MY WORD: Let’s review options before investing in statue of Boone

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By William Matthews

I have been interested for some time in Joe Ruble’s proposal to erect a statue in east end Shelbyville to counterbalance the beautiful horse statue in front of the fairgrounds (“Help us to honor Squire Boone,” Feb. 22). While I have some reservations about the need for such a status, I think Mr. Ruble has picked the wrong man.


The fact that he is distantly related to Squire would seem to me to be a conflict of interest. But that is beside the point; if we’re going to have a statue, Mr. Ruble is entitled to make the case for his candidate.

I would suggest we compare Squire Boone’s credentials for visible mortality with those of two other renowned Kentucky frontiersmen – Bland Williams Ballard and Benjamin Logan.

The case for Squire Boone

Summing up the case for Squire Boone rests largely on his leadership in helping to build and, later, to rebuild the Painted Stone station just off what is now the Eminence Pike. But, unlike Fort Harrod and Fort Boonesborough, Painted Stone did not last more than a few years.

To their credit Squire and his better known brother Daniel certainly blazed many a trail in Kentucky, and Squire was better at killing Indians than Daniel. But Squire was a poor businessman and was the target of many suits over faulty land deeds. In fact, he was imprisoned in Louisville for failure to pay his debts.

Later in life, Squire began skipping around. He left Kentucky and went to Mississippi, where he attempted and failed to build a settlement at Chickasaw Bluffs. Then it was on to St. Simons Island in Georgia and then to Pennsylvania, where he remained for three years. After a brief stint in Missouri with brother Daniel, he returned to Shelby County where he found Painted Stone “gone with the wind.” Discouraged and disillusioned, Squire left Shelby County for the last time in 1806.

Short of money and with few prospects of making any, Squire moved his family to Harrison County, Ind., where he built a grist mill, established a small town and returned to his first love of gunsmithing.

He died in 1815 and, in accordance with his wishes, he was buried in a cave on his property. That cave and grist mill are now among Indiana’s tourist attractions. The cave has been vandalized many times, and it is questionable whether any of Squire’s remains still exist in the case.

The case for Bland Williams Ballard

Bland Williams Ballard is buried in the heroes’ section of the Frankfort cemetery. Initially he was buried near his home at Scott Station, close to Simpsonville, in 1853, but a year later, at the Kentucky State Legislature’s request, his remains and those of his first wife, Elizabeth, were disinterred and then reinterred with many notable figures on hand for the ceremony.

Z. F. Smith’s History of Kentuckydevotes four pages to Ballard, identities him as a “premier soldier, scout, and spy, especially in the Wabash Expedition of Col. George Rogers Clark.”

In 1788 Ballard had the misfortune of arriving too late when Delaware Indians attacked the family cabin built by his father, also named Bland, on Tick Creek in eastern Shelby County.

The Indians murdered his father, his stepmother, and young Ballard’s sister and step-sister and scalped his youngest sister, Thursia, who survived and lived to an old age. Bland Williams Ballard took up the battle and, according to his testimony, killed six or seven of the attackers as he single-handedly drove them off.

A plaque denoting what became known as the Tick Creek Massacre is just off U.S. 60 about five miles east of Shelbyville and less than one mile from the site of the massacre.

Ballard later commanded a company of soldiers at the Battle of Tippecanoe and was with “Mad Anthony” Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

Still later, at the age of 53, he answered a call from Isaac Shelby, Kentucky’s first governor, to help fight the British in the War of 1812.

He was badly wounded and taken prisoner at the Battle of the River Raisin in Michigan. He escaped before the massacre later on of American prisoners who had been captured in that battle.

Bland Williams Ballard’s service to his country actually started during the Revolutionary War when, as a teenager, and then older, he fought the British. For that service he was rewarded with two land grants, one signed by Patrick Henry and the other by Edmund Randolph, governors of Virginia.

Not only was Bland the best-known Indian fighter of his era, but also he took a leading role in Shelby County’s civilian life. He was a leading advocate in the development of what we now call U. S. 60. He served as a trustee for the Shelbyville Academy and was elected to the Kentucky General Assembly on five different occasions.

In 1842, while Bland Williams Ballard was still living, Ballard County in western Kentucky was named in his honor. Also, the Henry County Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is named the Bland Ballard chapter.

Bland’s portrait, painted by renowned American painter, Chester Harding, hangs in a prominent location in the headquarters of the Filson Historical Society in Louisville.

Bland Williams Ballard’s name was suggested as a name for the new Collins High School, because it is built on land that Bland owned.

Bland’s descendants have done well by this famous pioneer. His grandson, Absalom, served western Shelby County as a magistrate for many years; his great, great, grandson was Shelbyville’s longest serving mayor; his great, great, great grandson is the only Shelby Countian to serve Kentucky as its attorney-general; and great, great, great, great grandson, Alan Matthews, is serving his fourth term on the Shelbyville City Council.

The case for Benjamin Logan

Col. and then Gen. Benjamin Logan, who was born in 1743 in Orange County, Va., achieved national fame during his younger years as a military leader and fierce Indian fighter. He served under Gen. George Rogers Clark on several occasions. He was appointed sheriff of Kentucky County at its first court session at Harrodsburg in April 1777.

Col. Logan raised two battalions of men from Lincoln County, where he lived, to fight under Gen. Clark in a raid on the Shawnee stronghold at Old Chillicothe, Ohio. Clark was eager to avenge the American’s disastrous defeat at Blue Licks in 1782, which is now regarded as the last military engagement of the Revolutionary War. Logan continued battling the Indians throughout the 1780s.

After Kentucky had been admitted to the Union in 1792, Logan purchased more than 2,000 acres of land on Bullskin Creek in Shelby County.

In 1796, he received a plurality of 21 votes of the 53 cast for governor but, in a second vote, lost the election to Gerrard. Logan could have challenged the result, but in an effort to prevent a crisis in the young government he refused to disturb the decision of the electors. This dispute probably led to the abandonment of the Electoral College system in Kentucky’s second constitution.

Logan was highly supportive of the young state, serving in six of the first seven General Assemblies.

Gen. Logan died at the age of 60 in 1802 and was buried with military honors on a hill overlooking Bullskin Creek. The General Assembly, which was in session, passed a resolution in mourning of his death and in memory of “the firm defender of his country.”

Logan County in western Kentucky is named in his honor.

The beautiful home lovingly restored and now owned by Dr. and Mrs. Richard N. Redinger on Old Brunerstown Road was built by Gen. Logan’s son.

Several years ago Lincoln County officials sought to reopen the gravesite of Benjamin Logan and transport his remains back to Lincoln County, where they were to reinter near the site of the original Fort Logan.

But the Shelby County Historical Society, in cooperation with county government, successfully rebuffed the effort.

Summing up, I suggest that the Shelby County Historical Society, headed by President Sherry Jelsma, appoint a committee to examine the merits of all three men in an effort to determine who is most deserving of a statue. If anyone is going to ask Shelby Countians to send in checks for $1,000, it’s best that we know we’re honoring the right person.

Finally, the lives of all three men are examined in detail in The New History of ShelbyCounty, from which I borrowed substantially in preparing this commentary. Copies of this book are no longer for sale, but they are available for perusal at the Shelby County Public Library.

William Matthews, a great, great, great grandson of Bland Williams Ballard, is a member of the Shelby County Historical Society and contributor to The New History of Shelby County.