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Mike Watson: The Permanent Settlement of Adair County

A little early history of our town and county for those who are so inclined to learn more about their place upon this continent.
This is a historical sketch on the subject of Adair County's earliest permanent settlement as written by Judge Rollin T. Hurt, Columbia, Kentucky, 1919. The following, in the original tone of Judge Hurt, was published some years ago as "History of Adair County, Kentucky, by Judge Rollin T. Hurt" and edited by Mike Watson. A few clarifications have been made, as footnotes and/or in brackets, to aid the reader.
Previously on ColumbiaMagazine: William Casey sketch from Judge Rollin T. Hurt

by Judge Rollin T. Hurt
Prepared and submitted by Mike Watson, Adair County Historian

The permanent occupation of the territory which now constitutes Adair County, to any considerable extent, was accomplished by Colonel William Casey and about thirty other men, some of whom had families and who joined themselves together upon the Hanging Fork of Lick [Dick's or Dix] River, in Lincoln County, and moved in a body to Adair County.

Mr. [William B.] Allen, in his History of Kentucky, says that this movement occurred in the spring of the year 1791. There is no record anywhere which will verify the correctness of this statement as to the date of its occurrence.

These men of the woods, though they made it, did not write history. They did not keep records, and no one has arisen to write the history made by them except Mr. Allen; and the facts which he relates pertaining to them and their history are meager. The statements made by Mr. Allen with reference to this were founded necessarily upon tradition, and were not written until as much as eighty years had passed away after the occupation of the county. The fact, however, does not militate against the accuracy of the statements if the information was acquired from men who had associated with the pioneers and heard the stirring story of their lives and actions from their lips.

The people of Adair County owe much to Mr. Allen for preserving, for the generations to come, the meager scraps of local history which his writing preserved for them. It has now been one hundred and thirty years since Casey, with his company, crossed the Green River at Plum Point; but the writer [Hurt] had the good fortune in his youth to associate with two aged men, who were born in 1790 and 1795, respectively, and who were reared in the county, and in their early manhood were intimately associated with the actors in the scenes which are herein described, and heard the circumstances related when the actions were comparatively fresh. Mr. Allen has fixed the date of Casey's coming to Adair County two years after its actual occurrence.

In a deposition given by Casey, and which is on file in the case of Thomas Montgomery, etc. v. [Tyree Statton], etc., in the clerk's office of the Adair Circuit Court [now held at the Kentucky Archives in Frankfort, along with all civil case files], he made under oath the statement that he came to Lincoln County in 1779 and remained there for ten years when he removed to Adair County. This would make the year 1789, or the early part of 1790, the date of his coming to Adair. Colonel William Paxton, who, during his lifetime had the distinction of having been a member of the legislatures of Kentucky, Missouri and Texas, and who was a grandson of Casey, once told the writer that the year 1789 was the date of Casey's arrival in Adair County.

The names of the thirty men who accompanied Casey into Adair have nearly all been forgotten. Probably fifty or sixty years ago their names, or at least most of them, might have been rescued from oblivion, but it is now too late, since no records were kept and the men, their children and grandchildren have passed away.

Traditions have preserved the fact that one of the company was the Rev. John Tucker, a Methodist minister, and his family, and that Captain John Butler, Captain William Butler, Isaac Butler, Major Nathan Montgomery, Buck Lawson, John Fletcher, Robin Fletcher, William Dudley, Isaac Farris, Champness Farris, Isham Tally and a Mr. Stuart, or Stewart, were in the company.

Other persons who bore the names of Field and Harvey, and also others who bore the names of Dudley, Butler, Lawson and Montgomery, besides the persons named above, were also members of the company. The company consisted of men, women and children, but there is no definite data preserved as to the exact number of persons.

It is said that the members of this band, which was a forlorn hope sent into the wilderness, were without exception persons of temperate habits and good character, and such of them as survived the perils of the first years in the wilderness made industrious and upright citizens.

The nearest white settlement to them, after their arrival in Adair County, except possibly here and there a straggler in the wilderness, was Carpenter's Station in Lincoln County, about fifty miles to the eastward. To the westward, Gray's Station, which was near where the road from Columbia to Greensburg crosses the Caney Fork in Green County, was established in 1790, but after the establishment of Casey and his company in Adair County.

Leaving Lincoln County, Casey and his associates journeyed through Casey's Creek, which took its name from him, to where it empties into Green River at Plum Point. At this point they crossed to the south side of Green River and, at a large, fine spring upon the farm which was formerly called the Settles farm, but later the James Callison farm and is now owned by Braxton Massie, they pitched their camp. This place lies alongside the road known as the Columbia and Springfield road, between Mount Pleasant Church and Doke's Ford over Green River. Here they erected two blockhouses, one upon each side of the springs, and each surrounded by a stockade.

Judge Hurt refers to this as Casey's and Butler's Station, but it was also known as Casey's Old Fort after he had moved on, about the year 1793, to the west of Columbia to construct Casey's New Fort, the same site on which he died and was buried in 1816.

The people were divided into two groups, one of which took up its residence in each of the stockades, and Casey commanded one and Captain John Butler the other. At this time, Casey was about 33 years of age, while Captain John Butler was not exceeding 21 years of age. During the first five years of its existence, the people at this settlement suffered many attacks from the Indians and five were slain during the first year; but, under the leadership of Casey and Butler, they successfully maintained themselves and defended themselves against all the assaults. When the inmates of the station would establish homes nearby, they would very soon encounter a visit from the Indians.

Buck Lawson, who was a brother of the wife of Major Nathan Montgomery, was killed by the Indians. Stuart or Stewart, was killed at a spring near the Columbia-Springfield road, and upon the Massie farm, and not far from the station.

About one year after the establishment of Casey's and Butler's Station, a portion of the inhabitants who resided there, under the leadership of the Reverend John Tucker moved about two miles away to a stockade and other defensive works, which were erected near the creek called Slate, Disappointment and Bull Run, at a point about two miles from where it empties into the Russell, near the present site of the residence of Samuel B. Conover. It was called Tucker's Station. Very soon after the occupation of Tucker's Station, it suffered an attack from the Indians; and the inmates, finding that they could not successfully defend themselves, undertook to escape to Casey's and Butler's Station. In this attempt, they maintained a running fight with the Indians until near Casey's and Butler's Station, when a part of the Indians succeeded in getting between them and the latter place, then Tucker and his wife and several others were slain and scalped by the Indians; but others were saved by a successful sortie which was made for their relief from the station. The Indians carried away everything which was movable from Tucker's Station, including several horses.

Rev. John Tucker, wife and children and several others built Tucker's Station as stated here. A civil suit filed in the Adair County Circuit Court in June of 1814 by William Worley against Edmund Powell gives some specific data on Tucker's Station. Powell stated Tucker made improvements on the land and built a station. The Indians became intolerable and Tucker left for Butler's Station and was killed "him and his wife." Powell was a brother-in-law of Rev. Tucker and administered the estate. He leased the place "to a man by the name of Breeding." [Adair County Equity/Chancery Cases, Box 3, Kentucky State Archives, Frankfort.]

The Indians fled, as was their custom after a successful foray, toward the Cumberland River. Under the leadership of Casey, a company of men overtook them at the Cumberland River, either at the point where Salem Church now stands, at the mouth of Big Renick or Renox Creek, in Cumberland county, or at the mouth of Indian Creek in Russell County. The ten men made an instant attack upon them. In the battle which ensued, several Indians were killed and the others dispersed. The horses and other articles were recovered and returned.

The year after the establishment of Casey's and Butler's Station, Isaac Farris, Champness Farris, Isham Tally and some others undertook to establish themselves near the Green River opposite the mouth of Casey's Creek. They commenced the erection of a dwelling house, but before its completion the Indians attacked them at night. Isaac Farris was killed by the first shot and Champness Farris was mortally wounded. Isham Tally and a negro girl were also badly wounded. The others escaped in the darkness, and one of them arrived at Casey's and Butler's Station with the news of the tragedy just at the breaking of day. Captain John Butler and Colonel William Casey, with a dozen men, at once set out for the scene of the attack. They found Tally so seriously wounded that they were compelled to convey him to the station upon a sheet borne by four men. He, however, finally recovered from his wounds. Champness Farris was not dead when the rescuers arrived, but expired in a few moments afterward.

Between Captain Butler and Champness Farris there existed a very strong degree of friendship, which had been formed and cemented by the undergoing of many perils together; and when Butler saw Farris in his dying condition, he took him in his arms and so held him until he expired, amid the tears of not only Butler, but of all the rugged men who stood silently by. Butler named a son Champness in memory of his unfortunate friend. It was this Isaac who was the grandfather of the noted Shelton Farris and his brother, William Farris, of Barren County. Shelton Farris, at one time, was sheriff of Barren County. Bert Garmon, lately the sheriff of Cumberland, is a grandson of William Farris.

Between the years 1790 and 1793, the exact date is not now known, while hunting near where the town of Columbia is now situated, on the south side of the Russell, Casey and others wounded a buffalo, which fled and was pursued by them for four miles, and killed by them near the road from Columbia to Burkesville, near the site of the present residence of W. T. Dohoney.

To be continued... --MW

This story was posted on 2017-08-10 07:37:40
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