Monday, November 9, 2009

Kentucky "Pioneers," In Memoriam

Over the span of 50 years, on this day, Kentucky lost 3 of its pioneers; its founders; its visionaries - in every sense of the word. Today, we remember Dr. Thomas Walker (1715-1794), Robert Patterson (1753-1827), and Rev. Barton Warren Stone (1772-1844).

Dr.Thomas Walker (1715-1794)
Dr. Thomas Walker was a Virginia physician, living next door to Thomas Jefferson's father (for awhile, he was even Jefferson's guardian!). But he will likely be best remembered as a member of the Loyal Land Company, and leading the first organized English expedition into KY. This trek took place in 1750, and although it did not quite make it into the Bluegrass Region (he turned back after climbing a tree & only seeing more rough terrain ahead, even though he was only a couple days away), it resulted in a journal that assisted in future expeditions, as well as the alleged first house in KY (near Barbourville). It also resulted in the naming of the "Cumberland Gap" (in Southeast KY), for the Duke of Cumberland at the time. Walker did not technically name the Gap, but the River below it; throughout time, the surrounding features adopted the name "Cumberland" to match the River.

Later, in 1779-80, Walker surveyed the boundary between KY & TN, which was called "Walker's Line." Surveying techniques at the time meant there were a number of deviations, which assorted people accounted for & fixed over the next 100 years or so, but his basic boundary (at least to the Jackson Purchase region) is still the basis for the KY/TN border. Dr. Thomas Walker died on November 9, 1794. Years later, he was remembered as "Prof. Robertson" periodically wrote to the 1910 Berea Citizen, recording his travels "In Old Ferginny" (as he called it). This excerpt describes a bit of Walker's history, as "Prof. Robertson" recalls it in his August 4, 1901 column. (*Note: This is ONLY an excerpt! And also not in the original format! I have reformatted the columns for easier viewing. Please refer to the hyperlink above for the original newspaper format)

Robert Patterson (1753-1827)
Robert Patterson was another Pioneer & KY founder, as well as visionary, through his efforts in TRULY building the Commonwealth. He came to the state in 1775 with 6 other men and helped build what eventually became Georgetown. Then, he moved on to Harrodsburg and, a year later, returned to Fort Pitt (PA) to attain ammo to defend Bryan's Station during a siege! Three years later (1779), he headed the 25-man team that built the first blockhouse, which became the basis for Lexington. Aside from laying out Lexington, Patterson was elected a city trustee for 7 terms from 1781-1791, then every year between 1796 to 1806. He also participated in the 3rd KY Constitutional Convention, and ultimately became a state representative for Fayette County in the KY General Assembly, serving for 8 years. Aside from his political career, he served alongside George Rogers Clark, John Bowman, & Benjamin Logan in various battles, campaigns & skirmishes against domestic and foreign threats - most notably British & Native American - ultimately rising to the rank of Colonel. He died on November 9, 1827. According to this 1901 announcement in the Bourbon News, his log cabin was eventually moved (and presumably preserved) to Ohio.

Rev. Barton Warren Stone (1772-1844)
Barton Warren Stone was born in Maryland in 1772, and received his first pastorates in Kentucky & Tennessee during the beginnings of what would become the Great Revival. He helped organize the first significant camp-meeting at Cane Ridge, KY, which lasted nearly a week. It attracted thousands of people from all over to listen to sermons, and debate theological & social issues. Some people became so moved they began "speaking in tongues" or experienced "holy jerks."

In 1803, Stone left the KY Presbytery and over the next 21 years, traveled through Kentucky & Tennessee advocating for Christian unity. In 1824, he met Alexander Campbell, who supported a similar movement. Within 8 years, with the help of John Smith, they co-founded 3 new Christian denominations - the Disciples of Christ, the Christian Church, and the Church of Christ. Rev.

Barton Warren Stone died on November 9, 1844, but his religious legacy lived on in many ways, perhaps most controversially through his grandson Charles Chilton Moore, who published the KY religious newspaper the Bluegrass Blade, out of Lexington (most of its short run is available in digital copies are available on KDL). Moore's controversial views & publications involved him in many debates, much like his grandfather, though they also landed Moore in jail. Nevertheless, both Moore & Stone are at the very least nationally known KY trailblazers. This 1902 "Letter to the Editor" from the Bluegrass Blade shows the level of respect attained by Rev. Barton Warren Stone, as a New Yorker opts to name their child in his honor.

1 comment:

  1. The Patterson Cabin remains in Lexington and is located on Third Street on the campus of Transylvania University. See my post publishing today at