Words To Remember

"The truth is this--genealogy is our living, and we are busy every minute, [and we] could use more hours." --Jane Wethy Foley, 1942

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Dutch Colony of Kentucky: Part 1

"...About 1780...a colony from Conewago {Lancaster Co., PA}...migrated to Kentucky, and located at first near Boonesborough, on the Kentucky river, to which place Captain DANIEL BOONE had moved with his family four or five years previously and made a settlement.

"White Oak Spring, sometimes called Hart's Station, one mile above Boonesborough, was settled in 1779 by Capt. NATHANIEL HART and some Dutch families from Pennsylvania...The settlers were composed principally of families...orderly, respectable people, and the men good soldiers.  But they were unaccustomed to Indian warfare, and of some ten or twelve men all were killed except two or three.

Settlers of the Kentucky wilderness faced many perils, not the least of which came in the form of Indian attacks. These Indian attacks were often launched with the encouragement and materiel support of the British during the Revolutionary War. For example, From The Kentucky Encyclopedia edited by John E. Kleber (University Press of Kentucky, 1992):

"The Long Run massacre was a major incident in the series of battles in which early settlers in Kentucky fought Indians and their British allies on the western frontier during the Revolutionary War. Long Run is located near Eastwood in Jefferson County, Kentucky. In September 1781 Maj. Bland Ballard discovered Indian signs near Squire Boone's Painted Stone Station, near what is now Shelbyville. He warned the settlers there and at Beargrass Station to move to Lynn Station, which was a more secure area. For unknown reasons, Boone's and several other families delayed moving for two days. When they finally left the station on 14 Sept. 1781, they were surrounded at Long Run Creek by a large party of Indians reinforced by British soldiers under the command of Capt. Alexander McKee. An estimated sixty people were killed by the Indians; only a handful, including Squire Boone, escaped."

"The first Dutch emigration to Kentucky in a company was in 1781, to White Oak Station...Among the immigrants were HENRY BANTA, sr., HENRY BANTA, jr., ABRAHAM BANTA and JOHN BANTA.  A little later the colonists went where Harrodsburg now stands, but in the course of a few years they established themselves permanently about a village now called Pleasureville, then Six Mile, in Henry County.  {For more about the Six Mile settlement, see http://www.sweet-home-spun.com/dutch.htm.} There some of them purchased twelve thousand acres {12,000} of land which they called the 'Low Dutch Tract,' and divided it among themselves....

Map of the Wilderness Road

"Those whose attention has not been directed to the subject can have no adequate idea of the hardships and the perils of this long journey from eastern Pennsylvania to Kentucky.  At that period Conewago {PA} was almost at the western limit of settlement, and between it and Kentucky was an unbroken wilderness of over six hundred {600} miles.  The road by which these pioneers travelled was doubtless that known as "The Wilderness Road," which passed through the valley of Virginia, between the Blue Ridge and the Alleghanies, and across the mountains by Cumberland Gap to Fort Harrod.  The road was really only a "trace."  No wagon passed over it until at least fifteen {15} years later, and these colonists were compelled to journey on foot and with pack-horses.  The "pack-saddle" was a forked branch of a tree fastened on the horse, upon which hung all the household goods and provisions.

"One of the early accounts of such a journey in 1779 describes the 'men on foot with their trusty riles on their shoulders, driving stock and leading pack-horses, and the women, some walking with pails on their heads, while others riding with children in their laps, and other children swung in baskets on horses, camping at night, expecting to be massacred by Indians, subsisting on the stinted allowances of stale bread and meat, encountering bears, wolves and wildcats in the narrow bridle-path overgrown with brush and underwood.'

"Another account mentions that a colony, migrating to Kentucky in 1783, had reached with a half-dozen miles of the first settlement in the territory, when seven families of the train stopped to encamp for the night, the others passing on.  That night the Indians attacked the families who had encamped and all were killed except one man.  One of HENRY BANTA's sons was killed by the Indians in Kentucky.

"At the time of removal to Kentucky, HENRY BANTA was the father of twenty-one {21} children, of whom three had died in infancy, and his oldest son had recently died leaving nine children, who were brought up by their grandfather. Five or six of his sons were married--two of whom, SAMUEL and PETERIUS, remained for awhile in Pennsylvania, as did his three married daughters.  His family, who accompanied him in this toilsome, dangerous journey of several months' duration, consisted of his wife and twelve {12} children, five of whom were under twelve {12} years of age, and nineteen grandchildren, almost all of whom were under twelve {12} years of age.

"An account of the settlement of the 'Low Dutch Tract,' written by Mr. George W. Demaree {a corruption of Demarest, the name of a prominent family in the settling of Nieuw Amsterdam, the original Dutch colony in New York, who were related by marriage to the Banta family}, was published in the Shelby Courant, Shelbyville, Ky., May 15, 1873, and...is quoted therefrom, to illustrate some of the difficulties these hardy pioneers encountered in building their new homes on 'dark and bloody ground':

'...About ten years before the final settlement was effected--i.e., about the year 1785, Capt. DANIEL BANTA, CORNELIUS BANTA and JOHN BANTA, Sr., followed the "trace" leading from Harrod's station in Mercer County to HOAGLAND's station, in what was afterwards Shelby County, till within a few miles of the latter place where they boldly plunged into the wilderness, and built a cabin about two miles north-east of Hoagland's station {later called} the old Magruder farm, now the property of Thomas Eaton, Esq.  This was, beyond doubt, the first cabin built in the limits of the Dutch tract.  It was constructed of blue ash logs, and was torn down but a few years ago, after having braved the storms for more than eighty {80} winters.

Photo courtesy of Harold Jerrell

'The Bantas, while on their hunting expeditions, doubtless saw a considerable part of the tract of land afterwards purchased by the Dutch Company--though hardly all of it, as it was no child's play to explore so vast a wilderness....{there is} no means at hand of knowing the precise number of acres contained in the original survey, but...it could not {have been} less than fifteen or twenty thousand {15,000-20,000} acres.  The Bantas enjoyed their novel position for but a short time when one of those periodical storms of wrath burst in upon the frontier settlements, and they wisely retired to Hoagland's station.  The station was poorly manned and provisioned at the time, and was threatened daily with an attack from the redskins.  So squally did the times become that the little garrison determined to send to Harrod's station for re-inforcements, etc.

'JAKE BANTA, an officer of the fort (brother to the other Bantas), volunteered to perform the dangerous mission.  The wilderness being full of prowling savages, he chose the darkness of night to pass through the "narrows" on the waters of Benson Creek, near where Hardinsville now is. But poor Jake never reached Harrod's station.  As he crept silently and all alone in the darkness of night through the dreaded "narrows," the redskins pounced upon him from ambush and cleaved his skull with the tomahawk.  They left Capt. Banta on the tragic spot with his own tomahawk buried in his skull as a token of their fierce vengeance.  The loss of this brave man was deeply felt by the frontier settlement. 

'As soon as the storm had subsided {Daniel, Cornelius and John Banta}...went back to Harrod's station fully satisfied that their attempt to take possession of an isolated wilderness at that time was immature....Their good report of the excellent quality of these lands, carried back to the Dutch Company...led to the purchase and ultimate settlement of the same.  The Banta family was both dreaded and hated by the Indians...{for} they had taught the savages many lessons in their own mode of warfare.

'The writer remembers hearing the old folks talk of "Shaker John Banta."  This circumstance led him to inquire into the origin of the appellation, and his researches have satisfied him that the Shaker Society of Kentucky had its origin in the limits of the Dutch Settlement--i.e., Shelby County, about the year A. D. 1804.  The first Shaker meeting held in Kentucky...was held at the house of John Banta, who was one of the original members of that sect in this State, hence the name....Some of the VORHEES and MONTFORTs adopted the Shaker system at the same time.

'...The long custom of the Dutch Company to have certain things "common," such as tools, farming implements, mills, etc.,...had little to do in preparing the minds of those good men to received the friendly...doctrine of Ann Lee.  {Her} doctrine met with but poor success, however, with the mass of the company, hence John Banta and his few associates, separated from them and returned to Mercer County, and purchased the present site of Pleasant Hill...."