Still working on this. Before I go any further I must give credit to Mr. Bill Thompson and his
book "The History and Legend of Breckinridge County, Kentucky". His love of the county was
obvious and his research priceless.
Map of Breckinridge County
Communities: Glen Dean Hudson Kirk
Falls of Rough Hardinsburg Axtel
Bewleyville Lilac Hill McDaniels
Cloverport Irvington Harned
Stephensport Union Star & Sample Kingswood
Local agencies to contact
Formation of County
Big Bill Hardin & the Fort - from History & Legend of Breckinridge County, Kentucky by Bill Thompson
No Indian tribes ever lived in Breckinridge County but rather used it as a hunting ground. In
many areas of the county evidence can still be found of their visits. There was an abundance
of wild life, a thick growth of hardwood trees, and numerous water sources.
Kentucky was the 15th state of the Union, joining in 1792. In the beginning it was Kentucky
County of Virginia. The Ohio River brought the first white settlers in 1780 who built Hardin's
Fort, later to become Hardinsburg. Of the pioneers to follow many came through the Cumberland
Gap from Virginia and North Carolina. When Kentucky became a state in 1792 Hardin County was
formed from Nelson County. Breckinridge County was formed from Hardin County in December of 1799.
It was named for John Breckinridge of Virginia who was a lawyer and a statesman. The first court
was held at Hardin's Fort in 21 April 1800 with Ben Comstock, James Jennings, and Edgar Pate
serving as judges. The first Grand Jury consisted of: Thomas Brown Sr., John Frank Sr., Peter
Peckenpaugh, Peter Claycomb, William E. Smith, Edward Smith, Jacob Bruner, Leonard Bruner,
Fredrick Claycomb, Richrd Abbott, Henry Hardin, Henry Ashfield, Lawrence W. Cannon, Richard
Scheckel, and George Bruner. The first case was against John Sterrett for public profanity.
Located in a valley 10 miles southwest of Hardinsburg is Glen Dean. Here settlers built one
of the first Christian churches in the county, Goshen Baptist Church. "Goshen" means a land of
peace and plenty. The first settlers were the Deans, Moormans, Owens, and Robertsons. It was
named in honor of one of the largest land holders in the county, William Johnson Dean. When the
railroad came through in 1891 it became a thriving little town. D.C. Moorman was the first chief
officer of the town and William Owen its first constable. Joe Mattingly built the first business
place, the Glendean House. Utopia School was built in 1893. It had two classrooms on the first
floor and the second floor was used as a town hall. Irene Board and Mary Moorman were the
teachers, Frank Lyons the principal. Enrollment was 224 but average attendance 100. Glen Dean
had one of the best blacksmiths in the state, J.A. Mattingly. R.T. Dempster and his son, P.E.
Dempster migrated to Glen Dean from Canada and provided had a medical practice and drug store.
The railroad left in 1941 and now there is no school, no doctor, no hotel etc. Daniel's Creek
and a few houses are all that remains.
Falls of Rough
Falls of Rough lies on the boundary between Breckinridge and Grayson Counties. Many Indian relics
have been found here from several different tribes. The Falls of Rough River must have played
a big part in their lives. In 1792 George Washington owned 5,000 acres in the area. White men
harnessed the power of the falls in 1790 and built a mill there. The first settler there was
George Wilson from North Carolina who built the first dam there. One of the first judges of the
Kentucky Court of Appeals was Benjamin Sebastian. His political views gave him a lot of trouble
and to get out of the public arena he purchased several thousand acres of land at the falls. Some
years later it sold it all to Willis Green. In 1823 Willis Green built the house and store that
still stand today. In 1855 the rock dam built by Willis Green washed out. Lafe Green borrowed
$20,000 from B.F. Beard to rebuild it. The stonework in the new dam was done by Edgar Bennett
and has stood the trials of time. After years of operation the saw mill ran out of quality trees
in the area and shut down in 1933. Between 1915 and 1920 the Greens owned over 8,000 acres of
land making it the largest single farming operation in the state at the time. A flour mill also
operated here. They processed 6,250 barrels of flour a day. The best grade was called "Grayson
Lily", the next "White Rose" and the third "Good Enough".
The area around Bewleyville is made up of gently rolling hills and valleys. Quality soil makes it
one of the best farming areas in the state. Around 1800 the first settlers to arrive here were
the Stiths, Bewleys, Sanders, Jordans, Hardaways, Blanfords, Jollys, Chicks, Bandys, and
Washingtons. The first Methodist church in the county was built here with the pastor from 1834
to 1850 being James Taylor. Brother Taylor married 824 couples and his name is familiar to any
of us researching family in this area. In 1844 politics and opinions about slavery split the
church into two sections. Around the time of the Civil War, Edgar Bennett opened up a rock quarry.
He was one of the best stone masons around and stone from this quarry could be found in the Falls
of Rough dam, foundation of the Courthouse, and many of the bridges in this part of the state.
The Bewelyville Masonic Lodge was chartered in 1851 with the first Master being John Gaston.
Cloverport was formerly called Joe Ville and was settled in 1803 by Joe Huston. In its day was
one of the busiest spots on the Ohio River. The only market for farmers of the day was in New
Orleans and the Ohio River the way to get there. In 1821 the state established one of the first
roads in the state which ran from Bowling Green to Cloverport. A hotel at Tar Springs also brought
money to the area from people who can for its natural beauty and to drink its "miracle waters".
Not long after the Civil War the old hotel was replaced with a three story brick structure and 25
cabins. There are 12 springs here located close together but each yielding a different type of
water. The railroad arrived in 1887 and the town grew even more. The Cloverport Brickyard
started in 1898. On March 13, 1901 a fire broke out and with no fire fighting equipment the
town was soon in ashes. These weren't folks who gave up and soon a new town stood on the same
ground. The Cloverport Post Office opened in 1828 with its first postmaster being George LaHust.
The town is a mere shell of its former self today but recent federal grants have begun an attempt
to revive the downtown area.
Stephensport is located where Sinking Creek flows into the Ohio River. Sinking Creek is a bit of
an oddity. It starts some 15 miles east of Hardinsburg and flows northerly. After 8-10 miles it
suddenly sinks into the ground and then shows up again after another 10 miles where it continues
until it reaches Stephensport at the Ohio River. The land around the town was once owned by
Richard Stephens who served in the Revolutionary War and was given the land for his service. At
one time he is said to have owned 94,000 acres. The town was incorporated in 1825 and had a
population of 160. In 1830 Daniel J. Stephens had a large brick church built. With river trade
during the Civil War the town prospered. The railroad arrived in 1888. In 1902 W.J. Schopp built
a large store that handled everything "from the cradle to the grave". In 1912 a fire destroyed
stores owned by Mr. Schopp. In 1927 another fire destroyed stores owned by Robert French and Abe
Hardesty. In the 1937 flood many of the homes washed away. The town of today in no way resembles
the town of yesteryear.
In 1810 Joseph Hudson arrived in Breckinridge County, taking up land referred to as the Hudson
community. The first settlers were George Holmes, Rafeal Cox, Doctor George Legrand, Steve
Critchelow, Henry Tucker, and Mac Jauncy. During the Civil War Gorillas plundered all the houses
in the community. Shortly after the war Mac Jauncy built a gristmill so people of the community
could grind their own meal. Riley Johnson operated a distillery here until Prohibition. Hudson
is another town that is disappearing and there is littler there today.
Hardinsburg is the county seat of Breckinridge County. The first courthouse was built in 1801
and was a log structure. In 1868 it was replaced by a brick building which was the pride of the
community. It burnt down 7 February 1958. Groundbreaking for a new courthouse was 11 April 1959.
There was short concrete wall around the building where local men would sit and whittle. Towns-
people complained of the "mess" it made on the walkway so the men turned around and dropped their
shavings on the other side of the wall under the practice was totally prohibited. Today the
courthouse houses the archives in the basement. It is one of the best I've been to. There is
enough there to keep the genealogist busy for weeks. The post office was established in 1803
operated by H. Beardsley. In the winter of 1917-18 the snow was so deep that mail carrier, Jim
Noblett, was forced to deliver mail on foot.
The house referred to as Ivy Hill was built by Peter Daniel who came to Hardinsburg in 1801. He
operated a properious mercantile business and built the beautiful brick home in 1839. It is a two
story structure with walls 14" thick. There are 3 stairways and 5 fireplaces. The floors are ash
boards 10" wide and 1.25" thick. The name has been changed to Lilac Hill because of a cemetery
named Ivy Hill. Prior to the Civil War Mr. Daniels was one of the wealthiest men in the county.
He owned several farms, 26 slaves, and his oldest son, Peter, was a lawyer and graduate of Yale.
Peter Daniel was killed at Chickamaugua 24 September 1863.
George Bandy came to the Irvington area with a land grant in the early 1800's. Other early
settlers were the Jollys, Jordans, Bennetts, Bandys, Adkissons, McCoys, Robertsons, and Washingtons.
These people led a isolated live. There were no railroads, no highways, and river travel was one
way. Because of this they were even more self sufficient than other people of the time. In 1887
R.M. Jolly and Ed Bennett purchased two tracts of land that constitute where Irvington lies today.
The railroad came in about the same time. In 1898 E.H. Shellman organized a bank and W.J. Piggott
opening the First State Bank in 1903. The first rural postal route was established in 1906 with
Oscar Dowell as a carrier. In 1913 he bought a Model T and people would drop whatever they were
doing to watch him whiz by at 20-25 MPH.
Union Star & Sample
The first known white man to set foot in Breckinridge County soil was at Sample. Colonel Hardin
and his party of settlers landed in Sample at the falls of Sinking Creek in 1780. Union Star was
settled in 1809. Adam Barr was an officer in the Revolutionary War and moved here soon after the
end of the war. His oldest son Adam Jr., and Peter Cashman fought with Andrew Jackson in the
Battle of New Orleans. Joseph Allen fought with Adam Barr and came with him to Kentucky settling
in 1799. In 1845 Thomas D. Helm donated a plot of land upon which to build a school and church.
In 1848 Ed McGlotham left money in trust for the school. The interest on it paid a teacher for
two extra months a year making Union Star the only 9 month school in the county. This lasted
until the Depression. The railroad came through in 1887 and the community gained a reputation
something akin to Las Vegas. They built a racetrack, Camp Ground Hollow, about half mile north
of Sample. Sample went by the name of Chicken Bristle for several years. It was named because
of the chicken fights held there.
Kirk is about 4 miles southwest of Hardinsburg. Its early settlers were the Withers, DeHavens,
Jarboes, Sheerans, Mattinglys, Millers, Tauls, Coomes, mcGarys, and Rhodes. With the coming of the
railroad in 1888 W.K. Withers saw a business opportunity and built a store. The town was named by
Harvey McCracken for unknown reasons. Pete Sheeran built the second store in town. In the 1890's
Dock Farrow built his home in town and sold groceries in one room of that home. Dr. Crosby soon
arrived followed by Dr. Milton Board. In 1898 Cyrus Miller built a large store in town. The
first postmaster was W.K. Withers.
Perhaps one of the best known attractions in Axtel is Sand Knob. The Knob is ~30' wide at the top
with perpendicular walls rising to 110'. It can be seen 20 miles away on a clear day. To cele-
brate the Armistice and the end of WW1 Sidney Owen rode his horse up on top of the Knob carrying the
American Flag to the cheers of many spectators. Mr. William Cannon operated a tannery in Axtel
where people would come for miles around to have their hides tanned. The availability of good
leather brought Elias Rhodes who was a cobbler. The earliest people here were the Cannons, Bennets,
McCrackins, Jarboes, Owens, and McClellans. At one point the community was yet un-named and Mr.
Bennett wrote to the Postmaster General to get a name for their applied for post office. "Dear Sir,
We have wrote to ax you to tel us a name fo our post office." He named the area Axtel.
Axtel is the area of the county I feel is my home. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents,
Emmet and Zetta Cannon, as a teenager. I didn't have any interest in my ancestors at the time but
knew I liked it there. My grandparents had lived a lot of other places in the county and it was
doing my research I found that is where the Cannons started out. I also discovered my forefathers
on the other side of my family are buried in a small plot on the back of their farm. No wonder
it feels like home to me. I am the product of those early Cannons and McClellans with a few
of the others thrown in for good measure.
William McDaniels was one of the original pioneers of the county and where the town got its name.
He was with Col. Hardin, John Jolly, Christopher Bush and Mr. St. Clair when they came to the county
in 1779. While the men folk went to get their belongings Mrs. McDaniels and Mrs. Jolly stayed at where
Sinking Creek joins the Falls. Indians came and during the attack Mrs. McDaniels fell in the creek and
drowned. Mrs. Jolly, her small child, and a slave were taken by the Indians to their village in Indiana.
Mrs. Jolly didn't travel fast enough to suit them because of carrying the child. The Indians killed the
child and the slave but kept Mrs. Jolly. After several months she was rescued and returned to her husband.
After a few years William was also killed by two Indians while bringing some cows in to be milked. Sam
Spencer managed to kill both of the Indians.
Rillus Dockery ran a blacksmith shop from the Civil War to around 1900. Eli Storms and Frank Rhodes ran
a mercantile business in the early years after the Civil War. Pleasant Hill Methodist Church was founded
in 1853 with James Parson as a member of the original board. John H. Hart practiced medicine here from
1876 to his death.
Nicholas Scott was the earliest land owner in Harned. He arrived in 1800 and was married to Mary Pate.
From 1816 until the Civil War Hopkins Otey Wale operated a stage coach station and inn. It is thought
Abe Lincoln stayed here during his families trip to Illinois. Archibald Weatherford operated a general
store here in 1898. From 1914 to 1946 Joseph Matthes was the town doctor. Wilbur Pile was the postmaster
in 1918 and Cleve Black the first carrier.
Kingswood is a "new" town compared to many of the others and was named after Kingswood College in England.
In 1906 John Wesley Hughes moved to the area and built what was to become Kingswood College. In 1914 the
Rev. E.T. Adams took over his work at the school. Other to serve the school before its end in the 1930's
were: Rev. Hogue, Rev. E.E. Shelhammer, Mrs. Hadley and H.P. Thomas. It was also the home of an orphanage
1920-1930. Sam Heninger built the first store in 1907 which was bought by George Meddler in 1908.
Breckinridge County Herald News
P.O. Box 1
Hardinsburg, KY 40143
Breckinridge County Library
112 S. Main St.
Hardinsburg, KY 40143
Breckinridge County Archives
P.O. Box 538
Hardinsburg, KY 40143
Archivist: Karen Schafer
39th county to form
6th largest in area (572.4 sq. mi.)
longest name (12 char.) of the 120 counties
Latitude 37°46'N Longitude 86°25'W
borders Hancock, Hardin, Grayson, Meade, Ohio Counties and the Ohio River
Formation of County
Jefferson County formed 1780
Nelson from Jefferson County in 1784
Hardin from Nelson County in 1792
Breckinridge from Hardin County in 1799
fire - 12/28/1864
fire - February 1958
History and Legend of Breckinridge County, Kentucky
by Bill Thompson 1978 McDowell Publications
Big Bill Hardin and the Fort
William Hardin was a real pioneer, known as "Big Bill". He was of large physique, and a capable leader. He was not
only a great warrior, fighting back the Indians, but was also a man engaged in the business and political life of the
There were three brother, French Huguenots, who, in order to escape religious persecution in France fled to Canada.
The extreme cold of the Canadian climate caused them to emigrate to Virginia.
Two of the brothers settled there permanently, the other emigrated to South Carolina. From the brothers who settled
in Virginia, descended the Kentucky Hardins. John, Martin, and William came to Kentucky and William was the pioneer of
John Hardin, for whom Hardin County was named, was murdered by the Indians in 1792, while on an embassy to their
Lydia Hardin, a sister, married Charles Wickliff, and was the mother of distinguished men and eminent statesmen.
Sarah, another sister, married her cousin, Ben Hardin, and was the mother of the great criminal lawyer, Ben Hardin.
William Hardin (Big Bill) was born in 1747. He married Winifred Holtsclaw and they had eight children.
His wife having died, he was married a second time to Susannah McGee, July 9, 1808. The children of the first
marriage were: Winnie Ann, who married William Comstock. This lady grew, picked, carded, spun and wove the cotton into
cloth from which she made her wedding gown. Henry Hardin, lived and died on a farm on Sugar Tree Run in Breckinridge County.
Malinda married William Crawford, died and was buried in the Fort. William was postmaster in Frankfort for many years.
Elijah was killed at Hustons Springs in Hardinsburg in 1815. The other children were Amelia, John, and Jehu.
Colonel Hardin also reared a niece and nephew. Daniel Hardin and Polly, his sister who later married Ben Huff, the first
sheriff of Grayson County.
John Hardin, William's uncle, also made his home with this daring nephew, and was murdered by Indians, it was
generally supposed a short distance from the Fort on what is now the Old Brandenburg Road.
Colonel William Hardin and his party had floated down the Ohio River as far as the Falls of Louisville. Here they
remained for a short time but not liking the lay of the land he and a party of five men floated on down the river looking
for a place to make a colony as he called it. Upon reaching the point where Stephensport now stands, he liked the looks of
the country, and sailed from the Ohio River up Sinking Creek to the Falls near where Sample is.
It so happened that there was a party of Indians at the falls where they landed. They left their boat and went
overland, followed by the Indians, to the present sight of Hardinsburg where Big Bill declared the place for his colony.
By the time they reached the spot which they chose for their colony they realized they were being followed by
Indians in superior numbers. They decided to avoid a fight by traveling over land to Hines Fort, now Elizabethtown,
which was established the year before, 1779. By traveling all night they reached a large spring near Rough Creek, where
they stopped to slake their thirst and rest for a few minutes. "It is probable that this is where Big Springs is now,".
It was at this point that the Indians caught up with Hardin's party, and a fight followed. One of the group Mr. St. Clair
was killed but Big Bill and the rest escaped to Hines Fort.
Determined to establish his colony he returned the following spring with twelve families and built a typical
frontier fort of stockade walls and watch towers at the corners, and several cabins near the fort. This was the last
pioneer fort built on the frontier, and the fartherest west of any frontier fort in America. When his settlement was
completed, news came of an Indian Village being built on the Saline Creek in Illinois.
Hardin was not well pleased that the Indians should be in such a close vicinity to his little settlement so he
secured a group of eighty men and went into Illinois to dislodge them. When they arrived there were but three warriors
guarding the village. They were shot, Hardin, then deployed his men to a small forest surrounded by open land on all
sides to await the return of the Indian party. When they returned the battle was furious, often hand-to-hand combat. Many
of the whites were killed. At the out bread of the battle, Big Bill was shot through the leg. Sensing the moral support
his men needed, he climbed upon a huge fallen chestnut log and continued to direct the battle. The Indians were all killed
or put to flight. This battle was never reported to the government and so has more often than not been passed over
by historians, but it was reputed to have been one of the bloodiest battles in the winning of Kentucky. Among the number
of the eighty men who went with Colonel Hardin to dislodge the Indians in Illinois were: Christopher Bush, Samuel Spencer,
William McDaniels, William Luce, John Jolly, William Weatherholt, Charles Hamiliton, John Bruner, --- Brearshera, James
Jennings, William Kelso, Henry Dean, --- Barger, --- Carlyle, --- Shiveley, Mordicia Lincoln, John Faith, --- Miller,
Samuel Crawford, Edgar Pate, Adam Barr, Ben Huff, Ben Comstock, Horace Marry, Archibal Lochard, Daniel Meredith, ---
Haynes, --- Hardiwas, --- Claycomb, ---- Payne, William Perrin, --- Rice, Joseph Toby, --- Taul, George Robards, Richards
Stevens and --- Lampton.
The descendants of many of the above families have remained in Breckinridge County, the place of their birth, and
are prominently connected with the business, social, and religious life of the county.
Colonel William Hardin wore a coveted trophy under his coonskin cap. and many a young Indian brave paid the
supreme price for trying to collect it. Among the Indians, he was reported to have been killed more than once and as a
result he was feared by many as a ghost and has dispersed large groups of them by just being seen.
The year after the fort was built, several acres of ground had been cleared and the settlers were planting corn.
Miss Sarah McDonald, a young girl, was dropping corn for Colonel Hardin when they were attacked by the Indians. Colonel
Hardin was shot through the lungs, a lesser physique could not have survived. One Indian warrior, realizing he was shot,
came forward with his knife to take Big Bill's scalp. Sarah handed Colonel Hardin his rifle which he pointed at the Indian
causing him to run back. Sarah finally succeeded in getting Colonel Hardin on his horse, but by this time the Indian was
coming very close. Again Miss Sarah handed Colonel Hardin his gun and said, "Point it at him, Mr. Bill or he'll kill us
both." With great effort Big Bill pointed his gun at the Indian who retreated until Sarah, too, could get on the horse
and they reached the safety of the stockade.
Colonel Hardin did not shirk his political responsibilities. From 1810 to 1813 he was a member of the legislature
All residents of Breckinridge County are recipients of Colonel Hardin's charity and foresight. Whether we sit on
the courthouse rail and whittle, or once a year visit the sheriff's office to pay taxes; whether we hold political office
in the courthouse or pay for our misbehavior in jail, we are on ground donated to Breckinridge County as a public property
by this great man.
This magnificent man died in Breckinridge County, and lies today in an unmarked grave near U.S. 60 and Hardin's
Creek. No one knows his exact burial place to any closer tolerance than one acre. What an end to our county's greatest