AHGP Transcription Project

Wolfe County

Wolfe County, the 110th formed in the state, was established in 1860, out of parts of Morgan, Breathitt, Owsley, and Powell counties, and named in honor of Nathaniel Wolfe, then a state senator from the city of Louisville. It is situated in the central eastern portion of the state, on the waters of Red River, which runs from east to west through the county, while the North fork of the Kentucky River forms its southern boundary; is bounded on the north and east by Morgan, south east by Breathitt, south by Lee, and west by Lee and Powell counties; and contains an area of about 170 square miles. Besides the above, the streams are Gilmore's, Stillwater, Swift, Parched Corn, Wolf Pen, Gilladie, Upper Devil and Lower Devil creeks. The surface of the county generally is hilly and broken, with some rich level land along the river and creek bottoms. Corn is the principal product; but wheat, oats, hay, and some tobacco are raised, and cattle, hogs, horses, and mules to a very limited extent.

Compton, the county seat, 28 miles from Fitchburg, Estill County, 18 from Beattyville, Lee County, 37 from Richmond, and 45 from Paris; incorporated March 17, 1870; population in 1870, 67.
Hazle Green, 10 miles from Compton, 58 miles from Hazard, Perry County, and 46 miles from Prestonsburg, Floyd County; incorporated March 10, 1856; population in 1870, 77.

Members of the Legislature, since 1815

None resident in the county.

House of Representatives
C. M. Hawks, 1863-65;
Moses B. Lacy, 1865-67;

Swift's Silver Mine (already spoken of under both Carter and Josh Bell counties, see pages 414 and 415), is too beautiful and fanciful to be confined to those counties, but must needs have a local habitation also in Wolfe County, on Lower Devil creek, 6 miles in an air-line from Compton, the county seat (which is 30 miles from Mountsterling). Swift's name is carved on both rocks and trees, by whom, is not known.

In February, 1871, three Cherokee Indians (two men and a squaw), came from the Indian Territory to Irvine, Estill County, Kentucky; thence about 15 miles east to the farm of Jacob Crabtree. One of the men, who claimed to be a young chief, was educated, talked English, and was well informed about minerals. The object of their journey was quite mysterious, except that it seemed to have connection with the time-out-of-mind tradition about Swift's silver mine; indeed, the Indians said they were within half a days journey of that mine. Leaving the squaw at Crabtree's, the Indians followed up Little Sinking creek to its source, crossed over on to Big Sinking creek, and after riding some miles, hitched their horses; then, warning the whites who out of curiosity were following at a little distance that they would turn back if followed further, disappeared in the thick undergrowth. Late in the evening they returned to Crabtree's, bearing upon their horses two buckskin sacks or bags heavily laden. By these sacks one of the Indians kept watch, all night, with a revolver in his hand, and in the morning the three departed, on the return road toward Irvine. The whites went immediately to the neighborhood, visited by the Indians, but did not succeed in finding any mineral but iron ore.

Two caves, known as the Ashy and the Bone (or Pot) caves, are about a mile apart, on Lower Devil's creek. In the latter, on a visit in 1871, were found 27 pots or crucibles, about 1 feet across and same depth, in three rows of 9 each, and each pot of about half a barrel capacity. The road to it, although unused for many years, was plainly perceptible, being worn down 4 or 5 feet deep, and with trees, apparently 100 to 125 years old, narrowing in it. A large deposit of sulphur, in ore or rocks, and deposits of iron and of bismuth are found near, but with no road leading to them.

Hon. Nathaniel Wolfe, in honor of whom this county was named, was a leading member of the senate of Kentucky at the session when it was formed. He was born in Richmond, Virginia, October 29, 1810; received a liberal education, and was the first graduate of the University of Virginia at Charlottsville, thus acquiring the degree of A. M.; studied law, and entered upon the practice at Louisville, Kentucky; was married October 3, 1838, to Miss Mary Vernon, who survived him; achieved fine pecuniary success at the bar, and a high reputation as a lawyer and pleader, being regarded as one of the most brilliant, able, and eloquent criminal lawyers in the United States; commonwealth's attorney for some 13 years, 1839-1852; state senator from Jefferson county, 1853-55, and representative from the city of Louisville, 1859-61 and 1861-63, and was one of the most distinguished and useful members of each body. He was defeated for congress, August, 1863, by Federal bayonets. He died July 3, 1865, aged 54 years.

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

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