AHGP Transcription Project

Floyd County

Floyd, the 40th of the counties of Kentucky in order of formation, was erected in 1799 out of parts of Fleming, Montgomery, and Mason counties, and named in honor of Colonel John Floyd. Its territory was so extensive that from it has since been formed the whole of Pike county in 1821, and parts of Clay in 1806, Harlan in 1819, Perry in 1820, Lawrence in 1821, Morgan in 1822, Breathitt in 1839, Letcher in 1842, Johnson in 1843, Rowan in 1856, Boyd, Magoffin, and Wolfe in 1860, Elliott in 1869, and Lee in 1870, fifteen counties in all. It is situated in the east portion of the state, only one county (Pike) intervening between it and the extreme eastern point on the Virginia state line; is bounded north by Johnson, north east by Martin, east by Pike, south by Letcher, and west by Magoffin county; and embraces about 400 square miles of territory. The surface is mountainous, in some places reaching an elevation of 500 feet; it abounds in rich and inexhaustible strata of coal. The principal crop is corn, but wheat, oats, and flax are cultivated; the mountains afford excellent range for sheep, hogs, and cattle.

Prestonsburg (so called in honor of Colonel John Preston, Virginia, who owned the land) is the county seat; it is situated on Big Sandy River, about 71 miles from its mouth, 31 miles south of Louisa, Lawrence county, and 47 miles east of south of Grayson, Carter County; incorporated Jan. 2, 1818; population in 1870, 179.
Lanesville is 12 miles south east, and Martinsdale about an equal distance south of Prestonsburg; both very small places.

Members of the Legislature from Floyd County

Benj. South, 1814-19;
Alex. Lackey, 1819-23;
Henry B. Mayo, 1823-27;
David K. Harris, 1827-34;
Henry C. Harris, 1843-47;
John P. Martin, 1855-59;
Alex. L. Martin, 1871-75.
From Floyd and Pike counties, Samuel May, 1834-39.

House of Representatives
Henry Stratton, 1815;
Alex. Lackey, 1816, '17, '18, '25, '26, '30, '31, '40;
Henry B. Mayo, 1819;
David K. Harris, 1820;
Richard R. Lee, 1820, May '22;
Jas. Stratton, 1821;
Henry C. Harris, 1834, '35, ',38;
Thos. Cecil, 1839;
John P. Martin, 1841, '43;
Jas. H. Lane, 1845;
John M. Elliott, 1847, '61-63, expelled Dec. 21, 1861, for being connected with, or giving aid and comfort to the Confederate army; succeeded by Thos. S. Brown, 1862-63;
John M. Burns, 1857-59;
Alex. L. Martin, 1867-69;
Jos. M. Davidson, 1869-71, '71-73.
From Clay and Floyd counties
John Hibbard, 1809;
John Bates, 1811.
From Floyd and Pike counties
Robert Walker, Peter Amyx, 1822;
Jacob Mayo, 1824;
Thos. W. Graham, Jacob Heaberlin, 1827;
Samuel May, 1832, '33;
G. Lackey, 1836.
From Floyd, Pike, and Johnson counties
Bernard H. Garrett, 1850.

Five or six different beds of coal overlie each other, in the hills around Prestonsburg. The main bed, which averages about 4 feet, with a clay parting, 10 inches from the top of the coal, which thickens up stream, towards the south, to 8 inches, and thins downstream to half an inch, is situated 70 to 80 feet above the bed of Big Sandy River; one 60, and one 150 feet higher; one 40 or 50 feel lower, one at low water, and one below the bed of the river. A bed of coal, supposed to be a distinct bed, crops out just opposite Prestonsburg, 98 feet above the river, which is of a compact, close texture, approaching cannel coal, and is different from the main coal in appearance, fracture, composition, and roof. The coal bed of Colonel Martin, two miles above Prestonsburg, on the East branch of Big Sandy, 60 feet above the river, has 3 feet 10 inches to 4 feet of remarkably pure coal; is but little changed in form in burning, and has but little bitumen, a material which acts injuriously in a coal used for smelting iron. The main bed of coal is one of the best in Kentucky for manufacturing purposes.

The Burning Spring, 17 miles from Prestonsburg, emits constantly a thick sulphurous vapor, and instantly ignites on the application of fire.

The First White Visitors upon the territory of what is now Floyd county were probably one or more of the parties who came to eastern Kentucky, at different dates before the Revolutionary war, in search of "Swift's silver mine," and worked it.

In Dec, 1775 (as appears from depositions copied in the court records in 1796 of Mason County, when that county extended over the entire Sandy River region and northeastern Kentucky), Wm. Thornton, James Fowler, and Wm. Pitman left Clinch River, in south west Virginia, on a bear-hunting expedition, and came out through Little Paint Gap, thence on to the head of Shelby creek, and down it some distance, then took an old Indian track along under the dividing ridge on the waters of Sandy; then left the trace and camped on a creek called (by Fowler) Beaver creek, now in Floyd County. Fowler discovered a salt lick, which he called Fowler's Lick, about 60 miles from Little Paint Gap. They did not cross the main fork of Sandy at all.

In March, 1796, Wm. Thornton came again to this lick for salt, in company with Philip Roberts.

Colonel John Floyd, in honor of whom this county was named, was one of the great men of early Kentucky. His grandfather was one of two brothers who emigrated from Wales to Accomac County, Virginia, and from whom sprang all the Floyds of Virginia, Kentucky, and Georgia. His father, Wm. Floyd, and his mother, Abadiah Davis, of Amherst County, Virginia (the mother of the latter was of Indian descent, by the marriage of an English fur-trader with an Indian squaw, the daughter of Powhatan's brother, who is spoken of in Beverly's History of Virginia as a remarkable man, and his name preserved) emigrated to Jefferson County, Kentucky, at an early day; and were living as late as 1800. They were then both, although over 90 years old, erect and handsome, the wife with fine, calm, bright eyes and white teeth, with all the countenance, high bearing, courage, and composure which characterized noble forest ancestry.

John Floyd, one of five brothers, three of whom and two brothers-in-law were killed by Indians (a remarkable illustration of the danger of those times and of pioneer life) was born in Virginia about 1750. He was considerably educated for those days, and traveled a good deal. At 18 years of age he married a lady only 14, Miss Burwell, of Chesterfield County, who died within a year; and ten years after, he married Miss Jane Buckhannon (or Buchanan), granddaughter of Colonel Jas. Patton, the pioneer settler of the valley of Virginia, killed by Indians at Smithfield about 1738. His children who survived him were, Mourning (afterwards Mrs. General Chas. Stuart, of Georgia), George K. C. (a colonel in the war of 1812, died in 1821), and John (born near Louisville, April 24, 1783, removed to Virginia when 21 years old, served many years in the legislature of that state, in congress for 12 years, 1817-29, and as governor for 5 years, 1829-34, and died at the Sweet Springs, Aug. 16, 1837, aged 54).

On May 2, 1774, John Floyd, as assistant or deputy surveyor under Colonel Wm. Preston, surveyor of Fincastle County, Virginia, which then included all of Kentucky, made his first survey on the Ohio River, which he was then descending,* in now Lewis county, Kentucky, opposite the mouth of the Scioto River, or the great patriot-orator of Virginia and the Revolution, Patrick Henry, 200 acres, binding 1⅛ miles on the Ohio; and other surveys as follows: 4 miles below the above, on the same day; May 7th, just below where Dover now is, in Mason County; May 11th, in Kenton County, about 9 miles below Covington; May 12th, at and including Big Bone Lick, in Boone county; May 16th, in Carroll County, 3 miles above the mouth of the Kentucky River; May 24th, about 11 miles below the mouth of that river, in Trimble County; May 27th, in Jefferson County, 19 miles above the Falls of the Ohio; June 2nd, 5 miles below the Falls; June 6th, at the mouth of Beargrass creek; thence in the Elkhorn country, in the present counties of Scott, Fayette, and Woodford. Two other celebrated surveyors, Hancock Taylor and Jas. Douglass, deputies, like himself, of Colonel Wm. Preston, and remarkable men, were either in his party, or had separate parties a few days behind. They were recalled July, 1774, by an order from Governor Dunmore, of Virginia, who sent out Daniel Boone as a special messenger, accompanied by Michael Stoner, on account of threatened Indian hostilities. Indeed, Boone deposes† that he found them already alarmed, and posted about the danger. Hancock Taylor was wounded by the Indians, and died soon after, when on his way back to Virginia (see under Madison and Woodford counties).

Colonel Floyd returned to Kentucky in April, 1775, had a camp on Dick's River, with 31 men from Virginia, and was engaged in surveying, during the year, all through central Kentucky. On May 23-26, of that year, he was one of the delegates from the town of St. Asaph (Stanford) to the assembly at

*The author has gathered the facts in this sketch from the records of the land office of Kentucky, from depositions of contemporaries of Colonel Floyd, from recent letters of his granddaughter, Mrs. Lettice P. Lewis of Virginia and from other manuscripts and printed sources gathered with much labor
†April 24, 1794 at Point Pleasant, Virginia

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

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