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Brief Early History of Jackson County

Kentucky History and Genealogy Network, Inc.

 


Jackson County History

Submitted by Jen Bawden

Jackson County was established April 25, 1858, from small portions of Madison, Estill, Laurel, and Rockcastle Counties and rather large portions of Clay and Owsley Counties. It’s located in the Cumberland Plateau region of the state.

McKee, the seat of Jackson County, was founded in 1858 with the new county and probably named for Judge George R. McKee of Garrard County. He was a member of the Legislature at the time. The county seat was located in the center of the county, in a little valley about a quarter of a mile wide and enclosed by steep hills, on the headwaters of Indian Creek.

Jackson County is a headwaters county with an uneven ridge running northwest to southeast through it, dividing the waters of the Kentucky River from the waters of the Rockcastle or Cumberland River. Every creek in the county rises along this ridge. In the days before cultivation and disforesting, the head of these creeks was a spring or series of springs and furnished an ideal habitat for animals.

The Warrior’s Path, the trail between the Cherokees in the southern Appalachian area and the Shawnees of southern Ohio, ran through this territory. Gabriel Arthur, an English scout, followed the path as early as 1674 and may have been the first white man to see the springs and hills of Jackson County. A marker in the courthouse yard at McKee states that Dr. Thomas Walker, Christopher Gist, Daniel Boone, and John Finley also used this trail in their explorations across Kentucky 1779.

The earliest settlers may have been located in the western and northwestern part of what was then Madison County, VA, because of the nearness to Boone’s Trace and the Wilderness Road. There is evidence of early occupation around Morrill. Settlers in the early part came from early settlement in Clay County and down the Kentucky River and up Sturgeon and Station Camp Creeks.

The earliest industries in Jackson County were hunting, carpentry, and farming, in that order for these were essential. After getting established in homes, the settlers began to float log rafts down the creeks and out to older settlements for the beautiful virgin timer was in great demand, especially in the bluegrass region. Another export were droves of cattle, hogs, sheep, geese, and turkeys raised on small farms, gathers by drivers and driven along the first roads to Richmond, settlements along the Rockcastle River and the Kentucky River.

The earlier settlers were self-sufficient because of their slight isolation from the earlier and larger settlements. Those who were skilled among them make most of the things they needed. Albert G. Ward, who lived near the head of Sturgeon Creek from about 1835 until his death in 1925 left a tradition of some of the firsts as recorded by Isaac Bowles. He said that the first chairs were made by John Inman. These cane and hickory bottom chairs may still be found in Jackson County. The first water-powered saw mill was run by a McGuire at Flannery’s Bridge on Sturgeon Creek and that the first steam mill was brought to McKee by Godfrey Isaacs in 1858.

A carding machine owned by I. S. Jones of Tyner was used to clean the wool from the small flocks of sheep most families owned. The thread was spun and clothing for the family was made by the housewives on spinning wheels and looms.

The oldest church in Jackson County is the Clover Bottom Baptist Church, gathered and organized by Joseph Ambrose in 1841. The next oldest churches are Mt. Gilead Baptist, 1844; White Springs Baptist, 1853; and Chinquapin Rough Baptist in 1866. John Ward was appointed a missionary to work in this territory by the General Associations of Kentucky Baptists as early as 1853. The Methodists were active in the new county with two ministers residing here in 1860.

Locations of early post offices along with locations of early communities. The first was Gray Hawk Post Office which was established on October 18, 1853. The postmasters were John L. Hamilton, 1853; Isaac S. Horn, 1854, John Farmer, 1855; Benjamin Chestnut, 1859. Later in 1859, James Nathan Culton was appointed and served for several years.

Green Hall Post Office was started in James D. Foster’s dwelling house, January 2, 1855, in what was then Owsley County. The postmasters were Mr. Foster, M. C. Hughes, 1856 and M. C. Hughes, Jr., 1872.

Middle Fork was established in Laurel County on June 24, 1856, wish Isaac J. Faubus as post master. Robert Green became post master in 1859, but the office was discontinued November 13, 1860. It was re-established as a Jackson County office on December 20, 1860, and Ezekiel Faubus was post master. Isaac J. Faubus was again post master in 1867.

Maulden was established as a Owsley County office, June 29, 1857, and John Farmer is listed as post master. He was also listed as post master at Gray Hawk. John Parker is there in 1860 and John Farmer again in 1864. It was discontinued in 1865 and re-established in 1866; discontinued in 1867 and re-established in 1884.

McKee was established October 25, 1858, the first one after the county was organized. Harris Freeman was the first post master and served until January 29, 1863. Henry J. Clark was then appointed.

Clover Bottom was established July 11, 1862. The post masters were Green V. Holland, 1862 to 1867; Richard Lamb, 1867 to 1867; Green V. Holland, 1867 until it was discontinued January 7, 1874. It was re-established December 14, 1874 and William J. Hays was appointed.

Morrill was established January 25, 1867, with Robert Broughton as post master. W. H. Moody was appointed in 1868. These seven offices were all that were established before 1870, but several more came into existence in the 1870s.

The population of Jackson County grew rapidly for about ten years after it became a county because of the Civil War. People from east Tennessee migrated to this section of Kentucky because of their wish to remain in the Union. Jackson County has few C.S.A. soldiers or sympathizers.

 

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