The First 200 Years of Pendleton County


Written By: Mildred Bowen Belew

Contributed, with permission, By:Kristin Stoner


The most discouraging facts of genealogy is that so many of our relatives will remain silent when we are seeking information.  They ask why replow old fields that are now over grown with weeds and long forgotten?  The indifference and incorrectly remembered facts makes it a hard task to say this is definitely how it happened.  But the told me what they knew and I accepted it as such.  I have no intention of saying these are true facts.  I haven’t been able to prove everything in this writing, as a good genealogist should.  Some things that I thought had been proved by someone else, has turned out to be incorrect.  If I took the time to prove everything I would never get this book written.  So if you find a piece of information that is incorrect, please let me know so I can change my records.

          Old families die out or move away and the elder members who were well versed die and their memories are buried with them.  When older people were around and wanted to talk of old times, we weren’t willing to listen.  Now that we are ready to listen there is no one left to do the telling.  So this is my way of telling what I have found and remember in my time that people may someday want to know about our county and families.

I was privileged to have a grandmother, Eva Mullins Barton, who saved and remembered everything.  She was a big help in my getting started and advancing so rapidly in my research.  Also my mother, Edna Barton Bowen, who has sat for hours and told and retold me facts that I had trouble remembering and my husband, Kenneth Eugene Belew, and to my sister and brother-in-law, Melvin and Betty Schlueter who has spent many hours and days wading through court houses, Historical Society’s, library’s and cemeteries.

I would like to say thanks to my correspondence all over the United States who has shared information with me.  I hesitate to name them for fear of leaving someone out.  I hope you enjoy reading of the first two hundred years of Pendleton County.

1800 Kentucky Census First Pendleton County Census

Head of Household


The real history of Kentucky may be said to begin with the expedition of Dr. Thomas Walker in 1750.  In 1748, Hanbury, a London merchant, Thomas Lee, President of Virginia Council, Augustine Washington and others formed the Ohio Company.  They received by permission 500,000 acres of land between the Kentucky and Monongahela Rivers and the privilege of settling at their own risks.  Their land was located in the western wilderness on both banks of the Ohio River.

          In 1749 the Loyal Land Company was formed and given 800,000 acres to be located indefinitely in the west. In the winter of 1749 they commissioned Dr. Thomas Walker of Albermarle County, Virgina to explore the western country and report concerning its character.  He with five companions in March of 1750, began the journey through the southwest and entered Kentucky by way of the Cumberland Gap.  By April the little company had reached a point on the Cumberland River about four miles below the present day Barboursville and spread out in different directions to explore.  They soon returned in disappointment.  They pressed on westward to a shelving of rock on a river they named Rockcastle and later on to the Kentucky River.  There sore in body and spirit they returned their faces toward Virginia.  They had succeeded in traversing the worst possible section of the country and never seeing the Blue Grass Country.  Therefore when reaching Virginia they spread reports that were far from complimentary of Kentucky.

          Much more fortunate was the Ohio Company.  Their choice of an explorer fell on Christopher Gist.  He began his journey from Old Town on the Potomac, the last day of October, 1750.  He proceeded to the present day town of Pittsburg then down the Ohio River until he reached Scioto River.  He descend the Scioto to a Shawnee Town, Shannoah and crossed over into Kentucky.  He visited Big Bone Lick and a few days later crossed the Licking River at the Lower Blue Licks.  He penetrated the Blue Grass and looked over the wide plains of central Kentucky.  Then he crossed the Cumberland Mountains and returned to Virginia by Pound Gap.

          The expeditions of Gist and Walker were similar, but Walker had spent his time floundering through the thickets and defiles of the mountains, while Gist had penetrated the heart of Kentucky.  To Walker the land was rough, infertile, abounding with snakes and beast.  Walker’s report discouraged his employers and friends from further efforts to settle the land.  The report of Gist inflamed the ardent spirits of his employers and neighbors.  However the French and Indian War put an end to any activities of both companies.

          The only actual explorers of record after that time was, John Finley in 1752 and James McBride, two years later.  John Finley was a frontier trader with the Ohio Indians from whom he visited.  He and three or four companions came down the Ohio River in canoes to the falls at Louisville.  While returning he was captured at Big Bone Lick by the Shawnee Indians and held captive for about a year, when he made his escape and returned home, destined to return at a later date.

          When the trouble was settled, one by one the explorers began to return to the Kentucky country.

          Our land here had been possessed by the Indians until the 5th of November 1768, at which time a treaty was concluded in consideration of goods and money to the value of 10,460 pounds, 7 shillings and 3 pence sterling, granted to King George III, of England, for the territory south of the Ohio River and East of the Tennessee River.  By the Acquisition of this territory it could now be opened up for settlement.  Prior to that time men could not settle here because of the Indians, for this was to remain their hunting ground.

          In 1769 the long restrained movement of the North Carolina Yadkin Country people to the Kentucky Country began, including Daniel Boone, John Stewart, Joseph Holden, James Moody and William Cook, with John Finley as their guide and leader.  The desire kindled in Boone for seeing Kentucky and had grown greater with the passing of years.

          In 1767 he had penetrated far into the interior of the Cumberland’s, but failed to find the level lands he had heard about.  Squire Boone and others joined the party later, but by 1770 only two Boone brothers were left as all others had been killed or left for home.  In 1772 they returned home to be known as the “Long Hunters”.  Their stories of the country and their adventures aroused the entire Yadkin People.  All other plans were put aside while the community made ready for the promise land.   At the opening of 1773, the Yadkin people resembled for all the world, like a mighty river held momentarily in check by the dam of the Cumberland Mountains with the elder Boone as their leader.  They collected in September 1773, six families of neighbors and began the journey to Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap.

          In 1773 our area was a part of Fincastle County, Virginia.  Kentucky County, Virginia was created out of Fincastle County, 31 December, 1776.  Kentucky became entitled to a separate county court, justice of the peace, sheriff, constable, corner and militia officers.  This brought law for the fist time to the Kentucky territory.

          In 1775, in all of Kentucky territory there were some three hundred men.  Simon Kenton was occupying a cabin in Mason County where Washington now stands.  Hinkston with fifteen men were encamped on a stream now bearing his name.  Miller with fourteen men were giving his name to a well known creek.  McConnell wit a small band was camped near Kenton and Lindsay was camped around a spring later to be known as Lexington.  In all, the various parties had about 200 acres of land under cultivation.  Kentucky was fast becoming the white mans land.

          The Revolutionary War was raging and the settlement of this country did not increase very rapidly before the year 1779, when the land law was enacted by the Virginia Legislature, authorizing individual’s appropriation of land in Kentucky.  Settlements and village claims were to be adjusted by commissioners appointed by Virginia, whose first session was on the 13 October, 1779, at Logan Station near the present village of Stanford Kentucky.

          In 1780 the Virginia Assembly passed an act dividing Kentucky County into three counties.  North of the Kentucky River was Fayette County; West of the same river was Jefferson County; while the rest of the county received the name Lincoln County.  In the creation of these three counties the name of Kentucky disappeared.  For a little while there was no Kentucky.

          At one time the fifty miles below the mouth of the Licking River was on of the favorite crossing places of the Indians for sneaking captives out of Kentucky.  In 1780 Colonial Henry Byrd, an official of the British Army, ascended the Licking River at Falmouth with his Canadian and Indian forces, in route to attack pioneer stations in Kentucky.  They unloaded their artillery and a cannon on wheels here as they cut the first road through Kentucky over which wheels could travel.  The road they cut virtually marked the trail of the present day U.S. Highway 27.  The British and savage invaders crept along the south fork of the Licking River, down the dry creek bed of Snake Lick and crossed the river at Boyd Station by building a temporary ford of logs laid crossways, across the river.  Over this they took their cannon, again crossing the South Licking River at the Buffalo Ford near Lair in Bourbon County between Cynthiana and Paris.  Creeping cautiously up the steep banks at dawn, they attacked Ruddles Station, where ancestors of many Pendleton Countians today, John and Elizabeth Conway and their children and son-in-law, William Dougherty, lived.  From there they marched on to Martins Station and captured the inhabitants there.  The Indians mounted their horses and drove the captives along with their cattle and plunder from their cabin homes, on a journey northward.  On that tragic march were 472 men, women, and children, bowed down with the weight of their sorrows.  With these people were the Conways and Doughertys.

          The first permanent settlement in what is now Pendleton County was made in 1776 by pioneers from Virginia, Pennsylvania and other Eastern colonies.  The land ranged from rolling to hilly with thousands of rich acres of bottom land in the valleys.  It is primarily agriculture with tobacco, corn and hay as its biggest crops.

          The settlements were made near springs, where they raised a patch if flax and a few sheep.  Here and there a patch if cotton and with deer skins they made their clothing.  The sheep and other stock ran in the woods, the sheep being penned up at night close to the house to keep the wolves from getting them.

          Their cabins were built with logs, clapboard roofs, slab doors hung on deer skin thongs and earthen or puncheon floors.  The latter made by splitting logs in two and laying the rounded sides down and flat side up.  The windows if any, were usually of deer skin soaked in bear grease and stretched until fairly thin and transparent.  Inside the cabin a window shutter was made to slide over the deer skin so it could be barred for protection.  The chimneys were made of sticks and clay mixed with deer or pig hair.  The logs ere motorized together and the clapboards and rafters were held fast with wooden pegs cut by hand from black walnut or hickory.

          The women with cards, spinning wheels and looms, made the fabric from which their clothing were made.  They were a social group of people, having quilting parties, log rolling, house and barn raisings and squirrel hunts.  The women did their cooking on open fire places with spits, pot hooks and kettles.  The hominy block was made from stump, the middle of which was burned out to fit the pedestal.  Meal was made by grating the corn by hand on a crude home made grater.  By mixing the meal and water to a certain consistency the housewife made her “Johnny cakes” or “journey cakes” by baking it before the log fire on a smooth clean rock.  Many a pioneer woman brought her carefully selected seeds along with her “over the roads” vegetable seeds, apple seeds, peach stones and even a few flower seeds.  These she kept in goards, dividing and exchanging them with her neighbors.  Her tables were made of a slab of wood into which pegs ere driven for legs.  Bowls were neatly turned and pewter plates with horn spoons ere substituted for china, silver and glass.

          In season, a pile of wood was gathered to us as heating and cooking.  Winter apples were stored, peaches and apples dried, fruit preserved and cider and apple butter made and honey taken for winter.

          They made their alkali by leaching wood ashes and made their own ropes, for all domestic use.

          April 24, 1780, Holt Richardson entered 1000 acres in Kentucky, by virtue of warrant for military services preformed by him in the last war, joining Benjamin Johnson’s entry on the Licking River.

          Many of the early settlers of the dark and bloody ground, perhaps a majority if them, were Revolutionary soldiers.  It is sad to contemplate the fate of many of those old Revolutionary veterans. They fought not for pay, nor for glory and honor, but for liberty and independence.  When the war was over many of them, broken in health and fortune, came to Kentucky and the west, where cheap lands were to be obtained or with land grants from the Government, for payment of their services.   

          In 1785, Bourbon County was formed from Fayette County.  Woodford County was formed in 1789 and Mason County in 1789.  In 1792 Kentucky was made a state and Scott County was formed from half of Bourbon County.  In 1793, Harrison County was formed from half of Bourbon County. In 1794, Campbell County was formed from Harrison, Scott, and Mason Counties.  In 1798, Pendleton County was formed from Bracken and Campbell Counties and Boone County was formed from Campbell County.  In 1840, Kenton County was formed from Campbell County.

          Falmouth got its charter, 23rd. June, 1792 in the First Legislature, before Pendleton County was organized.  However there were citizens living at the “Forks of the Licking” long before the city was chartered.  John Waller, a Kentucky pioneer man founder of Falmouth was representing this area in the Legislature and came home with the charter.  The town was part of 1,000 acres patented to Col. Holt Richardson for military service in the Revolutionary War as a Virginia soldier.

          Falmouth was established December 10, 1793, in Woodford County.  At the time of establishment the property was owned by John Cook, William McDowell, John Waller, and possibly others.  By virtue of this act, vested in Notlery Conn, John Hughes, John Cook, John Vance, Samuel Cook, Joseph Humes, William Monroe, John Little and George Standeford, trustees, to be laid out by them into lots of ¼ acres each with convenient streets and establish a town by the name of “Falmouth”.  The trustees to sell the lots for credit or real money as shall best suit the conditions of building a dwelling house, 16 by 16 feet square, with a brick or stone chimney, to be finished fit fir habitation within seven years from the day of sale.  If the purchaser of any lot failed to build on it within the time limit, the trustees may enter into such a lot to sell it again and apply the money to the sue and benefit of the town.

          John Waller was a native of Stafford County, Virginia.  Perhaps John Cook and William McDowell were from there also.  Falmouth, Virginia was located in Stafford County, on the left bank of the Rappahannock River at the foot of the falls, about one mile above the town of Fredericksburg.  It is assumed this is where the name of Falmouth came from.          

          The trustees held their first meeting, Saturday the 12th of April, 1794 at the house of John Humes.  He and his family were from Culpeper County Virginia.  At this time it is believed he was living at Morgan on 100 acres of land on the South Fork of the Licking River, that he had purchased from John Cook, Jr.  and his wife Winifred.  The following trustees were present for the first meeting; George Humes, Samuel Cook, John Vance, William Monroe, John Cook, and John Waller.

          Notley Conn, John Hughes, and James Littell who had been appointed by the General Assembly refused to act so John Humes, John Sanders and John Ewing were appointed to act in their stead.

          Some of the streets in town have retained their original names, but many have changed.  Shelby Street was once known as Main Cross Street.  Other sections of town were known as Beech Woods, Best Mills, Mount Joy Branch, which flowed under Happy Hollow, Murphys Island, Mullins Pond at the Northwest end of town, known as skating rink, Balsers Corner Northeast corner of main and Shelby Streets and Jockey Ring between Main Street and the Main Licking River Bridge.  Little Egypt has been applied to the extreme South Eastern section of town and Coleman’s spring.

          On the 12th of December, 1794 an act was approved by the General Assembly to open the Main Licking River for navigation as far up as Slade creek.  Any person who had a claim, interest pr any other obstruction on the river was to remove them by the first of May 1795.

          John Sanders had a permit to keep a ferry from his land on the South Fork of the Licking River to the lands of Alvin Montjoy on the opposite shore.  Alvin Montjoy was granted a leave to keep a ferry across the Main Licking River in lots number 72 and 73.  William Anderson acknowledged bond that he be allowed to keep a ferry from the point at the Forks of the Licking across the Main Fork and the South Fork to the opposite shore and named Squire Grant as security.




Artwork: Sweet Solitude
by Edmund Blair  Leighton