Union Schoolhouse Precinct, designated on the map as No. 6, extends from Hopkinsville Precinct on the east to the Trigg County line on the west. On the north it is bounded by Bainbridge and Hamby Precincts, and on the south by the Lafayette Precinct. It is one among the largest precincts of the county, and has two voting places, Union Schoolhouse and Pee Dee. Originally, like all the others in the southern part of the county, it was a ” barren ” or prairie, and with the exception of a clump or two of trees around certain sink holes and springs, was entirely devoid of timber. Its topographical features are also especially attractive, rising and falling into gentle undulations like the waves of the sea, and thus relieving the monotony of a ” dead level,” and affording ample drainage for the surface. The soil with but very slight exception is generous and productive, with an underlying subsoil of red clay or marl. The geological formation of this, as of all the southern part of the county, indeed of most of southern Kentucky, may be classed as of the ” cavernous limestone ” or lithostrotion variety, which being fed by the disintegration of the rocks, makes the best wearing and most lasting of all soils. This cavernous arrangement of the underlying limestone strata also adds much to the better drainage of the surface. The soil is peculiarly adapted for the growth of corn, wheat and tobacco, and with a top dressing of manure, bone meal or other fertilizer, yields bounteous harvests of these staple crops. All the commoner varieties of grass, timothy, red top, orchard grass and clover, and even blue grass, grow luxuriantly wherever the ground has suitable preparation. Little River laves its entire southern border, dividing it from Lafayette Precinct, while the Sinking Fork of that river forms the western border, dividing it from Bainbridge Precinct.
Among its very earliest settlers was the Means family, who came from North Carolina about the year 1800, and consisted of William Means and his wife and six sons, Robert, William, John, James, Joseph and Samuel. These all grouped themselves about what is still known as the Means Spring, near Newstead, and contributed much to the early development of the infant county. Samuel Means was a surveyor, and assisted in laying off the original site of Elizabeth, afterward Hopkinsville, and was besides one of the earliest Justices of the Peace of the county. About 1806 he built a schoolhouse, the first in the precinct, in which his brother William afterward taught. The old Means school is memorable not only from the fact that some eminent men have taught in it, but also from the further fact that from its classic precincts many of its scholars have gone forth into the world to win fame. As teachers after William Means may be mentioned, among others, Joseph Bozarth, Otho Graves, Addison Stevenson, Thomas Smith (who afterward became a distinguished Unitarian minister), and John Mimms. Among the scholars have been such men as Nehemiah Cravens, Judge Walter Scates, of Illinois, Gustavus A. Henry (the eagle orator ” of Tennessee), Patrick Henry, A. Stephenson, Judge W. W. McKenzie, Y. J. Means and Gano Henry.
Recurring to the Means family, the following anecdote of William Means and Peggy Cravens, whom he subsequently married, will interest our young lady readers. William went one Saturday afternoon to pay his devoirs to his inamorata at the Cravens mansion, which was a log-cabin with two rooms, one above and one below, the former reached by a grand flight of modern ladder.” The fair Peggy, thinking it would add much to the dignity of the occasion, determined to make her entry by the front door, and to this end, after arraying herself in all the gorgeousness of a primitive finery, had herself let down from the garret window by a rope to terra firma. But, all’s well that ends well.” In making the descent she alighted astride an unconscious porker that fed under the window, and at once whirled around the corner by the startled beast she was deposited, in what might be styled a ” promiscuous heap o’ blushes ” at her William’s feet. Accepting the omen as propitious, William lifted her to his arms, and in the ecstasy of a first embrace, confessed himself her more than slave.
Robert Cravens, the father of our heroine, settled on the Sinking Fork of Little River, about four miles north of Newstead. He was allowed a writ of ad quod damnum for a mill-site,” at the first session of the court held in the county. A son of his -Elijah – is said to have been the first white male child born in the county. Before the mill was built, and while Elijah was yet a youth, it is related of him that he used to go to Russellville, a distance of forty or forty-five miles, to the nearest horse-mill to get his grinding. On account of the distance little other meal was used in the family besides that which was ground on an improvised tin grater. Most every family in those days had such a grater, and the meal was grated when the corn was yet immature and soft. Robert Cravens had another son-Abraham, but of him little is known.
John McDaniel located about a half mile from the elder Cravens, and was noted in his day as the ugliest man short of old ” Virginny.” The following incident, illustrative of his more than mortal ugliness, is related of him: A man named Humphreys, living in Trigg County, met “Bill” Cravens one day, and told him there was a man living over in his county who was the ugliest man then known to the civilized world. Cravens bethought him of McDaniel, and told Humphreys he thought he had a man in his neighborhood who could beat him. The result was a bet between them of one of Gant’s best $10 hats, and the wager to be decided at the next court-day in Cadiz. On the day mentioned both parties were present with their champion beauties (?), who were carefully blanketed and placed in separate rooms. Judges were appointed, straws drawn for the first show, and the lot fell to Humphreys’ man. Grasty was brought out, and during the inspection did what he could to heighten the effect of his native ugliness by all sorts of grimaces and demoniacal contortions of his countenance. And surely it seemed as if no mortal man could be uglier and live. But Cravens, nothing daunted, when the time came went for his man, and with the injunction: “Now, Mac, look jist as nateral as you kin; look jist as God A’mighty made you,” placed him before the judges. The result was instantly arrived at when McDaniel had attained his most natural look, and the bet was forthwith and unanimously awarded to the Cravens champion amid the approving plaudits of the standers-by. McDaniel was born, lived and died in a chapter of accidents: was buried into the ground by a falling tree, tossed up into the air by another, fell forty-five feet down one well, was blown out of another, and was finally killed by a tub of rocks falling from above in a third.
A different order of man was Capt. Eddin Morris, who emigrated to the county from West Virginia in 1812-15, and settled in the neighbor-hood of Newstead. A nobleman by nature, he wore the order of his rank upon his very brow. Men, women and children trusted him as implicitly as they would themselves. It is said of him, that more estates were en-trusted to his care and settlement than were to any other one man that ever lived in Christian County. And no man ever had occasion to regret such confidence. Levi Cornelius, a son-in-law of ” Bat ” Wood, and originally from North Carolina, also came to the county at a very early day, and settled on what was then known as the Cocke’s Mill road, about two miles northeast of Church Hill Post Office.
Samuel Alexander moved into the Means neighborhood from Edmondson County about 1808, and afterward married the widow of Samuel Means. Alexander was both a farmer and a trader, and made frequent trips to New Orleans with flat-boat loads of tobacco and other produce. On one occasion, he extended his trip as far as Santa Fe, New Mexico, taking out goods on pack-mules, which he bartered for mules and mustang ponies. He was a man of great enterprise and much sagacity, but ultimately met with reverses which determined him to remove to Texas. Here he died somewhere about 1848.
Joel Nance was another very old settler. He was a soldier of 1812, and settled and died on the farm now owned by his son, Mr. B. B. Nance. He was one of the original members of the Little River Baptist Church, and lived an exemplary Christian life, beloved and respected by all who knew him.
But perhaps the most distinguished of the earlier settlers of this neighborhood was Gen. William Henry, a Virginian, nearly related to Patrick Henry, and father of Col. William, and grandfather of Mr. Gano Henry. He came to the county about 1817-20, bought a tract of 3,000 acres of land, and settled on what is now known as the Cox place, one mile west of Newstead. He was a distinguished officer of the Continental Army, and took part in the battle of Guilford Court House. In the war of 1812 he was second in command under Gen. William Henry Harrison, and rendered distinguished service.to the country in that memorable campaign. His brother, Daniel Henry, came to the county about the same time, and settled hard by on a tract of about equal size.
Col. Arthur McGaughey was also contemporary with the Henrys. His title is supposed to have been derived from his rank as a militiaman. He was a farmer, an excellent, good man, and came from Munfordville, Ky. He was in the battle of New Orleans in 1815, and deported him-self as a gallant soldier. It is related of him that he once caught one of his Negro men stealing from him, and punished him in the following characteristic way: Calling him into his family room, he assembled all the members of his household, read a chapter from the Bible, then prayed a long and fervent prayer, after which he took him out and gave him a severe castigation. The Colonel lived to a ripe old age, and died on the place now owned by his descendants. George Loftus, who was afterward killed at the Phoenix Hotel in Hopkinsville, came at an early day and settled on a 3,000-acre tract near the present site of Newstead.
Col. John W. Cocke, a Virginian, came about 1820, bought the Muhlenburg Seminary survey of 3,000 acres, and built a mill on Little River, which cost, it is said, about $10,000.
William Rasco was one of the original settlers, and located in this neighborhood. He had a son, Moore, who was engaged to a daughter of Joshua Taylor, living near the county line. On the appointed day he, in company with the parson and a number of friends, went over to Taylor’s to claim his bride. When they rode up to the house, his fiancee, Miss Taylor, came to the door, waved him the back of .her hand, and bade him go back to his own place. This the spirited Rasco at once did, feasting his friends on the viands prepared for the expectant bride at his home, then getting on his horse and riding to another part of the county, where he forthwith courted and was married to a Miss Johnson, who accompanied him back to his home. Miss Johnson was the daughter of a rich farmer, who, by reason of his wealth and importance in that region, was long known to the people by the sobriquet of the Governor of Pond River. Mr. Mimms, the father of John, Addison and David Mimms, came from Virginia about 1816-17, and settled about one mile west of Means’ Spring. He was sent in 1832 by Gen. Jackson as agent to the Northwestern Indians.
Michael, William and Samuel Northington were three brothers who also came at a very early day, but at what time has not been learned. Con-temporary with these was Thomas Arbuckle, who was a brother to Gen. Mathew Arbuckle, Quartermaster-General of the United States Army, and founder of Fort Arbuckle, Ark. Other early settlers were Samuel Harry, William Hoxie, Henry Lander, Jonathan Bozarth, Davis Harrison, Joseph Sivley, Edmund Calloway, and many others whose names have not been obtained. These all came before the year 1820, and may be classed as early settlers. After this, by reason of natural increase and immigration from all over the Union, the precinct became rapidly populated by a most unexceptionable class of farmers and other residents. Among these may be mentioned the names of Judge Bledsoe, John H. Tadlock, Dr. James Wallace, and his brother Albert; Gamaliel Corbin, founder of Newstead; Dr. J. C. Whitlock, who afterward bought from Corbin; Dr. P. W. Dryden, Dr. James H. Usher, Rev. James Payne, Dr. J. A. Steele, John W. Offutt, John W. Cook, Ben S. Campbell, Isaac Lewis, Robert and O. McReynolds, Jesse McCombs, Joseph and Lindsey Kinkead, Dr. John D. Clardy, Gen. James Jackson, Hardy Boyd, Thomas Torian, Richard Caudle and many others.
There are but two or three villages in the Precinct-Gordonsville, Newstead and Pee Dee, neither of which is of sufficient importance to require mention, having only perhaps a store or two, a few residences and a blacksmith shop or so. At Pee Dee, however, may be mentioned the James Moore Lodge, No. 230, A., F. and A. M., numbering some thirty members. The charter members were Dr. J. C. Whitlock, W. M.; Edwin Dabney, S. W.; and Asa Coffee, J. W.
The Patrons of Husbandry, though fallen into decay in many parts of the Union, still have a flourishing Grange in this precinct. It is called the Church Hill Grange, and was organized in 1873 with thirty charter members. Like the parent from which it sprung it is a secret organization, and still maintains its ritual, emblems and insignia of rank. It now numbers 170 of the most intelligent and substantial farmers of the county, together with their wives and daughters, among its membership. This, with other evidences of thrift and prosperity-a fine hall, well-furnished, an organ, three-quarters of an acre of ground secured by deed to its trustees-presents the highest argument that could be adduced in favor of its past usefulness and advantage to the community in which it is located. It is claimed for its co-operative features in buying and selling that it has saved many thousands to those who have availed themselves of its advantages, while its economical, agricultural and social features make it of incalculable advantage to its patrons. Last year its annual sale of stock- common, graded and thorougbbred -footed up the very handsome sum of $9,948.42.
It may be interesting to the medical profession to note that before and up to about 1830 bilious and other malarial fevers were very prevalent, so much so that those who escaped were largely the exceptions. Active depletion with the lancet, calomel, rhubarb, jalap, etc., were the prevailing remedial measures. Water if allowed at all was first aired by drop-ping alive coal into it, while ice was not even dreamed of in their philosophy. From about 1830 to 1835 the health of the country began to improve, and after a time these fevers became the exception rather than the rule. At the present time the health of this part of the county is as good if not better than any other part of it.
The Indian mounds and other relies of the pre-historic age scattered here and there over the precinct are described in a preceding chapter.
It may not be out of place in the conclusion of this chapter to note the fact, that some of the most thrifty, enterprising and industrious families of colored people live in this precinct. There are several colored men who are doing well, and may be classed as energetic and prosperous farmers. Nelson Gee and Joseph Luck are representatives of this class, and are well thought of by the whites of the community. Their example is well worthy of imitation by the colored people of the county. When the colored people learn to help themselves and show a disposition to become worthy citizens instead of loafing about town and lying around doggeries, they will find ready help from all intelligent white people. But to accomplish such a result they must display some efforts in this direction. The great majority of whites wish them well, and when it is deserved will not refuse a helping hand.
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