The following information is transcribed from Volume 1 of the History of the Ohio Falls Cities and Their Counties, compiled by Prof. Henry A. Ford (1835-94) of Detroit, and published by L. A. Williams & Co., Cleveland, Ohio, 1882; and is found on pages 157-163.
THE BULLITT FAMILY.
The family of Bullitt is associated with the earliest settlement of Louisville and Jefferson county, and has been continuously represented there from that time to the present.
This circumstance, taken in connection with the fact that Captain Thomas Bullitt led the first party who made an attempt at exploration around the Falls of the Ohio, will excuse a sketch of the family rather more extended than the scope of this work generally permits.
The facts relating to the origin and ancestry of the family are obtained from a sketch prepared by Colonel Alexander Scott Bullitt, which is without date, but was found among his papers at his death in the year 1816.
The first known ancestor of the family of Bullitt was Benjamin Bullett (so spelled at that time), a French Huguenot, who resided in the province of Languedoc, and who, at the age of twenty-five, left France to escape the persecutions which followed the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. He landed in Maryland in the latter part of the year 1685, and purchased lands near Port Tobacco, Charles county. He died in the year 1702, leaving one child, a son, Benjamin Bullitt, then but two years of age. He resided in Maryland with his mother until he became of age, when, having sold his patrimony, he purchased lands and settled in Fauquier county, Virginia, where, in 1727, he married Elizabeth Harrison, of that county. By her he had five children - Joseph, Elizabeth, Thomas, Benjamin, and Cuthbert. Joseph died a bachelor. Benjamin was killed in an engagement with the Indians shortly after Braddock's defeat. Elizabeth married a Mr. Combs, and left a numerous family.
Thomas Bullitt, the survivor who visited the Falls of the Ohio in 1773, was born in 1730, and died at his home in Fauquier county, Virginia, in February, 1778, at the age of forty-eight years. He was never married, and left his estate to his brother Cuthbert.
Cuthbert Bullitt (second in descent from the original ancestor) was born in 1740, and was bred to the law. In the year 1760 he married Helen Scott, of a wealthy family, in Prince William county, to which he removed, and in which he resided until his death. He pursued the practice of law with considerable success until he was appointed a judge of the supreme court of Virginia, in which office he died in the year 1790. He left six children. The only son, who settled in Kentucky, was Alexander Scott Bullitt.
He (third in descent from the original ancestor) was born in the year 1761 or 1762. He came to Kentucky in 1783 and settled first on Bull Skin, in Shelby county, but believing that he was too far removed from the Falls of the Ohio, he purchased the farm "Oxmoor," in Jefferson county, about eight and one-half miles from Louisville, on the Shelbyville turnpike, where he lived until his death, on April 13, 1816. He married Priscilla Christian in the fall of 1785. She was the daughter of Colonel William Christian, who settled in Kentucky in the spring of 1785 and was killed in an engagement with the Indians April 9, 1786, at the age of forty-three years. Her mother was Annie Henry, a sister of Patrick Henry. They left two sons, Cuthbert and William Christian Bullitt, and two daughters, Helen and Annie. These are now all deceased, and with the exception of Helen (who was Mrs. Key at the time of her death) have left descendants, a number of whom still live in Louisville and Jefferson county.
The distinguished merchants, Cuthbert and Thomas Bullitt, who settled at an early day in Louisville, and who owned a large survey of about a thousand acres, running back from Broadway and embracing what is now the most fashionable residence part of the city, were descendants of Benjamin Bullitt and nephews by the half-blood of Cuthbert Bullitt.
The principal name associated with the first movements in this locality looking to the permanent settlement of the whites is that of Captain Thomas Bullitt, of this family, as is recited above. He was a gallant soldier of the French and Indian wars, who had particularly distinguished himself in the expedition against Fort Du Quesne. He was a company commander in Colonel George Washington's own regiment, and fought with it on the fateful field of Braddock's defeat, and in several other engagements. He was, says Collins, a man of great energy and enterprise, as he showed on several important occasions. He was an uncle of Colonel Alexander Scott Bullitt, a delegate to the convention which framed the constitution of Kentucky, President of the Senate and of the second Constitutional convention, and first Lieutenant-Governor of the State, and long a resident of Jefferson county, and from whom the adjacent county of Bullitt is named. Colonel Bullitt's descendants are still among the most prominent residents of the city whose distinguished forerunner he was. The Captain is mentioned in the writings of General Washington, who knew him well, as a skilled and judicious surveyor, entirely to be trusted for his fitness for the task now before him.
The following extract from the paper of Colonel Alexander S. Bullitt above mentioned (and now for the first time published), gives a general view of the life and character of Captain Bullitt:
Thomas Bullitt was born in 1730. He entered early into the army, and was appointed a captain in the first Virginia regiment that was raised at the commencement of the French war and commanded by General Washington, at that time a colonel. He commanded in person a skirmish at the Laurel Hill, but was defeated after an obstinate contest. He was present at the head of his company at the battles of the Meadows, Braddock's defeat, and Grant's defeat, and at all times supported the reputation of a brave officer; but a difference, which took place between him and General Washington, at that time Colonel Washington, not only retarded his promotion in that war, but was of infinite disadvantage to him all the remaining part of his life.
The accident which gave rise to the difference was as follows: Two detachments from Colonel Washington's regiment, one commanded by himself, were out upon the frontiers endeavoring to surprise a detachment of French troops from Fort Du Quesne, now Fort Pitt. But instead of falling in with the French, they met themselves, and the day being remarkably dark and foggy, each party mistook the other for the enemy, and a very warm fire was immediately commenced on both sides. Bullitt was one of the first who discovered the mistake, and, running in between the two parties waving his hat and calling to them, put a stop to the firing. It was thought and said by several of the officers, and among others by Captain Bullitt, that Colonel Washington did not discover his usual activity and presence of mind upon this occasion. This censure thrown by Captain Bullitt upon his superior officer, gave rise to a resentment in the mind of General Washington which never subsided.
At the close of the French war the Virginia troops were all disbanded, but Captain Bullitt was still retained in service upon half-pay, and appointed adjutant-general to the militia of the State of Virginia, in which office he continued until the commencement of the Revolution, when, the United States being divided by Congress into districts, Captain Bullitt was appointed adjutant-general of the southern district with the rank and pay of a colonel. His first services after this appointment were in the lower parts of Virginia. Lord Dunmore had taken possession of a post called the Great Bridge, which lay at some miles distance from Norfolk and was a pass of great consequence, being the only way by which the town could be approached from that part of the country occupied by the American troops. About two thousand men under the command of Colonel Woodford (assisted by Colonel Bullitt) were detached to dispossess them. Marching down, therefore, to the opposite side of the bridge, Woodford's detachment began to fortify themselves also, with nothing but the bridge and causeway over the Dismal Swamp between them and the enemy. Dunmore determined to dislodge them from this post, and accordingly, on the morning of the 9th of December, 1775, dispatched Captain Fordice upon that service, at the head of about eight hundred men, consisting chiefly of refugees, tories, and negroes, and Captain Fordice's company of grenadiers. Colonel Woodford, who thought it impossible that Dunmore would attempt to force his lines with such inferior force, and who expected nothing less than an attack, was absent from the lines and did not get up until the action was over.
Colonel Bullitt took command of the intrenchment. The refugees, tories, and negroes fell into confusion and retreated at the first fire. The gallant Fordice at the head of his grenadiers, amounting to about sixty, though deserted by the rest of the detachment, still continued to advance boldly across the causeway with fixed bayonets to within fifteen feet of the breastworks, where he fell pierced with seventeen balls. The rest of his men were either all killed or taken. Dunmore found it necessary to leave the State of Virginia shortly after this action, and Colonel Bullitt was detached to South Carolina, where he served the campaign of 1776 as adjutant-general to the army commanded by General Lee. This was his last campaign.
For, returning northward to join General Washington's army, but not meeting with the reception or promotion from his Excellency to which he thought himself entitled from his long service, he resigned his commission and retired to his house in Fauquier, where he died February, 1778, at the age of forty-eight years, leaving his estate, which he had rather impaired than bettered, to Cuthbert Bullitt, the only one of his brothers that married.
THE SURVEYING PARTY.
[On 3 Dec 1772, Bullitt advertised in The Virginia Gazette that he would be leading a surveying party into Kentucky the following Spring. The notice is shown below.]
In the spring of 1773 Captain Bullitt was commissioned by Lord Dunmore, Governor of Virginia, to proceed to the Ohio and make in its vicinity surveys for the location of several land warrants granted by the Government, in pursuance of the law assigning bounty lands, to be located on the Western waters, to the soldiers of Virginia in the French and Indian war. Another authority in the shape of a special warrant or commission had been given him by the venerable college of William and Mary, at Williamsburg. A copy of this remarkable document is here appended, for the first time in print, by the courtesy of Colonel Thomas W. Bullitt, of Louisville, possessor of the original:
Whereas, Thomas Bullitt hath produced unto us, the President and Masters of the College of William and Mary in Virginia, two bonds, one bearing date the 11th day of March, one thousand seven hundred and sixty-nine, and the other the 13th day of May, one thousand seven hundred and sixty-nine, and certain other papers by which it appears that the said Thomas Bullitt was appointed surveyor of a certain part of or a certain district in the colony of Virginia aforesaid; and
Whereas, The commission for the said surveyorship, granted by the said President and Masters to the said Thomas Bullitt, was, as we are informed, unfortunately burned, we do hereby certify that it appears to us as well from the college book of the transactions of the said President and Masters as from the testimony of Emanuel Jones, Bachelor of Arts, and one of the said Masters, that the said part or district of the Colony of Virginia aforesaid is situated lying and being on the river Ohio. In witness whereof we have caused the seal of said college to be affixed this 28th day of October, in the year of our Lord 1772.
John Carnan, Pr. Emmanuel Jones. T. Gwatken. Samuel Newby.
[I certify that the foregoing is a true copy of a paper found by me among the papers of my grandfather, Alexander Scott Bullitt, transmitted to me by my father, William C. Bullitt. The signature of the President is indistinct, but I think it is Carnan. Thomas W. Bullitt.]
Bullitt's party was composed of himself and Abraham Haptonstall, who settled in this county and was residing here until 1814, at least; James Sodowsky (or Sandusky), from whom, or whose family, Sandusky in Ohio takes its name, and whose sons were residing in Bourbon county as late as 1843; James Douglass, deputy surveyor, and another pioneer in Bourbon county; John Smith, who was residing half a century afterward in Woodford county; with John Fitzpatrick, Ebenezer Severns, and others, of whom very little is now known. With this little company he made his way across Virginia to the mouth of the Kanawha, where he fell in with the company of James, George, and Robert McAfee, sons of James McAfee, Sr., of Botetourt county, who had resolved, a year or two before, to prospect the fertile wilderness south of the Ohio for a new home. In this company were also a brother-in-law, James McConn, Jr., and his cousin, Samuel Adams. With them were also a third party, whom they had overtaken by concerted arrangement as they descended the Kanawha in two canoes on the 28th of May.
The head of this company was the distinguished pioneer surveyor in Kentucky, Hancock Taylor, of Orange county, Virginia, brother of Colonel Richard Taylor, who was father of General Zachary Taylor, a resident of Louisville in his early life, and afterward the hero of the Mexican war and President of the United States. Hancock Taylor was an assistant or deputy surveyor under Colonel William Preston, who was the official surveyor of the great county of Fincastle, Virginia, of which the Kentucky country was still a part. After making extensive surveys in the interior, he was attacked by the Indians the next year while surveying a tract for Colonel William Christian, near the mouth of the Kentucky river, and mortally wounded by a rifle-shot. Two of the party, one of whom was Gibson Taylor, probably a relative, and the other Abraham Haptonstall, formerly of Bullitt's company, tried to extract the ball with a pocketknife, but could not, and soon afterwards, as the party was returning from the country under a warning sent from Dunmore by the hands of Boone and Stoner, who piloted them out of the wilderness, he died of the wound near the present site of Richmond, Madison county, and was buried in a well-marked spot, about one and three-fourths miles south of the Richmond courthouse. Four years previous to the expedition of 1773, Taylor had gone down the Ohio and Mississippi with his brother Richard, our old friend Haptonstall, and a Mr. Barbour, on a visit to New Orleans, whence they returned home by the Gulf and Atlantic.
Other members of the Taylor party were Matthew Bracken, from whom Bracken creek and county get their names, Jacob Drennon, afterwards of Drennon Springs, Henry county, and Peter Shoemaker. Several of the party, including Taylor, Bracken, and Drennon, about two months afterwards (on the 3d of August) joined the Bullitt party at or near the Falls of the Ohio.
The three companies, meeting at the mouth of the Kanawha on the 1st of June, and about to embark upon the waters of the great river, whose banks might be lined on both sides with bloodthirsty savages, very naturally joined their forces and their equipment of boats. Their preparations completed in a few days, they floated out on the broad bosom of La Belle Riviere, and entered upon the final stage of the journey to the Promised Land.
The leader was not with them, however. Farther-sighted than the rest, very likely, he realized the significance of the steps now being taken, as precedent to the overrunning of the Indian hunting-grounds by the settlements of civilization, and the importance of conciliating at the outset, if possible, the red tribes whose rights seemed to be thus invaded. At the mouth of the Kanawha he left the party for a few days, and, unattended and alone, pushed his way across the rugged hills and deep valleys, and through the howling wilderness of Southern Ohio, until he reached the principal village of the Shawnees, at Old Chillicothe, one or two miles north of the present site of Xenia. The story is told in an interesting and graphic way by Marshall, the first historian of Kentucky. He says:
On his way to Kentucky Bullitt made a visit to Chillicothe, a Shawnee town, to hold a friendly talk with those Indians on the subject of his intended settlement, and for the particular purpose of obtaining their assent to the measure. He knew they claimed the right of hunting in the country - a right to them of the utmost importance, and which they had not relinquished. He also knew they were brave and indefatigable, and that, if they were so disposed, they could greatly annoy the inhabitants of the intended settlement. It was, therefore, a primary object in his estimation to obtain their consent to his projected residence and cultivation of the lands. To accomplish this he left his party on the Ohio and traveled out to the town unattended, and without announcing his approach by a runner. He was not discovered until he got into the midst of Chillicothe, when he waved his white flag [handkerchief] as a token of peace. The Indians saw with astonishment a stranger among them in the character of an embassador, for such he assumed by the flag, and without any intimation of his intended visit. Some of them collected about him, and asked him, What news? Was he from the Long Knife? and why, it he was an embassador, had he not sent a runner?
Bullitt, not in the least intimidated, replied that he had no bad news - he was from the Long Knife - and, as the red men and white men were at peace, he had come among his brothers to have a friendly talk with them about living on the other side of the Ohio; that he had no runner swifter than himself, and that he was in haste, and could not wait the return of a runner. "Would you," said he, "if you were very hungry, and had killed a deer, send your squaw to town to tell the news, and await her return before you eat?" This put the bystanders in high good humor, and gave them a favorable opinion of their interlocutor. And, upon his desiring that the warriors should be called together, they were forthwith convened, and he promptly addressed them in the following speech, extracted from his journal:
"Brothers - I am sent by my people, whom I left on the Ohio, to settle the country on the other side of that river, as low down as the Falls. We come from Virginia. The king of my people has bought from the nations of red men both north and south all the land; and I am instructed to inform you and all the warriors of this great country, that the Virginians and the English are in friendship with you. This friendship is dear to them, and they intend to keep it sacred. The same friendship they expect from you, and from all the nations to the lakes. We know that the Shawnees and the Delaware are to be our nearest neighbors, and we wish them to be our best friends as we will be theirs.
"Brothers, you did not get any of the money or blankets given for the land which I and my people are going to settle. This was hard for you. But it is agreed by the great men who own the land that they will make a present both to the Delawares and the Shawnees the next year and the year following that shall be as good.
"Brothers, I am appointed to settle the country, to live in it, to raise corn, and to make proper rules and regulations among my people. There will be some principal men from my country very soon, and then much more will be said to you. The Governor desires to see you, and will come out this year or the next. When I come again I will have a belt of wampum. This time I came in haste and had not one ready.
"My people only want the country to settle and cultivate. They will have no objection to your hunting and trapping there. I hope you will live by us as brothers and friends. You now know my heart, and as it is single toward you, I expect you will give me a kind talk; for I shall write to my Governor what you say to me, and he will believe all I write."
This speech was received with attention, and Bullitt was told that the next day he should be answered.
The Indians are in the habit of proceeding with great deliberation in matters of importance, and all are such to them which concern their hunting.
On the morrow, agreeably to promise, they were assembled at the same place, and Bullitt being present, they returned an answer to his speech as follows:
"OLDEST BROTHER, THE LONG KNIFE - We heard you would be glad to see your brothers, the Shawnees and Delawares, and talk with them. But we are surprised that you sent no runner before you, and that you came quite near us through the trees and grass a hard journey without letting us know until you appeared among us.
"Brothers, we have considered your talk carefully, and we are glad to find nothing bad in it, nor any ill meaning. On the contrary, you speak what seems kind and friendly, and it pleased us well You mentioned to us your intention of settling the country on the other side of the Ohio with your people. And we are particularly pleased that they are not to disturb us in our hunting, for we must hunt to kill meat for our women and children, and to have something to buy our powder and lead with, and to get us blankets and clothing.
"All our young brothers are pleased with what you said. We desire that you will be strong in fulfilling your promises toward us, as we are determined to be straight in advising our young men to be kind and peaceable to you.
"This spring we saw something wrong on the part of our young men. They took some horses from the white people. But we have advised them not to do so again, and have cleared their hearts of all bad intentions. We expect they will observe our advice, as they like what you said."
This speech, delivered by Girty, was interpreted by Richard Butler, who, during the stay of Captain Bullitt, had made him his guest and otherwise treated him in the most friendly manner. But, having executed his mission very much to his own satisfaction, Bullitt took his leave and rejoined his party, who were much rejoiced to see him return.
He made report of his progress and success, and his comrades, with light hearts and high expectations, launched their keels on the stream which conveyed them to the shore of Kentucky and the landing before spoken of.
Captain Bullitt found his people at the mouth of the Scioto, and went on with them. On the 22d of June they reached Limestone Point, now Maysville, upon whose site there was not yet block-house or cabin, nor was there for eleven years to come. Here they rested for two days, and hence Robert McAfee, encouraged thereto by the safe though solitary journey which Captain Bullitt had just made through the Indian country, pushed alone up Limestone creek into the interior, across the country to the North fork of Licking, down that stream twenty to twenty-five miles, thence across the hills, of the present Bracken county to the Ohio, where he hastily constructed a bark canoe, and the next day (January 27th) overtook his companions at the mouth of the Licking, opposite the site of Cincinnati. The party must also have been delayed here for a time, probably inspecting the superb sites for towns and cities upon the plain on either side of the Ohio at this point. At all events they made easy-going progress down the river, since on the 4th of July (not yet the "Glorious Fourth," or Independence Day) they had not gone beyond the Big Bone lick on the Kentucky shore, a few miles below the mouth of the Great Miami. They spent this day and the next at the lick, where the huge bones of the mastodon and other gigantic beasts of the geologic ages lay about in great numbers, and of such size as to serve the adventurers for tentpoles and seats. The second day thereafter they reach the mouth of the Kentucky, where the parties separate. The Hancock and McAfee companies, now substantially one, since their aims and purposes were similar, and in their union there would be needed strength in a hostile land, go up the Kentucky to the Frankfort region, beyond which this narrative need not pursue them. Bullitt and his following kept on down the Ohio, and on the next day (July 8th, let it be remembered) pitched their camp just above the old mouth of Beargrass creek, perchance exactly at the foot of the present Third street, in the busy and beautiful city of Louisville. It was then, it is needless to say, a swamp, thicket, and forest, with nothing but furred or feathered, winged or scaly inhabitants; and the new-comers were the avant-couriers of the thronging thousands of the pale-face who have since populated the fertile valley.
Little is known of the details of Captain Bullitt's encampment and labors here and hereabout in the summer of 1773. There is a tradition, according to Casseday's History of Louisville, that three years before this time parties who were probably sent by Lord Dunmore came to the Falls of the Ohio and made surveys of the adjacent country, with a view to its occupation as bounty lands. We are unable to find the story corrobated by any other historians of the city or the State, and incline quite positively to think that it can not be supported. At all events, the adventurous surveyor found no claims conflicting with the enterprise with which he was charged, and he went fearlessly and emergetically about his duty. For six weeks in the sultry midsummer he and his men carried the chain and planted the theodolite upon the beautiful plateau adjoining and below the Falls and up the fertile valley of the Salt river, which they penetrated at least as far as to the famous Lick, three miles from Shepherdsville, which takes its name from the gallant captain, and is in a county which also bears the Bullitt name. Here the first saltworks were erected in Kentucky, and from the mineral characteristic of the Lick Captain Bullitt gave the title to this river, far more renowned in politics and local history than in navigation. The historical sketch appended to the Directory of Louisville for 1838-39 says: "He made a treaty of relinquishment of the land with the Indians on his route, and laid out the town on its present site, but made no settlement on the land, and died before that was effected." We have been unable to find any confirmation of the former part of this statement.
Bullitt continued to make his headquarters about the mouth of the Beargrass, where he could conveniently communicate with any parties that might be passing on the river, or that might come out of the wilderness to the Falls of the Ohio. By night, says Collins, he retired for safety "to a shoal above Corn island." In the fourth week after his arrival, about the 3d of August, he and his party were gladdened by the reunion with them of Mr. Hancock and two others of his company, who had parted from the McAfee expedition, far up the Kentucky river, on the last day of July. His work finally done, he then returned to his home in Virginia.
DID CAPTAIN BULLITT LAY OFF A TOWN?
The general statement is that during its stay the surveying party staked off lots for a village plat somewhere upon a tract now included within the limits of Louisville; and some writers go so far as to say that Captain Bullitt, in this year of grace 1773, laid out "the town of Louisville." Mr. Collins says the like in no less than five places in his history, and in two of them (pages 371, 666, vol. ii., History of Kentucky), but without undertaking to name the town, he fixes the date of the survey definitely as August 1. A few pages previously, however, when dealing with the beginnings at Louisville, this author acknowledges that the reference in the creative act of 1780 to "the owners of lots already drawn," and to "those persons whose lots have been laid off on his [John Campbell's] lands," may refer no further back than to a then recent laying-off of "a considerable part thereof [viz: John Connolly's tract] into half-acre lots for a town," which are also words from the act. He says, truly enough, that "the only proof that any lots were sold thereunder [the reputed Bullitt survey] is entirely inferential and uncertain."
We are satisfied, indeed, that the vague testitimony of Jacob Sodowsky, contributed in a letter to the second volume of the American Pioneer, published in 1843 and repeated in the eleventh volume of the Western Journal, is not sufficient to support the theory of a Louisville or other town plat about the Falls in 1773. Nothing of the kind, so far as ascertained, was contemplated in the instructions of Lord Dunmore to Bullitt; no record of it has come to light in the diaries or letters of the time, or in subsequent official records of the survey; no mention is made of it by the immigrants of 1778 or the surveyors of 1779, who certainly would have come upon the stakes or other evidences ol the survey, if it had been made; and tradition, as well as the land registers, is utterly silent as to the precise location of any such town. The language of the act of 1780 does not require survey of a village plat here in 1773, or at any time, indeed, except, at the latest, a period just before the passage of the act. On the contrary the language of the law is expressly that, not a surveying party or transient party of speculators, but "sundry inhabitants of the county of Kentucky have, at great expense and hazard, settled themselves upon certain lands at the Falls of the Ohio, and have laid off a considerable part thereof into half-acre lots for a town." The further mention of "the owners of lots already drawn," and of "those persons whose lots have been laid off on Colonel Campbell's land," may as well refer to operations of 1778-79 as to the disposition of lots in any suppositious town of 1773. On the whole, we entertain no doubt that any half-acre or smaller subdivisions of the soil here date from some time contemporaneous with or posterior to the removal of Colonel Clark's settlers of 1778 from Corn Island to the mainland, and that there is no trustworthy foundation for belief in a Louisville of five or more years before. The survey stated in the act was in all probability Bard's in 1779, of which a rude map, dated April 20, of that year, has been preserved.
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