A History of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky

The gathering and compiling of the traditions and history of Muhlenberg County has occupied much of my time for some years. These pages have been written solely because of the pleasure and interest I have taken in the work, and are here presented in book form that they may be read not only by those who are now interested in the subject, but that they may be preserved also for future generations. I found Muhlenberg's history a very fascinating subject. All Muhlenbergers, with few exceptions, are interested in the history and traditions of the county, but I dare say the subject appealed to me, a newcomer, more than it would to most of the men and women who were born and reared in the county. To them it had become somewhat familiar and commonplace, while to me it is new and filled with the picturesque. I am, in a sense, a stranger in Muhlenberg. My first trip to the county was made in the fall of 1902, for the purpose of looking after some land my father had bought there a few years before. During that first trip I saw comparatively nothing of Greenville, but passed my time in the country, occupying my leisure hours with hunting, and listening at night to the traditions and reminiscences of old residents. Out of these began to develop a strong desire to call up the stories that would begin with "I've often heard my grandfather say that when he was a boy," etc. I was in the presence, it seemed to me, of pioneers themselves, once or twice removed. Their very words were coming to me through the lips of those that had picked them up from now-silent voices, and who had cherished them through the long years.

One night in the fall of 1905 a number of us were sitting near the old Stack of the long-abandoned Buckner Furnace in the upper Pond Creek country, in the neighborhood to which my annual visits up to that time had been confined when the vague traditions of that old landmark again be- came the subject of discussion. All agreed it was unfortunate that the Story of The Stack had never been written. Alvin L. Taylor, my host, suggested that since the object of my hunting was apparently drifting from "digging out foxes to digging up facts," I spend the remaining half of my visit in gathering the traditions of The Stack. The novelty of the suggestion appealed to me at once. The next day I began a systematic investigation of the subject. In the course of two weeks I spent a day or more with every "oldest citizen" in the neighborhood, and from them and some of their children and grandchildren I gathered the materials from which was written the first version of "The Story of The Stack." This was published in the Greenville Record in the spring of 1906.

In the fall of 1906. shortly after returning to Muhlenberg, I found that there still lingered a longing to hear the horn of the hunter and the trailing of the hounds, for one night the "call of the wild" led me three miles from the Buckner Stack to the Russell Old Field. There, while listening to the musical bark of the running dogs, I began an investigation of the traditions of the Russell Race Track and Muster Field. A few weeks later the results were published in the Greenville Record. And so, fall after fall, I drifted into new fields in the southern part of the county, and submitted various sketches to the local press. In 1930 the pleasure had become a preoccupation of deep interest, and I decided to compile a history of the county and publish it in book form. That fall and the two following I laid aside gun and lantern, took camera and note-book, and spent a total of about six months making pilgrimages, through rain and shine, to every place in the county where there might be gathered facts worth preserving in a printed history. On returning to Louisville I began arranging my notes, and took up the laborious but absorbing task of searching through books for any Muhlenberg history they might contain. The results of these years of earnest effort to produce a volume that would be worthy the memory of the valiant and resolute men and women who settled and established Muhlenberg County are contained in this completed book. While it is submitted with proper diffidence as to my ability to do the subject full justice, it is nevertheless presented as an honest effort in which no difficulty has been evaded or shunned.

This volume pertains principally to the history of the county from its beginning down to 1875, but is extended more or less briefly in some practical aspects from 1875 to the present day. Much remains for a later historian to write about the wonderful advancements Muhlenberg has made during the past twenty years. The events of general interest during the past quarter of a century are not only fresh in the memory of many of the men and women of to-day, but are likely to be remembered or handed down until a history is written covering that period, whereas much of the material I am here trying to preserve would otherwise, in all probability, soon pass away with the many other local traditions and unrecorded facts that have already disappeared and are forgotten.

The records of the county and circuit courts from the beginning have been preserved in the courthouse at Greenville, and in all probability will always be preserved. I have, therefore, made no attempt to write a history based principally on these ever-available records, but have confined ray work as much as possible to collecting the now vanishing traditions and to present- ing the less available material. Much of this heretofore unpublished as well as published material is woven into this volume. I found in printed books comparatively little that bore on Muhlenberg's past. Practically all I found in print I quote, and thus give the reader an opportunity to read the statements in the language in which they were originally recorded, preferring this to expressing the facts in my own words.

Of the more than two hundred illustrations here presented, comparatively few are of modern buildings or of active men and women of to-day. Most of the pictures are of some of the old citizens, the old houses, and the old landmarks. More than one fourth are copies of pictures made between 1817 and 1872. All except those taken in 1911 and 1912, which comprise about one half, are dated. It is a well-known fact that the portraits and biographies that appear in many county histories are published in consideration of a stipulated price, and it may therefore not be amiss to state that this absolutely has not been done in this book.

I have, either in the text or in some of the foot-notes, given the names of the children of a number of pioneers, and have thus laid a foundation for those of their descendants who may desire to compile a family tree. I made no attempt, except in a few cases, to procure the names occurring in the third and succeeding generations. I feel that the lists of names for the second generation are in most instances complete, for only such of the many lists as I have been able to verify, to a greater or less extent, are printed in this volume. Very few of these lists were copied from written records; most of them were compiled for me within the past few years by men and women who depended on their memory, family traditions, and tombstones upon the graves of their ancestors for their data. Any one who has given his family tree even comparatively little thought will realize the difficulty of preparing an accurate list from such sources, if he but attempt to recall and record the names of the brothers and sisters of any of his four grandparents, and he will also realize that omissions and other errors are likely to occur in any first-published list.

Many of the local traditions woven into the various chapters of this his- tory are seldom heard beyond the immediate neighborhood to which they belong, while some of the other local stories and incidents are familiar to practically every Muhlenberger. A few of the traditions have almost as many versions as they are years old. Where various versions are in circulation I have accepted the one that, in my opinion, seemed the most authentic.


Table of Contents

Preface... xi-xiii

Introduction... xv-xvii

1. General Muhlenberg... 1-7
Statue of General Muhlenberg, Philadelphia. Muhlenberg Delivering his Farewell Sermon.

2. Some of the First-Comers... 8-28
A Survivor of "the Forest Primeval." The Site of Pond Station. Old Caney Station Graveyard. Mrs. Samuel Russell, 1845. Robert S. Russell, 1870. The "Cave Hut Cliff." The Jesse McPherson House. The Jonathan Hunt House. Zillman Wood, 1850. Graves of Judge and Mrs. Wm. Worthington. Kincheloe's Bluff. Pioneer Moses Wickliffe, 1817. Mr. and Mrs. William J. Dean, 1850. Mr. and Mrs. John Noffsinger, 1865. Mr. and Mrs. Peter Shaver, 1865.

3. Henry Rhoads... 29-35
The Henry Rhoads House. Grave of the "Godfather of Muhlenberg County." Henry Rhoads (grandson of pioneer). Wife and Daughter, 1854. McHenry Rhoads, 1912.

4. Beginning and Bounds of the County... 36-40
Map of the original Logan County. Map of Muhlenberg County, 1798-1854. Map of Muhlenberg County, 1912.

5. Courts and Courthouses... 41-55
Facsimile of Commission of County's First Justices, 1798. The Second Courthouse (erected 1836) and Clerk's Office. The Second Jail (erected 1864-65) and Jailer's Residence. John Edmunds Reno, 1895. William H. Yost, 1912. The Present Courthouse, erected 1907. Jail and Jailer's Residence, erected 1912.

6. The Weirs... 56-62
Pioneer James Weir, about 1840. Mrs. Anna C.R. Weir, about 1825. Edward R. Weir, Sr., 1875. Mrs. Harriet R. Weir, 1900. E.R. Weir (Colonel), 1865. Max Weir, 1900.

7. Muhlenberg Men in the War of 1812... 63-75
Larkin N. Akers, 1865. Mosley Collins Drake, about 1870. Ephraim M. Brank, about 1850. The Ephraim M. Brank House. Alney McLean, about 1820. The Isaac Davis House. Mr. and Mrs. Joseph C. Reynolds, 1867.

8. Charles Fox Wing... 76-80
Charles Fox Wing, 1850. Mrs. Charles Fox Wing, about 1850. The Charles Fox Wing House, 1891.

9. Edward Rumsey... 81-83
Edward Rumsey, about 1845.

10. The Pond River Country... 84-103
The Michael Lovell Old Place, 1900. Michael Lovell, about 1865. The John Adair Allison Old Place, 1900. John Adair Allison, 1874. The Hutson Martin Old Place, 1900. Strother Jones, about 1845. Clark's Ferry Bridge. Harpe's "House," on Harpe's Hill. Mrs. Elizabeth Earle Oates, 1870. Mrs. Clara G. Stanley, 1855. The Hugh W. McNary House. Hugh W. McNary, 1871. The So-called Daniel Boone Rock. The "David Short Old Brick." Murphy's Lake. Pond River.

11. Old Liberty Church... 104-109
A Sweep and Well and an Old Oaken Bucket. Old Liberty, 1900. Ruins of Old Liberty, 1912. Old Liberty Burying-ground, 1912.

12. Life in the Olden Days... 110-132
A White Oak and a Yellow Poplar. Ground-sled or "Landslide." "Wolf Sculp" Certificate. Passenger or Wild Pigeons. "The Weir Corner." Some Old Chimneys. A Hog Harvest. Cooksey's Mill. Hazel Creek Church. Newman Graveyard.

13. The Story op "Lonz Powers"... 133-149
James Weir, author, 1850. Residence of Pioneer James Weir. The Lonz Pennington House, 1912. Graves of Lonz Pennington and Wife, 1912.

14. Greenville as Described in "Lonz Powers"... 150-164
Mrs. William H. Yost, Sr. (Mrs. Jonathan Short), 1864. Old Presbyterian Church, Greenville, erected about 1825. Charles Metzker, 1849. The Metzker House, 1895. The William A. Wickliffe Residence. The William G. Duncan Residence. Main Street, Greenville, 1912.

15. The Old Militia Muster... 165-175
Facsimile of William Bradford's Commission as Captain, 1799. Ruins of the O. C. Vanlandingham, Sr., Residence. Ruins of the "Jim Taggart Old Place." The Mosley Collins Drake House.

16. The Story of The Stack... 176-190
The Stack in 1905. Ruins of the Buckner Milk-house. Andirons made at The Stack in 1840. "The Stack House." Friendship Baptist Church. Aylette H. Buckner, 1824. Simon Bolivar Buckner, 1846, 1906. John Jenkins, 1857. The Buckner Cradle. Alfred Johnson, 1864. Alvin L. Taylor, 1912.

17. Muhlenberg Men in the Mexican War... 191-193
Arthur N. Davis, 1870.

18. Isaac Bard 194-207
Isaac Bard, 1850. A White Oak Shade Tree. Mount Zion Presbyterian Church. Dr. Alfred M. Jackson, 1864.

19. Post-Primary Education in Muhlenberg... 208-219
Teacher and Pupils, McClelland School, 1905. The Shaver or Philadelphia Schoolhouse. Residence of Henry C. Lewis (Presbyterial Academy Building), 1912. William L. Green, 1900. James K. Patterson, 1909. Greenville College, 1881. Edwin W. Hall, 1888. South Carrollton Public School Building. Central City Public School Building. Greenville Public School Building. Bremen Public School Building. Drakesboro Public School Building.

20. Paradise Country and Old Airdrie... 220-241
Paradise and the Highway Thereto. O. C. Vanlandingham, Sr., about 1850. George W. Haden, 1895. The Airdrie Furnace, 1912. The Stone House, Airdrie. The Stone Steps, Airdrie. Alexander Hendrie, 1852. Mill Chimneys at Airdrie, 1900. Some of the Abandoned Houses, Airdrie, 1895. Ruins at Airdrie, 1900. The Old Hotel Building, Airdrie, 1895. Entrance to "McLean Old Bank," Airdrie. McLean Old Spring, Airdrie, 1900. General Don Carlos Buell, 1866. Buell's Private Park, Residence, and Boathouse, Airdrie, 1900. Buell's Residence, Airdrie, 1900. Ruins of Buell's Residence, Airdrie, 1912.

21. Charles Eaves... 242-249
Charles Eaves, 1884. Beech Tree, a "Philosopher of the Forest." The H.L. Kirkpatrick Residence, Greenville (former Eaves residence).

22. Muhlenberg in the Civil War... 250-284
Benjamin J. Shaver, 1890. Myers' Chapel and Grangers' Hall. John K. Wickliffe, 1860. Garst's Pond. Greenville and Rumsey Road. Breastworks, South Carrollton (1862), in 1912. Residence of John L. Taylor, South Carrollton. "Our House" or "Lovelace Tavern," South Carrollton. Bethlehem Baptist Church. "Alvin's Avenue." The Edward R. Aveir, Sr., Residence, Greenville. Sullivan's Barn. Soma Civil War Veterans, 1912.

23. R. T. Martin's "Recollections of the Civil War"... 285-317
Richard T. Martin, 1912. Mount Pisgah Church. The Old Prowse Bridge, 1911. Where the "Bogus Cavalry" was organized. The Thomas C. Summers Residence. S. D. Chatham, 1870. Public Road near Old Liberty. The. Greenville Hotel Building, 1912. Reno House, Greenville, 1897.

24. Robert M. Martin... 318-325
Robert M. Martin, 1866. The Muhlenberg County Poor Farm.

25. Some of Muhlenberg's Civil War Soldiers... 326-33
7 John Coombs, Wife and Son, 1874. Japha N. Durall, 1861. Francis M. Finley, 1869. Thomas M. Finley, 1869. J. K. Freeman, 1864. S. P. Love, 1895. R. T. Vincent, about 1863. J. L. Wilkins, about 1863. William S. Grundy, about 1863. Henry C. McCracken, 1861. Isaac Miller, 1861. Joseph Mitchell, 1861. Joseph F. Richardson, 1861. J. L. Roark, 1863. M. J. Roark, 1863. W. C. Shannon, 1864. E. E. C. Shull, 1862. William H. Smith, 1862. John L. G. Thompson, 1861. R. W. Wallace, 1865. Joseph D. Yonts, 1864.

26. Slavery Days... 338-344
"Uncle" John Gates, 1912. Slave Cabins.

27. Local Writers and the Local Press... 345-352
Ruric N. Roark, 1906. Clarence B. Hayes, 1905. Muhlenberg's First Newspaper. Facsimile of Editorial Title. . In 1870 353-367 Dr. Alexander McCown, 1870. House occupied in 1870 by M. C. Hay & Co. Old Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Greenville, about 1870. Old Brick Bank Building, 1890. Wiley S. Hay, about 1850. Finis McLean Allison, 1870. A Load of Saw-logs, 1894. The Jonathan Short Residence. Y. M. C. A. Building, Greenville. The Hugh Martin House.

29. The Railroad Bonds... 368-379
Illinois Central Bridge over Green River, Rockport. Twin Tunnel, between Bellton and Penrod. Big Cut, near Midland. Facsimile of one of the original Railroad Bonds, 1869. Ben and Bob Wickliffe, about 1890. T. J. Sparks, 1912. Illinois Central Depot, Greenville.

30. Tobacco... 380-386
Dabney A. Martin, 1855. C. Y. Martin & Co.'s Tobacco Rehandling House, Greenville. Thomas L. Martin, 1856. A Cropper's Log Cabin, 1912. Old-time Log Tobacco Barn, 1912. A Tobacco Field.

31. Coal Mines and Iron Ore... 387-403
Mud River, near Mud River Mine. The Dr. Roberts House. Tipple and Power House, Central Mine, Central City. Power House and Double Tipple, Graham-Skibo Mine, Graham. Tipple and Power House, Black Diamond Mine, Drakesboro. Power House and Steel Tipple, Kentucky-Midland Mine, Midland. William G. Duncan, 1912. James W. Lam, 1912. William A. Wickliffe, 1912.

32. Collins on Muhlenberg, Quoted and Extended... 404-431
Road from Boat Landing to South Carrollton. Dr. J. T. Woodburn, 1912. Methodist Episcopal Church, Central City. St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, Central City. Central City's First Post-olRce. Broad Street, Central City, 1912. H. D. Rothrock, 1870. Black Lake and Cypress Trees. Main Street, Drakesboro, 1912. Dr. A. D. James, 1905. A Collection of Indian Relics. A Prehistoric Mound. Site of a Prehistoric Mound. R. Y. Thomas, 1912.

A. Judge Hall 's Story of the Harpes 435-441
B. Journal by James Weir, 1803 443-448
C. Two Local Stories by Edward R. Weir, Sr 449-453
D. Duvall's Discovery of "Silver Ore," by R. T. Martin 455-459
E. "Riding the Circuit," by Lucius P. Little 461-465
Index 467-496


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Before taking up the history and traditions of Muhlenberg County it may be well to recall a few dates pertaining to the beginning of the nation, and also to review some of Kentucky's history to the time of the organization of Muhlenberg County in 1798.