Maysville, Ky., Saturday, September 20th, 1879.
Reminiscences of Fifty Years ago by Dr. M. F. Adamson.
Learning we were to have a re-union of the old citizens of Germantown and vicinity I thought it would not be amiss to give some recollections of those who resided in said village fifty years ago.
I was the first-born of my mother, on the 9th day of January 1814. My father and mother were living in a cabin on a farm owned by Aaron Frazee, twin brother of my grandfather, Moses Frazee, now owned by J.H. Walton, about one and one-half miles from where we are now assembled. My father had lived in the neighborhood from 1800. After several, the family—father, mother and three children—settled more permanently in the village in 1824. It was quite an interesting epoch in the recollection of a boy of nine years to get to live in a town, a change from a cabin or log house to a two-story frame, painted. I had been to school long enough to learn to read and write. I propose to mention briefly some of the then citizens, not one of them now living here to tell us of those days. I only recollect four persons now in the town who were children, (except Mrs. Maria Dimitt, who was grown and just married, but not living in town); Mrs. Mary Ann Pollock, eldest daughter of James Savage, now wife of Dr. A.H.Pollock; Mrs. Elza Coleman, daughter of Francis McClean, and widow of Simpson Coleman; and John McClean, were then living with their parents here. The first and only hotel keeper was major John D. Morford, who settled at a very early day, built his cabin in the woods on the spot where he lived so many years afterwards. His youthful choice for a wife was Racheal Stockwell. They lived until they were very old. She dying first, the major married again, this time Mrs. Lewis; he died in a few months. He left quite a large estate even after most of his slaves left for Canada. The older inhabitants will recollect his reception office and bar-room on Main street in front of his residence, a porch the whole length of the building, where not only the travelers, but those who desired the drinks (and they were not a few) assembled day and night. The major was a very shrewd trader and after he accumulated property, bred and largely in horses. The care of the tavern was mostly in the hands of Mrs. Morford, who afterwards told us how often she would have to empty her pockets filled with cut silver money of that day. They had one child, familiarly called Jack Morford, a fast young man, who was the only customer the major would loan money without security or interest. He was social and much beloved by his young friends. He married a Miss Coleman of Harrison county, and died soon after from fast living. He was a very handsome man, he so impressed me when in full and costly uniform; he paraded on a fine horse leading the cavalry of that day. After major Morford died Mr. John W. Franklin, in Mason and William Daugherty, in Bracken end, established and continued the hotel business, both successfully.
William Currans is the next old citizen I shall speak of. He had a large tannery, and even at that day had accumulated by frugal industry quite a fortune; he was quiet and unobtrusive, attending strictly to his own business. Tanning was a popular trade at that time, and a great many of the sons of well-to-do farmers became his apprentices, some of whom became prominent and useful citizens. Three of Mr. C’s daughters married men who had served a term of years with him. James Savage, John Gregg and Robert P. Dimmitt, who, after their marriages became successful merchants in Germantown. Messers., Savage and Dimmitt lived long lives and died here. Mr. Gregg moved to Rush County, Ind., dying at an advanced age, and leaving a large family, with a fine estate. Besides these merchants at that day, Joseph Frazee sold goods for many years, afterwards in partnership with John M. Gregg. George Keith failed in business and settled on a farm in Pendleton County, lived to an old age, leaving a great many descendents. These were all the merchants I recollect in 1824.
The first physician was Dr. Anderson Doniphan, who continued with opposition for twenty-five or thirty years. I think he settled here about the year 1800. His visits extended over a vast territory, the population being sparse, Bracken, Nicholas, Harrison, Pendleton and across the river in Brown and Adams counties, Ohio. He was quite a large farmer, owned a strong slave force, several mills and a large distillery. The first physicians who came and located here in opposition to the doctor were two brothers, Henry and John Perkins, who remained some time, and doing considerable practice. They went south and died in Louisiana. Then Dr. Frank Chinn, son of Eli Chinn, of Mayslick, located here and did well for awhile, but lost his business and left on account of the opium habit. After he left came Dr. John F. Tomlinson, brother of Joseph F. Thomlinson, D.D., of August College. He remained a few years, and married in Augusta and moved to that place. He died in Cincinnati some years since. After Dr. Doniphan’s death Dr. Samuel Penn, John A. Coburn and A.H. and J. Pollock did the practice until recently. We had, at that early day of which I write, the usual mechanics, such as were absolutely, necessary for the well-being of the community, hatters, tailors, shoemakers, cabinet makers, carpenters, stone masons and wheelwrights. John Burkett was a hatter, an excellent man and citizen, being a prominent man in his county, Bracken, a magistrate, sheriff and a representative at Frankfort. He raised a large and respectable family, his wife being the daughter of Rudolph Black, a farmer near the town. Dr. William Burkett, his eldest son, was my especial associate and friend during curminority. He lives now in Iowa. My recollection is that we had three or four shoemakers. Alexander McCready did most of the business and employed a good many journeyman and apprentices, who broke the peace at any rate, every Saturday night and Sunday. Almost to a man they were dissipated tramps. I think James Peck and Francis McClean had shops in the westend. The latter lived to a good old age and raised a large family of girls. William Lewis and John Hooten were the blacksmiths; the former went to Indiana and the latter to Pendleton county, Ky. He was succeeded by Daniel McAfee, who died of consumption; some of his grandchildren are living in this community. We had three saddlery shops. Ludwell Owens was in the centre of Town, (postmaster for many years) did the largest business. I recollect that once a week we had the post-rider to bring the mails on horseback, announcing his arrival as he came in sight by blowing a long thin horn. In my boyish notions I thought him the most important character in the world. Mr. Owens was postmaster when he died. William Black and William McClean had shops in the westend of town. Mrs. Bettie Black, a German widow lady, was the Mother of Billy Black; she was one of the first settlers of the town; her husband’s name was John, but he had died before I lived. William, Frank, and James McClean were sons of the first settlers, who was an Irishman by birth, John McClean. I recollect he told me when he was eighty years old that he had never been sick a day or taken a dose of medicine in that long life. Samuel Ingram was a carpenter until my father moved into town. Mr. Ingram being old soon ceased work, and my father, George Adamson built most of the houses in town and county for many years, and as soon as I could do so, was his bookkeeper. I need not tell you he lived in this county and Bracken until July 25th last, being eighty-eight and a half years old, having his reason to the last hour and dying from the weight of years. We then had but one cabinet maker, Stanfield G. Pinckard, who manufactured largely for that day; was a very prominent and influential citizen, representing Bracken in the State Legislature. He left a large family, most of whom still in the neighborhood. The only tailor I recollect was Samuel Dicks, a very worthy man, but a very slow tailor, as I well recollect he made my first cloth coat, and he commenced it but did not finish it for six months. He immigrated with the great tide to Indiana and I learn, did well. We had a wagon-maker, Jerry Ballenger, who was quite an old man. He and his wife were much respected. I remember his death some years after. He is the great-grandfather of the family in Mason. Mr. W.R. Thompson was the wheelwright; he made big and little wheels for the community, who at that time, made most of their clothing out of wool and flax. Mr. Thompson through life was one of our most intelligent citizens, was well posted on the politics of the day. He had three sons and a daughter, with whom I was associated in town and the schools. I think probably one son and the daughter are alive somewhere in the west. Mr. Thompson and wife both died in Germantown. I don’t recollect any stone-masons at that time living in town, but John and Edward Case were the masons who did most of the stone work, laying foundations and building chimneys, they lived southeast of town and were honest, cleaver men, raised large and respectable families. Many of their descendants are in part of the county now. After they commenced building some brick houses they employed brick-makers and layers from other parts of Mason and Bracken counties. The first money I ever earned was in bearing off brick from the moulder at twenty-five cents a day.
We had a woo-carding factory, and connected with it a linseed oil press, owned by Samuel Reeves and John White, who sold out and removed to Indiana. At this time we did not have any schoolhouse in the village, but the nearest seat of learning was one mile distant, on the hill near Mrs.Lloyd’s and Robert Walton’s, northwest of the town. I recollect some of those who taught in that house: Harvey Holton, John Humlong, **- Lockridge, Enoch Lloyd and L. Rice Bolton. After the sprit of education had increased the town and neighborhood raised enough money to build a new schoolhouse between the town and Mr. Curran’s residence. I think Mr. Curran gave the lot. The first teacher was William Ellis, brother-in-law to S.C. Pinckard, Charles B. Smith, and others; after this Charles B. Smith established an independent school. Mr. Smith was the very best teacher of that day, a man of culture and morals. From him I received the best instruction of my youth. He taught as long as he lived, much beloved by the entire community.
Until this time an old structure in the west part of town was the only house of worship; I think it was an union meetinghouse. I recollect once, soon after we came to town, of hearing the celebrated Mr. Stribley preach in that house. At about this date Rev. James Savage built a frame chapel, owning it as his individual property. My father built it. This was the first and only church building for a number of years. It was in this house I received the received the religious convictions of my youth, where my kind father and mother led me to hear such men as then labored in the Methodist ministry – Stamper, Tydings, Corrims, Holliday, McKnight, Barger, Atkins, Baker, Collard, Tomlinson, Durkin, Tascom, McCoeon, Taylor, Bush, Stevenson, Ray, and others. The regular Baptists often preached in this house, as they had no house in the town, but several large congregations in the vicinity. Those I recollect most distinctly were W. Warden, William Vaughen, Jesse Holton. Vardamin was the great Baptist minister of the day, but I don’t recollect of ever hearing him preach. Mr. Vaughen was very popular, personally and in the pulpit. He studied most of his sermons on the tailor’s board. He preached a year in this house, the outside community paying him a small salary. He was a man of rare ability, and would have been a very distinguished preacher if he had had early culture. He died a few years since at Danville, at the house of his son, (who is a Baptist preacher), over ninety years of age, preaching as long as he could get to the church. Old Locus meeting house, west of town; Bracken and Lee’s Creek meeting house, east were popular preaching points for the leading denominations – the regular Baptists; nearly all the early settlers who belonged to any church were of that denomination.
About this time, 1825, great excitement broke out in this branch of the church by the preaching of Alexander Campbell and other former Baptist preachers who embraced his peculiar views, while then but a boy, I attended often with my aunt, who was a Baptist; all my Frazee relatives took position with the Reformers, as they were called then. I recollect hearing Mr. Campbell, D. Burnett, Creath, Rains, Gates, and others who were considered talented preachers. It is necessary for me to say they built up large churches in Germantown, and especially in Mason county, uniting most of the wealth in the Baptist church in their organization. I recollect a very warm discussion between Mr. Vaughen and Mr. Abernathy at the old Lee’s Creek meeting house. Large crowds attended, and much discussion was created in the community, and even in families. They have long since established themselves as a branch of Protestant Christianity, and the Baptists have recovered from the division made in their ranks. The Baptists, Christians and Methodists have been leading denominations in that region from that to this day.
I have mentioned most of the householders in Germantown of fifty years ago. Of course there are a few families which have escaped my recollection. We now only have a small part of the descendants of those men, who, when taken together, were an upright and intelligent people; and we who are here feel proud of our fathers and mothers, who were pioneers of this part of Kentucky. I cannot name in detail all the settlers around this village at that time, but I can name a few leading land-holders in the immediate vicinity, many of whose descendants are here, many scattered, many in their graves. Among those whose names are familiar, and whose children were associated with me at school and after we were grown, were the Frazees, Couburns, Pollocks, Norrises, Lloyd, Thompsons, Humlongs, Waltons, Lashmans, Dicks, Hugheys, Reeves, Brownings, Harmans, Andersons, Mannens, Kilgores, Owens, Fentons, Mastersons, Strodes, Fields, Worthingtons, and several others. These old settlers were upright and respected, and as intelligent as the farmers of the present day in Kentucky; and those present who are their descendants have reason to be proud of their plain but honest forefathers, and I hope the second and third generations will leave to the next as good a reputation as have those who are gone. Oh, how I would prize the likeness of those dead men. I have but two, George Adamson, my father; and Dr. Anderson Doniphan, my medical preceptor. I have a relic of the latter which I prize very much; others might not, but to me it is precious; it is the bones of old man Huff, who left his body to Dr. Doniphan seventy years ago. They are well preserved. Hundreds of persons visited the bones of this old man strung up in the second story of his office.
I will not close without mentioning the names of two other citizens of the neighborhood to whom I am much indebted. They are Joseph Frazee, who owned the land upon which the fair improvements were located, who was a special friend in time of need, and continued so as long as he lived; how many instances of his friendship rush upon me; the other, Dr. John A Coburn, with whom I was intimately associated in my boyhood, a fellow medical student, a partner in practice, I cannot but feel the very kindest recollections. When I heard he was dying I hastened to his bedside; with his cold hand he grasped mine, a few hours before his death, and said: "You and I have been life-long friends. I am dying now, and I say to you good old father. Uncle Dick Lloyd and his good wife were also the very kindest and best friends of my youth".
In fact, when I commenced this list so many rush into my mind that I mention no more. I am glad to meet the descendants of any of these pioneers’ settlers, especially my life-long friend, Ellijah T. Currens. It is truly gratifying, not only to me, but to the entire community to have him a guest who was the only son of that worthy pioneer who settled in this neighborhood more than eighty years ago, whose mother was of that Christian family, the Thompsons.
Another person I meet here is Thomas Kenton, of Robertson county, a great nephew of distinguished pioneer of Mason county, Simon Kenton. Mr. Thomas Kenton was a soldier in the war of 1812. He is in the eighty-ninth year of his age, and enjoys the society of his friends of that period, very few of whom are alive. Although so few alive of fifty years ago the second and third generations are glad to meet them.
The history of the early settlers of this neighborhood, in fact, of the whole of our beloved Kentucky, is the most interesting of any western or southern state. We hope our friend William Hixon will soon have his history of Mason county in print, which will transmit to our descendants the deeds of noble ancestry.
This article contributed by John (Jack) Adamson Deveneau, May, 2001.
Note: This article does contain typographic errors, both in my typing but also due to previous (unknown numbers) typing and extractions. If you have access to an original copy of this article, I would be interested in receiving a photocopy of such.
Jerry F. Adamson. August, 2001