Kentucky Settlement

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Kentucky Settlement and The Revolution

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Bridge to Revolutionary War monument. Kentucky Settlement was in large part caused by the revolution.
Bridge to Revolutionary War monument, Concord, Mass
Courtesy of the Library of Congress Digital Collections
Kentucky Settlement was in large part caused by the Revolution

A very fascinating and misunderstood part of Kentucky genealogy and history research are the Revolutionary War Veterans. The veterans impact on Kentucky Settlement is vital to understand migrations. Many a researcher, when tracking their descendants, will come upon an individual that once lived in Virginia or Pennsylvania, North Carolina or another colony. Everyone asks themselves the same question, “what in the world brought them to Kentucky”? Their birth-dates give a bit of evidence as they are usually in a date range of about 1735 up until around 1760. These birth dates are important because it will put the individual at the right age at birth that would allow them to be of an age to be able to serve in the Revolutionary War during the time period.

The Revolutionary Veterans are an essential and rewarding part of your family tree. Kentucky Settlement was in large part caused by the revolution. The research involves many aspects, perceptions and ideologies of this early time period that will explain a lot of why they did what they did. Much of the reasoning is both heartfelt as well as heartbreaking and has come from common practices and notions from a bygone time.

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Kentucky Settlement was in large part caused by the revolution.

 Courtesy of Library Of Congress
Why They Came to America

There were a number of reasons our colonial veterans, or their lineage, came to America. Some of the reasons were religious beliefs, lack of work, poverty, discrimination, wars, Britain’s philosophy that the impoverished should be used for migrant work needs, famines ( a potato famine in particular), the prospect of owning your own land, criminal and political crimes and last but not least, primogeniture. We will discuss the primogeniture reasoning in this article. So what is primogeniture?


Primogeniture (English: /praɪməˈdʒɛnɪtʃər/) is the right, by law or custom, of the paternally acknowledged, firstborn son to inherit his parent’s entire or main estate, in preference to daughters, elder illegitimate sons, younger sons and collateral relatives; in some cases the estate may instead be the inheritance of the firstborn child or occasionally the firstborn daughter. The descendant (often the son) of a deceased elder sibling (typically elder brother) inherits before a living younger sibling by right of substitution for the deceased heir. In the absence of any children, brothers succeed, individually, to the inheritance by seniority of age (subject to substitution). Among siblings, sons usually inherit before daughters. In the absence of male descendants in the male-line, there are variations of primogeniture which allocate the inheritance to a daughter or a brother or, in the absence of either, to another collateral relative, in a specified order (e.g. male-preference primogeniture, Salic primogeniture, semi-Salic primogeniture).

The principle has applied in history to inheritance of real property (land) as well as inherited titles and offices, most notably monarchies, continuing until modified or abolished.

Variations on primogeniture modify the right of the first-born son to the entirety of a family’s inheritance or, in the West since World War II, eliminate the preference for males over females (absolute primogeniture). Most monarchies in Western Europe have eliminated male preference in succession: Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The law of primogeniture in Europe has its origins in Medieval Europe; which due to the feudal system necessitated that the estates of land-owning feudal lords be kept as large and united as possible to maintain social stability as well as the wealth, power and social standing of their families.[10]

Adam Smith, in his book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, explains the origin of primogeniture in Europe in the following way:

When land was considered as the means, not of subsistence merely, but of power and protection, it was thought better that it should descend undivided to one. In those disorderly times, every great landlord was a sort of petty prince. His tenants were his subjects. He was their judge, and in some respects their legislator in peace and their leader in war. He made war according to his own discretion, frequently against his neighbors, and sometimes against his sovereign. The security of a landed estate, therefore, the protection which its owner could afford to those who dwelt on it, depended upon its greatness. To divide it was to ruin it, and to expose every part of it to be oppressed and swallowed up by the incursions of its neighbors.


The law of primogeniture, therefore, came to take place, not immediately indeed, but in process of time, in the succession of landed estates, for the same reason that it has generally taken place in that of monarchies, though not always at their first institution.

Even up until WWII the policy of inheritance remained intact in many instances as related by FDR’s response to Winston Churchill; When Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt met at Placentia Bay in August 1941, FDR said he couldn’t understand the British aristocracy’s concept of primogeniture, and he intended to divide his estate equally between his five children; Churchill explained that an equal distribution was nicknamed the “Spanish Curse” by the British upper classes: “We give everything to the eldest and the others strive to duplicate it and found empires. While the oldest, having it all, marries for beauty. Which accounts, Mr President, for my good looks” (1)                     

{1. Primogeniture on Wikipedia,  “The original work has been modified.”;  LINK of Original }                                      

The inheritance by the eldest son or child created descendants that inherited very little. This made the promise of a better future in America appear to be a better opportunity for these non-inheritance.

The vast majority of eventual settlers worked and toiled everyday on property that was owned by a Lord. They owned nothing and the Lord took a portion of their labor for his protection. The Irish residents were no better off in their arrangements. They owned none of the land they tended and were forced to rent everything from their landowners. Any improvements that the renters made to the farms would mean an increase in rent from the landowner who was renting to the Irish farmer. Very little was done as far as improvements on the rental properties.

It appears that the prospect of ownership of land and the greater ability to grow food to feed their family was the most tempting promise that would convince settlers to come to the colonies. The offer of indentures to pay for the fare of a ship would put in a type of bondage but offered a convenient way to move them out of the despair they were living in. Many took the offers, gave up what little they had, and made the voyage to America.

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Colonist boarded ships to America and then were indentured for the payment.

Courtesy of Library Of Congress, Clipper Sailing ship
How They Got to America and at What Cost

Settlers, for the lack of a better definition, came to America in different ways under different circumstances and reasons and in several ways. Some came as slaves, some came as political prisoners but the biggest majority of colonists who migrated came under a type of bondage called indentured servants. It is the latter of these that we will detail a bit. In order to get passage to America it would have been by ship. The ships would transport people coming to America and their ship passage would be owed. The passengers would sign a contract of indenture for the cost of coming “across the pond”. The passengers would then be indebted for this money and the debt could be sold by the owner of the indenture to someone who needed a source of labor in the colonies.

When the passengers arrived to their new home in the colonies the plantation or land companies would purchase the indebted contracts and the person indebted would be required to work for a certain length of time, usually five years, for the owner before they were freed from their debt and their contract. No wages were paid but only to satisfy the debt. The owner of the contract was required to provide food, housing as well as clothing for the indentured servants. The owners were also required to teach them a trade, of which farming was the usual trade by a huge majority. At the end of their contract they were free to go as they wish usually with a small piece of property. For a brief description between indentured servants and slavery this article on the Library of Congress details much of the laws of early Virginia. The vast majority of settlers to America originally came as indentured servants and worked off their contracts over a period of years to become free landowners. The majority, estimated at sixty five percent,  of the Revolutionary War veterans enlisted as soldiers in the Revolution in order to be freed of their indentures.

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Daniel Waldo, a Revolutionary Veteran.
The Revolution

More than one reason can be given for the Revolutionary War but most agree that the colonists expected a voice in what laws were enacted for the colonies. The colonists also hated taxes especially when they had no voice in deciding them. They wanted protection but were indifferent when taxes were placed on necessities they used everyday, sugar and tea to name a few. Some colonists felt the King had the right to make laws but they felt no one else had that right and felt as though they had no representation in the process. As the desire of independence from their British control gained ground, a division between the colonists had already began to appear and would later create a split in loyalties with some colonists in favor of independence from Great Britain while others wished to remain loyal to Britain.  

Many colonists wanted to and attempted to remain faithful to the monarchy and were referred to as Loyalists, Tories or King’s Men. Tories came from the old tradition of Tory, a political belief of loyalty to ancient traditions. The believed in God, King and Country. They considered themselves as part of the Royal Crown and did not want independence in the sense of what the rest of the colonists view of independence was. Often looked down upon by the British because of the uncertainty of their loyalty and Britain’s inability to protect them, very few supported the British. After the war many of these loyalists were awarded for their service by receiving land in Canada. Many of the southern loyalists fled to Florida. Louisville Kentucky was at first deeded to a Loyalist, the town was laid out and began to be established, after which he lost possession of the huge land grant because of his political leanings and his support of the British.

The Patriots were citizens who supported the cause of the Revolution and often discriminated against the Tories. The Patriots were rewarded for their service by acquiring land grants, called military patents, in the territories of the colony they had served. The colony they had served would determine the location of their land grant. Virginia owned the territory of Kentucky and military patents (Land Grants) were surveyed in what would become Kentucky.

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Kentucky Settlement was in large part caused by the revolution.

Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Digital Collections           
Virginia and her territory in 1776
Virginia in the Revolutionary War

As you can see in the map above that Virginia took in all the territory of what is now Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia. During the war, in order to have a continuous group of soldiers for battle, there had to be a way to encourage young able bodied citizens to enlist and remain in service. The government’s at that time existed in such a manner that the federal government had very little power. The power was vested in the colonies. The colonies would furnish troops as needed but they were reluctant, say for instance, Georgia to send troops all the way to New York to fight since it seemed far away and of no importance to Georgia. The soldiers were eventually recruited by buying out their indentures. When their service was ended or the contract paid up the soldier was given a piece of property and the indenture was considered paid.

Virginia would give that property to the soldier in what is now Kentucky because it was their territory. North Carolina gave land in what is now Tennessee and the other colonies did the same with their territories. That is what brought these veterans to Kentucky and created Kentucky Settlement. They served in the Virginia Militia and received their military patent in Kentucky.  They earned the land grants by serving the militia and therefore “paid off” their indentures with their military service and became free landowners in return.To ensure the claim wasn’t lost there needed to be a house built and a garden planted in order to “stake the claim”. It is estimated that sixty five percent of all Revolutionary War Veterans were indebted servants.

There are records that exist for these veterans and are a very useful part of genealogy research. Below are some very good links to find that information. Many Veterans would be become a part of the Kentucky Settlement.

Kentucky Settlement and the Revolution

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1776 map of Virginia and her territory
Where to find Information on Your Revolutionary War Relative
  1. Southern Campaigns Revolutionary War Pension Statements
  2. Collins History of Ky
  3. Virginia Militia in The Revolutionary War
  4. Revolutionary War Veterans in Kentucky  
  5. Observations on Slavery and Indentured Servants and Military Service  1777
  6. Indenture Contract of William Buckland , 1755
  7. US Department of Labor, The Emergence of American Labor
  8. 1619 Virginia Decisions in Regards to Indentured Servants
  9. Kentucky Settlement and the Revolution


Kentucky Settlement and the Revolution

Night The Stars Fell

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A story of an Astronomical Event in the 1830s

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Night The Stars Fell

Night The Stars Fell

“On the night of November 12-13, 1833, a tempest of falling stars broke over the earth. North America bore the brunt of its pelting. From the Gulf of Mexico to Halifax, until daylight with some difficulty put an end to the display, the sky was scored in every direction with shining tracks and illuminated with majestic fireballs. At Boston the frequency of meteors was estimated to be about half that of flakes of snow in an average snowstorm. Their numbers, while the first fury of their coming lasted, were quite beyond counting; but as it waned, a reckoning was attempted, from which it was computed, on the basis of that much diminished rate, that 240,000 must have been visible during the nine hours they continued to fall.” (1)

The 1833 event was witnessed by Kentuckians across the young state and the reaction was utter panic.  The immediate reaction, by most residents, was that it was the beginning of the end of the world. This concept was related among the descriptions from the witnesses of the event and is also related in newspaper accounts evident in articles written from witness accounts.                                                                

Alfred Owens of Rockcastle County and an inhabitant of Mt Vernon in 1833 described the reaction at the time and gave a comment of his concerns during the shower;
“Just keep your eye on the main fugalment, if she starts, to hell in a handbag we go”. (Alfred Owens, 1833)  Reports that the inhabitants who lived to tell of the event began weeping and moaning. Many fell upon their knees praying to be spared, or saved. (3)                             

In Hopkinsville, Christian County, in 1899 the meteor shower was being received with great interest. The event had been dated back to 902 AD and occurred every 33 years. The 902 shower was described as fire showers as thick as rain. The 1833 occurrence was just as great with another occurring in 1866 and again in 1899. (4)

In those early times being in an event as unknown and as scary as this was, one can only imagine what the actual reactions were by the terrified witnesses. We now know what causes these spectacular shows through research and analysis over the years and we now find them fascinating and entertaining.

The Leonid Comets cross their trail of debris and deposit them in Earth’s orbit as we travel around in our orbit. As we meet these dust trails they enter Earth’s atmosphere and light up the night sky, giving us these wonderful alien light shows.                    

Science and research by scientists, experts in astronomy and scientific professionals have answered this mystical event with answers that now have changed the view of the mysteries of the outer limits.

Night The Stars Fell

The most famous depiction of the 1833 event, actually produced in 1889 for the Adventist book Bible Readings for the Home Circle – the engraving is by Adolf Vollmy based upon an original painting by the Swiss artist Karl Jauslin, that is in turn based on a first-person account of the 1833 storm by a minister, Joseph Harvey Waggoner on his way from Florida to New Orleans. (2)

Kentucky History and Genealogy Network Inc Social Media Groups


(1) The Project Gutenberg eBook of A Popular History of Astronomy During the Nineteenth Century, by Agnes M. (Agnes Mary) Clerke;                                                                                        E-text prepared by Eric Hutton
and the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team,                                    
Release Date: March 4, 2009 [eBook #28247](

(2)    “Leonids”, Wikipedia, Internet,,

(3)   “Rockcastle First Things”, Mt Vernon Signal, Mt Vernon Ky, Jan. 4th 1907, Page 4, Library of Congress, Chronicling America, Internet,

(4) “Bright moonlight Will Somewhat Dim the View of  This Three-Times-A-Century Spectacle”, Chronicling America, Library of Congress Digital Collections,  Hopkinsville Kentuckian., November 14, 1899, Page 8, Internet,

Customs of Early Ky

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Colonial settlers in defense of their land based on Customs of Early Ky
Kentucky History And Genealogy Network, Inc.

Customs of Early Ky

Early Days

The following sketch of Customs of Early Ky is drawn from various sources but we are principally indebted to Doddridge Notes. The household offices were performed by the women and the men who cultivated the soil, hunted the game, brought in the meat, built the houses, and garrisoned the forts. The settlers freely exposed themselves to danger and privations in defense of the settlements. Most of the articles in common use were of domestic manufacture. There might have been incidentally a few things brought to the country for sale in a private way but there was no store for general supply.

Utensils of metal except offensive weapons were extremely rare and almost entirely unknown. The table furniture usually consisted of wooden vessels either turned or coopered. Iron forks, tin cups, etc. were articles of rare and delicate luxury. The food was of the most wholesome and nutritive kind. The richest meat,  the finest butter and best meal that ever delighted man’s palate were here eaten with a relish which health and labor only know. The hospitality of the people was profuse and proverbial in the customs of early Ky.


The dress of the settlers was of primitive simplicity. The hunting shirt was worn universally. Many of these garments are still in use in the back settlements and their appearance is familiar to almost every reader in the west. Backwoods costume was peculiarly adapted to the pursuits and habits of the people. It has been connected with so many thrilling passages of war and wild adventure that the Kentucky hunting shirt is famous throughout the world.

The bunting shirt was usually made of linsey sometimes of coarse linen and a few of dressed deer skins. The bosom of this dress was sewed as a wallet to hold a piece of bread cakes. It also served for jerk tow for wiping the barrel of the rifle and any other necessary item for the hunter or warrior. The belt which was always tied behind answered several purposes besides that of holding the dress together.

Cold Weather

In cold weather the mittens and sometimes the bullet bag occupied the front part of it. To the right side was suspended the tomahawk and to the left the scalping in its leathern sheath. The shirt and jacket were of the common fashion. A pair of drawers or breeches and leggings were the dress of the thighs and legs and a pair of moccasins answered for the feet much better than shoes.

They were made of dressed deer skin. They were generally made of a single piece with a gathering seam along the top of the foot. Another from the bottom of heel without gathers as high as the ankle joint was also a part. Flaps were left on each to reach some distance up the leg. Hats were made of the native from the buffalo. Wool was frequently employed in the composition of cloth as was also bark of the wild nettle.


The forts in which the inhabitants took refuge from the fury of the savages consisted of cabins, blockhouses and stockades. A range of the former commonly formed at least one side of the fort. Divisions or partitions of logs separated the cabins from each other. The walls on the outside were ten or more feet high the slope of the roof being invariably inward. A few of these had puncheon floors but the greater part were earthen.


The block houses were built at the angles of the fort. They projected two feet beyond the outer walls of the cabins and stockades. Their upper were about eighteen inches. They were in every way larger in dimensions than the under one. This left an opening at the commencement of the second story to prevent enemy from making a lodgment under their walls.

A large folding gate made of thick slabs closed the fort on the side nearest the spring. The stockades cabins and blockhouse walls were furnished with ports at proper heights and distances. The entire extent of the outer wall was made bullet proof. The whole of work was made without the aid of a single nail or spike of iron which were not to be had.


The inhabitants generally married young in the customs of early Ky. There was no distinction of rank and very little of fortune. The first impression of love generally resulted in marriage and a family establishment cost but a little labor and nothing else. A Kentucky wedding was a very picturesque affair as held by the customs of early Ky. It was an event which excited the general attention of the whole community in which it occurred. The following description that the proceedings had on these occasions is taken almost verbatim from the account of one who had been present at many of these joyful assemblies.

Morning of the Wedding

In the morning of the wedding day the groom and his attendants gathered at the house of his father according to the customs of early Ky. This was for the purpose of proceeding to the mansion of bride which it was desirable to reach by noon. This was the usual time of celebrating nuptials which ceremony because it must at all events take place before dinner.

Let the reader imagine an assemblage of people without a store tailor or mantua maker within a hundred miles. An assemblage of horses without a blacksmith or saddler within a like distance were there as well. The gentlemen dressed in shoe packs moccasins, leather breeches, leggings, linsey hunting shirts, and all home-made. The ladies dressed in linsey petticoats and linsey or linen bed gowns, coarse shoes stockings, handkerchiefs and buckskin gloves. If there were any buckles, rings, buttons or ruffles, they were relics of old times.

The horses were caparisoned with old saddles, old bridles or halter. Pack saddles with a bag or blanket thrown them a rope or string often constituted the girth as a piece of leather.

The Walk

The march in double file was often interrupted by the narrowness or obstructions of the horse path for roads there were none and these difficulties often increased by the jocularity and sometimes by the malice of neighbors felling trees and tying grape vines across the way. Sometimes an ambuscade formed by the way side and an unexpected discharge of several guns took place so as to cover the wedding company with smoke.

Let the reader imagine the scene which followed this discharge as the sudden spring of the horses the of the girls and the chivalric bustle of their partners to save them from falling. Sometimes in spite of all that nothing could be done to prevent it and some were thrown the ground. If a wrist elbow or ankle happened to be strained it was tied with a handkerchief and little more was thought or said about it according to the customs of early Ky .

Marital Ceremonies

Another ceremony took place before the party reached the house of the bride as portrayed by the customs of early Ky. Whisky was introduced which was at an early period. When the party had arrived within a mile of the house two young men would single out to for the bottle. The worse the path the better as obstacles afforded an obstacle for the greater display of intrepidity and horsemanship.

The Meal

The start was announced by an Indian yell, logs brush, muddy hollows, hills and glens were passed by the rival ponies. The bottle was always filled for the occasion. The first who reached the door was presented with the prize with which he returned in triumph to the company. The contents of the bottle were distributed among the company.

The ceremony of the marriage preceded the dinner. This was a backwoods feast of beef, pork, fowls, and sometimes venison and bear meat. The meat was roasted and boiled with plenty of potatoes, cabbage, and other vegetables. After dinner the dancing commenced and generally lasted till next morning. The pace of the dances were three and four handed reels or square sets and jigs.

After the Wedding

About nine or ten o’clock a deputation of young ladies stole off the bride and put her to bed. With this done, a deputation of young men in like manner stole off the groom and placed him snugly by the side of his bride.

The dance continued and if seats happened to be scarce every young man, when not engaged in the dance, was obliged to offer his lap as a seat for one of the girls. The offer was sure to be accepted. In the midst of this hilarity the bride and groom were not forgotten. Pretty late in the night someone would remind the company that the new couple must stand in need of some refreshments.

The marriage being over the next thing in order was to settle the couple. Some black betty, which was the name of the bottle, was called for and sent up stairs. Black betty did not go alone. Sometimes as much bread, beef, pork, and cabbage was sent along with her as would afford a good meal for half a dozen hungry men. The young couples were compelled to eat and drink more or less whatever was offered them.

Choosing a Home Site

A spot was selected on a piece of land of one of the parents for habitation. A day was appointed shortly after their marriage for the work of building the cabin. The fatigue party consisted of choppers business it was to fall the trees and cut them off at the proper length.

A man with a team for hauling them to the place and arranging them properly at the sides and ends of the building. A carpenter if such might be called. It was his business to search the woods for a proper tree for making for the roof. The tree for this purpose must be straight-grained and from two to four feet in diameter.

Starting the Home

The boards were split four feet long with a large froe and as wide as the timber would allow. They were used without planing or shaving. Another division were employed in getting puncheons for the floor of  the cabin.

This was done by splitting trees about eighteen inches in diameter and hewing the face of them with a broadaxe. They were half the length of  the floor they were intended to make. The materials being prepared the neighbors collected for the raising.

General Approach

The roof and sometimes the floor were finished the same day and the house was raised. A third day was commonly spent by carpenters in leveling off the floor. It also included making a clapboard door and table. The last was made of a split slab and supported by four round legs set in auger holes. Some three-legged stools were made in the same manner.

Pins stuck in logs at the back of the house supported clapboard which served as shelves for the table furniture. A single fork was placed with its lower end in a hole. The upper end was fastened to a joist that served for a bedstead. This by placing a pole in the fork with one end through a crack in the logs of the wall. This front was crossed by a shorter one within the fork with its outer end through a crack.

The Dwelling

From the front pole through a crack between the logs of the end of house the boards were placed. This formed the bottom of the bed. A few more around the wall were inserted. This was for a display of the coats of the women and the hunting of the men. Two small forks or bucks horns to a joist for the rifle and a pouch completed the carpenter’s work.

The cabin being finished the ceremony of house-warming took place the young people were permitted to move into it. This was a dance of a night’s continuance. It was made up of the relations of the bride and groom and neighbors.

On the day following, the young people took possession of their mansion. At a house raising, log rollings, and harvest parlies,  everyone was expected to do his duty faithfully. A person who did not perform his share of labor on occasions was designated by the epithet of Lawrence or some other still more opprobrious. When it came to his turn to require the like aid to his neighbors the idler soon felt his punishment in their refusal to attend to calls.

Military Service

There was no legal compulsion to the performance of military duty. Every man of full age and size was expected to do his full share of service. If he did not he was hated out as a coward. Thefts were punished severely.

With all their rudeness these people were hospitable and freely divided. Rough fare with a neighbor or stranger and would have been be offended at the offer of pay. In their settlements and forts they lived, worked, fought, feasted, or suffered together in cordial harmony. They were warm in their friendships but bitter and revengeful in their resentments.

From  “Collins’ Historical Sketches of Kentucky” 1878 edition

Customs of Early Ky