Todd County, Kentucky Pioneers

The early immigration to the State of Kentucky, as has been noted, came to the blue grass region and upper Kentucky Valley. A few of the more adventurous spirits pushed out to the southwest in the upper valley of Green River, and of these were the founders of Davis Station in Christian County, and Justinian Cartwright, in Todd County, in 1792. It is to be regretted that the sketches of the Hon. Urban Kennedy, published in a county paper, have not been preserved in-tact. Through the care of W. P. Stephenson, a few fragments have been secured to which the following summary is principally indebted for its facts. At the time Davis’ Station was established, the Indians were still actively engaged in a determined effort to repel the encroachments of the whites, and this settlement was disturbed, if not broken up, later in the year. Cartwright’s seems to have escaped the general fate of outlying improvements, and the settlement of the county dates in an unbroken line from 1792. A trace ran from the Russellville settlement, established in 1780, to the cabin of Bat Woods, on the present site of Hopkinsville, and across this trace, about four and a half miles west of Elkton, Cartwright built his cabin. It was situated in the edge of some timber near a good spring, and was the only house in the territory since brought within the lines of Todd County. Here he fenced and cleared a small patch of ground and planted it to corn and Irish potatoes, which with the abundant game of the country placed him above danger of want. Cartwright was a native of Maryland, of Scotch-Irish descent, and was the first Surveyor of Christian County. He was small in stature, but well made, and no mean antagonist in any contest. He had three sons, one of whom was a lawyer in Princeton (Caldwell County) afterward. In 1801, Robert Adams bought Cartwright’s place, and in 1809 sold out to the father of Urban Kennedy. During this interval of some eighteen years, considerable additions were made to the settlement of this region, but of which there is no record in the fragments at hand. Mr. Kennedy’s father was an old Revolutionary soldier, who, when the war was over, went to Greenbrier County, Va., married and settled down to farming and hunting in the Virginia mountains. Soon afterward in company with some forty or fifty families he emigrated to Kentucky, under the direction of Gen. William Logan. ” They had to come in large companies, with pack-horses for their plunder, women and children, for in that day there were no wagon-roads through the wilderness. The men of the company, say 100 or more, took it afoot, armed with rifles, tomahawks and butcher-knives, keeping up a continual and vigilant military discipline both night and clay. A brother-in-law of Kennedy’s, Simon McCaffrey, was killed while acting as forerunner for the company. The whole party stopped first at Crab Orchard, Ky.” Logan, Kennedy, the McKinneys, Burtons, Shackelfords and others came on to where Stanford now is, but what was then Logan’s Station. Two years later, Kennedy, the Shackelfords, McKinneys, Burtons and Dooleys came eight miles west of Logan’s, and built a block-house on the Hanging Fork of Dick’s River. Here the little community suffered the vicissitudes of a frontier community, losing several of their number at the hands of the savages. In 1809 Kennedy sold his place here and moved to what is now Todd County.

At this time this region was beginning to be sparsely settled. On the road from Russellville to Hopkinsville were found, three miles west of the first-named place, a Mr. Blakely; five miles further on was Simons’ Springs; next George McLean; then Ephraim McLean, a Cumberland Presbyterian minister, and father of Finis E. McLean; next was Jesse Irvine, at the creek west of the site of Daysville; then James Millen. The next ” was a ditched field of about ten acres, without any cabin, be-longing to Thomas Garvin, extending from near the public square of Elkton easterly nearly to the creek, and there was a small cabin near the spot where Ridley’s Rathburn House ‘ was burned, occupied by McIntosh, a hunter, who was a tenant of Maj. John Gray, to hold possession, as Gray and Garvin were at law for the land where Elkton now stands.” Passing westward some five miles the improvement of a German, Kershner, was found; then George Tillerman, and next the Davis improvement in what is now Fairview. At this place and in the same cabin the Hon. Jefferson Davis was born. The elder Davis was a noted man in the country, and kept tavern here. A small mischievous lad, who plied the stranger guest with curious questions, has since gained notoriety as the head of the Southern Confederacy during the years of 1861-65. The nearest house to where Elkton now stands was the residence of Hon. Andrew New, then a Member of Congress from this district. He wore knee breeches, and was an old Virginia gentleman of the aristocratic type. The next nearest were William Blackwood, William Millen and Gideon Thompson, a half mile south of Millen’s. The only water-mill was John Carson’s, and was the first one in Todd County. It had one pair of runners, and the flour was bolted ” by hand. It was jocularly said to be doing a brisk business, for when it got one, grain smashed it immediately attacked another. There were settlements at this time along the Elk Fork as follows: The Millens, Cunninghams, Coulters, Grahams, Chest-nuts, and after some years D. N. Russell moved into the neighborhood. The next mill below Carson’s was Smith & Laughlin’s on the Gallatin road; then southwest of this mill lay the ” pondy woods,” with consider-able timber, where were settled Henry Gorin, Gabriel Rooch, Elliot Vaughter; the last two married sisters of Maj. John Gray. In this neighborhood also lived James Allen, the first Coroner of Todd, and general auctioneer for all this country. He was of Irish origin, and in crying the sales of his employers made shrewd use of the wit which is popularly supposed to inhere in the son of Erin. When the enthusiasm lagged, and bids were reluctantly made, he would cry out, ” Fair sale, gentlemen! and a dthram to the next bidder! ” He always prepared himself for this emergency, and began his sale equipped with a bottle in one hand and his cane in the other. On Spring Creek, where it crosses the Nashville road, John Moore settled, and Maj. Samuel Moore settled on the site of Trenton, where the road from Clarksville to Greenville then crossed. He had located a large body of land, which he sold to Louis Leavell. Near him was Robert Coleman, and about two miles down the West Fork from Coleman’s was Davis Station, ‘where all the settlers forted. There lived the Davis family, the Clarks, the Blues, and Brewer Reeves. Then west of Coleman’s lived the Bollingers, Kenners, Finleys, Norths, etc. Then, following up the creek, were the Adamses, McFaddens, and John Campbell, the old surveyor of Christian County. Henry Carpenter was one of the very first pioneers of the county, and lived in this vicinity.

He was a full-blooded Dutchman, and it was said when he cut the first timber at that place he was on a log chopping, his rifle standing near by, and his pipe in his mouth. The Indians slipped up near him and fired at him, putting a bullet hole through his shirt. He dropped his ax, picked up his gun, and started for the Davis Fort, some miles distant, on a sharp run, reaching it in safety, with his pipe still lighted.” He after-ward built a block-house with double doors, and port holes through which to defend himself against the savages should they attack. A half mile up the branch William Wallace had settled, and planted a large orchard, the first one in the county. He was of French extraction, raised a large family of boys, and in 1822 sold to Thomas Bryan. This settlement was made about 200 yards southeast of where Bell’s Chapel now stands. A half mile east of this was Peter Thompson, a Dane. Coming north from this neighborhood were the improvements of Andrew and John Mann, and further up the creek that of Davis. In 1810 Matthew Logan settled on the east edge of Croghan’s Grove, and the next, south of the Russellville and Hopkinsville road, was that of Kennedy already mentioned. The settlements north of the Russellville and Hopkinsville road at this date (1809) were probably very few, but the paper containing the article in which Mr. Kennedy describes them is so mutilated as to render his record of no avail to this work, and what information it is possible to glean at this time will be found under the head of the respective districts of that part of the county. Heretofore the immigration had drawn its strength from the emigrants of Virginia, who had settled at the earlier stations in Kentucky. In 1811 a fresh impetus was given to emigration, and large numbers were attracted to this fertile region from the older States. The tide now set in from North Carolina, coming by way of the Nashville and Gallatin roads, and at Moore’s (Trenton) would take the Muhlenburg road.

You would see all sorts of old wagons, carts, pack-horses, pack-cows and oxen. Weary and worn out, the immigrants would call out, ‘ Well, can you tell me how far it is yet to the Pond River Country? ‘ Thus they passed through the very Eden of Kentucky to reach the rough, heavy timbered ‘region of Pond River.


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

1 thought on “Todd County, Kentucky Pioneers”

  1. Dear. Mr. Partridge,

    I am one of Urban E. Kennedy’s great-great-great grandchildren. Your article “Todd County, Kentucky Pioneers” makes mention of my grandfather’s sketches, and your belief that they were not preserved “intact”. It is your belief that there were more than 26? To my knowledge, 2 family members had all the the newspaper clippings of the 26 sketches. Whether these clippings were from the original printing of the sketches around 1872 in the Todd County Witness, or the reprinting in 1935 in the Todd County Standard,I cannot be sure. I do know for a fact that my great grandmother, Cynthia Miriam Kennedy of Illinois ( there are 2 family members with this identical name – the other lived in CA I believe) and Cynthia’s cousin, Datha Trabue of California, both possessed a full set of the 26 sketches. When I was a child, my great grandmother, who lived to just shy of 100, was concerned about the fragile state of her newpaper clippings. My mother typed up a complete set of the sketches for her, and decades later, when we became aware that Datha had copies as well, we found that both sets of sketches were identical and verbatim. Did you know 26 existed and you were thinking that there had been more?? I am
    Cynthia (Long) Harper, daughter of Patsy (Patch) Long, daughter of Kate (Boswell) Patch, daughter of Cynthia (Kennedy) Boswell, daughter of Kate (Knight) Kennedy, daughter of Urban Kennedy. If I have any information of use to you, please advise.

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