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Kentucky Genealogy and History

Bath County, KY

Source: Historical Sketches of Kentucky  By Lewis Collins
Transcribed and Contributed by Barb Z.

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Bath county was organized in 1811, and is situated in the eastern part of the State, and lies on Licking river. It is bounded on the north and east by Fleming, south by Morgan, and west by Montgomery. It received its name from the great number of medicinal springs which abound in the county. The celebrated Olympian or Mud Lick springs are situated here, which contain a variety of waters, such as salt, black and red sulphur, and chalybeate of iron. Four miles east of these springs is the White Sulphur.

Lands reported for the county in 1846, 205,261 acres ; average value per acre, $8,63; total valuation of taxable property, $3,006,835. White males over twenty-one years old, 1,732; children between five and sixteen years old 2,420. Population in 1830, 8,799—in 1840, 9,763.

Licking river washes the entire north-east boundary of the county, and it is watered by several fine streams, flowing through various portions of it. The surface is diversified—hilly, undulating, and level. The soil north and west of Slate creek, is rich and fertile, being based upon limestone; south and east the county abounds in iron and coal, and the soil is not so good. Immediately around Sharpsburg, for several miles, the surface is gently undulating, and the lands highly cultivated, rich, and very productive. The principal articles of production and commerce, are cattle, mules, hogs, corn, and wheat. There are two iron furnaces and one forge in the county, manufacturing about two thousand tons of iron per year.

The towns of the county are, Owingsville, Sharpsburg, Wyoming, and Bethel. Owingsville is the seat of justice, and contains two churches, two taverns, a fine court house, post office, five stores and groceries, three doctors, seven lawyers, two schools, one blacksmith shop, one tailor, one saddler, &c. Incorporated in 1829, and named in honor of Col. Thomas Dye Owings. Population three hundred.

Sharpsburg is situated on the Maysville and Mount Sterling turnpike road, thirty-eight miles from the former, and twelve from the latter place, and twelve miles west of Owingsville. It contains three churches, one tavern, four stores, six doctors, two saw mills, one bagging factory, one male and one female school, two wool factories, and ten mechanical shops. Established in 1825, and named for Moses Sharp.

Wyoming, a small village at the mouth of Slate creek, contains two stores, two taverns, two cabinet shops, one blacksmith shop, two grist and saw mills.

Bethel, a small village on the main route from Maysville to Mount Sterling, contains a post office, one store, one tavern, two saddler's shops, blacksmith and hat shops—thirty inhabitants.

The following interesting incident in the early settlement of Bath county, is related in McClung's "Sketches of Western Adventure," a work published by the author of these notes in the year 1832 :

" In the month of August, 1786, Mr. Francis Downing, then a mere lad, was living in a fort, where subsequently some iron works were erected by Mr. Jacob Myers, which are now known by the name of Slate creek works, and are the property of Colonel Thomas Dye Owings. About the 16th, a young man belonging to the fort, called upon Downing, and requested his assistance in hunting for a horse which had strayed away on the preceding evening. Downing readily complied, and the two friends traversed the woods in every direction, until at length, towards evening, they found themselves in a wild valley, at the distance of six or seven miles from the fort. Here Downing became alarmed, and repeatedly assured his elder companion, (whose name was Yates), that he heard sticks cracking behind them, and was confident that Indians were dogging them. Yates, being an experienced hunter, and from habit grown indifferent to the dangers of the woods, diverted himself freely at the expense of his young companion, often inquiring, at what price he rated his scalp, and offering to ensure it for a sixpence.

" Downing, however, was not so easily satisfied. He observed, that in whatever direction they turned, the game ominous sounds continued to haunt them, and as Yates still treated his fears with the most perfect indifference, he determined to take his measures upon his own responsibility. Gradually slackening his pace, he permitted Yates to advance twenty or thirty steps in front of him, and immediately afterwards descending a gentle hill, he suddenly sprung aside, and hid himself in a thick cluster of whortleberry bushes. Yates, who at that time was performing some woodland ditty to the full extent of his lungs, was too much pleased with his own voice to attend either to Downing or the Indians, and was quickly out of sight. Scarcely had he disappeared, when Downing, to bis unspeakable terror, beheld two savages put aside the stalks of a canebrake, and look out cautiously in the direction which Yates had taken.

" Fearful that they had seen him step aside, he determined to fire upon them, and trust to his heels for safety, but so unsteady was his hand, that in raising his gun to his shoulder, she went off before he had taken aim. He lost no time in following her example, and after running fifty yards, he met Yates, who, alarmed at the report, was hastily retracing his steps. It was not necessary to inquire what was the matter. The enemy were in full view, pressing forward with great rapidity, and "devil take the hindmost," was the order of the day. Yates would not outstrip Downing, but ran by his side, although in so doing he risked both of their lives. The Indians were well acquainted with the country, and soon took a path that diverged from the one which the whites followed, at one point, and rejoined it at another, bearing the same relation to it, that the string does to the bow

" The two paths were at no point distant from each other more than one hundred yards, so that Yates and Downing could easily see the enemy gaining rapidly upon them. They reached the point of re-union first, however, and quickly came to a deep gully which it was necessary to cross, or retrace their steps. Yates cleared it without difficulty, but Downing, being much exhausted, fell short, and falling with his breast against the opposite brink, rebounded with violence, and fell at full length upon the bottom. The Indians crossed the ditch a few yards below him, and eager for the capture of Yates, continued the pursuit, without appearing to notice Downing. The latter, who at first had given himself up for lost, quickly recovered his strength, and began to walk slowly along the ditch, fearing to leave it, lest the enemy should see him. As he advanced, however, the ditch became more shallow, until at length it ceased to protect him at all.

" Looking around cautiously, he saw one of the Indians returning, apparently in quest of him. Unfortunately, he had neglected to reload his gun, while in the ditch, and as the Indian instantly advanced upon him, he had no resource but flight. Throwing away his gun, which was now useless, he plied his legs manfully in ascending the long ridge which stretched before him, but the Indian gained on him so rapidly that he lost all hope of escape. Coming at length to a large poplar which had been blown up by the roots, he ran along the body of the tree upon one side, while the Indian followed it upon the other, doubtless expecting to intercept him at the root. But here the supreme dominion of fortune was manifest.

" It happened that a large she bear was suckling her cubs in a bed which she had made at the root of the tree, and as the Indian reached that point first, she instantly sprung upon him, and a prodigious uproar took place. The Indian yelled, and stabbed with his knife; the bear growled and saluted him with one of her most endearing "hugs ;" while Downing, fervently wishing her success, ran off through the woods, without waiting to see the event of the struggle. Downing reached the fort in safety, and found Yates reposing after a hot chase, having eluded his pursuers, and gained the fort two hours before him. On the next morning, they collected a party and returned to the poplar tree, but no traces either of the Indian or bear were to be found. They both probably escaped with their lives, although not without injury."






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