Kirkmansville Precinct, Todd County, Kentucky

IN gathering the histories of the different districts, we find that the boundaries between them are indefinite and indeterminate, and often-times in our mention of early settlers they have been credited to one, when they should have been given to another. Especially in writing the history of the northern portion of the county we are oft times at a loss where to exactly locate an early pioneer. Consequently if in some of the chapters names of settlers are found when they should have been given elsewhere, the errors thus made may be assigned for the reason given above. Geographically, Kirkmansville District occupies the northwestern portion of the county. It is bounded on the north by Muhlenburg County, on the east by District No. 7, Bivinsville; on the south by District No. 3, Fairview; and on the west by Christian County. The name of the district-Kirkmansville-was derived from a little ham-let of the same name, and that in turn took its name from and in honor of old Peter Kirkman, who in an early day made a settlement in this district, near where the present town is located.


The major part of the district is quite hilly, but along the banks of the East Fork of Pond River there is considerable flat bottom land, and in this portion of the district the best farming land is located. At present it is estimated that there is about one-fourth of the surface of the district comprised in this bottom land. From a geological point of view the soil of the district is made up of two formations, namely, the blue and gray limestone, and the free or sandstone. These are very equally distributed over the district, both oft times being noticeable in the same field. The gray limestone appears in several portions of the district, and in an early day it was used to a considerable extent by the pioneers for fire-places and fire-rocks, as it successfully withstands the action of the heat. The soil of both limestone formations is the red clay, and although it is not as dark or as rich as that found in the southern districts, it forms the basis of the best farming land in the district. The sandstone is of three varieties, vis., the red, yellow and white. In the red sandstone quite a deposit of iron is oft times noticed. The soil of this formation is mostly of yellow clay, and it is considered very poor farming land. The soil, too, is not adapted to retaining fertilisers when placed upon it, and the whole is very soon washed away. Along the eastern edge of the district the sandstone formation appears in some very large rocks, bowlders, and a few very high, perpendicular cliffs, which afford some truly picturesque views to the admirer of the beautiful. Scattered through the district there are several caves in the limestone formations. On the farm of F. M. Pepper a cave was discovered some fifteen years ago, to which an entrance is obtained through a small hole in the surface, from which a person must drop some twenty feet before the bottom of the cave is reached. The height of the cave varies from fifteen to twenty feet, and it has been explored to the distance of half a mile. There are some very beautiful stalactites to be found, but aside from this nothing of interest is to be seen. On the farm of Mr. Keelin there is another cave, and there is also one on the Joe Martin farm. Both have been explored some considerable distance. The latter cave is at present serving the purpose of a cellar to the people of the surrounding neighborhood.

At present about one-sixth of the district is in cultivation. The rest of the area is very heavily timbered. But while the timber of the southern portion of the county has been on the increase, that of the north remains about the same. The most common varieties of timber to be found are white, black and swamp oak, beech and sugar tree. In an early day there were also considerable quantities of poplar and black walnut, but at present both have been nearly all cut off. In the bottom lands there is also a considerable growth of hazel brush springing into existence, and in the eastern portion of the district a growth of cedar has come up in the last-few years.


The leading stream of the district is the Blue Lick Fork of Pond River, which rises in the Fairview District, flows into the district from the south, and then passes into Christian County. It enters the district from the west again, and flows north to the Muhlenburg County line. The East Fork of Pond River also heads in the Fairview District, flows generally in a northerly direction through the district, until it reaches the county line, where it unites with the Blue Lick Fork and forms Pond River. Cow Creek heads in the eastern portion of the district, flows generally in a westerly direction, and empties into East Fork on the farm of B. H. Johnson. Horse Creek rises in the district near the Mt. Tabor Church, and empties into East Fork near Kirkmansville.

Early Mills

In order that his children might be fed, the pioneer soon after his arrival turned his attention to the discovery of some means by which the corn, which was then the staple article of food, could be made into meal. This led to the early establishment of a mill. These mills in an early day were very crude structures. Meal was first obtained by crushing the corn, when dry, in a kind of crude 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 could be manufactured. This form of a mill was superseded by the horse-mill; that in turn gave way to the ” over-shot ” and water-mill, and the steam at last took the place of them all. Probably the first mill patronised by the early inhabitants of this district was a water-mill that was erected on the East Fork of Pond River by Samuel Coleman as early as 1830. After running it for a few years he died, and his widow took it up. She .in turn gave way to her sons, who ran it for some years, and then the mill finally fell into disuse. In 1853, E. L. McClaine bought the grounds and built a new mill, which was burned down the following year. He immediately began another one, but that too, was washed away before it was completed by the freshet of 1855. He then sold out to Murdock & Johnson, who began the erection of a new mill, but before the structure was completed they in turn sold to Kirkman & Bennett. This firm completed the mill and then ran it for about three years, when Bennett retired. Kirkman in turn ran it until 1869 and then disposed of it to M. W. Grissam. In 1879 this gentleman sold out to Butler & Rice, who added steam power to the mill and otherwise improved the structure. In the spring of 1884 H. H. Butler purchased Rice’s interest, and is still running it. Joseph Allison had a horse-mill on his farm as early as 1825. It was run for some twenty five years, and then finally rotted away.

District Schools

The pioneers were as a rule a very illiterate, unlearned class of people. Their mode of life gave them no time to improve their minds. Their whole time was employed in ministering to the necessities of life. But while they were ignorant themselves their true love for their offspring made them wish that their children might be better able to meet the requirements of a civilized community. Thus it was that as soon as the more immediate necessities of life were supplied, the pioneer turned his attention to the erection of a rude structure in which the children might be taught in a very imperfect way the rudiments of an education. One of the first schools of this district was one that was erected on the farm of F. M. Pepper as early as 1825. Among the teachers there were Rev. Shelton and his son, L. W. Dulin, Albert Drake and Matt Mason. This building finally fell down, and in about 1845 another building was put up near the present town of Kirkmansville. Among the teachers here were P. C. Griffin, R. F. Bass, C. J. McGehee, M. W. Grissam, Miss Jennie McCullouch, Volney Clark and Mrs. Adeline Drake. In 1880 a new frame building was built at a cost of about $575. The entire community assisted in its erection, and the school does honor to the neighborhood. Mr. Girod is the present teacher assisted by Miss Mattie Major. The present average attendance is about seventy. The affairs of the school are managed by a board consisting of the following persons, vis.: J. D. Duncan, P. B. Robinson, J. N. Rice, J. W. Grissam and J. W. Bartlett. A school on the Howell Edwards farm has been in operation about eight years. Some of the teachers who have been employed there are R. F. Bass, J. C. McGehee, G. W. Hightower and “Tobe” Hightower. In about 1870 a school was put up at the Mt. Tabor Church. Here G. W. Hightower taught for some years. The school on John Powell’s land was built as early as 1857. Among the teachers who taught there might be mentioned W. S. Simons (who had formerly been Sheriff), Frank Bass, W. T. Griffin, Marion Powell and Miss Octavia Lacey. There is also a school in the Hardison neighbor-hood. Among the teachers who have been employed there might be mentioned Richard Sullivan, Miss J. L. Pepper, J. H. Faughender and R. C. F. Hardison.

Saw ye not the cloud arise, Little as the human hand,
Now it spreads along the skies; Hangs o’er all the land.
Old Hymn.

From what a small beginning have the churches of this county sprung. At first there was but a pioneer here and there who looked to the Father above for the blessings in this life and the life to come. At first the early settlers lived many miles apart, and the pioneer who wished to worship God, did so around his own fireside. Occasionally some circuit rider or itinerant would come, and gathering a few together, unfold to them the mysteries of the plan of human salvation. In the summer time this little handful of believers assembled under the shade of some spreading oak, for the groves through all ages have been God’s first temples, and in the winter they gathered in some cabin. As the country became settled up the necessity of some common place of worship became apparent, and thus churches were established in the different neighborhoods. Probably the first church in this district was the Mount Carmel Baptist Church. It stood on the East Fork of Pond River, near where the Highland Lick road crosses it. It was built as early as 1825, and among the first members might be mentioned, Thomas Pepper and wife, John Christian, Maj. Dodd and wife, Daniel Morgan and wife, Bennie Pannell and William Pannell. This church continued in existence until about 1865. Among the ministers who were stationed here were Revs. J. Christian, Williams, Rutherford, Meacham, Nicholas Lacey, James Lamb and William Pannell. At one time the church had about fifty members. Mount Moriah Baptist Church was built in about 1868; it is a frame, and cost originally about $400. Among the first members might be mentioned, N. D. Butler, J. W. Hale and family, Mrs. Polly Ann Utley, E. F. Pepper and wife, Isaac Walker, James F. Barrar and J. W. Kenley. The present pastor is Rev. Whitson. The present membership is about thirty. The present Deacons are, Isaac Walker, J. W. Hale and Ben F. Hale. Enberry Chapel, North Methodist Episcopal Church, was built in about 1877, at a cost of about $400. Among the members might be mentioned, Bradley Davis, Mr. Hardison and family, Dr. A. Lewis, Mrs. Rowe. The present membership is about thirty. Rev. Enberry was the first pastor. Among the ministers who have been here since might be mentioned Revs. Davis, Powis, Gardner and Ford.

Town of Kirkmansville. The first store in what is now the town of Kirkmansville was built in 1853 by E. L. McClaine, who ran it in connection with the mill. In about 1855 he sold the store to Lafayette Ben-nett. This gentleman took Peter Kirkman into partnership with him-self and subsequently sold out the entire store to the latter. Mr. Kirk-man continued the business until 1862. After the breaking out of the war, M. W. and J. W. Grissam started up. They engaged in business for some years, and then disposed of the store to Butler & Rice. The latter firm retired from business in 1878, and Dr. J. W. Guffey succeeded them. He only remained in business a short time and disposed of the store to E. Cannon. This gentleman also soon retired, and sold out to J. A. Elkins, who finally failed. In about 1867 R. F. Bass put up a store here and continued in business about three years, and then retired. About 1871 J. D. Griffin opened a store and was in business about four years. Ed-wards & Fritz also opened a store at this point in 1871. They remained in partnership a short time. Frits soon sold out, but Edwards continued in business until his death in 1875. In 1876 S. E. Cash opened a store and continued in business a short time. In 1878 P. B. Robinson came there and is still in business. D. B. Yates opened a store there in 1883 and is still there. In about 1880 W. W. McCorpin began merchandising, and remained there two years. He sold out to B. F. Hill, who is still there. In 1882 Dr. J. W. Bartlett opened a drug store and subsequently added a grocery store, and is still in business. In about 1879 John McGowan opened a saddler’s shop and soon after went into partnership with L. W. Rice. The latter bought the entire store in the spring of 1884 and is still in business. In 1882 M. W. Horton opened a cabinet shop and is still there. In about 1869 M. W. Grissam built a tobacco factory. Soon after Brennaugh & Merritt rented the house and ran it for some years. Grissam again assumed control of it, and took in F. M. West as a partner. In the spring of 1884 J. D. Duncan purchased it and is now running it. West & Sullivan have lately put up another factory and are also engaged in the business. In 1880 G. M. Babbitt put up a blacksmith and wagon shop, and is still engaged here.

The village of Kirkmansville shows considerable prosperity. The people are clever and hospitable in the treatment of strangers, and are ready to extend a hearty welcome to those coming into their midst. No community in the county has a class of more moral and law-abiding citizens, and those searching for a pleasant place to settle in will find the people ready to receive them with open arms.

The town was incorporated in March, 1882, and the following officers were appointed under their new charter: Trustees, J. W. Grissam, D. C. McGregor and P. C. Griffin; Marshal, E. E. Rice; and Police Judge, G. M. Babbitt (who has held the office continuously ever since). At the first annual election in 1883 the following officers were elected: J. M. Rice, W. H. Horton and B. F. Hill; Marshal, Thad. E. Williams; 1884, J. D. Duncan, D. D. Gates and W. W. Lacey; Marshal, L. W. Rice.

The village now contains about 150 inhabitants. P. B. Robinson is the present Postmaster.

Kirkmansville Lodge, No. 615, A. F. & A. M., was organized under dispensation in the summer of 1882, and a charter was granted to it in the fall of same year. The charter members were: J. M. Wilson, A. Lewis, W. W. McCorpin, J. W. Bartlett, P. B. Robinson, B. F. Hill, William Lacey and S. D. Pepper. The first officers were: J. M. Wilson, M.; A. Lewis, S. W.; W. W. McCorpin, J. W.; J. M. Bartlett, Treas.; P. B. Robinson, Sec.; B. F. Hill, S. D.; William Lacey, J. D.; J. K. West, Steward and Tyler. The lodge furnished up a hall in the second story of the school building and continued to hold their meetings there. The present membership is about twenty. The present officers are: J. M. Wilson, M.; R. F. Bass, S. W.; P. B. Robinson, J. W.; J. W. Bartlett, Treas.; C. J. McGehee, Sec.; H. Duvall, S. D.; G. W. Hightower, J. D.; J.. W. Grissam, Steward and Tyler.

Bethlehem Christian Church was built in about 1857, on the Murdock farm. Among the early members of the church might be mentioned Daniel Gates, J. C. Bass and wife, W. P. Murdock, William McKinley and wife, Howell Edwards and family, A. J. Edwards and wife, and J. J. Griffin. The congregation continued to meet at this place until about 1870, when the place of meeting was changed to Kirkmansville, and the services are now held in the schoolhouse. The present membership is about sixty-eight. Among the ministers who have been here are: J. W. Price, W. E. Mobley, Thomas Weathers, Robert Dulin and J. H. Keith. The Elders of the church are: S. D. Pepper and P. B. Robinson; Deacons, P. C. Griffin and F. M. Weathers; Clerk, P. B. Robinson.

Kirkmansville Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in May, 1876, by Rev. Thomas M. Penick. There were twenty-nine constituent members, among whom might be mentioned John W. Grissam, Emma Grissam, Sarah M. Grissam, R. F. Bass, Mary Bass, J. W. Bartlett, Moody Bartlett, Eusebia A. Bartlett, E. H. Petree, Paulina J. Petree, Bettie Lacey, Mary Pepper, Mary B. Hill, W. W. Lacey, M. Spurlin, W. C. Spurlin and Moses Pace. Among the ministers who have been stationed here might be mentioned William Alexander, J. W. Griffin, J. W. Bunton, Hubs Morrison, W. I. Birchett; and Rev. Edwards is the present pastor. The society now has about twenty members. The present officers are: Steward, W. W. Lacey; Assistant Stewards, J. W. Grissam and John M. Rice; Class-leader, J. W. Grissam.

A Union Sunday-school is held every Sunday during the summer in the schoolhouse at Kirkmansville. At the last session the average attendance was about fifty, and the officers were as follows: John M. Rice, Superintendent; Assistant Superintendent, J. D. Duncan


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top