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Introduction To Walking Tour Of Columbia

This article first appeared in issue 9, and was written by Vonnie Kolbenschlag.

The wilderness of Kentucky County, Virginia, was a hunting paradise for Native Americans, who considered it sacred. Their paths, following animal trails, crisscrossed between the Green and Cumberland Rivers, and Russell Creek. They had no permanent settlements here, only hunting camps.

In the late 1700's hunters and explorers from the American colonies also found this to be a hunting paradise with forests, waterways, and springs. England had granted huge amounts of land to settlers in Virginia to strengthen English control and as rewards from the king. Virginia passed an order in 1789 declaring land between the Green and Cumberland Rivers be given to men who had served in the Revolutionary War. Many veterans came here. To lay claim to land, a settler had to build a cabin and plant corn.

On the frontier, people first lived in forts or cabin groupings called stations. In 1777 all Kentucky settlers lived in either Fort Harrod, Fort Boonesborough, Logan's Fort, or Fort McClelland. In 1789 William Casey and William Butler and about 30 men left Logan's Fort, traveled along what is now Casey Creek and built a small fort near what is now Bull Run.

Soon villages formed near springs and trails made by hunters and explorers. Leaders in these settlements petitioned to separate from Virginia. They petitioned as early as 1780, but were blocked by the eastern states, which considered Kentucky a threat to their trade. In 1792 Kentucky became a state already divided into Jefferson, Lincoln, and Fayette Counties. There was need to divide these three into more and smaller counties with county seats giving access to local government. That same year, 1792, Green County was formed.

Three entrepreneurs, Daniel Trabue, Creed Haskins, and William Caldwell, had settled in Green County. They saw an opportunity. Because Green County was very large, it was probable that it would be divided. In 1800 these three bought 50 acres centrally located in what they visioned would be a new county. Here, where trails crossed, where springs gave abundant water, where people were already settled, seemed a likely place for a county seat. In 1801 Adair was "cut from Green."

The governor appointed eight magistrates. (One was Trabue.) Their first court meeting was at the home of James Walker, who lived on what is now called "Lindsey Hill." Walker wanted the county seat near his farm, and offered to donate 20 acres adjoining the 50 acres. These "donation lands" decided the matter! Trabue, Haskins, and Caldwell made bond before the Court to pay a surveyor to lay off streets, alleys, lots, and a public square. They gave to the town the area for the Square, $100, and a public spring. They named the town, the streets, and the alleys.

June 1802, Columbia, Adair County's seat of justice, was founded as a city. In that year a favorite U.S. song was Hail Columbia. The word, "Columbia" is another name for America or the United States.

The previous month, May 1802, our U.S. seat of justice, had been incorporated as a city. The district around Washington was named Columbia in 1871.

The roads leading from the Square, north and south, now called Greensburg and Jamestown, had then just one name, Main. Campbellsville and Burkesville Streets were named Market. Other streets were Merchant, where the trades were located; High, located in a high area; Guardian, where the Methodists already had built a church, and Fortune, near the first factory in this new town. The factory, powered by oxen and horses, carded wool and cotton.

Columbia's founders named the alleys: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Pinckney, Madison, and Monroe. They chose names of two who had been president and three who would be. Pinckney was later a candidate for president in three elections and held other federal offices. Pride in being citizens of a new country, a new state, a new county, and a new town shows in their selection of names.

John Adair (1757-1840), born in North Carolina, moved to Mercer County, Kentucky after serving in the Revolutionary War. A political activist, he and Col. Wm. Casey were both war veterans ins the state legislature when this county was formed. They were also members of two Kentucky Constitutional Conventions. Casey may have suggested naming this county Adair in 1801. In 1806 a county was named for Casey. Adair was governor 1820-1824. His life span paralleled Dan Trabue's (1760-1840).

In 200 years there have been many changes by many people. We can still see evidence of early Columbia. We can see how various families adapted to the events of their time as we walk around the town. Columbia began with the crossing trails between the Green and Cumberland; it seems today the pattern is somewhat the same as we watch automobiles pulling boats around the Square heading toward these two rivers that have become lakes.

This story was posted on 1996-11-15 12:01:01
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