A History of Muhlenberg County, Pennsylvania

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 became 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 listen- ing 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 today, 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 presenting 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 today. 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 history 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.

I here express my thanks to Mr. Richard T. Martin, of Greenville, and to the many other Muhlenbergers whose aid and encouragement in gathering data have made the writing of this history of Muhlenberg County not only a possibility but a pleasant occupation; also to Mr. George E. Cross, of Louisville, for copying old oil paintings, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, and photographs, and for preparing many photographic views for reproduction; to Mrs. Jennie C. Morton, of Frankfort; to Judge Lucius P. Little, of Owensboro, and Doctor Samuel A. Braun, of Louisville, for material bearing on the subject; to Colonel Reuben T. Durrett, of Louisville, for many suggestions and for the use of his large library on Kentucky history; and last, but by no means least, to Mr. Young E, Allison, of Louisville, for suggestions growing out of his experience as an editor in preparing matter for the press.


Table of Contents

Preface xi-xiii
Introduction xv-xvii
1. General Muhlenberg 1-7
2. Some of the First-Comers 8-28
3. Henry Rhoads 29-35
4. Beginning and Bounds of the County 36-40
5. Courts and Courthouses 41-55
6. The Weirs 56-62
7. Muhlenberg Men in the War of 1812 63-75
8. Charles Fox Wing 76-80
9. Edward Rumsey 81-83
10. The Pond River Country 84-103
11. Old Liberty Church 104-109
12. Life in the Olden Days 110-132
13. The Story of "Lonz Powers" 133-149
14. Greenville as Described in "Lonz Powers" 150-164
15. The Old Militia Muster 165-175
16. The Story of The Stack 176-190
17. Muhlenberg Men in the IMexican War 191-193
18. Isaac Bard 194-207
19. Post-Primary Education in Muhlenberg 208-219
20. Paradise Country and Old Airdrie 220-241
21. Charles Eaves 242-249
22. Muhlenberg in the Civil War 250-284
23. R.T. Martin's "Recollections of the Civil War" 285-317
24. Robert M. Martin 318-325
25. Some of Muhlenberg's Civil War Soldiers 326-337
26. Slavery Days 338-344
27. Local Writers and the Local Press 345-352
28. In 1870 353-367
29. The Railroad Bonds 368-379
30. Tobacco 380-386
31. Coal Mines and Iron Ore 387-403
32. Collins on Muhlenberg, Quoted and Extended 404-431

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 op "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.

The Declaration of Independence was adopted in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. The first battle in the American Revolution was fought at Lexington, Massachusetts, on April 19, 1775, and the surrender of Cornwallis took place at Yorktown, Virginia, on October 19, 1781. Washington was President of the United States from April 30, 1789, to March 4, 1797, and John Adams from 1797 to March 4, 1801.

Doctor Thomas Walker, in 1750, passed through Cumberland Gap, and was probably the first white man to wander within the present borders of Kentucky. In 1751 Colonel Christopher Gist traveled over the eastern part of the State. In 1769 Daniel Boone made his first trip to the Dark and Bloody Ground. The "Long Hunters" started on their expedition in 1770. Simon Kenton began his explorations in 1771. In 1775 the Transylvania Company appeared on the scene with Daniel Boone as their chief guide and pathfinder, and opened up land offices and attempted to form a proprietary colony or government in the territory lying between the Kentucky and Tennessee rivers, which territory they had purchased from the Cherokee Indians, who claimed to have the right to dispose of it.

At Harrodstown, afterward Harrodsburg, the first permanent white settlement was begun in 1774. The first fort was built at Boonesboro in 1775 and a town started. Louisville, although partly laid out on paper by Captain Thomas Bullitt as early as 1773, was not settled until 1778, when George Rogers Clark and other pioneers built a few houses on Corn Island, opposite the site of the present city an island in the rushing waters of the Ohio which has long since disappeared. As time rolled by many other settlements were made.

In 1778 George Rogers Clark traveled down the Ohio, landed at Fort Massac, opposite the mouth of the Cumberland, and thence began his celebrated and eventful march to Kaskaskia and Vincennes. In 1780 he went down the same river, built Fort Jefferson at Iron Banks, on the present Kentucky shore of the Mississippi, five miles below the mouth of the Ohio, within the Chickasaw country. After Clark had erected this fort he proceeded with two men on foot to Harrodsburg. They crossed the Tennessee River, met a few hunters and trappers (Butler's History of Kentucky, page 115), and then continued their tramp through the territory which later became the original Logan County. (Smith's History of Kentucky, page 174.) The hunters they then met were probably some of the "Long Hunters" who entered Western Kentucky about 1771, or other pioneers who followed a few years later. The account of Clark's trip is probably the earliest authentic record regarding the first white people who saw that section of the State of which Muhlenberg now forms part.

In 1783 Transylvania Seminary, the first school for higher education in the West, was founded in Danville, and six years later was removed to Lexington; in 1798 it received the name of Transylvania University.

In 1784 John Filson wrote the first history of Kentucky. On his "Map of Kentueke" Filson gives the names and general course of all the rivers and many of the creeks in the District, and shows about twenty roads, a number of springs and licks, and locates about fifty of the settlements and mills and the eight towns then in existence. In his history Filson says, on page 11: "There are at present eight towns laid off, and building: and more are proposed. Louisville, at the Falls of Ohio, and Beardstown, are in Jefferson county; Harrodsburg, Danville and Boons-burrow, in Lincoln county; Lexington, Lees-town, and Greenville, in Fayette county; the two last being on Kentueke river." The Greenville and Leestown here referred to were located a short distance below where Frankfort now stands. This Greenville passed out of existence before the close of the Eighteenth Century, before the beginning of Greenville in Muhlenberg County; Leestown was abandoned during the early part of the Nineteenth Century.

After ten years of debating and delaying Kentucky was finally admitted into the Union on June 1, 1792, and became the fifteenth State of the new confederation. Vermont was the fourteenth, and Tennessee, in 1796, became the sixteenth. The administration of Isaac Shelby, the first Governor of Kentucky, extended from June 4. 1792, to January 1, 1796, and the two terms of Governor James Garrard from 1796 to 1804. During the closing years of the Eighteenth Century the political doctrine of Nullification, as embodied in the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 and 1799, was warmly debated throughout the Union.

Up to about the year 1800 many of the pioneers experienced much trouble with the hostile Indians, but after that date no massacres or battles of any great consequence took place in the State, for by that time most of the Indians had been killed or driven out of the Dark and Bloody Ground. The homeseekers from the old colonies emigrated into Kentucky in larger numbers during the last fifteen years of the Eighteenth Century and began many permanent settlements. Local traditions and records show that among these newcomers were some German-Virginians who, as early as 1784 or before, located in the country a part of which later became the northern section of Sluhlenberg County. These German-Virginians were soon followed by other Virginians, some of whom, after building temporary homes at Caney Station about the year 1795, started the town of Greenville in the spring of 1799. Many of the earliest settlers in the southern part of the county came from North Carolina during the last years of the Eighteenth and the first quarter of the Nineteenth Century.

The great increase in population throughout Kentucky resulted in the creating of many new counties out of parts of the older ones. Kentucky was originally a part of Fincastle County, Virginia. In 1776 Fincastle was divided and the County of Kentucky was established. The new county embraced all that is now included in the State. In 1780 the County of Kentucky was divided into Jefferson, Fayette, and Lincoln counties. Jefferson included the country between Kentucky and Green rivers; Fayette the land north of Kentucky River, and Lincoln the remaining territory. In 1784 all of Jefferson County south of Salt River became Nelson County. In 1785 Bourbon County was formed from part of Fayette, and during the same year Mercer and Madison counties sprang from parts of Lincoln. In 1788 Mason County was formed from part of Bourbon and Woodford County from part of Fayette, making up to that date a total of nine counties in the District of Kentucky.

In 1792, the year Kentucky was admitted into the Union, seven new counties were established, among them being Logan, which was formed from part of Lincoln. Logan was the thirteenth county organized in the State. It was then the most westerly county, and embraced practically all that part of Kentucky lying west of Green and Barren rivers. During the next two years three more counties were laid off in various parts of the State. In 1796 six new ones were started, including Christian, which was formed from part of Logan. In 1798 thirteen more sprang into existence, among them being Muhlenberg, the thirty-fourth, which was formed from parts of Christian and Logan. In the course of years many others were formed from Logan County or its former territory. By 1860 the original Logan County was divided into twenty-nine counties. The State of Kentucky now contains one hundred and twenty counties.

The seven counties bordering on Muhlenberg were organized as follows: Logan in 1792; Christian in 1796; Ohio in 1798; Hopkins in 1806; Butler in 1810; Todd in 1819; McLean in 1854. Of these. Christian. Hopkins, and Butler counties were named after officers of the Revolutionary army; Muhlenberg was also so named, in honor of General John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, one of Washington's brigadier-generals.