AHGP Transcription Project

Bullitt County

Bullitt County was established in 1796, and named for Lieutenant Governor Bullitt. It is situated in the north-west middle part of the state, its extreme western boundary extending to near the mouth of Salt River, and is watered by that stream and its tributaries. Bounded on the north by Jefferson; east by Spencer; south by Nelson, and on the west by Hardin and Meade, the Rolling fork of Salt River washing its south-west border. This county is generally fertile, though the surface is rolling; the scenery is variegated and beautiful, the hills covered with tall pine and laurel, and abounding in iron and other ores.

Shepherdsville, the county seat, incorporated in 1793, is situated on Salt River, 18 miles south of Louisville, by the Louisville and Nashville railroad; population in 1870, 267.
Mt. Washington, formerly Vernon, incorporated in 1833, is 10 miles north east of Shepherdsville; population 340.
Pitts' Point, at the junction of the Rolling fork and main Salt River, 9 miles from Shepherdsville; population 98.
Mt. Vitio, Bardstown Junction, Cane Spring, Belmont, and Lebanon Junction, are railroad stations.

Members of the Legislature, since 1859

Richard H. Field, 1861-65;
Alfred H. Field, 1867-69.

House of Representatives
John O. Harrison, 1859-61;
Wm. J. Heady, 1861-63;
Wm. R. Thompson, 1863-65;
John B. McDowell, 1865-67;
Smith M. Hobbs, 1867-69;
W. B. M. Brooks, 1871-73.

The Paroquet Springs, a fine and popular watering-place, with superior accommodations for 800 guests, and grounds very attractive and beautifully improved, is situated half a mile north of Shepherdsville; the water contains salt, iron, magnesia, and salts, and the sulphur well is one of the largest and strongest in the world.

Of Bullitt's old licks, about 3 miles from Shepherdsville, where the first salt works were erected in Kentucky, the celebrated geographer, Jedidiah Morse, in 1796, said:
"Bullitt's lick at Saltsburg, although in low order, has supplied this country and Cumberland with salt, at 20 shillings per bushel, Virginia currency ($3.33½); and some is exported to the Illinois country. The method of procuring water from the licks is by sinking wells from 30 to 40 feet deep; the water thus obtained is more strongly impregnated with salt than the water from the sea."

The first forts and stations erected in this county were called Fort Nonsense, Mud Garrison, Brashears', Clear's, Whitaker's, and Dowdall's.

The Salt River (or Muldrow) Hills, on the Bullitt County side of that stream, are from 350 to 400 feet high.

The Iron Ore of this region is most abundant in the south east part of the range of the Knobs of Bullitt, extending along the waters of Cane run southwardly, into Nelson County. The ore, says Dr. Owen's state geological report, is in the grey or ash-colored shales overlying the Black Devonian slate; and is found mostly as carbonate of the protoxide of iron, except where it has been oxidized by partial exposure to air and permeating water. It varies in thickness from three to eight inches. The ore diggers recognize two varieties, the "Kidney ore" and the "Blue Sheet ore;" because the former generally lies above the latter in more detached hemispherical masses possessing a concentric structure, while the latter is more continuous (or in the form of a pavement) and less oxidized by exposure.

The quality of the iron produced from these ores was soft and tough, and in great request by the nail-makers; the ore was quite uniform, the limestone for flux convenient, and the timber excellent and abundant; while the Louisville and Nashville railroad is near enough for reliable transportation. Several analyses of Bullitt County ores were made by Prof. Robert Peter, showing 32.62, 43.46, 31.30, and 23.80 per cent, of iron. The latter, and poorest, was from the Knob at Bullitt's Lick; the third, from Button-mould Knob; and the first two from Bellemont furnace. The average of the four is 32.82 per cent.

The Sandstones of Bullitt County are not of a handsome color, and do not possess the qualities desirable in a permanent uniform building-stone.

Cahill’s Escape, the killing of the George May party of surveyors and escape of Hardin, and the scene of Col. John Floyd's fatal wound, were thus graphically grouped in a letter, in 1847, to the author of the first edition of this work. It is to be regretted that the writer had not more fully related the following, and also preserved the other incidents alluded to:

"If I could have taken the time, I might have given you many other interesting particulars of the early times about Bullitt's Lick, when the fires of an hundred salt furnaces gleamed through the forest, and the Wyandot sat on Calill's knob and looked down on five hundred men on the plain below. I have sat in the fork of the chesnut-oak to which Cahill was bound by the Indians, while they procured his funeral pile out of the dead limbs of the pitch-pine that grows on the mountain's side, (they intended to burn him in sight of Bullitt's Lick). Some oxen had been turned out to graze, and were straggling up the hill side. The Indians heard the cracking of the brush, and supposing it to be their enemies (the whites) coming in search of their lost companion, darted into the thicket on the opposite side of the hill. Cahill improved their temporary absence, slipped his bands, and escaped in the darkness, and in a half hour arrived safe at the licks. A company was immediately raised, and made pursuit. They followed the trail of about twenty Indians to the bank of the Ohio River, and saw the Indians crossing on dead timber they had rolled into the river. Some shots were exchanged, but no damage was known to be done on either side.

"I have sat under the shade of the elm, about three miles north of Shepherdsville, where Col. Floyd fell; and have a thousand times walked the path Geo. May and his companions pursued, as they returned from making surveys in the new county of Washington, when they were waylaid by some twelve Indians, about a mile and a half above Shepherdsville, on the south side of Salt River. The surveyors, including the elder May, were all killed but one, his name was Hardin. He fled to the river bank, pursued by the Indians. There was a small station on the opposite side, (called Brashear's station, I think), about a quarter of a mile above the site of the present beautiful watering place called Paroquette Springs. The men in the station, about twenty-five in number, sallied out. Hardin ran under the river bank and took shelter. The whites, on the opposite side, kept the Indians off of him with their rifles, until a part of their company ran down and crossed at the ford, (Shepherdsville), came up on the side Hardin was on, and drove the Indians from their prey. May's field-notes of his surveys were preserved, and subsequently sustained by the supreme court of the commonwealth."

Mann's Lick, where salt was manufactured to a much less extent than at Bullitt's, was to some extent fortified.

Henry Crist was born in the state of Virginia, in the year 1764. During the revolutionary war, his father, with a numerous family, emigrated to the western part of Pennsylvania, from whence young Henry and other ardent youths of the neighborhood, made frequent and daring excursions into the western wilderness; sometimes into what is now the state of Ohio, sometimes to Limestone, (now Maysville,) and finally to the falls of the Ohio, which place he first visited in 1779. The buffalo and deer had clearly indicated to the early settlers, those places where salt water was to be found. The great difficulty of imparting salt, the increasing demand and high price of the article, encouraged the attempt to manufacture here at a very early day. Salt was made at Bullitt's lick, now in Bullitt County, over ninety years ago.

In Crist's excursions to the west, he had become acquainted and associated with an enterprising Dutchman, named Myers, a land agent and general locator, and in whose name more land has been entered than in that of almost any other man in the west. This pursuit of locator of lands, brought Crist at a very early day to Bullitt's lick, where he took a prominent and active part in some of those scenes which have contributed to the notoriety of that renowned resort of all who lived within fifty miles around in the first settlement of the country. Here the first salt was made in Kentucky, and here from five hundred to a thousand men were collected together in the various branches of salt making, as well as buying of, selling to and guarding the salt makers, when Louisville and Lexington could boast but a few hovels, and when the buffalo slept in security around the base of Capitol hill.

In May, 1788, a flat boat loaded with kettles, intended for the manufacture of salt at Bullitt's lick, left Louisville with thirteen persons, twelve armed men and one woman, on board. The boat and cargo were owned by Henry Crist and Solomon Spears; and the company consisted of Crist, Spears, Christian Crepps, Thomas Floyd, Joseph Boyce, Evans Moore, an Irishman named Fossett, and five others, and a woman, whose names the writer cannot now recollect, though he has heard Crist often repeat them. The intention of the party was to descend the Ohio, which was then very high, to the mouth of Salt River, and then ascend the latter river, the current of which was entirely deadened by back water from the Ohio, to a place near the licks, called Mud Garrison, which was a temporary fortification, constructed of two rows of slight stockades, and the space between filled with mud and gravel from the bank of the river hard by. The works enclosed a space of about half an acre, and stood about midway between Bullitt's lick and the falls of Salt River, where Shepherdsville now stands. These works were then occupied by the families of the salt makers, and those who hunted to supply them with food, and acted also as an advanced guard to give notice of the approach of any considerable body of men.

On the 25th of May, the boat entered Salt River, and the hands commenced working her up with sweep-oars. There was no current one way or the other, while in the Ohio, the great breadth of the river secured them against any sudden attack, but when they came into Salt River, and they were within reach of the Indian rifle from either shore. It became necessary, therefore, to send out scouts, to apprise them of any danger ahead. In the evening of the first day of their ascent of the river, Crist and Floyd went ashore to reconnoiter the bank of the river ahead of the boat. Late in the evening they discovered a fresh trail, but for want of light, they could not make out the number of Indians. They remained out all night, but made no further discoveries. In the morning, as they were returning down the river towards the boat, they heard a number of guns, which they believed to be Indians killing game for breakfast. They hastened back to the boat and communicated what they had heard and seen.

They pulled on up the river until about eight o'clock, and arrived at a point eight miles below the mouth of the Rolling fork, where they drew into shore on the north side of the river, now in Bullitt County, intending to land and cook and eat their breakfast. As they drew into shore, they heard the gobbling of turkeys (as they supposed) on the bank where they were going to land, and as the boat touched, Fossett and another sprang ashore, with their guns in their hands, to shoot turkeys. They were cautioned of their danger, but disregarding the admonition, hastily ascended the bank. Their companions in the boat had barely lost sight of them, when they heard a volley of rifles discharged all at once on the bank immediately above, succeeded by a yell of savages so terrific as to induce a belief that the woods were filled with Indians. This attack, so sudden and violent, took the boat's company by surprise; and they had barely time to seize their rifles and place themselves in a posture of defense, when Fossett and his companion came dashing down the bank, hotly pursued by a large body of Indians.

Crist stood in the bow of the boat, with his rifle in his hand. At the first sight of the enemy, he brought his gun to his face, but instantly perceived that the object of his aim was a white man, and a sudden thought flashed across his mind, that the enemy was a company of surveyors that he knew to be then in the woods, and that the attack was made in sport, &c., let his gun down, and at the same time his white foeman sunk out of his sight behind the bank. But the firing had begun in good earnest on both sides. Crist again brought his rifle to his face, and as he did so the white man's head was rising over the bank, with his gun also drawn up and presented. Crist got the fire on him, and at the crack of his rifle the white man fell forward dead. Fossett's hunting companion plunged into the water, and got in safely at the bow of the boat. But Fossett's arm was broken by the first fire on the hill. The boat, owing to the high water, did not touch the land, and he got into the river further toward the stern, and swam round with his gun in his left hand, and was taken safely into the stern. So intent were the Indians on the pursuit of their prey, that many of them ran to the water's edge, struck and shot at Fossett and his companion while they were getting into the boat, and some even seized the boat and attempted to draw it nearer the shore. In this attempt many of the Indians perished; some were shot dead as they approached the boat, others were killed in the river, and it required the most stubborn resistance and determined valor to keep them from carrying the boat by assault. Repulsed in their efforts to board the boat, the savages withdrew higher up the bank, and taking their stations behind trees, commenced a regular and galling fire, which was returned with the spirit of brave men rendered desperate by the certain knowledge that no quarter would be given, and that it was an issue of victory or death to every soul on board.

The boat had a log-chain for a cable, and when she was first brought ashore, the chain was thrown round a small tree that stood in the water's edge, and the hook run through one of the links. This had been done before the first fire was made upon Fossett on shore. The kettles in the boat had been ranked up along the sides, leaving an open gangway through the middle of the boat from bow to stern. Unfortunately, the bow lay to shore, so that the guns of the Indians raked the whole length of the gangway, and their fire was constant and destructive. Spears and several others of the bravest men had already fallen, some killed and others mortally wounded. From the commencement of the battle, many efforts had been made to disengage the boat from the shore, all of which had failed. The hope was that, if they could once loose the cable, the boat would drift out of the reach of the enemy's guns; but any attempt to do this by hand would expose the person to certain destruction. Fossett's right arm was broken, and he could no longer handle his rifle. He got a pole, and placing himself low down in the bow of the boat, commenced punching at the hook in the chain, but the point of the hook was turned from him, and all his efforts seemed only to drive it further into the link. He at length discovered where a small limb had been cut from the pole, and left a knot about an inch long; this knot, after a number of efforts, he placed against the point of the hook, and, jerking the pole suddenly towards him, threw the hook out of the link. The chain fell, and the boat drifted slowly out from the bank; and by means of an oar worked over head, the boat was brought into the middle of the river, with her side to the shore, which protected them from the fire of the Indians. The battle had now lasted upwards of an hour. The odds against the crew was at least ten to one. The fire had been very destructive on both sides, and a great many of the Indians had been killed; but if the boat had remained much longer at the shore, it was manifest that there would have been none of the crew left to tell the tale of their disaster.

The survivors had now time to look round upon the havoc that had been made of their little band. Five of their companions lay dead in the gangway, Spears, Floyd, Fossett and Boyce were wounded, Crépps, Crist and Moore remained unhurt. It was evident that Spears' wound was mortal, and that he could survive but a few moments. He urged the survivors to run the boat to the opposite side of the river, and save themselves by immediate flight, and leave him to his fate. Crepps and Crist positively refused.

But the boat was gradually nearing the southern shore of the river. At this time the Indians, to the number of forty or fifty, were seen crossing the river above, at a few hundred yards distance, some on logs, and some swimming and carrying their rifles over their heads. The escape of the boat was now hopeless, as there was a large body of Indians on each side of the river. If the boat had been carried immediately to the opposite side of the river as soon as her cable was loosed, the survivors might have escaped; but to such minds and hearts, the idea of leaving their dying friends to the mercy of the Indian tomahawk was insupportable. The boat at length touched the southern shore—a hasty preparation was made to bear the wounded into the woods—Floyd, Fossett and Boyce got to land, and sought concealment in the thickets. Crépps and Crist turned to their suffering friend, Spears, but death had kindly stepped in and cut short the savage triumph. The woman now remained. They offered to assist her to shore, that she might take her chance of escape in the woods; but the danger of her position, and the scenes of blood and death around her, had overpowered her senses, and no entreaty or remonstrance could prevail with her to move. She sat with her face buried in her hands, and no effort could make her sensible that there was any hope of escape.

The Indians had gained the south side of the river, and were yelling like bloodhounds as they ran down towards the boat, which they now looked upon as their certain prey. Crepps and Crist seized a rifle apiece, and ascended the river bank; at the top of the hill they met the savages and charged them with a shout. Crepps fired upon them, but Crist, in his haste, had taken up Fossett's gun, which had got wet as he swam with it to the boat on the opposite side, it missed fire. At this time Moore passed them and escaped. The Indians, when charged by Crépps and Crist, fell back into a ravine that put into the river immediately above them. Crist and Crepps again commenced their flight. The Indians rallied and rose from the ravine, and fired a volley at them as they fled, Crepps received a ball in his left side; a bullet struck Crist's heel, and completely crushed the bones of his foot. They parted, and met no more. The Indians, intent on plunder, did not pursue them, but rushed into the boat. Crist heard one long, agonizing shriek from the unfortunate woman, and the wild shouts of the savages, as they possessed themselves of the spoils of a costly but barren victory.

Crepps, in the course of the next day, arrived in the neighborhood of Long lick, and being unable to travel farther, laid down in the woods to die. Moore alone escaped unhurt, and brought in the tidings of the defeat of the boat. The country, was at once roused. Crepps was found, and brought in, but died about the time he reached home. Crist described Crepps as a tall, fair haired, handsome mankind, brave, and enterprising, and possessed of all those high and striking qualities that gave the heroic stamp to that hardy race of pioneers amongst whom he had lived and died. He had been the lion of the fight. By exposing himself to the most imminent peril, he inspirited his companions with his own contempt of danger. He and Crist had stood over Fossett, and kept the Indians treed while he disengaged the cable; and his coolness during the long, bloody struggle of the day, had won the admiration of Crist himself, than whom a more dauntless man had never contended with mortal foe. Crepps left a young wife and one son, then an infant. His wife was enceinte at the time of his death, the posthumous child was a daughter, became the wife of the Hon. Charles A. Wickliffe. The son died shortly after he arrived at man's estate. Crist was so disabled by the wound that he could not walk. The bones of his heel were crushed. He crept into a thicket and laid down, his wound bled profusely. He could not remain here long. His feet were now of no use to him. He bound his moccasins on his knees, and commenced his journey. Piece by piece his hat, hunting shirt, and vest were consumed to shield his hands against the rugged rocks which lay in his way. He crawled on all day up the river, and at night crossed over to the north side upon a log that he rolled down the bank. He concealed himself in a thicket and tried to sleep—but pain and exhaustion and loss of blood had driven sleep from his eyes. His foot and leg were much swollen and inflamed. Guided by the stars he crept on again, between midnight and day he came in sight of a camp fire, and heard the barking of a dog. A number of Indians rose up from around the fire, and he crept softly away from the light. He laid down and remained quiet for some time. When all was still again, he resumed his slow and painful journey. He crawled into a small branch, and kept on down it for some distance upon the rocks, that he might leave no trace behind him. At daylight, he ascended an eminence of considerable height to ascertain, if possible, where he was, and how to shape his future course; but all around was wilderness. He was aiming to reach Bullitt's lick, now about eight miles distant, and his progress was not half a mile an hour. He toiled on all day, night came on, the second night of his painful journey. Since leaving the small branch the night before, he had found no water, since the day before the battle he had not tasted food. Worn down with hunger, want of sleep, acute pain, and raging thirst, he laid himself down to die. But his sufferings were not to end here, guided again by the stars, he struggled on. Every rag that he could interpose between the rugged stones and his bleeding hands and knee (for he could now use but one), was worn away. The morning came, the morning of the third day; it brought him but little hope; but the indomitable spirit within him disdained to yield, and during the day he made what progress he could. As the evening drew on, he became aware that he was in the vicinity of Bullitt's lick; but he could go no further; nature had made her last effort, and he laid himself down and prayed that death would speedily end his sufferings.

When darkness came on, from where he lay he could see the hundred fires of the furnaces at the licks all glowing; and he even fancied he could see the dusky forms of the firemen as they passed to and fro around the pits, but they were more than a half mile off, and how was he to reach them. He had not eaten a morsel in four days, he had been drained of almost his last drop of blood, the wounded leg had become so stiff and swollen that for the last two days and nights he had dragged it after him; the flesh was worn from his knee and from the palms of his hands. Relief was in his sight, but to reach it was impossible. Suddenly he heard the tramp of a horse's feet approaching him, and hope sprang up once more in his breast. The sound came nearer and still more near. A path ran near the place where he lay, a man on horse-back approached within a few rods of him, he mustered his remaining strength, and hailed him; but to his utter surprise and dismay, the horseman turned suddenly and galloped off towards the Licks. Despair now seized him. To die alone of hunger and thirst, in sight of hundreds and of plenty, seemed to him the last dregs of the bitterest cup that fate could offer to mortal lips. O! That he could have fallen by the side of his friends in the proud battle. That he could have met the Indian tomahawk, and died in the strength of his manhood; and not have been doomed to linger out his life in days and nights of pain and agony, and to die by piecemeal in childish despair. While these thoughts were passing in his mind, the horseman (a Negro), regained the Licks and alarmed the people there with the intelligence that the Indians were approaching. On being interrogated, all the account he could give was, that some person had called to him in the woods a half mile off, and called him by the wrong name. It was manifest it was not Indians; and forthwith a number of men set out, guided by the Negro, to the place. Crist's hopes again revived, when he heard voices, and saw lights approaching. They came near and hailed. Crist knew the voice, and called to the man by name. This removed all doubt, and they approached the spot where he lay. A sad and mournful sight was before them. A man that had left them but a few days before, in the bloom of youth, health and buoyant spirits, now lay stretched upon the earth, a worn and mangled skeleton, unable to lift a hand to bid them welcome. They bore him home. The ball was extracted; but his recovery was slow and doubtful. It was a year before he was a man again.

The woman in the boat was carried a prisoner to Canada. Ten years afterwards, Crist met her again in Kentucky. She had been redeemed by an Indian trader, and brought into Wayne's camp on the Maumee, and restored to her friends. She informed Crist that the body of Indians which made the attack on the boat, numbered over one hundred and twenty, of whom about thirty were killed in the engagement. This account was confirmed by Indians whom Crist met with afterwards, and who had been in the battle. They told Crist that the boat's crew fought more like devils than men and if they had taken one of them prisoner, they would have roasted him alive. Crist was afterwards a member of the Kentucky legislature, and in 1808 was a member of Congress. He died at his residence in Bullitt County, in August, 1844, aged eighty years.

Alexander Scott Bullitt was born in Prince William County, Virginia, in the year 1761. His father, Cuthbert Bullitt, was a lawyer of some distinction and practiced his profession with success until he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Virginia, which office he held at the time of his death. In 1784, six years before the father's death, the subject of this sketch emigrated to Kentucky, then a portion of Virginia, and settled on or near the stream called Bullskin, in what is now Shelby County. Here he resided but a few months, being compelled by the annoyances to which he was subjected by the Indians, to seek a less exposed situation. This he found in Jefferson County, in the neighborhood of Sturgus' station, where he entered and settled upon the tract of land on which he continued to reside until his death. In the fall of 1785, he married the daughter of Col. W. Christian, who had removed from Virginia the preceding spring. In April, 1786, Colonel Christian, with a party of eight or ten men, pursued a small body of Indians, who had been committing depredations on the property of the settlers in the neighborhood of Sturgus' station. Two of the Indians were overtaken about a mile north of Jeffersonville, Indiana, and finding escape impossible, they turned upon their pursuers, and one of them fired at Colonel Christian, who was foremost in the pursuit, and mortally wounded him. Next to Colonel Christian, was the subject of this sketch and Colonel John O'Bannon, who fired simultaneously, bringing both Indians to the ground. Under the impression that the Indians were both dead, a man by the name of Kelly incautiously approached them, when one of them who, though mortally wounded, still retained some strength and all his thirst for blood, raised himself to his knees, and fired with the rifle which had not been discharged, killed Kelly, fell back and expired. In the year 1792, Colonel Bullitt was elected by the people of Jefferson County a delegate to the convention which met in Danville, and framed the constitution of Kentucky. After the adoption of the constitution, he represented the county in the legislature, and was president of the senate until 1799, when he was again chosen a delegate to the convention to amend the constitution, which met in Frankfort. Of this convention he was chosen president. The year following this convention, (1800,) he was elected lieutenant governor of the state, in which capacity he served one term. After this, his county continued to send him to the legislature, of which body he served either as a representative or senator, until about 1808, when he retired from public life, and resided on his farm in Jefferson County until his death, which occurred on the 13th of April, 1816.

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

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