Casey  County


The Fincastle Surveys

From Sandi Gorin & The SCKY Mailing List

As you well remember, before 1792, there was no Commonwealth of Kentucky. The lands lie in Virginia and the last county claiming our lands was Fincastle County, Virginia and Kentucky was also known as Kentucky County, Virginia. In April of 1774, a group of surveyors headed out to begin surveying the area that would many years later end up as the original three counties in Kentucky. Some of the Fincastle surveys laid outside of Kentucky, but for the major part, the men appointed were tromping through the wilderness areas seldom seen by the white man. It must have been an awesome task; even more desolate than when settlers started coming into
Kentucky en masse after the Revolutionary War. Only a few brave souls had been in our land and the surveyors were met with challenges every step of the way.

Surveyors included John Floyd, Hancock Taylor, James Douglas and Jesse Hite who departed from Smithfield, Virginia and began their trek by boat down the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers. At every spot along the way, they sketched out their surveys with the help of their work crew. Can you imagine the excitement, fear and wonder these men experienced? Trees so thick it blotted out the sky. Rivers and creeks so pure that one could see to the bottom? Animals of every variety and always the illusive Native American who might be around the next bend.

The men reached the Falls of the Ohio on the 28th of May, a long trip
already. Fatigue must have overcome them at times, but the lure of the new lands pushed them on. Twenty-eight surveys were done after their arrival at the Falls covering 40,000 acres. This would encompass the present-day city of Louisville running south to the Watterson Expressway and east to Anchorage. On June 3rd the surveyors split into two groups - one headed by Hancock Taylor. Taylor surveyed the area around Harrodsburg and then moved
over to near Frankfort on the 17th. John Floyd, leader of the second party, rejoined Taylor on July 1st and they camped near present day Midway, KY.

Now they split into 3 parties with James Douglas and Isaac Hite in the third group. Floyd surveyed the North Fork of Elkhorn; Taylor went along the South Fork of the Elkhorn and Douglas along Jessamine and Hickman Creeks. Sixty-two surveys were completed here for about 113,000 acres. Remember now, they didn't have the fancy tools that surveyors do today, these were men on foot carrying heavy chains, marking the lines of each survey by cutting slashes in trees to mark the boundaries or piling rocks up with a notation on it. Long, arduous work.

An Indian attack on July 8th stopped any plans of the men reuniting at Harrodsburg and the men started for home by different routes. Two men were lost on the 27th when Indians attacked Taylor's group and killed he and another man. To the remaining surveyors and their crew came to rescue the noted Daniel Boone and Michael Stoner, scouts sent out by Virginia for this very purpose. Floyd and his companions came back by following an Indian trail that led up the North Fork of the Kentucky River and through the Pound Gap. Douglas' group paddled their way home in a small canoe down the
Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and then catching a ride on a ship headed to Virginia.

The weary men who had survived returned to Fincastle County and presented their surveys - likely water soaked, perhaps blood stained and ragged. The survey work did not stop with these four men however; surveyors continued to come into Kentucky during the years 1775 and 1776 until finally over 206,250 acres had been surveyed. These were primarily done on the old military warrants from the central part of the state. Further information can be found in an article entitled: "Fincastle Surveyors in the Bluegrass,
1774" by Neal Hammon, found in the Kentucky Historical Society Register 70, October 1972.

What was involved in these Virginia surveys? Virginia had to do something - after the Revolutionary War, settlers began flooding into the Kentucky County area, primarily since Virginia had paid its soldiers by giving them land there. Many of the surveys were totally inaccurate and were known as "tomahawk surveys" or what Henry Clay called "fireside surveys." It caused problems for Virginia and later Kentucky for many years. The original surveyors came out of William and Mary College which the guidelines for surveying had been designed. After Kentucky statehood, Kentucky set forth
its own rules and regulations for "ascertaining internal land boundaries and property recording and determining the validity of warrants and deeds." With the 2nd Kentucky Constitution, each county was to submit the names of two proper persons, who, with the consent of the Senate, one was appointed a county surveyor. If no one's name was submitted from a county, the Governor submitted a name and was approved or disproved by the Senate. It
was not until January 1814 that the Kentucky General Assembly finally specifically outlined the requirements for surveyors.

(c) Copyright 15 May 2003, Sandra K Gorin, All Rights Reserved.

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