did as much, in their way, as the men did themselves. They were the companions of the sterner sex, and their helpmeets, and quailed not before the hardships of the frontier. They believed it their highest duty-as it was their noblest aim-to contribute their part in the great work of life. In cases of illness, some young woman would leave her home for a few days to care for the afflicted house-hold, and her services were rendered without money and without price. The discharge of the sacred duty to care for the sick was the motive, and it was never neglected. The accepted life of a woman was to marry, bear and rear children, prepare the household food, spin, weave and make the garments for the family. Her whole life was the grand, simple poem of rugged, toilsome duty, bravely and uncomplainingly done. She lived history, and her descendants write and read it with a proud thrill, such as visits the pilgrim when at Arlington he stands at the base of the monument which covers the bones of 4,000 nameless men who gave their blood to preserve their country. Her work lives, and her name should only be whispered in humble reverence. Holy in death, it is too sacred for open speech.