usgw logo USGenWeb Archives Project
Breckinridge County, Kentucky
usarch logo
seal breckmap seal

THESE ARCHIVES BUILT BY YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS.
PLEASE CONTRIBUTE TODAY!

New Easy to use Submission Forms!

This Page Updated Saturday, 02-Apr-2011 18:42:06 EDT

BRECKINRIDGE COUNTY, KENTUCKY
AREA COMMUNTIES OF THE PAST AND PRESENT
*** FALLS OF ROUGH***

 

          Perhaps one of the most colorful and picturesque places to be found anywhere is at the Falls of Rough River on the boundary line between Breckinridge and Grayson County.  One o fhte most interesting stories in Kentucky history has been the unfolding of events at the Falls of Rough.  Long before any white men came west of the Appalachian Mountains, the ancient people, or Indians, had congregated at this point.  There was a long and steep rapids in Rough River and there has been found in this vicinity many Indian relics that definitely belong to several different tribes indicating that the falls was well known to the red man.  Due to the power of the falls it has been a site of a mill since 1790.  The first white settler at the Falls of Rough was a Mr. George Wilson from North Carolina.  It was he who built the first dam.

          One of the first judges of the Kentucky Court of Appeals was Benjamin Sebastian.  In 1803, Kentucky had been fairly well populated, and some one thousand people inhabited Breckinridge County.  In this year (1803) Thomas Jefferson, president of the United States, succeeded in purchasing from France for the sum of $15,000,000 what is known as the Louisiana Purchase.  This doubled the size of the United States.  Alexander Hamilton had been challenged by Aaron Burr to a duel in which Hamilton was killed.  Because of this duel, Burr became very unpopular in the East and came to Kentucky.  On arriving in the West, Burr spent a few days in Lexington after making the acquaintance of Benjamin Sebastian and James Wilkinson.  He later went to Nashville, Tennessee, where he spent some time with Andrew Jackson.  It was on this trip that Burr decided to take over the Louisiana Territory and become King Burr.  Right at this particular time, which was just prior to our second conflict with England (War of 1812) Kentucky was experiencing trouble with the Indians of the Northwest and our only trade outlet was down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans.  Burr conceived the plan of trading Kentucky to the Spanish for their support in securing the Louisiana Territory.  It was about 1806, that Judge Sebastian became one of the foursome (Aaron Burr, Judge Innes, James Wilkinson, and Benjamin Sebastian) in what is known as the Burr Conspiracy or Spanish Conspiracy.  It was discovered the Judge Sebastian, while he was a member of the Kentucky Court of Appeals, was drawing a pension of $2,000 a year from King Charles of Spain and on December 6, 1806, the Kentucky House of Representative voted the articles of impeachment against Judge Sebastian.  He, together with Aaron Burr and Wilkinson, was indicted.  Henry Clay was the attorney for Aaron Burr and Ben Hardin, formerly of Elizabethtown or Hines Fort as it was originally called, was attorney for Judge Sebastian.  This Ben Hardin is the same one, who was the first Commonwealth Attorney of Grayson County.  Henry Clay was undoubtedly the greatest lawyer in the west and Burr was acquitted upon the technicality that no overt act of conspiracy upon his part had be established.  Mr. Ben Hardin saw that it was a foregone conclusion that the senate would convict Judge Sebastian upon the articles of impeachment, so he asked for a compromise, whereby the charges would be dismissed, if Sebastian would resign as the Judge of the Court of Appeals.  It is my opinion that Judge Sebastian was a loyal Kentuckian who had been misled into believing, due to geographical conditions, Kentucky would prosper more as a Spanish Colony.  Judge Sebastian, with this blemish upon his character, in order to get away from the public gaze, went to what is now Falls of Rough in both Breckinridge and Grayson County and purchased several thousand acres of land.  Some years later he went to Washington D. C. and met with the older Willis Green who at that time was a member of Congress.  While he was in Washington he sold to Willis Green his entire holdings in Kentucky.

          Colonel Willis Green came in possession of this land in 1820.  In 1823, he built the house, store, and mill that stands there today.  George Wilson built the first dam and Benjamin Sebastian built the second one across the river.  It too was made of logs and did not last too long.  It washed out after Mr. Green took it over.  Mr. Green built the dam out of rock but made the mistake of running it straight across the river even though it was tied well at each end.  It lasted for several years but a flash flood hit the same in 1855 and it split in two in the middle and opened up like a giant double gate that’s hinged on each end and fastened in the middle.  At this time the Green estate had fallen into the hands of Mr. Lafe Green.  Money was scarce at the Green plantation and he had to make some move so he borrowed $20,000 from B. F. Beard in Hardinsburg to rebuild the dam.  Mr. Beard had just recently returned from California, where he had participated in the ’49 Gold Rush, and was one of the fortunate ones who struck it rich.  His wealth, however, was not gained by pick, shovel, and gold pan.  He was one of the smarter ones who made his fortune in straight business deals and lived to bring it home.  After borrowing the $20,000 Mr. Green rebuilt the dam from stone.  The work was done by a Mr. Edgar Bennett, one of the finer stone masons of Basin Springs. Each stone in the base layer had a hole drilled in it and a matching hole drilled in the solid bedrock in the bottom of the riverbed.  An iron pin was put in these holes making it impossible for the base of the dam to move.  This rock dam was built on an angle where the pressure above only tended to strengthen it and it stands today a tribute to the ingenuity of its builder.

          There was enough lumber sawed in this old mill to more than have built a barn over the entire 5,000 acre tract of land.  The old circle saw that was installed in 1823, was replaced by a large 6 foot by 8 inch band saw in 1914.  This saw was used until 1921, then replaced by a larger one, 6 ft. by 10 in.  Timber of the quality that the Green Brothers, as they were known by now, needed to saw was becoming scarce, so the mill became silent in 1933.  The mill was torn down in 1938, and ironically, as the Old Branch line of the L & N Railroad wabbly supported the last train of its career in June, 1941, it carried with it the old Falls of Rough sawmill.  It was shipped to Florida and sold to the Miller Brothers Lumber Company.

          Mr. Lafe Green died in 1907, leaving three boys and one girl:  Willis, Rob, Preston, and Jenny.  None of them were ever married.  The Green Brothers were very thrifty business men.  At one time during the late teens, from 1915 to 1920, they owned 8,000 acres of land.  In 1945, when the farm census was taken, this was a multiple unit operation so the state supervisor was called in to assist in the census taking.  Upon completion he said that this was the largest single farming operation in the state of Kentucky.

          The flour mill had a 25 barrel per day capacity and operated on an average of 250 days a year, grinding some 6,250 barrels of flour per year.  It shut down only when the river was flooded.

          Their best grade of flour was called “Grayson Lily”, the second was called “White Rose”, and the third grade was named “Good Enough”.  Much of this flour was shipped to Louisville for further distribution, the rest was sold in the surrounding counties for a radius of 75 to 100 miles.

          Many farmers in the near-by communities sold their wheat to the Green Brothers but left a certain amount in storage for their own use.  They could then go to the mill and get a barrel of flour when they needed it.  The mill exacted a toll of one-twelfth for their storage and grinding fee.  Eight 24 pound sacks constituted a barrel, but each sack had only 23 pounds, coming four pounds short of a standard barrel of flour, but the cost of the sacks was responsible for this shortage.

          The meal from the Falls of Rough mill was named “Old Fashioned Water Ground”.  They never used any corn except what they produced themselves, and it was all “Boone County White,” because this variety has a white cob and does not leave any little red specks in the meal.

          The Old Green mansion is fabulous, and the furniture and silver ware, much of which was made from the old Spanish silver coins, was something you only read about in books.  The library, itself, was doubtless worth a king’s ransom, but like all the rest which history records, Father Time, like the miller himself, began taking his toll.  Willis was first to go, then Rob, then Preston, leaving only Jenny to hold the fort.  On September 3, 1965, the finally toll was taken.  Miss Jenny, last leaf on the Green tree, at the age of 85 years and 11 months, passed on to her reward.

          This was the end of a generation and the end of a great family.  One dynasty has passed on and the land which rightfully belongs to mother nature, into whose bosom the Green family has taken refuge, is passed into the custody of a cousin from Texas, a Mr. and Mrs. McGee, who have seven children.  Thus a new dynasty at the Falls of Rough is born.

          George Washington did on 5,000 acres of land in Grayson County near Falls of Rough; however, none of the Green farm was included in the Washington boundary.  This tract of land was acquired by George Washington from Richard Henry Lee, commonly known as “Light Horse Harry.”  This deed, at the time, was located in Hardin County, which was formed from Nelson County in 1792.  The deed sets out in consideration 600 pounds current money of Virginia, which was equivalent to $10,000, but the real basis of the trade was the transfer of Washington to Lee of his famous horse, “Magnolia.”  Lee had always wanted to own this horse, and on December 9, 1788, George Washington made this entry in his diary:

                   Concluded my exchange after dinner today with Colo. Hy. Lee of Magnolia for 5,000 acres of Ky. Land.

          On December 11, 1788, Lee wrote to Washington as follows:

                   It is probable I may take Magnolia in one or two days and send him to South Carolina.  Then let me ask the favor of you furnishing me with

                   his pedigree and age, certified, and your bill of sale.  The lands I pay for him I estimate at 500 lbs.

          Washington’s 5,000 acres of land lay in two tracts:  one 3,000 acres and the other 2,000 acres.  They lay on the south side of Rough River just below the mouth of Caney Creek, what is now the Yeaman community.

 

INDEX HOME