Kentucky Genealogy and History

Montgomery County Kentucky


Source: The Killing of Adam Caperton, by William A. Gordon, Jr., Esquire, Published September, 1918

Submitted by Veneta McKinney

An account of the death of Adam Caperton by Wyandotte Indians at Mount Sterling, Kentucky, 22 March 1782, copied and compared by his great- great-grandson, William Alexander Gordon, Junior, Esquire, at Washington, D. C, 12 November 1915, from a paper pamphlet, read at the Fourth of July celebration 1876, entitled "Historical Sketches of Montgomery County," prepared by Richard Reid, Esquire, Democrat Job Rooms, Print, Mt. Sterling, Ky., 1882, in the possession of the University of Chicago Libraries, Durrett Collection (F. 457. M8R3), pages 30 to 34 inclusive.


The County of Montgomery will ever be memorable in the history of Kentucky because it is the scene of "Estill's Defeat." This battle was fought on March 22, 1782, on the banks of Hinkston Creek, on the farm now owned by Peter G. Flood.


A party of twenty-five Wyandottes, the bravest and the fiercest of all the Indian tribes, infested Estill's station on the south of Kentucky River, in March, 1782, and having killed and scalped Miss Innes, a daughter of Captain Innes, Monk, the slave of Captain Estill, taken prisoner, and destroyed the cattle, retreated. Captain James Estill with a party of twenty-five started in immediate pursuit, and came up with the Indians just after they had crossed the creek.
Tradition has it that they had killed a bear or buffalo and built a fire and were preparing a hasty supper. Instantly after discovering the Indians, Captain Estill's men fired. At first they seemed alarmed and disposed to fly, but their old chief, now wounded and lying on his back, dragged his bleeding body behind a bush and gave orders to stand and fight - on which they promptly prepared for battle, each man taking a tree and facing his enemy as nearly in a line as practicable.


The whites formed a corresponding line on the eastern side of the stream, covering themselves also by trees. The battle was singularly obstinate. The numbers were exactly twenty-five on a side. Each man sought his man, and fired only when he saw his mark.


The firing was deliberate, with caution they looked, but look they would for the foe, although life itself was often the penalty - and thus both sides firmly stood or bravely fell, for more than an hour. One-fourth of the combatants had fallen on either side and several others were wounded.


Estill, finding he could gain no advantage over the Indians at their own peculiar mode of warfare, undertook to outflank them by sending a detachment of six men, under Lieutenant Miller, up a valley running from the creek towards the rear of the enemy's line.


Whether through treachery or imbecility, Miller failed in his maneuver, and the old chief, finding the fire of the whites had slackened, ordered a charge across the stream, and the Indians rushed with rifle and tomahawk upon the diminished band and routed the whites after Captain Estill and six of his men were killed. Four others were badly wounded, but escaped. There is a tradition that only two of the Indians got back to their tribe. Monk, the slave, reported that seventeen Indians were killed and two wounded. The battle lasted about two hours, and is memorable for the equality of its opposing numbers, for the great fortitude with which it was maintained, and for the uncommon proportion of the slain. The whites were the best shooters, but the Indians the best hiders. There is a tradition that at the beginning of the fight a stalwart Wyandotte had climbed into the forks of a large sycamore near the creek, whence at his leisure he picked off at least three men before his murderous rifle was silenced by a concentrated fire that brought him to the ground.


Eighteen men survived the battle. The names of ten have been preserved: Col. Wm. Irvine, Joseph Proctor (who died in December, 1844, aged 89), Reuben Proctor, James Berry, Wm. Cradlebaugh, David Lynch, Henry Boyer, John Jameson (who afterwards represented Montgomery County in the Legislature), Ensign David Cook, and Lieut. Wm. Miller. Of the seven who were killed or died of their wounds, the names of six are preserved: Capt. James Estill, Adam Caperton, Johnathan McMillan, Lieut. John South, Jr., John Colefoot, and McNeely. Capt. Estill fired his gun first, and the Indians fled. David >k. in his ardour, got some distance in advance, and seeing an Indian halt, raised his gun and fired, and just at that instant another Indian passed in and one shot proved fatal to both.


ADAM CAPERTON, one of Estill's warmest personal friends, was shot through the head, which did not immediately kill, but crazed him. Unconscious of what he was doing he staggered into the open space that separated the combatants, when a powerful Wyandotte, whose gun had just been emptied, sprang from behind a tree to tomahawk and scalp him.


Estill, near by, with his gun also empty and wounded three times, could not abandon his unarmed friend, but rushed towards the savage with a drawn butcher knife. The latter saw his danger, and turned instantly, grappled with Estill in hand-to-hand, life and death contest. Each was so powerful and quick, the other could not use his weapon, first up, then down upon the ground; twisting and turning like two immense serpents struggling for the mastery. At last Estill's broken arm, shattered by an Indian ball four months before, and not yet strong, gave way, and the Indian with a wild yell of triumph, buried his knife in his body and killed him instantly.


That yell was the death knell of two brave spirits, an instant more and the Indian fell dead across Estill's body, pierced by a ball from the unerring rifle of Joseph Proctor. He had been watching the with steady arm, but hesitated to shoot lest he should kill his Captain while trying to kill his foe. This same Joseph Proctor, assisted by the negro Monk, bore his wounded friend, Wm. Irvine, on his back, from the battleground to Estill's station, a distance of forty miles.


CAPTAIN ESTILL, was one of Kentucky's best and bravest defenders, and has left behind him a name which will live in the annals of Kentucky, so long as there shall be found men to appreciate the patriotism and self-devotion of a martyr to the cause of humanity and civilization.


We may add that in the suit of Arthur Conley's Heirs vs. Wm. Chiles, in which the opinion of the Kentucky Court of Appeals was pronounced by Chief Justice Robertson, January Term, 1831, the whole history of this famous fight was told by eye-witnesses, the survivors of the battle, and those who went next day to bury the dead - and a map drawn. The deposition of William Calk was taken on the battleground, September 6th, 1803, and the very spot where Estill fell, was fixed by the County Surveyor: "S. 71 , W. 29 poles to the mouth of the branch."


The Courier-Journal, Louisville, (Kentucky), Wednesday, March 22, 1882; page 3, column 1.

A Big Time in Madison, All on Account of the Estills - They Have a Worthy History and an Honored Name - Indian Fighting.


(Correspondence of the Courier-Journal.)
Richmond, Ky., March 20th.

The court-house was crowded to overflowing to-day with the best people of the county to witness the exercises of the Estill Centennial. A century ago Captain James Estill, with twenty-four men, fought a party of Wyandotte Indians on a small branch of Hinkston Creek, near where Mt. Sterling, in this State, now stands, and Estill was killed. From the fact that a large artificial mound stood near the spot, the fight is known as the battle of Little Mountain or Estill's Defeat. This being the one hundredth anniversary (according to the family tradition, though history says March 22, which is probably correct), a centennial meeting of the Estill family was held, to which the public was invited.

One Hundred Guns were fired on the University campus, and the students and pupils of the schools marched in procession to the court-house, which was decorated for the occasion. The exercises opened with prayer by Rev. L. H. Blanton, Chancellor of Central University. Col. William M. Irvine, President of the Second National Bank, was selected as Chairman. Col. Irvine's grandfather, William Irvine, was dangerously wounded at the battle above mentioned, bill was subsequently elected the first clerk of this Madison county, and held the office for perhaps a score of years. Two secretaries were chosen.

Hon. Curtis F. Burnham delivered the first oration, and was followed by Hon. James B.McCreary, William B. Smith, Esq., Judge William C. Miller, Thomas J. Scott, Esq., Gen. Cassius M. Clay, Mr. Wallace ---anion of Standford, Col. James W. Caperton, and Charles J. Bronson, Esq.

McCreary, Scott, Miller, Caperton, and Varnon are descended from the Estills, and Col. Caperton also from Adam Caperton, who was killed at Little Mountain. The origin and genealogy of the family, the appearance of the Estill brothers in Kentucky pioneer days, the trials and hardships, bravery and self-sacrificing spirit, the growth and importance of the family were all set forth by the speakers.

THE ESTILLS descended from "Wallace, the Hero of Scotland," and the hero of Little Mountain was born in Virginia, and came to Boonesborough in 1780. The following year he built a fort there and half a mile from this place, and in the same year, had an arm broken by a shot from an Indian. In March of the next year he took thirty-nine horsemen and went out to look for a body of Indians who had crossed the river. Next morning the Indians appeared at the fort, and finding a Miss Innes without the walls, killed her, took captive a negro, named Monk, killed the cattle and left. There was not a man in the fort, so the women sent out two boys, Samuel South (afterwards a General) and Peter Hackett. They found the Estill party after wandering all day and night. Five men returned to the fort while the others went in the direction the Indians had gone. At night the horses were found exhausted, and with their riders were turned back. The twenty-five resumed the march next morning, and just an hour before sundown came upon the Indians preparing rations from a Buffalo carcass.

Estill fired, and the Indians ran. Ensign David Cook shot next, and two Indians being in range, both were killed. The third shot brought down the chief mortally wounded. But he called to his warriors to stand, and they obeyed, and a frightful battle ensued. At sundown Lieut. Wm. Miller with six men were detached to flank the enemy, but they deserted. Finally, when almost dark, Adam Caperton was shot in the head and staggered into an open space -all had previously been shooting from behind trees. A powerful warrior ran out to scalp him. Captain Estill sprang to the rescue and seized the savage, for his gun was empty. A struggle like that of two monster wild animals followed. At last Estill's fractured arm failed him, and he was forced down.

With a yell the knife was thrust into his vitals. As the Indian raised up a bullet from the rifle of gallant Joseph Proctor sent him to the "happy hunting grounds." One more shot from the Indian side and James McMillan fell dead. Lieut. John South, Jr., John Colefoot, McNeely and another, whose name was lost -seven in all - ay dead on the field. Seventeen Indians joined these seven antagonists in their last sleep. James Berry, seriously wounded, was taken back upon the back of the slave Monk, who had escaped from the Indians, and carried home. Wm. Irvine mounted a horse and rode. David Cook, though badly wounded, walked. The other eight, five of them wounded, set out for the station, the dead being left on the ground. They did not know the strength of the Indians; yet Monk declared seventeen were dead and only two remained, both of them wounded. Mrs. Gatliffe, a lady who was a prisoner among the Wyandottes at their northern camp, and was afterwards released, confirmed this statement, and said one of the wounded Indians died on the way, leaving only one to tell the story.

A MONUMENT with life-size statue of Capt. Estill, stands at the entrance to the beautiful cemetery in this place. More than a hundred persons possessing Estill blood were present at the Centennial to-day, but of the name, Johnathan P., Johnathan T., Peter and Col. C. R. Estill, are the only ones now living in this county, all prosperous farmers who own the land left by their ancestors.

During Judge Miller's speech he took occasion to say that the Miller who deserted was not of his family. The Judge is a grandson of the founder of Richmond. President Logan, of Central University, pronounced the benediction.

Some of the Estills of Missouri have grown to be among the wealthiest citizens of that State.

Col. Samuel Estill, the younger brother, lived to be an old man, and was in the legislature in 1795. He weighed at his death 412 pounds, and history tells us it took a whole side of leather to make him a pair of boots. It required twelve strong men to baptize him. He was a noted Indian fighter. (End).
(Signed) Tip.



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