The following article by David Strange originally appeared in The Courier-Journal on 3 Jul 2013. It is archived here with additional information for your reading enjoyment.
Trivia question: On Independence Day, July 4th, 1776, how many Bullitt Countians celebrated the event?
How many volunteered for military service?
How many declared their allegiance to the new republic?
You see, this is a trick question in so many ways.
There was no Bullitt County in 1776.
No Kentucky, not even a Kentucky County.
The news of the Declaration of Independence would have taken at least a couple of months to get here in those days. And even when it did, there were no settlers yet here to hear it.
In this area in 1776, there was no more than an occasional adventurous group of long-hunters or surveying parties.
In 1776, the land was still deep, barely-explored, wilderness; the home of Native Americans; a land teeming with wildlife such as buffalo, and the now-extinct Carolina Parakeet for which Paroquet Springs is named.
There were virtually no European (non-native) settlers .... yet.
Oh, but how that was about to change. In 1776, the land was the realm of the Native American and the bear. By 1790, just fourteen years later, there were 74,000 settlers in Kentucky (By the way, today there are over 74,000 in just Bullitt County.). 1794 was the year of the last "Indian" attack in Bullitt County, and 1799 marked the last in Kentucky.
But back in 1776, there were only the first stirrings of the breathtaking explosion that was about to come.
Bullitt's Lick salt lick, in western Bullitt County, had been "discovered" (Really it had been known by Native Americans for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.) and surveyed in 1773 and 1774. Bullitt's Lick would become a critical source of salt for settlers as far away as Illinois. It was the first salt works in Kentucky and the only one west of the Alleghenies during the Revolutionary War. The first attempt to put a permanent settlement at Bullitt's Lick was in 1777, the winter before George Washington would encamp his men at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. That 1777 winter in Kentucky proved to be a record cold year. It was so cold that buffalo would push against the small cabins, threatening to push them over to get to the heat inside. Other attempts at settlement saw setters killed in Indian attacks. Most early settlers were far more interested in surviving than in any war. Settlement at Bullitt's Lick was finally successful in 1779, and salt, the first industry in Kentucky, was produced there until about 1830.
Brashear's Station, located about where Highway 44 crosses Floyd's Fork, was established about the same time, with some nineteen men venturing out into the wilderness to build a small fort there.
Louisville, in Jefferson County, did not become Louisville until 1779 as well. That settlement had started a year before when George Rogers Clark established an encampment on Corn Island from which he led a band of 175 men on a raid, capturing the British-held Kaskaskia in the Illinois country.
Kentucky was part of the colony of Virginia before the Revolution, becoming Kentucky County of the new state of Virginia on December 31, 1776 as the new "United States of America" fought to prove its independence.
Kentuckians did fight later in the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Blue Licks in 1782 is known by some as "the Last Battle of the American Revolution." But don't confuse that Blue Lick with our Blue Lick Road. They are two different places. The famous Battle of Blue Licks was fought in what is today Robertson County in northern Kentucky.
As the war ended, more people moved into Kentucky, developing more towns and counties.
The town of Shepherdsville was established in 1793 as part of an effort to create Bullitt County.
The County was created by act of the Kentucky General Assembly on December 13, 1796, with the county's first official meeting being held at the home of Benjamin Summers on February 28, 1797, thus creating another nice little trivia question: Did Bullitt become a county in 1796 or 1797? Trivia Answer: "Yes."
Want more detail? Those sworn in as the first officials of the county were, Moses Moore, Jesse Drake, Thomas Saunders, Benjamin Ogdon, Joseph Irwin, and James Caldwell.
Mount Washington, at the crossroads of two roads in eastern Bullitt County, was incorporated in 1822.
Lebanon Junction came along after 1855 when the Louisville & Nashville Railroad was built through the county.
Another trivia question that you now can answer: When looking at old maps and descriptions of Bullitt County, the southern portion of the county is called the "Pine Tavern" district rather than Lebanon Junction. Why? Because there was not yet a railroad; therefore no "junction" of a railroad to Lebanon; and therefore no opportunity yet for a community to develop at the junction. Pine Tavern was about the only man-made landmark in that part of the county until the railroad.
As I say, there was very little local involvement in the beginnings of the Revolutionary War, because no one was here to be involved.
But by the War of 1812, that had changed. Kentucky suffered more deaths in battle in that war (1200) than all the other states combined. Bullitt Countian Private Jacob Hardy lost his life in the War of 1812, becoming the first known Bullitt Countian to die while in official military service.
So, I have given you a lot of good trivia questions in this story.
But, if you think about it, you know that these items of history are not really trivial. These are just a few examples, a few modest facts that we can grab onto, that helps us begin to understand a little of where and what we come from; what has made us what we are.
As we prepare for the 4th of July with great celebrations such as the twelfth-annual Bullitt Blast at Paroquet Springs, look around you a bit. Imagine wilderness and danger and loneliness that would have been all around you in 1776.
Look, imagine, and remember.
And be happy that you can just sit and enjoy the fireworks.
Below is a celebration scene from times past.
Copyright 2013 by David Strange, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.