AHGP Transcription Project

Ballard County

Ballard County, the 93rd in order of formation, was organized in 1842, out of parts of McCracken and Hickman counties, and named in honor of Capt. Bland Ballard. It is situated in the extreme western part of the state, opposite Cairo, Illinois; contains 393 square miles; and is bounded on the north by the Ohio River, west by the Mississippi River, south by Hickman County, and east by Graves and McCracken counties. Mayfield creek runs westerly entirely through the county, dividing it into north and south Ballard, north Ballard being a beautiful high, level, and comparatively open country, producing more than the average in the state, of corn, wheat, rye, oats, potatoes, sorghum, and the finest tobacco in the world (which has sold in several instances, as high as $410 per hundred pounds); south Ballard is more broken, more heavily timbered, and has more depth of soil. The soil of the river-bottoms, a mixture of black loam and sand, is very productive. But little is exported besides tobacco and staves. The county (in 1872), is still new, fully one-third yet unsettled and held under military entries, in tracts of from 1,000 to 10,000 acres. There is not a macadamized road in the county, and only one gravel road, from Blandville to Cairo.

Blandville, so called after the Christian name of Capt. Bland Ballard, is the county seat, in the center of the county, 11 miles from Columbus, on the Mississippi, and 10 miles from Cairo, at the mouth of the Ohio; population in 1870, 385.
Milburn (named after Wm. Milburn), in the southwest, 17 miles from Columbus and 12 from Mayfield; population in 1870, 314.
Lovelaceville, 8 miles north of east of Blandville; population about 200.
Barlow City, population about 100,
Hinkleville and Ogden's Landing are in the northern part of the county.

Members of the Legislature, since 1859

Samuel H. Jenkins, 1859-63;
Oscar Turner, 1867-71.

House of Representatives
Wm. M. Coffee, 1861-63, but resigned December 6, 1861, and was succeeded by Wm. Mercer, 1862-63;
Thos. P. Hays, 1863-65;
Thos. H. Corbett, 1865-75.

In the first settlement of it, and for many years after, the northern part of the county was an elevated prairie, open, covered with tall grass, five or six feet high, and without timber except along the creeks. Under the timber grew a species of wild rye, with long beards, very troublesome to the eyes of cattle. Wild bees and honey were so plentiful, that a man could climb many of the trees and drink metheglin out of the first knot-hole he reached. Now, the grass and wild rye are gone, and the whole country, except where cultivated, grown up in timber.

Natural Curiosities

On the Mississippi River hills, a mile out from Puntney's Bend, is an old Indian fort, from which have been dug many Indian bones, and pieces of crucibles and charcoal. In the same township (5) and range (4 west), on Gray's branch, is a remarkable mound, an oblong square, about 30 feet wide, 60 or 70 feet long, and 15 or 20 feet high; its sides are nearly perpendicular. On the Ohio river bottom, opposite Mound City, Illinois, is one of the most extensive mounds in the west, 5 or 6 feet high, and spread over about 15 acres; remarkable for having upon one end of it a mound, oval in shape, about 40 feet high, containing half an acre, and with trees on it 2 feet in diameter; while from the center of the big mound field, rises a third mound, about 12 feet high. Many Indian relics have been found near these mounds.

First Settlers

John Humphrey in 1817, Solomon Redferrin and Robert Crafton in 1818, settled on Humphrey's creek, 3 to 5 miles from its mouth at the Ohio River; Daniel Doolin in 1818, near Barlow city; John Weaver in 1818, Jas. Talbot in 1819, and John Marshall in 1822, on Shawnee creek, 9 or 10 miles north of Blandville; Wm Rush in 1819, on the Ohio river opposite Cairo; Wm. Holman and Sam. Wilson in 1820, 8 miles southeast of Blandville; and Andrew Lovelace, the same year, at Lovelaceville. The first school in the county was taught on Mr. Redferrin's farm, by Wm. Hazard, of Virginia, in 1823.

Fort Jefferson

Under intimations from Gov. Patrick Henry, dated January 2, 1778, that "it was in contemplation to establish a post near the mouth of the Ohio, with cannon to fortify it," coupled With express instructions from Thos. Jefferson, next governor of Virginia, dated June 28, 1778, and repeated in January and April, 1780, Gen. Geo. Rogers Clark, with about 200 soldiers, left Louisville early in the summer of 1780, and proceeding down the river to a point on the Mississippi called the Iron Banks, five miles below the mouth of the Ohio, then in the state of Virginia, there erected a fort with several blockhouses, which he called Fort Jefferson. One object was to fortify the claim of the United States to the Mississippi River as its western boundary, south of the Ohio. Gov. Jefferson had engaged a scientific corps, with Dr. Thomas Walker at its head, to ascertain, by celestial observations, the boundary line between Virginia and North Carolina, or the point on the Mississippi River intersected by the latitude of 36 30', the southern limit of Virginia. Gen. Clark was instructed "to select a strong position near that point, and establish there a fort and garrison; thence to extend his conquests northward to the Lakes, erecting forts at different points, which might serve as monuments of actual possession, besides affording protection to that portion of the country." The result of Clark's bold operations, thus authorized, was the addition to the chartered limits of Virginia, and so recognized by the treaty of peace with Great Britain in 1783, of that immense region, afterwards called the "North Western Territory," and ceded by Virginia to the United States, which now comprises the four great states of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

The Chickasaw Indians were, in 1780, the undisputed owners of the territory on the west of the Tennessee River, including the ground at the mouth of Mayfield creek, where Fort Jefferson was built. By some unexplained oversight or neglect of positive instructions, or inability to comply with them, this site had not been purchased of the Indians, nor their consent obtained to the erection of the fort, thus arousing their most bitter resentment. After a while they began marauding and then murdering individuals of the isolated families who had settled around the fort, thus driving them into the fort, and butchering many, including the whole family of Mr. Music, except himself In their skirmishes, they captured a white man whom they compelled, at the risk of his life, to reveal the true condition of the garrison and families, already reduced, by sickness and absences, to about thirty men, of whom two-thirds were sick with fever and ague. These were commanded by Capt. George, according to Willam Butler, and others and according to Gov. John Reynolds, by Capt. James Piggot; the Indians, who now came a thousand or twelve hundred strong to the work of bloody extermination, were led by Colbert, a Scotchman, who had gained great control over them. The siege lasted five or six days, the inmates of the fort being reduced to terrible extremities by famine, sickness, scarcity of water, watching, and fighting. Their principal food was pumpkins, with the blossoms yet on them. They had sent for succor, but the distance was great. They refused a demand for a surrender within an hour, although notified that a strong force had been sent to intercept the small assistance expected. A desperate night assault was made, but as they crowded on, Captain Geo. Owen, commander of a blockhouse, raked them with great slaughter, with a swivel loaded with rifle and musket balls. Other efforts to storm the fort, and to set fire to it, were bravely resisted. At last Gen. Clark arrived from Kaskaskia, with provisions and reinforcements, and the baffled savages sullenly withdrew, still threatening vengeance. The fort was abandoned shortly after, from the difficulty of supplying it because so remote.

During the late civil war, a long six-pounder iron cannon, buried beneath the fort, was partially exposed by the caving in of the Mississippi River. Jos. Dupoyster, who owns the site of the fort, dug it out, but was robbed of it by Federal soldiers then stationed at Cairo.

Among the soldiers of Gen. Clark, at Fort Jefferson, were Wm. Biggs, Jas. Curry, Levi Teel, David Pagon, John Vallis, Pickett, Seybold, Groots, Hildebrand, Dodge, Camp, Lunceford, Anderson, Doyle, Montgomery, Hughes, and many others. After its abandonment, some of these went to Illinois, grew up with the country, and became prominent citizens; others came to Louisville. Gen. Clark promised lands and protection to all who would emigrate to the Iron Banks, and settle around the fort, with their families, thus securing a kind of armed occupation of the country.

Capt. Bland W. Ballard, for whom this county was named, was born near Fredericksburg, Virginia, October 16, 1761, and died in Shelby County Kentucky., September 5, 1853, aged 92 years. His remains are interred in the State Cemetery at Frankfort. [An elegant portrait, from a sketch taken in life, and finished in August, 1873, was presented by the artist, Col. Reuben H. Buekley, to the Public Library at Louisville.]

He came to Kentucky, in 1779, when 18 years old; joined the militia; served in Col. Bowman's expedition, May, 1779; in Gen. Clark's expedition against the Piqua towns, July, 1780, where he was dangerously wounded in the hip, and suffered from it until his death; in Gen. Clark's expedition, November, 1782, against the same towns; in 1786, was a spy for Gen. Clark, in the Wabash expedition, rendered abortive by mutiny of the soldiers; in 1791, was a guide under Gens. Scott and Wilkinson; and, August 20, 1794, was with Gen. Wayne at the battle of the "Fallen Timbers."

When not engaged in regular campaign, he served as hunter and spy for General Clark, who was stationed at Louisville, and in this service he continued lot two years and a half. During this time he had several reencounters with the Indians. One of these occurred just below Louisville. He had been sent in his character of spy to explore the Ohio from the mouth of Salt River to the falls, and from thence up to what is now the town of Westport. On his way down the river, when six or eight miles below the falls, he heard, early one morning, a noise on the Indiana shore. He immediately concealed himself in the bushes, and when the fog had scattered sufficiently to permit him to see, he discovered a canoe filled with three Indians, approaching the Kentucky shore. When they had approached within range, he fired and killed one. The others jumped overboard, and endeavored to get their canoe into deep water, but before they succeeded, he killed a second, and finally the third. Upon reporting his morning's work to General Clark, a detachment was sent down, who found the three dead Indians and buried them. For this service General Clark gave him a linen shirt, and some other small presents. This shirt, however, was the only one he had for several years, except those made of leather; of this shirt the pioneer hero was doubtless justly proud.

While on a scout to the Saline Licks, on one occasion, Ballard, with one companion, came suddenly upon a large body of Indians, just as they were in the act of encamping. They immediately charged, firing their guns and raising the yell. This induced the Indians, as they had anticipated, to disperse for the moment, until the strength of the assailing party could be ascertained. During this period of alarm, Ballard and his companion mounted two of the best horses they could find, and retreated for two days and nights, until they reached the Ohio, which they crossed upon a raft, making their horses swim. As they ascended the Kentucky bank, the Indians reached the opposite shore.

At the time of the defeat on Long Run, he was living at Linn's station on Beargrass, and came up to assist some families in moving from Squire Boon's station, near the present town of Shelbyville. The people of this station had become alarmed on account of the numerous Indian signs in the country, and had determined to move to the stronger stations on the Beargrass. They proceeded safely until they arrived near Long Run, when they were attacked front and rear by the Indians, who fired their rifles and then rushed on them with their tomahawks. Some few of the men ran at the first fire, of the others, some succeeded in saving part of their families, or died with them after a brave resistance. The subject of this sketch, after assisting several of the women on horseback who had been thrown at the first onset, during which he had one or two single handed combats with the Indians, and seeing the party about to be defeated, he succeeded in getting outside of the Indian line, when he used his rifle with some effect, until he saw they were totally defeated. He then started for the station, pursued by the Indians, and on stopping at Floyd's Fork, in the bushes, on the bank, he saw an Indian on horseback pursuing the fugitives ride into the creek, and as he ascended the hank near to where Ballard stood, he shot the Indian, caught the horse and made good his escape to the station. Many were killed, the number not recollected, some taken prisoners, and some escaped to the station. They afterwards learned from the prisoners taken on this occasion that the Indians who attacked them were marching to attack the station the whites had deserted, but learning from their spies that they were moving, the Indians turned from the head of Bullskin and marched in the direction of Long Run. The news of this defeat induced Colonel Floyd to raise a party of thirty-seven men, with the intention of chastising the Indians. Floyd commanded one division and captain Holden the other, Ballard being with the latter. They proceeded with great caution, hut did not discover the Indians until they received their fire, which killed or mortally wounded sixteen of their men. Notwithstanding the loss, the party under Floyd maintained their ground, and fought bravely until overpowered by three times their number, who appealed to the tomahawk. The retreat, however, was completed without much further loss. This occasion has been rendered memorable by the magnanimous gallantry of young Wells (afterwards the Colonel Wells of Tippecanoe), who saved the life of Floyd, his personal enemy, by the timely offer of his horse at a moment when the Indians were near to Floyd, who was retreating on foot and nearly exhausted.

In 1788, the Indians attacked the little Fort on Tick creek (a few miles east of Shelbyville), where his father resided. It happened that his father had removed a short distance out of the fort, for the purpose of being convenient to the sugar camp. The first intimation they had of the Indians, was early in the morning, when his brother Benjamin went out to get wood to make a fire. They shot him and then assailed the house. The inmates barred the door and prepared for defense. His father was the only man in the house, and no man in the fort, except the subject of this sketch and one old man. As soon as he heard the guns he repaired to within shooting distance of his father's house, but dared not venture nearer. Here he commenced using his rifle with good effect. In the meantime the Indians broke open the house and killed his father, not before, however, he had killed one or two of their number. The Indians, also, killed one full sister, one half-sister, his step-mother, and tomahawked the youngest sister, a child, who recovered. When the Indians broke into the house, his step-mother endeavored to affect her escape by the back door, but an Indian pursued her and as he raised his tomahawk to strike her, the subject of this sketch fired at the Indian, not, however, in lime to prevent the fatal blow, and they both fell and expired together. The Indians were supposed to number about fifteen, and before they completed their work of death, they sustained a loss of six or seven.

During the period he was a spy for General Clark, he was taken prisoner by five Indians on the other side of the Ohio, a few miles above Louisville, and conducted to an encampment twenty-five miles from the river. The Indians treated him comparatively well, for though they kept him with a guard they did not tie him. On the next day after his arrival at the encampment, the Indians were engaged in horse racing. In the evening two very old warriors were to have a race, which attracted the attention of all the Indians, and his guard left him a few steps to see how the race would terminate. Near him stood a fine black horse, which the Indians had stolen recently from Beargrass, and while the attention of the Indians was attracted in a different direction, Ballard mounted this horse and had a race indeed. They pursued him nearly to the river, but he escaped, though the horse died soon after he reached the station. This was the only instance, with the exception of that at the river Raisin, that he was a prisoner. He was in a skirmish with the Indians near the Saline Licks, Colonel Hardin being the commander; the Colonel Hardin who fought gallantly under Morgan at the capture of Burgoyne, and who fell a sacrifice to Indian perfidy in the northwest; the father of General M. D. Hardin, and grand-father of Col. J. J. Hardin of Illinois, whose heroic death at Buena Vista was worthy of his unsullied life. In after life Major Ballard repeatedly represented the people of Shelby County in the legislature, and commanded a company in Colonel Allen's regiment under General Harrison in the campaign of 1812-13. He led the advance of the detachment, which fought the first battle of the river Raisin, was wounded slightly on that day, and severely by a spent ball on the 22d January. This wound, also, continued to annoy his old age. On this disastrous occasion he was taken prisoner, and suffered severely by the march through snow and ice, from Maiden to Fort George.

As an evidence of the difficulties which surrounded the early pioneer in this country, it may be proper to notice an occasion in which Major Ballard was disturbed by the Indians at the spot where he then resided. They stole his only horse at night. He heard them when they took the horse from the door to which he was tied. His energy and sagacity was such, that he got in advance of the Indians before they reached the Ohio, waylaid them, three in number, shot the one riding his horse, and succeeded not only in escaping, but in catching the horse and riding back in safety.

Source: History of Kentucky, Volume II, by Lewis Collins, Published by Collins & Company,
Covington, Kentucky, 1874

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