Paris, Bourbon Co., Kentucky was a thriving and well built up city. Here is a brief history and tour of Bourbon County and the city of Paris with some illustrative photos and maps. Kentucky was not all log cabins around 1791 when the Norton family moved into Bourbon County. The Duncan tavern, Cane Ridge Meeting House and Stone Castle House are some of the surviving major structures of the time.
Indian Hunting Grounds When first visited by the whites, Kentucky was the favorite hunting ground of many different tribes, of Indians, but it is not known that any of them ever resided permanently within its borders. Annually, during the hunting season, the Delawares, Wyandots, Shawnees, and other tribes from beyond the Ohio, and the Catawbas, Cherokees and Creeks, from the south country came here to hunt the deer, elk and buffalo, which, in great numbers, roamed the forests, grazed upon the natural pastures, and frequented the salt-impregnated springs so common in this section.
However, their visits were periodical, and, when the hunt ended, they returned with the trophies of the chase, to their own towns. But in the coming of the pale-faces they foresaw the destruction of these beautiful hunting grounds, and determined to drive the white invaders hence. The fierce contests which occurred between them and the first white settlers were numerous, of long continuance, and often disastrous to the latter, ere the final expulsion of the savages from the territory, that, in these sanguinary struggles was re-baptized the "Dark and Bloody Ground." The heroic deeds of the pioneer fathers are inscribed upon hundreds or battlefields. Assuredly, if a community of people ever lived who were literally cradled in war, it was the early inhabitants of Central Kentucky. From the first exploration of the country by Daniel Boone up to the year 1774, they were engaged in one incessant battle with the savages. Trace the path of an Indian incursion anywhere through the great valley of the West, and it is found dyed with Kentucky's blood, and its battlefields white with the bones of her children.
For over two hundred years, Duncan Tavern has been a prominent part of the historic center of Paris, Kentucky, the county seat of Bourbon. When Major Joseph Duncan had this three-story, twenty-room building constructed, it towered over the 20' X 30' log courthouse just below it. Even when the three subsequent handsome courthouses were built on the same site always, Duncan Tavern stood in elegance above them.
Built in 1788, this large and impressive structure was made sturdy in the native limestone, quarried by primitive methods, and wild cherry, walnut, and yellow poplar woodwork, blue ash flooring, oak joists and hand-split hickory laths.
After the Major's death, his wife Anne Duncan carried on the tavern business with the name "The Goddess of Liberty" for a few years, but in 1803 she leased the tavern to John Porter of Virginia. She then built her home flush against the tavern wall so she could devote her time to her five sons and one daughter, all of whom received excellent educations and went on to become distinguished in the building of the young Republic.
Duncan Tavern flourished in the early years with many people staying there as they filed suits in the courthouse to straighten out overlapping claims to land in the rich blue grass region. Many depositions in these suits were taken in the Tavern, so one can easily imagine the pioneers sitting around the fireplaces as they drank and smoked and settled many affairs.
Early Settlements in Bourbon County. Settlements were made in Bourbon County as early as 1776, but were not permanent. Collins says in his history of Kentucky, that the first corn raised in Bourbon County was by John Cooper, near Hinkston Creek, in 1775. That he lived alone there in his cabin, and was killed by the Indians on the 7th of July, 1776; also, in the same year, Michael Stoner, Thomas Whitledge, James Kenny, and several others, "raised corn, a quarter of an acre to two acres each." Thomas Kennedy built a cabin on Kennedy's Creek, a short distance south of Paris, in 1776, but left in the fall, going back to Virginia, where he remained until 1779, when he returned, and settled permanently on the little creek which still bears his name. While upon his first visit, he assisted Michael Stoner. who owned a large body of land on what is now Stoner Creek. to clear a piece of ground and build a cabin. During the time they were thus engaged, they lived for three months without bread or salt. Stoner was a man of some prominence and wealth, and was among the very first settlers of the county.
Coopers Run 1787
The following thrilling incident occurred in Bourbon on Cooper's Run in April, 1787. A widow, of the name of Skaggs, lived in a lonely spot with her family, consisting of two grown sons, three grown daughters (one of them married and the mother of an infant), and a daughter about half-grown. One night their cabin, which was a double one, was attacked by a band or Indians, four of the inmates killed, one of the girls carried off a captive, while one of the sons and the married daughter with her infant made their escape. The neighborhood was aroused, and at daylight the next morning thirty men well armed and well-mounted, under Col. Edwards, started in pursuit of the savages. A light snow had fallen, and they were enabled to follow the trail at a gallop. When the Indians found they were pursued, and likely to be overtaken, they tomahawked their captive and left her lying by their trail where she was found by the pursuers before life became extinct, but she died in a few minutes after they came up. They soon overtook the savages, when a fight commenced, but by a strategy on their part in leaving two of their number to hold the whites in check, the main body succeeded in making their escape; the two left behind were killed.
Another incident, and which is said to have been the last of its kind enacted in Bourbon County, was somewhat as follows: A party of Indians, about twenty in number, made all incursion into the neighborhood to steal horses. A squad of hunters followed them, and came up with them encamped upon the Stoner a few miles from Paris. They fired into their camp, killing one and wounding several others, when the Indians fled, but soon returned and a fight took place, which lasted until the ammunition of the whites gave out, and they were forced to retreat leaving their foes in possession of the field. But one of the whites were killed, a man named Frank Hickman, whose skeleton was afterward recognized by the initials on his kneebuckles.
The Norton family are established near Lexington
in 1787. John Norton Jr. married Sarah Spencer in 1787 and in 1791 buys
property within a mile of where this story takes place.
McClelland's Station, which stood upon the present site of Georgetown, was the scene of several skirmishes with Indians, which is more fully given in the history of Georgetown. In the year 1778, a party of Indians stole a number of horses in Scott (rather what is now Scott) and were pursued by Capt. Herndon with a few companions, but they succeeded in escaping with their booty. Many such incidents as the above occurred not only in Scott, but in all the surrounding country. In 1788, three horses were stolen from Jacob Stucker by Indians, in which two of the savages were killed by the whites, who pursued them, and another wounded, and the horses recovered.
The Cane Ridge Meeting House on K.Y. 537 was built of blue ash logs by hardy Presbyterian pioneers in 1791. In 1801 Reverend Barton Warren Stone organized the largest camp meeting revival on the frontier. In 1804, the members established the Christian Church, giving birth to Disciples of Christ, the Independent Christian Church and the Church of Christ.
Ruddel's Station, which some authorities locate in Bourbon County, and others just over the line in what is now Harrison County, was captured in 1780 by a large force of Canadians and Indians, under the notorious Col. Byrd, a British officer. His force amounted to some six hundred men-white and red-with six pieces of artillery, said to be the first cannons that ever awoke the echoes of the Kentucky hills. On the 22d of June (1780), this formidable force appeared before Ruddel's, and Col. Byrd demanded its surrender to His Britanic Majesty's forces, at discretion. Capt. Ruddel complied on the condition that the prisoners be placed under charge of the English instead of the savages. But when the gates were thrown open, the Indians rushed in, seized the first white person they met, claiming them as individual prisoners. When Col. Byrd was remonstrated with by Capt. Ruddel for this disregard of the conditions of surrender, he acknowledged his inability to control his savage allies. The scenes which ensued after the capture are almost indescribable and are unsurpassed except, in savage warfare. Wives were separated from their husbands. and mothers from their young children without hope of ever being re-united. After the prisoners were secured and the booty divided, the savages proposed to move against Martin's Station in Bourbon County, but Col. Byrd refused, unless the prisoners should be given into his charge--the Indians to take for their share the property, which was agreed to. Martin's Station was then captured without opposition. The savages were so elated with these successes, that they were anxious to proceed at once against Bryant's Station and Lexington, but for some inexplicable reason Col. Byrd refused, and the expedition returned north of the Ohio River. Higgin's block-house, near where Cynthiana now stands, had its incidents of thrilling interest and border warfare. On the 12th of June, 1786, it was attacked by a large party of Indians, in which several of the were severely wounded. But upon the arrival of help from Hinkston and Harrison's Stations, the Indians fled, without being able to capture the station.
The Battle of Blue Licks 1782 The most thrilling event that occurred within the four counties, however, transpired in Nicholas. It was on the sacred soil of Little Nicholas, that the famous battle of Blue Licks was fought, one or the most disastrous battles to the whites that ever took place in Kentucky. It was fought on the 19th of August, 1782, on the old State road, about half a mile from the Lower Blue Licks, between a large force of Indians under the infamous renegade Simon Girty, on their return from Bryant's Station in Fayette County, where they had been repulsed, and a small party of whites, from that section, which had been sent in pursuit of them. The following account of it is from Collins, which he accredits to McClung's historical sketches: Col. Daniel Boone, accompanied by his youngest son, headed a strong party from Boonesboro - Trigg brought up the force from Harrodsburg, John Todd commanded the militia around Lexington. Nearly a third of the whole number assembled were commissioned officers, who hurried from a distance to the scene of hostilities, and, for the time, took their place in the ranks. Of those under the rank of Colonel, the most conspicuous were Majs. Harlan, McBride, McGary and Levi Todd, and Capts. Bulger and Gordon. Todd and Trigg as senior Colonels took the command. A tumultuous consultation, in which every one seems to have had a voice, terminated in a unanimous resolution to pursue the enemy without delay. It was well-known that Gen. Logan had collected a strong force in Lincoln, and would join them at furthest in twenty-four hours. It was distinctly understood that the enemy was at least double, and, according to Girty's account, more than treble their own numbers. It was seen that their trail was broad, and obvious, and that even some indications of a tardiness and willingness to be pursued, had been observed by their scouts, who had been sent out to reconnoiter, and from which it might be reasonably inferred that they would halt on the way, at least march so leisurely, as to permit them to wait for the aid of Logan. Yet so keen was the ardor of officer and soldier, that all these obvious reasons were overlooked, and in the afternoon of the 18th of August, the line of march was taken up, and the pursuit urged with that precipitate courage which has so often been fatal to Kentuckians. Most of the officers and many of the privates were mounted.
"The Indians had followed the buffalo trace, and, as if to render their trail still more evident, they had chopped many of the trees on either side of the road with their hatchets. These strong indications of tardiness made some impression upon the cool and calculating mind of Boone, but it was too late to advise retreat. They encamped that night in the woods, and on the following day reached the fatal boundary of their pursuit. At the Lower Blue Licks, for the first time since the pursuit commenced, they came within view of an enemy. As the miscellaneous crowd of horse and foot reached the southern bank of Licking, they saw a number of Indians ascending the rocky ridge on the other side. They halted on the appearance of the Kentuckians, gazed at them for a few moments in silence, and then leisurely disappeared over the top of the hill. A halt immediately ensued, and a dozen or twenty officers met in front of the ranks for consultation. The wild and lonely aspect of the country around them, their distance from any point of support, with the certainty of their being in the presence of a superior enemy, seems to have inspired a seriousness bordering upon awe. All eyes wore now turned upon Boone, and Col. Todd asked his opinion as to what should be done. The veteran woodsman, with his usual unmoved gravity, replied: 'That their situation was critical and delicate; that the force opposed to them was, undoubtedly, numerous and ready for battle, as might readily be seen from the leisurely retreat of the few Indians who had appeared upon the crest of the hill; that he was well acquainted with the ground in the neighborhood of the Lick, and was apprehensive an ambuscade was formed at the distance of a mile in advance, where two ravines, one upon each side of the ridge, ran in such a manner that a concealed enemy might assail them at once both in front and flank, before they were apprised of the danger. It would be proper, therefore, to do one of two things: either to await the arrival of Logan, who was now undoubtedly on his march to join them, or if it was determined to attack without delay, that one-half of their number should march up the river, which there bends in an elliptical form, cross at the rapids and fall upon the rear of the enemy, while the other division attacked in front. At any rate, he strongly urged the necessity of reconnoitering the ground carefully before the main body crossed the river.'
Stone Castle 1790
On Clay Kaiser Rd., Stone Castle, the Jacob Spears House was built c. 1790 by John and Thomas(later Governor) Metcalfe. Mr. Spears was the first to label his whisky BOURBON, first to advertise for blue grass seed, and first to syndicate a fine Virginia stallion.
"Such was the counsel of Boone, and although no measures could have been much more disastrous than that which was adopted, yet it may be doubted if anything short of an immediate retreat upon Logan, could have saved this gallant body of men from the fate which they encountered. If they divided their force, the enemy, as in Estill's case, might have overwhelmed them in detail; if they remained where they were without advancing, the enemy would certainly have attacked them, probably in the night, and with a certainty of success. They had committed a great error at first in not waiting for Logan, and nothing short of a retreat, which would have been considered disgraceful, could now repair it. Boone was heard in silence and with deep attention. Some wished to adopt the first plan; others preferred the second, and the discussion threatened to be drawn out to some length, when the boiling ardor of McGary, who could never endure the presence of an enemy without instant battle, stimulated him to act, which had nearly proved destructive to his country. He suddenly interrupted the conversation with a loud whoop, resembling the war-cry of the Indians, spurred his horse into the stream, waved his hat over his head and shouted aloud: 'Let all who are not cowards, follow me!' The words and the action together produced ail electrical effect. The mounted men dashed tumultuously into the river, each striving to be foremost. The footmen were mingled with them in one rolling and irregular mass. No order was given, and none was observed. They struggled through a deep fold as well as they could, McGary still leading the van, closely followed by Majs. Harlan and McBride. With the same rapidity they ascended the ridge, which, by the trampling of buffalo foragers, had been stripped bare of all vegetation, with the exception of a few dwarfish cedars, and which was rendered still more desolate in appearance by the multitude of rocks blackened by the sun, which were spread over its surface. Upon reaching the top of the ridge, they followed the buffalo trace with the same precipitate order, Todd and Trigg in the rear, McGary, Harlan, McBride and Boone in front. No scouts were sent in advance; none explored either flank; officers and soldiers seemed alike demented by the contagious example of a single man, and all struggled forward, horse and foot, as if to outstrip each other in the advance, Suddenly the van halted. They had reached the spot mentioned by Boone, where the two ravines head on each side of the ridge. Here a body of Indians presented themselves and attacked the van. McGary's party instantly returned the fire, but under great disadvantage. They were upon a bare and open ridge, the Indians in a bushy ravine. The center and rear ignorant of the ground, flurried up to the assistance of the van, but were soon stopped by a terrible fire from the ravine which flanked thein. They found themselves as if in the wings of a net, destitute of proper shelter, while the enemy were in a great measure covered from their fire. Still, however, they maintained their ground. The action became warm and bloody. The parties gradually closed, the Indians emerged from the ravines, and the fire became mutually destructive. The officers suffered dreadfully. Todd, Trigg, Harlan, McBride and young Boone were already killed.
"The Indians gradually extended their line, to turn the right of the Kentuckians, and cut off their retreat. This was quickly perceived by the weight of the fire from that quarter, and the rear instantly fell back in disorder, and attempted to rush through their only opening to the river. The motion quickly communicated itself to the van, and a flurried retreat became general. The Indians instantly sprang forward in pursuit, and falling upon them with their tomahawks, made a cruel slaughter. From the battle ground to the river, the spectacle was terrible. The horsemen severally escaped, but the foot, particularly the van, which had advanced farthest within the wings of the net, were almost totally destroyed. Col. Boone, after witnessing the death of his son and many of his dearest friends, found himself almost entirely surrounded at the very commencement of the retreat. Several hundred Indians were between him and the ford, to which the great mass of the fugitives were bending their flight, and to which the attention of the savages was principally directed. Being intimately acquainted with the ground, he, together with a few friends, dashed into the ravine which the Indians had occupied, but which most of them had now left to join in the pursuit. After sustaining one or two heavy fires, and baffling one or two small parties, who pursued him for a short distance, he crossed the river below the ford, by swimming, and entering the wood at a point where there was no pursuit, returned by a circuitous route to Bryant's Station. In the meantime, the great mass of the victors and vanquished crowded the bank of the ford. The slaughter was great in the river. The ford was crowded with horsemen and foot and Indians, all mingled together. Some were compelled to seek a passage above by swimming; some, who could not swim, were overtaken and killed at the edge of the water. A man by the name of Netherland, who had formerly been strongly suspected of cowardice, here displayed a coolness and presence of mind equally noble and unexpected. Being finely mounted, he had outstripped the great mass of fugitives, and crossed the river in safety. A dozen or twenty horsemen accompanied him, and having placed the river between them and the enemy, showed a disposition to continue their flight, without regard to the safety of their friends who were on foot, and still struggling with the current. Netherland instantly checked his horse, and, in a loud voice, called upon his companions to halt, fire upon the Indians, and save those who were still in the stream. The party instantly obeyed; and facing about, poured a close and fatal discharge of rifles upon the foremost of the pursuers. The enemy instantly fell back from the opposite bank, and gave time for the harassed and miserable footmen to cross in safety. The check, however, was but momentary. Indians were seen crossing in great numbers above and below, and the flight again became general. Most of the foot left the great buffalo trace, and plunging into the thickets, escaped to Bryant's Station. But little loss was sustained after crossing the river, although the pursuit was urged keenly for twenty miles. From the battle ground to the ford, the loss was very heavy."
Such was the fatal battle of Blue Licks, which for the small number engaged, is one of the severest recorded in Indian warfare. Like the defeat of Braddock three-quarters of a century before, the disaster was attributable to a refusal to accept good counsel and sensible advice. Had the counsel of Boone been followed, instead of the example of the hot-headed McGary, and the little army have fallen back on Logan, with this re-enforcement they would have been strong enough to have defeated the Indians instead of themselves being defeated. Of the one hundred and eighty two whites engaged in the battle, sixty were killed, and three were taken prisoners, who after a long and dreary captivity were exchanged and liberated, and returned to their homes. When the battle was over and the pursuit ended, the Indians, fearing the whites might rally and with re-enforcements turn upon them, collected the spoils as quickly as possible, and continued their march to the Ohio River, which they crossed without further molestation from their enemies. Col. Logan arrived at the battle ground the second day after the battle, but the enemy had disappeared, and he did not deem it prudent to pursue. He performed the sad and melancholy duty of burying the dead, after which he disbanded his men and returned home.
The foregoing incidents are illustrative of the life our pioneer ancestors lived in this country. All their adventures, hair-breadth escapes and narrow risks, would form a large volume of thrilling interest. Only a few have been given, however, to embellish these pages, and show what it cost to make the blue grass section a paradise.-Perrin.
From across the ocean, the colonists of a new and powerful people came and effected a lodgment at isolated spots on the Atlantic coast. They achieved in time their independence, but could not pay their soldiers for their long and faithful service in the war for liberty. As a partial remuneration, wild lands were donated to them in the distant territories of the "far west," of which Kentucky was then the frontier. These Revolutionary land grants brought many adventurous individuals hither, and Kentucky became at once the center of attraction. More than a century ago the whites took possession of the territory now embraced in Bourbon and the surrounding counties. The lands were wrested from the savages with little regard for hereditary titles. The Indians sought to hold their favorite hunting-rounds, and for years held in check the tide of immigration. The story of this long and sanguinary struggle is "an oft told tale." The line of settlements firmly established along the Ohio, from Pittsburgh to the Falls, began to advance, and, with every step, slowly pressed back the Indian race to extinction.
Excerpts from William Perrin's "History of Bourbon, Scott, Harrison & Nicholas Counties"