Pioneer Settlements of Kirkmansville, Kentucky

In an early day game of all kinds was to be found here in great abundance, and probably the first men to enter the confines of the district were the hunters and trappers. These men made no permanent settlement. Some of them perchance built a cabin of poles, which sheltered them from the heavy dews by night. But they were nature’s true noblemen, and their time was spent in the pursuit of game. But this in time became somewhat scarce, and then gathering up their traps they moved onward toward the setting sun, leaving no trace behind. Hence, of their deeds we cannot speak with accuracy. We can only say that as a class they were brave, strong men, willing to bear the many privations and hardships of their class, and were worthy successors of Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton to mark out a way through the wilderness of Kentucky for the coming of the actual settler. The hunters found the timber to be plenty in the northern portion of the county, and water in abundance, and these two necessities of the early pioneer being found wanting in most places in the southern portion of the county, it follows perforce that here the first settlements were made.

The first one of the sturdy yeomen of whom any record has been kept is William Redden, who in 1794 secured a patent for part of the farm now occupied by F. M. Pepper. Here he made a settlement, and first entered 160 acres. He was originally from North Carolina, and was a man of very peaceable, quiet disposition. After his arrival here he sought no political distinction of any kind, but gave his whole attention to the cultivation of his farm. He died about *1825, leaving no children. His widow survived him about ten years, and then she, too, passed away. Willis Murdock, a cousin of Redden, accompanied the latter to this county. He settled on an adjoining farm, and resided here until about 1825. He then emigrated to Missouri, where he subsequently died. A grand-son of his is still living in Muhlenburg County. About the same time a Mr. Moore settled on the farm now occupied by M. L. Shelton, on the road from Elkton to Kirkmansville. He died there in a very early day, and left no record behind him. As early as 1800 William Kirkman came to this district from Virginia, and made a settlement on a farm now in the possession of Mrs. Peter Kirkman. In an early day he had a post-office established on his farm, to which he gave the name of Kirkman’s, and served as Postmaster there for many years. During his life-time he was considered by his friends and neighbors to be one of the best men in the district. He died here in about 1850, leaving a large family of children. His son, Peter, was a magistrate in the district for many years, and died here in 1883. Another son, John, emigrated to Texas, where he subsequently died. A daughter of this gentleman returned to the district and afterward married Mr. Frank Bass. About 1805 Joseph Allison came to this district from Virginia, and made a settlement on the farm now owned by Mr. Grace. In an early day he was appointed a captain of the militia, and on muster days he was one of the drill-masters. About 1810 Collier Butler came here and made’ a settlement on the farm now owned by his son-in-law, John Johnson. He died here in 1859. A. grandson of his, B. B. Butler, is at present acting as Sheriff of the county. In 1805 Daniel Morgan came to this district from Chatham Co., N. C., with his grandfather and uncle, Nathaniel and George Brewer, who settled in the timber in the northwestern portion of the district. Mr. Morgan was born in 1796, and is still living. His father and mother in-tended coming to this county too, but were taken sick and died a short time before the time for starting. After his arrival here he first made his home with his uncle, but over sixty-eight years ago he settled on the farm on which he has since resided. As early as 1805, and probably some years prior to this, Thomas Edwards came to this district from North Carolina, and made a settlement on Cow Creek. In an early day he manufactured considerable tar from the pine, which he brought from the clifts and subsequently burned. He died in about 1855. His son, H. B. Edwards, lived for many years on the farm now occupied by T. P. Sullivan. Accompanying Edwards to this unexplored country was Reuben Stark, who made a settlement on the premises now occupied by William Willis. Here he put up a horse-mill, which was probably the first one in the district. It continued in operation until about 1820, when it finally fell into disuse. Probably about the same time George, James and Levi Powell came here from North Carolina, and made settlements in the west-ern portion of the district. The farms on which they lived and died are still in possession of their heirs. Joseph Long made a settlement cotemporaneous with those mentioned above, on the farm where Lee Cherry now resides. Here he died as early as 1825. In an early day, but exactly when we cannot state, John Roger made a settlement where his son, Burkett Roger, is still living. A family of Attaways came here also in an early day. They were hunters and moved elsewhere as soon as game had begun to be at all scarce, and their acts are now beyond recall by the people now living here. As early as 1815 Jacob Davis made a settlement on the farm now occupied by J. M. Graham. He was probably a native of Illinois, and was a soldier in the war of 1812. He died here in 1865, but his widow still survives him. About the same time Jacob Johnson came from North Carolina, and settled on the farm now occupied by his son, B. H. Johnson. It is said that subsequent to his arrival here he made sixteen trips to his native State on horseback. He died here in about 1840. Coleman Griffin also came here as early as 1815. He made a settlement on land now owned by Mrs. Sylva Powell.

He was a North Carolinian by birth, and died here in 1825. His son, J. J. Griffin, was a merchant at Kirksmanville for some years, and also magistrate. He died here in about 1880. In the same year Major Dodd came here from North Carolina, and settled on the farm on which he now resides at the advanced age of eighty-five. In the early days of State militia he was a Major, and commanded a battalion. Asier Shelton came here about the same time, and settled down on a farm adjoining Dodd’s. During most of his life he was a school-teacher, and taught for many years. He was also a preacher of some note in the neighborhood. He was first a Methodist, then joined the Baptists, and finally espoused the Christian doctrine. He died here in about 1850. His daughter, Mrs. Nancy Murphy, is still living in the district, and a son, Christian Shelton, is still living near Sharon Grove. J. C. Bass arrived here in this county in 1820, and settled near Kirkmansville. He was born in North Carolina, and came to Christian County in about 1805 with his parents. He died in the county in 1880. His son, R. F., is still living on the farm on which his father had originally settled. Thomas Pepper was born in Virginia in 1794; came to Springfield, Tenn., in 1805 with his parents, and in 1815 he came to Christian County. He made a settlement near what is known as the ” Old Lick.” He came to this district in about 1825, and settled on the farm now occupied by his son, F. M. Pepper. He was elected magistrate under the old Constitution, but only served for a short time. He died in 1858. F. M. Pepper has served as Magistrate some eight years, and is one of the largest land-owners in the district. Another son, Noah Pepper, is also living in the district, and a third son is in Christian County. In about 1830 William Hammond made a settlement in the district, but subsequently moved to Christian County. In an early day, but exactly at what time we are not able to state with preciseness, Ben Panel made a settlement near Maj. Dodd’s, where he lived and died.

The settlements of this district may be classed among the early settlements of the county. Nearly ninety years ago homes were selected in this district by white people. This is a short period when considered in the world’s chronology, but in the history of this part of the country it seems a long, long time. Many and startling events have transpired since then. Thrones and kingdoms have passed away, empires have risen, and flourished, and fallen, and the remembrance of their glory has almost faded from the minds of men as the waves of dark oblivion sweep o’er them and scarcely leave a track to tell us how or where or when they sank. Ancient palaces in whose spacious halls the mightiest ruler proudly trod show the ivy clinging to the moldering towers, and “Victor’s wreaths and monarch’s gems Have blended with the common dust.”

In our county mighty changes have been wrought. Human progress and human inventions have done more in these years than in ten centuries before. The railroad, the telegraph and improved machinery of every kind and description attest the rapid progress of the age. The early, simple settler little dreamed of what his short, simple span of life would witness. As we have mentioned elsewhere, many of the early settlers here were hunters, and in an early day many stories are told of the wild beasts and wilder men that traversed these unbroken wilds. But as one by one the pioneers and their families passed away these tales and stories have become almost extinct. It is claimed by people who are still living in the district that in an early day the Harpes passed through the county from Logan County on their way West while they were trying to escape from the punishment of one of their crimes, and that one of them was shot in the northern part of the district by the pursuing party, and now lies buried on the land owned by Thomas Sullivan, but the following account taken from Collins’ ” History of Kentucky ” seems to indicate that the above is a wrong supposition. ” There were two Harpes, brothers, one a large, athletic man named Micajah; the other small and active, named Wiley, but they were scarcely ever called anything except Big and Little Harpe. Big Harpe had two wives, Little Harpe but one. In the summer of 1799 Big and Little Harpe traveled through what is now Hopkins County. The Harpes rode good horses, were well dressed and armed with rifles and holsters of pistols. They stopped one night near the residence of a man by the name of Stiggall. They passed him on the road, and at night the Harpes left their camp and went to the house of Stiggall. Here over night a man by the name of Love was stopping, Ind entering the house they killed the stranger, Mrs. Stiggall and her child, took $40 in money and then set the house on fire. That same night two men returning from a salt lick had also camped near Stiggall’s. About daylight the Harpes went to their camp and arrested them upon pretense that they had committed murder, arson and robbery. They shot one and the other one finally escaped. The Harpes went on their way, but the news of the murders spread among the scattered settlements, and an avenging party was organized and overtook the Harpes at their camp on Pond River, near the line between Hopkins and Muhlenburg Counties. About a quarter of a mile from camp the two Harpes were discovered about to commit another murder on a traveler whom they had waylaid. The Harpes taking the alarm fled, and the pursuers stopped to talk with the man they had rescued, taking him for an accomplice. They soon followed, but the chase was a long one. Big Harpe was finally overtaken near a stream where a big log had fallen across the path. As he started to turn back one of the pursuers overtook him and shot him. Harpe, however, did not fall, but rode on for some distance. His pursuers finally came up with him again and pushed him from his horse, Stiggall coming up at the time and shot Harpe through the heart. His head was cut off and hung up on a tree. This tree grew in what is now Webster County, and the place is known to this day as ` Harpe’s Head.’ Little Harpe escaped to Mississippi, where he was subsequently captured and executed for other crimes.”

In an early day the noted outlaw Alonzo Pennington, of Christian County, built his house on the line between the two counties in this district. Here he for a time evaded the law by going from one county to the other. He was finally captured and hung at Hopkinsville.

There were traces in early days, mere paths through the wilderness. The early pioneer as he journeyed through the forests blased the trees behind him that he might return. These were the first roads of any kind. But as the pioneers in one portion of the district visited others in another, and intercommunication became somewhat established, the necessity of well-established roads became apparent. Probably the first road in the district was the Elkton and Greenville road. This in turn was followed by the Hopkinsville and Greenville road. About 1851 what is known as the Mud River road was opened. In 1877 the Kirkmansville and Bivinsville road was cut through, and about two years ago the Kirkmansville and Fairview road was surveyed, but it has not been opened as yet. In early days the creeks were forded by the traveler, but later on bridges were built. Probably the first structure built in this district was the one across the East Fork of Pond River, on the Elkton and Green River road. It was probably built as early as 1830, and stood until about 1857, when it was undermined. A new one was built at a cost of about $1,500, and is still in use. In 1881 a bridge was built on the Kirkmansville and Bivinsville road across East Fork, at a cost of about $400.


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

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