AHGP Transcription Project

Cumberland County

Cumberland County, the 32nd in order of formation, was cut off from Green County in 1798, and so named after Cumberland River, which runs through the county in a north east and south west direction. It is one of the tier of counties bordering on the Tennessee state line; is bounded North by Adair, east by Russell and Clinton, south by Monroe County and the Tennessee line, and west by Monroe and Metcalfe counties. Part of the original territory of Cumberland county was appropriated in the formation of each of five counties, Wayne in 1800, Monroe in 1820, Russell in 1825, Clinton in 1835, and Metcalfe in 1860. The surface of the county is hilly and broken; the soil in the valleys is of more than the average fertility.

Burksville, the county seat, so named in honor of one of the original proprietors, was incorporated in 1810; is situated on the north bank of the Cumberland River, 28 miles from Columbia, 67 miles from Lebanon, 40 miles from Cave City, and about 120 miles from Frankfort; population about 300.

Members of the Legislature from Cumberland County, since 1849

Jos. S. Bledsoe, 1849, 1857;
Samuel H. Boles, 1859-63, resigned 1861:
David R. Haggard, 1871-76.

House of Representatives
Joel Owsley, 1850-51;
John Q. A. King, 1853-55;
R. M. Alexander, 1859-61;
John H. C. Sandidge, 1863-65, resigned 1864;
Martin Miller, 1867-69;
Perry W. Barron, 1869-71.

The American Oil well is situated three miles above Burksville, on the bank of the Cumberland River. About the year 1830, while some men were engaged in boring for salt-water, and after penetrating about one hundred and seventy-five feet through a solid rock, they struck a vein of oil, which suddenly spouted up to the height of fifty feet above the surface. The stream was so abundant and of such force, as to continue to throw up the oil to the same height for several days. The oil thus thrown out, ran into the Cumberland River, covering the surface of the water for several miles. It was readily supposed to be inflammable, and upon its being ignited, it presented the novel and magnificent spectacle of a ''river on fire" the flames literally covering the whole surface for miles, reaching to the top of the tallest trees on the banks of the river, and continued burning until the supply of oil was exhausted. The salt bowers were greatly disappointed, and the well was neglected for several years, until it was discovered that the oil possessed valuable medicinal qualities. It has since been bottled up in large quantities, and is extensively sold in nearly all the states of the Union.

About fourteen miles from Burksville, on the Cumberland River, and not far from Creelsburg in Russell County, is situated what is termed the "Rock House" a lofty arch of solid rock, forty feet in height, fifty or sixty feet in breadth, about the same in length, and a tall cliff overhanging it. In high stages of the water, a portion of the river rushes through the aperture with great violence down a channel worn into the rock, and pours into the river again about a mile and a half below. In ordinary stages of the water, the arch, or as generally termed, tho "Rock House," is perfectly dry.

Not far from the oil well, at the junction of Big and Little Renick's creeks, there is a beautiful cataract or fall in the latter of about fifteen or twenty feet. At the point where these streams empty into the Cumberland, there was, in the first settlement of the county, a severe battle between the whites and Indians, in which the former were the victors. The rock-bound graves of the latter can yet be seen on the ground, a lasting monument of the valor they exhibited in defense of their wigwams, their fires and their hunting grounds. Other battles also took place in the county, but the particulars cannot be gathered.

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

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