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
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
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.