Note: In 1837 at the age of about fifteen J. Green Trimble of Hazel Green and later of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, came to the territory which would two years later (1839) become Breathitt County, Kentucky, to spend a few months with his uncle. During those few months he began a relationship with the land and people of our county that would last a lifetime. Much later, about 1914, he wrote a local column in The Jackson Times newspaper about his recollections of his time spent in this area. In 1916 the columns were collected and published in a booklet entitled "Recollections of Breathitt" by J. Green Trimble when he was 91 years of age. We are indeed lucky he had the energy and determination to share his memories of a time when our land was just being developed. Below is the complete booklet for your enjoyment. After having read it, most will agree it is a priceless look back into Breathitt County's heritage.
Recollections of Breathitt
By J. GREEN TRIMBLE
Ninety-One Years of Age
In the early part of the year 1837 my uncle, Solomon Cox, purchased a store in Mt. Sterling, embracing a variety of every department of merchandise, which was hauled in five wagons drawn by teams of from four to six horses to Hazel Green, thence down Holly creek to the Kentucky river at the mouth of War Creek, which was then in Estill county. The State road from Mt. Sterling to Prestonsburg had been completed the previous year under an appropriation of $200,000 by the Kentucky Legislature, and the citizens living on the line between Hazel Green and the Kentucky river had finished a good wagon road the year before; and these were the first wagons that were ever seen on Holly creek. They were a great curiosity to many people who had never seen a wagon before, and it being Sunday many of the younger people followed the wagons several miles to the river.
The goods were transferred from the wagons to push-boats, and taken up the river to the mouth of Quicksand, which was then in Perry county. I was employed to assist in selling them at a salary of $13 per month.
The little farm at the mouth of the creek was owned by Thos. B. Wiseman, formerly of Estill county, and upon this farm was a store house and a cottage of three rooms. There being no family living nearer than a mile without crossing the river, we boarded ourselves there for about six months. The balance of the time we lived there we boarded with Nick Hays, across the river, and Jesse Spurlock, who lived a mile above. For our board we paid one dollar a week. Our family consisted of George Stamper, who was a partner in the store, and Mr. Wiseman, both old bachelors, and myself. I did most of the cooking and while so engaged I kept a trot line across the river, which afforded a bountiful supply of the finest fish. Upon one occasion I caught a fine large fish and was engaged in dressing it for dinner about ten o'clock, when Joseph Little, a prominent citizen of the neighborhood, rode up to our cottage on horseback, with the widow Nancy Lindon on behind him, she being the mother of Judge Lindon, and each representing the most prominent families in the county. Mr. Little informed me that he had his marriage license already issued and that he had sent word to old parson Daniel Duff, who lived on the creek about four miles above, to meet him at our cottage at ten o'clock that morning to perform the ceremony. I told him to alight and make themselves at home at our cottage, and I would write a note to the parson to come down, which I did, and sent it by a boy on Mr. Little's horse. The boy returned at 12 o'clock with the parson, and the marriage ceremony was performed in my presence. My dinner being ready, consisting of fish, venison, honey and cornbread, we all sat down to a very large dry goods box, which we used as a substitute for a table, and partook of the only wedding dinner I every had the pleasure of preparing, and one that the bride and groom said they enjoyed more than any they ever ate.
Nine years after this, on April 28, 1846, I met the groom in Irvine, Estill county. I called upon him and informed him that I had been married upon the evening before, and that I was exceedingly anxious to start on my bridal trip through the mountains to my home at Hazel Green, a distance of 55 miles, and there being no road leading in that direction except a narrow bridle path through the wilderness, my bride and I would be compelled to travel single file on horseback, and that I only owned one saddle horse, which, with $5.00 in money, constituted the whole of my fortune. I also told him that the distance was too great to carry my wife to our home behind me on the same horse, as he had done when he came to the mouth of Quicksand to get married and what should I do. He replied, "You once did me the greatest favor ever conferred upon me by sending after a preacher to marry me, and cooked my wed ding dinner, and now I have an opportunity to reciprocate. I have been down the river and sold a large lot of saw logs, and had to take two horses in part payment, one of which is a fine, gentle saddle mare. Take her for your wife to ride home, with my best wishes that your married life will be as happy as mine has been."
I never met the bride but once after her marriage and that was 65 years later. I was at Jackson, and learning that she was visiting at Bud Sewell's I called to see her. Mrs. Sewell met me at the door and I inquired if Mrs. Widow Little was there. Being answered in the affirmative, I requested her to say to Mrs. Little that a gentleman wished to see her, without giving my name. Mrs. Little soon made her appearance in the parlor. I arose and shook hands with her and said: "I presume this is Mrs. Joe Little, but I don't suppose you recognize me." She replied: "No sir, I never saw you before; you are a stranger to me." I said "Mrs. Little, do you remember about 65 years ago, when you were the Widow Lindon, seeing a young man named Green Trimble?" She clasped her hands and with tears in her eyes, threw her arms around me and said: "I never expected to see you again; you cooked my wedding dinner and you are now the only living witness to my marriage." She was then, I suppose, between 85 and 90 years old.
There is quite a difference in the prices of many articles we sold then and now. Robert F. Brashears, who lived on the river at the mouth of Leatherwood, owned salt works and furnished us a boat load of salt, which we sold at $1.75 a bushel, or $10.50 for a barrel of seven bushels. Calico sold at 37 cents per yard, and seven yards for a dress. The cheapest commodity that we sold in the country at that time was home-made apple brandy, the pure and unadulterated, at 50 cents a gallon or 12 cents a quart retail, and by the barrel it was much cheaper. I purchased from the four Hays brothers, who lived at the first farm below the mouth of the creek, six barrels of apple brandy at 25 cents per gallon, and two barrels of strained honey at $1.00 per gallon and shipped it away. There was no taxes paid then, and everyone who was able could buy still-made brandy without fear of being put in prison.
Four of the most prominent families on Quicksand at that time were the Backs, the Hagins, Copes and Kash's. John Back, Sr., had five sons, named as follows: John, Jr., Isaac, Lewis, Joseph and Solomon, the last three being red-headed. The senior Back was noted for being the owner of the only wagon in the county. It was of his own manufacture, and made entirely of wood; no metal, not even a nail, being used in its construction. I have seen it often; four wheels, spokes and felloes and the tires made of young white hickory about three inches in diameter spit in two and fastened with wooden pins, It was to haul corn from that part of his farm known as the Round Bottom, which tradition has said had been cultivated in corn continuously year after year for forty years, and never produced less than ten barrels to the acre. If further evidence is wanted as to the wooden wagon, I would refer to Johnse Whitaker, who lived in Breathitt county on the Jack Frazier farm, and was the only one who was living there when I did 76 years ago. (Mr. Whitaker died several years ago. --Editor).
Daniel Hagins acted as Sheriff of Breathitt county for many years, and had the reputation of being the best officer that was ever in the county.
Thomas Hagins (brother of Daniel), was a useful man to the community. He was a live-stock dealer and purchased fat hogs for many years, driving them to the Virginia markets, before any railroads were completed there. I once engaged in that speculation myself, for my father. In 1842,1 purchased 500 hogs at the price of $1.25 per hundred pounds and drove them to Virginia. In crossing the New river at English Ferry, the ferry boat being out of commission, I swam the hogs across, and sold them in Cumberland county at $3.50 per hundred pounds, net.
William Kash, who married a Miss Cope, and grandfather of Kelly Kash, of Jackson, was a son of James Kash, who emigrated from Greenbriar county, Va., with my grandfather Trimble in the fall of 1797 and located for the time being on the State road leading to the mountains, 13 miles from Mt. Sterling, at the foot of a mountain, which to this day is called Kash's Knob. He afterwards moved to and settled in the vicinity of where Hazel Green was afterwards located in Montgomery county, which then extended from the mouth of Red river to the Virginia line, the Kentucky river being the southwestern line. William Kash's mother and my grandmother Trimble were sisters, their maiden name being Lacey. All the Kash families in Kentucky who spell their names with "K" are descendants of two brothers named James and Caleb, who emigrated from Virginia in 1797 and died in the vicinity of Hazel Green.
Each of the four families named herein are now represented by their descendants in the legal profession at the Jackson bar, and in point of talent will compare favorably with any bar in the mountain part of Kentucky.
The only church organization of any denomination in that whole country was a small church of the Hardshell Baptists. It was located on the north side of Quicksand about 600 yards above its mouth, and near the ford. It was a log building covered with boards, with a puncheon floor, and fence-rails substituted for seats. I have often attended services there in the summer season. Daniel Duff was the pastor and the only preacher within 25 miles.
There was an association held by the church in the fall season of 1837, and the church building being too small to accommodate the large crowds that usually attended such meetings, they were forced to erect a stand in the forest a few hundred yards up the creek. I had a customer and friend named Bill Hays, a large, fine looking bachelor, of about 40 years, who came to our store on Saturday and said he was anxious to attend the association the next day and wanted the finest suit of clothes I had in the store. I soon fitted him out with a nice suit of broad-cloth including coat, vest and pants, with a starched shirt and collar, red necktie and a plug silk hat, which were all satisfactory. He then called for a pair of boots, but unfortunately he had very large feet, and there was neither a pair of boots nor shoes he could get on his feet, and there was no other store nearer than 30 miles. He left without my paying any further attention to him. The next day I decided to walk up to the association grounds, only a half-mile away, and about eleven o'clock I saw my friend Bill walking up as gay as a peacock by the side of a most lovely young lady, the finest dressed man on the ground--except that he was barefooted. I asked him why he came in that condition, and he replied that he had nothing to wear on his feet, and that he was determined to see the people and enjoy the association.
There was the largest congregation I every saw assembled on a similar occasion in the mountains. Many of the people came more than 20 miles, and as there were no roads in the county everybody had to travel on horseback. It was fashionable for the young. men to carry their. sweethearts from their homes to church and return behind them on horseback, and husbands and their wives behind them, with one or two children in front.
In my youthful days I have also seen, not only in Perry county but in my native county of Morgan, ladies walk three or four miles to church carrying their shoes and stockings in their hands until they arrive near the church, when they would stop and put them on, and take them off when they started for home. I admit that I have been guilty of participating in the great luxury of carrying a good looking young lady to church on horseback behind me, and then returning her safely to her home.
I attended four weddings in what is now Breathitt county, two of which took place during the winter of 1837-38 on Quicksand, Samuel Spurlock to Polly Cope, daughter of James Cope, Sr., and Jack Hays to Miss Duff, daughter of the old parson Daniel Duff. When I was a citizen of Jackson, during the spring of 1841,1, with several young ladies of the town, walked down the Panbowl to widow Miller's who owned the farm, to witness the marriage of James Fletcher, a prominent citizen of the town, to Miss Holbrook, daughter of John Holbrook. After the ceremony a whiskey toddy was handed around; then we had a good dinner. The other wedding of that winter was the most remarkable one I ever attended. It was that of Wm. Taulbee to Miss Wright, daughter of Elisha Wright, singing master and music teacher. It was on Upper Devils Creek, and as I had business in the neighborhood, I called late in the evening and found a big crowd. It was customary upon such occasions for many of the younger ladies and gentlemen to remain all night and have music and dancing and I was invited to remain over and participate in the festivities. There were twelve or fourteen who stayed over, about equally divided in sex; but we had to dispense with the music and dancing, owing to the fact that there were but two very small rooms in the house, and these were to be occupied by the bride and groom and the old folks. The young men, being determined, however, to have some fun, procured some axes and cut down several old dead trees that stood on the hillside, cut them up and roiled them down the hill, and made a large log heap in the yard. It was in the winter season, but was warm, and the heat from the fire made it pleasant. Each one selecting his partner we marched around the fire singing "Old Sister Pheby, how merry were we when we sat under the juniper tree," and other similar ditties. We kept it up all night until broad daylight, and the boys went home with the girls in the morning.
The deer were very plentiful in the country and a hunter could take his rifle at any time and kill one in a few hours. There is a low gap in the mountains between the river and the south fork of Quicksand which was a great thoroughfare for deer to pass through to the river; especially when chased by hounds, and they would then swim down the river. I have seen many of them swim past the store. Upon one occasion I saw a very large buck swimming down a short distance above the store with such a head of horns as I never saw before or since. They were almost equal to an elk's. There was a large and stout colored boy present, about 18 years old, known as "Yaller Bill" South, a slave of Jerry South, who lived in the neighborhood. I called his attention to the buck and asked him if he could capture it. He replied that he would try, and jumped into a light canoe that I had at the landing in front of the store. He soon intercepted the downward course of the buck and turned him in the direction of the opposite bank, keeping in such close proximity to him that he could have touched him with his hand, until he got within ten feet of the bank, when he dropped his paddle and jumped on the back of the buck, both going down together in deep water. They remained under water so long that I was alarmed for the safety of the boy, but they finally came to the surface, and Bill had hold of his horns. The struggle between them in the water was very great and furious, and the result seemed to he doubtful. But, fortunately for Bill, there was a sycamore tree growing at the edge of the river, some of the roots of which extended out into and under the water; and although going under water several times and coming very near being drowned, he still hung to the horns and succeeding in getting one of them under a root of the sycamore. This gave him complete control of the situation, and he held the buck there until he was drowned. This was the largest deer that was ever known to be killed in the State.
I lived at the mouth of Quicksand for more than a year and during that time I never saw a newspaper; if there was any postoffice or other store nearer than thirty miles it was unknown to me. There was a postoffice at Perry Court House, one where Proctor was afterwards located, one at Hazel Green and one at Licking Station (near Salyersville). These were supplied with mail once a week.
Benjamin F. Gardner kept the postoffice at Licking Station and was one of the most extensive merchants in the mountains of our State.
My father was the first postmaster appointed at Hazel Green and he held the office for 24 years, during 10 years of which time I was his deputy and kept the office.
The laws with reference to the postoffice department of our government were very different from our present laws. Our circulating silver coins were the 6 1/4c, 12 1/2c, 25c, 50c and $1, principally Spanish coin. Our congress, in regulating letter postage and establishing the price for the transmission of letters, passed laws to conform to the silver coins we had in circulation and with which the postage was to be paid by the party receiving the letter. The amount of postage was regulated according to the distance the letter was sent. On all letter under 80 miles it was 6 1/4c; over 80 and under 200 miles 12 3/4c between 200 and 400 miles, 18 3/4, and over 400 miles, 25c. Letters composed of two sheets or pieces of paper (if known) were double postage, and I have frequently charged as high as 37 1/2c or 50c for a letter. Envelopes were unknown at that time, and the letters were folded in such a way as to be sealed with a wafer.
This postal law remained in force till 1844, when the rate was changed to 5 cents for each letter of one-half ounce to any part of the United States, without regard to distance. We then had 5c and 10c pieces in circulation, and I now have in my possession many letters which passed through the mails in 1845 postmarked with the figure 5c in the upper right-hand corner, which had to be paid in money by the receiver. A few years thereafter envelopes were invented and postage stamps, followed by a further reduction to 3 cents and later on to 2 cents, at which rate a letter can now be sent to any part of the United States, including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Philippine Islands, also Cuba, Mexico, Canada, England and Germany.
The town of Jackson has comprised part of the territory of five different counties. Kentucky was divided into three counties in 1785 while it was still a territory - Fayette, Lincoln and Jefferson. Fayette included all the territory east of the Kentucky river, that river being the West line from its mouth up to the source of the North Fork.
Clark county was created to take effect February 1, 1793, and its West line was the Kentucky river from the mouth of Harrods Creek to its head at the Virginia line. Montgomery county was made entirely from Clark county and the act establishing it took effect March 1, 1797. Its Western line was the Kentucky river from the mouth of Red River to the head of the North Fork at the Virginia line. Floyd county was formed from parts of Montgomery, Fleming and Mason counties on June 1, 1800, and the Kentucky river from the mouth of Quicksand to the Virginia line was its western line. Estill county was organized in 1808, and included so much of Montgomery county as lay on all the tributaries of the Kentucky river on its east side between the mouth of Quicksand and the mouth of Red river, excluding that on the east side of the latter.
The names of the tributaries on the east side of the Kentucky river in Breathitt county are: Troublesome, Quicksand, Frozen, Holly, Bloody, Upper Devil's creek, Lower Devil's creek, Walker's and Hell creek. Cutshin and Hell- for-Certain are tributaries of the Middle Fork.
The Cope family on Quicksand consisted of two brothers, James and Wiley, and a sister. James had three sons, Wiley, William and Alfred Wiley, Sr., emigrated to Missouri about 1838, and took all his family with him except his son, James, who lived an honored life and died at a ripe old age on Frozen creek, leaving a family of respected sons and daughters. The sister married Mason Williams of Morgan county, who was a farmer, a preacher and politician. He was a man of more than ordinary ability, and was gifted as a speaker, and represented his district four years in the Kentucky Senate. In making his canvass he addressed a large number of his constituents one Saturday evening at a village in the Sandy Valley, and one of his brethren who lived two miles away invited him to partake of his hospitality until Monday and preach for them on Sunday. He gave Mr. Williams direction how to find his home, saying that it was not convenient for him to accompany him, but that his wife and daughter would entertain him until his arrival. When Mr. Williams arrived at the house he found two or three of the neighboring women there, and informed them that he was going to preach at the school house the next day; and it being one of our hottest July days, he laid down under a shade tree in the yard to rest and cool off. As he lay there an argument started among the women in the house as to what denomination he represented. It was conceded that he was not sufficiently well dressed to be a Presbyterian minister, also that his horse was too poor for a Methodist circuit- rider. Another suggested that he might be a Mormon disciple, some of whom were then traveling over the country. Finally one of them remarked that she could soon settle the question by examining his hymn book, and she ran her hand into his saddle-bags which were lying in the room, to find his hymn book. The first thing her hand encountered was a quart bottle of whiskey. She held it up and exclaimed: "Oh, he's an old hard-shell Baptist; here is his bottle of whiskey!" which was taken as conclusive evidence. I got this story directly from Mr. Williams himself, who has often partaken of my hospitality. He is a great, great uncle of Thomas Cope and Kelly Kash, two prominent lawyers of the Jackson bar.
Charley McQuinn lived on the South Fork of Quicksand. He had two sons, Wiley and Brooks; and two brothers, William and Alexander. He was one of our customers at the store, and I sold him a blue frock broadcloth coat with silk velvet collar for $25 which he wore for twenty-three years. I met him frequently during that time.
The old parson Daniel Duff had four sons, three of whom I knew, John, Alexander and Colston. John lived at the mouth of Grapevine on the Kentucky river and was reputed to be the wealthiest man in the county, owning many thousands acres of the finest coal and timber land in the State, which however, was then valued at less than $1 per acre. He married a daughter of Jesse Combs, who held office of Circuit Clerk for over fifty years. It was said that more than one-half the voters of Perry county either bore the flame of Combs or were related to the family.
Herman Hurst was the only citizen of the county of that name. I saw him and his family get into a boat at the mouth of Quicksand in May, 1837, and go down the river, bound for Missouri. He was an uncle and great uncle of two prominent lawyers of that name in Breathitt county, the oldest member of the bar in the mountain part of Kentucky and for whom I secured the position (as my successor) as deputy clerk in the circuit and county clerk's office of Estill county in 1844, which was the beginning of his law studies.
John G. South (commonly called Jack), was also a prominent citizen, and lived with his brother Jerry. He was a large fine looking bachelor on the shady side of forty, and a patron of our store. I have taken in many orders from him payable in merchandise to the party whom he felt under obligations to assist financially. He was engaged in the land business extensively, and represented as agent the heirs of those holding under old Virginia land grants. He seemed to be familiar with all different land grants, the location and the names of the patentees, which conveyed nearly all the mountain part of Eastern Kentucky. I do not remember now the names of all the parties represented, but there was one patent issued in the name of Richard Thompson which commenced at the mouth of the Middle Fork of the Kentucky river, thence running up the North Fork fifteen miles when reduced to a straight line. This tract was surveyed by J. H. Amyx, surveyor of Morgan county, under an order from the Morgan circuit court, and the first corner was established at the War shoal four miles below Jackson. It ran North 9, West 20 miles, passing through the town of Hazel Green. I was with the surveying party in Morgan county and locate within five feet of where it crosses Red River.
These old Virginia land claims have given rise to a great deal of litigation, and have been a great drawback to the successful development of the great natural resources of the country, much of it the richest in coal and timber to be found in the world. It was about three-quarters of a century from the dates of these patents before titles were finally quieted.
Mr. Jack South died of typhoid fever in the fall of 1838, and his remains were put in a canoe and taken down the Kentucky river to Frankfort for interment.
I was more intimately acquainted with Miss Anne Allen than any young lady in the county. I boarded with her sister, Mrs. Nick Hays, for several months while she was a member of the family. She was regarded as being the brightest and one of the handsomest young ladies in the county, and intellectually she had no superior. She afterwards married James Cockrell, and was the mother of Marshal Jim Cockrell, who was assassinated on the streets of Jackson, several years ago.
There was a wild animal show exhibited on the farm at the mouth of Cane creek in the fall of 1838, which I attended. It consisted only of a very large elephant, and there was a large crowd present, for which they paid 25 cents on entering the front part of the farm, then going to a distant field to see the animal. I traveled 23 miles, from Hazel Green to be present, but I felt more interested in meeting some of the people whom I knew would be there than I did in seeing the elephant.
One of the most prominent and wealthy ladies of the county visited our store on one occasion, and seemed to take a fancy to me. As I was selling her a bill of goods, she remarked to me jestingly that she had a very pretty daughter about my age (I was then less than 14), and that at the proper time she would like to give her to me, and said that the next time she came down she would bring her with her and show her to me. A few weeks later she again visited the store, accompanied by a very pretty girl about 14 years old, well dressed with long golden ringlets, rosy cheeks and a fair complexion. I was as polite as a young Chesterfield, and said to the lady that I was glad to meet her lovely daughter, and that I hoped I could have the pleasure of extending our acquaintance. She replied : "Mr. Trimble, you are mistaken; she is not my daughter. She is one of my negro servants." The girl was afterwards sold at a fancy price to a prominent bachelor lawyer, who gave her a position as his house-keeper until Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation.
After Breathitt county was made and before it was organized by the appointment of officers, I, in company with Mr. Gool Lucas, a young gentleman from Virginia, spent a night at Nick Hays where I had previously boarded for several months. There is a story connected with our experience and that of the family which might not look well in print, and I will therefore not repeat it in full. Suffice to say that Mr. Hays had in his family as a domestic, a Miss Delila Robinson, a very pretty girl, with whom the family had had some serious trouble that evening of such a character as to prevent her remaining any longer as a member of the family. It was sugar-making time, and she was engaged in boiling water at the camp, which required her to remain there until a late hour at night. Bill Hays (who went to the church meeting barefooted) came to the house about dark to stay all night and after supper he went down to the sugar camp to stay a while with Miss Delila, who was alone and could not with propriety return to the house, to extend her his sympathy and alleviate her troubles and sorrows if possible. Previous to this time they had been strangers, but after a short talk they mutually pledged to each other a union of their future destiny in matrimony, in order to accomplish which, they stole two of Nick's finest horses and two saddles from the barn, and went to Perry Court House that night, a distance of fifty miles and the nearest point they could obtain a license. There they were married, and it proved to be a happy union.
I could relate a great many other incidents that occurred while I was a citizen of that county and afterwards, which if published would be interesting, but would not look well in print, and could not be considered as Sunday School literature, nor with propriety be read in religious church meetings, especially in the presence of ladies.
Jerry South was one of the most prominent citizens of the county. He lived on a farm on the south side of the river two miles above Jackson. He was the father of Breathitt county, attending to the advertising and circulation of the petitions, and volunteered his services without compensation to go to Frankfort and advocate the formation of the new county before the Legislature. The county was formed in the early part of 1839, from parts of Estill, Clay and Perry, and was named for Governor Breathitt, who was governor of the State at that time.
The Commissioners appointed to locate the county seat first located it on the land of Nick Hays, opposite the mouth of Quicksand, a very beautiful and central location, and they drove down four stakes in an old peach orchard representing the four corners of the public square.
After the location had been agreed upon by all the commissioners, they investigated the title to the land and found it to be defective, and that it would require some litigation and considerable time to perfect it. They there upon changed the site of the county seat to its present location, which was on the land of Simon Cockrell.
Land in the county was very cheap at that time, and Cockrell proposed selling the whole tract previous to that time for $500 without finding a purchaser. He conveyed to the county as a present ten acres which is now the town site, and then sold the tract to John Hargis for $1,000 containing, it said, several hundred acres and being nearly two miles in length.
There was a small field of about 12 acres cleared on the hill, including most of the town site, upon which stood a log cabin, the only house in town. The balance of the tract, including all the bottom part, was covered with native forest trees, many of them very large.
In March, 1841, I devoted one day at hard work, assisting in rolling logs, which were burned on the ground in the bottom below, in the bend of the river adjoining where the bridge is now located. That year (1841) was the first year in which that part of the farm was planted in corn.
The ten acres comprising the town site was subdivided into lots and sold to the highest bidder. I attended the sale and purchased two lots, one in the western end of the town for $37, and the other one now occupied by Bud Sewell for $60. Jerry South purchased the lot adjoining this on the west for $75, a corner lot upon which was built a two-story log house which was used as a hotel and called "Our House."
I attended the first term of the circuit court held in the county, which was held at the residence of Wm. Allen, on his farm at the mouth of Cane Creek, and with few exceptions, I attended every circuit court that was held in the county up to the beginning of the Civil War. Judge Joseph Eve was the presiding judge of the first court, and Silas Woodson represented the Commonwealth, and who at the request of the Presiding Judge, addressed the grand jury, giving the ablest instructions I ever heard delivered. Mr. Woodson afterwards emigrated to Missouri and located at St. Joseph, and was elected Governor of that State, one of the best that State ever had.
John Hargis was appointed first clerk of the circuit court and Simon Bohanon was the first clerk of the county court, accepting the office only temporarily, and resigning soon thereafter. John Hargis was appointed to fill the vacancy, and held both offices until the adoption of our present constitution making all state, district and county officials elected by the people. The laws of Kentucky at that time authorized all the courts in the State to appoint their own clerk and if the appointee produced a certificate of qualification signed by a majority of the judges of the court of appeals he received a permanent appointment for and during life. In the absence of such certificate, he received only temporary appointment, subject to the will of the court, and could be removed at any time, without cause or notice.
Thomas Sewell, of Harlan court house, was the first merchant to locate in Jackson. He purchased two lots west of the court house, and in 1840 erected thereon a dwelling and store house of hewed logs. On Christmas day of that year his family arrived there on horse and mule back from Harlan county-his wife and daughter, Fanny, two sons, William and Benjamin, and two young laboring men, Bill Wright and Jordon Gross. Mr. Sewell was a successful merchant and continued to live there until the beginning of the Civil War, when he moved to Irvine, Estill county. He lived at Irvine for a few years when his wife died, after which he married a widow and located at Clay's Ferry, where he died, leaving much valuable real estate for his grandchildren, all his children having married and died at an early age. I commenced selling goods for him in Jackson about March 1, 1841.
Thomas J. Frazier was another merchant to open a second store in Jackson. He was of average business ability and a man of education and intelligence and represented that county in the State Legislature. He died a bachelor, aged fifty odd years.
About the time I was living at Jackson and within a year or two thereafter, many nice families located there among them, John Sewell, (uncle of Thomas Sewell, the merchant), Mr. Cardwell, Dr. Parsons, (who was a local Methodist preacher), Alexander Patrick, Jerry South, Rev. Nixon Covey, William Davis, and two brothers, James B., and William Griffin, who were from one of the eastern states and were gentlemen of education and fine business qualifications. They thought that the county in its undeveloped state offered inducements to men of enterprise to accumulate considerable money, but, not realizing their anticipations after about three years residence there, they left Jackson and located in Memphis, where they engaged in the lumber business with great success.
Rev. Nixon Covey was originally from Montgomery county and was a school teacher by profession. He located at Hazel Green in 1839, and taught school there until he moved to Jackson. He was converted by the preaching of "Raccoon" John Smith at Hazel Green, who was one of the most distinguished ministers of the Christian church in Kentucky. After he joined the church, Mr. Covey commenced preaching the next day, and continued to preach until his death, which occurred in Estill county about twenty years ago. He taught school in Breathitt county until about the beginning of the Civil War. Previous to his conversion he was a wicked and dissipated man
William Davis was also a school teacher, and taught school at Hazel Green about a year before he located at Jackson. He married Miss Elizabeth Cockrell, the eldest daughter of William Cockrell, and raised three lovely and fascinating daughters. They were much admired and noted for their beauty. One of them, Miss Julia, married Gray Haddix, a prominent citizen of the county. Evaline married Sam Hargis, and the other married Ben Sewell, both prominent citizens of Jackson.
Jerry South continued to live in Jackson until some time in the early fifties, when he was elected keener of the State Penitentiary and removed to Frankfort, where he lived until his death. He raised a family of thirteen children, eight sons and five daughters, named as follows: Jack, Sam, Barry Tom, Polk, Martin, Jerry and Cass; Eliza, Ellen, Pattie, Spicey, and Narcissa. Most of them are now dead. Polk is still living and is a distinguished minister of the Christian Church.
Eliza was oldest of the family. She was born and reared in what is now Breathitt county, and enjoyed only such limited educational advantages as were offered by the schools in the county. Intellectually, she was one of the most brilliant women in Kentucky, rand had she been bless- ed with a college education she would have made her mark in the literary world. She took a great interest in politics and religion, and was well posted on all political issues and doctrines of different churches. She spent much time and money for the Christian church of which she was a member. She was married to my younger brother, Asberry Trimble, at Frankfort, during the early part of the Civil War, and they located at Hazel Green. Her husband was assassinated on the streets of Hazel Green, October 15, 1864, leaving her a widow with an only child named South, less than a year old. She continued to reside in Hazel Green with her son for about ten years, where he received his first education. She then moved to Frankfort and lived with her father until his death; after which she purchased a fine blue grass farm at the Forks of Elkhorn, upon which she lived until her death on March 16th, 1900.
South Trimble was elected to the Legislature from Franklin county in 1899 and was Speaker of the House, occupying that position when Governor Goebel was assassinated. The following year he was elected to Congress and served three terms or six years from Ashland, Henry Clay's old district. He made an acceptable member, and it was a rare compliment extended to a Kentucky mountain boy, especially as the district has the reputation of having been represented by more distinguished statesmen than any district in the United States. He is now clerk of the National House of Representatives.
John Hargis was the first man who moved into Jackson after the town was established in 1839. He purchased two lots on Main street, embracing the lot upon which Floyd Days wholesale store house now stands, and upon these he erected four or five log cabins which he used temporarily for a hotel, which was the first and only hotel in the town for many years. He emigrated from Pikeville on the Big Sandy, and reared ten children, six sons and four daughters, William, Jacob, Samuel, Kenez, (called Keene), Henderson and Thomas Frazier, William and Samuel volunteered as soldiers in the Mexican war, and fought under General Taylor until the close of the war. Thomas F. was born and educated at Jackson and was the youngest of the family. At the aged of 18 he volunteered in the Confederate army and made a gallant soldier, remaining in the army until the close of the war. After the war he commenced the study of law, was admitted to the bar and located at Carlisle, where he married a Miss Norval. He was elected Judge of the Circuit Court, and after serving one term was appointed by the Governor as Judge of the Court of Appeals to fill the unexpired term of Judge John M. Elliott, who was assassinated in Frankfort by Tom Buford. Judge Hargis was a man of high order of talents, a good lawyer and an able judge, but was cut off in the bloom of manhood.
William and Keene Hargis had law licenses but practiced their profession very little. John Hargis, Sr., lost his first wife while living at Jackson. He contracted a second marriage with a Miss Secrest, of Fleming County, by whom he had two children. He then married a widow, and lo cated at Morehead, where he died about fourteen years ago.
The oldest daughter of John Hargis, Sr., was called Elizabeth Jane, (commonly called Jane). She was fourteen years old when the family located at Jackson, and was well matured. She was not noted for beauty, neither was she much educated; but she possessed many fascinating charms, which with her bright intellect and fine conversational powers, enabled her to captivate every young gentleman with whom she came in contact. She was much admired, and it was said she had several matrimonial engagements. Among them was a prominent bachelor doctor near Hazel Green, Wolfe county, who had heard much said of her and who also determined to make her acquaintance. He selected a time to visit her when the Rev. Joseph Nickell, a prominent minister of the Christian church of his neighborhood, was going to Jackson to hold a protracted meeting. They went together and stopped at Mr. Hargis' hotel, and when he was introduced to her it was love at first sight on his part. He proposed and was quickly accepted, and the time appointed for the consummation of the nuptials. At the time appointed he promptly returned to Jackson, accompanied by his best man and two young ladies, and also the parson Nickell, who was to perform the ceremony. He went to the hotel and was assigned to a room, and after dressing, he requested a sister to tell Miss Jane to meet him in the parlor. He was informed that she was not at home, that a few days previous she had gone home with Mr. Isaac Mize, a prominent citizen of Estill county, fifty miles away, to visit his daughter, Miss Nannie Mize (whose name was afterwards changed to Trimble, and with whom Miss Jane was acquainted). The doctor thereupon discharged his best man and the two young ladies and sent them back requesting them to tell his friends in Morgan that he had decided not to marry. He then secured the service of John S. Hargis, (father of Judge James Hargis) to accompany him to Estill county in quest of the lost bride. When they arrived at Mr. Mize's residence they found that the young ladies were not at home, they having gone across the river a few miles to spend the day with some friends. The doctor was determined to find his bride, so he crossed the river and went to the house where she was visiting. When he found her he told her that he had come to Jackson with the parson for the purpose of performing his marriage contract with her and found her absent; and he desired an explanation. She replied that she regretted having given him so much trouble, but that she was merely joking with him, and never had the remotest idea of marrying him.
A very short time after this occurred, Miss Jane, unfortunately for herself, became the plaintiff in one of the most important and sensational law suits ever filed in the Breathitt Circuit Court against two of the wealthiest and most important persons in the county, in which was over $10,000.00 in money involved, besides other matters, which cannot be estimated in dollars and cents. The defendants employed Harrison T. Garnett, who was a resident lawyer and one of the ablest attorneys practicing at that bar, and who was unfriendly to the Hargis family, especially to Miss Jane, to whom he had not spoken for more than a year. Mr. Garnett, in preparing the answer for his clients, was compelled to make statements which were not very complimentary to the plaintiff and which if published would not look well in print and hence are not repeated here. The substance was an admission on the part of the defendants that the allegations were true, and that they depended on proving facts. Mr. Garnett also took very great interest in giving publicity to the existence of the suit, explaining to everyone with whom he came in contact, the questions at issue and the probable result in the trial which he predicted would be in favor of the defendants. During this time Mr. Garnett one day went down the river below town in his shirt sleeves with his rifle to hunt squirrels. On his return, when he arrived opposite the Hargis Hotel on Main street, he met Miss Jane, who was passing over from the Clerk's office, immediately opposite the hotel. He spoke to her for the first time in over a year, and they had a short conversation there in the street of perhaps not more than one or two minutes. The details of the conversation will never be known but immediately afterwards, Mr. Garnett went to his room and wrote a note to the Rev. Nixon Covey, who lived on a farm a mile or two below town, requesting him to come to town at once to marry him. He sent the note with instructions to hurry by Jo, an intelligent negro man, owned by Jerry South, and with whom everybody in the county was acquainted. The marriage license was issued before the parson arrived, and within two hours after they met in the street, H. T. Garnett and Miss Jane Hargis were made man and wife. This was one of the most romantic and sensational weddings that ever occurred in Kentucky. As he was then the husband of the plaintiff in the suit, the law gave him the right to control it, which right he promptly exercised by dismissing the suit; and all the papers which were filed in the case, which were part of the public records, were taken from the clerk's office by some unknown person and destroyed. The bride was only seventeen years old, and the groom ten or twelve years her senior. He was a very handsome man, over six feet in height and the most perfect specimen of physical manhood I ever saw. I was very intimately acquainted with both of them prior to their marriage, but never met them afterwards. They remained in Jackson only a few weeks after their marriage, when they concluded it would be desirable to find a more congenial climate. They selected Texas as their future home, and living there 25 to 30 years, Mr. Garnett died leaving his widow and several children among whom was a son, Moses, who was one of the most distinguished lawyers of the State and who died about eight years ago at Houston, Texas. I had a regular correspondence with the widow for several years preceding her death. My last letter to her was dated April 1, 1910, and it was returned to me by one of her daughters who informed me that her mother died March 28, 1910, aged 85 years.
The Cockrell family was one of the most prominent ever lived in Breathitt county. There were ten brothers, nine of whom came from Virginia to Kentucky in the early part of the nineteenth century. Four of these, John, William, Simon and Jerry, settled in what is now Breathitt county. A fifth, Daniel was killed in the War of 1812; and the remaining four of the nine Joseph, Alexander, Morgan and James, moved to Missouri. Joseph was the father of Hon. F. M. Cockrell, who was United States Senator from Missouri for thirty years.
Jerry Cockrell lived and died on Quicksand. He had two sons, Simon and Thomas, who emigrated to Arkansas in 1839. John Cockrell lived on the south side of the river at the War shoal, four miles below the present site of Jackson. He was a great hunter, a second Daniel Boone, and spent much of his time on the Western frontier among the Indians, by whom he was finally killed in 1828. He left a widow who was known as Aunt Milly, one son, John, and three daughters. John, Jr., married at about the age of 41, and moved to Arkansas in 1839. One daughter married Jerry South, and another married Dick South (a cousin of Jerry), and the third daughter married Adrian Hays.
Aunt Milly Cockrell was a remarkable woman. She wars about 5 feet 10 inches in height, which was unusual in the Cockrell and South families. Intellectually she was one of the brightest women I ever met and would compare favorably with any lady in Kentucky. She was very religious, and was the first member to join what was then called the Campbellite church in that county. There was no organized church of any denomination nor any Sunday School in the valley of the North Fork of the Kentucky river or any of its tributaries, except a small Baptist church at the mouth of of Quicksand, a stretch of 125 miles.
The nearest church of which Aunt Milly was a member was located at Hazel Green, a distance of 21 miles. She attended three or four annual meetings held there by the Rev. "Raccoon" John Smith, who was a great favorite of hers, and who was among the first pioneer preachers of his church in Kentucky. She also attended church at Hazel Green during the summer months, for several years in the thirties, traveling through the wilderness alone on horseback where there were but few persons living. She always stopped at my father's house, usually coming over on Friday and returning on Monday. She was the great grandmother of Hon. South Trimble, whom I have already mentioned.
William Cockrell was a farmer, a surveyor, a school teacher and a preacher. He moved to Missouri about 1834, but returned to Breathitt county after a few years. I went to school to him sixty days when I was seven years old, he being one of my first teachers. We had no common or free schools at that time, and had to rely upon securing services of 'men going through the country who professed to be teachers. The school term was three months, beginning never later than August 1, after the crops were laid by, and closing before cold weather. Mr. Cockrell drew up an agreement which was signed by himself and his patrons, binding himself to teach spelling, reading and arithmetic to the best of his knowledge for the term of one quarter (three months), for which the patrons were to pay him $2.00 tuition and he was to board among the scholars. The only books we used were Websters blue back speller, New York Reader and Pikes Arithmetic, in the last of which one-half or more of the problems were in English money-pounds, shillings, and pence. We were permitted to sturdy, read and spell aloud, and each one of the pupils tried to excel his neighbor in the loud tones of his voice. In learning the spelling lesson of fifteen minutes on Friday evening the class could be heard a half mile.
William Cockrell had six sons and four daughters, Felix, Martin, John, Wesley, Shelton, Elizabeth, Claiborn, Julia, Ann, William and Nancy. All of them except Elizabeth moved to Missouri. She married William Davis, the school master, who lived in Breathitt county.
The school house used by Mr. Cockrell when I was one of his pupils was built of round logs, about 20 feet square, covered with four-foot boards laid on ribs instead of rafters, upon which were placed upright poles to keep them in position instead of nailing. The floor was made of poplar puncheons about ten feet long, hewed with a broad-axe to the thickness of about three inches. There were no windows. As a substitute for writing tables was a poplar log the length of the room and two feet in diameter, and split in two and dressed. One half of it formed one of the logs of the house and was placed about four feet from the floor, and the other half was used as a seat at 'the writing table. The log extended considerably into the room, leaving a large open space above it for light. In this space was placed a rough frame covered with white paper, which was saturated with lard to make it transparent and was a substitute for glass, which had not yet been introduced into that country at the time. The furniture of the school house consisted of one chair, which was occupied by the school master (as he was called) a black hickory stick about four feet long, which stood in the corner near the school master (and which was used at times with great severity) and a small wooden paddle which hung on a nail, and which was used on the hands of the smaller children for minor offenses. There was also a block thirty inches high in the middle of the floor, and known as the Dunce Block, upon which were placed those who were deficient in their lessons or were guilty of minor misdemeanors. The seats of the school house consisted of four wooden benches without backs, and a sufficient number of fence rails to accommodate the balance of the scholars.
It was customary at all the schools taught in the county at that time for the scholars, when they desired a holiday, to do what they called "turning out the master." This consisted of the largest boys assembling at the school house early in the morning, fastening the door on the inside and refusing admittance to the teacher until a treaty could be negotiated. This always resulted in the capitulation of the teacher and the giving of a holiday. When this occurred at our school, three of the young men were appointed commissioners to agree upon terms, which resulted in the teacher agreeing to give a holiday of one day, furnish a bushel of mellow apples, ten pounds of candy, a gallon of whiskey and sugar to sweeten it.
Simon Cockrell married Miss Polly Smith, and the result of their union was eleven children named as follows: Paurlina, Louisa, Jeremiah, Vardaman, John, Miles, James, Elisha, Logan, McKinley, Harrison, Simon, Benjamin, Franklin (called Dock) and Henry, all of whom married and had families except Miles. Vardaman and Miles emigrated to Missouri about 1835, and the latter was killed in a fight at Independence, Mo., leaving a widow and two sons who returned to Kentucky in 1843.
James was killed by a tree falling upon him, and Harrison and Simon both died in Estill county from the effect of pistol wounds. McKinley was a minister of the Christian church, and died at the early age of 27. Frank and Henry were both insane for many years preceding their death.
Simon, Sr. lived in part of Breathitt which was taken from Estill Co., where he had lived 31 years, Estill having been created in 1808. He was regarded as being the wealthiest man in either county, owning many slaves and large bodies of timber and coal lands. The latter was regarded as of but little value at that time, but would be worth an immense fortune now. While a citizen of Estill county he lived nearly fifty miles from his county seat, and it required three days to make the trip. He was a very profane man, and he seldom ever uttered a sentence without it being accompanied by a profane oath. On one occasion he visited Irvine, the county seat, on business before the circuit court, and being so much in the habit of swearing, he swore a profane oath in the presence of the court, for which he was fined five shillings, the penalty prescribed for such an offense by our statutes. The court then adjourned for dinner, and the clerk presented Mr. Cockrell the fine for payment. He threw a $5 bill down on the table and the clerk informed him that he could not change it. He replied that he did not want any change, that the clerk could keep the bill and he would swear out the balance. He thereupon commenced and cursed the court and all of its officials, as was never heard before. He then said : "If you are now satisfied, take the bill and go to hell with it."!
He was a money lender at 10 per cent interest, never charging more or taking any less. He handled a good many cattle, which he raised at little expense. He had no grass, but depended on the peavine for summer, and the hundreds of acres he owned, covered with cane and other winter forage, was amply sufficient to take his stock through the winter without additional feed. The only market for all the cattle raised in the mountain part of Eastern Kentucky was in Virginia, principally Loudon and adjoining counties in the Shenandoah Valley, where the bluegrass for grazing purposes was said to be equal to Kentucky. Every year up to the beginning of the war, many thousand head of cattle were driven from this State to Virginia; there being no stock scales in the country, they were sold by the head, averaging $10 per head for three- year-old steers. Since the close of the war Mt. Sterling has been the great cattle market for all this part of Kentucky, as well as a part of Tennessee and Virginia. Mr. Cockrell could never be induced to sell his cattle to anyone except a Mr. VanMeter, who lived near Winchester, Clark county, Ky. He had such unbounded confidence in the honesty of Mr. VanMeter that he would send him fifty to seventy-five head of cattle at a time, and request him to pay whatever he thought the cattle were worth.
Mr. Cockrell was a clever man and an honest man, and had many redeeming traits. He was never known to refuse to extend the helping hand to the poor; and was devoted to his friends. But to his enemies or to those who had incurred his displeasure he would not speak to or have anything to do with; and for any wrong done or insult given there was no forgiveness on his part. He was never known to attend church or participate in any religious devotions, or to lend his presence to any religious gatherings, except a certain baptizing at Jackson on one occasion.
There was a protracted meeting held at Jackson by Rev. Joseph Nickell, who represented a denomination that preached the doctrine of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and that remission occurred in the act of baptizing. Among the converts was a man who had formerly been a tenant of Mr. Cockrell's and with whom he had had some difficulty. Mr. Cockrell happened to be in town that day and he followed along with the large crowd of over 100 persons to see the baptizing. As his former tenant was being immersed, Cockrell called to the parson in his loud and stentorian voice that could be distinctly heard a quarter of a mile, and said : "Souse him again, Joe for he's a dam'd dirty dog, and it will take two dips to wash away his sins!"
The most remarkable funeral I ever attended was that of Archibald Crawford, at his residence at the mouth of Bear Creek, on the Middle Fork of the Kentucky river. I was visiting a sister living in the neighborhood and she informed me that Mr. Crawford was living and in good health, but that he had ordered his funeral to be preached on the next day, and everybody was invited. Such an occurrence was so unusual that I determined to witness it, and went along with the crowd. And such a large crowd I never saw assembled upon a similar occasion.
There were no buggies, as there were no buggy roads in the country at that time, and everyone who attended either had to walk or go horseback; and it seemed there was a horse hitched in every corner of the fences for a quarter of a mile in every direction. The dwelling house of two rooms was built of hewed logs, about 18 feet square, with a hail between of about 14 feet and a porch on each side for the whole length. Both rooms and the porches were filled with people, and many were in the yard. I secured a seat in the family room, in which was one bed and an old-fashioned high four-poster bedstead, which required a chair or stepladder to get into, and in which Mr. Crawford slept. Under it he kept his coffin, made several years previously out of planks he had sawed with a whipsaw by hand out of a black walnut tree which grew on his farm. The funeral sermon was delivered by the Rev. John D. Spencer, a Baptist minister of Breathitt county, and during the service (which continued for more than two hours) the coffin was brought out from under the bed and Mr. Crawford sat at the head of it during the remainder of the service, and seemed to enjoy the service more than anyone else present. He was a good man, had no enemies and everyone was his friend. Many friends came fifteen to twenty miles to attend the services.
Simon Bohanon, a prominent citizen of Woodford county, purchased the tract of land on the north side of the river opposite the mouth of Cane creek when it was still a part of Estill county, and improved it very handsomely as a home for himself and two sons, Louis and Henry, who were gentlemen of education and refinement, and also as a summer home for his wife and two lovely daughters, who would come up from Woodford county, via. Hazel Green on horseback and spend the summer months. Henry married Miss Paulina Cockrell, daughter of Simon Cockrell, and Louis married a daughter of Wm. Haddix, two of the wealthiest ladies in the county. Both sons, with their families and slaves, emigrated to Texas a few years before the beginning of the Civil War.
Previous to the opening of the road to the mouth of War creek in 1839, all freight for that country had to be brought in boats from Clay's Ferry, about 85 miles below Jackson. The merchants and business men of the county had much trouble in getting their freight by the river during the summer season, when the water was very low. They frequently had to employ ox-teams to pull the boats through the shoals when the water was low. Thomas Sewell, being one of the leading merchants and one of the wealthiest men of the county, determined to have a good wagon road made into Jackson, so that he could receive goods at all seasons of the year without having to rely upon the uncertain navigation of the river, in 1833, principally at his own expense and with a small appropriation from the county court, he made a good wagon road over the Pan Bowl mountain, striking the river at War Shoal, four miles below Jackson, thence across the mountain to Frozen Creek. The citizens living along the line on Frozen and Gilmore creeks completed the road to intersect with the State road two miles above Hazel Green. This road was used for transportation of all freight taken to Breathitt until the completion of the Lexington & Eastern railroad, about 20 years ago.
Mr. A. T. Wood (commonly called Dick), who had been my nearest next door neighbor in Mt. Sterling for 35 years, had the honor of driving the first six-horse team into Jackson, which occurred in April, 1854. He continued to drive his team there until the beginning of the Civil War, when he was commissioned Major of the 10th Kentucky Cavalry in the Federal army. He served with distinction in the war, made a gallant soldier and was honorably discharged.
After the war he studied law, was admitted to the bar in February, 1872, at the age of 38, and the same year ran for Congress on the Republican ticket against Matt Adams. He also ran for Governor against John Young Brown in 1891. He was elected city attorney of Mt. Sterling and served two years. He was appointed United States Commissioner by Judge Barr and served nine years; was appointed United States Senator by Governor Bradley in 1897, but was not seated; was appointed Referee in Bankruptcy in 1898 and served six years; and was then appointed United States Pension Agent for Kentucky in 1904, which position he held for eight years, and during which he has handled millions of dollars without the loss of a dollar to the Government. While holding this last position he has had a temporary residence in Louisville.
Breathitt is the only county in the State which has the honor of producing a man who professed to be endowed with supernatural and divine power. He was known as Jeremiah, (Lovelace) the Prophet, and I was intimately acquainted with him. He professed that by laying on of his hands he could perform miracles-heal the sick, restore the blind to sight, relieve the most excruciating pain, and also walk upon water. To prove his claims he exhibited his divine power before an audience by treating several patients with great success, as testified by the statements of several subjects upon whom he operated.
Many of those present at the exhibition believed in his divinity, but there were several "Doubting Thomases" present who were not and could not be convinced of his infallibility until they could see him walk upon the water. So, for that purpose he made an appointment to meet them near his residence below the mouth of Frozen creek, on the Kentucky, on an evening of the following week. In the meantime he procured three thick planks, ten feet long and about eighteen inches wide. Then he made three trestles and placed them in the river about nine feet apart and six inches below the surface of the water, and on these trestles he placed three planks, running them straight out in the river and the end of the first plank being near the water's edge on the ground and about eight inches below the surface. The boys of the neighborhood suspected the deception he was trying to play on the public, and when they investigated and found the planks, they removed the middle one without the Prophet's knowledge. At the time appointed a big crowd assembled to witness the performance. It was about dark, but the moon was shining brightly when the Prophet made his appearance, arrayed in a long white robe, and after offering up a short prayer he gave directions to the audience to sing a familiar hymn when he commenced walking on the water. He then started for the water, and about the time the audience had sung the last line of the first verse he reached the end of the first plank. On his next step he went overboard into the water, where he struggled for some time, his long robe being an obstacle to his swimming. He was about to drown when he called to his audience: "Brethren, save me or I perish!" A man in the crowd answered, "Can't give you any assistance-all dam'd fools like you ought to drown!" He finally got ashore, but was never known to walk on the water again. I was not present on this occasion, but afterwards did see the planks upon which it was said he walked.
When Breathitt county was created there was no church organization of what is now known as the Christian church within the county. Rev. Joseph Nickell was the first pioneer minister of that denomination, and preached the first sermon in the county delivered by a minister of that church. With the assistance of Rev. Rancy Maxey, who resided in the same neighborhood, he organized the first church in the county at Jackson in 1842, over 70 years ago. Rev. Nickell was a successful evangelist and was noted for having baptized more converts and married more couples than any minister of his age in the State. When this church was first organized in Kentucky it was known as the Campbellite church from the fact that Alexander Campbell was its founder and organizer. He was born in Ireland in 1788, and came to this country when he was 21 years old. He located at Bethany, Va., on the Ohio river, in 1823, and published the Christian Baptist until it was succeeded by the monthly publication called the Millenial Harbinger, which until his death was the organ of the church he had founded.
A copy of the Harbinger was taken at the postoffice in which I was a deputy for ten years, and I had access to it and read it with much interest when I was a youth. I remember there was a lengthy poem published, the last lines of every verse of which were: "Ho, every mother, son and daughter, Here is the gospel in the water."
Among the cardinal principles enunciated by Campbell was the repudiation of all human creeds and confessions, and taking as a guide the New Testament alone, which answered all purposes of a rule of faith and hence all human creeds and confessions are rejected. He also taught baptism by immersion for the remission of sins and in the absence of such baptism there was no promise in the sacred Scriptures of the saving of souls. After being known for several years as the Campbellite church, this denomination was known as the Reformers, then the Christian Church, and now the Disciples of Christ.
The doctrines of this church were first introduced into Bourbon County, Ky. in 1832. It afterwards spread into other parts of the State, absorbing a great many Baptist churches and is now the most popular church in the State. It has also spread throughout the United States with a rapidity that has no parallel in the history of the world. Official figures from all sources show that on December 31, 1911, this denomination had 11,280 churches, with an aggregate membership of 1,395,000 making it rank fourth among the Protestant churches of America and sixth among the Christian bodies of the world.
My memory extends back to the time when a few of the older business men of the country kept their books and accounts in English sterling money instead of dollars and cents. By reference to Humphrey Marshall's History published at Frankfort in 1824 and a copy of which I have in my possession, I find that all the officials of the State received their salaries in sterling currency as follows : To the Governor 300.1 pounds; Judges of the Court of Appeals, 200.1 pounds; Judges of the Court of Oyer and Terminere 30.1 pounds; Secretary of State, 100.1 pounds; State Treasurer 100.1 pounds; State Auditor, 100.1 pounds; Attorney General 100.1 pounds; Attorneys of districts, each 30.1 pounds. These salaries were paid quarterly-yearly, which shows the difference between the salaries paid now and 88 years ago. Tables are also given in Marshall's History, designating the fees to which the county officials were entitled in shillings and pence.
At the time Breathitt county was created the people relied principally on the transportation of coal and saw-logs down the river, as a means of making money. They built their own boats, which were from fifty to sixty feet long, and as there were no saw mills in the country they had to saw the planks by hand with rip saws and hew the gunnels and stanchions with a broad-axe. A considerable income was also derived from the sale of deer-skins, fur, honey, beeswax and ginseng with all of which the county was bountifully supplied. I shipped large quantities of all these commodities away from there in 1838.
Ginseng was an article of commerce, and at that time was worth only 2 cents a pound. It is now worth about $6.00 a pound, and has sold as high as $10.00 a pound within the last decade. After I became a merchant in 1847, I purchased it in the green state, paying 12 1/2 cents a pound, and clarified it making the younger roots perfectly transparent, and then sold it for 65 cents a pound. The principal market we had for it was China. There is a tradition that the Chinese chew and smoke it as we do tobacco, and also convert it into a medicine which they regard as a sovereign remedy for all disease; also that they burn it as incense upon their altars as a religious offering to some deity. At one time the demand for it in China was so great that it commanded a price of seven times its weight in silver. An effort has been made to cultivate it in Kentucky, as well as some of the Western States, but without any success. It is an herb that grows in the forests where there is plenty of shade and the best of soils. Seventy-nine years ago I rode horseback to Mt. Sterling with a sack of ginseng weighing 100 pounds, some of which I dug with my own hands, and sold it to George Howard, a leading merchant of that town, for 25 cents a pound.
In the mountain part of Eastern Kentucky in my youthful days, there was but little wheat cultivated by the farmers, on account of not having facilities for threshing it or mills convenient for producing flour. When the wheat was ripe, it was cut by hand with a scythe and cradle, and was bound up in sheaves and then thrashed out by hand with a flail, made of a piece of round timber about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 30 inches long, fastened with a leather thong to a handle about 5 feet long.
This being a slow process the farmers with much larger crops would prepare a piece of ground in the shape of a ring, about 30 feet in diameter, upon which the sheaves were placed and the grain was then trampled out with horses. I have spent many days on horseback tramping out the wheat. In order to separate the chaff from the grain, one man would fill up a large basket and pour it out slowly, while two others with a tow linen sheet made for that purpose would fan away the chaff as it fell, and the grain would fall to the ground. Wheat fans were introduced into the country about 1850. They were operated by hand and were a great improvement over the old way of cleaning wheat.
All the farmers of the country cultivated every year a patch of one or two acres of flax, and many of them small patches of cotton. Most of them owned flocks of sheep, the wool from which was manufactured into blankets, coverlids, flannel, jeans and linsey and used to make clothing for the family, including socks and stockings. The machinery necessary to manufacture the flax, cotton and wool consisted of a flax break, hackle with iron or steel teeth, a little spinning wheel with flyers propelled by a woman's foot for flax and cotton and a big wheel for spinning rolls, also wool and cotton hand loom and warping bars. Every prominent farmer was supplied with these necessary implements of industry which enabled the ladies of pioneer days in Kentucky to manufacture clothing for their families. All of them are now obsolete, having been superseded by modern-labor saving machinery, and there are perhaps but few persons, if any, of the present generation who ever saw or heard of such machinery.
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