I will lift up my eyes to the hills- from whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
"Do not go where the path may lead. go instead where there is no path and leave a trail"-Ralph Waldo Emerson
From Abbott Mountain to Abner Mountain-David to Dinwood-Bosco to Buffalo, and Jacks Creek to the Mouth Of Johns Creek !
In the latter portion of 1790, and the outset of 1791 there was not one Caucasian living in the Big Sandy Valley!
Vancouver's and Harman's Station had both been abandoned- Vancouver's men, who had been left by their employer had departed to the Kanawha for provisions and abandoned their blockhouse on the "point", between the Tug and Louisa Forks of Sandy. This was in the early spring of 1790. Mathias Harman probably decided to leave his base at the mouth of Johns Creek in March 1790, as has been derived from the
evidence found in the Jenny Wiley record. Now occurred one of those historical events,while of unknown importance to a researcher yet is clouded through the absence of a record.
William Robert Leslie descended the Tug Fork of Sandy and
attempted to settle down at the mouth of Pond Creek near the
present site of South Williamson. He set up a "lean to", and
commenced preparations to clear the virgin bottomlands, but due to
Indian hostility had to return to Virginia. The next year, 1790, he
returned, but rather than attempting to settle at the mouth of Pond
Creek,he continued on up Pond, over the tributary waters of Tug and
Louisa Forks to Johns Creek, thence down Johns Creek to near the
present Gulnare where he set up the Leslie Settlement.
Tradition in the Leslie family states that when Leslie built his
cabin on Johns Creek there were no settlers closer than the junction
of the Tug and Louisa Forks. If this is true, then the Leslie's
must have come to Johns Creek in early 1790. This would mean also,
that Harman had abandoned his station before Vancouver's men left
his, and-that while Vancouver's settlers were still holding out at
the "point" that Leslie came to Johns Creek.
The truths surrounding these first efforts of settlement are
blurred by time and the absence of written account The problem of
whom was first may never be resolved by research. William Ely, in his
"The Big Sandy Valley", states Leslie was probably the first
permanent settler in the valley.
Immediately before the first permanent settler had built a cabin
surveyors were rambling all over the valley and acquiring land. In
1797 John Graham assumed claim to a large domain around the present
Prestonsburg. Graham, who rose up to great influence in the valley,
constructed a home in the year 1805 near the present community of
Emma. In the meanItime, others had arrived. John Spurlock built the
first house on the present site of Prestonsburg. The Harmans and
others returned in 1791, (probably in the fall) to Blockhouse Bottom
and re-erected their blockouse on this last Harman settlement.
Daniel Harman and the Auxiers, who arrived in 1795, appeared to be
the guiding spirits assisted and counseled, we are most certain further
research will establish, by the frontiersman, Daniel Boone. The
elder Mathias Harman did not become a permanent settler here, and
died in Virginia.
While settlers were trickling into the Sandy area in greater
quantities, surveyors and land grabbers were experiencing a field
day. Col. John Preston of Virginia accumulated deeds of conveyance to
untold thousands of acres of Sandy bottoms, but never appeared to
have a great deal of interest in his properties. He named Harry
Stratton, who resided nearby the present Ivel, his agent, and
Stratton dealt, bartered, and frittered away at the immense estate
till it was greatly reduced. This alienation of the title to the
Preston barony, enabled newly arrived settlers to acquire bottom
land. John Sellards arrived in 1794, and in order to develop an
estate of bottomlands, had to locate along the Buffalo Fork of
Johns Creek, so completely were the bottoms elsewhere surveyed and
It would be foolish to even attempt a narration of every colonist
who came to Floyd before 1800. For one thing, the court house burned
in 1808 and ruined invaluable records. Historians can not thus far
agree on the right tax listings for the Big Sandy in 1793. C. Mitchel Hall, in
his "Johnson County" establishes from the knowledge harvested
through research to the present, what appears to represent the
rightful listing. Howevermuch writers might differ as to whom lived
here, they are in agreement that there were few, and that families
were quickly coming in ever growing numbers.
Here, prior to 1800, in the present Floyd County were Spurlock,
Harman, Mayo, Auxier, Sellards, Leake, Witten, Johns, Lackey, May,
Stratton, McGuire, Layne, Gearhart and countless other people. We
can add to this list other people possibly as research progresses.
At or shortly after this time, arrived Hager, Porter, Harris,
Hatcher, Hall, Morgan, Davidson, Meaders, Fitzpatrick, Amyx, Keith,
Sullivan, Damron, Honaker, Haws, Hackworth, Young, Burchett, and
Stephens. The Lackey's were here early, and Gen. Alexander Lackey
who hailed from Pittsylvania County, Virginia, was the most
prominent member. He occupied- after the creation of Floyd County,
almost every office within the gift of the people. He knew the
Mayo's of Albemarle County, Virginia, and was a close-knit ally of
Harry B. Mayo, who had arrived here before 1800. Foreseeing that the
young Floyd County would call for a scholary gentleman for clerk,
Lackey called for William James Mayo, brother of Harry B. Mayo to emigrate
here. Shortly after his arrival, William Jones Mayo became clerk.
Marital ties of the Stratton and Mayo families enabled them to
command political supremacy in Floyd County for years.
James Shannon Layne of Amherst County, Virginia arrived near the
present day Betsy Layne about 1796. he had married Caty Hager,
daughter of John Hager, who himself immigrated here a few years
later. Col. Harry Stratton was here and located nearby the mouth of
Toms Creek, as was Cornelius McGuire, the first Methodist preacher
who settled near the same place. McGuire constructed a cabin nearby,
but soon moved to upper Johns Creek He preached the first Methodist
sermon in the valley at the house of Henry Stratton, near the
present Ivel in 1796. Tandy Stratton, who had married Mildred Layne, a daughter of William S. Layne, and a sister to James S. followed his brother·in-law- if
indeed, he did not arrive at the same time. Also came Solomon Stratton, veteran of the Gen.George Rogers Clark Illinois Expedition, as did Richard Stratton, his son.
Thomas Johns, who had married Nancy Layne, sister of James S.
followed after his in-laws, and founded an influential family.
The valley of Beaver Creek was settled slowly, but the earliest
families were Sizemore, Turner, Dingus Salisbury, Allen, May,
Martin, Gearhart, and Walker. The act creating a new county to be
called Floyd in honor of Col. John Floyd, the esteemed Indian
combatant was authorized in 1799, to be effective June 1, 1800. Dec.
27, 1799, the Governor nominated John McIntire. James Young, and
Jesse Spurlock as Justices of the Court of Quarterly Sessions. James
Harris, Neely McGuire, Henry Stratton, Goodwin Lycans, James
Euington and Barnet Wording were appointed the first Justices of the
Peace. A few of the surnames of the earliest immigrants have vanished and
no longer exist. The newly arriving settlers after 1820 represented by men like Jacob
Goble, founding father of the Goble family were every bit as energetic as the earlier group, and they cleared the ground, constructed homes, mills and shops.
John Graham had a store near the present community of Emma, and his early ledger, At present in the possession of Tom Graham Dingus of Prestonsburg is a priceless record book of the earliest trailblazers. The listings demonstrate that the buyers came in from all regions of the present Pike, Magoffin, and Johnson Counties.
Soon after additional stores followed and goods slowly become more
plentiful. Ginseng, pelts, and fur skins comprised the principal
monetary system, but this kind of economic system soon changed. The
great herds of hogs, were fattened up on the unlimited acorn crop
and drives were made to Lynchburg, Virginia. The Laynes, some time
prior to the civil war drove a herd of 2000 hogs to the Lynchburg market,
being gone approximately sixty days on the journey.
Early pioneers proclaimed that when they came to Floyd the river was overlapped in places by the cane. This cane ... Indigenous only to the Louisa Fork and parcels southward, before long began to disappear under the continual chopping by the colonists until today only isolated remainders are existing in the valley. The monster elms that leaned over the river were cut down, and before long it was practical for steam boats to commence navigation, which they did in 1837. The advent of the steam boat kicked off a brand-new day in Big Sandy, bringing a higher volume of trade goods, expedited traveling and added to the cultural diversions of the time. There were steamboats that brought in trade goods and shipped out ginseng from the many storehouses. A few boats were equipped with a photographer's dark room. The images existing today from these boat studios afford us first-class impressions of our ancestors and their buyers. Because the river was open for boats, it, naturally, could be used by raftsmen. The raftiing of the virgin timber and the floating of it to Catlettsburg started out early on, expanded till this business enterprise was the primary industrial occupation of Big Sandians. Some time after the Civil War the receiving town of Catlettsburg could boast of being one of the greatest purchasers of hardwood and poplar in the world .
What of the economic conditions of the people of Floyd prior to the Civil War? They resided in a semipioneer state for many decades, but steamboating helped to improve this circumstance slightly. Everywhere the principle of living on the numerous farms conformed to a sterotyped monotomy of sussistence labor. The homeowner made his article of clothing, furniture, farming implements and tools. He, if unable to purchase the necessary wares of the pottery, fabricated from soft poplar or linden tree wood the vessels necessary for the household. From the easily available wood of the forest he made his plow, with the exception of the iron point. He tanned the hides of oxen to provide leather in the family shoe making work. He made from weaten straw, pre-soaked in water his summertime hat. The women of the home carded and spun out yarn. From this yarn came the "jeans" material for their dothing. Silkworm refinement was brought in early and simply died out about 1875. Only the well-heeled could afford the more discriminating imported wares, and although a few families could afford trips by steamboat to the interior cities for articles of clothing, the large majority of folks existed as has been aforementioned, through the production of their own loom and the final result of one's own home fabrication. News travelled slowly in Sandy, but as a rule the people were well informed. The sound and fury of national debate on slaveholding concerned the folks of Floyd every bit as much as it did the Bluegrass counties since Floyd had roughly the mountain county's median in the number of slaves. Morgan Lackey dispatched as a representative from Floyd to the commonwealth Constitutional Convention of 1849, participated in that public debate on the state level. He served to determine the frame of the Constitution that came out of the convention, and the slavery provisions were merely partially satisfactory to him, but suggested to his constituents that this constitution represented the most favorable available through conciliation and compromise.
It has oftentimes been said the mountain counties of Eastern Kentucky were overwhelming in favor of the Union, because they held few slaves. This is to be recognized in the example of Floyd with serious uncertainty. There were a multitude of slaves in the county as the obtainable records attest, though no large properties as in the southern cotton baronies. Great numbers of Floyd Countians went into the armies of the South and of the North, but the sentiment of the people seemed to be with the Southern cause. The feelings of the leading families were with the South-the Mays, Meade, Mayo, Fitzpatrick, Hatcher, Johns, and Davidson families being good examples. This sentiment served to crystallize the attachment of the voting population to the Democratic party, and, in the main. it has remained in the Democratic column.
As the sound and fury of National debate increased, Floyd County, like the Nation, awaited with bated breath, the moment when the two sides, becoming tired of talk, would inevitably throw themselves at each other in the grapple of battle.
Floyd County, at the date of it's establishment in 1799, made up the entire Big Sandy Valley and much adjoining territory. This wilderness,sparsley inhabited and abundant with wildlife, was named for Col. John Floyd, early pioneer and American Indian battler. Floyd, the 40th county to be conceived, made up portions of a trio of other counties.
The constitutional act establishing Floyd County,
authorized by the Kentucky legislative assembly on December 13 1799, and reads as follows:
Section 1. Be it enacted by the general assembly, that from, and after the first day of June, 1800, All that part of the County of Fleming, Montgomery,and Mason, included in the following country, to wit: Beginning at the mouth of Beaver Creek, near the narrows of Licking; thence north 30 degrees east to the Mason line; thence with said line to a point opposite the head of Littly Sandy; thence a straight direction to the forks of the Great Sandy; thence along the division line between this state and the state of Virginia to the head waters of the main branch of Kentucky; thence down the same to the mouth of Quicksand; thence a straight line to the fifty mile tree on the state road; thence along said road in a directiion to Mount Sterling; to Blackwater; thence down the same to the mouth thereof; thence down Licking to the beginning, shall be one distinct county, and called and known and known by the name of Floyd.
Floyd is one of Kentucky's largest counties comprising three hundred and ninety-nine square miles.(I have often wondered why they could not have "squeezed" out one more square mile?) The 1950 census numbers 52,000 population with the most recent 2010 census listing 39,451 population. The primary drainage of the county is the Levisa Fork, (flowing North) and named by Dr. Thomas Walker during his journey to the Big Sandy, into which flow the tributaries of Abbott Creek and Middle Creek,Beaver Creek, Mud Creek, and Johns creek. The elevation ranges from 641 feet above sea level at Prestonsburg to 2,130 feet on a few of the taller peaks. The main economic base has forever represented coal mining, and the output of natural gas and some oil. Floyd County went through the common phases of development of a new territory. First, the hunter and trapper, and then the surveyors, next the pioneer settlers. These early trailblazers witnessed the woodlands repleted with all varieties of game during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Bear, deer, wild turkeys were killed in large numbers. Provisions were brought in to the settlement at Prestonsburg by pack-mules and by push-boats, and in 1837 a steamboat came up the Big Sandy to Prestonsburg. All journeys were made either by horseback or on foot. The dense woodlands and absence of roads would have made any other type of transportation virtually impossible.
Prestonsburg, the county seat, is the oldest town in the Big Sandy Valley. The earliest survey of Prestonsburg was made on May 3, 1797, although, the Big Sandy Valley was part of Mason County. John Graham was at that time deputy surveyor of Mason County. The original map of prestonsburg may be found now in the Floyd county Clerk's records in deed book "A" page 66. when Floyd County was formed in 1799, Prestonsburg became the county seat-this gives Prestonsburg the distinction of being the first county seat town on the Big Sandy River !
Before The Paleface Came
The chronicle of Floyd County commences in the bleak geologic past,not years, centuries or millenniums, but innumerable eons past. In that hazy age there were no Big Sandy, Appalachian Mountains or Cumberlands-not even a Kentucky. The Earth was comprised of mist. fog, fire, and smoke. What solid ground existed was continually repositioning below the great force of destructive shift, and across this pre-historic world smoke belched forth from countless volcanic crevices. Time passed by. Not clock time as we distinguish it, simply time that was incapable of being measured with any relationship to the normal actions of our spirit. The brainpower of human beings, alarmed from the seeming eternity of the geological past appalled the measurings of periods of time,eons and ages. Their duration was vague, being so close to incomprehensiveness that the variations of a few million of years would have no meaning. And while this time, of which we bear much difficulty in grasping, elapsed, there slowly came forth from the obscure a extraordinary continent. It was not America-it bore no identity. Indeed, it hardly had a form, for it was in a period of time of intense and unexpected shift, but out of this grinding of the planet was at long last birthed our continent as we recognize it. In that respect was America, the Appalachian Mountains, the Great Plains, and the Rockies. Sloping westward from the peaks of the Appalachian Mountains were the Cumberlands -their bodies of water empty into the Ohio River through glorious valleys of which the Big Sandy was one. It was indeed exquisite, this virgin valley, and it's beauty was that of the first born. from innumerable springs in Southwest Virginia and Southern West Virginia, it comes forth from the ground. Picking up and clasping to its breast tributary after tributary, it meanders its path North and West,eventually discharging its many waters into the Ohio River at what is now Catlettsburg. Into this valley there arrived, centuries ago, a subspecies of people that historians have named the Mound Builders. They provided as evidence of their occupancy tumuli of ground in which rest their deceased. Possessing no implements for excavating a grave, they placed the body upon the bare ground, turned up soil with a tomahawk, transported it in a basket and overlaid the corpse.as other people of the tribe passed away, disposal of the body was prepared adjoining to or on top of the earlier places of internment and in the same manner, it was overlaid with mother earth. Eventually the mound rose to great dimensions. These mounds exist or did exist across an extended expanse contiguous to or on the Big Sandy. Below the nowadays city of Ashland along the Ohio River bottomlands and close to the mouth of Big Paint Creek in Johnson County, mounds were discovered by early adventurers. There is a great mound nowadays near Salyersville, Ky and it is the furthermost south of those in the mountain area. By the evidence of the retrieved artifacts, we deduct that the Mound Builders were a peace-loving race. They lived essentially an agricultural life with hunting filling a very minor role in their living. Around the year 1000 A. D., the bison trickled into the Ohio Valley, reproduced until their actual counts and the simplicity of their pursuit transformed the farming Mound Builder into a huntsman. This process of modification in lifetime quests from an agricultural existence to that of seminomadic hunting, represents the reversal of an historical pattern. Federations of tribes commence as huntsmen, advance to farming as their culture progresses, but in this example, the appearing of the bison transposed the customary procedure. For a lengthy time the Mound Builder hunted down the animals, and we might opine that he gave thanks to the Great Spirit for the bountifulness of these beasts. The protection of the Mound Builder was not to endure. From somewhere, possibly from Asia by way of a no-longer present dry land span, there moved into the American continent a new race. He was copper colored, crude, savage, and vicious. He delighted in the exhilaration of the chase and warfare. Slowly he spread out across the wild, always triumphant over the Mound Builder when it concerned conflict. Somewhere in that great mid-continent area of the Mississippi Valley the devastation of the aborigines was brought about. Whether this death was the result of one huge conflict or the gradual torment and annihilation of a nation, we are not sure, although the legends of the North American Indian guide us to think the previous. Close to the middle of the 17th Century, the Iroquios, under a distinguished leader, set about to seize remaining clans, and after conquering- they eradicated! Whenever, by some fortune, remainders of a clan were permitted to live, it was in servitude and degradation. These Iroquios annihilated the Hurons in 1649, and in a few years they eradicated the Neutral nations and Eries. The beaten back and ravaged Shawnees gave up their ancestral home base on the Cumberland, Kentucky, and Big Sandy Rivers, and eventually inhabited an area on the North side of the Ohio. The Delawares were pushed ever westward until the Wyandots granted them refuge. The final major conflict between the Iroquois and the shattered remainders of the opposing tribes, was at Sandy Island neighboring Louisville. No observer penned the chronological record of this battle, but from the vast heap of bones discovered by early explorers, it must have been of some magnitude. The Iroquios were immediately unconditional lords of a immense segment of the interior continent, and feudatory clans were suffered to live in bondage and scorn. It is hopeless to describe the repugnance of this conflict for the Iroquios were the most ferocious of the barbarians. They did not simply defeat-they obliterated. They didn't only conquer-they eradicated. The repugnance of this conquering was sufficient to stun even the sensitivities of the conquered, who were themselves savage and brutal, and the horror of it was so much that the American Indians shunned the Big Sandy for generations. Even once it was secure, long after the great power and banded together arrangement of the Iroquios started to decline, the Shawnee, Delaware, and Cherokee may hunt awhile, encamp temporarily or cut across the valley, but to once again reside in the Big Sandy for good was to them inconceivable. Here in the dim woodlands of Kentucky were too many rememberings of the painful conflict. Roaming bands of North American Indians, Wyandots, Cherokees, Shawnees, Miami, Delaware, and others hunted down here. They set up interim encampments, hung around for a spell and moved on. These aborigines were avid visitors of one another while at peace, and between the Tennessee and Ohio towns through Kentucky and the Big Sandy Valley were exchanged countless bandings. Present was a outstanding variety of game, and once the border district of Southwest Virginia started to fill up with people, there was pillage and slaughter. Of the Toteros, we possess some evidence of their occupancy. We wish there was additional, as they were more noble than their red brothers of other federations of tribes. The Oldest mention of them was by the Ead of Bellomont in 1699, to which allusion was made in an earlier page. They sustained a settlement near Hager Hill, and one at Cliff, and another on Johns Creek near McCombs in Pike County. Possibly others existed, of which the disregard of chronicle has caused unremembrance. Along Johns Creek, near a spring called by early settlers, Eureka Springs, and situated on the latter-day Thomas James farm at the mouth of the River Branch, they possessed a modest but permanent camp. It was a great deal older than the Hager Hill and Cliff encampments, and may have been wiped out by the conquering Iroquios or some other clans. Farther up Johns Creek are shows of Indian encampments,. and at a spot on a high plateau between the head waters of the White Oak Fork of Buffalo and little Brushy, a tributary of Johns Creek, are remains of an primitive native American ceremonial ground. Early settlers called the point the Coal Pit Point, from the abundant mass of charcoal existing. The strange and unique arranging of rocks on the plateau as left behind by the Indians has been rained by inquisitive visitors. The Big Sandy bore a special enchantment for the Indians and the origin and wellspring of this reverence was unidentifiable and mysterious to the Caucasians. The Shawnee called the Big Sandy River "Michechobekasepe" ",which implied "River' of Great Mystery". What this mystery personified, we do not recognize, but down through the years by oral tradition in the Shawnee federations of tribes might have been conveyed a tale that deeply touched them. Close to the mouth of Big Paint Creek in Johnson County, was an extraordinary number of Indian paintings on the huge trees existing in early days. These embodied strange pictures, unique not in depicting, but upon the surface chosen to show their graphics, which were giant trees. These trees were stripped of their bark, either on one side or both, and on the unprotected surface of these trees were painted, invariably in red or black.. Images of fowl and animals. Nowhere else in America were such drawings observed upon trees in such fashion. and this suggests that certain tribes, traveling to the point. as a part of a spiritual ceremony associated with the "River of Great Mystery", could have drawn these images.. However long-term the tradition had been prevalent, whether it represented the exercise of one or more or many a federations of tribes, we don't know. If we knew why the Indians drew these images here in such a tremendous quantity on such an peculiar backdrop, we may, possibly be at the source of the Native American's reverence and awe of the valley. To us, it is a great mystery, indeed, and to our mind comes no glimmering of the significance of this Indian custom. Evidence of ceremonial grounds may be found, diversely in the valley, normally upon high tablelands at the ending of ridges. Here their departed were laid to rest and spiritual rites were performed, but at these places it comprised, we're rather positive, simply a primitive people supplicating and attempting to pacify the Great Spirit, and no evidence of drawings similar to those at the mouth of Big Paint Creek were recovered.