We're very pleased to present Neal Hammon's work from the book entitled:
EARLY KENTUCKY LAND RECORDS, 1773-1780
by Neal O. Hammon
who came to America in 1630,
who arrived in 1666.
Fincastle County (now
Fincastle County (now
KY Grants to Veterans of the French and Indian Wars
Some historians treat the advance of the American frontier as though it had been a smooth, steady movement from east to west, where landless people traveled just beyond the edge of the settled areas to start cutting trees for a new farm. But this was not the case. Certain places were favored over others, so the advance of the frontier was uneven - not smooth at all. The settlement of Kentucky is a good example; it started as an island in the wilderness.
Why did settlers bypass so much territory in order to claim land in Kentucky? Why did James Harrod and his companions travel sixty miles to the Ohio River and another 540 miles down the Ohio and Kentucky rivers to claim land on the headwaters of the Salt River? Why did Daniel Boone lead a party of prospective settlers 250 miles through the Appalachian Mountains to find new homes around Boonesborough? Why did Hancock Taylor leave Orange County, Virginia, and travel 750 miles to survey land for himself at the Falls and on Elkhorn Creek? Why did George Rogers Clark leave his land claim on the upper Ohio and move to Leestown? Why did these men not just survey and take up land closer to home? After all, there was unoccupied land available just over the next hill or in the next valley. Why did they move hundreds of miles to this isolated island in the wilderness called Kentucky?
The topography of the region offers a clue to why Kentucky was so attractive to the pioneers. Their "Kentucke" was the rolling country, now called the bluegrass region, lying on both sides of the Kentucky River. It very roughly consisted of the area between Frankfort, Paris, Richmond, and Stanford. The eastern part of Kentucky within the Appalachian plateau was then considered "the wilderness," where no sane person would want to settle. The mountainous country was an area to be passed through as quickly as possible. Much of the nearby land north of the Ohio River was fertile and flat but was also occupied by several Indian tribes. This made it unsuitable for settlement.
The narrative of Felix Walker, one of Daniel Boone's road cutters, describes his first impression of Kentucky:
On leaving that river [the Rockcastle], we had to encounter and cut our way through a country of about twenty miles, entirely covered with dead brush, which we found a difficult and laborious task. At the end of which we arrived at the commencement of a cane country, traveled about thirty miles through thick cane and reed, and as the cane ceased, we began to discover the pleasing and rapturous appearance of the plains of Kentucky. A new sky and strange earth seemed to be presented to our view. So rich a soil we had never seen before - covered with clover in full bloom, the woods were abounding with wild game - turkeys so numerous that it might be said they appeared but one flock, universally scattered in the woods. It appeared that nature, in the profusion of her bounty, had spread a feast for all that lives, both for the animal and rational world. A sight so delightful to our view and grateful to our feelings, almost inclined us, in imitation of Columbus, in transport to kiss the soil of Kentucky, as he hailed and saluted the sand on his first setting his foot on the shores of America. The appearance of the country coming up to the full measure of our expectations, and seeming to exceed the fruitful source of our imaginary prospects. We felt ourselves passengers through a wilderness just arrived at the fields of Elysium, or at the garden where was no forbidden fruit. ("Felix Walker's Narrative," reprinted in George W. Ranck, Boonesborough (Filson Club First Publication Series, Number 16, Louisville, l901), 163-64.)
James Nourse's first view of the Bluegrass region is more prosaic:
Set off on foot [from Leestown with Edmund Taylor and George] Rice (having first breakfasted) with my great coat tied to my back. Walked 3 miles and came to the [Kentucky] River. Struck off again by the paved landing along a buffalo path, which soon led to good land - a good bottom and high land tolerable. Came to the foot of a steep hill or Mountain, over which the path led. Steep and rocky but not so bad but a horse might now go up and is capable of being made a waggon road. It is about 2 miles from the river to the top of the hill. The land is level and well timbered with oak and poplars: afterwards it is light with timber - little oak - mostly sugar trees, walnut, ash, and buckeye I call horse chestnut, but the tops of the trees mostly scraggy. The surface of the ground covered with grass along the path which was as well trod as a market-town path [for] about twelve miles. The further we went the richer the land became, though of the same sort of timber. The ash is very large and high and large locusts of both sorts, some cherry. The growth of grass under [the trees is] amazing- blue grass, white clover, buffalo grass, and reed pines and waist high - what would be called a fine swarth of grass in cultivated meadows, and such was its appearance without end in little dells. (Journal of James Nourse, Reuben Durrett Collection, University of Chicago, 30 May 1775.)
Obviously these men had found attractive land in an area which was not occupied by Indians. It was isolated but otherwise very desirable with game in abundance and fertile soil. The only problem was that there was not enough of it to go around.
Captain Thomas Bullitt led the first expedition to Kentucky to claim land. In April 1773 he announced his intention to go down the Ohio River to make surveys under the King's Proclamation of 1763, and he invited veterans of the French and Indian War or their agents to join him. His company eventually included about forty men, some of whom joined him en route. By the middle of summer they were camped at the present site of Louisville. Here Captain Bullitt surveyed land for a town near the Falls of the Ohio where Main Street is now located, between First and Twelfth streets, and he generously awarded one lot to every member of his company. James Harrod was present, so he owned a lot at the Falls before he founded Harrodsburg.
The men who had come down the Ohio with Captain Bullitt did not always travel as a group. On occasions several men would leave the main party to explore or survey land far south of the Ohio River. For example, the McAfee brothers hired Hancock Taylor to survey land for them near present-day Frankfort and Harrodsburg, and Isaac Hite and his companions made several side trips but rejoined the main company. From court records we find that James Harrod and John Smith made some improvements in the vicinity of Burgin near the Dix River where they carved their names on trees.
Captain Bullitt returned in October and attempted to enter various land claims in the office of the county surveyor as required by law. At that time Kentucky was part of Fincastle County, Virginia, and the surveyor was Colonel William Preston. Preston refused to record the entries. He explained that they were not valid because there had been no deputy surveyors from Fincastle County with the company and because most of the land was west of Donelson's line in an area reserved for Indians.
If the claims could not be entered, they would not be valid, so Captain Bullitt faced the possibility of receiving neither fees nor land for his summer's work. When he left the surveyor's office, he must have been disappointed, but he was not defeated. He then appealed to his friend Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, who was sympathetic. On 15 December 1773, the issue was debated before the governor and the members of the Virginia council. Thomas Walker, on behalf of himself and other members of the Loyal Company, and Andrew Lewis, the agent for the Green Brier Company, petitioned that officers and soldiers' land not be allowed to be located so as to interfere with their grants. A petition by Hugh Mercer on behalf of those with military warrants was also read, and although their request was not entered in the records, they most likely requested that their warrants could be located on any vacant land in Viriginia. On the following day, the governor and other members of the council announced that officers and soldiers who had served against the French and Indians should be at Liberty to Locate the Grants [they claimed under the Royal Proclamation of 7 October 1763] wherever they should desire, so as not to interfere with Legal Sur[veys] or actual Settlements; That every officer be allowed a distinct survey for every thousand Acres. That those are to be deemed Settlers who resided [on] any Tract of Land before last October and Continue to do so, having cleared some part thereof whereby their Intention to reside is Manifested; And that every Settler shall have fifty Acres at least, and also for every three Acres of Cleared Land fifty Acres more and so in proportion; which is to be taken as part of the Grants to the said Companies respectively, when the Land Office shall be open to them, unless such Settlers shall chuse to hold under the Officers, or Soldiers or any of them rather than under the said Companies. (Benjamin J. Hillman, ed., Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia, June 20, l754 - May 31, 1775 (6 vols.; Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1966), 6: 552-54.)
The same day Governor Dunmore awarded land grants for the Bullitt surveys made for Dr. John Connolly and Charles Warranstaff that were located south of the Falls of the Ohio where Bullitt had laid off streets for a town. Strangely enough, the land grants to Connolly and Warranstaff were awarded even before the land was entered with the Fincastle surveyor; it would appear that the royal governor did not have to follow the rules that applied to ordinary people.
The purpose of a land entry was to reserve a particular tract of public land, that is, to give the claimant priority over others who might also claim the same land before the state issued the claimant a grant. The order for obtaining land in the public domain was generally to mark the site, make the entry with the county surveyor, have the land surveyed, enter the survey with the county, and pay the required fees. The state would then issue the claimant a land grant, then commonly called the patent. The Virginia veterans had received warrants for their military service, which entitled them to various amounts of unclaimed public land, depending on their rank and length of service. A private soldier received a warrant for 50 acres of land, a sergeant 200 acres, and an ensign 1000 acres for each tour of duty.
After the order of council's proclamation of 16 December, veterans of the French and Indian War began to apply for western land entries at the office of the Fincastle surveyor. The first entry was made by Colonel Andrew Lewis on 15 December which was followed by five more entries on 17 December. The entries for Connolly and Warranstaff were not made until 7 March 1774. As these records show, most of the first entries were for land in central Kentucky. The wording of the first Fincastle County entries proves that most of those making these entries had either talked with men who had been with Captain Bullitt or else they had arranged to have land marked off for them during the summer of 1773. For example, Andrew Lewis entered land on Elkhorn Creek northeast of Lee's 2000 acres, marked by Hancock Taylor, and Colonel Hugh Mercer entered 2000 acres on the Ohio which was marked for him in 1773.
On 11 January 1774, less than a month after the order of council had announced that settlers were entitled to land, the Fincastle surveyors started running the boundaries for these claims on the waters of Holston and New rivers. In addition, a few surveys were made in the same area on "Governor's Warrants," which were presumably authorized for military service.
Early in 1774 Colonel Preston organized another party to survey land in Kentucky. For the leader of this new expedition he chose John Floyd, his trusted assistant, and also deputized Hancock Taylor, James Douglas, and Isaac Hite, three men who had been in Kentucky with Captain Bullitt in 1773. This party of surveyors and their assistants left Preston's office at Smithfield on 8 April, traveled down the Kanawha and Ohio rivers, and arrived at the Falls on 29 May. There were sixteen men in the original company, but others joined them after they reached the Ohio. Some of these men later left the surveyors and traveled to Harrodsburg. James Harrod with thirty men had arrived in central Kentucky before the surveyors and had established a camp or "town" near the headwaters of the Salt River.
Floyd and his men had made some surveys along the south side of the Ohio River on their way to the Falls, but upon reaching this famous landmark they proceeded to run the borders for thirty tracts, covering about 40,000 acres (sixty-five square miles). These surveys ran from the river on the north and west sides of the present city of Louisville southwest past where the Watterson Expressway is now and eastward to the present-day suburbs of Anchorage and Prospect. Surveys were made for William Byrd, William Peachey, William Preston, William Christian, and other Virginia leaders. John Floyd and Hancock Taylor also managed to survey land for themselves on military warrants they had purchased.
At the time there was some question about the legality of the surveys at the Falls of the Ohio. The limit of the territory free of Indian claims had been established by John Donelson in 1771; his men ran the treaty line from the present Kingsport, Tennessee, across the Clinch, Powel, and Cumberland mountains. Upon reaching an unknown river, he agreed with the Cherokee delegates that this river would serve as the boundary to the Ohio. The problem was that afterward no one was quite certain which river was selected, since several rivers begin near this place. The headwaters of the Cumberland, Kentucky, and Big Sandy rivers are all within fifteen miles or less of the present Jenkins, Kentucky! To this day there is no way to prove which river had been selected. [It would appear that the proprietors of the Transylvania Company beleived that the Kentucky River was the one selected by John Donelson since the eastern boundary of their purchase was along that river. In their Memorial to Congress dated January 6, 1795, (American Archives) they stated that their purchase was "on the back of Virginia".]
However, since the order of council had declared that the officers and soldiers could claim land "wherever they shall desire," many of the surveys were made at the Falls, perhaps in hope that the Cumberland River would later turn out to be the the treaty line. Land on the east side of the Kentucky River was being coveted by the Vandalia Company, so the veterans were also taking a risk by locating land there. Consequently many of them decided to split their claims and locate half on one side and half on the other side of the Kentucky River; they felt that if the Vandalia Company were given a royal charter they might lose part of the land but retain the other part, provided that Donelson's line ran along the Cumberland River. If the Indians owned the land west of the Kentucky River, then they might salvage the claim on the east side, provided that the Vandalia Company did not receive a royal charter. As it later turned out, they were awarded land on both sides of the Kentucky River.
At the Falls the surveyors split into two groups, one led by John Floyd and the other by Hancock Taylor. They took different routes to Elkhorn Creek where they intended to make most of their surveys. Floyd also made surveys at Bullitt's Salt Lick and in present Shelby County en route. Taylor and his men visited Harrodsburg before arriving at Elkhorn Creek. The surveyors joined forces again at Taylor's camp near the present Midway but then divided into three smaller parties after making arrangements to survey in different places. Floyd made his surveys along the North Fork, Taylor along the South Fork, and Douglas and Hite south of Taylor's surveys and on Hickman and Jessamine creeks. They intended to meet again in Harrodsburg on 1 August, but hostile Indians prevented this meeting. While the surveyors were working on the Elkhorn, a party of Indians killed several men near Harrodsburg; those in that vicinity quickly returned to Virginia. [For a list of the men in each group, see Neal Hammon, "Pioneers in Kentucky, 1773-1775," The Filson Club History Quarterly 55 (1981): 270-71.]
The members of the surveying parties were not aware of the attack near Harrodsburg which occurred on 8 July; Douglas and Hite made their last survey on 19 July and proceeded to Harrodsburg. Floyd arrived there on 24 July and found the campfire still burning and a note from Douglas saying that the Indians had killed some men and that they were going down the river. American Archives (Fourth Series , 6 vols.; Washington, D. C., 1837-1853), 1 (1837): 707. ]
Floyd was nearly out of ammunition, so he and his three companions immediately started for home. Hancock Taylor was not so fortunate. One of his men was killed and he was mortally wounded by the Indians on 27 July. The others in his party returned home without further trouble. It would appear that they were guided part of the way by Daniel Boone and Michael Stoner. [Neal Hammon, "The Legend of Daniel Boone's Cabin at Harrodsburg," The Filson Club History Quarterly 48 (1974): 241 and "John Filson's Error," The Filson Club History Quarterly 59 (1985): 462.]
Willis Lee, a friend and cousin of Hancock Taylor, brought in his surveys, which were then registered in the county surveyor's office.
When the surveyors arrived home, they found that the militia was being mobilized for a war against the Shawnee. Many of those who had returned from Kentucky were in the Battle of Point Pleasant in October 1774 where Chief Cornstalk's warriors were defeated. Afterward, the main topic of conversation around the campfires was the rich land in Kentucky.
However, others were doing more than talking. Colonel Richard Henderson and several of his associates from North Carolina formed the Transylvania Company and purchased much of central Kentucky from the Cherokee Nation. At the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals which was signed on 17 March 1775, the Cherokee were given trade goods valued at £2000 sterling. Five days before, Henderson had sent Daniel Boone and his road cutters ahead to blaze a trail into the heart of Kentucky for the expected settlers who would buy Transylvania Company land. Boone's party consisted of about thirty white men, at least one black man, and a black women. Colonel Henderson followed about a week later with forty men. There were other parties coming to Kentucky at the same time, some with as many as fifty men and others in groups of two or three. The Fincastle surveyors also returned to continue the work begun the year before. In all, it is estimated that over a thousand men traveled to Kentucky during the spring and summer of 1775.
In the summer of 1775 the Fincastle County surveyors decided to work on the north side of the Kentucky River, thereby avoiding the land claimed by the Transylvania Company. However, they soon discovered that men from the Monongahela River settlements were roaming all across the Kentucky, making claims to some of the best land. As John Floyd complained, "Hundreds of wretches come down the Ohio and build pens or cabins, return to sell them...... Many have come down here, and not stayed more than three weeks, and returned home with 20 cabins apiece, and so on." [John Floyd to William Preston, 27 May 1776, Draper MSS, 33S296-98.]
This practice made it difficult for the surveyors to locate any large tracts of good land. The men who made claims in order to sell the land to people who stayed at home were then called outlyers. Men who were hired to travel west to locate land for others were called land jobbers.
Meanwhile on the south side of the Kentucky River, Colonel Henderson had established a little town which was called Boonesborough where he had established a land office. He also declared that the area he purchased would be governed as a separate colony and held a convention to establish laws. Anyone who wished to live in Transylvania was expected to purchase land from the Transylvania Company at the initial cost of twenty shillings (one pound sterling) per hundred acres. [In September 1775 the price was increased to two pounds, ten shillings per hundred acres. In addition there was an entry fee of two dollars, plus four dollars for the survey, and an additional two dollars for the deed. The company was to receive a quitrent of two shillings after 1780. See George Ranck, Boonesborough, Appendix O, 29.]
At first very few settlers questioned the Transylvania Company's right to the land. Delegates at the Boonesborough convention held in 1775 included Isaac Hite, John Floyd, Daniel Boone, James Harrod, and other prominent men then living in Kentucky. But by the spring of 1776 an opposition party, led by John Gabriel Jones, had been formed. By then the Revolutionary War had begun, and many settlers resented the acquisition of large tracts of land by the upper class. Questions were raised. Were the military warrants issued by the royal governor, then in exile, still valid? Did Henderson and his partners have the right to make a private purchase of land from the Cherokee? Did the Cherokee actually own the land that Henderson had purchased? A more important issue, according to George Rogers Clark, was the ability of the proprietors of the Transylvania Company to defend Kentucky if they were attacked by the British and their Indian allies. Most of the settlers agreed that they could not and, as a result, Jones and Clark were elected by the inhabitants as delegates from Kentucky to represent them in Williamsburg, Virginia.
At the request of the Kentucky delegates, the Virginia legislature decided to abolish Fincastle County and make Kentucky a separate county in December 1776 with the borders being practically the same as the present state. The legislature also decided that any settler on the frontier would be entitled to four hundred acres. It was then obvious that the new government of Virginia did not intend to honor the claim of the Transylvania Company. However, Virginia did not declare the Henderson purchase null and void until November 1778. Richard Henderson and his associates were allowed to keep only a tract of land on the lower Ohio for their trouble, even though Virginia decided that the purchase was good enough to clear the entire area of any Indian rights.
Although men continued to claim land in Kentucky after 1776, no provision was made to register their claims until May 1779. At that time the Virginia legislature passed certain acts which acknowledged the legal titles and claims made under the royal government, including those made by settlers and those made with military warrants from the French and Indian War. The legislature also established a land office and defined the procedure for granting unappropriated land. [ William W. Hening, Statutes at Large (13 vols.; Richmond,Va., 1809 - 1823), 10: 35-50.]
These laws provided for the appointment of land commissioners who were to hold court near the claims of settlers and determine "all titles claimed in consideration of settlement [for] persons claiming pre-emption of any lands." The commissioners for the district of Kentucky were William Fleming, James Barbour, Edmund Lyne, and James Steptoe. Steptoe declined to serve and Stephen Trigg was appointed in his place. John Williams, Jr., was appointed as the clerk by the commissioners. The commissioners' records also indicate that the sheriff of Kentucky County attended at least some of the court sessions. It is also likely that George May, the surveyor of Kentucky County, was frequently consulted by the commissioners.
The land act also defined those eligible for vacant land and determined when they could make entries at the surveyor's office.
(A) Men who had military warrants for service during the French and Indian War. The size of the claim was determined by rank and time of service. Military warrants were payment for military service. As previously mentioned, some of these claims had already been entered and surveyed when Kentucky was part of Fincastle County. The government honored these claims, and later issued patents for them. The commissioners were furnished with a list of those surveys in order to avoid overlapping the old military surveys with settlers' claims.
(B) Men who were considered bona fide settlers. A settler was defined as a man who had either resided in Kentucky for one year or grown a crop of corn prior to 1778. Men who had lived in villages who had "from necessity, cultivated a piece of ground adjoining thereto in common" were also considered settlers. Each settler was entitled to 400 acres at his place of settlement or convenient to his village for the price of ten shillings per hundred acres plus the fees to the clerk, surveyor, and sheriff. A settler also had the option to claim an additional 1000 acres adjacent to the settlement for the price of £200 plus fees. To obtain a settlement claim the applicant had to appear before the commissioners and prove that he was eligible. He would then receive a certificate of settlement and a preemption warrant that he could enter with the county surveyor.
(C) Men who had intended to settle in Kentucky and had preempted a particular location by marking their choice and who had "built any house or hut, or made other improvements" were eligible to claim 1000-acre preemption warrants at their improvement for the price of £200 pounds plus fees. These men were also required to prove their eligibility before the commissioners' court.
(D) Men who had settled in Kentucky after 1778 but before the land law was passed were allowed to claim 400 acres at their place of settlement for £80 plus fees. The validity of these claims was also determined by the commissioners.
(E) Men who had no settlement or preemption claims in Kentucky could also obtain land by purchasing treasury warrants for the price of £20 per hundred acres. [This amount was increased in 1780 to £160 per hundred acres "to make up the depreciation of the money". William W. Hening, Statutes at Large (13 vols.; Richmond,Va., 1809 - 1823), 10: 245.] They were then required to locate a tract of vacant land and enter it with the county surveyor. It was not necessary for a man with a treasury warrant to appear before the commissioners.
Those who could not attend the commissioners' courts could still obtain land if they had a valid claim by applying later to the county court for relief. A valid reason for not appearing at the commissioners' hearings was military service in another part of the country. Unfortunately, men who were late in making their application for land were likely to find that their original choice had been preempted by someone else.
It was not necessary for a man to appear personally before the commissioners to make a claim. In fact, only about half of the claimants appeared before them, the others being represented by relatives or neighbors; also six percent had died and eight percent had sold the rights to their claims before they were brought before the commissioners. Nearly two hundred applications were rejected by the commissioners for various reasons which are discussed later.
When a man had a valid settlement claim and his right was proved to the satisfaction of the court, a certificate was issued even if he were deceased or had sold the land. If the heir was his wife or daughter, she would receive the certificate, so we find several awarded to women. On the other hand, a woman was not allowed to make a preemption claim simply because her deceased husband had marked some property; however, a man could sell his preemption claim to another man who could apply for it before the court. Likewise a man could claim land when he hired others to plant the corn and make improvements on the property.
The first land commissioners' court was held at St Asaph's or Logan's Station on 25 October 1779, with later sessions at Harrodsburg, Louisville, Boonesborough, and Bryan's Station. The last session was again held at Logan's Station with the final adjournment on 26 April 1780.
To preserve the priority of the claims, the act allowed those with military warrants or settlement certificates to enter their claims with the county surveyor at any time. Preemption claims could not be entered before 26 April 1780; treasury warrants could not be entered before 1 May 1780. However, the records show that there are several unusual entries found in the Kentucky County Entry Book, such as that of George Mason of Fairfax, Virginia, who claimed land for importing several hundred people into Kentucky at his own expense. George May allowed him to enter a claim for this service, but as it had no basis in law, he was not allowed any land for his trouble. On 13 April 1780, there is also an entry by John May, the brother of the county surveyor, for 800 acres "upon old Treasury rights"; such an entry would have been illegal since this type of warrant was not supposed to be entered until after 1 May 1780, but perhaps being related to the county surveyor entitled him to a few privileges. Another unusual entry by Richard Johnson, dated 29 April 1779, is for the withdrawal of an entry made at the Blue Lick in 1774 upon a governor's warrant and the re-entry with another warrant. Perhap Johnson thought that the governor's warrant would not be valid since it was signed by Lord Dunmore who had fled Virginia in 1775.
The surveyor's office for Kentucky County was located at Wilson's Station, a few miles south of Harrodsburg. The first entries were made on 3 November 1779. From the time the land office was opened until 25 April 1780, 488 settlement claims and 252 military warrants were entered, amounting to over 370,000 acres.
On 26 April when citizens with preemption warrants were able to make entries, a vast crowd arrived at Wilson's Station. Before the doors closed that night, 88 men had made entries on preemptions amounting to 75,500 acres and another 19 men had entered an additional 8,950 acres on military warrants. During the next three days, men continued to arrive at the land office with preemption warrants and by the afternoon of 29 April an additional 513 entries had been made. By then a large number of men had collected at Wilson's Station, some to enter warrants while others lingered with the intention of purchasing claims.
Perhaps because of these large crowds and the need for better organization by the land clerks, the office was closed on Monday 1 May and remained closed until Tuesday 9 May. When the office again opened, the land seekers were back en masse, since it was then legal to enter land on treasury warrants. On 9 May, 67 men entered 118 claims for over 100,000 acres. From then on the land office remained open on most working days with numerous claims being entered on all types of warrants. John Floyd stated in a letter "I stayed at the Surveyors office 'till hunger drove me home before I could make an entry." [John Floyd to William Preston, 30 May 1780, Draper MSS, 17CC 127-29.] Others probably had the same experience.
From one of the entries we find that when a number of men arrived, the surveyor required them to draw lots to determine the order of their entries. Thus if two men seeking the same tract arrived at the surveyor's office on the same day, the lucky one would get his entry and the other, if he were prudent, would seek some less desirable location nearby. It is also obvious that many of the claimants traveled to Wilson's Station in groups with their relatives and friends to make entries. On some days there were many entries by men with the same surnames.
By keeping track of the number of claims made on each day during 1779 and 1780, we find that the often-quoted story that George Rogers Clark closed the land office in order to recruit men for his expedition against the Shawnee is just another fabricated tale made up at a time when historians were not too concerned about accuracy. Unfortunately, such tales are often repeated in modern times, when historians are not too serious about research.
When comparing the entries made in Kentucky County with the settlement certificates issued by the commissioners' court, one will find that there are a few in the former that are not mentioned in the notes left by the latter. The comparison of these documents is a subject for future study that is not within the scope of this publication.
Although the method of land acquisition prescribed by the Virginia legislature at first seemed to be straightforward, serious problems soon developed. In some cases, the claims were too close together and overlapped. Some of the settlers tried to save their land by sliding their original locations away from older claims, an illegal act which was difficult to detect. The entries were supposed to be worded in such a way that anyone seeking to discover their exact location could easily do so, but this was not often the case. Surveys were supposed to be made to conform to the entries, but some were not. [This subject is covered in greater detail in my articles "Land Acquisition on the Kentucky Frontier," Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 78 (1980): 297-321 and "Settlers, Land Jobbers and Outlyers: A Quantitative Analysis of Land Acquisition on the Kentucky Frontier, " Register 84 (1986): 297-62.]
Some have contended that many early settlers eventually lost their land to wealthy speculators who came west after 1780, but the records do not confirm this. In fact, some of the biggest speculators were the early settlers themselves. Many, such as Simon Kenton and Daniel Boone, acted as land jobbers, but they were apparently ill-qualified for this task and ended up in financial trouble. Others, such as Squire Boone and John Floyd, appear to have done better and profited by land jobbing and land speculation.
Two of the pioneers who were defenders of Bryan's Station, John Craig and Robert Johnson, must be considered land speculators; individually and in partnership they patented over 144,000 acres by 1792. The Kentucky County surveyor George May and his brothers John and William had surveyed and laid claim to over 765,000 acres for themselves during this period. If the land patented by members of the May family had been in one tract, it would have covered about 1200 square miles. Vast amounts of land were also acquired by these same gentlemen after Kentucky had become a state.
A passage from one of the letters of Samuel Beall to his partner, John May, explains one major problem for the land speculators, "I am much pleased with the Sale you have made of the Lands you mention; pray go on to sell it is the best plan you can pursue. With the abundance of Land we claim, if the Titles are confirmed to us, the Taxes, surveying, Pattenting &c will ruin us. I prefer much a Sale to hold the Lands, except a few Valuable tracts." [ Letter to John May from Samuel Bealle at Willismsburg, Dec. 9, 1782, Beall-Booth Family Papers, Manuscript Dept. of the Filson Club. Minor puncuation changes made to enchance readability.]
Many of those who moved west discovered it was a place "where an enterprising man with very little money may lay the foundation for a noble estate," as George Washington had predicted. To some this was accomplished by clearing land and farming, but to many others the quest for riches was through land speculation on the island in the wilderness. [James T. Flexner, George Washington (3 vols.; Boston, 1965-1970), 1:252.]
Occasionally an entry or survey mentions someone who did not make the entry or survey or who was not an assignee or the original holder of the warrant. The commissioners were holding court so their records contain the names of men who made motions or were mentioned in regard to land disputes. For example, when Joseph Lindsey made a claim for land on Elkhorn Creek, there is a long passage that gives the history of others who made claims or surveys in the area. Included are the deposition of Patrick Jourden [sic] taken by "John Cowan, Gent" and appearances in court by William McConnell and Hugh Shannon . Also mentioned are John Floyd, Isaac Shelby, John Mills, John Maxwell, Evan Shelby, and William Garriot.
A few of of the military surveys listed by Philip Fall Taylor contain information not directly related to the survey. For example, the survey listed for Captain Hancock Eustace contains the following notation:
Copy of Will dated May 28, 1766; probated Northumberland Co., Oct. 9, 1775, devising to wife, Isabella; Copy of Will of Isabella Eustace, dated May 15, 1778; probated Williamsburg Nov.6, 1779; devising to Nancy Eustace, reputed daughter of my said late husband; and to my cousin, John Blair; certificate, July 22, 1785 of Joseph and Samuel Blackwell, that Nancy Eustace married in 1780 to William Jones.
Obviously all the surveys were signed by a deputy surveyor. Those which are given in the Fincastle County Survey Book and those surveyors mentioned by Philip Fall Taylor are included in the following lists. I have also included the names of the surveyors' chainmen, where they were found. Not many of the early surveys, however, contain the names of these assistants.
Although most surveys and many entries give the names of adjacent landowners, this book does not usually list them; in theory at least, everyone in Kentucky who was mentioned as an adjacent landowner must have entered the land, so the names are already included. In many cases there are not one but several adjacent landowners mentioned; if we had mentioned them, it would have doubled the size of this book.
This book does not list those who obtained any tract of land after it was entered or surveyed, depending upon the list used. In other words, if a particular preemption tract was obtained by John Doe, who assigned it to Harry Smith before the land was entered, this fact would be noted in our lists. However, if Harry Smith sold the land after it was entered, it would not be mentioned. The same rule applies to the military surveys. Men who purchased the tract after the survey was made are not listed.
Names not included in
|Armstrong, Lanty||Armstrong, John||Fincastle Entry Book||8||cabin built by him|
|Ballard, William||Stephen, Adam||Military Surveys||73||chain carrier|
|Batson, Mord[ic]a||Stephen, Adam||Military Surveys||73||chain carrier|
|Bell, David||Preston, Rbt||Va Land Commission||114||mentioned|
|Blair, John||Eustace, Hancock||Military Surveys||106||cousin of Isabella Eustace|
|Bland, Theodrick, Jr||Price & Bland||Va Land Commission||216||attorney|
|Boone, Daniel||Shelby, Evan||Military Surveys||81||marker|
|Bowen, Rees||Smith, John||Fincastle Entry Book||19||where he dwells|
|Briscoe, John||Briscoe, [none]||Va Land Commission||24||dispute|
|Briscoe, Parmenus||Briscoe, [none]||Va Land Commission||24||dispute|
|Bryan, Samuel, Jr||Bryan, Samuel, Jr||Va Land Commission||122||claim dismissed|
|Bullitt, Thomas||Christian, Wm||Fincastle Entry Book||3||land marked for him|
|Bunton [Bunten], John||Reese, Joel||Va Land Commission||265||motion|
|Byrd, Mary||Byrd, William||Military Surveys||111,114||exec'r of estate|
|Callaway, Chesley||Shelby, Evan||Military Surveys||81||chain carrier|
|Cowan, John||Lindsey, Joseph||Va Land Commission||135||mentioned|
|Cowan, [none]||Vaughan, Shadrick||Fincastle Entry Book||14||land marked for him by H. Taylor|
|Crabtree, Abram||Logan, James||Fincastle Entry Book||15||land purchase|
|Craig, Lewis||Evans, John||Va Land Commission||38||assignment|
|Crawford, William||Washington, George||Fincastle Entry Book||8||land marked for him|
|Davis [none]||Briscoe, [none]||Va Land Commission||24||dispute|
|Davis, Ezeriah||McAfee, Rbt||Va Land Commission||39,43||motion|
|Doren [none]||Briscoe assee Davis, etc.||Va Land Commission||24||dispute|
|Dougherty, John||Dougherty, John||Va Land Commission||20||request postponed|
|Drake, Ephraim||Drake, Ephraim||Va Land Commission||76||withdraws claim|
|Edmiston, William||Brabston, Nicholas||Fincastle Entry Book||9||mentions his residence|
|Eustace, Isabella||Eustace, Hancock||Military Surveys||106||wife|
|Eustace, Nancy||Eustace, Hancock||Military Surveys||106||heir and "reputed daughter"|
|Evans, Joshn||Evans, Joshn||Va Land Commission||38||acknowledged assignment|
|Finn, James||Finn, [none]||Va Land Commission||33||examination of witnesses|
|Floyd, John||Lindsey, Joseph||Va Land Commission||135||mentioned|
|Garrett, Wm||Dougherty, John||Va Land Commission||20||not present|
|Garriott, William||Lindsey, Joseph||Va Land Commission||135||mentioned|
|Gass, David||Porter, Sam'l||Va Land Commission||81||by|
|Harbeson, Arther||Harbeson, Arther||Va Land Commission||61||dispute|
|Harrod, James||Briscoe, [none]||Va Land Commission||24||dispute|
|Harrod's Company||Bell, David||Fincastle Entry Book||17||where they left their canoes|
|Hawkins, Martin||Overton, Walter||Va Land Commission||36||dispute|
|Hempenstall, Abram||Taylor, Hancock||Fincastle Entry Book||4||land marked for him|
|Hendricks, Mary||Hendricks, Mary||Va Land Commission||22,36||motion|
|Hite, Isaac||Hite, Abraham||Fincastle Entry Book||9, 10||attorney for Abraham Hite|
|Hughs, Thomas||Hughs, Thomas||Va Land Commission||47||withdraws claim|
|Ingles, Thomas||Henry, William||Fincastle Entry Book||10||land marked for him|
|Johnson, Elizabeth||White, Wm||Va Land Commission||31||appearance|
|Johnson, Robert||Johnson, Benjamin||Fincastle Entry Book||6||made entries as agent for brothers|
|Jones, William||Eustace, Hancock||Military Surveys||106||husband of Nancy Eustace|
|Jordan [Jourden], Patrick||Lindsey, Joseph||Va Land Commission||135||mentioned|
|Jordan, Patrick||Jordan, [none]||Va Land Commission||22||motion by|
|Jorden, Garret, decd||Jorden, Patrick, heir||Va Land Commission||22||proof|
|Kenton [Butler], Simon||Rutherford, Robert||Fincastle Entry Book||13||land marked by him|
|Kenton [Butler], Simon||Hendricks, Mary||Va Land Commission||22||deposition ordered by court|
|Knox, [James]||Meredith, Samuel||Fincastle Entry Book||18||visited Taylor's camp in 1774|
|Lane, Wm||Jordan, Patrick||Va Land Commission||22||deposition ordered by court|
|Lee, Thomas||Lee, Charles||Military Surveys||115||witness to will|
|Lee [Willis]||Lewis, Andrew||Fincastle Entry Book||1||land marked for him|
|Lee, Willis||Taylor, Zachary||Fincastle Entry Book||22||attorney for Taylor|
|Logan, Benjamin||Off, Fred'k||Va Land Commission||43||motion|
|Logan, Benjamin||Smith, John||Military Surveys||115||witness to will|
|McAfee, James||Various entries by H. Taylor||Fincastle Entry Book||5||witness to signing of entries|
|McAfee, [none]||Lewis, Andrew||Fincastle Entry Book||2||land surveyed for McAfee|
|McAfee, Rbt||Davis, James||Va Land Commission||39,43||dispute|
|McAfee, Robert||Taylor, Hancock||Fincastle Entry Book||7||mentions his survey|
|McAfees [none]||Vaughan, Shadrick||Fincastle Entry Book||14||land marked for them by H. Taylor|
|McConnell, William||Lindsey, Joseph||Va Land Commission||135||mentioned|
|McGee, David||Preston, Rbt||Va Land Commission||76||postponed|
|McKenny, Arch'd||Vance, Jno||Va Land Commission||232||motion|
|McKenny, John||Vance, Jno||Va Land Commission||232||motion|
|Mallory, Uriel||Evans, John||Va Land Commission||38||assignment|
|Mann, John||Christian, Wm||Fincastle Entry Book||3||land marked for him|
|Marks, John||Henry, William||Fincastle Entry Book||10||land marked for him|
|Maxwell, John||Lindsey, Joseph||Va Land Commission||135||mentioned|
|May, D.||Smith, John||Military Surveys||115||witness to will|
|May, George||Price & Bland||Va Land Commission||216||entered for executor|
|May, John||Price & Bland||Va Land Commission||216||executor|
|Merriwether, Nicholas||Overton, Walter||Va Land Commission||10||attorney for Overton, Walter|
|Merts, John||Merts, John||Va Land Commission||25||postponed|
|Mills, John||Lindsey, Joseph||Va Land Commission||135||mentioned|
|Moore, Eliab||Moore, William||Fincastle Entry Book||22||his residence|
|Nash, William||Dandridge, Alexander S.||Fincastle Survey||60||adjacent survey|
|Off, Frederick||Logan, Benjamin||Va Land Commission||43||motion|
|Overton, Walter||Overton, [none]||Va Land Commission||10||makes motion|
|Overton, Walter||Overton, Walter||Va Land Commission||36||dispute|
|Pendergrass, Margret||Swan, Wm||Va Land Commission||47||motion|
|Polson, Swethen||Merts, John||Va Land Commission||25||postponed|
|Porter, John||Swan, Wm||Va Land Commission||47||motion|
|Preston, Rbt||Preston, Rbt||Va Land Commission||76||postponed|
|Price, Lenard, decd||Price & Bland||Va Land Commission||216||dispute|
|Randolph, Thomas Mann||Price & Bland||Va Land Commission||216||executor|
|Reese, Joes||[none]||Va Land Commission||265||appeared in court|
|Sadusky, Jacob||Stephen, Adam||Military Surveys||73||chain carrier|
|Sayers, Rbt & Thompson||Logan, Benjamin||Va Land Commission||43||motion|
|Searcy, Bartlett||Searcy, Richard||Va Land Commission||34||withdrawl of claim|
|Searcy, Richard||Searcy, Richard||Va Land Commission||34||withdrawl of claim|
|Shannon, Hugh||Lindsey, Joseph||Va Land Commission||135||deposition|
|Shaw, James||Logan, James||Fincastle Entry Book||15||land purchase|
|Shelby, Evan||Lindsey, Joseph||Va Land Commission||135||mentioned|
|Shelby, Isaac||Shelby, Evan||Military Surveys||81||chain carrier|
|Shelby, Issac||Lindsey, Joseph||Va Land Commission||135||mentioned|
|Smith, Daniel||Henry, William||Fincastle Entry Book||10||land marked for him|
|Smith, John||Briscoe, [none]||Va Land Commission||24||dispute-was original cabin builder|
|Stewart, Wm||Harbeson, Arther||Va Land Commission||61||dispute|
|Swan, Wm||Swan, Wm||Va Land Commission||47||motion|
|Taylor, Hancock||Fleming, Wm||Fincastle Entry Book||3||marked for Taylor|
|Taylor, [Hancock]||Meredith, Samuel||Fincastle Entry Book||18||where he camped in June or July 1774|
|Thomas, Richard||Thomas, [none]||Va Land Commission||11||makes motion|
|Thompson, William||Elliot, George||Fincastle Entry Book||8||cabin built by him|
|Todd, Capt Robert||Overton, Walter||Va Land Commission||10, 36||deposition requested|
|Vance, Jno||Vance, [John]||Va Land Commission||232||motion|
|Waides, Richard||unknown||Va Land Commission||119||lost certificate|
|Walker, Dr Thomas||Fleming, William||Fincastle Entry Book||9||land for his use|
|Waller, Joseph||Waller, Joseph||Va Land Commission||50||withdraws claim|
|Wealen, Dan'l||Wealen, Dan'l||Va Land Commission||33||examination of witnesses|
|White, Charles, decd||White, Wm||Va Land Commission||31||proof|
|White, Wm, heir||White, [none]||Va Land Commission||31||proof-heir of Charles White, decd|
|Willis, John||Stephen, Adam||Military Surveys||73||chain carrier|
|Wood, James||Rutherford, Robert||Fincastle Entry Book||13||entry by Wood|
|Woods, Joseph||Price & Bland||Va Land Commission||216||executor|
|Worthington [Wathington], Edw'd||Whealen & Finn||Va Land Commission||33||examine witnesses|
|Yocum, Matthias||Briscoe, [none]||Va Land Commission||24||dispute|
|Allen, Thomas||1785||Military Surveys|
|Barbour, Richard||1784||Military Surveys|
|Barnet, Joseph||1783||Military Surveys|
|Barnet, W.||1785||Military Surveys|
|Boone, Daniel||1783-5||Military Surveys|
|Bradford, John||1783||Military Surveys|
|Breckenridge, Alexander||1783-6||Military Surveys|
|Briscoe, Jeremiah||1783||Military Surveys|
|Bryant, John||1785||Military Surveys|
|Buckner, William||1786||Military Surveys|
|Calhoon, G.||1785-8||Military Surveys|
|Campbell, Arch'd||1783||Military Surveys|
|Clark, W.||1784||Military Surveys|
|Clay, Green||1783-4||Military Surveys|
|Cox, Isaac||1784-89||Military Surveys|
|Craig, John||1784||Military Surveys|
|Crawford, J.||1783||Military Surveys|
|Daniel, William||1783||Military Surveys|
|Davis, Septimus||1783||Military Surveys|
|Doack, Robert||1774-5||Fincastle Surveys|
|Donelson, John||1784||Military Surveys|
|Douglas, James||1774-1780||Fincastle & Military Surveys|
|Eastin, A.||1782-4||Military Surveys|
|Ewing, Charles||1785-8||Military Surveys|
|Field, Benj'm||1783||Military Surveys|
|Fleming, John||1784||Military Surveys|
|Floyd, John||1174-1783||Fincastle & Military Surveys|
|Fox, Authur||1783-4||Military Surveys|
|Garrad, James||1783||Military Surveys|
|Grant, Samuel||1782-5||Military Surveys|
|Grayson, B.||1785||Military Surveys|
|Handley, John||1783-4||Military Surveys|
|Harvey, William||1785||Military Surveys|
|Hayes, William||1784-5||Military Surveys|
|Haynes, Andrew||1784||Military Surveys|
|Helm, John||1783-7||Military Surveys|
|Henry, William||1783-4||Military Surveys|
|Hite, Isaac||1774-84||Fincastle & Military Surveys|
|Hord, James||1780||Military Surveys|
|Hutchings, Thomas||1783||Military Surveys|
|Irvine, Christopher||1784-5||Military Surveys|
|Johnson, Robert||1783-4||Military Surveys|
|Kennedy, James||1780||Military Surveys|
|King, George||1787||Military Surveys|
|Kinkead, James||1783||Military Surveys|
|Lindsay, William||1785||Military Surveys|
|Longstreth, Jonathan||1787||Military Surveys|
|McBrayer, William||1780-8||Military Surveys|
|McClanahan, Thomas||1782||Military Surveys|
|McCoun, James||1787||Military Surveys|
|Massie, Nath'l||1784||Military Surveys|
|May, George||1780||Military Surveys|
|May, William||1784||Military Surveys|
|Montgomery, Thomas||1784||Military Surveys|
|Montgomery, William||1782-6||Military Surveys|
|Moore, James F.||1785||Military Surveys|
|Morgan, Charles||1782||Military Surveys|
|Morgan, Simon||1784||Military Surveys|
|Netherland, B.||1783-8||Military Surveys|
|Oldham, William||1785||Military Surveys|
|Orr, Alexander||1786||Military Surveys|
|Overton, Waller||1784||Military Surveys|
|Patterson, Mat||1783||Military Surveys|
|Patton, Ben||1783-4||Military Surveys|
|Phillips, Philip||1783-5||Military Surveys|
|Pope, Ben||1783||Military Surveys|
|Preston, Robert||1774-5||Fincastle Surveys|
|Preston, William||1774-5||Fincastle Surveys|
|Price, Mer'th||1780||Military Surveys|
|Reading, George, Jr||1788||Military Surveys|
|Rentfro, James||1784||Military Surveys|
|Roberts, William||1784||Military Surveys|
|Ross, Hugh||1784-5||Military Surveys|
|Shannon, William||1784||Military Surveys|
|Shelby, John, Jr||1782||Military Surveys|
|Smith, Charles||1787||Military Surveys|
|Smith, Daniel||1774-5||Fincastle Surveys|
|Smith, Francis||1774-5||Fincastle Surveys|
|Steele, William||1783-6||Military Surveys|
|Sullivan, Daniel||1783-4||Military Surveys|
|Swearingen, Thomas||1782-5||Military Surveys|
|Swearingen, Van||1784||Military Surveys|
|Taylor, Hancock||1774||Fincastle & Military Surveys|
|Taylor, Hubbard||1782-3||Military Surveys|
|Taylor, Philip||1784||Military Surveys|
|Thompson, James||1780-3||Military Surveys|
|Todd, Robert||1782-5||Military Surveys|
|Veech, John||1785||Military Surveys|
|Venable, A.||1785||Military Surveys|
|Waller, John||1785||Military Surveys|
|Walton, Matthew||1783-4||Military Surveys|
|Ward, W.||1781-5||Military Surveys|
|Whitledge, Thomas||1783||Military Surveys|
|Wilson, George||1785||Military Surveys|
|Woolfolk, Richard||1785||Military Surveys|
|Worley, C.||1789||Military Surveys|
|Young, Richard||1784-6||Military Surveys|