This week we continue to follow William Miller Boling’s column from 1946 in the Messenger offering a unique view of Meade County history from 75 years ago.
WILLIAM MILLER BOLING
John James Audubon, the great naturalist and, perhaps, the world’s most noted ornithologist, often traversed “The Barrens” of Meade County. He made frequent trips between Henderson (his home) and Louisville, studying the wildlife of the region in its native habitat.
He makes note of one of these journeys as follows:
“Left Hardin’s Berg on ‘Old Sorrel,’ early morning, Oct. 9, 1811. Followed the trace, (now becoming more plainly marked by travel) through the tall, thick grass to Piomingo Bend, (Rock Haven), arriving there at candlelight.
The entire journey of about thirty miles was made under a beautiful autumn sun.
A plentitude of turkeys was observable during the day and many deer were seen at intervals, some of them feeding quite near the trail.
Just before descending the precipitous terrain south of Piomingo, a mother bear and three cubs scampered away in the direction of a wooded ravine. Some two hours after departure from Hardin’s Berg wild pigeons began passing overhead, coming from the southwest and disappearing in a northeasterly direction. The flight of birds was continuous for the space of eight hours.
Three times during the afternoon the host of birds was so dense as to form great clouds of darkest hue, completely shutting out the light of the sun. By my system of computation there surely must have been several millions of birds in this migrating host of feathered creatures. Throughout my years of observation of the pigeon, this enormous exodus was, by far, the largest flight I ever witnessed.”
In 1824, Lafayette, the great benefactor of the American Colonies during the Revolutionary War, made a visit to the United States.
He visited every state in the Union at that time and was received with honor and acclaim wherever he appeared, being royally entertained and feted in all sections of our Country for many months.
At that time, the steamboat was new upon the rivers of the great Central Valley.
The government of the United States of which LaFayette was a guest was extremely desirous that the distinguished and now venerable visitor see and travel the great domain west of the Alleghenies—the new America of that day.
Accordingly, a steamer was prepared for his comfort and with LaFayette on board the voyage was begun at New Orleans in the early spring of 1825, with the purpose of showing the eminent guest our wonderful system of inland waterways. Up to the Father of Waters the trip was made without untoward incident, Lafayette happily observant, but being constantly amazed, at the unfolding panorama.
Reaching the confluence of the Ohio, the prow of “The Queen of the West” was turned into that stream and the voyage continued towards Louisville. Progress was serene and happy until the voyagers were in the “Big Bend” in Meade County. There the sturdy steamer struck a submerged snag one mile below Leavenworth and sank in shallow water, but fortunately without loss of life. (The Queen of the West sank near where the magnificent State of Missouri sank fifty years ago with such appalling loss of life).
The river excursion thus being interrupted, LaFayette was escorted by horseback to Brandenburg, where he remained for several days, until a boat could come from Louisville and resume the voyage to Pittsburg. (The hostelry where LaFayette stayed while in Brandenburg, stood opposite where Rhea Coleman’s grocery is now located).
The Native Americans
There were no permanent Indian villages in what is now Meade County during aboriginal days, but the region was used extensively as a hunting ground by the Native Americans.
The Shawnees, Mingoes, and Miamis north of the Ohio frequently crossed the river to contest the hunting rights of the Cherokees, Creeks and Choctaws in the region known as “The Barrens.”
The favored crossing points of the Northern Indians between the Falls of the Ohio and the mouth of Green River seems to have been at Piomingo Bend (Rock Haven), Concordia and Wolf Creek.
It is believed that the natives preferred these crossing points because of the narrowness of the river in the bends at these places and the “gaps” in the Kentucky hills south of the river affording them comparative ease in getting into the hinterland.
Simon Girty, the white renegade and Indian leader, who caused the Kentucky settlers so much trouble at Bryan’s Station and Blue Licks in 1782 made his last marauding expedition into Kentucky in 1786 for the purpose of exterminating settlers along Salt River.
He was repulsed with heavy loss and forced to retreat towards the falls of the Ohio (Louisville), but he turned westward and escaped with the surviving Native Americans by crossing the Ohio at Piomingo bend.
Two years later, during a violent dispute as to the right of leadership of the Indian Alliance, Girty was slain by chief Piomingo of the Mingoes near the site of Richmond, Indiana.
*Editor’s note: Some words have been changed from the original writing so that the historical language is more inclusive in today’s social climate.