Bullitt County History

Locating Lost Boundary Markers

The following description was printed in The Louisville Directory for the Year 1832, from the section on the origin and settlement of Louisville, pages 105-8.

In it we read about how boundary markers were sometimes determined after the fact by those who had originally made them. While not significantly about Bullitt County, it is quite descriptive.

In a legal investigation into the limits of a tract of land belonging to Joseph A. Brooks of Bullitt Co. it became necessary to identify a certain spring, known as Stewart's spring by the upper country people, and as Phillips' in this neighborhood. The testimony of Squire Boone, a brother of our great western Nimrod, was resorted to about 1811; he was unwilling to declare his positive knowledge of the matter, particularly as such free reflections had been expressed about the testimony of the early explorers, who it was cruelly and most unjustly said, could prove any thing. How unjustly this aspersion would have been applied in this case, let the sequel prove. Boone declared that, if he was not mistaken in this spring, which he asserted was known as Stewart's, there would be found about a certain distance and course from a well known buffaloe road, a beech tree, with the date 1779 and the name W. Moore with another remarkable word, cut in its bark. About 320 yards out of the distance and 15 degrees out of the course, Boone, in the presence of a surveyor found the identical figures and words; and an exact copy of this strange inscription was placed upon the record by our venerable informant, which was sent to the court of Appeals. The suit was Brookes vs. Hawkins and others in Bullitt circuit court. The curious circumstances which led to this wonderful process of identification were, as follows:

In the spring of 1779, Boone, in company with William Moore and Jacob Lewis, went from the falls to shoot buffaloe at Bullitt's Lick. After killing two buffaloes, and having packed their meat on the horses, the party was returning along the trace, when night overtook them at Stewart's spring. The young men proposed to Boone to encamp at this desirable place for the night; but the sagacious old hunter objected, as they would be more likely to be surprised by the Indians following their trail. The party then at his advice turned off the road some 300 yards, about west of the buffaloe trace, and kindling a fire, hobbled their horses and encamped for the night. Moore had, in fixing the buffaloes on the horses, made himself for convenience, stirrups out of the buffaloe hide, suspending them by the mouth of the buffaloe from the front top of the pack saddle, and to prevent their shrivelling too small for the foot, had by direction of Boone pinned them in shape tight to a beach tree with wooden pins. Lewis, while Moore and Boone were looking after the horses, then cut the figures and the name of Moore, with another word, in the opening as above described, all of which was plainly legible. The spring was established and is now known as Brooke's spring, in Bullitt county.

Nor is this the only remarkable identification of spots in the woods, among the old hunters. Jacob Sodowsky, a respectable farmer of Jessamine county, was the first man who shewed a method of identifying the chops which were made on the line and corner trees of old surveys, by cutting out the block containmg the axe marks, and counting the circles, or annulations (as they are provincially termed,) allowing, according to the observation of naturalists, one circle for one year's growth. The circumstances which led to this discovery are briefly these. A knot of valuable surveys depended on one corner; Sodowsky, who had marked the survey, was called upon in court to identify the corner. The old hunter, with the scrupulosity characteristic of the simple, unadorned, but manly times, said, he thought it was the corner he had marked in 1774, but would not swear positively that it was so. The trial was lost, by division of the jury, to the party relying upon the testimony of Sodowsky. A second trial was had, with like result. A third trial was instituted, previous to which Sodowsky, thinking there must be some natural proof of the fact, privately took his axe into the woods and cut out a block above and below the chops of the axe on the corner tree. He took it home and shaped it nicely, greasing it and exposing it to the sun, when the different annual circles opened so plainly, as to be counted with the utmost certainty. When summoned to court, he put the block into his saddlebags, and upon being examined as a witness, now swore that he knew the corner tree positively. Upon being questioned how he knew it more certainly now, than upon the former trials, he produced his block in open court, and the count of the circles upon it agreeing exactly with the date of 1774, according to his recollection, the jury gave a verdict in favor of the corner as contended for, but unsuccessfully, in the two former trials. Since that remarkable trial, the practice of blocking out the chops on the corner and line trees of surveys, has been universally adopted, when necessary, in our courts of law, as unerring evidence of date.

Not less remarkable was the retentive memory of this same Sodowsky, on another occasion. A line tree of great importance was in dispute; Jacob had helped to mark the line, and swore to a particular white hickory tree, without a chop upon it. This tree is well known to bark over its wounds very quickly, only darkening the external color. The way he identified it was this: the surveying party had stopped to take a bite as woodsmen and travellers call it, near a spring, when they were all alarmed by a bear rushing through the cane. The hunters supposed that Indians following their trail had started the bear, and immediately each took to a tree. Sodowsky took. to this white hickory, near a spring which furnishes a branch to Fern creek, itself a branch of Pond creek, in this county. Now, what circumstances could so naturally account for his distinct local associations, as a concurrence of such stirring and riveting events?

One more anecdote, furnishing the same illustrations, may be worth recording. A certain spot was in dispute; the witness called upon to identify it declared that if he was right in his belief, they would find a parcel of bullets in a particular tree, which he described. The tree was cut, and the bullets were found deep in the old wood. The witness accounted for the bullets in the following manner: He had bent the barrel of his gun, a misfortune beyond estimate at such a time, in this Indian wilderness. He had taken measures to straighten the barrel, and fired repeatedly at this tree, to ascertain if he had effected the purpose intended. Some alarm prevented him from cutting out the bullets, as he purposed, precious as lead then was, and hence they were left behind; The witness was not, however, satisfied with this emphatically striking proof, but declared there must be a spring near the spot, and marks of an old camping fire. Examination was accordingly made, and in a sink hole, covered with rubbish and overgrown with bushes, unknown to the neighborhood, a spring was found; and upon farther digging the coals and brands of an ancient fire were also discovered.

In this way not only are the lively observation and the keen shrewdness of the old hunters put beyond dispute; but what is of much higher moral importance, their love of the exact truth was demonstrated. Cooper's Nat Leatherstocking is a faithful portrait of backwoods shrewdness, simplicity and unbending love of truth. There might bp a roughness, of exterior, and too exact a retaliation for the savage warfare of their subtle and ferocious enemies; but to lie, to cheat, to desert a fellow hunter in distress, were vices unknown to the great body of the brave and simple men who conquered Kentucky.

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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 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 9 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: 12 Sep 2020 . Page URL: bullittcountyhistory.org/bchistory/whereisit.html