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Promoting & Preserving The History Of Clay County Kentucky

Discover Our Fascinating Appalachian History

Since its recognition as a distinctive region in the late 19th century, Appalachia has been a source of enduring myths and distortions regarding the isolation, temperament, and behavior of its inhabitants. Early 20th-century writers focused on sensationalistic aspects of the region's culture, such as moonshining and clan feuding, and often portrayed the region's inhabitants as uneducated and prone to impulsive acts of violence. Sociological studies in the 1960s and 1970s helped to deconstruct these stereotypes, although popular media continued to perpetuate the image of Appalachia as a culturally backward region into the 21st century. Discover fascinating real Appalachian history in Manchester and Clay County.


Manchester's Interesting History

Manchester was a lively little town from the very beginning, which by all accounts, seems to have been in the early 1790s when the area's first commercial salt-making operation started up on the banks of Goose Creek at the mouth of present-day Y Hollow (in East Manchester). When in 1807 the Kentucky Legislature created Clay County as a way to keep a better eye on the gritty feuding known as the "Cattle War" the first county court met at this little community, known as the Langford Salt Works. The county officials first called their new town Greenville, and began constructing it a stone's throw down stream and on what became known as "Courthouse Hill."

From that time until the Civil War in 1861 Manchester more or less existed according to the whims of the powerful salt entrepreneur families who came to the wilderness to make their fortunes on the manufacture of salt at works like Langford’s (later called the Lower Goose Creek Salt Works), White's (Upper Goose Creek Salt Works), Garrard's (Union Salt Works), the Bates brothers, Francis Clark and several others owned and operated by the Reid, Horton, May, Chastain, Gibson and other families.

The Civil War wreaked havoc in Manchester as foragers from both sides came to the town on numerous occasions looking for food for their troops and animals. The Confederates were especially interested in the salt, apparently having less access to it than the Union. But the Union was just as keen on keeping it out of Rebel hands as the Rebels were on getting it. This resulted in the Union army destroying the salt works in 1862, even though one of their celebrated officers, Brigadier General T. T. Garrard, was the owner of the Garrard works.

Garrard had recruited a substantial number of men in Manchester in the summer of 1861 when he organized the Third Kentucky Volunteer Infantry there. Hundreds of Clay County men served in the Third (later referred to as the Seventh) and other regiments in the Union Army. Most of the local men fought outside the state, but while they were gone from home considerable action was taking place in Manchester and all over Clay County.

The Confederates held the upper hand when it came to causing mischief in and around Manchester, and the mischief led to several deaths at the hands of the Rebels. Though the Union was in town in huge numbers at times there is no evidence that they did any physical harm to the citizens. Nevertheless, the period following the war was a time of unrest and distrust. Animosities developed during this time fed fuel to the fire of growing resentment between some of the powerful salt families, primarily the Whites and Garrards and their supporters.

By the end of the century Manchester was the unchallenged capitol of violence in America, or at least it seemed that way as the little town became famous -- or infamous -- far beyond the borders of Clay County for the gun-play that seemed to be an everyday thing around town. Scores of newspaper articles in papers such as the New York Times created an image of runaway lawlessness in the town, and some of its citizens seemed to feed on the attention like fish in a feeding frenzy.

Gradually, the feud violence dissipated after the 1930s and Manchester settled down into an almost idealized version of small town America. After World War II the town pretty much kept pace with the rest of the country, albeit with an Appalachian patina. Coal and timber had long since replaced salt as the income-generating industries but before long they, too, dwindled as an economic force. Poverty slowly gained the upper hand in the 1960s and 70s and the character of Manchester seemed to lose some of its former tone.

The Warriors' Path

A well-marked trail through Clay County was the route several people of European descent took before Kentucky was discovered. 

The closer we look at the written history of what would become Clay County the farther back that history goes. Research has shown that white men whose names we know were in the county at least 150 years earlier than reported in some history books. Until recently the conventional wisdom had it that James Collins was the first white man in the county. In his History of Kentucky (1847, revised 1874) Lewis Collins wrote that James Collins came to the county in 1798 and established a salt works on Collins Fork of Goose Creek in 1800.

Genealogists have shown that John Gilbert of Red Bird was in what would become Clay County at least a decade earlier than when Collins was said to have come. And some accounts have both Gilbert and Collins here in the mid-1780s. Before them, however, there was Daniel Boone, who came to Clay County on his first trip to Kentucky in 1769 with fellow explorer, John Finley. Boone is of course known for blazing Boone’s Trace to the bluegrass, the famous trail that part of the Wilderness Road was later based on. During his first trip, though, he followed the well-known Indian “Warrior’s Path” that traversed the county from end to end.

Eminent Kentucky historian Dr. Thomas Clark wrote in his History of Laurel County, “There is no solid documentary evidence that Daniel Boone and John Finley in 1769 traveled across any part of Laurel County . . .” Dr. Clark went on to say, “Boone, Finley, and their companions made fairly rapid progress over the rugged territory in what is now Clay and Jackson Counties.”

Fifteen years later, around the time that Collins and Gilbert are thought to have first come to the county, Boone, while employed by a land development company, made a 50,000-acre survey in 1784 beginning near the mouth of Sextons Creek. He is, in fact, credited with naming Goose Creek.

Later research has shown that long before Daniel Boone, Dr. Thomas Walker and his party of explorers traveled the Warrior’s Path through Clay County in May of 1750. But even Walker, who was clearly in the county 19 years before Daniel Boone, was not the first known white man to trek in the county. That distinction belongs to a little-known explorer named Gabriel Arthur, who as a captive of Indians, was taken along the Warrior’s Path and into Tennessee in 1674, and later walked it on his way to freedom. The respected Knox County historian, Elmer Decker, wrote, “The first white man to ever set foot in Knox County and Kentucky was Gabriel Arthur, 1674. . .”

Decker made his assumption based on numerous historical accounts of Arthur’s time in Kentucky that had him traveling along the Warrior’s Path. This story is covered in detail by Robert Kincaid in The Wilderness Road, a much-quoted history published in 1947 by the Bobbs-Merrill Company that has been a primary source for countless articles on Southeast Kentucky history. Arthur was eventually set free by his captors and set out on a trail that led to the south. “There was no danger of his getting lost in the vast wilderness lying west of the Appalachian range which never before had been penetrated by a white man,” Kincaid wrote. “The trail was well defined, called by the Indians the Athawominee, or the ‘Path of the Armed Ones.’”

On the next page of Kincaid’s book is a map of the Warrior’s Path that shows it running along the path described by Decker, and which has it running along a north/south path that would go through what would become Clay County. This map corresponds with one of the earliest maps of Kentucky, by John Filson, in 1784, and numerous others in various publications.

The Warrior’s Path has been known since the first white men started drawing maps of Kentucky. From the south, it entered Clay County via the “War Gap” on the ridge that separated the Kentucky River drainage from the Cumberland River drainage, i.e. between the headwaters of Otter Creek in Clay County and the headwaters of Road Fork of Stinking Creek in Knox County. In 1806 the act that created Clay County designated the southern boundary in part: “--thence along the dividing ridge between the waters of Cumberland and Kentucky to a point from which by running due east will pass by Collin’s Fork of Goose Creek, midway between Outlaw’s salt works and Peter Hammonds’; thence a course to strike the ridge between Cumberland and Kentucky at War Gap.”

The path in Clay County runs northward from the War Gap to Clay Gap on the Clay/Owsley County line. Knox County historian Elmer Decker wrote: “The Warrior’s Path led south from Limestone (Maysville) almost a direct route to Cumberland Ford [Pineville], across Clear Creek, and up Yellow Creek to Cumberland Gap. Northern tribes of Indians made the trail, and it was much traveled by them. Later it was used by pioneers and settlers, as were its branches down Straight Creek and elsewhere.” 

The route of the Warrior’s Path has long since stopped being questioned except in a few small areas. There is an official Kentucky highway historical marker at Gray Hawk in Jackson County that has the path going along War Fork in extreme eastern Jackson County, which corresponds to the research of James F. Bowman, who has the path going from Clay County into Owsley County then crossing into Jackson County east of Gray Hawk. This marker reports that the path was used by Gabriel Arthur in 1674, and much later (in 1750), by Dr. Thomas Walker, and following them, Christopher Gist (1751) and much later, John Finley and Daniel Boone.

Whether, as the marker indicates, explorers Christopher Gist and John Finely were actually on the local part of the Warrior’s Path has not been confirmed by any research this author has seen. The best we say is that they likely were. But in the case of Gabriel Arthur, and later, Dr. Thomas Walker, there can be little doubt. This distinction may seem to some to be much ado about nothing. But the fact that these men were in the county over a hundred years earlier than white men were supposed to have been changes the written history of Clay County, and by extension, of neighboring Laurel County. Historians know that history must be recorded correctly, even if it means taking another look to get it right. 

A Clay County History Timeline

Highlights of the 18th and 19th centuries

By Charles House

The following timeline of Clay County history is an abbreviated list of notable occurrences compiled from notes made while researching my book, Heroes & Skallywags. This timeline will give a basic understanding of how the county was formed and why (think salt, and fussing and feuding), and some of the major events that have transpired up until the 20th Century. For comprehensive source notes and detailed information refer to Heroes & Skallywags.

  • 1674 – The first documented man of European descent known to have visited what would become Clay County was Gabriel Arthur, a young American who worked for an English trading company and got captured by Indians and taken north of the Ohio River. After being released he took the Warrior’s Path and passed along Goose Creek where Manchester would be founded many decades later.
  • 1750 — Dr. Thomas Walker’s party returned home to Virginia via the Warrior’s Path and Goose Creek after exploring around the Cumberland River.
  • 1769 — Daniel Boone and John Finley took the Warrior’s Path on their first hunting trip to Kentucky. Boone is said to have identified the first salt licks along Goose Creek.
  • 1776 — Micajah Jackson and two brothers are said to have come to the area of upper Goose Creek after they stole a ship with a load of potatoes on the east coast.
  • 1778 — Stephen Tudors was captured and taken to Taluegue, an Indian village near Fogertown.
  • 1782 — James Garrard of Virginia, who would become Kentucky’s second governor, bought land on Goose Creek.
  • 1783 — Twenty-nine men met in a popular Philadelphia bar to form a company to buy land in an area that included what would become Clay County. A 50,000-acre parcel from Sexton’s Creek to (present day) Hector was surveyed by Daniel Boone the following year.
  • 1783 — John Gilbert came about this time to the upper Red Bird area.
  • 1784 — Nathan Hart, Ambrose Robs and Robert Kincaid made a survey beginning a half-mile below Goose Rock.
  • 1785 — Ballard Smith, who had been a general during the American Revolution, applied for 40,000 acres adjacent to Boone’s survey.
  • 1786 — James Monroe, who later became President of the United States, received a warrant for 40,000 acres adjacent to the above Ballard Smith tract from Kentucky Governor Isaac Shelby.
  • 1787 — Virginia Governor Edmond Randolph granted to Thomas Franklin, of Philadelphia, 116,656 acres between the Middle and North forks in what was to become Clay County. 
  • ca. 1790 — Samuel Overton surveyed 10,000 acres on Horse Creek.
  • 1791 — Pioneer Clay Countians Julius Bob Baker and William Neal took part in St. Clair’s Defeat in the Northwest, the worst defeat ever suffered by the U. S. Army at the hands of Indians.
  • 1790s — The influx from North Carolina began and may have included indentured servants, runaways, destitute Scotch-Irish etc. This period saw the issuing of land grants; salt being made at salt springs; the first salt works at Langford Lick.
  • 1795 — The state’s last Indian raid was reported on Goose Creek.
  • 1798 — Burning Springs was discovered.
  • 1798 — James Collins established a salt works near the mouth of present day White’s Branch. His salt was thought to be for local consumption only. It was sold to saltman, Alexander Outlaw.
  • 1799 — Francis Clark was issued a patent for 1,000 acres on the South Fork near the confluence of Goose Creek and Red Bird River. He would establish a salt works, most likely on this property.
  • 1799 — Gov. James Garrard patented 500 acres of land on Goose Creek at Buffalo Lick at present-day Garrard.
  • 1800 — Dillion Asher settled on upper Red Bird. Note that this conflicts with the claim on the highway marker this his cabin was “pre-1800.” But he didn’t move there until he quit his position of toll collector on the Wilderness Road in 1800.
  • ca 1800 — The Salt Trace road was established to haul salt, most likely via packhorses or oxen, from Goose Creek to Virginia.
  • 1802 — The State Legislature provided for a road from the salt works at Manchester to Laurel County and the Wilderness Road.
  • 1803 — Owing to a scarcity downriver, the Abraham Sneethen family followed the game from the Bluegrass to the South Fork.
  • 1803 — Stephen Langford, founder of the Langford Salt Works, acquired 1,460 acres on Goose Creek.
  • 1804 — James White bought the Collins/Outlaw works and brought his brother, Hugh, from Tennessee, possibly from Cumberland Gap where they had a store, to operate it.
  • 1805 — John Patrick offered to lease two salt furnaces.
  • 1806 — Hugh White was appointed a Brigadier General of the Kentucky Militia.
  • 1806 — The so-called Cattle War between residents of the South, Middle and North Forks of the Kentucky River led to blood feuds between various Clay County factions for a century to come.
  • 1806 — Daniel Garrard came to Goose Creek to establish a salt works at Buffalo Lick; The salt industry began in earnest.
  • 1806 — John Amis and John Crook entered into an agreement for Amis to take over a one-quarter interest in the 375-acre Goose Creek Salt Works and Crook agreed to defend the title against claims against the 50,000 acre Wyncoop tract of which this was a part.
  • 1806 — Hugh White moved from White’s Branch and bought John Amis’ one-fourth interest in the Langford Works. He established a successful and well-stocked mercantile store at the salt works. The account book of Hugh White’s store in 1806-07 revealed an astonishing amount of information about who bought what.
  • 1806 Dec — The state mandated the creation of Clay County, an area encompassing the watersheds of the Kentucky’s South, Middle and North Forks. It was later reduced mainly to the South Fork.
  • 1807 — Gov. James Garrard gave James Jr., William, and Daniel Garrard each one-fourth of a 500-acre tract at Buffalo Lick.
  • 1807 April 1 — Clay County became an official county. Note that the two “captains” of the Cattle War, John Gilbert for the South and Middle Forkers, and William Strong, of the North Forkers, were chosen as justices, which suggests that the governor may have been trying to placate both sides of the Cattle War.
  • 1807 — Abner Baker moved from Garrard County to Clay to become clerk for the new courts, county and circuit.
  • 1807 — John Amis was slain during a court trial in Manchester, in trouble that was an outgrowth of the Cattle War.
  • 1807 — Adoniram Allen built a gristmill on the South Fork.
  • 1808 — Daniel Garrard and a slave rode horses to the Alabama coast to find a bride suitable for gentry, then came back with her riding side-saddle to Clay County.
  • 1808 — John Bates appeared in court to defend a purchase of interest in salt works from John Amis.
  • 1809 — Stephen Langford sold 600 acres to James and Hugh White.
  • 1810 Jan — The Legislature passed an Act to create a turnpike from Manchester to the Langford Road (in Laurel or Rockcastle).
  • 1810 Jan — Daniel Garrard, John Bates and Beverly Broaddus were appointed to raise subscriptions in money, labor or property for clearing and keeping in repair the navigation of the South Fork and Goose Creek to the salt works of James Garrard and Sons. 
  • In 1810 about one-half the state’s salt was produced in the mountain counties, 43 percent from Clay. Four salt works in the county produced 70,000 bushels annually, valued at $70,000. The population of the county was 330 families, or 2,398 people.
  • 1811 — The court authorized a new courthouse to be built.
  • 1811 – An act created a lottery to raise $10,000 to clear logs, brush, trees, rocks and fish traps on the Kentucky River upstream to the salt works on Goose Creek.
  • 1810-20 era — Thomas Johnson’s hotel on the square in Manchester was the scene of lively doings in Manchester. The Manchester–Booneville road was established during this period.
  • 1811 — John Bates bought 150 acres at confluence of Little Goose and Goose Creek from Abner Baker. He would establish a salt works here (at the end of present day Green Street, one side of the creek or the other).
  • 1811 — Clerk Abner Baker was sued for corruption.
  • 1811 — James and Hugh White sued John Bates over the 600 acres the Whites had purchased from Stephen Langford in 1809.
  • 1812 March — The county entered into a contract with Uriah Gresham to build courthouse.
  • 1812 June — T. T. Garrard was born at the Garrard Salt Works.
  • 1812-15 — War of 1812. Capt. Daniel Garrard and Thomas McJilton lead many Clay Countians to battles around the Great Lakes.
  • 1812 — The “free black” family of Elijah Griffin settles in Clay, almost certainly on the Cotton Bend of Goose Creek.
  • 1813 – Uriah Gresham was appointed undertaker of turnpike road from Manchester.
  • 1813 – According to a legislative act the Commissioners were authorized to raise by subscription $2,000 in money, labor, or property to open and keep in repair the navigation of “Red Bird Fork of Goose Creek” from the mouth of John Gilbert’s salt works.
  • 1814 — Granville Love, late an Ensign in a “Company of Spies commanded by Capt. Roland Burks in the late Expedition in upper Canada commanded by his Excellency Isaac Shelby . . .” appointed an attorney to recover his wages in the War of 1812.
  • 1814 — Charles Smith sold a number of lots in the town of Manchester ranging from $10 to $40 including one “opposite the brick court house” which shows that there was a brick courthouse by or before April that year.
  • 1815 — An act was passed that provided for the improvement of the stream to the works of Col. John Gilbert on Red Bird.
  • 1815 Aug — The court approved 11 applications for squatters’ rights to “vacant” land they had settled on and improved. Six more applicants were approved for property ranging from 150 to 225 acres. All this in accordance with an “Act to appropriate the vacant land of the Commonwealth.”
  • 1815 — Thomas McJilton was appointed sheriff.
  • 1816 — James Pogue, of Clermont County Ohio, in consideration of $1, conveyed 500 acres of land where Hugh White lived to Hugh and his brother James. This showed that even the county’s biggest shots didn’t have clear title to land they thought they owned.
  • 1816 — Daniel Garrard was exempted from paying a “county levy for a blind negro Billy.”
  • 1816 — Six residents possessed 41 percent of land in Clay County.
  • 1817 — John Gilbert leased out a salt well and 64 kettles and fixtures on 17 acres on Red Bird. This gives a fair picture of what was considered a minor salt works: 64 kettles!
  • 1817 — The court couldn’t locate the owner of a runaway slave, so they leased him out.
  • 1817 — The court ordered that Daniel Bates, John H. Slaughter and Abner Baker, be authorized to receive the planks for the courthouse.
  • 1817 — Hugh White bought a 25-year-old slave “Stephen” for $600.
  • 1817 Aug — The court “Ordered that Robert Baker view and report the best way for a road from the mouth of Sextons Creek to Allen’s Mill thence up the river to the mouth of Crane Creek, thence up said creek to the old road, thence with said road to James Sandlin at the mouth of Wild Cat, and with the hands allotted by George Baker Sr. open and keep the same in repair as the law directs sixteen feet wide only.”
  • 1818 — Messenger Lewis sold land on Collins Fork (of Goose Creek) to James and Hugh White, $1000 for 96 acres in one tract, $1500 for 150 acres in another, which shows how much more valuable land was on Collins Fork, center of the salt industry. At other places in the county land was going for $1 an acre.
  • 1818 (Dec. term of court) — “Daniel Garrard, Commissioner apptd. to superintend the removing obstructions and improving the navigation of the Ky River from the Goose Creek Salt Works to the mouth of Jack’s Creek and its navigable branches exhibited an abstract of expenses to the court Which with the vouchers was examined, allowed and ordered to be certified to the auditor of publick accounts amounting the whole to $2242.81 2/10.”
  • 1819 — Samuel Nicholson of Pennsylvania appointed Thomas Johnson of Nicholas County Ky. “to lease, sell and convey 50,000 acres . . . granted originally by the Commonwealth of Va., 18 May 1786 to Benjamin Wyncoop.” 
  • 1819 — The price of salt was down. According to the Commissioner’s Report for the Kentucky River a number of salt works on Goose Creek had been closed the previous two years.
  • 1820 — A “road” was to be established from the mouth of Big Creek, down Red Bird to Goose Creek, thence up Goose Creek for a ways to “keep the same in repair as a bridle way only.”
  • 1820 June — “Ordered that Joshua Etherton be apptd. Surveyor of the road from the mouth of Wild Cat to where the Salt Works road crosses Harts Branch . . . Ordered that James Lyons be apptd. Surveyor of the road from Harts Branch to the town ford . . .” This may have been the road that ran across the ford below Cool Springs Road through present day Lyttleton and up Harts Branch, thence down Beech Creek to about the mouth of Wildcat. . .
  • 1821 — The Estill Road was authorized. A report made to the court described the road that roughly followed old Warrior’s Path “from Clay court house in a direction to Estill county line passing John Chandlers thence by the double lick thence by the single boiling spring thence as the path runs to Samuel Chestnuts (at Sextons Creek) thence as marked to James Wellifords (at Island City in present-day Owsley County) thence to Smiths camp thence to Ambrose Cobbs on Main Sturgeon thence to the Estill line near the head of the grassy branch . . .”
  • 1821 — James white sold his brother Hugh his share of 28 slaves and other property for $10,000.
  • 1822 — Uriah Gresham, of Rockcastle Co., paid $385 for two thirds of a 200-acre tract on Little Goose and “conveyance also of one third part of a Patent claim in the name of Stephen Langford for 6000 acres” on Little Goose.
  • 1823 — A “bright mulatto male child about five or six years old” was left in Manchester by “a certain strange traveling man.”
  • 1824 — Daniel Garrard freed his “yellow” slave, Jim.
  • 1824 – Daniel Garrard’s sons T. T. and brother James were sent to school at Danville at Centre College.
  • 1825 — Katie Amis, wife of the late John Amis, and sister to Mollie Bowling (John Gilbert’s wife), married Robert “Julius Bob” Baker, a widower with nine children.
  • 1825 March — The court “Ordered that Jesse Dameral, Henry Clark, Cornelius Bowman and George Morris . . . view the best and most convenient way for a road from the mouth of Island Creek (in present day Owsley County) up said creek to intersect the Estill Road at the upper end of Jesse Damerals Plantation.
  • 1825 — In the November session of court it was “Ordered that Robin Cornitt be apptd. Surveyor of the road from the ford of Sextons creek where the Estill road crosses up Sextons creek by McJittions along the trace passing Tinchers to Felix Wilds crossing the Salt Works road near Robin Cornits.
  • 1825 — Sale of 6,736-acre tract – Roger Cornett, Elijah McWhorter & Titus Mershon.
  • 1827 — The court reported that a slave killed himself after falling into a boiling vat.
  • 1827 — Clay County Clerk Abner Baker issued a “Certification of color for Elijah Griffin, a free man of color who intends traveling into some distant parts—the clerk hereby certifies that the family of said Griffin have resided in Clay County many years, it has not been questioned, they have been ever reputed as free people. They are commonly orderly, honest and industrious people, possessing a competency for support.”
  • 1827 May – Hugh White resigned as Justice of the Peace. 
  • 1827-28 — Was a period of heavy road building activity, almost all of it to the benefit of the salt makers.
  • 1828 June — The court ordered the sheriff to investigate a proposed water gristmill on Red Bird and report back on potential damages it might cause to property, navigation or fish.
  • 1828 — The court had apparently taken to calling the road along Collins Fork “The Goose Creek Turnpike” which was a toll road. Hugh White, who had been commissioner of the road from 1822 to Sept 1828, was replaced by John Hibbard.
  • 1829 — John Root sued William House for blocking the road with House’s mill, apparently near the mouth of House Branch.
  • 1830 — Willie Hibbard was appointed commissioner on the part of Clay County for $1000 in land office treasury warrants for improving the road (Estill Road) from Mount Sterling by way of Irvine and Manchester to intersect the Wilderness Road.
  • 1830 — Slaves comprised 11 percent of the county’s population. Andrew Burns agreed to purchase a negro girl “for his own use and not for merchandise.”
  • 1830 — David Robertson moved to Clay County, bought several thousand acres at mouth of Wildcat to Jack’s Branch, and built a home opposite the mouth of Beech Creek.
  • 1830 — Pressured by family, Revolutionary War vet “King” David Benge reluctantly applied for a pension. He told officials that the pleasure of fighting the Red Coats was honor enough for him.
  • 1830 — Messenger Lewis, a justice for 12 years, resigned.
  • 1831 — Bonds of $10,000 were set for assuming offices.
  • 1831 — A tool for boring was invented that allowed salt wells to be drilled to a depth of 500 feet, where richer brine was.
  • 1832 — The May term of court “Ordered that William Chesnut be appointed Surveyor of the Estill road from the fall rock to the ford of Sextons creek at Samuel Chestnuts.
  • 1832 — George Freeman, a free black man, bought 50 acres of land.
  • 1832 — T. T. Garrard married Nancy M. Brawner at Alex White’s house and set up house on Paces Creek near his salt works.
  • 1832 — Hearings were held in Manchester to allot pensions for Revolutionary War soldiers.
  • 1833 — A new road was sought to shorten the distance between Manchester and London by going up Little Goose to the Salt Road instead of via Gray Fork.
  • 1833 — Judge Thomas Amis, son of John Amis who was killed in court in 1807, was shot and killed during a court session. Thomas had married Dillion Asher’s daughter, Polly.
  • 1834 — Dan Tucker was tried for helping a slave escape to Ohio.
  • 1834 — A New York magazine writer visited Manchester and Clay County and described it in a snarky article.
  • 1835 — The legislature approved a bill for improving navigation on the Kentucky River and Goose Creek to the Manchester area to aid the salt industry.
  • 1835 — A state report found that “The South fork could be made navigable for small steamboats as far as the junction of Goose Creek and Red Bird Fork, 42 miles, by 16 locks and dams at a cost of $1,099,746. The board pointed out that if these recommendations went into effect a connection between the slack water system of the Kentucky and the Cumberland rivers could then be accomplished by building a canal between Goose Creek and Cumberland Ford (Pineville).”
  • 1835 — James White was refused permission by the legislature to import slaves to work at his works.
  • 1835—45 — John White, son of Hugh, served in the U. S. Congress as a Whig and went on to become Speaker of the House.
  • 1835 — Daniel Garrard bought one-quarter interest in grandmother Elizabeth Garrard and Son Salt works and changed the name to D. Garrard and Sons.
  • 1836 — A bridge was planned for Little Goose to cross near its confluence with Goose Creek at Manchester.
  • 1836 — There were 15 wells, 250-430 feet deep. Ten were in operation. Most of the production was from the Collins Fork works where the best brine was.
  • 1836 — Abner Baker resigned and moved back to Garrard County. 1837 — A canal was proposed from salt works to Cumberland Ford.
  • 1838 — T. T. Garrard’s wife died.
  • 1838 — A State report that year outlined the problems with transporting salt by boat on Goose Creek and Red Bird.
  • 1838 — A railroad was proposed to be built through Clay County. The proposal was defeated in legislature by one vote. A depression that year put a stop for canalizing Goose Creek.
  • 1839 — Daniel Bates sued James and T. T. Garrard over a mill on Little Goose Creek. This seems to have been the precursor of the feuding between the Garrards and Whites, and set up the bad blood that exploded after the hanging of Dr. Abner Baker Jr.
  • 1839 — First mention of a steam mill in county. This may have been one at Goose Rock, a foundry that made salt kettles.
  • 1840 — A mob threatened Daniel Bates; Bates was shot; he sued nearly everybody. The county government started falling apart.
  • 1840 — Clay County had $106,800 invested in the salt works, a labor force of 148 men, and a product of 106,000 bushels.
  • 1841 — Samuel Chastain swore he was not importing slaves to sell.
  • 1842 — David Clark freed his slaves and gave them property on Sexton’s Creek.
  • 1843 — D. Y. Lyttle was admitted to practice law. He had come to Clay County to teach at T. T. Garrard’s private school.
  • 1843 — T. T. Garrard was elected state representative.
  • 1844 — Manchester was incorporated.
  • 1844 — Daniel Bates was murdered by Dr. Abner Baker Jr. Baker, who was thought to be insane, had accused Bates, and Baker’s young wife’s own father and others, of having sex with her. The case became a media circus nationwide.
  • 1844 — The pioneer settler Dillion Asher died.
  • 1845 — John White, son of Hugh, Court of Appeals judge and former speaker of the House of the U. S. House of Representatives, committed suicide shortly before Abner Baker Jr. was hanged.
  • 1845 — The Ballard Smith 40,000-acre tract was bought by Francis Clark from a Philadelphia couple and he built a log house on the property which still stands today as of this writing.
  • 1845 — After an extremely well-covered trial, Abner Baker Jr. was hanged for the murder of Daniel Bates.
  • 1847 — Clay Countians served in the Mexican/American War.
  • 1847 — In a major legal case, Clay County slaves sued Stephen Bates for the value of their labor.
  • 1849 — Reuben May moved to Clay County to make salt and farm on 400 acres at Goose Rock. May later became commander of the Seventh Kentucky Infantry in the Civil War after T. T. Garrard was promoted to Brigadier General.
  • 1849 — James H. Garrard was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1849 where anti-slavery advocates hoped to enact emancipation (a gradual end) or abolition (an outright end). Most of the delegates agreed that slavery was an evil institution but that it could not be abolished for economic reasons.
  • 1849 — T. T. Garrard, perhaps getting weary of salt-making, headed for California and the gold rush. He had married Lucinda Lees ten days earlier and then did “like the North Carolinians do” and headed out for California.
  • 1850 — William Baker was hanged in Manchester for a murder apparently committed by his wife.
  • 1850 — The White family was the county’s largest slave owners.
  • 1851 — Clay County elected county officers mandated by the constitutional convention of 1849.
  • 1853 — T. T. Garrard moved “to a place near where Dr. Burchell lives” most likely the J. W. Reid house. In 1854-55 there were seven salt works and a product of 130,000 bushels. The center of the industry had moved down stream.
  • 1855 — Benjamin F. White, son of Hugh, drowned at the narrows of the South Fork transporting salt.
  • 1856 — David Yancy Lyttle moved to Manchester where he bought Cedar Craig, mortgaged to Barton Potter and Buckhead White.
  • 1857 — James H. Garrard, T. T.’s brother, was elected to the first of five terms as state treasurer.
  • 1859 — T. T. Garrard got back into salt making with his father. He had got out in 1849 during the California gold rush.
  • 1860 — William Reid leased the poorhouse and farm to Thomas Ramsey and May Ponder on Rader Creek.
  • 1860 — The salt business had shrunk to five works with a product valued at $21,000 for 84,760 bushels with a work force of 59 men.
  • 1861 — Almost half Clay County farms cultivated 30 acres or less.
  • 1861 — From the summer of 1861 until 1865 — and for former local slaves who joined the Union Army, for a year after that — there was little in Clay County history that didn’t involve the Civil War. People tended to hunker down in their homes and on their farms trying to protect what little they had. They had little time to make “history” and there is hardly any documentary evidence of anything happening during that time other than the war.
  • ca 1866 — Rebel vet Abner Baker, son of Abner Baker Jr.’s brother, Harvey (who testified at Jr.’s Manchester trial in 1845) was lynched by a mob for killing the Knox County Tennessee clerk, who Baker may have thought had a part in the killing of Baker’s father, Harvey, a Confederate. Harvey’s death came at the mansion in Knoxville where Abner Jr. told him the lurid details of Susan White’s alleged infidelities.
  • 1866 — David Yancy Lyttle beat fellow Clay Countian William McDaniel for a seat in the Kentucky Senate representing Clay, Harlan, Letcher, Pike, Floyd and Perry counties.
  • 1867 —D. Y. Lyttle was urged by “the rebel element” miffed that slaves had been freed, thus losing a tax resource, to oppose a bill before the legislature that called for public funding for public education. They were likewise miffed that the bill would primarily benefit children in eastern Kentucky, who had opposed the South in the war. In a surprise move Democrat Lyttle made an impassioned speech in favor of the bill, got it passed, and was thereafter known as the Father of Public Education in Kentucky.
  • 1869 — Milton Jones donated land for a meeting house.
  • 1870 — There were four salt works producing 83,680 bushels employing 40 men receiving $10,070.
  • 1870 — Sixty-four black households were engaged in agriculture.
  • 1872 — John D. White, son of Daugherty and Sarah, graduated from the University of Michigan. John D. went on to tour Europe and to marry a society matron from Back Bay Boston in a wedding covered by the New York Times. He became known as Kentucky’s “Mr. Republican” and served in the U. S. House of Representatives.
  • 1873 — In a breezy article about Manchester a writer was most taken by what he called the state’s most beautiful women.
  • 1873 — A nationwide financial panic hit Clay County hard.
  • 1874 — John D. White’s sister, Laura, was in the first University of Michigan class to graduate women. She became a major player in the women’s rights movement in the U. S. For a while she attended the Sorbonne in Paris, France, and MIT in Boston. In 1885, she moved back to Clay County to take over her father’s business.
  • 1875 — Daugherty White, father of John D. and Laura, committed suicide. A news report stated: “Hon. Dougherty White, proprietor of the Manchester, Ky. Salt Works, and father of Hon. John D. White, Republican, recently elected to Congress from the 9th Kentucky District, committed suicide a few days since by drowning. Before throwing himself into the river he tied himself so that he could not escape. For several days previous he had felt queerly and was evidently suffering under temporary insanity when; he committed the act. His brother Hon. John White, once Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, terminated his life by suicide.”
  • 1875 — Manchester’s rowdy reputation heated up. A reporter wrote about the town’s bar rooms and groceries being “open both day and night, and bumpers of ‘Paddy’s Eye Water’” being “dealt out to a jolty multitude who are assembled here.”
  • 1877 Jan — Lawman A. D. Baker was called to settle a dispute on Lower Teges when he was shot and killed by Richard Allen. Reporting on another incident, a journalist wrote, “If Gen. Grant has any soldiers to spare wish he’d send ‘em over to Clay.”
  • 1878 — Joseph Garrard, son of Brig. Gen. T. T. Garrard, graduated from West Point. Later, in Washington D.C., he got a dressing down from the President on the front page of the “New York Times” for preventing a Jewish underling from attending West Point. The case created a national scandal and resulted in Col. Garrard being banished to a far-flung post in Texas.
  • 1879 — Nancy Potter, wife of prominent citizen Robert Potter (son of Barton), saved the family fortune when she petitioned the courts to have her declared a “femme sole” which allowed her to take over the family business interests from her husband.
  • 1880 — The census that year listed the following people as Clay County saltmakers: William Brumley, Theopolis Garrard, Wilson Chastain, Moses Lytton, William McGrand, John Murphy, Herod Minton, James Philpot and Green White. Only the Garrards seem to have been producing salt in quantity, however.
  • 1880 — Clay County farms averaged 170 acres per farm. A number of people made money in the timber business, but most of the timber was being bought by out of state corporations.
  • 1883 — Laura White studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, France.
  • 1884 — The New York Times reported that “Representative John D. White . . . treated the House to-day to a display of ill temper which some of his colleagues do not consider very becoming.”
  • 1885 — The Times reported that White “was the cause of some amusement to members of the House to-day,” and was subjected to “loud jeers” by members of the House.
  • 1887 — A land agent from West Virginia started purchasing mineral rights in Clay County, eventually acquiring over 72,000 acres that wound up in the hands of the Kenton Coal and Oil Company.
  • 1890 Feb — Daniel K. Garrard, a very popular lawyer, legislator, and son of Brig. Gen. T. T. Garrard, was gunned down on the streets of Manchester by a black man, Carlo Brittain Lyttle. The murder was a statewide sensation in numerous newspaper articles that were outrageously racist.
  • 1890 — Manuscripts of 1890 census were destroyed by fire.
  • 1890 — Manchester descended into a level of lawlessness that was unique in all America in the 1890s and was widely reported in newspapers from coast to coast. Vicious feuds broke out around the county, and in town the lack of law enforcement made it a chancy thing to walk the streets downtown.
  • 1891 May — The New York Times got the ball rolling with a huffy article listing a dozen Clay County men who had been charged with murder but, in “a most appalling state of affairs” the local court had seen fit not to do much about it.
  • 1891 June — One Theo Moren braved the dangers of Manchester to attend a dance, according the Mountain Echo, “but Theo was not frightened he would risk a mad dog’s bite every day in the week to get to see some of those Manchester girls.”
  • 1891 Dec — Natural gas was discovered near the mouth of Bullskin.
  • 1892 Feb — News from Panco reported that J. O. Barger with fifteen boys and ten girls married Mrs. Mackie Hensle with six children, making a family of thirty-three. Henry Barger was said to have killed his 12-year-old son by striking him with a board, and a Panco woman named Barger “struck another lady in the head with a rock killing her almost instantly.”
  • 1892 Aug — On the London-Manchester road in Clay County “there are in the distance of half a mile, several drinking shops that are the cause of many difficulties and much disturbance,” the Mountain Echo reported.
  • 1892 — Pomp Bates, a black man from Manchester, who had been lying in the Danville jail for months awaiting trial for the murder of the Marshall of Junction City, died of consumption.
  • 1893 March — Clay County black men Samuel Gilbert, Saint Gilbert, Charles Gilbert, William Hipshire, Beverly Lane, Peter Lyttle and Maryland Thompson were enlisted in the Ninth Kentucky Cavalry.
  • 1893 Dec — It was reported in the Mountain Echo that Col. D. Y. Lyttle, “seventy-six years of age celebrated Thanksgiving by taking unto himself a bride sixteen years of age, Miss Ellen Lunsford. This is Col. Lyttle’s fourth marriage. There is yet hope for Cicero of the mountains.”
  • 1895 Jan — Recent rains gave hope to Clay Countians for a “tide” to get timber to market down the Kentucky River.
  • 1895 Feb — Dale Reid, son of Dr. Stephen G. Reid, was killed in West Virginia in a dispute said to have been part of the Hatfield/McCoy feud.
  • 1896 — In a society note that hinted at the success of Clay County’s Asher family the Mountain Echo reported “Mr. A. B. Asher, the lumber King of Big Creek, Clay County, was in London Sunday on his way to Ford.”
  • 1897 — In his diary, Rev. Dickey wrote, “Most of the nights since I have been here have been made hideous by the yells of drunken men and the noise of their revolvers. Some nights hundreds of shots have been fired. While I am writing tonight the crack of the rifle is heard making a startling report. Drunken men are seen on the streets daily and along the highways leading into town. The law is not enforced against shooting on the highway nor against drunkenness. There is no fear of the law of its officers. ‘Might is right’ here, the weak must yield to the strong.”
  • 1898 — The most widely reported feud up until this time was the troubles down near and on Crane Creek that saw a number of members of the Howard and Baker clans gunned down in a quickly elevating dispute. It wound up with the killing of “Bad Tom” Baker as he stood outside the courthouse surrounded by 150 state troops sent in to protect him as he was to stand trial for the earlier killing of Deputy Sheriff Will White.
  • 1899 — As the century wore to its end the Clay County feuds were at the top of the nation’s reading lists. In addition to the Baker/Howard feud, a far more violent and deadly one, the Philpot/ Benge feud was being carried out in the county; both were covered in extreme detail by newspapers around the country. Here is only a sampling of papers that printed breathless reports of almost daily killings in 1899: The Naugatuck Daily News (Naugatuck, Connecticut) Jun 19, 1899; the Tyrone Daily Herald (Tyrone, Pennsylvania) Jul 18, 1899; the Newark Daily Advocate (Newark, Ohio) Jul 18, 1899; the Lima Daily News (Lima, Ohio) Jul 21, 1899; the Butler County Democrat (Hamilton, Ohio) Sep 7, 1899; the Fort Wayne News (Fort Wayne, Indiana) Sep 6, 1899; the Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Sep 12, 1899; the Bessemer Herald (Bessemer, Michigan) Sep 16, 1899; the Newark Daily Advocate (Newark, Ohio) Sep 27, 1899; The Wellsboro Agitator (Wellsboro, Pennsylvania) Oct 4, 1899; the New York Times (New York, New York) Oct. 23, 1899; the Trenton Times (Trenton, New Jersey) Oct. 26, 1899; the New York Times (New York, New York) Oct 26, 1899; the Trenton Times (Trenton, New Jersy) Nov. 7, 1899; The Daily Review (Decatur, Illinois) Dec 11, 1899.
  • 1899 — The century ended on a spectacular Clay County story: the murder of newly elected Gov. Goebel, who, it was claimed, was murdered by Clay Countian Jim Howard in order for Howard to get out of a murder charge arising out of the Baker/Howard feud. In trials covered nationwide Howard was eventually convicted for Goebel’s assassination, and served several years in prison before a Republican governor was finally seated and released him.

Clay County Genealogical & Historical Society

202 Main Street
PO Box 394
Manchester, KY 40962
E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: 606.598.5507

Hours of Operation:
The Society offices are open from 9 a.m. till 3 p.m EST Thursdays and Fridays or, for members, by special appointment.

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