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 i Compiled by Workers of the Kentucky Writers’ Project
Of the Work Projects Administration
Sponsored by
THE Umox Courvrv FISCAL Conn
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$.2 f kg 976.99 W939u 1972 `
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First Published in December, 1941
Srxrs-wins SP0Ns0R or rm; 1,i·:N·rucxY Wm·rEns’ Pnomer
JOHN M. C.—\RM()DY, Administrator
_ Howano O. HUNTER, Commissioner
FLORENCE KERR, Assistant Commissioner
GEORGE H. G<»0DMAN, State Administrator
A Reproduction by LINIGRAPHIC, INc.
4400 Jackson Avenue
Evansville, Indiana 47715
Nineteen Hundred Seventy Two
_ Binding by
Portland, Indiana
lil"; _`-.   _   ,. ., , , .» . . . . .· . .- » . ;_~

 P R E F A C E
Representative of western Kentucky’s counties is Union, the
subject of this volume in the American Guide Series. It is
typical for its location on a large, navigable river, typical also
for its devotion to agriculture pursuits. It shares with several
other counties of this section of the State the possession of a
thriving coal-mining industry.
I Its history, except during the Civil War period and when
floods or other natural disasters have struck, is uneventful. Its
people have worked hard, enjoyed simple pleasures, built their
agrarian society without receiving, or seeking, fame or notoriety
in the world outside.
Because of Union County’s very adherence to the normal, its
story may be a richer contribution to the whole body of knowl-
edge of American folkways than if that story were a recital of
spectacular events, studded with the exploits of celebrated men
and Women.
The Kentucky Writers’ Project wishes to acknowledge with
gratitude the co—operation of the sponsor of Union County Past
and Present, Judge Earle C. Clements of the Union County
Fiscal Court. We wish to acknowledge also our appreciation of
the helpfulness of Mrs. B. G. Waller, Jr., and Miss Lila Holt,
presidents respectively of the Morganfield and Sturgis Woman’s I
Clubs, and the members of their advisory boards: Mrs. John
Reburn, Mrs. Margaret Briscoe, Mrs. W. H. Waggener, and Mrs.
J. Waller Taylor in Morganfield; Mrs. H. C. Dedman, Mrs. Dud-
ley Peyton, and Mrs. Edd O’Nan in Sturgis.
A list of the many residents of Union County on whose stores
of recollection and information the Writers' Project drew in as-
sembling data may be found in the chapter of Acknowledgements.
Other important sources of material were the old History of
Union County, published in 1886 by the Evansville, Indiana,
Courier; L. and R. H. Collins' History of Kentucky, George Hus-
ton’s Memories of Eighty Years, Fortescue Cuming’s A Toultg
the Western C  county rec`oH 5€r_files.
_’TlE—manuscript ofwnion County Past and Present was pre-
pared under the direction of LaMar Hamilton, formerly of the
Louisville staff of the Writers' Project. The research staff in
Union County was headed by Sarah D. Young, Sturgis. Her

 assistants were Katherine F. Berry, Morganfield; George T.
· Brown, Clay; Virgil Cartwright, Morganfield; Beulah Hancock,
Sturgis; Kate L. Hart, Uniontown; Nora F. Jackson, Caseyville;
, Allyne M. Omer, Morganfield; Nannie G. Reynolds, DeKoven;
Mary L. Smith, Uniontown; and Ruth K. Steward, Caseyville.
The frontispiece map was re—drafted by H. Don Unland, of the
Tennessee Writers’ Project, from a map originally prepared by
the Kentucky State Planning Board. We wish to thank William
R. McDaniel, state supervisor of the Tennessee Writers’ Project,
for this contribution to the book.
State Supervisor,
Kentucky Writers’ Project
. li

‘» C O N T EN T S
Foreword by Earle C Clements, Judge Union County Fiscal Court . vii
; Preface .... . ........... ix
F List of Illustrations ............. xiii l
yy Natural Setting ....,......... 1
Prehistoric Times ...,.......... 6
The Establishment of the County and Its Government .... 10
The Era of Settlement ............ 27
War between the States ............ 48
Economic Development ............ 56
Early Churches .,.........,.. 78
Schools ...........,..... 85
Morganfield: the County Seat .......... 92
Sturgis: Town of King Coal ........... 119
Uniontown: Down on the Ohio .......... 150
Caseyville ................ 168
Delioven ....,........... 172
Sullivan . ..............i. 181
ry; Waverly . .... I ,.......,... 184
  Villages and Hamlets ............. 191
  Biographical Sketches .......... . . · 204
  Points of Interest .............. 234
  Acknowledgements ......4....,.. 213
  Index ................. xv

il _ .»—.   .   .·»¤ . -— - -· · ·· ~’ ‘ " "¢•

Map of Union County .......... Frontispiece
Page I
Union County Courthouse ........... 16
Old Union Academy ........ · ..... 17
Anvil Rock ............... 17
St. Vincent Academy ............ 58
Boxville School .......i...... 58
Rapier Farm ............... 59
Hereford Cattle .............. 59
Ross Spalding House ............ 94
Waller House .............. 94
Morganfield Residential Street .......... 95
Library and Woman's Club ........... 95
Lcgion Park Community Building ......... 136
American Legion Picnic ............ 136 `
Ohio Valley College Dormitory ...,...... 137
Sturgis High School ......,...... 137
Sturgis Baptist Church ............ 174
First Christian Church ........i... 174
E. M. B. A. Building . .........,.. 175
Legion Community Building, Sturgis ........ 175
Coal Tipple In Ohio River ........... 202
Interior of Coal Mine ............ 202
Gravel Pump Boat in River ,......... . 203
Ohio River Flood of 1937 ........... 203

 " N
' _{ 3
ir _ ,»—. .:. . . 4.._ J -¤- » » ·— - ·· ·-—· · -’ · ’ ` *4

·    NION COUNTY, with its broad expanse of gently
    undulating land, embraces 357.5 square miles on
  the western edge of the Western Coal Field. Along
  ‘ its northern and western borders, for a distance of I
@*7* approximately thirty-six miles, the Ohio River
fiows in long, majestic curves. On the southwest, Union County
is separated from Crittenden by the Tradewater River; Webster
County borders it on the southeast, and on the northeast lies
Henderson, from which Union County was formed in 1811. On
the opposite shores of the Ohio are the mouths of the Wabash
and Saline Rivers and Shawneetown, Illinois, the rough—hewn
portal of the Middle West in pioneer times.
The terrain is in general rolling to hilly, the lowlands being
confined to the bottoms along the Ohio and Tradewater Rivers.
A conspicuous range of hilly uplands stretches in a southeastern
direction from Shawneetown to the Webster County line. Eleva-
tions range from a maximum of 600 feet on the ridges just south
of Morganfield to a minimum of 315 feet above sea level at the
confluence of the Tradewater and Ohio Rivers. A
Geologically, the outcrops of the county consist of an alter-
nating sequence of sandstones, shales, and coals included within
the Pennsylvanian formation with a large amount of Pleistocene
and Recent sands, clays, and silts along the river fiood plains.
In the southern part of the county there are massive, thick-
bedded sandstones which are favorable for quarrying operations.
Mineral resources include coal, gas, and oil. The county has
produced more than a million tons of coal in a single year, while
oil in small quantities has been secured in the waters of Highland
Creek at depths ranging from 600 to 800 feet in what has been
regarded as the Cypress sandstone. Clays suitable for ordinary
brickmaking are abundant, and the Ohio River affords an inex-
haustible source of sand and gravel.
The county as a whole is well drained, the Ohio and Trade-
water Rivers and their tributaries being the factors in the
natural watering and drainage system of the district. Springs
are numerous. A fine white sulphur_,spring_five miles south of
Morganfield has been a popular resort for many years; and on
Highland Creek near Uniontown there is a spring from which tar

or oil flows in considerable quantities. Other springs in the
` county possess chalybeate of line quality.
Along the 36—mile shore line of the Ohio a.re the river bottoms,
a fringe of fertile fiatland. Not far from the shore the ground
p rises, then dips; and inland from these ridges is a. succession of
sloughs, ponds, and shallow lakes. Their alignment follows sub-
stantially the curving eourse of the river, into which they cannot
empty because of the higher ground nearer the river’s edge.
ln some of the sloughs and ponds the water is stagnant, in
others it is clear. Among them, Dixon and Harding Ponds and
Geiger and Morton’s Lakes are best adapted to swimming and
ln places the strip of marsh land attains a width of more than
three miles; but it narrows down to a quarter—mile at the down-
stream end, near the Crittenden County line. Several of the
sloughs hold water throughout the year. They range upward in
size from small mudholes to small lakes and their total area is
about 25,000 acres.
When the hrst settlers came to Union County, they found cane
_ growing in great abundance along the river front, furnishing a
resort for flocks of passenger pigeons, wild turkeys, geese, and
ducks, as well as for deer, otter, mink, wolves, wildcats, raccoons,
and opossums. All these. common in the days when the great
ornithologist, John James; Audubon, wandered through this
region, have now disappeared. Gone are the passenger pigeons,
once so numerous that Audubon on his way to Louisville from
Hardinshurg, in 18].3, counted 163 flocks in twenty—tl1ree minutes.
Gone. too, are the wild turkey, the prairie chicken, and the
beautiful little Carolina parralceet. But most of the songbirds
have increased enormously. These native to Kentuclay, as well as
migratory birds wliieh follow the Ohio, Mississippi, and Ten-
n<;ssc».-: Rivers are seen here in large numbers. li has been stated
by the U. S. Bureau of Biological Survey that observers in these
river valleys probably witness the passage of :1 greater number
and variety of birds than in any other river valley in the world.
Small mammals, including muskrats. squirrels, cottontails
and marsh rabbits, raceoons. and opossums, exist in surprisingly
large numbers. Occasionally mink and otter are seen.
Several species of fish of the kind common to Kentucky, such
as bass. crappie, jack salmon, and catfish are found in the lakes.
ponds. and rivers.

A small amount of valuable timber remains in the county and
8 there are areas where second-growth timber is flourishing. The
forest growths include hickory, walnut, sweetgum, sycamore,
, pecan, cypress, cedar, elm, oak, maple, beech, several varieties
i of ash and poplar, locusts, wild cherry, with occasionally a yellow
f button and chinquapin, catalpa, and coffeetree.
- The soil of the uplands is loess, a yellow silt loam, thin where
{ hilly, but deeper elsewhere. The soil of the bottoms is deposited
and of more recent origin. M
I Union County is distinctly an agricultural community, few
1 counties, it is claimed, having greater acreage of highly fertile
{ land, four-fifths of the total acreage being classified as farm
lands. Tobacco and corn, in which the county excels, are staple
[ products, though all other crops usual in the State are cultivated.
. The county is gridironed with well—surfaced highways reaching
, out in every direction. Along these roads are well—kept farms and
_ spacious, comfortable homes which suggest the slow tempo and
, quiet peace of a prosperous, agricultural community. In these
homes is written the story of several generations of men and
women, since their pioneer ancestors followed Indian trails or
floated down the rivers, cleared the forests, built their cabins,
and played their part in founding a commonwealth.
The Islands of the County ‘
Within that length of the Ohio River which forms the sinuous
boundary of Union County lie two inhabited and cultivated
islands: Slim and Wabash. They were somewhat important in
the early years of navigation and doubtless witnessed scenes of
violence and terror, for they were in proximity to up—river
Diamond Island, the haunt of banditti, among whom the more
conspicuous were the Harpes and the Masons, who attacked and
plundered passing boats, frequently murdering both passengers
and crews, until at length a detachment of Kentucky militia shot
or dispersed them in a surprise raid-—as related by Fortescue
Cuming in his Tour to the Western Country, embracing the
years 1807-9.
Slim Island (also known in the past as Eighteen Mile and Elk)
is nine miles north of Uniontown. It is approximately three and
one—half miles long, with an area of 565 acres, Although it was
submerged under several feet of water during the flood of 1937,
it is so high that the 1913 flood, less severe only than that of

1937, did not cover it. The main channel iiows between the island
. and the Indiana shore.
4 On his way down the Ohio, Cuming stopped at this island,
which he described as having a settlement at the upper end.
Cuming also states that three miles below the island on the
A Indiana side, directly across from the mouth of Highland Creek,
filled with drift, lived three families named Robinson, the first
settlers in the district.
The first record of ownership was a deed of 1884 containing
the names of Nunn and Duncan, the latter selling out to his
partner shortly afterward. Nunn willed the island to a grand-
daughter, Mrs. William Elliott, Sr., who in turn willed it to her
five children, the present owners. William Elliott, Jr., of Hender-
son, manages the-island, which is planted in corn.
Since 1933, theoverseer has been John R. Fenwick, who lives
in a two-story frame house of twelve rooms. A two-story house
of four rooms is occupied by Fenwick’s Negro cook, and in the
busy season by workers, for whom a Negro woman is employed
to cook. The yearly average yield of corn is 20,000 bushels, but
for 1938 it reached 30,000. The corn crib has a capacity of 18,000
Y bushels; the silo is 16 feet wide and 60 feet high; and the barn,
with a shed on each side, accommodates 40 mules.
On the Kentucky side the channel is too shallow for the pas-
sage of barges, and it was necessary in 1940 to dredge the main
channel. There is a tow head of seventeen acres near the island.
To visit Slim Island from Kentucky an appointment must be
made with the overseer to meet one with a small boat, while from
the Indiana side the clanging of a large bell announces the desire
to cross. A "
Though under the jurisdiction of Union County, mail for Slim
Island is addressed to Mt. Vernon, Indiana, from which place
P it is deposited in a box on the bank opposite the island.
About four miles down the Ohio from Uniontown, below Dam.
49, lies Wabash Island at the convergence of three States. The
largest island in the Ohio, it takes its name from the river which
forms the boundary between Indiana and Illinois and which
empties into the Ohio near the middle of the island.
Years ago, one might walk from Wabash Island to Kentucky
. but a deep, wide-channel nowtlies between.¤;·An electric -. power
· line crosses the island, for lighting and the operation of small

d, Fortescue Cuming wrote that Wabash Island was five miles
d_ long, contained 3,000 acres and has a "wooded interior/’* If the
le voyager was correct as to the area, the present 1,200 acres are a
ky commentary on the ravages of the Ohio and Wabash Rivers.
St When the cultivation of corn began is uncertain. Cattle were
raised here first, with the old-time rail fence enclosing the pas-
lg tures. Cultivation had to await the gradual clearance of timber, .
is which was sold and shipped down the river.
d- Under·the jurisdiction of Union- Cov1nty~,i~Wabash Island is
Er divided into three farms. Eighty bushels of corn to the acre have
rl been grown. At present there are nine houses, three stock barns,
and four corn cribs, the largest, with a capacity of 13,000
as bushels, on the Waller and Sugg farm.
SB Once the island housed fifteen or more families, but the intro-
fm duction of the corn-picking machine in 1938 has cut the popula-
Qd tion to one family and a few farm hands.
Lt Among early residents were the Reburns, Burlisons, Jacobs,
JO Breezes, Weedmans, Freeburgers, and Harrises. For some reason,
H doctors were never attracted to the island. An old Mrs. Kettles,
’ steeped in the lore of ancient home remedies, long tended the sick.
S- The rivers have been a constant threat to the inhabitants and
in have taken their toll of lives, though, happily, they have often I
d been cheated of their prey by an almost miraculous chance in the
bé matter of rescues. In the severe winter of 1917 the island, for a
m few days, was cut off from the rest of the world because of the
re ice in the Ohio. The river finally froze until it could be crossed
_? by cattle, hogs, and even wagons. .
m Education has not been neglected. In 1910, Miss Emma Whit-
CB worth started a shanty-boat school. The county school superin-
tendent interested himself in its development, with the result
m that a building was erected in 1911 on ground given by Nace
mp Waller on condition that it would revert to him in case the school
_h discontinued. This happened in 1923, after years of support, the
;h accumulation of a good library, and an attendance of from
“ twenty to thirty pupils.
Afterwards the schoolhouse was the scene of religious services
{y conducted by ministers from Uniontown and Morganfield, until
er it was destroyed by the 1937 flood, which reached past the second
iu floor of many houses, destroyed large stores of corn, and killed
two mules, sixty or seventy hogs, and several cows.
*‘Reprinted by permission of the publishers. The Arthur H Clark Com·
pany. from 'l`hwaite’s Eu1·I_1/ I/Vrsrerii Trarvl Swrios volume 1

- y»\~ Mx- swings sharply southward along Union ,
    County’s western line. Midway in this natural an,
    border, Indiana’s famed Wabash River flows into be]
  the Ohio. The surrounding country, rich in archeo- ap-
:4: tL»—»eJ2&4 logical remains, was once occupied by the Mound wi
Builders, an agricultural people, ancestral to the Indians, around ra
whom a great deal of unnecessary mystery has been woven. in
The chief evidence of their existence has been found in the Cf
numerous mounds.they built for burial, religious rites, and other (I
purposes—hence,— the name "Mound Builders." These earthen m
piles, indicating the hand of man rather than nature, were hoary
with age even when Boone came into Kentucky. The Indians of R
his time, when asked about them, replied: "Our people did not 01
build them; they belong to a people whom our forefathers fought 37
and drove from the territory; but whence these people came and
. whither they have gone, we do not know." The Mound Builders, 3
however, were Indians themselves. The last permanent Indian S
residents of Kentucky, who left from 1650-90, were undoubtedly I
Mound Builders. f
An early archeological excavator, Sidney S. Lyon, stated in
a private letter that in no other region had he observed the work (
of the Mound Builders comparable in extent and importance to t
that found in Union County. Mr. Lyon, the first to explore sys- I
tematically the mounds of this particular section, turned the  
first spade full in the cause of archeology in 1858, and in the ·
late sixties he carried on even more extensive diggings under the
patronage of the Smithsonian Institution which published his
report in 1872. In the same letter he remarked that "If the ash
beds, bone heaps, et cetera, are evidence of a formerly populous
and settled country, it is to be found here. In my examinations
l found nearly one hundred mounds in an area of a hundred
acres." It has been stated by a number of older residents
familiar with the county that there is hardly a farm in the
_ county which has not yielded evidence of prehistoric occupation.
Mr. Lyon’s excavations, as well as later ones, have archeo-
logical interest and some are sufficiently odd to excite the lay-
man's curiosity A mound near Uniontown contained the skele-
Mu; i»f a man in :1 sitting posture- and strewn around him`were

many beautiful artifacts including notched flint implements,
grooved stone discs, a copper awl, a copper disc covered with
woven fabric, and a pottery vessel. ~
1 A burial mound on Lost Creek was built over a stone floor
*1 and included a five-foot pit filled with skeletons. A large num-
9 ber of intrusive burials had been made in this mound, some
‘ apparently quite recent, since copper bells, indicating contacts _
1 with the white man, were found in one. This was one of the
1 rather infrequent occurrences of copper artifacts being found
in Kentucky. This mound was later discussed in some detail by
e Col. Bennett Young in his book, Prehistoric Men of Kentucky
r (1910). On Lost Creek Mr. Lyon also reported a group of
n mounds consisting of forty-eight separate tumuli.
y Another burial mound, on Buffalo Creek, four miles from
f Raleigh, contained bodies arranged in a circle like the spokes
t of a wheel. The heads pointed toward the center of the circle
t and the faces were turned toward the left side.
d Excellent pottery has been found at a village site, traditionally
;, associated with mounds now obliterated, at Ridley Pond, about
n six miles west of Uniontown. Among the many fine artifacts
y taken from the burial field on Grundy Hill was an excellent
figurine of fluorspar. _
n There was once an Indian village or possibly a group of two
k or more villages extending along the banks of the Ohio River for
O two or three miles below Raleigh Landing. This site for many
;_ years was known for the abundance of artifacts found here. The
Q statement in The History of Union County (p. 682) on archeo-
G logical remains at Raleigh also indicates the extent of Indian
Q occupation in that vicinity:
,S In the aboriginal days Raleigh was an immense Indian cemetery. Every
h fresh cave-in of the riverbank disclosed bones that had lain years. perhaps
S centuries, in the tomb. In 1853, Mr. Calmes, in excavating for building
purposes, found many skeletons, a babe was lying on the breast of one,
`S probably its mother. Several large specimens of lead ore were found along
d with curiously ornamented vessels, that would hold something more than
;g a quart. These vessels had little ears or handles that were very unique.
VB Likenesses of duck bills, lion’s and snake's heads, seemed to be abundant.
1 These utensils seemed to be made of cement which had been prepared
' from pulverized muscle-shells and sand. They had undoubtedly been the
)` handiwork of the Mound Builders because there are several mounds just
F- back of Raleigh ....
  Another large village, located on the bank of the Ohio River
just above Uniontown, extended into the bounds of that town.

· This has long been recognized as a prehistoric site. As far back
as 1824 this sitetwas mentioned by Constantine S. Rafinesque,
Transylvania’s somewhat eccentric professor of natural philoso-
phy. Col. Bennett Young states that at this site was found a
` cache of 140 hornstone knives. This, perhaps, was one of the two
caches also reported by Rafinesque—for one was reported as
"nea1· Uniontown." The other one was six miles from Caseyville.
Surface material, particularly flint spawls, is still occasionally
- found. onithc. Uniontown . site.
It is locally related that Chickasaws and Choctaws occupied
this village. These two tribes belonged to the Muskhogean lin-
guistic stock. However, the Chickasaws inhabited the land west
of the Tennessee River and the Choctaws inhabited the present
State of Mississippi. Since they were neighbors, it is conceivable
that they lived together; but both, especially the Choctaws, were _
out of their nation’s territory. "
Although Shawneetown, the best-known village site in this
vicinity, is in Illinois, a sketch of its history is pertinent to the
local tradition of Chickasaw—Choctaw occupation of the village
‘ near Uniontown. It suggests that perhaps the Shawnees also
occupied the latter village.
Shawneetown was built, as its name indicates, by a small body
of Shawnees, as a temporary village, after they had been driven
out of Cumberland Valley, sometime after 1730. When George
Croghan made his trip down the Ohio, in 1765, the village had
already been abandoned. The site had been frequented ages be-
. fore, however, for the salt springs which flow there. When
Fortescue Cuming made his trip down the Ohio, in 1808, he re-
ported that the town contained about twenty—four cabins and
was a place of considerable resort on account of the salt works
about twelve miles distant, "which supply with salt all the settle-
ments within one hundred miles, and I believe even the whole of
upper Louisiana/’*‘
Two fairly important Indian trails crossed the present terri-
tory of Union County. One of these, the Russellville-Shawnee-
town Trail, connected the Indian villages of the mid—Cumberland
Valley, near present—day Nashville and Clarksville, Tennessee,
with the celebrated Cahokia group in what are now the suburbs
of East St. Louis, Illinois. It continued westward about six miles
‘*Reprinted by permission of the publishers. The Arthur I-I. Clark Com-
pany. from Thwaites`s Early Wrstrrn Travel Scrics. volume 4.

from Dixon to Highland Lick, and from there through Henshaw
Lck in Union County to the Ohio River crossing at Shawneetown A
u€· prong of this trail, which can be called the Dixon-Uniontown
SO" Trail, forked at Dixon in Webster County. It continued from
I a Dixon to Morganfield, and then to Uniontown on the Ohio River.
WO From there it led to the Indian settlements scattered up and
as down the Wabash.
ue- Surface material and caches, as well as village sites and .
HY mounds, have been found in abundance in the county. Even in
recent years Indian artifacts are turned ‘up now and then.
led I. R. Williams, Uniontown poolroom proprietor, was a more
ill- recent collector of Indian artifacts. His valuable collection was
est gathered almost entirely in Union County and after his death
ant in 1932 it was given to the Western Kentucky State Teachers”
ble College at Bowling Green.
are p One of the spots, where some aboriginal object is occasionally
I dug up, is known as "Indian Hill," near DeKoven. About a half-
njs century ago, 1894 to be exact, M. E. Oglesby and William Keller
he were hunting on this hill when they noticed a depression in the
Lge earth. They decided to dig and were rewarded with a large piece
ISO of lead ore, some arrowheads, and a complete skeleton. Dr. J. D.
Ames examined the bones of this skeleton and found that the
dy nose had been broken and had healed cr