THAT part of this county now embraced in what is known as the Allensville District, is probably one of the earliest settled portions of the county, and is bounded on the north by District No. 4, Elk-ton; on the east by Logan County; on the south by District. No. 8, Hadensville; and on the west by District No. 5, Trenton. Except upon the east, the boundary of the district is but poorly defined, being very irregular, and it is almost impossible for one to estimate the exact size of it. Suffice it to say that the district is one of the largest in the county. The name, Allensville, was given to this district as early probably as 1819, when the county was organized, from the town by the same name which originally stood at the crossing of the Russellville and Clarksville road, and the Elkton and Allensville road, and which was first settled as early as 1810.
The surface of the district presents a rolling, undulating appearance in the main, but along the banks of the creeks there is some lowland. The highest portion of the district is in the northwest, and the ground from here gradually slopes in a southeasterly direction, the lands being the lowest along the banks of Elk Fork, and then rising gradually along either side. The soil is a red clay subsoil on a blue lime-stone basis. In the northwestern portion of the district the limestone comes to the surface in several places, and forms very broken and unproductive land. The major part of the land, however, is composed of this red clay, and forms the very best farming country. The district forms a portion of the well-known Clarksville tobacco district, and some of the finest tobacco in the State is raised in this portion of Todd County. Of late years, however, the better class of farmers are devoting considerable attention to general farming, especially to the culture of wheat; so that at present probably not more than a fourth of the district is devoted to tobacco farming. Some of the more advanced farmers are also at present paying some attention to stock-raising, and are meeting with merited success. But little attention is paid to fruit culture, although the soil is of such a nature as to make a departure in this direction a success, and it is to be hoped that as the years roll on, much may be done in fruit-growing. At present about four-fifths of the district is under cultivation. When the pioneers first came here there was but little timber to be found. In fact, even the firewood had to be dug out of the ground, and what little underbrush could be found was used for fences. At present quite an amount of fine timber is growing here. Among the best known varieties of woods found might be mentioned, oak (several varieties, including black, white and red), hickory, maple, and along the banks of the creek, poplar. Of late years there is a thick growth of pine being formed in the lowlands.
The Elk Fork of Red River is the main stream of the district. This creek enters from the northwest, flows generally in a south-easterly direction through the county, and crossing the Tennessee line empties into the Red River. The only affluent of this creek is Beaver Dam Creek, which rises northwest of Allensville on Demas Gill’s farm, and flowing in a southeasterly direction empties into Elk Fork. This stream takes its name from the fact that in an early day a large number of beavers built their dams on the creek. In the northwest part of the district, on Elk Fork, there is one of the finest natural curiosities in the State. We refer to the sinking of the creek through a limestone formation, and its appearance again some two or three hundred yards below where it disappears. The water seems to sink some twenty feet from the base of a rocky promontory some forty or fifty feet high, and forms a very pronounced whirlpool as the water goes down. The rock through which it has forced its way forms part of one of the highest portions of the county, the cliff rising some hundred feet from the bed of the creek where it re-appears. What makes the place more interesting is the fact that at this day the old bed of the creek is still to be traced around this hill, and in the spring-time this also becomes filled with the overflow of water. There are two or more theories advanced to account for how this stream came to be thus changed from its original course. One of them is, that at one time there was an earthquake or volcanic eruption of some sort, and when affairs had assumed their natural state this new course was found. This idea seems to be borne out from the fact that the stream sinks out of sight some distance away from the base of the cliff, instead of disappearing under it. The other hypothesis for this lusus naturae is, that the relentless wearing away and pressure of the water in the ages that have gone, have finally formed this latter course.
Traces and Roads
Probably the first road ever surveyed through this district is the ” Old State road ” or the Russellville and Clarksville ‘ road, as it is now known. This was surveyed through as early as 1815, or perhaps even before. It was the old mail and stage route, and until the building of the Memphis Branch of the Louisville & Nashville road, it was one of the leading roads in southern Kentucky. The next road that was surveyed through this district is what is known as the Elk-ton, Allensville and Keysburg road. This thoroughfare was projected and completed as early as 1820. It crossed the Russellville and Clarksville road, and at this intersection the town of Old Allensville used to stand. Of late years this road has become unfit for travel, and a few years since the question of turnpiking the road was agitated; it was finally decided to form a turnpike company, and that a turnpike be built from Allensville to Elkton. It was also decided to vote a tax for the building of this turnpike in each of the precincts, and the day was appointed for an election. When this time came around and an election had been held it was found that the people of Allensville District had voted a tax, while a majority of the people of Elkton District were against the project. Accordingly when the time arrived to collect the tax voted by the people of this district, some of the citizens here strenuously objected to the payment of it, as the people of Elkton District had not carried out their part of the contract. As a consequence the case is now in court, and is still undecided. Suffice it to say at this point that the aforesaid road is in a very deplorable condition, and sadly in need of repair and attention. About the next public road. in this district to be surveyed was what is known as the Graham Mill road, ex-tending from Allensville to the mill now owned by Mrs. Douie Gill. One of the last public roads opened is a short road that leads from the Russellville road to Allensville. It starts from Mr. B. D. John-son’s farm, and runs in a southwesterly direction to the town.
The first bridge ever built in the district was one across Elk Fork, on the Russellville and Nashville road. It was an old flat structure, and was put up there soon after the road was first surveyed. This bridge stood there until about 1849, when it was torn down, and the present covered structure erected. The next bridge built, and the only other one now standing in the district, is one across Elk Fork on the Graham Mill road. It was built in 1878, Mr. G. H. Gill being the means of engineering an appropriation from the county for the purpose.
The first improvement that the pioneer looks after, having procured a habitation for himself and family, is a mill, a piece of machinery that always accompanies civilization. Meal was first obtained by crushing the corn, when dry, in a kind of rude mortar, made by chiseling out a hollow in the top of an oak stump. The pestle was an iron block made fast to a sweep, and with this simple contrivance a coarse article of meal was ground. A still simpler means was resorted to before the corn had become hard enough to shell, namely, the common grater. The first mill that was probably patronized by the early residents of Allensville was an old horse-mill, that was built by John Small on his farm in about 1820. It was a crude structure but stood for a number of years. In 1830 John Graham put up a water-mill in the northern part of the district on the bank of Elk Fork. This mill he ran for a number of years, and at his death William Randol took possession of it. The latter sold out to W. J. Hooser, who in turn sold to Squire Lowry. This man took possession of it in about 1850, and while he had charge of it the mill fell into disuse. Soon after Graham put up his mill, George Cross built another one, five miles below on the same creek. It was this mill that John Bellamy bought and ran for so many years in connection with his distillery. He finally sold out to M. L. Lasley, who made some improvements on the old structure. This gentleman also ran it for a long time, and to this day it is known in the neighborhood as the Lasley Mill. In 1877 Mr. Lasley sold the property to Graham & Gill. This firm also made extensive improvements on the mill, and ran it until the fall of 1880, when Graham retired. Mr. Gill continued the mill in operation until his death in 1882. Mrs. Douie Gill is now carrying on the business, and it is now the only one in the precinct. After Cross sold his mill to Bellamy, he built another one about half way between the one he had first erected and the old Graham Mill. This mill was patronized some time and then ran down. In 1840 Charles A. Bailey put up another, above the Graham Mill, on the same creek. John Petree became the owner of this, in a few years’ time, and he in turn sold it to John Chesnut. Under the latter’s management it ceased operations a short time prior to the war. Joseph Watkins also erected a mill on the farm now owned by his grand-son. This he ran for some time and then let it go down. In 1845 Est-ley Muir put up a horse-mill which he ran for some time. In about 1850 Green & Chesnut opened a tan-yard which they continued’ for a while, and then it ceased operations.
There were pioneer schools in those days, but very primitive in character, but meeting the great want of the people quite as fully, if not more so, than the schools of to-day. All were subscription schools, and about them were no great pretensions. A small room in some empty cabin was procured if possible, or failing in this, an out-house was used. The first school in this district was taught at the old Seceder Church, that used to stand in the northwest part of the district. Henry Porter was the first teacher and held a school here in 1830. Among the teachers that followed him were Alfred Waller, Brice Austin, James Hawkins, George Oldham and Charley Burr. The church was finally closed up and the school died out. The next school was built near the northern line on land formerly owned by Valindingham. Charles Brockman was about the first teacher here. Succeeding him, B. B. Ed-wards, Miss Mary Ann Howard and Miss Virginia Porter also taught here, the last school being held here in about 1855. In 1825 a school-house was erected near a spring on land now owned by J. H. Johnson. A Mr. Faulkner taught here awhile, but the school was soon discontinued. In the north part of the district a log schoolhouse was built in about 1850. This building’ continued to be used until 1870, when what is known as the Russell Academy was erected. Among the teachers who have taught school there might be mentioned Miss Easter McGuire, Miss Lee Jones and John Thompson. In the new building the teachers have been Miss Mary Orr, J. A. Bone, Dr. J. H. Harris, Dr. Anderson, Miss Mary Smith, J. C. Baker. The present teacher is Dr. J. H. Harris. Besides this school Mrs. Dr. Morehead and Mr. Hooker are teaching schools in Allensville, and Miss Maggie Lanier is teaching south of the village. All of these schools are subscription schools, and we are informed by persons competent to testify on the subject that there is not sufficient money in the hands of the treasurer of the school fund to have one free school taught in the district. In fact, we are informed that the educational interests here are at a lower ebb than they have ever been before. This is certainly not as it should be. While the people of the county and neighborhood are making advancement in other directions the schools of the State are retrograding. It is a fact, that while Kentucky is keeping side by side with its sister States of the North in many branches of the onward march of civilization, yet it is noticed that the free school system is very inferior to that of Indiana or Illinois. The general masses of the people in this State are lacking in interest on this great subject of education. And, consequently, the schools in this district to-day are not much better than they were fifty years ago. And yet this manifest in-activity is not noticed in any other line of progress. There has been an upward tendency in matters pertaining to agriculture, commerce and religion, and there should be in the educational resources of the district as well. The people of Allensville should see to it that their children are afforded better educational advantages in the future than they have at present.
Among the early pioneers of Allensville were many pious men and women, and its religious history dates almost from the period of its settlement. The first preachers were Methodists, and came as one crying in the wilderness, and wherever they could collect a few together they proclaimed the glad tidings of salvation without money and without price. The first religious services held within the present limits of the district occurred at the residence of Rev. John Graham, probably as early as 1815. There was no regular class organized, but services continued to be held here for fifteen years. The first and only preacher of whom any notice has been kept, that ministered to these pioneers, was Rev. Peter Cartwright. This rugged itinerant preacher made this as one point on his circuit, which then extended from Bowling Green, Ky., to Dover, Tenn., about once a month. In 1820 what was known as the “Seceders” (who were one of the numerous branches of Presbyterians in Scotland that withdrew from the established church about the year 1773, and formed Secession Church, so called), built a church in the northern part of the precinct. It was the only church of that denomination in this part of the State, and ‘consequently its membership embraced many families within a radius of twenty or thirty miles. Among some of the members were the families of Russells and Mayburns. James Russell was one of their early preachers. They continued to hold services here for upward of twenty years. There have been other churches and preachers in the district, but as the denominations have all become identified with the history of the village of Allensville, their history will be given later on in the chapter.