AHGP Transcription Project


Clark County


Clark County, established in 1792 out of parts of Fayette and Bourbon counties and named after Kentucky's great military chieftain, Gen. George Rogers Clark, was the 14th county formed in the state. It is the middle section of the state, upon the waters of the Red, Kentucky, and Licking rivers; and is bounded north by Bourbon, east by Montgomery, south east by Powell, south by Estill and Madison counties, and west by Fayette. The Kentucky River is the boundary line between Clark and Madison counties, the Red River between Clark and Estill, Boone's creek between Clark and Fayette, and Lulbegrud creek between Clark and Powell counties. The remaining streams of the county are Stoner, Strode's, Howard's Upper, Howard's Lower, Four Mile, and Two Mile creeks. The west end, about one-third, of the county is the genuine "bluegrass region," exceedingly fertile and highly improved; the middle and north east portions are more broken yet good farming lands; the east and south east portions are hilly and poor oak lands. The exports are principally cattle, horses, mules and hogs.

Towns
Winchester, so called after the town of the same name in Virginia, and incorporated in 1793, is the county seat—on the turnpike road from Lexington to Mountsterling, and on the new Elizabethtown, Lexington, and Big Sandy railroad: population in 1870, by the U. S. census returns, 786, evidently a mistake, as in 1840 it was 1,047, and in 1860, 1,142, and has been slowly increasing; it is now, January 1, 1873, probably 1,400. It contains a court house (one of the best in the state), 8 churches (4 of them for the colored people), a public seminary, 2 female high-schools, 2 banks, 4 hotels, 16 stores, 13 groceries, 3 drug stores, a large number of mechanical shops, carriage factory and steam mill; and 9 lawyers and 6 physicians to take care of them all.
Kiddville, Schollsville, Vienna, Ruckerville, and Pinchem, are small villages, with but few inhabitants.


Members of the Legislature from Clark County, since 1850

Senate
Theodore Kohlbass, 1853-57;
James Simpson, 1861;
Jas. H. G. Bush, 1861-65;
Dr. A. Sidney Allan, 1865-69, but seat declared vacant December 14, 1865, and succeeded by Harrison Thompson, 1866-69.

House of Representatives
Samuel Hanson, 1850-51;
John S. Williams, 1851-53, '73-75;
Roger W. Hanson, 1853-55;
John B. Huston, 1855-59 and 1861-63;
Harrison Thompson, 1859-61;
Dr. A. Sidney Allan, 1863-65;
Benj. F. Buckner, 1865-67;
John N. Conkwright, 1867-69;
Jos. T. Tucker, 1871-73.

Internal Improvements
The Elizabethtown, Lexington, and Big Sandy railroad was opened in July, 1872, through Clark County, near its center, in a direction nearly east and west. All the main roads in the county are macadamized.

Fine Cattle
Of late years Clark has become quite famous for its fine herds of blooded cattle, scarcely excelled in the United States, and one of the greatest sources of wealth to the county. It is claimed that Mr. Gray "in 1795 imported the first blooded cattle (Patton stock) ever brought to Kentucky."

The First Mill in Winchester was built about 1800, by James Flanagan.

The Oil Springs in the eastern part, near Lulbegrud creek and about three quarters of a mile from the "Indian old-fields," are remarkable on account of the oil constantly accumulating to a considerable depth, on top of the water. The Sulphur and Chalybeate springs nearby are much resorted to by invalids during the hot summer months.

"Are we a Martial People?" In the war of 1812, Clark County furnished 11 companies, nearly 900 soldiers. In the Mexican war, on account of the great scramble to go and the small number of troops called for from the state, she furnished only one company (Capt. John S. Williams') of 100 men, known as the "Independent Company of Kentucky Volunteers." Its charge up the bloody heights of Cerro Gordo is one of the most notable instances of personal valor and prowess in the history of American wars. In the civil war of 1861-65, Clark County gave 3 companies to the Confederate, and 1 to the Federal army, each of which signalized itself in its respective corps.

Henry Clay
It was stated, shortly after the death of the great American commoner, as a remarkable coincidence, that he made his first speech in a law case in the court house at Winchester, and also his last, in a case tried there just before he went to Washington City for the last time.

The First Child born in Clark County was James Spahr, in 1779; he died about 1862.

The First Brick Building in Clark County was erected about 1784, near the center of "Bush's Settlement," by Capt. Wm. Bush himself, who came to Boonesborough in September 1775, with Daniel Boone, when he brought out his family.

The "Indian Old Fields" mentioned on the preceding page, were some ancient corn-fields discovered when the country was first settled, about 12 miles east of where Winchester now is. These fields had been cultivated by the Indians, many years before the first visit of the whites.

Clark County being separated only by the Kentucky River from Boonesborough, several settlements were early pushed across that stream into the rich lands beyond. Strode's station, about two miles from Winchester, was settled in 1779. In 1780, it was besieged by a large body of Indians, who attempted to cut off the supply of water; but foiled in this, they were repulsed and forced to retreat. In the pursuit which followed, one of several brothers named Van Swearingen, a man of noted courage, was killed, the only loss of life sustained by the garrison, from the siege.

Winchester was made the county seat of Clark County in 1792, over Strode's and Hood's stations, by one vote.

Chilton Allan was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, April 6, 1786; removed, with his widowed mother, to Kentucky, when 11 years old; at 15, was apprenticed to a wheelwright for three years, during which, by extra work, he supplied himself with books, and spent his spare time in study, and by great self-denial and effort secured one year's tuition under Rev. John Lyle; studied law, and at 22 was admitted to the bar at Winchester; in 1811, as soon as eligible, was chosen to represent Clark County in the Kentucky legislature, and again elected in 1815, '22, '30, and '42; was in the state senate, 1823-26, an active participant in the Old Court and New Court controversy; six years in the U. S. Congress, 1831-37; and, some years later, president of the state board of internal improvements. He was a man of fine practical talents, as well as a statesman and lawyer of decided ability. He died September 3, 1858, in his 73rd year.

Samuel Hanson was born in Maryland, in May, 1786, and died in Clark County Kentucky, February, 1858, aged nearly 72; studied law in the District of Columbia; removed to Winchester when a young man, and became one of the most learned and accurate at that bar, and particularly successful in the art of pleading; was a member of the Ky. house of representatives, 1818, '25, '26, '27, '33, and '50-51. Of his sons, Richard H., a lawyer at Paris, represented Bourbon County in the legislature, 1846, '47, and '63-65, and in the convention which formed the present constitution, 1849; and Roger W., a lawyer at Lexington, represented Fayette County in the legislature, 1855-57, and, while a brigadier general in the Confederate army, was killed, January 2, 1863, at the battle of Stone River, Tennessee.

Judge James Simpson, one of the purest and best of the public men of Clark County, was born March 16, 1796; commenced the practice of law at Winchester, 1819; was circuit judge of that important circuit for twelve years, 1835-47; and one of the judges of the court of appeals (part of the time, chief justice of Kentucky) for thirteen years, 1847-60; he was a candidate for re-election, but defeated on political grounds. The Kentucky Reports, from 8 Ben. Monroe to 3 Metcalfe, contain his opinions, in a style marked by perspicuity, simplicity, and vigor. He was a member of the state senate for a short time, in 1861, but never a politician. He was still, January, 1874, in active practice at the bar at which he had spent 30 years, besides 25 years upon the bench.

Among the noted citizens of Clark, was the late venerable Hubbard Taylor. He immigrated to the county at a very early period, was a senator for a number of years in the Kentucky legislature, and on several occasions was chosen as one of the presidential electors. He was distinguished for his patriotism, his hospitality and public spirit. He died in the year 1842, beloved and mourned by all.

General Richard Hickman, a lieutenant governor of the State, and acting governor during the absence of Governor Shelby in the campaign of 1813, was also a citizen of this county. He was highly esteemed by his countrymen for his intelligence and many virtues.

Colonel William Sudduth, was one of the earliest settlers in Clark County, and the last surviving member of the convention which framed the second constitution of Kentucky. He was a gallant soldier under Wayne in the campaign of 1733. For thirty years he was the county surveyor of Clark. He was a man of intelligence, with the manners of an accomplished gentleman. He died at the residence of one of his sons in Bath County, in the year 1845, aged 79.

Dr. Andrew Hood, a native and resident of Clark County, was a man of rare natural ability and fine cultivation, and who acquired in his profession more than a state reputation. He was the member from this county in the convention in 1849, which formed the present constitution of Kentucky. He had the singular good fortune to have among his co-delegates his own son, the brilliant Thos. J. Hood, of Carter County. Both died before 1860.

Among the most distinguished citizens of Clark County was the Hon. James Clark, late governor of the commonwealth. Our materials for a sketch of his life are exceedingly meagre, and we can attempt nothing more than a bare enumeration of the most prominent incidents in his career. He was the son of Robert and Susan Clark, and was born in 1779, in Bedford County, Virginia, near the celebrated Peaks of Otter. His father emigrated from Virginia to Kentucky at a very early period, and settled in Clark County, near the Kentucky River. The subject of this notice received the principal part of his education under Dr. Blythe, afterwards a professor in Transylvania University. He studied law with his brother. Christian Clark, a very distinguished lawyer of Virginia. When he had qualified himself to discharge the duties of his profession, he returned to Kentucky, and commenced the practice of the law in Winchester, in 1797.

He remained here, however, but a short time, before he set out in search of a more eligible situation, and traveled through what was then the far west, taking Vincennes and St. Louis in his route; but failing to find a place to suit his views, he returned to Winchester, where, by his unremitting attention to business, and striking displays of professional ability, he soon obtained an extensive and lucrative practice.

At this period of his life, he was several times elected a member of the State legislature, in which body he soon attained a high and influential position. In 1810, he was appointed a judge of the court of appeals, and acted in that capacity for about two years. In 1812, he was elected to congress, and served from the 4th of March, 1813, until March, 1816. In 1817 he received an appointment as judge of the circuit court, for the judicial district in which he resided, which station he filled with great ability, and to the general satisfaction of the public, till the year 1824, when he resigned. During his term of service as judge, occurred that great and exciting struggle between the relief and anti-relief parties, which has left its traces on the political and social condition of Kentucky, in deep and indelible characters, to be seen even at the present day. In May, 1823, Mr. Clark rendered an opinion in the Bourbon circuit court, in which he decided that the relief laws were unconstitutional. This decision produced great excitement, and was the cause of his being arraigned and impeached before the legislature.

But, notwithstanding the temporary dissatisfaction it excited in the breasts of the relief party, there was probably no act of his life which inspired his fellow citizens with greater confidence in his integrity, firmness, independence, and patriotism, than this decision. It was given just before the election, and he must have foreseen the temporary injury it would inflict upon the party with which he acted, and which he regarded as the bulwark of the constitution. But his was a nature which knew not the possibility of making a compromise between his principles and policy.

In 1825, he was elected to congress to fill the vacancy occasioned by Mr. Clay's appointment as secretary of state, and continued to represent the Fayette district in that body until 1831. In 1832, he was elected to the senate of Kentucky, and was chosen speaker in the place of Mr. Morehead, who was then acting as governor, in the place of Governor Breathitt, deceased. He was elected governor of Kentucky in August, 1836, and died on the 27th of September, 1839, in his sixtieth year.

Governor Clark was endowed by nature with great strength of mind, and a fine vein of original wit. His literary attainments were respectable, ranking in that respect with most of his contemporaries of the legal profession at that day. A fine person, a cheerful and social disposition, an easy address, and fascinating manners, made him the life of every circle in which he mingled. He was full of fun, fond of anecdotes, and could tell a story with inimitable grace. To these qualities, so well calculated to display the amiable traits of his character in their most attractive light, he added all those stern and manly virtues which inspire confidence and command respect. His death made a vacancy in the political and social circles of Kentucky, which was very sensibly felt and universally deplored.


George Rogers Clark

General George Rogers Clark, whose name is deservedly celebrated in the early history of Kentucky, and conspicuously prominent in the conquest and settlement of the whole west, was born in the county of Albemarle, in the State of Virginia, on the 19th of November, 1753. Of his early years and education, but little is known. In his youth, he engaged in the business of land surveying, which appears to have presented to the enterprising young men of that day, a most congenial and attractive field for the exercise of their energies. It is worthy of remark, that many of the most opulent and influential families of Kentucky were founded by men engaged in this pursuit. How long Clark continued in this vocation, is unknown. He commanded a company in Dunmore's war, and was engaged in the only active operation of the right wing of the invading army, against the Indians. At the close of this war, he was offered a commission in the English service, but, upon consultation with his friends, he was induced by the troubled aspect of the relations between the colonies and Great Britain, to decline the appointment.

In the spring of 1775, he came to Kentucky, drawn hither by that love of adventure which distinguished him through life. He remained in Kentucky during the spring and summer of this year, familiarizing himself with the character of the people and the resources of the country, until the fall, when he returned to Virginia. During this visit, he was temporarily placed in command of the irregular militia of the settlements; but whether he held a commission is not known. In the spring of the following year (1776), he again came to Kentucky, with the, intention of making it his permanent home; and from this time forth, his name is closely associated with the progress of the western settlements in power and civilization.

His mind had been very early impressed with the immense importance of this frontier country to the security of the parent State of Virginia, as well as to the whole confederacy; and his reflections on this subject led him to perceive the importance of a more thorough, organized, and extensive system of public defense, and a more regular plan of military operations, than the slender resources of the colonies had yet been able to effect. With the view of accomplishing this design, he had been in Kentucky but a few months, when he suggested to the settlers the propriety of convening a general assembly of the people at Harrodstown (now Harrodsburgh), to take steps towards forming a more definite and certain connection with the government and people of Virginia, than as yet existed.

The immediate necessity for this movement grew out of the memorable and well known conflict between Henderson & Co., and the legislature of Virginia, relative to the disputed claim of jurisdiction over a large portion of the new territory. The excitement which arose out of this dispute, and the prevailing uncertainty whether the south side of Kentucky River appertained to Virginia or North Carolina, (the latter claiming by virtue of Henderson's purchase of the Cherokees at the treaty of Wataga), added very greatly to the perplexity of the settlers, and rendered it necessary that the disposition of Virginia should be distinctly ascertained.

The proposed meeting was accordingly held at Harrodstown on the 6th of June 1776, at which Clark and Gabriel Jones were chosen members of the assembly of Virginia. This, however, was not precisely the thing contemplated by Clark. He wished that the people should appoint agents, with general powers to negotiate with the government of Virginia, and in the event that that commonwealth should refuse to recognize the colonists as within its jurisdiction and under its protection, he proposed to employ the lands of the country as a fund to obtain settlers and establish an independent State. The election had, however, gone too far to change its object when Clark arrived at Harrodstown, and the gentlemen elected, although aware that the choice could give them no seat in the legislature, proceeded to Williamsburg, at that time the seat of government. After suffering the most severe privations in their journey through the wilderness, the delegates found, on their arrival in Virginia, that the legislature had adjourned, whereupon Jones directed his steps to the settlements on Holston, and left Clark to attend to the Kentucky mission alone.

He immediately waited on Governor Henry, then lying sick at his residence in Hanover County, to whom he stated the objects of his journey. These meeting the approbation of the governor, he gave Clark a letter to the executive council of the state. With this letter in his hand he appeared before the council, and after acquainting them fully with the condition and circumstances of the colony, he made application for five hundred weight of gun-powder for the defense of the various stations. But with every disposition to assist and promote the growth of these remote and infant settlements, the council felt itself restrained by the uncertain and indefinite state of the relations existing between the colonists and the state of Virginia, from complying fully with his demand. The Kentuckians had not yet been recognized by the legislature as citizens, and the proprietary claimants, Henderson & Co., were at this time exerting themselves to obtain from Virginia, a relinquishment of her jurisdiction over the new territory. The council, therefore, could only offer to lend the gun-powder to the colonists as friends, not give it to them as fellow citizens. At the same time they required Clark to be personally responsible for its value, in the event the legislature should refuse to recognize the Kentuckians as citizens, and in the meantime to defray the expense of its conveyance to Kentucky. Upon these terms he did not feel at liberty to accept the proffered assistance. He represented to the council that the emissaries of the British were employing every means to engage the Indians in the war; that the people in the remote and exposed stations of Kentucky might be exterminated for the want of a supply which he, a private individual, had at so much hazard and hardship sought for their relief, and that when this frontier bulwark was thus destroyed, the fury of the savages would burst like a tempest upon the heads of their own citizens. To these representations, however, the council remained deaf and inexorable; the sympathy for the frontier settlers was deep, but the assistance already offered was a stretch of power, and they could go no farther. The keeper of the public magazine was directed to deliver the powder to Clark; but having long reflected on the situation, prospects and resources of the new country, his resolution to reject the assistance on the proposed conditions, was made before he left the council chamber. He determined to repair to Kentucky, and as he had at first contemplated, exert the resources of the country for the formation of an independent state. He accordingly returned the order of the council in a letter, setting forth his reasons for declining to accept their powder on these terms, and intimating his design of applying for assistance elsewhere, adding, "that a country which was not worth defending, was not worth claiming."

On the receipt of this letter the council recalled Clark to their presence, and an order was passed on the 23rd of August, 1776, for the transmission of the gun powder to Pittsburg, to be there delivered to Clark or his order, for the use of the people of Kentucky. This was the first act in that long and affectionate interchange of good offices, which subsisted between Kentucky and her parent state for so many years; and obvious as the reflection is, it may not be omitted, that on the successful termination of this negotiation, hung the connection between Virginia and the splendid domain she afterwards acquired west of the Alleghany mountains.

At the fall session of the legislature of Virginia, Messrs. Jones and Clark laid the Kentucky memorial before that body. They were of course not admitted to seats, though late in the session they obtained, in opposition to the exertions of Colonels Henderson and Campbell, the formation of the territory which now comprises the present state of that name, into the county of Kentucky. Our first political organization was thus obtained through the sagacity, influence and exertions of George Rogers Clark, who must be ranked as the earliest founder of this commonwealth. This act of the Virginia legislature first gave it form and political existence, and entitled it under the constitution of Virginia to a representation in the assembly, as well as to a judicial and military establishment.

Having obtained these important advantages from their mission, they received the intelligence that the powder was still at Pittsburg, and they determined to take that point in their route home, and bring it with them. The country around Pittsburg swarmed with Indians, evidently hostile to the whites, who would no doubt seek to interrupt their voyage. These circumstances created a necessity for the utmost caution as well as expedition in their movements, and they accordingly hastily embarked on the Ohio with only seven boatmen. They were hotly pursued the whole way by Indians, but succeeded in keeping in advance until they arrived at the Three Islands, not far above the spot where the city of Maysville now stands. They navigated slyly around one island with their boat, and concealed their cargo at different places in the woods along its banks. They then turned their boat adrift, and directed their course to Harrodstown, intending to return with a sufficient escort to ensure the safe transportation of the powder to its destination. This in a short time was successfully effected, and the colonists were thus abundantly supplied with the means of defense against the fierce enemies who beset them on all sides.

The space allotted to this brief sketch, will not admit of a detailed narrative of the adventures of Major Clark after his return to Kentucky. Let it suffice to say, that he was universally looked up to by the settlers as one of the master spirits of the time, and always foremost in the fierce conflicts and desperate deeds of those wild and thrilling days.

Passing over that series of private and solitary adventures in which he embarked after he returned from Virginia, and in which he appears to have taken a peculiar pleasure, but of which no particulars have been preserved, we shall proceed at once to notice his successful expedition against the British posts of Kaskaskia and Vincennes; one of the most important events, if we estimate it by its consequences, immediate and remote, in the early history of the west. It was at the same time marked by incidents of romantic and thrilling interest, and a striking display of the qualities of courage, perseverance and fortitude, which bring to mind the heroic deeds of antiquity.

The war in Kentucky previous to this time had been a true border war, and conducted in the irregular and desultory manner incident to that kind of hostilities. Nearly all the military operations of the period resembled more the predatory exploits of those sturdy cattle-drovers and stark moss-troopers of the Scottish Highlands, whose valorous achievements have been immortalized by the graphic pen of the author of Waverley, than the warfare of a civilized people. Every man fought, pretty much, "on his own hook," and waged the war in a fashion to suit himself. He selected his own ground, determined upon the time, place, and manner of attack, and brought the campaign to a close whenever his own inclinations prompted. The war indeed was sustained, and its "sinews supplied," by the adventurous spirit of private individuals. The solitary backwoodsman would sharpen his hunting knife, shoulder his rifle, and provide himself with a small quantity of parched corn as a substitute for bread, and thus equipped for service, start on an expedition into the Indian country, without beat of drum or note of warning. Arrived on the hostile soil, he would proceed with the caution of a panther stealing on his prey, until he reached the neighborhood of a village, when concealing himself in the surrounding thickets, he would lie in wait until an opportunity presented of shooting an Indian and stealing a horse, when he would return to the cultivation of his farm and the ordinary pursuits on his business.

Even those more ambitious enterprises which occasionally diversified this private individuals, than of any movement by the state. The perseverance and gallantry of the backwoodsman was left to sustain itself, with little assistance from the power of Virginia, at that time engaged in the tremendous struggle of the war of Independence, which demanded all her energies and taxed all her resources.

The State had not disposable means to act on so remote a frontier, nor does she appear to have been distinctly aware of the important diversion of the Indian force, which might be made by supporting the exertions of Kentucky. As little did she perceive the rich temptations offered to her military ambition in the British posts in the west. Yet every Indian engaged on the frontier of Kentucky, was a foe taken from the nearer frontier of the parent state. And in those remote and neglected garrisons of Kaskaskia, Vincennes and Detroit, was to be found the source of those Indian hostilities, which staid the advancing tide of emigration, and deluged the whole west in the blood of women and children.

These combined views, however, began to acquire weight with the Virginia statesmen, with the progress of the revolution, and the rapid increase of emigration to Kentucky; and they were particularly aided and enforced by the impressive representations of Major Clark. To his mind they had been long familiar, and his plans were already matured. He was thoroughly acquainted with the condition, relations and resources of the country, and with that instinctive genius which stamps him as the most consummate of the western commanders, he saw at a glance the policy required to develop the nascent strength and advantages of the infant settlements. At a glance, he discovered what had so long escaped the perspicacity of the Virginia statesmen, that the sources of the Indian devastations were Detroit, Vincennes and Kaskaskia. It was by the arms and clothing supplied at these military stations that the merciless ferocity of these blood thirsty warriors was stimulated to the commission of those fearful ravages which "drenched the land to a mire." If they could be taken, a counter influence would be established over the Indians, and the streams of human blood, which deluged the fields of Kentucky, would be dried up.

So strongly had the idea of reducing these posts taken possession of the mind and imagination of Major Clark, that in the summer of 1777, he dispatched two spies to reconnoiter and report their situation. On their return they brought intelligence of great activity on the part of the garrisons, who omitted no opportunity to promote and encourage the Indian depredations on the Kentucky frontier. They reported further, that although the British had essayed every art of misrepresentation, to prejudice the French inhabitants against the Virginians and Kentuckians, by representing these frontier people, as more shocking barbarians than the savages themselves, still there were to be seen strong traces of affection for the Americans among many of the inhabitants.

In December, 1777, Major Clark submitted to the executive of Virginia a plan for the reduction of these posts. The result was a full approbation of the scheme, and the governor and council entered into the undertaking so warmly that every preliminary arrangement was soon made. Clark received two sets of instructions: one public, directing him to proceed to Kentucky for its defense; the other secret, ordering an attack on the British post at Kaskaskia. Twelve hundred pounds were advanced to defray the expenses of the expedition, and orders issued to the Virginia commandant at Fort Pitt, to supply Clark with ammunition, boats, and all other necessary equipments. The force destined for the expedition, consisting, after a rigid selection, of only four companies, rendezvoused at Corn Island, opposite the falls of the Ohio, and having fully completed their preparations, they embarked in boats on the Ohio. Landing on an island at the mouth of the Tennessee River, they encountered a party of hunters who had recently come from Kaskaskia, and from them they obtained the most important intelligence relative to the state of things at that post. They reported that the garrison was commanded by one M. Rocheblave; that the militia were kept in a high state of discipline; that spies were stationed on the Mississippi River, and all Indian hunters directed to keep a sharp look out for the Kentuckians. They stated further that the fort which commanded the town was kept in order as a place of retreat, but without a regular garrison, and the military defenses were attended to as a matter of form, rather than from any belief in its necessity to guard against an attack. The hunters thought that by a sudden surprise the place might be easily captured, and they offered their services as guides, which were accepted. The boats were dropped down to a point on the Illinois shore, a little above the place where Fort Massac was afterwards built, and there concealed, and the little army took up its line of march through the wilderness. Their commander marched at their head, sharing in all respects the condition of his men. On the evening of the 4th of July, 1778, the expedition arrived in the neighborhood of the town, where it lay until dark, when the march was continued. That night the town and fort were surprised and captured without the effusion of a drop of blood. M. Rocheblave, the British governor, was taken in his chamber, but very few of his public papers were secured, as they were secreted or destroyed by his wife, whom the Kentuckians were too polite to molest. In the course of a few days, Clark had, by his wise and prudent policy, entirely dissipated the alarm, and gained the affections of the French inhabitants, and his conquest was thus confirmed, and the ascendency of the Virginia government firmly rooted in the feelings of the people. Having effected this most desirable revolution in the sentiments of the inhabitants, he next turned his attention to the small French village of Cahokia, situated about sixty miles higher up the Mississippi. He accordingly dispatched Major Bowman, with his own and part of another company, to effect the reduction of this small post, at that time a place of considerable trade, and a depot for the distribution of arms and ammunition to the Indians, a considerable body of whom were encamped in the neighborhood when the Americans approached. The expedition was accompanied by several Kaskaskia gentlemen, who volunteered their services to assist in the reduction of the place. The expedition reached the town without being discovered. The surprise and alarm of the inhabitants was great, but when the Kaskaskia gentlemen narrated what had occurred at their own village, the general consternation was converted into hurrahs for freedom and the Americans. The people took the oath of allegiance, and in a few days the utmost harmony prevailed.

The expedition thus far had met with full success, but Vincennes still remained in the possession of the British, and until it should share the fate of Kaskaskia, Clark felt that there was no safety for his new conquest. His uneasiness was great. His situation was critical. His force was too small to garrison Kaskaskia and Cahokia, and leave him a sufficient power to attempt the reduction of Vincennes by open assault. At length he communicated his perplexity to a Catholic priest, M. Gibault, who agreed to attempt to bring the inhabitants over whom he had pastoral charge into the views of the American commander. This, through the agency and influence of the priest, was effected with little difficulty. The inhabitants threw off their allegiance to the British, the garrison was over-powered and expelled, and the American flag displayed from the ramparts of the fort.

Having thus succeeded beyond his most sanguine expectations, in his designs against the power of the British in the west, Clark next turned his attention to conciliate the various Indian tribes inhabiting this region. This great purpose, after a long and tedious series of negotiations, in which the character of the American commander unfolded itself under its most powerful aspect, was finally accomplished, the hostility of many of the tribes pacified, and their prejudices disarmed. The summary nature of this sketch will not admit of a particular account of the incidents attending this great enterprise, though the narrative would be replete with interest, as it was in this wild and dangerous diplomacy that the genius of Colonel Clark displayed its most commanding attributes. Success in this politic intercourse with the untutored savage of the wilderness, depends far more on the personal qualities of the negotiator, than on the justice of the cause or the plausibility of his reasoning. The American Indian has an unbounded admiration for all those high and heroic virtues which enter into the character or the successful warrior, and the terror of Clark's name had spread far and wide.

To these advantages he added that of a thorough knowledge of the Indian character in all its peculiarities, its strength, and its weakness. He knew when to be mild and conciliating, when to be stern and uncompromising. The tact and promptitude with which he adapted his conduct to the exigency of the occasion has become proverbial. His address was wonderful, the fertility of his resources inexhaustible, and his influence among those wild and unsophisticated children of the woods grew so predominant, that they gave whate'er he asked.

Colonel Clark now began to entertain great fears for the safety of Vincennes. No intelligence had been received from that post for a long time; but on the 29th January 1779, Colonel Vigo brought intelligence that Governor Hamilton of Detroit had marched an expedition against the place in December, and again reduced the inhabitants and the fort, and re-established the British power. The expedition had been fitted out on a large scale, with the view of recapturing Kaskaskia, and making an assault along the whole line of the Kentucky frontier. But owing to the advanced period of the season. Governor Hamilton had postponed the further execution of this grand scheme of conquest until spring, when he contemplated reassembling his forces.

Having received this timely intelligence of the British governor's designs. Colonel Clark with characteristic promptitude and decision, determined to anticipate him, and strike the first blow. He accordingly made immediate preparation for an expedition against Vincennes. He commenced his march, through the wilderness with a force of one hundred and seventy five men, on the 7th of February, having previously dispatched Captain Rogers with a company of forty-six men and two four-pounders, in a boat, with orders to force their way up the Wabash, station themselves a few miles below the mouth of White River, suffer nothing to pass, and wait for further orders. For seven days the land expedition pursued its toilsome course over the drowned lands of Illinois, exposed to every privation that could exhaust the spirits of men, when it arrived at the Little Wabash. But now the worst part of the expedition was still before them. At this point the forks of the stream are three miles apart, and the opposite heights of land five miles distant even in the ordinary state of the water. When the expedition arrived, the intervening valley was covered with water three feet in depth. Through this dreadful country the expedition was compelled to make its way until the 18th, when they arrived so near Vincennes that they could hear the morning and evening guns at the fort. On the evening of the same day they encamped within nine miles of the town, below the mouth of the Embarrass River. Here they were detained until the 20th, having no means of crossing the river; but on the 20th the guard brought to and captured a boat, in which the men and arms were safely transported to the other shore. There was still, however, an extensive sheet of water to be passed, which on sounding proved to be up to the arm-pits. When this discovery was made, the whole detachment began to manifest signs of alarm and despair, which Colonel Clark observing, took a little powder in his hand, mixed some water with it, and having blackened his face, raised an Indian war whoop and marched into the water. The effect of the example was electrical, and the men followed without a murmur. In this manner, and singing in chorus, the troops made their way through the water, almost constantly waist deep, until they arrived within sight of the town. The immense exertion required to effect this march may not be described. The difficulty was greatly heightened by there being no timber to afford support to the wearied soldiers, who were compelled to force their way through the stagnant waters, with no aid but their own strength. When they reached the dry land the men were so exhausted, that many of them fell, leaving their bodies half immersed in the water. Having captured a man who was shooting ducks in the neighborhood of the town, by him Clark sent a letter to the inhabitants, informing them that he should take possession of the town that night. So much did this letter take the town by surprise, that the expedition was thought to be from Kentucky; in the condition of the waters they did not dream that it could be from Illinois. The inhabitants could not have been more astonished if the invaders had arisen out of the earth.

On the evening of the 23rd the detachment set off to take possession of the town. After marching and countermarching around the elevations on the plain, and displaying several sets of colors, to convey to the garrison as exaggerated an idea as possible of their numbers, they took position on the heights back of the village. The fire upon the fort immediately commenced, and was kept up with spirit. Our men would lie within thirty yards of the fort, untouched by its guns, from the awkward elevation of its platforms; while no sooner was a port-hole opened than a dozen rifles would he directed at it, cutting down everything in the way. The garrison became discouraged, and could not stand to their guns, and in the evening of the next day the British commandant finding his cannon useless, and apprehensive of the result of being taken at discretion, sent a flag asking a truce of three days. This was refused, and on the 24th of February, 1779, the fort was surrendered and the garrison became prisoners of war. On the 25th it was taken possession of by the Americans, the stars and stripes were again hoisted, and thirteen guns fired to celebrate the victory.

In a few days Colonel Clark returned to Kaskaskia. Soon after this Louisville was founded, and he made it his head-quarters, in 1780 he built Fort Jefferson, on the Mississippi. In the course of this year he led an expedition against the Indians of Ohio, the occasion of which was as follows: on the 1st of June, 1780, the British commander at Detroit, assembled six hundred Canadians and Indians, for a secret expedition under Colonel Byrd, against the settlements in Kentucky. This force, accompanied by two field pieces, presented itself on the 22d, before Ruddell's station, which was obliged to capitulate. Soon after Martin's station shared the same fate, and the inhabitants, loaded with the spoil of their own dwellings, were hurried off towards Canada.

A prompt retaliation was required, and when Col. Clark called on the militia of Kentucky for volunteers to accompany his regiment against the Indians, they flocked to his standard without delay. The point of rendezvous was the mouth of Licking River, where the forces assembled. They were supplied with artillery, conveyed up the river from the falls. When all assembled, the force amounted to near a thousand men. The secrecy and dispatch which had ever attended the movements of this efficient commander, continued to mark his progress on this occasion. The Indian town was reached before the enemy had received any intimation of their approach. A sharp conflict ensued, in which seventeen of the savages were slain, with an equal loss on the part of the whites. The Indians then fled, the town was reduced to ashes, and the gardens and fields laid waste. Col. Clark returned to the Ohio and discharged the militia, and the Indians, reduced to the necessity of hunting for the support of their families, gave the whites no farther trouble that season.

For a long time the ever active mind of Clark had been revolving a scheme for the reduction of the British post at Detroit, and in December of the year 1780, he repaired to Richmond, to urge the government to furnish him with means to execute this long cherished design. His views were approved; but before the necessary arrangements could be completed, a British force from New York, under Arnold, carried hostilities into the heart of the State. Clark took a temporary command under Baron Steuben, and participated in the active operations of that officer against the marauding traitor.

After several months had been spent in indefatigable efforts to raise a force of two thousand men, for the enterprise against Detroit, the several corps destined for the service were designated, and ordered to rendezvous on the 15th of March, 1781, at the falls of the Ohio, and Clark was raised to the rank of a brigadier general; but unexpected and insuperable difficulties arose, and the ardent genius of the commander was confined to defensive operations. This appears to have been the turning point in the fortunes of the hardy warrior. He had set his heart on destroying the British influence throughout the whole north-western territory. Could he have had the means which he required, his advancement in rank would no doubt have been gratifying; but without a general's command, a general's commission was of no value. Dangers and hardships would have been disregarded; but with his small force to be stationed on the frontier to repel the inroads of a few predatory bands of Indians, when he was eager to carry the war to the lakes, was more than he could bear, and it preyed upon his spirit. From this time forth his influence sensibly decreased, and the innate force and energy of his character languished and degenerated.

He was a lion chained, but he was still a lion, and so the enemy found him in 1782. When the news of the disastrous battle of the Blue Licks reached him, he took immediate measures to rouse the country from that benumbed torpor of anguish and despondency in which this great calamity had plunged it, and to carry the war once more into the enemy's country. In September, a thousand mounted riflemen assembled on the banks of the Ohio, at the mouth of Licking, and moved against the Indian towns on the Miami and Scioto. The Indians fled before them, and not more than twelve were killed or taken. Five of their towns were reduced to ashes, and all of their provisions destroyed. The effect of this expedition was such that no formidable party of Indians ever after invaded Kentucky.

In 1786, a new army was raised to march against the Indians on the Wabash, and Clark, at the head of a thousand men, again entered the Indian Territory. This expedition proved unfortunate, and was abandoned. Several years elapsed before the name of General Clark again appeared in connection with public affairs. When Genet, the French minister, undertook to raise and organize a force in Kentucky for a secret expedition against the Spanish possessions on the Mississippi, George Rogers Clark accepted a commission as major general in the armies of France, to conduct the enterprise. But, before the project was put in execution, a counter revolution occurred in France, Genet was recalled, and Clark's commission annulled. Thus terminated his public career. General Clark was never married. He was long in infirm health, and severely afflicted with a rheumatic affection, which terminated in paralysis, and deprived him of the use of one limb. After suffering under this disease for several years, it finally caused his death in February, 1818. He died and was buried at Locust Grove, near Louisville.

Wm. Flanagan, also a native and resident of Clark County, graduated at West Point military academy, in 1827, standing first in the class with Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, Gen. Joe Johnston, and other men who won such, brilliant reputations in later years. He died in early life, but left an enviable reputation for brilliancy, wit, and repartee. Social, generous, frank, and open-hearted, he was a cavalier of the olden time. He was for years the surveyor and school commissioner of Clark County, a useful and remarkable man.


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


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