Henderson County, Kentucky


By Sara Winstead

Prior to the formation of Henderson as the 38th county in 1798, there were but few settlers south of Green River. The first permanent settlement, of which any knowledge is had, was made above the Red Banks - now Henderson - on RICHARD HENDERSON & Company's land in the year 1791. These settlers or a majority of them, were Germans, therefore to that people may be accorded the credit of the beginning of Henderson.

During the fall of 1791 two or three families located above the now city of Henderson, on ground which has borne for years the historic name of HUGHES' Field. Finding this ground to be low and marshy, they moved here as a better site for building a village.

Immediately after landing they began, with what tools at their command, chopping from the immediate forests surrounding the river bank, logs suitable for building such huts as would protect them from weather and make them comfortable.

When a sufficient number of logs had been collected they started the building of a row of black houses or cabins, after the primitive style, on the river bank, extending from the present foot of 6th Street down to Powell Street. There was a strip of territory one hundred and fifty feet in width lying beyond the present northwestern boundary of Water Street, and on this ground is where the first buildings in Henderson were located.


During the year 1792 Captain JOHN DUNN was appointed constable for this territory. ENEAS McCALLISTER was detained here with his family by the ice, while enroute from the Cumberland River country to Pittsburgh. There were not more than half dozen little log cabins on the bank, and two of these found vacant by Mr. McCALLISTER were taken possession of and occupied by him and his family.

There were no Indians at that time to be seen on this side of the Ohio, but on the Indiana side were to be found several tribes among the number were the Shawnees. They were troublesome at times and as heartless as troublesome.

A party of young boys, including MICHAEL and JAKE SPRINKLE and JOHN UPP, armed for the purpose of hunting, crossed the river in canoes, never once suspecting that Indians were in that vicinity, and upon landing were surprised by a party in ambush, two of them were captured, one shot, the fourth being an expert swimmer, and under providential favor, made his escape back to Kentucky.

The two captives were tortured in many ways - they were made to walk forced marches, then beaten, and finally, after having undergone a terrible journey, barefooted and almost naked, marched into Sandusky, on Lake Erie, from whence, after having lived a most frightful life. They escaped, and some time afterward arrived back at Red Banks, to the great joy of their kin and friends.

Above and below the village, the country was one dense canebreak, affording an abundance of the best food for cattle, which were driven on in large numbers. The hillsides and valleys were thickly populated with wild animals, such as wolves, wild cats, panthers, deer and bears. Turkeys, geese, ducks, pheasants, squirrels, rabbits and other wild game of the smaller species were here in huge numbers. Among the birds found at that time in great numbers were parakeets, parrots, and ravens.

Reprinted with permission.
Newspaper clipping found in the Society files


Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2002 HCH&GS