Lynn Camp

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Lynn Camp and Lynn Camp Station of Knox County

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Kentucky History and Genealogy Network, Inc. Map showing the location of Lynn Camp
Kentucky History and Genealogy Network, Inc.

Lynn Camp and Lynn Camp Station:

“Breaking The Myth”

As Kentucky counties took shape and land settled, once flourishing towns and villages disappeared leaving only traces of where they once stood. To understand the meaning of the hints that show up while researching these records and tidbits, close attention must be given to the many things that shaped these areas. Little things, like old maps that show where roadways and railroads navigated, will give a researcher a better picture of what things were “back in the day”. The wording of names, information written on census records, the names of post office personnel and especially the location of the taverns play an important role in discovering the true meanings of what is read. Lynn Camp is one village that taunts a researcher with double talk and mysterious clues. Thanks to a gentleman named John “J. K.”  McClary and a Civil War event that happened at Lynn Camp in 1862 the story comes to life. Further research also documents Lynn Camp’s true location.

Corbin has been described as the original location of the town of Lynn Camp but this is incorrect.  Corbin was known as Lynn Camp Stations or simply Lynn Camp after 1870 because Lynn Camp’s Post Office had ceased to exist after the Civil War ended, closing sometime after 1880. It is uncertain when the post office at Lynn Camp started but it was noted on a map drafted by the postal service as a mail stop over point in 1839. The post office of Whippoorwill near Corbin was located in Laurel County based on postal records. Further confusion about Lynn Camp’s location was the fact Lynn Camp was also an election precinct in the early years.  The precinct took in the area east of Woodbine as well as northern Knox County to very near Barbourville.

The northwest county boundary between Knox and Laurel County has also been moved three separate times to include Lynn Camp in Knox County at one time period and then later to include Lynn Camp into Laurel County. This county transfer see-sawed back and forth about four times.

Lynn Camp’s location is important because it gives a clue to the location of where sixteen Union Soldiers were imprisoned by Confederates for killing some marching soldiers belonging to the rebels. Lynn Camp is among some of the earliest settlements, the site of a very early tavern and post office, and ranks along with Flatlick and Stanford – to list a few. Lynn Camp lay along close to the Wilderness Road between Woodbine to her southwest, Barbourville to her southeast and a forgotten place called Raccoon Springs to her north. Raccoon Springs was near Campground in Laurel County and is on maps dated 1793. The Post Office was simply called Raccoon.

The maps of the 1860’s show the railroad completely bypassing Woodbine and the area of Corbin, running north to south but west some miles distant from Woodbine and Corbin area as well as the town of London. The old wagon road ran north to south through Woodbine, bypassing Corbin to the east and also bypassing Lynn Camp with three roads converging at Raccoon Springs. The other roadway (Old Barbourville Road) passed from Cumberland Gap through Flatlick and Barbourville through Lynn Camp and on to Raccoon Springs. Raccoon Springs had four roads converging near Laurel River suggesting a major bridge across the Little Laurel River. Along these roadways the small villages were, more often than not, locations of taverns and usually the post office would be located there as well.

Taverns were the focal points for traffic and the center of the villages. They offered food, lodging, general merchandise and supplies and mail service. The taverns offered liveries for horses and their carriages as well as feed and water for the horses.  Many had fenced lots to put livestock in pens for farmers taking stock to bigger markets.  Taverns were usually spaced about ten miles apart. Roads were rough at best and traffic averaged about one to two miles an hour. Ten miles would be about one days travel and taverns were used as stopovers as well as stagecoach stops. The owners of the taverns were usually financially well off or would be later because of the trading and lack of competition. Many taverns were used for public meetings.

The tavern owner at Lynn Camp in 1850 was Stephen Colyer. Collier Hill at Gray carries the legacy of his family and descendant’s name sake. In 1850, according to United States Postal Service, Stephen Colyer, born in 1814, was the postmaster of Lynn Camp. Stephen “S D” Colyer came from Rockcastle County, the grandson of John Colyer. John was a revolutionary soldier from Virginia according to his wife’s request for a pension. Stephen purchased his property from Samuel Ward, born 1826, and Elizabeth McHargue Ward of the McHargue Church area (McHargue’s Mill).  The property bought by Colyer had been part of Samuel Ward’s mother’s estate. It is unclear if Colyer bought the tavern or actually built it afterwards. Stephen operated his tavern himself until his death. Olivia, his wife, operated the tavern until the property was transferred to her children.  The property was sold to James Tillman “J T” Gray after Olivia’s death. A county sale shows Hugh H. Colyer, son of Stephen Colyer, as a plaintiff in a judgment that resulted in its sale in 1910. The deed description on the court auction states the property began at the Hazel Fork branch of Lynn Camp Creek where the bridge crossed the creek.  Colyer’s boarding house would take in a gentleman in 1860 that would later become well-known in his native town of Mt Vernon in Rockcastle County.

 K. McClary would serve as deputy sheriff in Rockcastle County under the term of Sheriff Lewis and be elected a State legislator for one year. He served for many years as master commissioner of Rockcastle County. McClary was also an attorney at Mt Vernon, trying some cases in Lincoln County as well. Prior to all his later accomplishments, McClary would make an appearance in Knox County and leave a mark on history. Mr. McClary and J. R. Joplin, both men of Rockcastle County, operated a store in the Colyer Tavern at Lynn Camp during the 1860’s. It was in 1862 and a meeting with some Union Soldiers that would intrigue Civil War researchers for many years to come.

In 1862, ten miles from Barbourville along the Wilderness Road, a group of sixteen Union Soldiers were being held as prisoners, accused of bushwhacking a band of Confederate Soldiers marching through the area. The group was being accused of hiding in the woods and shooting and killing the marching “rebels” as they marched by. The group swore their innocence of the crime. The rebels had been coming to the store at Lynn Camp and getting food and had consumed almost all the food available there. One of the prisoners was McClary’s relative uncle George “Hog eye” Thompson. Some of the other prisoners were Harv King and his sons. Another prisoner was Campbell Damron from Somerset who was an uncle to the Langford Boys of Mt Vernon. The Langfords were well-known in Rockcastle County and their relatives ran the first tavern in Mt Vernon. George told McClary at his store that they had not eaten in several days and were starved. Later on that day McClary raked up what was the only food available which was some cornmeal and potatoes. He cooked them up and placed them in baskets for delivery. McClary had received permission to visit the prisoners and took a black servant from Mrs. Colyer’s tavern by the name of James Colyer to help him.

Both men embarked one mile south of Colyer’s Tavern to the prisoner’s camp at “Robber’s Hill” about midnight. They met no resistance as they found the prisoners asleep. After awakening them the prisoners ate all the food and then bragged “that it was the sweetest bread and Irish Potatoes they had ever eaten”. McClary then held about an hour conversation with them, not believing he would ever see them again. He departed and went back to the tavern. He would see his uncle a few days later and find out their fate. Hog Eye Thompson said they had all been shot at “Cumberland Ford” or Pineville as we know it today. Thompson was released and would move to Missouri, returning every year thereafter to visit his family in Kentucky. It was rumored that Harv King’s brother along with some others hung six Confederate Soldiers as revenge for his brother’s death in a tree close to the Hackney Tavern at Livingston.

The census records of 1860 show Stephen Colyer listed as a Tavern Keeper. His wife is listed as Olivia. At the bottom of his household is a black male by the name of John Colyer, all collaborating Mr. McClary’s story. Census records from 1860 show Stephen Colyer owning seven slaves. Ada Gilbert, a resident north of Gray at Collier Hill, now lives on and owns a portion of the one hundred sixty acre plantation where the tavern once stood. She has furnished a very early photo of the tavern and staff. The old cemetery sets across the field from her home on a hill.

The railroad did not run through the area that is now Corbin until the Cumberland Branch was added that came in from the east in the 1880’s. The town or city of Corbin early on was mentioned as Lynn Camp Station, a train stop next to Lynn Camp Creek where the North or Southbound steam engines took on water. Only later in the 1880’s would it be called Lynn Camp after the Lynn Camp post office was gone. It was referred on some instances as the Lynn Camp Stations, plural meaning more than one station, probably signaling another station close by. Some of the properties sold in Corbin during the rush years were called “at Lynn Camp Park”.

All the postmasters for Lynn Camp, beginning in the 1830’s and until at least ten years after the Civil War ended, lived north of Gray at the Laurel County line very near McHargue Church. The area was a town, a post office, and one of the earliest taverns that existed in northern Knox County and deserves credit as a historical place in Knox County History both for the age and significance of the early tavern and because of the Civil War Event.  Now on to find the place once called “Robber’s Hill”. I don’t know, maybe tomorrow?

Author: Marty Wyatt

{Did you know?, The city of Corbin is unique in that it actually lies in three counties, Knox, Laurel and Whitley Counties.}

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