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Early Kentucky History, Part 4: Meriwethers set up camp in Kentucky

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After invasions, attacks and the end to the Revolutionary War, Nicholas Meriwether began to stake his claims in Kentucky.

By Ron Van Stockum

1782 – “The Year of Blood”
Marked for death, with faces painted black, Dr. John Knight and his commanding officer, Col. William Crawford, awaited their fate. As described in my previous column, Crawford was burned at the stake with Knight being forced to watch the ordeal.
Dr. Knight managed to survive by escaping from his captors, making his way back to Fort Pitt “in the Most Deplorable Condition Man could be in and be alive.”
Later, Knight, in 1792, became one of the original trustees of Shelbyville, and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
In consenting to the marriage of his daughter in 1818, he provided a testament to his own character, unaffected by an experience that could have shattered most individuals.  “This is to Certify that I have agreed to give my Daughter Effey Winlock Knight to Dr. John Allen and I sincerely wish she may prove a good wife, for his sake, for her own sake, but above all for the sake of Jesus Christ.”
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was not in the lexicon in those days.
August 16:  An invading force of about 50 American and Canadian Loyalists and 300 Native Americans, having crossed the Ohio River with the object of eliminating Kentucky settlements while British help was still available, attacked Bryan’s Station, about five miles northeast of Lexington.
August 17:  The invading force, being unsuccessful in drawing the settlers out of their stockade, killed cattle, burned buildings and destroyed crops outside the stockade.  Then they withdrew.
August 18:  Reinforcements consisting of 182 militia led by Col John Todd, with Cols. Stephen Trigg and Daniel Boone commanding components, set off in pursuit of the invading force.
August 19: Colonel Todd’s militia caught up with the enemy at the Licking River, about 10 miles south of present Mt. Olive.  The invading force, now with the strength of about 200, awaited them on high ground across the river.
Battle of Blue Licks:  The Kentuckians crossed the Licking at a ford and assailed the enemy but were driven back in disarray.  It was the worst defeat for the Kentuckians during the frontier war.  American leaders Todd and Trigg were killed.  Daniel Boone, who tried to organize the retreat of the Kentuckians, survived, but he lost the second of his sons, Isreal Boone, in battle. About 60 of their number were killed and eleven were captured but survived. About ten of the invading force were killed.
 

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1783
September 3
:  The Treaty of Paris brought an end to the American Revolutionary War.
 

1784
June 11:
  Nicholas Meriwether returned to Louisville with his family. In a letter to his father-in-law and uncle, Captain Meriwether, he described in subdued terms his trip down the river: “An agreeable passage of seventeen days, the water being very low.” After discussing arrangements for the purchase of boats he strongly recommended: “By no means take aney Stock on Board the Boat your familey comes in. Sail all night unless exceeding dark & be upon the way earley in the mornings when you do stop, & stay but little time at a place.”
The threat of Native American attacks, especially from the north bank of the Ohio, was still very real, and Nicholas, whose trip had been free of interference, wanted his father-in-law, who was planning to bring his own family west, to benefit from his own experience.
Autumn:  Tragedy struck Nicholas Meriwether’s family. Between October 4 and November 18, 1784, four of his sons died and on November 27 the final blow was dealt by the death of their mother, Elizabeth.  Neither family papers nor public records reveal the causes of these tragic deaths, but Meriwether may have been premature in writing four months earlier that: “My two younges sons have Recovered [from] the Smallpox.”

1785
Patent [grant] issued to Peachy Purdy of Williamsburg, Virginia for 3,000 acres on the waters of Brashear’s Creek in present-day Shelby County.  Part of this land was incorporated into Allen Dale Farm in 1803.

1786
October 12:
A bond was signed for Meriwether’s marriage to Elizabeth Daniel, sister of the late Walker Daniel, renowned frontier lawyer and first attorney general for the District of Kentucky.  Daniel, who had founded Danville in 1781 and was a wealthy landowner, had been killed by Native-Americans in 1784.  
 

1787
January 27:
  Meriwether, his financial situation having been brightened considerably with his second marriage, purchased Squire Boone’s original Painted Stone settlement.

1789
October:  Meriwether purchased another tract, immediately to the south of Squire Boone’s original settlement, creating a 760-acre farm, which he proudly named Castle Hill.
Note on Castle Hill: The great-uncle of Meriwether (1749-1828), yet another Nicholas (1699-1739), married Mildred Thornton, second cousin of George Washington.  After the death of her husband, Mildred Meriwether married Dr. Thomas Walker, the famed explorer and surveyor.  Through this marriage, Walker came into possession of Castle Hill, an estate of 15,000 acres near Charlottesville, Va., part of the original grant from George II to Nicholas Meriwether (1667-1744).  Here in 1764 Walker built a mansion which stands today as one of the historic landmarks in this area.

1791
January 25:  Nicholas Meriwether signed a contract with Abraham Moore, obliging Moore to repair Meriwether’s grist mill and saw mill, at Squire Boone’s old Painted Stone Station, and operate them for two years, paying as rent half the earnings.  Also Moore was obliged to repair the Distillery and put it in good order and to pay Meriwether one hundred and fifty gallons of good strong whiskey such as shall command the best market price at the Town of Louisville. [Summarized from a legal document provided by Neal Hammon.]

Ron Van Stockum can be reached at ronvanstockum@mac.com. His latest book, Coming to Kentucky: Heaven is a Kentucky of a Place, just off the press, as well as his others, Kentucky and the Bourbons: the Story of Allen Dale Farm, Squire Boone and Nicholas Meriwether: Kentucky Pioneers, and Remembrances of World Wars,  may be purchased at Terhune’s Style Shop in Village Plaza Shopping Center in Shelbyville or from Amazon.com.

Marked for death, with faces painted black, Dr. John Knight and his commanding officer, Col. William Crawford, awaited their fate. As described in my previous column, Crawford was burned at the stake with Knight being forced to watch the ordeal.

Dr. Knight managed to survive by escaping from his captors, making his way back to Fort Pitt “in the Most Deplorable Condition Man could be in and be alive.”

Later, Knight, in 1792, became one of the original trustees of Shelbyville, and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In consenting to the marriage of his daughter in 1818, he provided a testament to his own character, unaffected by an experience that could have shattered most individuals. “This is to Certify that I have agreed to give my Daughter Effey Winlock Knight to Dr. John Allen and I sincerely wish she may prove a good wife, for his sake, for her own sake, but above all for the sake of Jesus Christ.”

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was not in the lexicon in those days.

August 16: An invading force of about 50 American and Canadian Loyalists and 300 Native Americans, having crossed the Ohio River with the object of eliminating Kentucky settlements while British help was still available, attacked Bryan’s Station, about five miles northeast of Lexington.

August 17: The invading force, being unsuccessful in drawing the settlers out of their stockade, killed cattle, burned buildings and destroyed crops outside the stockade. Then they withdrew.

August 18: Reinforcements consisting of 182 militia led by Col John Todd, with Cols. Stephen Trigg and Daniel Boone commanding components, set off in pursuit of the invading force.

August 19: Colonel Todd’s militia caught up with the enemy at the Licking River, about 10 miles south of present Mt. Olive. The invading force, now with the strength of about 200, awaited them on high ground across the river.

Battle of Blue Licks: The Kentuckians crossed the Licking at a ford and assailed the enemy but were driven back in disarray. It was the worst defeat for the Kentuckians during the frontier war. American leaders Todd and Trigg were killed. Daniel Boone, who tried to organize the retreat of the Kentuckians, survived, but he lost the second of his sons, Isreal Boone, in battle. About 60 of their number were killed and eleven were captured but survived. About ten of the invading force were killed.

1783

September 3: The Treaty of Paris brought an end to the American Revolutionary War.

1784

June 11: Nicholas Meriwether returned to Louisville with his family. In a letter to his father-in-law and uncle, Captain Meriwether, he described in subdued terms his trip down the river: “An agreeable passage of seventeen days, the water being very low.” After discussing arrangements for the purchase of boats he strongly recommended: “By no means take aney Stock on Board the Boat your familey comes in. Sail all night unless exceeding dark & be upon the way earley in the mornings when you do stop, & stay but little time at a place.”

The threat of Native American attacks, especially from the north bank of the Ohio, was still very real, and Nicholas, whose trip had been free of interference, wanted his father-in-law, who was planning to bring his own family west, to benefit from his own experience.

Autumn: Tragedy struck Nicholas Meriwether’s family. Between October 4 and November 18, 1784, four of his sons died and on November 27 the final blow was dealt by the death of their mother, Elizabeth. Neither family papers nor public records reveal the causes of these tragic deaths, but Meriwether may have been premature in writing four months earlier that: “My two younges sons have Recovered [from] the Smallpox.”

1785

Patent [grant] issued to Peachy Purdy of Williamsburg, Virginia for 3,000 acres on the waters of Brashear’s Creek in present-day Shelby County. Part of this land was incorporated into Allen Dale Farm in 1803.

1786

October 12: A bond was signed for Meriwether’s marriage to Elizabeth Daniel, sister of the late Walker Daniel, renowned frontier lawyer and first attorney general for the District of Kentucky. Daniel, who had founded Danville in 1781 and was a wealthy landowner, had been killed by Native-Americans in 1784.

1787

January 27: Meriwether, his financial situation having been brightened considerably with his second marriage, purchased Squire Boone’s original Painted Stone settlement.

1789

October: Meriwether purchased another tract, immediately to the south of Squire Boone’s original settlement, creating a 760-acre farm, which he proudly named Castle Hill.

Note on Castle Hill: The great-uncle of Meriwether (1749-1828), yet another Nicholas (1699-1739), married Mildred Thornton, second cousin of George Washington. After the death of her husband, Mildred Meriwether married Dr. Thomas Walker, the famed explorer and surveyor. Through this marriage, Walker came into possession of Castle Hill, an estate of 15,000 acres near Charlottesville, Va., part of the original grant from George II to Nicholas Meriwether (1667-1744). Here in 1764 Walker built a mansion which stands today as one of the historic landmarks in this area.

1791

January 25: Nicholas Meriwether signed a contract with Abraham Moore, obliging Moore to repair Meriwether’s grist mill and saw mill, at Squire Boone’s old Painted Stone Station, and operate them for two years, paying as rent half the earnings. Also Moore was obliged to repair the Distillery and put it in good order and to pay Meriwether one hundred and fifty gallons of good strong whiskey such as shall command the best market price at the Town of Louisville. [Summarized from a legal document provided by Neal Hammon.]

Ron Van Stockum can be reached at ronvanstockum@mac.com. His latest book, Coming to Kentucky: Heaven is a Kentucky of a Place, just off the press, as well as his others, Kentucky and the Bourbons: the Story of Allen Dale Farm, Squire Boone and Nicholas Meriwether: Kentucky Pioneers, and Remembrances of World Wars,  may be purchased at Terhune’s Style Shop in Village Plaza Shopping Center in Shelbyville or from Amazon.com.