Can a man truly ever know where he is going if he has no understanding or appreciation for where he has been? I would argue, emphatically, no! To fail to understand and appreciate our history—good, bad and in between—is to fail to bring a road map to life and more times than not, has doomed mankind to walk in circles, often at its own peril.
The following piece comes from the Feb. 7, 1946 edition of the Meade County Messenger. I thought it would be neat to take a look at Meade County’s history, as told 75 years ago, by William Miller Boling. For those of you like myself, who love this kind of stuff, be sure to stop by and support the Meade County History Museum in Brandenburg. Our columnist Gerry Fisher and his colleagues over there would love to take you on a journey back into Meade County’s past. I, for one, can’t wait to pick their brains about their thoughts on the following article, and how, if at all, our understanding of Meade County’s history has changed over 75 years because they will surely have the answers. Until then, enjoy Boling’s words from our county’s past:
Meade County: Facts and Fiction and The Justus Jones Stories also Pages Of Memory
WILLIAM MILLER BOLING
Meade County is an odd shaped district bordering the Ohio River at a point somewhat west of the meridian running through the center of the State.
The river twists and bends for a distance of seventy miles along the northern boundary, thus giving Meade County more miles of river frontage than any other Kentucky county. Descriptions of the grotesque meanderings of the Ohio River along the northern limits of the county the following may be noted:—A straight line drawn from near Dam 43 (where the river first touches Meade County) to the lower end of Flint Island (where the Ohio leaves the county) would be approximately 21 miles in length, yet the river in traveling this distance follows a serpentine route of about 70 miles. The Ohio flows in almost every direction except due west. Just above Rock Haven the river flows due south for about 2 miles and just below Rock Haven it flows almost due north for about 2 miles. About two miles below Leavenworth the river begins to flow due south and after 1 1/2 miles turns to travel due east for one mile to the neck of Big Bend. Across the “isthmus” at the beginning of Big Bend the distance is about one mile while around the “peninsula” or Ox Bow loop the distance is nearly twelve miles.
During all of its 70 miles of serpentine windings the river never runs due west for any appreciable distance. Three Indiana counties—Perry, Crawford, and Harrison—lie north of Meade County across the Ohio River, and two Kentucky counties border it—Hardin upon the east and south andBreckinridge upon the southwest.
Meade County was organized in 1823, being formed from parts of Hardin and Breckinridge counties. It was named in honor of Captain James Meade who was a valiant soldier in the War of 1812, winning particular distinction against the British and their Indian allies in the Battle of Tippecanoe. He fought heroically and to his death under Col. Richard M. Johnson in the battle of the Raisin.
Early historical records declare that the region now included in Meade County was much frequented by Indians who, coming from the north to harass the early settlers in Kentucky usually crossed the river within the confines of present Meade County. The present sites of Rock Haven, Brandenburg, Richardson’s Landing, Wolf Creek and Concordia have been established as authentic crossing points for the Shawnees when on their way to attack the early settlers in West-central Kentucky.
Tecumseh, the great chief of the Shawnees while forming the far-reaching Indian Confederacy to repel the whites from the Ohio Valley, is known to have met the Cherokee chiefs in conference near the mouth of Otter Creek in 1809.
The first white man, so far as authentic records reveal, to visit what is now Meade County was Jacques LaFeber a member of LaSalle’s expedition. He came to it in 1669.
James Harrod who established the first permanent white settlement in Kentucky, Harrodstown, (now Harrodsburg) in 1774, explored much of the territory adjacent to the Ohio River during the early 1780”s and filed claim to an extensive acreage in the vicinity of what is now Richardson’s Landing.
Squire Boone (Brother of Daniel) who was the first Baptist preacher to visit Kentucky and his nephew Enoch Boone (Daniel’s Son) made an extended visit to the Otter Creek region in 1781-3.
Aaron Burr visited Brandenburg’s Ferry (now Brandenburg) in 1806. After having killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Burr fled westward and found sanctuary at Hiram Blannerhasset’s on an island in the Muskingum River. There Burr made his plans to establish an empire to be composed of the southern and western parts of the United States and the northern part of Mexico with New Orleans as the capital and himself as emperor of the new monarchy. His plans being formulated at Blannerhasset’s Burr continued down the Ohio by pirogue and stopped at Brandenburg’s Ferry and remained for some days at the log cabin of William Crutcher which stood on the site now occupied by the residence of Dr. A. A. Baxter.
Burr possessed deep intellectuality, affable manners and pleasing personality and greatly endeared himself to the Crutcher family.
Four months after Burr’s departure, Mrs. Crutcher gave birth to a son and he was named Burr Crutcher. The author talked with Burr Crutcher, an old man of ninety-five, at Owensboro in 1901 and he had documentary evidence in his possession that fully attested the authenticity of what has been set down above.
The first permanent home in what is now Meade County was built in 1798 in that section of the county now known as Stith’s Valley.
Meade County furnished more soldiers for the United States in the Mexican War than any other Kentucky county, based on population.
The county furnished about an equal number of men to the North and South during the Civil War. The first Secretary of Agriculture in a President’s Cabinet (1889) Norman J. Coleman, taught school in Brandenburg in 1847.
General John Hunt Morgan, the Confederate cavalryman crossed the Ohio River at Brandenburg July 7th and8th 1863. The Federal Army under command of Generals Shackleford, Judith and Hobson crossed the river there in pursuit of Morgan’s men on July 9th and 10th. Many Meade Countians were members of each of these armed contingents.
Meade County was visited by the notorious James Gang in 1869, Frank James being seriously wounded in a melee at Brandenburg.
The wife of Von Hindenburg German Field Marshall during World War I and afterward President of the German Republic, spent part of her girlhood in Brandenburg.
Meade County’s area is 322 square miles, including about 48 square miles now a part of the United States Military Reservation at Ft. Knox.
The population of the county is about 8,100, with only 3/10 of 1% being foreign born.
Nine-tenths of the county is devoted to agriculture. The mean elevation of the county is about 600 feet above sea level, although sections of the southern and southwestern sections reach elevations of 900 to 950 feet.
The hard rocks of Meade County are composed of Upper and Middle Mississippi limestones and shales, principally correlated with the Ste. Genevieve and St. Louis formations. Lower sub carboniferous limestones appear below Garnettsville on Otter Creek.
Clays and silts of Pleistocene or Recent Age are found on the narrow flood plain of the Ohio River, and the lower waters of Otter Creek.
The structure of Meade County is monoclonal, the normal dip being to the west from Jessamine done of the Cincinnati arch.
The county is not faulted so far as it is known, but there is one principal East and West fold, the Dry Valley anti-clime and a number of other flexures of probable dimensions.