KENTUCKY - A GUIDE TO THE BLUEGRASS STATE - 1939
Railroad Station: Depot and Office Sts., for Southern Ry.
Bus Station: Main and Lexington Sts., adjoining post office, for Greyhound and
Taxis: 25 cents within city limits; 10# per mile outside city.
Accommodations: One hotel; inns, and tourist homes.
Information Service: Chamber of Commerce, in Hotel Harrod.
Motion Picture Houses: Two.
Annual Events: Historical pageant, usually June 16; Mercer County Fair, last week
in July; Fox Hound Show, second day of fair.
HARRODSBURG (824 alt., 4,585 pop.), first permanent white settlement
in Kentucky, is on a hill of the Bluegrass just west of the upper
Set on a lawn facing the main street, the Mercer County Courthouse
lifts a white clock tower and cupola high over the countryside. Around
it hurries the vigorous life of this tourist city. Along College Street
old families live in homes designed in early nineteenth century styles.
Around the city in all directions cluster horse farms, tobacco farms,
and chicken farms with their distinctive houses in the southern plantation
Harrodsburg's fine homes and mineral springs are less cherished than
the historic shrines assembled here in Pioneer Memorial State Park.
Kentucky looks to Harrodsburg for reminders of long struggles during
surveying and settlement; and great deeds of men like James Harrod
and George Rogers Clark are commemorated here.
Early in 1773 Governor Dunmore of Virginia sent surveyors into
Kentucky to survey public land, to be used in paying off veterans of
the French and Indian War. One of these surveying parties, led by
Thomas Bullitt and James Harrod, left Fort Pitt in the spring of 1773
and descended the Ohio River to the mouth of the Kanawha. Here
the party met the McAfee brothers Robert, William, James, and
George who had left Virginia on a similar mission. The two parties
joined forces and continued down the Ohio River to Big Bone Lick,
where they camped July 4 and 5. On July 7 they separated. Bullitt
and his followers went to the Falls of the Ohio where they laid out the
site of Louisville. Harrod accompanied the McAfees up the Kentucky
River beyond the present site of Frankfort, where they crossed over
into the valley of the Salt River. At its headwaters they located two
proposed settlements, one by James Harrod where Harrodsburg now
stands, the other by the McAfees a few miles north. They then returned to Pennsylvania and Virginia to plan for a migration in the following
Early in 1774 James Harrod and 31 other men returned to the site
of Harrodsburg. On June 16, 1774, a settlement called Harrodstown
was laid out near Boiling Springs, three miles east of the later Harrod's
Fort. A half-acre town lot and a 10-acre out-lot were assigned to each
man. All the men took shares, but only five or six cabins were built
On July 20, 1774, while resting near a spring, four Harrodstown men
were fired on from the underbrush. One was killed. Two fled through
the woods to the Ohio River; they went down the Mississippi to New
Orleans, and took ship for Philadelphia. The fourth ran to the settlement
and told of the attack.
The Indians were on the warpath! Early that summer they attacked
surveyors and settlers north of the Ohio River, and Lord Dunmore sent
Daniel Boone and Michael Stoner to order the return of Kentucky surveyors
until the Indian war was over. By the end of 1774 the cabins
at Harrodstown were deserted and few white men remained in Kentucky.
While Daniel Boone, in the employ of the Transylvania Company,
was blazing the trail across the mountains to the site of Boonesboro,
James Harrod and 30 men in March 1775 occupied cabins built the
previous year. On higher ground they constructed a palisaded village.
It was a defensive arsenal and fortified town, the residents serving as
a garrison ready to protect settlers living on the outside. Women and
children arrived in September 1775.
Late in the summer of that year, James Ray, a boy of 16, was hunting
near the fort. He had just killed and roasted a blue-winged duck
when a "soldierly looking" man stepped from the forest. The boy
offered to share his duck. "The man seemed starved and ate all of it,"
Ray said later. The stranger asked a great many questions about the
settlement, and Ray offered to lead him to the fort. In this way, according
to old accounts, George Rogers Clark introduced himself to
Harrodstown (later Harrodsburg), and became its leader.
Besides the usual pioneer troubles, Harrodstown settlers soon faced
the problem of proving title to their land. The Transylvania Company
claimed a large tract of Kentucky land through purchase from the
Cherokee. The company attempted to exert authority over the territory
settled by Harrod and others. Clark called a meeting of the settlers
in June 1776. The settlers authorized Clark and Gabriel Jones
to go to Virginia to re-establish their claims.
The two men set out over the Wilderness Trail, but in the Cumberland
foothills were halted by an acute case of "scaldfeet." They were
delayed just long enough to prevent their arrival at Williamsburg, Virginia,
before adjournment of the assembly. Clark went to Governor
Henry, who gave him a letter of approval to the council of state. The
council offered to lend him 500 pounds of powder if he would defend
and settle the country across the mountains. Clark refused, saying that
a country not worth claiming is not worth protecting. Clark was then
given the powder, with the assurance that Virginia would back him.
As Clark returned to Kentucky he was hotly pursued by Indians
along the Kentucky River and was forced to landcents at Limestone (now
Maysville) to hide the powder. On the way to Harrodsburg he met
a group of surveyors. They returned to the powder cache, recovered
the explosive, and took it to Harrodsburg. Clark evidently conceived
the idea of attacking the British in the northern territory either before
or while he was at Harrodsburg, for he obtained permission from Gov.
Patrick Henry to attack wherever he thought advisable.
Throughout the Revolutionary War, Harrodsburg was the seat of
Kentucky County, which was organized in December 1776. According
to the census, the town had a population of 198 persons, of whom 81
were eligible for military duty. The first court held in Kentucky convened
January 16, 1781, in the blockhouse at Harrodsburg. One of the
first cases tried was that of Hugh McGary, charged with playing the
races. He was found guilty as charged, and the court proclaimed him
"an infamous gambler . . . not [to] be eligible to any office of trust
or honor within the State."
Harrodsburg people were industrious and thrifty. In 1775 John
Harman raised the first corn in Kentucky in a field at the east end of
Harrodsburg. The first woolen mill and the first gristmill in the West
were operated here, and pottery, plows, flour, and textiles were manufactured.
The first school in the State was conducted within the fort in 1778.
The teacher had no textbooks, and the children used smooth boards for
paper and juice of ox galls for ink. They learned to write and read,
and studied the Bible and hymnals.
By 1800 the community was prosperous. Rich farm lands surrounding
the town encouraged cultivation of flax, hemp, tobacco, and other
money crops. Harrodsburg's industries thrived. Then the development
of roads to other Kentucky settlements and the coming of the steamboat
in 1811 shifted Kentucky's major trade routes. Harrodsburg fell
back on agriculture, and developed a tourist trade at first because of
its sulphur springs, later because of its historic interest. Harrodsburg
was the summer resort of plantation owners in the Deep South, and
Graham Springs alone is said to have had more than a thousand guests
at one time.
Despite its industrial collapse Harrodsburg so profited from tourist
business and marketing that the period 1820-1860 was one of steady
growth. Log cabins gave way to more genteel houses modeled after
the mansions on the Potomac and James Rivers. Bacon College was
removed from Georgetown to Harrodsburg in 1839, and remained here
until destroyed by fire in 1864, when it was merged with Transylvania
College at Lexington. Greenville Female College, later known as
Daughters' College, now Beaumont Inn, began in 1840. In 1847 there
were two female academies: one, under the management of the Christian Church, enrolled 60 to 70 students; the other, under the care of
the Presbyterian Church, 100 to 120 students.
During this period many men of distinction were born or lived in
Harrodsburg. Gabriel Slaughter (1818-20), John Adair (1821-24)
(see History), and Beriah Magoffm (1859-62) became Governors of
Kentucky; George S. Houston took the same high office in Georgia.
John B. Thompson was a United States Senator (1853-59). William
Marcus Linney (1835-87) was a pioneer Kentucky botanist and
This era of prosperity was seriously interrupted by the War between
the States. Nearly all nearby farmers were slave owners. Their slaves
were liberated, their fields laid bare, their livestock and horses taken,
and their estates impoverished. Property built up through three generations
passed into other hands. The family ownership of practically
all the old homes of Harrodsburg can be traced back no further than
1870, when the population was 2,200.
In the decades that followed, rehabilitation and growth were slow.
Competition from imported sisal and jute, because of practically no
tariff protection, caused the hemp industry to fail. Prices of grain
were uncertain, and tobacco gradually became the chief money crop.
Little by little, farms restocked sheep and beef cattle, and by 1900
Harrodsburg had regained some of its prosperity.
During the last 30 years Harrodsburg has become the trade center of
a farming region producing exceptional trotting horses, poultry, and
white burley tobacco; its few industries operate on power furnished by
the Dix Dam hydro-electric plant. Its tourist and resort trade is enormous.
Throughout the warm season beginning in May, a number of
people come from all parts of the country to "take the water" at its
sulphur springs and visit its historic shrines.
POINTS OF INTEREST
PIONEER MEMORIAL STATE PARK, Lexington and Warwick
Sts., is a tract that occupies the site of Old Fort Harrod and
its immediate environs. Before 1923 only a neglected graveyard
marked the place and quarrying operations threatened the site. One
of America's historic landmarks was going to ruin, and Kentucky citizens
undertook to restore the fort and beautify the grounds. The old
Taylor Mansion was acquired for a museum; Congress provided funds
for the erection of the Clark Memorial; the Thomas Lincoln Marriage
Cabin was set up in a building especially erected to house it; the palisades
and fort buildings were reconstructed as nearly as possible like
the originals. On November 16, 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt
and Gov. Ruby Lafoon joined in dedicating the park. It is fenced
by a brick wall on Warwick Street, and a gateway opens on a wide
road running through a bluegrass lawn to a parking space at the foot
of the memorial, the fort (directly in front), and the cemetery.
OLD FORT HARROD (open 8-6 in summer; 8:30-6 in winter; adm.
adults 25 cents , children 10$, including adm. to Mansion Museum), end of
drive in the park, is a reconstruction of the original fort that occupied
this site. It is 64 feet shorter than the 264-feet-square original. Blockhouses
at the southeast and southwest corners are connected by cabins
with roofs sloping inward. The remainder of the enclosure is a palisade
of upright logs 12 feet high. The outside chimneys are of claychinked
logs set on stone foundations. In former times each cabin had
a pole to push over the chimney in case it caught fire. The spring,
still flowing, furnished sufficient water for the inhabitants.
Within the cabins and blockhouses are pioneer relics homemade
wooden utensils, hand-made furniture, crude agricultural tools, lanterns,
dishes, spinning wheels, copper kettles, pioneer beds, and many other
items preserved by descendants of early settlers.
Within the fort is a reproduction of the FIRST SCHOOLHOUSE, where
Mrs. William Coomes taught reading and writing to the children of the
In this fort Ann McGirty operated the first spinning wheel in the
West; John Lythe preached the Gospel; Squire Boone, brother of
Daniel, walked about with a Bible in his hand; the first white child in
Kentucky was born; and George Rogers Clark prepared to march into
the Old Northwest.
LINCOLN MARRIAGE TEMPLE, R. at Warwick St. entrance, is a red
brick building, cruciform in plan, its 12 angles representing the 12
Apostles. In the central tower is the bell, rung twice each year on
the marriage anniversary of Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln, and
on the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's death. The floor plan of the
temple was suggested by an old Baptist church in the neighborhood
where the pulpit was in the center of the church. The LINCOLN MARRIAGE
CABIN stands where the pulpit would be ordinarily. It was removed
from its original site in the Beech Fork Settlement, where
Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks were married June 12, 1806. The
cabin resembles the one in which Lincoln was born (see Tour 6).
PIONEER CEMETERY, N. side of the park, oldest in the West, is the
burial place of more than 500 early settlers and soldiers. Few names
appear on the gravestones. A coffin-shaped stone, near the middle of
the cemetery, marks the grave of the first white child who died in the
GEORGE ROGERS CLARK MEMORIAL, SE. of entrance to the fort, is
a heroic granite bas-relief, the money for which was appropriated by
Congress. The central section shows Gen. George Rogers Clark standing
beside his horse. To the right is a young pioneer and an old one;
to the left, a frontier soldier bids wife and child good-by. The memorial
was designed and executed by Ulric Ellerhusen, sculptor, and
Francis Keally, architect. In a granite stone, lying flat before the
sculptured figures, is chiseled an illustrated map of the Northwest Territory.
The MANSION MUSEUM (open 8-6 in summer; 8:30-6 in winter),
Warwick and Poplar Sts., built by Maj. James Taylor in 1830, is a
post-Colonial two-story brick house built close to the sidewalk. It was
acquired by the Harrodsburg Pioneer Memorial Park Association in
Portraits are hung around the front hallway. The Lincoln Room
contains Lincolniana. The Confederate Room has battlefield relics and
paintings and prints of many Southern leaders. The George Rogers
Clark Room preserves prints and papers about Clark and his conquest.
There is a collection of firearms in a room on the second floor. Next
to it in the music room are many old instruments, some of them rare.
In another room are old costumes, Indian relics, and historic books.
The DOCTOR SHOP, Warwick St. S. of the main entrance, was dedicated
in June 1924 by the Kentucky State Medical Association in
memory of pioneer physicians. This small one-story brick building
contains a museum of early medical books, surgical instruments, and
pictures pertaining to the medical profession.
GRAHAM SPRINGS (open), in the extreme SW. section of the city
(roadway marked), is a mineral spring in a grove once occupied by a
famous resort. The SPRING SHELTER is near the site of the old resort
building burned during the War between the States. Wealthy Kentuckians
and planters from the Deep South, accompanied by their
slaves, menservants and maids, came here in great numbers during the
years before the war.
At the FAIRGROUNDS (adm. to fair 50$), adjoining Graham
Springs, the Mercer County Fair Association holds its annual exhibits
and meetings. The fair has agricultural and industrial displays common
to rural fairs, but emphasizes its horse shows, and has stables for
300 show horses. The annual Fox Hound Show is held on the second
day of the fair.
MORGAN ROW (private), Chiles St. opposite Courthouse Square,
is a compact series of four two-story brick buildings set flush with the
street, constructed between 1807 and 1836. They are separated by fire
walls that extend some distance above the roof level. Seven doors in
the houses open on limestone steps leading down to the original brick
sidewalk. At the north end of the row is a post-Colonial structure
built by John Chiles, an innkeeper and stagecoach operator of the
1830's. The buildings were operated by Chiles as an inn and as a
rendezvous for gamblers. One of the doors still has the peephole used
by the suspicious doorman.
DIAMOND POINT (private), Price Ave. and College St., is a twostory
Greek Revival brick home built in 1840. The deep Doric portico,
with two central columns and corner pilasters, protects the long French
windows and the richly carved doorway. Across the fagade extends an
iron balcony with diamond-shaped tracery, one of the first of its kind
in the State.
BURFORD HILL (private), W. of cemetery at N. city line, is a
one-and-a-half-story late Georgian Colonial house built in 1820. The
original west wing was destroyed by lightning. The bricks, burned
locally, are laid in Flemish bond. The arched, fanlighted doorway is
protected by a small Doric portico topped with a steep pediment. The
gable roof is broken by small dormers.
AVALON INN, Main, Maxwell, and Chiles Sts., was originally the
home of a Presbyterian academy for girls. In the Main Street fagade
four massive Doric columns rise two stories to support an entablature
and cornice which carry out the Greek Revival design even to the
dentils, triglyphs, and simple metopes. The doorway, with rectangular
side lights and transom, is severely plain.
CLAY HILL (private), Beaumont Ave., late Georgian Colonial in
style, was built in 1812 by Beriah Magoffin, father of the Kentucky
Governor (1859-62) of the same name. This two-story brick structure
with one-story wings is noted for its handsome carved mantels and the
loggia in the rear.
BEAUMONT INN (open), Danville St. near the city line, is a Greek
Revival brick building erected by John Augustus Williams in 1845, and
was for some years the home of Daughters' College. Six tapering Ionic
columns of the impressive entrance portico support a plain entablature.
POINTS OF INTEREST IN ENVIRONS
McAfee Station, 8 m. (see Tour 5). Old Mud Meeting House, 3 m.; Shakertown,
8 m.; Herrington Lake, 11 m.; Perryville Battlefield, 12.4 m.; High Bridge,
16.4 m. (see Tour 15).
This information was Compiled and Written by the Federal Writers' Project
of the Work Projects Administration for the State of Kentucky - 1939