History of Kentucky

by Lewis Collins

Reprint 1968

Henry Clay Press




page 540                   WARREN COUNTY.
 
 

WARREN COUNTY.




        WARREN county was formed in 1796, and named in memory of General JOSEPH WARREN, who fell at Bunker Hill. It embraces about five hundred and sixty square miles; and is bounded on the north by Butler and Edmonson; east by Barren; south by Allen and Simpson; and west by Logan and Butler. Big Barren river, which heads near the Cumberland, runs through this county. Its tributaries, in the county, are, Bay's fork, Drake's and Jennings' creeks, and Gasper river. Several mineral springs in the county -one, three miles from Bowling-Green, (Mr. Jackson's,) in character of its water, much like the Blue Lick. Face of the country gently undulating. Soil fertile and productive, based mostly on red clay and limestone foundation. Principal articles of export, tobacco, wheat, corn and pork.

        Valuation of taxable property in Warren in 1846, $3,918,312; number of acres of land in the county, 292,588; average value of land per acre, $5.39; number of white males over twenty-one years of age, 2,083; number of children between five and sixteen years old, 2,831. Population in 1840, 15,446.

        BOWLING-GREEN, the county seat of Warren, is a neat and thriving town, situated at the head of slack water navigation on Big Barren river, one hundred and forty-five miles from Frankfort, and six hundred and eighty-five miles from Washington city. Several steamboats make their weekly arrivals here from Louisville and elsewhere; the turnpike from Louisville to Nashville passes through it; and the Bowling-Green portage rail road from the river, terminates here. Besides the ordinary county buildings, there are four church edifices, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, and Episcopalian. The court-house, on the public square, is handsomely enclosed with a neat stone wall, ornamented by iron railing. It contains also, a branch of the Bank of Kentucky, two newspapers, (the Bowling-Green Press and the Bowling-Green Argus,) fifteen lawyers, eight physicians, five schools, twenty-four stores, two wholesale groceries and commission warehouses, one drug store, one foundry, one candle factory, one wool factory, two steam saw mills, three taverns, and thirty or forty mechanics' shops. Population 1700. Established by the legislature in 1808.

        ANCIENT MARKS ON TREES.-On the north side of Barren river, about three miles from Bowling-Green, and about a quarter of a mile above Vanmeter's ferry, there are some beech trees which indicate the camping ground of a party, perhaps the "Long hunters," as they were called, in June, 1775. The most conspicuous tree has engraven on its bark, on the north side, the names of thirteen persons. The letters were handsomely cut with some instrument adapted to the purpose. The highest name is about nine feet from the ground, the lowest four feet. They stand ic the following order, beginning with the uppermost and descending to the lowest, to wit: J. Newell or Neaville,* [Judge Graham supposed it to be Neaville.] E. Bulger. I. Hite, V. Harman. J. Jackman, W. Buchannon, A. Bowman, J. Drake, N. Nall, H. Skaggs, J. Bowman, Tho. Slaughter, J. Todd. The date is thus given: "1775, June Th 13.', The apparent age of the marks corresponds with the date. About five steps south of the above named tree, and near the verge of the river bank, stands a beech, marked on the north side with the name of "Win. Buchanan," and dated "June 14th, 1775." On the south side of the same tree, there is the name of" J. Todd," dated" June 17, 1775." About twenty steps north of the first tree, there stands a third beech, with the names of I. Drake, and Isaac Hite engraved, and each with the date "15 June, 1775." Above the names the date "June 23, 1775." The names and dates on this tree seem to be as old as any, but made with a different instrument from that which cut the names on the first tree, and they are not so well executed. These dates from the 13th to the 23d, prove that the party encamped at that place ten days. About fifty yards up the river from the first named tree, there stands a beech with a name now illegible, cut in the bark over the date 1779. On the same tree, the name of H. Lynch is carved over the date 1796.

        Where are now those pioneers? They have ceased to follow the deer, the elk, the bear, the buffalo and beaver, which were then abundant in this region; and their children are hunters no more. The animals which their fathers pursued, have become extinct. The wilderness they traversed, now blooms with the arts and refinements of civilized life.

        Caves are very numerous in this county. Some of them would be regarded as considerable curiosities, if there were no mammoth cave. About six miles northeast of Bowling-Green, there is a cave with a perpendicular descent from the north of about thirty or forty feet. At the bottom are vast quantities of human bones. How and when they were put there, can of course only be conjectured. About three miles south of Bowling-Green, and on the turnpike to Nashville, is the Cave Mill, in level barrens. A creek breaks up from the ground, runs about two hundred yards, then disappears in the cave; and, after a course under ground of a mile and a half, again appears, and runs into Barren river. Immediately under the roof of the cave, Mr. Shanks has a water grist mill and wool-carding machine, with no covering but the rocky arch above. Directly over the mill, and within a few feet of the precipice, runs the turnpike over which thousands pass, many of them unconscious of the deep chasm beneath.

        MOUNDS.-There are very many in this county, mostly near watercourses- some of them quite large. They all contain human bones. In one of them was found a smooth, circular, well polished flint, near two inches broad, three-fourths of an inch thick, and weighing one-fourth of a pound, apparently made as a four-ounce weight. On the north bank of the river, near Bowling-Green, are a great many ancient graves,-some of them with a row of stones set on edge around them. These graves, with a large mound on which large trees are growing, are included within the remains of an old fort, built of earth. Some ancient relics were found here in 1838, and are now in the possession of Lloyd Berry, Esq. One of these is in the shape of a bowl, hollow, and composed of earth and pounded shells; and seems to have been burnt or dried in the sun. Its color is dark. The other two are composed of the same materials, but of lighter color, and in the shape of flat-bottomed candlesticks, the stem being shorter and solid; the upper surface of the bottom slightly concave; the under surface convex, and about half an inch in thickness.

        On the south bank of Greene river, about twelve miles from Bowling-Green, is an old fort, situated on a hill or bluff, inaccessible save on the south-west corner. The remainder of the hill is level on top, with perpendicular, or, rather, overhanging cliff or bluff, about thirty feet high, Near the centre, lengthwise, of this hill, is an old fort, which seems to have been erected with stone and earth. The walls are now about one foot high.

        The annexed is a rough sketch of the hill and fort. One of the projections from the fort is twenty feet, the other thirty feet in length-each fifteen feet wide. The area of the fort seven acres. There is nothing to indicate who were its tenants, nor when it was erected. From it, to the distance of more than a mile, there is a line of mounds, diminishing in size as they recede from the fort, perhaps showing a running fight, and the most bloody contest nearest the fort. There are other ancient works in the county, which have not been examined.

        Eight miles east of Bowling-Green, there is in the level open barrens, a large deep sink, about fifty yards wide, and a hundred yards in length. On the south side, the descent is near twenty feet; on the north, it is one hundred and fifty feet deep. Large river trees are growing in it. Shortly after the first settlement here, a blind horse fell in this sink. A hungry wolf had the folly to jump in after its prey, and being unable to get out, was found and shot. Since that time it has been known by the name of the "Wolf Sink."

        Four miles above Bowling-Green, on the river, is McFadin's old station. Some anecdotes are connected with it, one of which we relate: A dashing young Virginian came to the station, and began his brag that he could outrun any man "in all Kaintuck." McFadin, who was a quizzical old genius, inquired whether he would run barefooted or shod, and was promptly answered "barefoot." Let me fix time and place, said McFadin, and I will risk a gallon of whisky I find a man to beat you. The bet was made and the day fixed. The old hunter Raymer was sent for. The parties repaired to the track selected by McFadin. It was probably the most flinty bed in all the country. At the word the racers started. They had gone but a few yards when the Virginian was compelled to hold up. But as Raymer's feet were bard as a buffalo's, he kept ahead like a quarter horse, to the great amusement of old McFadin and his friends. That ground has since been called " Raymer's Race Track."

        JOSEPH ROGERS UNDERWOOD was born in Goochland county, Virginia, on the 24th of October, 1791. He was the eldest child of John Underwood, who for many years represented that county in the legislature, during those periods in the history of that State when political honors were rarely bestowed but as the reward of personal merit. His mother, Frances Rogers, was a daughter of George Rogers, of Caroline county, Va., a gentleman eminently distinguished for the purity of his life and the integrity of his character.

        The parents of young Underwood being in humble circumstances, and having a large family of other children to provide for, were induced to commit him to his maternal uncle, Mr. Edward Rogers, a soldier of the revolution, who had emigrated to Kentucky as early as 1783. He brought his youthful charge to Barren county in the spring of 1803, and nobly did he fulfil the promises made to the parents of the little boy, "to be unto him as a father."

        The Greene river country was then a wilderness, and contained but few schools, and those not of the best class. Joseph was placed at school with the Rev. John Howe, near Glasgow. About a year thereafter he was placed under the tuition of the Rev. Samuel Findley at Danville, and afterwards at Lancaster, and after that with McMurrel, who taught a French and Latin school at Glasgow. Having under these several teachers acquired the rudiments of his education, he was sent by his uncle to the Transylvania University, at which, in 1811, he finished it.

        On leaving the university he commenced the study of the law in Lexington, with Robert Wickliffe, Esq., and under the instructions of this learned and accomplished lawyer, he completed his course of elementary reading.

        About this time Kentucky was thrown into great excitement by the war with Great Britain, then raging with violence on the Canada border. The melancholy affair of the river Raisin had deprived the state of some of its best citizens, and plunged the commonwealth in mourning. The impulse to arms was universal, and pervaded all classes. In March, 1813, a company of volunteers being about to be raised in Lexington, to be commanded by Captain John C. Morrison, and attached to the regiment of Colonel William Dudley, young Underwood was the first to volunteer on that occasion, and seizing the colors, marched alone with the musicians down the ranks of the assembled citizens. This little incident caused him to be elected lieutenant. He proceeded with the regiment to which he belonged to join the northern army, commanded by General Harrison. He was in Dudley's defeat on the 5th of May, 1813, when the captain of his company being killed, the command devolved on Lieutenant Underwood. The remnant of Dudley's regiment were compelled to surrender as prisoners of war. Lieutenant Underwood after being badly wounded, and the ball still remaining in the wound, was stripped of his clothing and compelled to run the gauntlet. He and his comrades were thrown into the old fort built by General Wayne on the left hank of the river, and forced to sit down in the mud and water, and whilst thus confined, the infuriated savages stalked round upon the embankment that overlooked them, and singled out and shot down their victims. In the meantime, an angry controversy arose among the Indians themselves, whether they should make one general slaughter of all the prisoners or not. It was a moment of intense and terrible interest to the poor soldiers who were within hearing of it, helplessly awaiting the issue. Mercy, however, prevailed, and their lives were spared. Lieutenant Underwood was finally released on his parol, and returned home to his uncle in the summer of 1813.

        In the fall of 1813, Mr. Underwood obtained license to practice law, and settled in Glasgow. He rose rapidly, and soon stood in the first rank of his profession.

        In 1816 he was elected to represent Barren county in the legislature; and continued to represent that county in the same body, for four successive years. In March, 1817, he married Miss Eliza M. Trotter, daughter of Mr. John Trotter, of Glasgow; and grand-daughter, on her mother's side, of the Rev. David Rice. This lady died in July, 1835.

        Mr. Underwood having removed, in the year 1823, to Bowling-Green, was elected, in 1825, to represent the county of Warren in the legislature. He served two years in that body with great distinction and eminent usefulness, and then retired to private life and the practice of his profession. In 1828 he was a candidate for lieutenant-governor, but the vote resulted in the election of Mr. Breathitt. In the same year he was commissioned as a judge of the court of appeals; which office he held until February, 1835, when he resigned, and was elected to Congress. He continued, with high reputation, to serve as a member of Congress until 1843, when he again retired to private life. In August, 1845, he was elected, by a very large majority, to represent the county of Warren in the legislature, and was made speaker of the house of representatives. At the session of the legislature of 1846-7, he was elected by that body to succeed the Hon. James T. Morehead as senator in the Congress of the United States from Kentucky.

        In his politics, Mr. Underwood has always been a firm and consistent whig. In 1824, and again in 1844, he was one of the presidential electors of the State, and both times cast his vote for Henry Clay. As a lawyer, Judge Underwood has few superiors in the State; his decisions, while on the bench of the court of appeals, being distinguished for their soundness and general equity. On the whole, it may be said that he stands deservedly conspicuous among the distinguished men of Kentucky. Learned as a jurist, experienced as a statesman, an ardent patriot, he is qualified to adorn any station to which the partiality of his countrymen may elevate him.

        Gen. JOSEPH WARREN, in memory of whom this county was named, was a distinguished patriot, and was one of the earliest of those who sealed with their blood the charter of their country's liberties. He was born at Roxbury, near Boston, in 1741. His father was a respectable farmer. Joseph entered Harvard University in 1755, being then fourteen years of age, and there established a character for talents, address, a generous, bold, and independent spirit, which his subsequent life only confirmed and rendered more striking. On leaving college, he studied medicine under the instruction of Dr. Loyd, an eminent physician of that day; and, upon the completion of his studies, commenced the practice. His affable manners, handsome person, and thorough skill in his profession, soon rendered him a general favorite; and his success was rapid and complete. Possessing fine talents as an orator and writer, he soon became prominent as a politician and public speaker; and, on two occasions, was appointed to deliver orations on the 5th of March-the anniversary of the Boston massacre. In that brilliant constellation of talent which then gave the New England States an enviable intellectual prominence in the colonies, Dr. Warren was a star of the first magnitude. An ardent patriot, he was foremost among those who took measures to arouse the country to resistance, against the aggressions of the mother country. On the 18th of April, 1775, discovering the design of the British commander to seize our public stores at Concord, he instantly dispatched faithful messengers, who removed everything except three old cannon, a few gun-carriages, and sixty barrels of flour: these the British soldiery destroyed. He participated in the battle of Lexington, where, while pressing on the enemy with daring impetuosity, he had a lock of hair, close to his ear, shot away by a musket ball. He was the president of the provincial congress of Massachusetts, of 1775; and, on the 14th day of June, was appointed, by that body, major-general of the military force of the province. When congress adjourned, he rode to the camp; and, mingling familiarly with the soldiers, infused into them his own undaunted spirit. In the memorable battle of the 17th of June, on Bunker Hill, when their ammunition was expended, the Americans, after having thrice repulsed the charge of the British regulars, were compelled to retire. Gen. Warren was one of the last to leave the entrenchments, and had proceeded from the works but a few steps, when he was struck by a random shot, and instantly expired. Congress passed a resolution to erect a monument to his memory, which long occupied the site of the present Bunker Hill monument.


James R. Dangel
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