Stiggal Station

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Brodhead Kentucky and the Dix River. Brodhead was first called Stiggal Station


The air is crisp and cool this morning.  As I take my early morning jog, I stop long enough to take a deep breath. The smell of fresh clipped onions fills my nostrils as I glance up at the big green street sign. Sigmond Street, it says. My next turn is Albright and down from it is Wallin Street.This piqued my curiosity as one surname after another pops up on the street signs. I wonder why not, Oak, Maple or Elm Street. Why the surnames, I ask myself. This triggers a research quest as I make the final lap home. Most of the locals are out mowing, working gardens, and doing those things folks do every week as I make the final lap.

 The Story of Brodhead in Rockcastle County

Brodhead is a small town that lies between Crab Orchard and Mt Vernon, Kentucky in Rockcastle County.  The line of what was once the Skaggs Trace and part of the Wilderness Road.   Also known as Stiggal’s Stand or Stiggal’s Station, the road and its centralized location between the Cumberland and Kentucky Rivers, made it a stopping point along the way for ranchers to rest and regroup their herds when Kentucky was being settled in the late 1700s and very early 1800’s. Named for the Stiggals who lived there shortly before 1800, a “droving station” was set up during this period. Livestock was driven along the old dirt road to Cumberland Gap or onto Danville for sale to the markets. (i)

The salt works in Clay County shipped salt by the Madison Branch of the Wilderness Road and through the Trace Road onto Danville passing through where Brodhead would eventually become. In the early years, military outposts and later taverns, were set up for settlers to accommodate the traffic and livestock coming along the Wilderness Road.  These outposts and taverns were usually spaced at a distance of one day’s travel or about seven to twelve miles apart. The tavern established at Brodhead was called Stiggal’s Tavern. The Tavern was a stagecoach stop-off for traffic on the old road as well as a “droving stop” as it was described. The various travelers bringing livestock to markets could stop off at the old station and put their livestock up for the night, be fed, and provided accommodation for their overnight stay. The entrance of the L&N Railroad from Stanford to Mt. Vernon in 1869 would open up even more traffic and visitors and would guide Brodhead through her glory days. (i)

John C. Brodhead of Pennsylvania, a Louisville L&N Railroad executive, would be honored for his work promoting the expansion of the railroads.  The town would bear his name much like nearby Maretburg and its former name of Mt. Guthrie.  Guthrie was also an L&N executive who was instrumental in getting the depot in place there. Local resident, George Maret, helped prevent a collision of two trains there and the town was renamed Maretburg in his honor. Nevertheless, Brodhead was named indirectly because of the advent of the railroad line and depot that was built there. In so doing, opened up the rest of the United States to her products and allowed goods and travelers to access the markets there.

​Initially, what established what would become Brodhead was the Boone’s Trace Road that came through the area. Originally, Stiggal’s Station was an outpost for protection against Indians. The meat markets, farm products, and tan bark, then later, coal was hauled along this road in the early 1800s.  Despite the road’s poor condition compared to the roads of today, this road would see an accomplishment of about twelve miles for eight hours for a day’s travel. The locations of the stops were at locations where water in the form of streams, rivers, springs, and salt licks were available.

 Salt was extremely important in the early years because there was no refrigeration and salt was the main process in preserving meat products. Without salt, the supply of meat would last only days. Water was also extremely important not only for consumption for humans and livestock but used for grist mills. There was limited means of making wells and steel was a luxury. So, a fort was usually built around or near the water source or salt lick then to protect travelers from Indian attacks and highway robbery bandits who were common along the old road. A stop at the fort was also necessary because supplies were then sold to travelers creating an instant market.

Saloons and Stagecoaches

​Stagecoach stops were set up for the convenience of travelers but they were also used for the delivery of mail. In these locations, saloons were set up providing spirits and other drinks.  In Brodhead’s case it was a drover’s station for the putting up of livestock in anticipation of the long journey to markets at Danville, Lexington, Richmond, Manchester, Burnside, Somerset, Lancaster, and Cumberland Ford.

The saloons offered a place to stay, to rest, cooked food to eat, and usually a livery.  Blacksmiths were there and carriage repairs were made.  There were many stops along the way because it took several days or months to make it to these markets due to the road conditions. These stations or saloons later became towns and villages in between the major cities along the route.

​This is how these taverns, which began as stations and military outposts for Indian protection, were born in the latter part of the 1700s.  The stations then bore the names of the people who owned them or the militia captain in charge of them. The major cities were located early on along rivers so products could be transported along waterways to bigger markets. Lexington, Louisville, Boonesborough, Burnside, Maysville, and Paducah Kentucky are all major cities that sprang up along the rivers and transported products by river to much bigger markets elsewhere.

​The major cities always sat near navigable watercourses and usually boasted a covered bridge, a ford in the river, or a ferry to bring travelers back and forth.  Louisville sat at the “falls of the Ohio” and river traffic had no choice but to stop on either side, depending upon the direction traveled.  Freight would be offloaded and transported above or below the falls before being loaded onto another waiting vessel.

Early Travelers

The first record of a white man camping at Brodhead was Colonel Richard Henderson and company of the Transylvania Company sometime after March of 1775. Colonel Henderson started out on March 20, 1775 and traveled no less than five days (probably more) and camped at the headwaters of the Dix River. Daniel Boone had already established Boonesborough and Henderson was on his way with a group of settlers to the fort there to sign a treaty with a group of Cherokee for about one-fourth of the territory of Kentucky and some areas of Tennessee.

Henderson had a traveler with him named William Calk. Calk made a journal of the journey and recorded such elaborate detail it is considered the most accurate documentation of the first days of Kentucky’s settlement. The dates on the journal show that their five hundred fifty-eight mile journey took about forty-nine, 10-hour days. The average speed of the journey, allowing for lost travel days and re-supply time, averaged about two miles per hour. The journey was traveled entirely by foot with horses carrying the heavy supplies.

The Reverend Peter Cartwright told the tales of his life when his family and his “Travelling Church” moved to Kentucky around 1783 and it was recorded in a book of his life and passed down to his descendants. The Reverend related how they traveled along the Wilderness Road and before reaching the outpost at Crab Orchard about seven miles east, a camp was set by seven families of the group and they stayed for the night. The rest of the party moved on to Crab Orchard. The Indians attacked the camp outside of Crab Orchard, at the headwaters of the Dix River, and killed the entire group with the exception of one man.

The distance from Crab Orchard to the location of Brodhead is between seven and eight miles according to what spot you count as you start/end point. The information from this report makes the massacre location almost exactly where Brodhead is located, if correct. The burial site of these slain people would need to be located to verify the actual site. There are no known records that state the victim’s names and there are have been no official government records found that can shed any light on who the families were or where the exact location of the massacre occurred. Based on Cartwright’s account and descriptions, the location would have been at or very near where Stiggal’s Station or Tavern would later be located. Stiggal’s Station would not be located there until 1795.

The Stiggals

Stiggal’s Station was located very close to Brodhead somewhat to the west. The Station began as an outpost in 1794 by owners, George Stygall and his wife, Ann Wilkerson Stygall.  George was born sometime around 1755 in Halifax County, Virginia and was likely the son of John Steagall. George Stygal is on Lincoln County tax lists as a property owner in 1800. He was left along the way because of illness.

The border between North Carolina and Virginia was somewhat undefined and his location is shown as North Carolina on his military papers. George served in the Virginia Militia in 1794. His Virginia militia records record him as George Steagall, a member of Campbell’s infantry, Bean’s Brigade. He was left along the trail from North Carolina on his way to Pennsylvania and listed as ill. The evidence from this time points to him being left at the area of Brodhead and this would become his home with the help of a military grant.

The old maps of 1794 shows an outpost located at Brodhead. The area was a large glade, which was an area of cane poles. The outpost was located northeast of the glade very near Boone’s Fork of the Dix River. Stiggal and his wife, Ann Wilkerson, would receive several Military Grants for property at Brodhead amounting to around four hundred acres.  Some acreage was claimed after his death in the name of Ann Stiggal suggesting George had additional military service that entitled her to the grant. All the Stiggal military grants were on the Boone’s Fork of the Dix River.

George Stygal’s wife was Ann Wilkerson, the daughter of John Wilkerson.  John Wilkerson was one of the original settlers at Boonesborough and is listed there. John Wilkerson arrived at Boonesborough along with his wife in 1775. He became a wealthy landowner and slave holder during his life in Kentucky. Upon his death, Ann inherited a huge estate from her father as well as slaves from her father and her husband’s estate as well. John Anderson’s estate would become involved with a lawsuit beginning in 1828 between Ann’s children by George Stygal and the child/children of Ann Wilkerson Stiggal and James Anderson, her second husband.

Ann Wilkerson Stiggal Anderson died before her children came of age.  Her will had been made over to James Anderson willing all of her estate to his son and excluding her children from the previous marriage. George Stygal died sometime before 1816. The children asked for rental monies from the slaves they were supposed to inherit and monies gained from what slaves had been sold. In the 1810 census for Rockcastle County, George Stygall and John Burdett, both from the Brodhead area, jointly owned over twenty percent of the slaves in Rockcastle County between the two of them. According to the suit, between 1816 and 1820 Ann had sold and rented slaves in those four years that apparently belonged to the children and had spent the monies or not transferred the funds to them.

Who owned Stiggal’s Tavern after 1830 is unknown but highly believed to be Henley and/or John Woodyard of Garrard County. A newspaper reporter from Lancaster reported in 1913 that a Jim Owens lived in the old Stiggal Tavern. The 1910 census shows the household of James Owens Sr. in Brodhead owning the tavern. His son, James Jr., rented from him near his father’s household.

Mormon Church Connection

There was also a George Wilkerson Stiggal that lived there in 1830. He most likely moved there in 1826 when the lawsuit was finalized involving his inheritance. George W. Stiggal was the son of George Stygal born in 1805.  He would have been twenty-five years old when the census was taken. George W. was listed as the head of household. Later, George Wilkerson Stiggal, would become one of the most noted and respected Stiggal child from Brodhead.

His name is forever remembered by the Mormon Church and documentation of him is on file in official church records. G.W Stiggal is on the 1830 census records in the Brodhead area. Stiggal died in 1875 in Carthage, Hancock County Illinois, a town that heralds his life’s achievements. His Kentucky household in 1830 was composed of three sons, one daughter, and his wife aged between 20 to 25 years old. George W. Stiggal left Kentucky with dreams of making his fortune out west after 1830. No record of him is found in the 1840 Census.  For twelve years, there is no trace of him at all.

​G.W.’s sons were John Stiggal born 1815 and then Hiram and Henry Stiggal born 1829. John was listed as a gambler in 1870 while in Carthage Illinois. G.W.’s daughter was Elizabeth Ann Stiggal born April 15, 1821. She married Charles Main on August 23, 1842 in Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois. She died in Carthage on January 6, 1865.  In Carthage, Illinois the Stiggals lived together at the jailhouse.  G.W. Stiggal was the jailer in Carthage.  This position would place him in the middle of a conflict between the citizens of Carthage and the newly formed Mormon Church in Hancock County.

Joseph and Hiram Smith had surrendered to the Carthage County Judge, accused of damaging a newspaper office in the town in 1846 while G.W. Stiggal was the jailer.  The jail was overrun and Joseph and Hiram Smith were murdered by a group of citizens from the area in that year. Stiggal was always praised for being good to Smith and honest in his dealings with everyone.  Stiggal was highly respected for how he fulfilled his duties as jailer. Stiggal lived out his days at Carthage and would be buried in the town for which he became noted.  He was far away and in a different world than the small town of Brodhead where he was born.

John Woodyard

John Woodyard would move to the Brodhead area and become instrumental in her development. His father, Henley Woodyard brought his family to Brodhead between 1841 and 1850 from Garrard County. John Woodyard would be interviewed by a local newspaper in 1905 and gave details of what Brodhead was like from 1850 to 1905.

An excerpt from the interview follows:

“Near where I now live once stood what was known then as a “drovers stable” where large droves of horses, mules, cattle, hogs, etc. need to “put up” for the night while being driven to Sunny South Land. I made many trips myself on foot driving hogs down south at $10 per month. About 300 to 700 hogs would be in a drove, and they would move along at the rate of 6 to 12 miles a day, according to the road, traveling very slowly on rocks. Sometimes when we would reach Cumberland or Kentucky River the streams would be too swollen to tackle and we would have to camp sometimes several days. But we would have a good time.

​We always had two or three good fiddlers in the crowd and plenty of whiskey. There were always plenty ladies in the neighborhood and each fellow would take his girl to dance and we would swing partners all night long and not go home until morning. The girls liked to dance and drink as much as the men folks and we had a time at it. It would take us 52 days to drive through, but coming back we averaged walking 35 miles a day. Hogs sold then at about $2 per hundred weights.”

“The two old buildings just across the river, are owned by T. S. Frith, the other by John Coun, are the only buildings now standing that were here when I first moved here. The oldest business house is that of T. S. Frith. The people then worshiped at Boone’s Fork and the first pastor I remember is Rev. James Ashell. I married Jane Vanhook in 1850 and in addition to raising my most sizable family; I have witnessed the growth of Brodhead.”  (1)

​Many surnames names are forever joined to Brodhead but are seldom mentioned or remembered. John Woodyard was born in 1828 in Garrard County and died in 1920 being buried behind the Christian Church at Brodhead. Woodyard donated several tracts of property for churches, cemeteries, and schools. Woodyard donated the property to build the Christian Church and for a cemetery.

A long line of soldiers, the family came from Maryland and Virginia eventually moving to Rockcastle County around 1850. The property they owned was quite possibly gained by the military warrant that Virginia would pay the veterans with for their service to the country. John’s father was John Woodyard as well and lived with his son until his death.

The elder John was born in 1797 in Virginia and immigrated to Kentucky, settling first in Garrard County with his father Henley Woodyard and moving in the 1850s to the Rockcastle area that would later become Brodhead. The younger John was a Civil War soldier signing for the Union Army. His father, the elder John, was one of the oldest Civil War soldiers to volunteer for service in Rockcastle County, being in the home guard of Lincoln and Rockcastle County.  He was sixty-five years old upon enlistment. The elder John was also a veteran of the War of 1812. His father, Henley Woodyard was a Revolutionary soldier who died in 1828 and both Henley and the elder John had both been veterans of the War of 1812.

Businesses and Owners

The Woodyards lived in a log cabin about a quarter-mile northwest from the depot that sat at the corner of main and Old Brodhead Road near the location of the Christian Church. Two brothers with children of their own, they lived together in one big home at Brodhead for some time. The Woodyards owned one of the first businesses in Brodhead:  Woodyard & Cherry.  Cherry was the second partner in the early firm.  John E. Woodyard would have a business operated jointly called Woodyard &Hilton in the 1880’s.

J. H. Hilton, his business partner and son-in-law,  married Kittie Woodyard, daughter of the younger John Woodyard.  The Woodyards would also be one of the founders of Brodhead’s first school: Brodhead Academy. Founded in 1883, John E. Woodyard is noted as one of its founding fathers .  He donated 1.75 acres of property in Brodhead on April 6, 1877 to James G. Carter for the purpose of building a Masonic Lodge, a Baptist Church, and a graveyard. Carter was an attorney and former stone mason from Covington and the Master of Lodge 566 of the Free and Accepted Masons of Brodhead.

By 1869, the railroad had made it to Brodhead.  The railroad freight agent for the depot was Isaac Newton Newland then a twenty-two year old man with inspiring dreams for his future. In 1870, Newland worked in the business of John E. Woodyard as the L&N Freight Agent.  His office was considered the freight office. In 1884, Newland would become another founder as well as a trustee of the Brodhead Academy.

Newland was also a very early member and trustee of Local 566 Masonic Lodge. Built in 1833, the classes commenced at Brodhead Academy on September 1, 1884. The first trustees were also the founding members of the Masonic Lodge in Brodhead:   J. H. Albright, I. N. Newland, T. S. Frith, J. G. Carter, and W. J. Barger.  The first principal of Brodhead Academy was Miss Allie Carson. The average attendance in 1885 was about 81 students.

Some of the factories of early Brodhead included the Martin and Perkins Tobacco processing plant. The factory was owned by R. S. Martin and John Perkins. The firm’s name had been changed in May of 1887. It was known formerly as the Albright & Martin firm. The Albright brothers owned a store at Brodhead that sold clothing and general merchandise. The Albright brothers were reported to be building a two-story building near the railroad and adding a wide porch to meet the tracks in 1879. The upstairs was used as the clothing store.

​The town had at least four sawmills operating in the 1880’s that provided lumber for sale and also fueled the huge growth that the railroad created. In 1893, a report stated the Brodhead Roller Mills were shutting down for a week. The early town had a “Poor House” located near its center in 1870 that took in widows and children.


Mr. Broadhurst from Midway, Kentucky started the poor house as an orphanage and school just as he had done for other growing towns in eastern and central Kentucky. The home allowed them to sew and farm to suffice. The 1870 census shows a twenty-two year old mother and her one year old daughter, a seventy-eight year old widow, and a black female twenty-three years old among others.

Larkin Hicks operated a spoke factory, making wooden spokes for wagon wheels. Hicks also operated a stave mill for wooden barrels. He is listed as a capitalist on the 1900 census. Larkin’s daughter would marry one of Brodhead’s future doctors at the turn of the century.  The doctor’s office would be set up in the Citizens Bank building where they would be the earliest board members.

Brodhead now sits off highway 150 away from the main flow of traffic, bypassed by progress. All of her old businesses are gone leaving only remnants of her former glory. The water tower that used to supply water for steam engines at the depot have long since disappeared. She is a  mere fraction of her former self but the town remains steeped in its rich history.  The roots of which run deep.

The town was founded, struggled shortly to survive, boomed very fast, and then declined quickly compared to other towns of her size. She remains a beautiful, neat, and clean place to live and visit. Full of hope and positivism for the future, she still operates much like she used to do. Neighbors help neighbors.  It is a place where you can always find sympathy, compassion. or a kind word from most of her residents should you decide to walk down her streets. Many believe this mentality was what made her so glorious.

Author, Marty Wyatt


End Notes

(i)  Mt Vernon Signal, Dec 15th, 1905 (Library of Congress)