Lafayette and Garrettsburg Magisterial Districts or Precincts lie in the southwestern portion of Christian County, and are of fine farming lands. They were originally mostly barrens ” or prairie, and by the early settlers deemed of little worth except for pasturage. Physically and geologically they are much the same lands of Union Schoolhouse and Longview Precinct. They border on the Tennessee line for several miles, with Trigg County on the west, Union Schoolhouse Precinct on the north and Longview Precinct on the east. The surface is generally level or undulating, with very little hilly or broken country in either of the precincts. There are but few streams of running water, and they are small, except Little River, which forms the line between Union Schoolhouse and Lafayette.
The following sketch of Lafayette Precinct was written for this history by Hon. James A. McKenzie, the present Secretary of State. It is of considerable interest, and should be highly prized by all the citizens of Lafayette Precinct. It is as follows:
Lafayette Precinct was organized as a voting precinct about the year 1840, prior to which time the citizens voted at John McGee’s, on the Dover road. It is bounded on the north by Little River, on the east by the Palmyra road, on the south by the Tennessee State line and on the west by the Trigg County line. This boundary embraces the Bennettstown Precinct, which has been formed out of the old Lafayette Precinct, with the village of Bennettstown as a voting place. The soil is good, strong, clay soil, somewhat inclined to be flat and hold water, but producing most excellent tobacco, wheat, oats, corn, fruits and vegetables. The timber, consisting of ash, oak, hickory, and sweet-gum, is probably the finest in the county.
The first settlers in the Lafayette Precinct were Joel Harvey, Jesse and Micajah Fort, who settled in that part of it known as Flat Lick, in 1799 or 1800; Joel Harvey settling the place now owned by W. W. McKenzie, about one mile west of Bennettstown, and Jesse Fort settling the place known as the “Jesse Fort old field,” and now owned by Sidney Merritt, while Micajah Fort settled on land adjoining his brother Jesse. These settlers, who were the real pioneers of south Christian County, were re-inforced between the years 1801 and 1815 by John Marshall, Israel Marshall, Hugh McGee, John McGee, William McGee, James McGee, Samuel McGee, Henry McGee, James Moore, David Moore and James Stevenson, who settled throughout the precinct from Little River on the north, to the Tennessee line on the south. David Moore and William McGee were the first Magistrates ever elected in the south part of Christian County. They were men of strong mental traits, with great energy and force of character, and without much knowledge of the law dispensed justice without fear or partiality.
Following these early pioneers, from 1815 to 1830 came the Steven-sons, Sherrills, Taylors, McKenzies, Roses, Jones’s, Carters, Shepherds, Carys, Hesters, Boyds and Mallorys -which latter family settled the village now known as Mallorytown. The first child born in Flat Lick, which is the part of Lafayette Precinct first settled, was James Dean Fort, son of Jesse Fort, who was born about the year 1801, and who died a few years since at Lafayette, within five miles of the place of his birth. The first wedding in Flat Lick was in all probability the marriage of Garrison Patrick with Olive Fort, which occurred about the year 1816.
The name “Flat Lick ” is derived from a flat, pond-like place, located in what is now known as the Saltonstall timber, and about one mile west of where Robert Thacker now lives, and tradition has it that this flat place, pond or lick was formed by the deer and buffalo licking the surface of the ground which contained saline deposit, and which it retains to this day. This Flat Lick country was the paradise of hunters in the early part of this century. The writer of this sketch remembers to have heard Micajah Fort, one of the earliest settlers, describe the multitude of deer which he had seen at this lick, and the enormous flocks of wild turkeys which were to be found in its vicinity. He also remembers to have heard him say that when he settled in Flat Lick the nearest mill, and the one at which he got his grinding, was at Port Royal, Tenn., distant more than forty miles.
The town of Lafayette was settled about the year 1812 by Robert Watson, but was not incorporated until about 1835. The earliest settlers besides Robert Watson were Joel Harvey, R. C. Dunlap and Capt. William Hester. R. C. Dunlap established the first dry goods and grocery store there about the year 1820. Capt. William Hester is still living in the town, a venerable man of eighty-one years, whose life has been an honor to Christian County, and who will transmit to his large posterity that most priceless heritage known among men, an unspotted name. The next dry goods store established there was by Dunlap & Anderson; then came, as merchants, Sandy Fraser, Hardy S. Sypert, John Russell, Horace Kelly, B. P. Lee, Thomas Terry, A. J. Fuqua, R. J. Cooper, R. J. Caruthers, the last four named being still engaged in business there. The first physician who ever practiced medicine. in Lafayette or its vicinity was Dr. Roberts, a most excellent physician and a splendid gentleman, who had a thousand virtues and but a single fault. Following him came Dr. Mulkey, Dr. Boyd, Dr. Grant, Dr. C. B. Hall and Dr. John W. Fraser. Dr. Fraser practiced in the town and country for over thirty years. He was one of the ablest men and most accomplished physicians that ever lived in Christian County. A man of large reading, great natural abilities, most genial nature, with a hand open as the day to melting charity. He lived in Lafayette for nearly forty years, beloved by everybody, and died regretted by all classes and conditions of men. Dr. Claudius B. Hall was also a man of marked character and ability. He had, in equal degree with Dr. Fraser, the splendid qualities of both head and heart that distinguished that gentleman, and I gravely doubt if any interior town in Kentucky contained two physicians of loftier character and larger abilities than the two of Lafayette during the life-time of Drs. Hall and Fraser. Drs. C. P. Northington, Powell J. Wooton and Douglas J. Boyd are still engaged in the practice of medicine there. The town of Lafayette is now a flourishing village of five or six hundred inhabitants, is a fine educational center, and is one of the most moral and healthful towns in Kentucky or elsewhere.
The town of Bennettstown was settled by Stephen Bennett about the year 1850. Mr. Bennett was in many respects a very remarkable man. For acuteness of intellect, energy of purpose, and that sort of endurance that laughs at obstacles he was distinguished above his fellows. So crippled as to be compelled to walk with crutches, and even then with great difficulty, he nevertheless conducted the business of a merchant and tobacconist, traveling the country over on horseback looking at crops, and was altogether one of the most energetic business men who ever lived in Christian County. After an active life of sixty odd years, and after amassing a considerable fortune, he died in the town to which he gave his name, respected for his virtues, his intelligence and his numberless charities.
Bennettstown has grown and prospered until it now has a population of 150 souls. It may well claim the distinction of being the capital of “..Flat Lick.” It contains two dry goods stores and one grocery store, one blacksmith shop, two churches-” Sharon” Cumberland Presbyterian, Rev. Mr. Perry, Pastor, and” McKenzie Kirk,” Old-School Presbyterian, Rev. John C. Tate, Stated Supply. Sharon Church was built in
Is 1851. Its first pastor was Rev. James Fraser, who after a long service was succeeded by Rev. James Nichol and he by Rev. Mr. Casky. After the war Rev. Mr. Maxey became pastor and his term of service extended down to within the past year or two, when Rev. Mr. Perry assumed pastoral charge.
“McKenzie Kirk” was built in 1883. It has an interesting history as a church organization- being the second Presbyterian Church organized south of Green River in the State of Kentucky. It was organized in an old log schoolhouse near Sinking Spring about ten miles south of Hopkinsville on the Dover road in 1817, and after removal to Blue Water and Lafayette was finally located at Bennettstown, and named in honor of Judge William W. McKenzie, who was present at its organization in 1817, joined its membership in 1829, and has been a ruling elder in its service continually for fifty-three years. His life has been an unobtrusive and uneventful one. But the naming of a church in his honor is a monument more lasting than marble, and which wealth with all its power could not buy. Possibly no churchman in Kentucky can boast so long a continuous service as Mr. McKenzie.
Near the village of Bennettstown, about fifty years ago, occurred one of the most terrible tragedies which the annals of Christian County furnish. It was the killing of Garrison Fort, by John Covington. The killing occurred at the spring in the old Titherington field. Thomas Covington kept a small grocery there and these parties met, and in the course of a night’s carouse Covington killed Fort by shooting him through the heart with a rifle.
One of the most notable schools in the Flat Lick settlement was established about the year 1845, near Bennettstown, and was known as “Pleasant Valley School.” Milus E. McKenzie was the first teacher, and he was succeeded by Edward Rudder, an old Virginia, old field school teacher, not especially celebrated for learning, but certainly one of the best disciplinarians that ever lived. He had a peculiar way of punishing bad boys which be called ” Riding Baldy.” The manner in which “Baldy ” was ridden, was for old man Rudder to take the refractory boy gently across his lap, give him a little jog-trot with his knees and then whip him until he could see all the stars in the firmament. Many gray-haired men now living in Christian County can recall the time when they took their first riding lesson in Rudder’s school.
The church at Pleasant Valley, near Bennettstown, has long since fallen into decay. Forty years ago it was the center of a large Methodist congregation. It was here that Branch Drinkard worshiped and Jack Harris prayed with a fervor that would melt the very stones. The site of the old church is now a cultivated field and most of the worship-ors have passed into the great beyond.
The first post office in Lafayette Precinct was called ” Mantua,” and was located on the farm now owned by James E. Stevenson, about one mile northeast of Bennettstown. This was about the year 1820, and postage was then 25 cents per letter. The first Postmaster was James Stevenson.
Of the early settlers of Flat Lick there are but few descendants living in the vicinity to-day. The whole Marshall family are gone. But few of the descendants of the Forts, who were the very first settlers, remain, and only two of the McGees, George Washington McGee and Benjamin McGee, remain to represent a family which in the early part of this century could count on its muster-roll the names of fifty persons who lived in what is called “Flat Lick.”
Garrettsburg is much more modern than Lafayette Precinct, both in organization and in settlement. Among those termed early settlers we may mention the following: Thomas, James, Robert and Stephen Rives, Garrett M. Quarles, Capt. Joseph Hopson, David Brame, Elijah Taylor, John McGee and wife, George and John Wills, George Gribbey, Wiley B. Jones, Dr. J. C. Boyd, Maj. James Ghoulson, Mrs. Miles Rives, George C. Boyd, etc., etc. There were four brothers of the Rives, and all settled in the southern part of the precinct. They were originally from North Carolina. Quarles was a lawyer, and came from Virginia and settled in the neighborhood of the Rives. Garrettsburg was named for him. Col. Hopson settled on the place afterward owned by G. M. Quarles east of Garrettsburg. David Brame came from North Carolina, and settled on the place now owned by Mrs. M. E. Bacon, north of Garrettsburg; Elijah Taylor settled one mile west of Garrettsburg on the place now owned by C. W. Brame. The McGees and Wills from Cumberland County came very early. George Gribbey came from South Carolina and Wiley B. Jones from Tennessee. Dr. J. C. Boyd came from Virginia. Maj. James Ghoulson came early-he commanded a battalion in the battle of the Thames. George C. Boyd was a distinguished lawyer, who afterward moved to Clarksville and became a law partner of Cave Johnson, Postmaster-General under President Polk.
Maj. John Poindexter came from Louisa County, Va., about 1830. He was in the ‘war of 1812, and afterward reared a large and distinguished family. He lived on the place still owned by his descendants, southeast of Garrettsburg. J. Poindexter came about 1834; he was Captain of a battery in war of 1812; was Representative of Louisa County and was also Clerk and Sheriff of the same. His son, G. G. Poindexter, was Assistant Postmaster-General under President Buchanan. Other early settlers were Col. J. D. Morris, Ambrose Davie, Richard G. White, Sion Hunt, Henry Galbraith, David Wooten, George Fox, Nestor Boone, George Trible, Joseph and James Hutchinson, Elder Davenport, George N. Whitfield, M. K. White, John Wooldridge and many others whom space will not allow us to mention. Some of these became noted people in the history of the country. Maj – Gen. William A. Quarles was a son of Col. G. M. Quarles, was born in 1825, and removed to Clarksville, Tenn., in 1847, where he practiced law; Hon. J. M. Quarles is now Judge of the Criminal Court at Nashville, and former Congressman from that district.
As to the way people lived in the pioneer days, it is given in other pages of this volume and need not be repeated here. They lived hard and had but few comforts-that is indisputable. They had to go twenty or thirty miles to mill, and could not always get grinding then without waiting for it several days. Other necessaries were equally as hard to obtain, except meat, which the forest furnished in the greatest abundance.
The church history of Garrettsburg and Lafayette Precincts dates back almost to the settlement of the whites. The Baptist Church was first organized at Noah’s Springs near the Tennessee line about the year 1820, Elder Warfield, Pastor. The earlier members were Burgess Poole, Mrs. Betsey Poindexter, Col. William Atkinson and wife; John Clardy and wife, Jesse Giles, Samuel and Birch White, Mrs. Sophia Rives, etc. About 1830-31, a division took place, the church property passing to the followers of Mr. Campbell, and the Baptists building a small church north-west of Garrettsburg. In 1856, finding it was inconveniently situated, it was sold to John Fleming, and a new church -the present one-built on the Palmyra road, a half mile north of town. The building was deeded to A. G. Sims and J. B. White, Trustees for the church. Among the pastors of the old church were Elders Richard Nixon, R. T. Anderson and N. Lacy. The present pastor is J. G. Kendall; the membership is about fifty persons.
A Methodist Church was built about 1855 on the Palmyra road near the site of the Baptist Church. Among the early members were John W. Woodson, William Kay, Mrs. Judith Woodson, Mrs. Martha Moore, Mrs. Sallie Moss, Thomas Adams and wife, Robert Ford and wife and daughter, and others. The members have died, scattered out among other churches, and otherwise disappeared, and the property suffered to fall into decay.
The following sketch of the old Presbyterian. Church was furnished us by Mr. J. A. Boyd, and will be found of considerable interest:
Between the years 1814 and 1816 a large number of families, including the Stevensons, Sherrills, McKenzies, Gilmours, Ewings, Boyds, Bronaughs, Callisons, etc., left Iredell County, N. C., and settled in Christian County, Ky. Having the blood of the Scotch Covenanters in their veins, they brought with them the Presbyterian faith and formed what was probably the first Presbyterian Church south of Green River, in the southern part of Christian County, near what is known as Sinking Spring, located on the farm now owned by Benjamin Coleman, about the year 1817 or 1818. The congregation had no regular place of worship, but met usually at a schoolhouse near the Sinking Spring, and sometimes at the houses of its respective members. It was organized under the pastoral superintendence of Rev. William K. Stuart, and its first Ruling Elders were James Gilmour and James Stevenson, with about thirty members. One of these Ruling Elders, James Gilmour, was probably the first Presbyterian who settled in southern Kentucky, his church member-ship extending through more than sixty years. He died in his ninetieth year in 1834. After an existence of about twelve years the church, then known as the Union Society of Sinking Spring, built a log church at Blue Water about one mile south of Sinking Spring which was called Blue Water Church, and was solemnly dedicated to the service of God on the second Sunday in May, 1830, with Rev. Thomas Caldwell as Pastor, and Robert Callison, James Gilmour, James Stevenson, Jacob Sherrill and George Gilmour as Ruling Elders and Deacons, and with a member-ship of thirty-five persons. The church prospered under the pastoral care of Rev. Mr. Caldwell until his death, which occurred November 5, 1843. After Mr. Caldwell’s death, Rev. W. D. Jones became pastor, with W. W. McKenzie, John W. Ewing and William L. Stevenson as additional members of the session. Subsequently, Moses Boyd, Dr. J. C. Metcalf and T. P. World were added to the corps of Elders. The church records, which are vague and badly kept, do not show how long Mr. Jones retained his pastorate, but he was succeeded by Rev. William Hamilton, about 1837.
About the year 1831 a new church was erected in Lafayette, and the congregation at Blue Water removed to that point, where they continued to worship under the pastoral care of Rev. William Hamilton, Rev. B. H. McCown, Rev. F. G. Strahan, Rev. Fraser, Rev. S. W. Luckett, Rev. T. J. Bracken and Rev. W. Duncan, until within the last few years, when the church house became unsafe and was sold. The proceeds, together with general subscriptions on the part of many excellent people, were invested in the new church house in which we now worship. The records of this church organization show that its highest membership was in 1850 and numbered seventy-eight persons, and its lowest in 1873, and numbered eighteen persons.
Being first known as the Union Society of Sinking Spring, next as Blue Water Church, next as Lafayette Church, it is now to be known as “McKenzie’s Chapel or Kirk,” in honor of W. W. McKenzie, who was present at its organization and who has been a member of it since 1829. He has been for more than half a century a Ruling Elder in its service. The present Elders are W. W. McKenzie and J. A. Boyd.
Of the early schools of Garrettsburg we know but little, but no doubt they were similar to those in other portions, and particularly to the south-ern portion of the county. Louis E. Duke was an excellent teacher in the early times, and taught at Col. Quarles’ residence. Among the noted men who may be mentioned among his pupils are: G. G. Poindexter, W. A. and J. M. Quarles, Dr. Edmund T. Wilkins, Superintendent of Insane Asylum of California; Dr. J. N. Metcalf, and M. H. Johnson, late editor of the Memphis Avalanche; M. D. Davie, Austin Peay, present State Senator, and Capts. C. and Darwin Bell, and many others.
The village of Garrettsburg was first settled about the year 1834 by Albert L. Jones. He built a small story and a half house with a frame shed, and brought on a small stock of goods. N. B. Dixon now lives in the house. Mr. Jones sold residence and store to Richard Hester, and about 1840 built further down the Palmyra road. The dwelling still stands and is occupied by J. E. Bazley. In 1835 J. B. White came, and in 1841 removed with his family to Garrettsburg, built the residence where they now reside, and a blacksmith shop in which he followed his trade. In 1856 he commenced merchandising in the storeroom formerly owned by S. R. White, and in 1862 built the storeroom in which he now does business. About 1845, L. F. Chilton removed to Garrettsburg from Shelby County with his family and commenced building the residence now owned by Dr. J. M. Metcalf and occupied by Dr. J. R. Payne. In 1836, H. E. Bacon, then about seventeen years of age, came to the village and began clerking for Mr. Jones, and continued until in 1846, when he began business for himself. About 1854 he built a storehouse on the west side of the road, into which he removed and continued business till 1880. Just before his death he built a large frame residence, into which he removed but a short time before he died. In 1854 William Kay built a store on the west side of the road, in which he did business for two or three years. N. B. Dixon owns and does business in it.
The little village has witnessed some stirring scenes. In 1867 A. L. Jones was shot and killed by Dr. J. N. Metcalf in a personal rencounter in front of his store. Jones fired the first shot, striking the Doctor in the leg just above the knee. The Doctor returned the fire with one barrel of his shot gun, bitting Jones in the thigh, who fell to the ground, and almost immediately received the contents of the other barrel about the head and face, and from the effects died in a few minutes.
During the late war, perhaps in 1862, some four or five of Col. Woodward’s men rode into town from the west and attacked about the same number of Col. Ransom’s command, who were having their horses shod at George Wills’ shop. The Federals charged them in turn and routed them, but with the loss of two of their number killed, one of the rebels slightly wounded. The same evening about supper time Col. Ransom attacked Col. Woodward, who had gone into camp on Maj. John Thomas’ place, surprising him, and killing some five or six of his men. Mrs. Elizabeth Clardy, mother of Dr. Flem Clardy, went the next clay and had the dead coined and buried on Thomas’ place, whence they were afterward removed by their friends.