Bullitt County History

Bicentennial Celebration by Tom Pack


On 4 Dec 1991, The Pioneer News published an article written by Tom Pack, with the headline "Bullitt County, Shepherdsville experienced rapid growth in 1780s."

A fading, yellow copy of that newspaper page was recently found in a file at the Bullitt County History Museum, and we have transcribed it below.

We are always grateful to find something Tom wrote to share his passion for Bullitt County history. We also appreciate The Pioneer News' willingness to allow us to put it here.


The year 1779 marked the begining of a period of rapid growth in Kentucky. This was two years after the bloody sevens, the year that the Indian raids became so fierce that the number of stations were reduced to three and the number of settlers numbered around 300.

Although the Indian threat was still present, the stories about Kentucky, its great meadows and plentiful game brought to the eastern settlements by trappers and traders as well as wanderers such as Daniel Boone whetted the appetite for many to see the land for themselves.

By 1780 the population had increased to the point that Kentucky was divided into three counties - Fayette, Lincoln and Jefferson. Out of Jefferson County was created Nelson County in 1784. The dividing line between the two counties was the Salt River.

Throughout the knobs and valleys on both sides of Salt River were many paths created by large herds of buffalo and other wild animals. These paths had been trodden down over years of traveling to the several salt licks located on both sides of the river.

The largest of these salt licks was Bullitt's Lick, named after its surveyor, Captain Thomas Bullitt.

One particular path, much larger than the others, crossed Cox's Creek and then forked. One fork crossed Salt River just above McCullough's Run, then followed the river on the north side to the Falls crossing. The other continued on across Cedar Creek, paralleling the river on the south side, until it reached the Falls of Salt River.

The Falls of Salt River was the best place for animals to cross the river. This place was best because the "Falls" dropped about 14 feet over a distance of one-half mile or so.

In times of low water the area many times would be dry bedrock, permitting large numbers of animals to cross at one time. The early pioneers also used the same crossing for the same reason.

It was referred to, by the early settlers, as where the "great road" crosses Salt River. After crossing the river the path wound its way to Bullitt's Lick.

Adam Shepherd, from Baltimore, Md., one of the early settlers into the area claimed 900 acres of land on the north side of Salt River. This land had been pattened in the name of his father, Peter Shepherd. Shepherd's claim included the "great road" crossing.

In 1793, Shepherd petitioned the General Assembly of Kentucky, only one year old, to establish a town on 50 acres of land set aside for that purpose. It was to be located on the north bank of the Falls of Salt River. His petition was approved by the legislature on Dec. 11, 1793. His town became known as Shepherdsville.

The Act of 1793, creating Shepherdsville, also appointed the first trustees: Nancy Brashear, Samuel Crow, Michael Troutman, Frederick Pennybaker, Benjamin Stansberry, Joseph Brooks and John Essery.

Powers granted to the trustees included the laying off of streets and lots. The lots were to be sold at public auction. The proceeds, whether it be money or produce, were to be paid to Shepherd.

Owners of lots were given seven years in which to build a brick, stone or log house, at least 16 feet square. If a house was not built within the allotted time, the property was to be forfeited and the lot resold by the trustees.

Benjamin Stansberry, assistant surveyor Jefferson County and one of the first trustees of Shepherdsville, surveyed and drew the plan of the town. There were three streets going in an east-west direction. Starting with the river and going north was Water Street, Second Street and Third Street. There were three streets running in a north-south direction. Beginning with the easternmost street, there were Walnut, Main and Plumb (sic).

There was a total of 80 lots in the original plan. All were of equal size except for the 16 that bounded on the river. These lots varied in size according to the "meanders" of the river.

Bullitt County was created in 1796. When the first court met, in 1797 Shepherdsville was made the county seat. Owners of the lots at the intersection of Main and Second streets, numbers 12, 13 and 20 were asked to give up a forty foot square section of their lots "next the center," and the owner of lot number 21 was asked to give up half of his lot. The four parts of the lots along with the intersection were to make up the public square. On this square was to be built the buildings necessary to carry on county business.

The first to be constructed was a stray pen built in 1797. The first courthouse was built in the middle of the square in 1804.

According to the U.S. Census of 1800, there were 29 towns in Kentucky. Shepherdsville was listed 18th in size with a population of 96.


If you, the reader, have an interest in any particular part of our county history, and wish to contribute to this effort, use the form on our Contact Us page to send us your comments about this, or any Bullitt County History page. We welcome your comments and suggestions. If you feel that we have misspoken at any point, please feel free to point this out to us.

The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 19 Feb 2016 . Page URL: bullittcountyhistory.org/bchistory/bicentennial.html