The American Oil Well is situated three miles above Burksville, on the bank of the Cumberland River. About the year 1830, while some men were engaged in boring for saltwater, and after penetrating about 175 feet through a solid rock, they struck a vein of oil, which suddenly spouted up to the height of 50 feet above the surface. The stream was so abundant and of such force, it continued to throw up the oil to the same height for several days. The oil, thus, thrown out, ran into the Cumberland River, covering the surface of the water for several miles. It was readily supposed to be inflammable, and upon its being ignited, it presented the novel and magnificent spectacle of a "river on fire," the flames literally covering the whole surface for miles, reaching up to the top of the tallest trees on the banks of the river and continued burning until the supply of oil was exhausted. The salt borers were greatly disappointed, and the well was neglected for several years, until it was discovered that the oil possessed valuable medicinal qualities. It has since been bottled up in large quantities and is extensively sold in nearly all the states of the Union.
Indian Generosity. - In 1784 or 1785, among a party which embarked at the Falls of the Ohio to descend the river was Andrew Rowan. While the boat stopped at the Yellow Banks, on the Indiana side, Mr. Rowan borrowed a loaded gun, but no ammunition, and started off in pursuit of amusement, rather than game. When he returned, the boat was gone. The party, having seen signs of Indians approaching, and not daring to wait for Mr. Rowan, hastened off downstream. Mr. Rowan started towards the nearest white settlement, Vincennes, 100 miles distant; but soon lost his way, wandered about for three days, and exhausted, laid down to die. Roused by the report of a gun, he rose and walked in the direction of the sound. An Indian, seeing him, raised his gun to fire. Rowan turned the butt of his gun, and the Indian, with French politeness, turned the butt of his, also. Taking pity upon Rowan's helpless condition, the Indian led him to his wigwam and treated him with great hospitality, until his strength was regained. He then took him to Vincennes. Wishing to reward his generosity, Mr. Rowan arranged with a merchant to pay him $300, but the Indian persistently refused to receive a farthing. He, finally, to please Mr. Rowan, accepted a new blanket; and wrapping it around him said, with some feeling, "When I wrap myself in it, I will think of you!"
Race Horses and Horse Racing. - Fayette County is probably the most famous spot in America, if not in the world, for fine and fast-blooded horses. It is empathetically the home of "winning" horses, remarkable for speed and endurance on the turf of the United States, and known and appreciated in England. The first recorded public race in Lexington was in August 1789. Races have been kept up, with rare, if any, intermissions ever since. The first organized association, the Lexington Jockey Club, was formed in 1809 and prospered until 1823. On July 29, 1826, the turfmen again combined "to improve the breed of horses by encouraging the sport of the turf," and organized the present Kentucky Association.
Modern Indian Town. -Between this work and the river were plainly visible, in 1820, traces of a modern Indian encampment or town, shells, burned stones, fragments of rude pottery, and some graves. This was a favorite spot with the Indians for several reasons. One, because of its proximity to a noted saline spring or deer lick known as McArthur's Lick.
Old Town, for many years, has been claimed to have been, in early times, an Indian village. Old residents, as far back as 1800, considered it such from all they could learn. Tomahawks, flints, pipes, and other articles of Indian wear and use were once found there in abundance. If it be true that comparatively modern Indians ever dwelt there, as they certainly did on the Ohio River opposite the old mouth of the Scioto, this is the only portion of Kentucky ever inhabited by them; except a part of the land along the Cumberland River, south and west of it, which was once the home of the Shawnees, who afterwards emigrated to the Scioto River Valley in Ohio. Kentucky was the middle ground, where the Indian tribes of the North and the South met to hunt and to fight.
First Settlers In Hardin County. - In the fall and winter of 1780, Capt. Thomas Helm, Col. Andrew Hynes, and Samuel Haycraft settled where Elizabethtown now stands and built three forts with blockhouses about one mile from each other. The residence of the late Gov. John L. Helm now occupies the site of Capt. Thomas Helm's station; Haycraft's was on the hill above the cave spring; while Hynes' occupied the other angle of the triangle. These were the only settlements, at that early day, between the falls of the Ohio and Green Rivers. The forts or stockades, afterwards called stations, were erected thus: The settlers dug a trench with spades, hoes, or such implements as they could command, in which they set split timbers reaching 10 or 12 feet above the level; enclosing space sufficient for five, six, eight, or more dwellings, and a blockhouse (as a kind of citadel), with portholes. This was defense enough against Indian bows and arrows or rifles.
Those who composed the colony, which came in 1780, with Samuel Haycraft, were Jacob Vanmetre, his wife, three sons, seven daughters, and three sons-in-law; viz: Mrs. Margaret (wife of Samuel) Haycraft; Susan and her husband, Rev. John Gerrard; Mary and her husband, David Hinton (the latter was drowned in the Ohio River on the way); Jacob Vanmetre, Jr.; Isaac; John; Rebecca; Rachel; Ailsey; Elizabeth; and also a family of Negroes. Most of them opened farms in the Severns' Valley. Judge Thos. Helm, also, had quite a family of children and Negroes. Other men, with their families, were Col. Nicholas Miller, Judge John Vertrees, Miles Hart, Thomas, Brown, Shaw, Dye, Freeman, Swank, and others followed. Among the earliest settlers of Elizabethtown was Christopher Bush, of German descent, who reared a large family of sons and daughters. Of the latter, one married Thomas Lincoln, an excellent carpenter and joiner, father of the late ex-president Abraham Lincoln; who was the son of a former wife. She was an excellent woman, and upon her devolved the principal care of rearing and educating the future president.
The First Fort or Station was built, where Calhoun now stands, in 1788, by Solomon Rhoads, and called Vienna. In 1790, James Inman built Pond Station a few miles southeast of Calhoun.
Springs. -Two miles north of Calhoun are the McLean County oil wells and a spring known as Tar Springs.