The Life and Times of Robert B. McAfee and His Family and Connections.

Written by Himself.

Commenced April 23rd, 1845.

Part 4: 1774 - 1778

1774 - The year 1774 The above company intended to return to Kentucky to improve and look after their lands but previous to their getting ready to start, hostilities broke out with the Northern Indians Shawanoes Mingoes and Delawares on account of the murder of Logan and his family on the Ohio River which eventuated in a war, and James & Robert McAfee & George McAfee joined the troops under Col. Shelby and marched to the aid of Genl. Andrew Lewis, who had a battle with Indians at the mouth of the Great Kenhaway called "the battle of the point" on account of its being at the point between the two rives. But while then absent another company under Col. James Harrod consisting of about forty-one men in all, Harrod having about thirty men with him, was afterwards joined by another company of eleven men on the Ohio they pursued nearly the same route that the McAfee company had, only they ascended the Kentucky river in canoes to the mouth of Landing run (then so called) in the month of May nearly opposite the now village of Salvisa, at a place now called Oregon, & from thence they passed over on Salt River & made other imrpvements on portions of the land made by the McAfees, who had deadened trees and made brush heaps on the most conspicuous places on their several surveys one of these was claimed to have been made by a Mr. David Williams on behalf of his brother Vincent Williams within one hundred yards of my fathers improvement where he had cut the initials of his name on a white oak tree at the Elm Spring (R M F) where I now live which gave my Father & myself much trouble in a long & expensive law suit which I did not get finally settled until June, 1820, it having gone through the several courts in this state. This company also found Fontaine Blue Spring which was claimed by Isaac Hite one of Harrods Company, who finally held it by a compromise with Sam'l Adams. Col. Harrod's company also discovered the big town spring of Harrodsburgh which they made their Headquarters & on teh 16th of June 1774 laid off a town on the south side of the Town branch below this Spring and built some five or six cabbins & called it "Harrods Town." From this point they made their excursion to make improvements by deadening trees and making brush heaps and while there Col. Daniel Boone found them on his way to the falls of Ohio sent by the Governor of Virginia to warn the companies & surveyors of the Hostilities of the Indians and had a cabbin built in company with a Mr. Hinton which afterwards went by this name, about the middle of July Mr. James Cowan, Jacob Sodowsky & two other men being at Fontaine Blue, Mr. Cowan having got some of his papers wet, took them out and was drying them in the sun, and while thus employed was fired upon by the Indians & killed, Sodowsky and one of the others made their escape towards the falls of the Ohio and having made Canoes descended that River and the Mississippi to New Orleans & returned home by sea. The other man escaped to Harrodstown and gave the alarm to the ballance of the company who as soon as they could collect their stragglers broke up camp & returned home by the Cumberland Gap, with the determination to return next spring and maintain their ground. In Harrods company were several men who afterwards became conspicuous in the settlement of Kentucky and its History, The following names I have obtained from Col. Harrods company roll by Abraham Chaplin. [Page of names missing from manuscript].

1775 - Early in the year 1775 The McAfee company prepared to visit their land in Kentucky accordingly about the 20th of February they again left their homes with the addition of David Adams, Wm. McAfee & John Higgins, an apprenticed servant to my Grandfather James McAfee, and came through the wilderness by "the Cumberland Gap" & arrived at James McAfees Spring on Salt River on the 11th day of March 1775, and on the 15th of March Col. Harrod with a reinforcement of his company passed them on their way to Harrodstown again where they again located at their Headquarters, The McAfee Company cut down the small timber in about two acres of ground piled & burnt the Brush, and made a fence of Brush round it, planted some corn, peach stones and apple seed, and my father also planted peach stones and apple seed at a sink hole near my cave & Elm Springs, also the same was done at James McCouns Spring about a mile below where N. Providence church now stands, also intending to plant more corn, preparatory to moving to the country either That fall or next spring, My father was somewhat astonished & uneasy at Finding a pair of poles about six feet high near his improvements & within ten steps of the white oak in which his name was marked George McAfee & William McAfee also cleared a small piece of ground at a spring running into the town branch a short distance below the Harrodstown boundary at this time (now in possession of Jos. Morgan Esq).

About the 10th of April the company concluded to return home leaving John Higgins and Lucien Poulson at Harrodstown To plant more corn and warn other companies of their land, which was faithfully attended to by Higgins who made additional improvements by cutting down the Brush and piling it at the springs where I now reside. As my father intended to settle his father at this point and to make his settlement on the river above Harrodstown, The ballance of the company then continued their Journey toward their homes and on the 21st April met Henderson and his company at the crossing of Scaggs creek (a branch of Rockcastle River) coming on to settle at Boonesborough and grant settlement right claims to land by virtue of Watauga treaty of the 17th March previous with the Cherokees. Henderson was from North Carolina & claimed the greater part of the present state of Kentucky by virtue of this purchase notwithstanding the Treaty with the six nations (Mohawks) made at Fort Schuyler, here a hasty council was held & Henderson laid his plans before the McAfee Company and urged them to return with him and he would grant them land and allow them to make entries; James McAfee resisted his proposition and told his brothers that Hendersons claim could not be valid, as he had made his purchase without the sanction of the Government, and if they sought protection under him they would be deceived, notwithstanding this wholesome and correct advice, such were the alurements held out by Henderson, that his three Brothers turned Back with him to Boonesborough, then for the first time occupied by Col. Boone (about ten days previous) who had preceeded Henderson to open a road, soon after Henderson's arrival he sent for the Harrodstown people and held his famous convention in the month of May which my father Robert McAfee was sergeant at arms. The whole scheme afterwards proved abortive as predicted by James Mcafee as far as related to the entries of land made on Hendersons Books, but which eventually secured their settlement rights by raising corn. Robt. George and William McAfee remained about two months with Henderson and then returned home, and again in the month of September 1775, the same men in company with John Magee, David and John McCoun (and John Higgins who had returned home in July to help them) came back to Harrodstown & Salt River, now for the first time called by that name (on account of Capt. Bullitt having discovered Salt water on it at a place afterwards known as Bullitts lick) & brought with them forty head of cattle which they took down to James McCouns land on the river about a mile below N. Providence church & turned them in the cain & occasionally salted them, commenced clearing ground & Building cabbins. John Magee built a cabbin assisted by Wm. McBrayer on a point between two branches about a mile below my present residence. John McCoun with a part of this company remained during this winter and cleared about fifteen acres of ground in the flatt adjoining James McCouns spring & Planted it in corn in April 1776. Their cattle kept in good condition during the winter on the cain. They ploughed their corn once and in June having discovered & heard the Indians round them one night they broke up and returned home, expecting to aid their families in moving to the country.

1776 - Early this Spring the several McAfee and McCoun families with their friends and relations, the Adams, Currys, John Magee, including sons and sons in laws, commenced preparations for moving to Kentucky. Their wives and daughters had been employed day and night in making a surplus stock of linens, blankets, Flannel & bed clothes of all kinds including rugs, and also extra clothing enough for several years until they could raise supplies at their new home, calculating that the corn they had planted would supply them with bread and the cattle they had sent to the country would be sufficient to give them milk & also to begin with in a new country. The only difficulty seemed to be how they were to take their goods and chattels. It was at length agreed upon to take their heavy & Bulky household stuff by water & up the Kentucky river with part of the company and their families on pack horses through the wilderness by way of the Cumberland Gap -- accordingly in May 1776 they packed up the greater portion of their household property and farming utensils, also kegs of flour, corn, and other seeds in the middle of which they put a bottle of whiskey for safe keeping (which however proved their ruin, as we will see as has often been the case since with others) with these on Packhorses they proceeded across the country to Brown's Ferry, on Green Briar (or Gauly River as it was then called) where they made canoes & put all on board on the 11th of June and proceeded down the river but the season having been dry they had great difficulty in getting along over the falls & rapids of the river, after several overturning their canoes they were compelled to stop about fifteen miles above its mouth and build a log cabbin on a ridge in which they deposited all their goods & covered it well with Bark, Intending to return for their horses and Transport it back to go by land, But by the time they got home the Cherokee war broke out and the men had to go on that expedition which eventuated in burning their towns at Nicajack. As soon as this campaing was over, still determined on moving they collected their packhorses and went after their goods, which was early in September. When they arrived at their cabbin expecting to find everything safe, what was their astonishment and chagrin to find The roof thrown off, and their rugs, Blanketts & keggs lying scattered in various directions entirely ruined & broken open, some of their finest rugs lay under the shade of adjacent trees or clifts of rocks which when attempting to lift them they found rotten. They had apparently been used by some person to sleep on. The keggs which had been broken and found to contain their whiskey had been evidently destroyed for that purpose. The feelings of the company were at once enraged to find all their valuable property and the labour of years of toil thus destroyed, at a time when it was so much needed. They had also keggs of coffee, sugar, spice, tea, etc., which they had laid up for special use, as they did not expect to get such things in Kentucky for several years. It seemed to them that Providence had frowned upon them as all their plans & efforts were frustrated, so it appeared to them at that time, but no doubt a wise Province overruled all these things and saved many valuable lives which would have been destroyed if they had reached their new and dangerous homes in this year. It was no doubt for the best, however they did not then feel it so -- after a short consultation It was first supposed to be done by Indians, but seeing no signs of that kind This opinion wsa given up and It was believed to be done by some stragling white man. They determined to search round to see if they could find the culprit, the company divided off two together, and James & Samuel McAfee took a small track which led towards the river and down it, and in a short distance they met (as James McAfee said) A little diminutive red headed white man, who appeared much confused, he was immediately charged with doing all the mischief which he denied but James McAfee discovering some of their clothing on him on a sudden impulse of passion struck at him with the pole of his tomahawk which glancing off the side of his hat laid him on his back quivering and then drew his knife jumped at him to finish. But his Brother Samuel seized his arm and said, "Stop, James, do not kill the man." This admonition, recalled reflection, and his life was spared, his name was Edward Sommers, a bound servant who had ran away from his master low down in Virginia and was endeavoring to get to the Indains when he accidentally found this cabbin where finding, good rugs and clothing he had made it his headquarters for two months & breaking open one of the kegs to see what was in it found a bottle of whiskey which induced him to break the others upon which he got drunk and riotted like another savage without care or thought for the future not even attempting to preserve anything from destruction. The conduct was so wanton and outrageous that as soon as he came to, he was helped up and conducted back to the cabbin, and as soon as the company were collected a council was held over him, and he was permitted to explain his conduct which was so malignant & indefensible that it was decided that according to their opinion of the laws he had forfeited his life and ought to be hung. This sentence none of them would agree to execute, and by this means his life was saved a second time. James McAfee observing that "if Sam had let me alone There would have been no further trouble with him." They now collected such of their farming tools and some few other articles not injured and returned home to commence anew their laborious preparations, but the blow fell heavy upon every family and prevented any farther attempt to move and the succeeding years of 1777 & 1778. The continuation of the Revolutionary war in which the most of these men heartily engaged in the Virginia Malitia [sic] James McAfee served as a Lieutenant. The others were content to serve in the ranks as they were called on. Bottetourt county was almost unanimously ardent friends of the revolution and staunch whigs. Their principal services were however on the Frontiers, and down to Williamsburgh. The McAfees ranked as brave soldiers who could be relied on, but none of them aspired to distinction or office of any kind. Their education being confined to reading, writing & figures as far as the rule of three, my uncle James judging from his journal wrote an excellent hand for the times, or indeed at any time, superior to many men in high office, my father Robert, wrote a good strong hand and read well being much inclined to reading he was well informed upon all the current subjects of the day, he always took the leading newspapers then published in Virginia & the Kentucky Gazette from its first establishment until his death, he was however deficient in figures which he often regretted altho he could do his own calculations. This was one reason he often assigned for his determination to educate his children male and female. My uncles Sam'l & William also wrote excellent strong hands & were better versed in Arithmetic than any of their Brothers - some of the company visited Salt River in the fall of 1777 to look after the cattle, but by this time they had run wild or were killed by Hunters from Harrodstown, so that not more than two or three were ever heard of again.

Go to Part 5 - 1779 - 1781.

Updated April 23, 2000. This transcription is copyrighted by . It may be freely used for non-commercial purposes and family research, but must not be used for any other purpose without written permission from the transcriber.