Collections: 
0-9 | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Page 3 of City of Louisville and a glimpse of Kentucky / Young Ewing Allison.

item | thumbnails | details | text | pdf
Download this image
ON July 8, 1773, Captain Thomas Bullitt, at the h head of a small company of adventurous pioneers, landed at the mouth of Beargrass creek at the Falls of the Ohio, and pitched his tent in the pri- meval forest that covered the banks of the river. The water was very low at that season of the year, and, at night, to guard against surprise and attack from the savages, Captain Bullitt and his men retreated to the exposed rocks in the river, and slept with pickets out. These dozen men were the first ele- ments of population upon the spot where to-day there is a city, with suburbs, contain- ing 275,000 souls. Captain Bullitt was a land-surveyor, and came to Kentucky to survey, under the warrant of Lord Dunmore, certain lands which were included in what are now Jefferson and Bullitt counties. Before he completed his survey he hlid out a town site comprising part of the present city of Louisville, which was called " Falls of the Ohio." It is curious to observe that from the very first beginnings of settlement in Louisville the unusual advantages of the location were seized upon with prophetic instinct. It was before the days of keel-boats even, but the first-comers recognized the importance of a location that was at the head of navi- gation, even though the growth of the town must wait upon the settlement of the country west of it and along the rivers. From that day in July, 1773, when the feet of the Virginians first trod the forest on the spot where a great and beautiful city was destined to stand, the history of Louisville has grown to represent the characteristic courage, intelli- gence, and enterprise of the people who founded the city. When that history comes to be written by the student who can comprehend the many sides and the many causes of events, it will be found full of the romance of actual heroic achievements, not only in the adventures of the pioneers who settled it, but in the social and commercial enterprises of a people who struggled for seventy-five years under the oppression of a domestic institution that was well-calculated to repress, if not to destroy, all enterprise and practical progress. We shall see, also, that, when the weight of slavery was removed, Louisville, more rapidly than any other city in the slave-holding States, comprehended the new order of things, and, before half a generation was sped, had made such an organic change in the character of her interests as to place her upon equal terms with those cities that had been built up in the North by the intelligence, the thrift, and industry of free labor. Although Captain Bullitt laid out a town site, and a house was built at the mouth of Beargrass the year following, yet the times were not propitious for settlement, and years passed before the town was to be inspired with life. These years were full of feeling on the part of the people against the Virginia government, which was accused of indifference towards the outlying county of Fincastle, which then comprised the present State of Kentucky. Pinally Kentucky was created a sovereign State three years after the town of Louisville had been laid out and incorporated. The town was founded upon a tract of one thousand acres of land which had been owned by John Connelly who had forfeited it by being an active Tory duringthe war with England. Louisville was named for Louis XVI., the ill-fated victim of the French Revo- lution. There was already a nucleus of French settlers at the Falls corresponding with the movement of French gen- erally through the North-west Territory. Gratitude to the French king for declaring against England in the War of the Revolution suggested the name. At this time the number of settlers was very small and there is no way of discovering the actual population. The number in 18oo has long been accepted as 359, but there are good reasons for believing this an underestimate, and it is probable that there were nearly a thousand inhabitants of Louisville, and the immediate vicinity, in i8oo. This slight nucleus, that existed in 1789, of the great city that was to be built on the spot, comprised men of quick intelligence and foresight When the town was founded there is reason to believe that the enormous value of a canal around the Falls had been suggested. Certain it is that a map of the town, drawn in 1793, presented the projected canal virtually as it was built thirty-seven years later. It is interesting to know that one of the first agitators of the canal project was General James Wilkinson, who settled in Lexington in 1784, at the age of twenty-six, after having made a fine record in the Revolution. His restless, enterprising, and adventurous spirit, sustained by a manner and 3