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Tom Chaney No. 241: Cyrus Edwards' Stories of Early Days

Of Writers and Their Books, 14 February 2010 Cyrus Edwards on the Elizabeth Wilson Family
The next earlier Tom Chaney essay: John Sandford

By Tom Chaney
Email: Tom Chaney

Cyrus Edwards on the Elizabeth Wilson Family

Many of the details of the early days in Hart and Barren counties would be lost were it not for the stories of Cyrus Edwards (1846-1939) gathered into published form by his daughter Florence Edwards Gardiner in the year following her father's death.

From this book, Cyrus Edwards' Stories of Early Days, published in 1940 and reissued by the South Central Kentucky Historical Society of Glasgow and the Hart County Historical Society three times by 1981, we learn of the importance of Elizabeth Wilson and her family to the beginnings of Horse Cave more than two centuries ago.

In 1796 William T. Bush moved to a one thousand acre tract which he had claimed two years earlier on the basis of a military warrant for service as an officer in the Revolutionary War. The land lay generally south of what is now Main Street.

Four years later Mr. Bush sold the land to the executors of James Wilson's will which directed that "lands be purchased in Kentucky for his family and this tract was a part of the lands purchased by the executors.

"About the year 1802 Mrs. Elizabeth Wilson, the widow of James Wilson... with her sons Jeremiah, Thomas, John B., Walker, and James, and her two daughters Martha and Sally, came from Virginia over the 'Wilderness Route' and settled on this land."

Martin Wilson, another son, began the journey but was killed, crushed by a wagon wheel, where the trail crossed the Cumberland River near what is now Pineville, Kentucky.

"She brought with her also quite a number of slaves, several wagons, a lot of horses and cattle, tools of every description... seeds... -- in fact everything needed for a settlement in a new country. It was said," continues Edwards, "that among her sons and slaves the trades of carpenter, wheelwright, tanner, shoemaker, saddler, blacksmith, and stonemason were all represented, and the women, both white and black, could sew, hatchel, card, spin, knit, and weave.

"They camped near the cave and, within a few days, cut logs, sawed lumber, burned lime, and built complete a two-room log house one and a half stories high, with a stone chimney, into which the white family moved, and comfortable cabins were soon erected for the slaves, and all were made comfortable for the approaching winter." This house, the second built within the town, stood on the north side of Church Street between Smith Street and the railroad.

The land passed to the heirs of Elizabeth Wilson in 1821 after her death and was divided among them. Walker Wilson lived in the homestead until his death in the 1840s, although it was held in trust by John B. Wilson for the child W. M. Wilson, his nephew. Walker's widow bought the land from W. M. Wilson and sold it to her son-in-law R. S. Palmore in 1847.

Mr. Palmore lived in the house for a few years and "then sold the land to the firm of Burch, Wilson [W.M.], and White.... About the year 1850 they built a large tobacco factory in the (present) Park... where they did a large business stemming and prizing tobacco. The factory was destroyed by fire after a few years and the 140-acre tract was sold to Major Albert Anderson."

"In the spring of 1859 W. M. Wilson bought a few acres of land on the south side of Main Street and west of the cave and built thereon a two-story frame dwelling house." That house is the original portion of the Thomas House, now owned and renovated by the City of Horse Cave.

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney

This story was posted on 2010-02-14 06:42:15
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