Bivinsville Precinct, Todd County, Kentucky

FEW studies are more interesting to mankind than that of the past experiences, deeds, thoughts and trials of the human race. The civilised man and the untutored savage alike desire to know the deeds and lives of their ancestors, and strive to perpetuate their story. National patriotism and literary pride have prompted many in all time to preserve the annals of particular people, but narrow prejudices and selfish interest have too often availed to suppress the truth or distort facts. It is the aim of the present writer to collect and prepare in a presentable and readable form some of the facts of the early settlements of the Bivinsville District, which furnishes the subject matter for this chapter. The pioneers are worthy of remembrance, and their difficulties, sorrows, customs, labors and patriotism should not be allowed to fall into oblivion.

Bivinsville District lies in the northeastern portion of the county and is bounded on the north by Muhlenburg County, on the east by Logan County, on the south by the Sharon Grove District and on the west by the Kirkmansville District. The surface of the district is very broken and irregular. On the north and south there are ranges of high cliffs along the banks of the creeks, while through the center the surface is somewhat rolling and well adapted to farming pursuits. There are several ranges of cliffs, which from a geological point of view present a most pleasing and instructive landscape. One of the ranges of cliffs begins on the S. C. McGehee farm and extends in an easterly direction to the Logan County line. Another range heads on the Frits Seers farm, near the Greenville road, and also runs to the line of Logan County. Still another heads on the Shelton farm and also runs east, while another, known as the Pigeon Roost Branch, begins near the Muhlenburg County line and extends in a southeasterly direction to Logan County. The cliffs in the southern portion of the district along the Sharon Grove line are the highest and the most picturesque. The scenery here is truly magnificent and people come here from many miles around to visit the place. The height of the cliffs varies from 300 to 500 feet, and in many places are almost perpendicular. Through all the range of cliffs but one pass has been discovered through which the people can go and come from one district to another. This one route is very precipitous and is but a simple bridle path. Going down this pathway with the cliffs rising in towering masses on either side, one is almost led to believe that here in particular nature is wont to display her charms. In some places cliffs rising some fifty or a hundred feet extend at an angle of forty-five degrees over the pathway and seem ever ready to crush the venturesome traveler. In other places the cliffs rise almost perpendicularly until their tops are lost in the feathery clouds above. Scattered among the cliffs are many places of more than ordinary interest. One, the Buszard’s Ball-yard, is a. huge column of rock that seems to stand all alone, the monarch of all it surveys. It is some fifty or sixty feet high, and is some thirty feet broad on top. The rock in some by-gone day was split in two from the top, almost half-way down, by some internal action of the earth, and the two parts seem to stand like twin sentinels guarding the secrets of the place. The name is derived from the fact that in the winter the bussards gather here, and bask in the sun for many hours at a time. This place is also a much frequented point for picnic parties and pleasure-seekers generally.

Another interesting place is the ” dripping rocks.” Here a cliff ex-tends immediately over the pathway, and from its surface it is said that water has oosed and fallen drop by drop to the surface below for ages past. Why or how it is, no one pretends to know, but that it is the case all who have visited this interesting region will bear witness. For many years what was known as the ” Garrett ” rock was also a very interesting point. Here a huge bowlder seems to be standing on its edge on the very brink of one of the highest of the cliffs. Here it stood for many years, seeming ever ready to totter to the rocks below. But one morning, by some action of the earth’s surface, the rock was precipitated to the ground below, and broken into thousands of pieces. It is stated by people living in the neighborhood that the crash was heard for three miles around. A cave in what is known as the Big Cliffs is also an interesting point to visit. It goes by the name of ” Saltpeter Cave ” from the fact that in the cave a very large deposit of this mineral is found. The mouth of the cave is some two hundred feet wide, and it extends back some fifty feet. In an early day it is claimed that the mineral was refined and distilled to a great extent. One man who it is claimed worked here in an early day was Jack Roger, and the cave in honor of this man is also called ” Jack’s Peter Cave.” In the mouth of the cave up to a few years ago, the huge iron caldrons in which the mineral was refined, stood, and also the boards used in drying. The ” Big Cave,” on the Horton farm, has also been explored to some distance.

The rock composing these cliffs is mostly sandstone, and, consequently, the soil of the district is mostly of the light yellow, clayey texture, although in some of the valleys a light red clay is found. The soil in the main is quite fertile, and agricultural pursuits are followed very profitably. Under the cliffs along the banks of the creek there is a strip of very fertile land, and this of late years has been utilised to a considerable extent, and some very good farms are in process of cultivation in these almost isolated places. In an early day the district was heavily timbered; . among the varieties being found here might be mentioned white, black, red and chestnut oak, chestnut poplar, sugar maple and black walnut. In the last few years an immense quantity has been cut down. Of late years the utilisation of this timber has been quite an item to the people here. Thousands of dollars of valuable timber has been cut down and floated down the creeks to Mud River, thence down the Green River to Evansville. One of the leading operators in this direction has been Mr. Buie, who has netted thousands of dollars by his ventures.

There are several creeks in the district. One, Clifty Creek, heads on the Frits Seers farm, flows generally in an easterly direction to the Logan County line, and finally empties into Wolf Lick. Piney Creek rises on S. C. McGehee’s farm, flows generally in an easterly course, and finally empties into Green River. Pigeon Roost Creek heads on the Noah Martin farm near the county line, flows in a southeasterly course, and empties into Piney Creek. Long Creek rises on the farm of William Brown, flows generally in a northwesterly course to the Muhlenburg County line, and empties into Pond River.

The first road in the district was the Greenville and Elkton road, which passes along its western edge. In about 1840 the Mud River road was surveyed through the district. In later years the Jericho road and the Kirkmansville and Bivinsville road have been established. The name, Bivinsville, has been given to the district from the family of Bivins, which settled here in quite an early day.

We have mentioned elsewhere that there were two things the early pioneer looked for in making his settlement: one was plenty of timber, the other plenty of water. The first requisite was found here in abundance, but the second was only obtainable at the creeks, and these in most cases were walled up on either side by high cliffs. There were no springs in the district, and the early pioneer had yet to learn that water might be secured by digging for it. Hence it was that the settlement of the most of this district was made many years after the rest of the county had be-come quite thickly peopled. There was a great amount of game in the district, and the people from other portions of the county oft times came here to hunt, They found scattered here and there some isolated settlements, but the few pioneers who were then living here have all passed away, and not many of their children are yet living, so we were unable to learn much concerning them. We can simply state where they were living in an early day. Wilson Chappell settled on the farm now owned by his widow; here he died in 1878. William and Tom Powell came here from North Carolina, and settled on the farms now owned by John Asher and John Mcllvain. They lived here only a few years when they emigrated further West. A Mr. Harper made a settlement on the Amos Bivin farm. There is a tradition here that this man was a counterfeiter, and in an early day received his just punishment. A Mr. Bivin made a settlement on the farm now owned by Amos Bivin. He was quite a noted man in his day, and left a family of four sons, one of whom, Charles, is still living. Sam Blake, a North Carolinian, was another pioneer here, and made an improvement on the farm now owned by S. C. McGehee; he was a preacher. Noah Slaughter came here from North Carolina about 1830, and settled where his widow is now living. And about the same time John Chappell made a settlement on the premises now occupied by his son John H. He was a. great hunter, and many stories are told of his prowess with the rifle. Dillard McGehee came to this county in 1827 from Virginia. He first settled in the Elkton District. There he resided until 1835, and then came to this district, and made a setttlement on the Blake farm, where his son S. C. is still living. He died here about 1870. In about 1840 Gabriel Shelton came to this district, and is still living here. James Greenfield came about the same time, and is still living here. Abraham Shelton came here a few years after his son had arrived, and made a settlement near the latter; he died only a few years since. About the same time Stewart Carneal moved up here from the south part of the county, and made a settlement where his family still resides. Soon after this Brinden Jessup came here from Logan County, and settled near where Mr. Buie is now living. In about 1845 Archie Stinson came from Logan County, and settled where Albert King is now living. In an early day Joseph Driskill moved into this district from that of Sharon Grove, and made an improvement on the farm now occupied by William Bivin. In about 1830 he left the county, and moved to Saline County, Ill., where he died a few years after. Also in an early day three brothers, Abraham, Moses and Lewis Hurb, made settlements on the Greenville road near the head of Cow Creek. A son of Abraham Hurb is now living at Elkton. Another early settler here was John Pace, who. made a settlement where George Shelton is now living. In about 1845 Jack Mcllvain made a settlement on the farm now occupied by Riley Blake.

One of the first schools in the district was one that was put up in a very early day on the Bivin farm. It was of poles and stood only a short time. Among the teachers here was Richard Foster. The house of the West Clifty School, as it is called, was also one made of poles. In 1845 a log-house was built by William Gray. Among the teachers here were Gabriel Shelton, James McGehee, Briton Drake. A short time after McGehee taught there, the school was moved to S. C. McGehee’s farm. Here Miss Lou Petree and Kenley Shelton taught. The building was subsequently moved, this time to the farm now owned by Gabriel Shelton; Miss Fannie Shammle and Nannie Dowdy both taught here. In about 1878 a new schoolhouse was built. Among the teachers who have taught here are mentioned: Monroe Gant, Misses Rebecca Lamb, Maggie Jackson, Lou Pogue and Anna Gant. The New Harmony Schoolhouse on the Bivin farm was built in about 1860. Among the teachers who have been employed here have been Noah Martin, Misses Asher and Mitchell, Jane Dowdy and Mr. Clark Turner. The Asher Schoolhouse was built in about 1878, on Riley Asher’s farm. Some of the teachers who have been employed here have been Miss Rebecca Lamb, Miss Pogue, Mr. Foulks and Miss Asher.

One of the early mills of the district was on the farm of Mr. McCorpin. It was in its time the only mill in this portion of the county. It was for the purpose of getting to this mill that the pathway through the cliffs that we have spoken of above; was made by people living on the other side. This mill was in operation for many years. In about 1875 James Steele put up a steam-mill on Mr. Shelton’s farm. It was both a grist and saw-mill, and was run until 1882. In about the same year Mr. Mack Chappell put up a water-mill on Piney Creek, which is still in use. On Pigeon Roost Branch Mr. Moore put up a water-mill, in about 1877, which is still in operation.

As early as 1850 the Baptists had a church at the New Harmony Schoolhouse. Among the members were the Mayes family, John and James Bringham and Jesse Hinton. Among the ministers who have preached here have been Mike Cameron, J. Stinson and James Wilson. In 1878 the Christian denomination, which had up to this time been holding services in the neighboring farm houses, built a frame church near Bivinsville. Among the constituent members here might be mentioned Gabriel Shelton, James Steel, John Heltsley, John Hancock, James Greenfield and George Shelton. Among the ministers who have preached here have been Victor Davis and John Gant. The present membership is about 100. The present officers are: Deacons, John Heltsley and Thomas Edwards, and Clerk, Gabriel Shelton. A number of years ago Hancock & Ware put up a store on the west side of the Greenyille and Elkton road just on the edge of the district. They did business here for a few years and then sold out to Bellamy & Young. This firm, after running it a short time, in turn retired and the store was run by D. Gates. In about 1882 Mr. Cathcart began business there, and is still merchandising. In about 1870 a store was put up almost opposite the one now-used by Cathcart by Frank Duncan. He ran it for some years and then disposed of it to William Ragsdale, who then sold out in turn to George Glenn, and the latter disposed of it to John Petree. He did business there until about 1879, and then retired. Soon after he quit merchandising the building was torn down. In about 1879 John Hester put up a store one-fourth mile north of where Cathcart is now doing business. He merchandised there until 1884, and since that time David Watson has had a store there.


Battle, J. H., W. H. Perrin, Counties of Todd and Christian, Kentucky : historical and biographical, Chicago : F. A. Battey Publishing Co., 1884.

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