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Early History


Early history of Clark County, Kentucky
by J. Green Trimble on August 15, 1910

The following is some of the early history of Clark County, Kentucky as given to the newspaper August 15, 1910 by J. Green Trimble. At that time he was eighty-seven years of age and the oldest man in Montgomery County, Kentucky.

" . . . . . . . I have consented to give a few items and random thoughts as they occur to my mind of what I know in reference to pioneer days in Kentucky, and the genealogy of my ancestry, as well as remembrances of my early youth, which if you think will be interesting to the many readers of your paper, you will publish; otherwise commit them to the waste basket.

Sometimes during the Christmas holidays of last year I saw published in one of the papers of your city, a letter written by the late W. M. Beckner, in which he gave some random notes of Clark Co., in pioneer days, also a letter prepared by T. G. Robinson giving reminiscences of half a hundred years ago in Clark County, both of which I read with much interest. Judge Beckner said in his letter: There is a tradition that one of the men that escaped from Estill's Defeat after having been wounded was attacked by an Indian near Winchester, but shot and killed his assailant, and that he is inclined to believe it, because many years thereafter, there was found an old flint lock gun under the tree where it was stated that this struggle occurred.

I also believe it to be true, not on account of the gun lock having been found there, but from the fact that I got the information directly from the soldier himself, who I believe participated in the conflict, and with whom I was personally and intimately acquainted. I am the only man now living so far as is known who was personally acquainted with any of the soldiers who participated in the bloody conflict of what is known in history as Estill's Defeat with the Wyandott Indians which occurred near Mt. Sterling 128 years ago. I refer to Joseph Proctor as having participated in that great battle with whom I was intimately acquainted. He was a local Methodist preacher for fifty years, having been ordained by Bishop Asbury about the beginning of the nineteenth century. He was a brave soldier, a stranger to fear, and a man of commanding appearance, being about six feet two inches in height and weighing two hundred pounds.

In my youthful days I lived in Irvine, Estill County, where Proctor then resided, and I being very poor and not in possession of any of this world's goods I gladly accepted a


position in the office of Major Robert Clark, who was clerk of the Circuit and County courts of that county, at a salary of $100 per year for two years, Major Clark with whom I lived was a nephew of Gov. James Clark, who lived and died in your town and owned the property now occupied by Floyd Day.

While I lived in Irvine, Proctor lived across the street, opposite and not more than 200 feet from where I boarded and I met with him almost every day for two years. Major Clark being a leading member of the Methodist Church, Proctor made the clerks office where I was located his headquarters, where he would very often spend his leisure hours and discuss religious subjects and give his experiences with Boone, Calloway, Logan and Kenton in fighting the Indians, which was a favorite subject with him, and upon which he liked to dwell. It was well known that he had killed not less than half a dozen Indians, including the one that plunged a knife into the heart of Capt. Estill in his presence; but in all our conversations he never confessed having killed one, but admitted that he had often shot at them, and said he had never heard of any of those he had fired at committing any depredations or killing any one afterwards.

He often spoke of the attention he had given to Col. William Irvine who was badly wounded, in having him taken to his home, and also said that he, assisted by another soldier, carried on their shoulders the body of Captain Estill from the battle ground to Estill Station in Madison County, a distance of about twenty-five miles. He lived an honored life, and died at his home in Irvine, Ky., on the 2nd day of December 1844. I was present at his funeral and burial; he was buried with military honors. It is to be regretted that his body now lies in an unknown and unmarked grave in a dilapidated and, unused cemetery, which has been suffered to grow up in weeds and briars, without even a stone to mark his last resting place, I hope the legislature of Kentucky will at its next session make an appropriation of $1,000 to build a monument to perpetuate his memory as well as that of Captain Estill.

As my maternal grandfather was the first citizen who moved into Clark County after its formation by an act of the Legislature, as will be shown in this letter hereafter, I will give you a short history of his life. His name was Michael O'Hair, he was born in Ireland, and emigrated to America about the beginning of the Revolutionary War with


Great Britain. He volunteered his services as a private soldier in that war, in behalf of his adopted country, and continued, therein as a gallant soldier until the close of the war, and participated in many of the hard fought battles upon Southern soil under Generals Morgan, Greene and other distinguished heroes, including the battle of the Cow Pens, where the forces on each side was about equal, and the Americans lost about 80 men, while the British loss was over 600; also the battle of Eutaw Springs, Guilford Court House and many others, when in marching, their way might be tracked by the blood from their shoeless feet, and which resulted in our independence from the British crown, and giving to his thousands of descendants the political and religious liberties which they now enjoy. At the close of the war he was honorably discharged and came to and settled in the county of Kentucky and State of Virginia, about ten miles south of Lexington, in what is now Jessamine County, to enjoy his well earned honors and the thanks of his grateful countrymen.

He married where he located and after a few years of married life his wife died leaving him one son and three daughters, named Sally, Betsey and Katy. His son, Thomas O'Hair, after arriving to manhood, emigrated to Texas, which was then a part of Mexico, and he participated in all the hard fought battles which resulted in the Independence of the Republic of Texas, and afterwards annexed to the United States as one of the greatest states in the Union.

I have in my possession an affidavit of an official of the War Department at Washington, certifying (that my grandfather) Michael O'Hair, was on the payroll of the Revolutionary War, which will make all of his female descendants eligible to the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The State of Kentucky was admitted into the Union as an independent State in 1792, and, divided by act of Congress into three counties - Fayette, Jefferson, and Lincoln. The county of Fayette embracing all the territory East of the Kentucky River, beginning at its mouth and running up same to the Virginia line.

The county of Clark was made of parts of Fayette and Bourbon by an act of the Legislature to take effect from and after the 1st day of February 1793, and bounded as follows:

Beginning at the mouth of Boone's Creek on the Kentucky River; thence up same to the mouth Welch's Fork; thence a


direct line to Bourbon line, such a course as will leave the house of John McCreary, Sr., one quarter of a mile to the Westward; thence a straight line to Stone's Fork of Licking, such a course as will leave Bourbon Court House eleven miles from the nearest point of said line; thence a straight line to the line of Mason County, so as to leave the Blue Lick two miles to the Northwest thereof; thence up the main branch of Licking along the line of Mason County to the head thereof; thence along the said line, a direct course from the head of Licking to strike the nearest point of Cumberland mountain; thence along said mountain Southward to the present line of Bourbon county to the head of Kentucky; thence down the same to the beginning.

After the formation of Clark County, my grandfather immediately removed to and settled in the vicinity of Mt. Sterling which was then in Clark County, where he formed a second matrimonial alliance by marrying Miss Elizabeth Tribbett, who was an orphan, born in Virginia and brought from that state by a widow Cooper, and did not have a relative in that state. He continued to reside in this county until Montgomery County was made, which was four years and one month after the formation of Clark.

Clark County when first established was about 200 miles in length and with an average width of over 40 miles and included all the territory between Licking and Kentucky rivers, from two miles above the Blue Lick Springs on Licking and the mouth of Boones Creek on the Kentucky River to the Virginia line; besides a large territory in the Big Sandy Valley and embracing all, and a part of what is now the following seventeen counties: Montgomery, Nicholas, Bath, Rowan, Menifee, Morgan, Magoffin, Floyd, Pike, Estill, Powell, Lee, Wolfe, Breathitt, Knott, Perry and Letcher.

My Grandfather O'Hair by his second marriage had ten children, five sons and five daughters, named as follows:

John, William, James, Michael, and Washington. (Note-Information gathered by Frank T. O'Hair indicates Washington had a twin by the name of Harrison, who died in infancy).

Nancy, Polly, Sibley, Rose Ann and Eleanor, (the latter being my mother) with all of whom I was well acquainted, they were all married, and all except one reared large families of children; consisting of from six to fourteen in each family. I had fifty uncles and aunts, which was increased to fifty-four by the second marriage of three uncles and one aunt. They have all long since departed this life, having


died at ages ranging from 58, the youngest, to 95 years.

My grandfather continued to live in the vicinity of Mt. Sterling until the beginning of the nineteenth century, when he moved with his large family and located in the mountainous part of Montgomery County, on the farm upon which Hazel Green was afterwards located, which was then in the wilderness and sparsely populated, not more than a dozen families living in twenty miles square. The county at that time was bountifully supplied with wild game of every description, including deer, bear and wild turkeys, with which the assistance of his trusty rifle he kept his table bountifully supplied. The county was also infested with hundreds of wolves and a few panthers…...."