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BRECKINRIDGE COUNTY, KENTUCKY
AREA COMMUNTIES OF THE PAST AND PRESENT

 

BIG BILL HARDIN AND THE FORT

 

          William Hardin was a real pioneer, known as “Big Bill.”  He was of large physique, and a capable leader.
 
He was not only a great warrior, fighting back the Indians, but was also a man engaged in the business and political life of the community.

          There were three brothers, French Huguenots, who, in order to escape religious persecution in France fled to Canada.
 
The extreme cold of the Canadian climate caused them to emigrate to Virginia.

          Two of the brothers settled there permanently, the other emigrated to South Carolina.  From the brothers who settled
in Virginia, descended the Kentucky Hardins.  John, Martin, and William came to Kentucky and William was the pioneer of Breckinridge
County.

          John Hardin, for whom Hardin County was named, was murdered by the Indians in 1792, while on an embassy to
their county.

          Lydia Hardin, a sister, married Charles Wickliff, and was the mother of distinguished men and eminent statesmen.

          Sarah, another sister, married her cousin, Ben Hardin, and was the mother of the great criminal lawyer, Ben Hardin.

          William Hardin (Big Bill) was born in 1747.  He married Winifred Holtsclaw and they had eight children.

          His wife having died, he was married a second time to Susannah McGee, July 9, 1808.  The children of the first marriage
were:  Winnie Ann, who married William Comstock.  This lady grew, picked, carded, spun, and wove the cotton into cloth from
which she made her wedding gown.  Henry Hardin, lived and died on a farm in Sugar Tree Run in Breckinridge County.  Malinda
married William Crawford, died and was buried in the Fort.  William was postmaster in Frankfort for many years.

          Elijah was killed at Hustons Springs in Hardinsburg in 1815.  The other children were Amelia, John, and Jehu.
 
Colonel Hardin also reared a niece and nephew.  Daniel Hardin and Polly, his sister who later married Ben Huff, the first sheriff
of Grayson County.

          John Hardin, William’s uncle, also made his home with this daring nephew, and was murdered by Indians, it was generally
supposed a short distance from the Fort on what is now the Old Brandenburg Road.

          Colonel William Hardin and his party had floated down the Ohio River as far as the Falls at Louisville.  Here they remained
for a short time but not liking the lay of the land he and a party of five men floated on down the river looking for a place to make a colony as
he called it.  Upon reaching the point where Stephensport now stands, he liked the looks of the country, and sailed from the Ohio River up
Sinking Creek to the Falls near where Sample is.

          It so happened that there was a part of Indians at the falls where they landed.  They left their boat and went overland,
followed by the Indians, to the present sight of Hardinsburg where Big Bill declared the place for his colony.

          By the time they reached the spot which they would choose for their colony they realized they were being followed by Indians
in superior numbers.  They decided to avoid a fight by traveling over land to Hines Fort, now Elizabethtown, which was established the year
before, 1779.  By traveling all night they reached a large spring near Rough Creek, where they stopped to slake their thirst and rest for a
few minutes.  “It is probable that this is where Big Springs is now.”  It was at this point that the Indians caught up with Hardin’s party,
and a fight followed.  One of the group Mr. St. Clair was killed but Big Bill and the rest escaped to Hines Fort.

          Determined to establish his colony he returned the following spring with twelve families and built a typical frontier fort of stockade
walls and watch towers at the corners, and several cabins near the fort.  This was the last pioneer fort built on the frontier, and the fartherest
west of any frontier fort in America.  When his settlement was completed, news came of an Indian Village being built on the Saline Creek in
Illinois.

          Hardin was not well pleased that the Indians should be in such a close vicinity to his little settlement so he secured a group of eighty
men and went into Illinois to dislodge them.  When they arrived there were but three warriors guarding the village.  They were shot.
 
Hardin, then deployed his men to a small forest surrounded by open land and on all sides to await the return of the Indian party.  When
they returned the battle was furious, often hand-to-hand combat.  Many of the whites were killed.  At the outbreak of the battle,
Big Bill was shot through the leg.  Sensing the moral support his men needed, he climbed upon a huge fallen chestnut log and continued to direct
the battle.  The Indians were all killed or put to flight.  This battle was never reported to the government and so has more often than
not been passed over by historians, but it was reputed to have been one of the bloodiest battles in the winning of Kentucky.  Among the number
of the eighty men who went with Colonel Hardin to dislodge the Indians in Illinois, were: 

Christopher Bush, Samuel Spencer, William McDaniels, William Luce, John Jolly, William Weatherholt,
Charles Hamilton, John Bruner, ____ Brearshera, James Jennings, William Kelso, Henry Dean, ___ Barger,
___ Carlyle, ___ Shiveley, Mordicia Lincoln, John Faith, ___ Miller, Samuel Crawford, Edgar Pate, Adam Barr,
Ben Huff, Ben Connstock, Horace Marry, Archibal Lockard, Daniel Meredith, ___ Haynes, ___ Hardiway,
___ Claycomb, ___ Payne, William Perrin, ___ Rice, Joseph Toby, ___ Taul, George Robards, Richard Stevens,
and ___ Lampton.

          The descendants of many of the above families have remained in Breckinridge County, the place of their birth, and are prominently
connected with the business, social, and religious life of the county.

          Colonel William Hardin wore a coveted trophy under his coonskin cap, and many a young Indian brave paid the supreme price for trying
to collect it.  Among the Indians, he was reported to have been killed more than once and as a result he was feared by many as a ghost and has
dispersed large groups of them by just being seen.

          The year after the fort was built, several acres of ground had been cleared and the settlers were planting corn.  Miss Sarah McDonald,
a young girl, was dropping corn for Colonel Hardin when they were attacked by the Indians.  Colonel Hardin was shot through the lungs, a lesser
physique could not have survived.  One Indian warrior, realizing he was shot, came forward with his knife to take Big Bill’s scalp.  Sarah
handed Colonel Hardin his rifle which he pointed at the Indian causing him to run back.  Sarah finally succeeded in getting Colonel Hardin his gun
and said, “Point it at him, Mr. Bill or he’ll kill us both.”  With great effort Big Bill pointed his gun at the Indian who retreated until Sarah, too, could
get on the horse and they reached the safety of the stockade.

          Colonel Hardin did not shirk his political responsibilities.  From 1810-1813, he was a member of the legislature of Kentucky.

          All residents of Breckinridge County are recipients of Colonel Hardin’s charity and foresight.  Whether we sit on the
courthouse rail and whittle, or once a year visit the sheriff’s office to pay taxes; whether we hold political office in the courthouse or pay for our misbehavior
in jail, we are on ground donated to Breckinridge County as a public property by this great man.

          This magnificent man died in Breckinridge County, and lies today in an unmarked grave near U. S. 60 Highway and Hardin’s
Creek.  No one knows his exact burial place to any closer tolerance than one acre.  What an end to our county’s greatest pioneer!

 

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