Henderson County, Kentucky



The settlement of the county was on the increase, and to keep step with their more advance neighbors, was one of the determinations formerly fixed. Backed by the authority of the young Commonwealth, they began in earnest to open up lands to bring an uninhabited wilderness from its rude originality to green fields of growing grain; to substitute in place of wolves, herds of cattle and sheep, grazing upon a thousand hills; to bring civilization from a comparatively wild state of individual laxity, by organizing courts, building rude temples of justice, and prison houses - such as their limited means would allow - substituting public roads for the trails of wild animals, clearing up the land for cultivation, and such other things contemplated by law, and the progress of the times in other parts of this great country. The second meeting of the County Court was held in the old log schoolhouse on the first Tuesday in August 1799. The first business coming before the court was the proposition to establish public roads whereupon the following order was passed:


    "Ordered, that Samuel HOPKINS , Jacob BARNETT and Thomas WILLINGHAM , or any two of them, mark and lay off a road from the Public Square, in the Town of Henderson, to Smith's Ferry, on Green River, and Samuel HOPKIN'S is appointed surveyor of that road from the Town of Henderson to the main fork of Lick Creek, and Thomas WILLINGHAM , from the main fork of Lick Creek to the ferry; and it is further ordered, that the said Samuel HOPKINS , with his own hands; Arend RUTGERS , with his hands; Jacob BARNETT , with his hands; Russell HEWETT , with his hands; Joshua FLEEHART , Thomas SMITH and Robert BAIRD , open the said road and keep it in repair from the public square in Henderson to the main fork of Lick Creek, and that John KILGORE , Thomas FREELS , John KNIGHT , Nerod FRANCEWAY , Elijah GRIFFITH , Lawrence RAWLASSON , Jr., William RAWLASSON , Isaac KNIGHT , Nathan YOUNG , Jacob VANKIRD, Michael HOG , Adam HAY , Alter McGLAUGHLIN , Thomas STOLL , Charles DAVIS and his male laboring tithables, Adam LAWRENCE , Jr., John LAWRENCE , Isaac LUSADE and Jesse KIMBELL , upon the said road and keep it in repair from the main fork of Lick Creek, to Smith's Ferry."

This was the first road established in Henderson County. It ran to a point two miles beyond Hebardsville, where it bore to the right, and approached Green River at a point about one, or one and a half miles above the present Henderson and Owensboro Ferry. This was the crossing place for many years, but subsequently changed to Calhoun Ferry, the now crossing place. Under an act concerning public roads passed by the General Assembly, February 25, 1797, this road was surveyed and opened yet we have no record of viewers even having been appointed. From this it is reasonable to conclude that this route had been opened prior to 1799 and recognized as a public road, considerably traveled. The distance from Henderson to Smith's Ferry was fully twenty miles, and mostly over a hilly, rugged country, hence the difficulties the few men who were required to mark, lay off and keep in repair the said road must have laborer under. There were but two surveyors and twenty-eight whites, and four or five colored laboring tithables to do the work required over the whole line of twenty miles, a work which included clearing, grubbing, leveling, filling and ditching thirty feet wide. From the list of men appointed to do this work, the reader may from an idea of the popoulation of the county at that time, remembering, of course, that many of those named lived fully five and some eight miles from the line of the road. Under the law of 1797, all male laboring persons from the age of sixteen years or more, as well as colored male laboring tithables, were appointed by the court, to work upon some public road. This being the first and only public road in the county and only twenty-eight persons to be found within its whole length of twenty miles, it will necessarily be inferred that settlers at that early date were really few and far apart. These few men and boys were required to open and keep this road in repair. The road was to be kept well cleared and smoother thirty feet side at least. Bridges and causeways twelve feet wide were to be made and kept in repair, and for a failure to do any of the work required, the party failing to attend with proper tools for clearing the road, or refusing to work the same, subjected himself to a fine of seven shillings for every day's offense. To comply with the law, was either an impossibiltity, or else the surveyors were totally incompetent, for it will be seen as this work progresses with the business of the Court of Quarter Sessions, that it was a certain feature of that court's business, at each session to find bills of indictments against a large majority of road surveyors of the county for failure to keep some parts of their road or roads in repair.

History of Henderson County, Kentucky by Edmund L. Starling, pages 54 - 56


Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2005 HCH&GS