Bath county, the 56th formed in the state, was carved
out of Montgomery county, Jan. 15, 1811, and named from the great
number of medicinal springs within its borders. It is situated in the
eastern part of the state. Licking river flows along its entire
eastern and northern sides, and its principal tributaries in the
county are Flat, Slate, and Salt Lick creeks.
The county is bounded N. by Fleming county, E. by Fleming, Rowan, and Menifee, S. by Menifee and Montgomery, and W. by Montgomery and Nicholas counties. The portion w. of Slate creek, with its leading roads macadamized, is a limestone formation, some of it as fine for grain and grass as any in the world; the eastern is poor and hilly, a portion well timbered, and contains one of the largest deposits of iron ore in Kentucky, with some bituminous coal, but not in workable beds.
The Olympian springs, 8 miles s. E. of Owingsville, is a watering place of considerable celebrity, with 3 springs, sulphur, salt sulphur, and chalybeate. During the war of 1812, Col. Thos. Dye Owings, while raising and organizing the 2Sth regiment U. S. infantry, had his camp here, and built most of the cabins. Many- of them were burned during the recent civil war, but have been rebuilt.
The Old Slate iron furnace was built about 1790. It went out of blast in 1838, Beaver furnace and forge about 1826, Caney furnace in 1849, Clear creek furnace in 1854, Maria forge in 1850. The only fortification or station in early times, in what is now Bath county, was a blockhouse, in 1786, on the old slate ore bank, where Jacob Myers afterwards erected the Slate iron furnace in which the furnace hands took refuge on the approach of Indians. The only thing now left to mark the spot is the well, which still furnishes excellent water.
First Court. This was held on May 5, 1811, at the house of Capt. James Young, on Flat creek - John Allen, circuit judge, presiding, Col. Thomas Dey Owings and Jas. M. Graham, associate judges. The court appointed John Trimble attorney for the commonwealth, and Tandy Allen Clerk; the latter resigned, during the term, and Thos. Triplett was appointed. The grand jury returned only one indictment The house in which this court was held was destroyed by fire in 1866.
First Settlers.- Hugh Sidwell, Thos. Clark and his brother, and a Mr. Bollard settled on Slate creek, at the mouth of Naylor's branch, about 1783. In 1775, Elias Tolin made an "improvement," by building a temporary cabin and clearing a small piece of land, on Slate creek, where the old Bourbon furnace now stands. Wm. Calk was on Slate creek in 1779.
Ancient Fortifications and Mounds.- A quarter of a mile north of Sharpsburg, are the remains of a fortification, which forms a complete circle, embracing an area of about eleven acres. In 1807, the embankment enclosing the fortification was three or four feet high. There are two small mounds near the embankment, and equidistant from it - one on the east, the other on the west side of it. On the south side mainly within the embankment, but extending outside, is a pond or pool of water, at the head of a small branch; the pool evidently was made, by excavating the earth for the purpose. Two hundred yards south-east of the fortification, is a third and much larger mound; and also a fourth mound, small, south-west of it. Large trees are, or have been, growing upon all of these mounds.
In 1871 this remarkable work had lost much of its distinctness, cultivation having almost leveled it with the surrounding plane. Four miles N. E. of Sharpsburg is a mound twenty feet in height; and a mile distant, another of nearly its size, which has a promontory or backbone projecting eastward. On both of these mounds the trees are as large and apparently as old as those in the surrounding forest. East of Flat and Slate creeks, which flow through the county northward into Licking river, arc but few mounds; while to the west of them, almost exclusively in the rich limestone lands of the county, they are quite numerous?many of them small, and some almost leveled by cultivation. Mammoth Remains.? On the land of John R. Wren, in Sharpsburg, on the highest ground in the town and as high as any in the vicinity, is a natural pond known as Fleming's pond; so called, tradition says, because Col. John Fleming secreted himself in or near it after being wounded by the Indians.
In 1851, while clearing out and deepening this pond, which had become dry and full of mud (as it was again in 1871)at the depth of four feet, were discovered in a stratum of blue clay, slightly intermixed with dark loam, the remains of a mastodon; the overlying stratum was of decomposed vegetable matter, with chips of wood, evidently made by the axes of the first settlers. Several teeth, 3 or 4 inches broad and 6 inches long, perfectly sound; a tusk, 8 feet long and 7 inches in diameter at the base, which crumbled on exposure to the air; a hip joint 9 inches across the socket; a section of a rib, 6 inches broad, and some other bones correspondingly large, proved the animal to be of enormous proportions. Some of the specimens were sent to the museum of Centre College; others are in possession of Dr H. E. Guerrant, of Sharpsburg.
The court house at Owingsville is adorned with an excellent portrait of Bath's most distinguished citizen, Richard H. Menefee - from which was copied the engraving in the group of statesmen opposite page 000. [See sketch under Menifee county.] It Is generally believed and reported in Bath county that the daughters of Cols. Boone and Callaway, when captured at Boonesboro, in July, 1776, were rescued from the Indians on Bald Eagle, a branch of Flat creek, at a point 3 miles east of Sharpsburg, on the buffalo trace, yet plainly to be seen leading to the Upper Blue Licks. A similar belief obtains among the residents further west, that the rescue occurred in Harrison county. The earliest printed account which gives the location is in Bradford's Notes on Kentucky in 1826, which says it occurred "a little below the Upper Blue Licks." But the proximate location was recently ascertained by the author of this revision, from a deposition of a son-in-law of Edward Boone, Daniel's brother, who passed over the identical ground in 1780, in pursuit of the Indians who had murdered Edward Boone; he says the recapture took place "2 or 3 miles south of the Upper Blue Licks."
[Source: History of Kentucky: Embracing... Incidents of Pioneer Life, and Nearly 500 ... By Richard H. Collins, Lewis Collins; Submitted by Chris, A Friend of Genealogy; May 2011]