A Kentucky Barren

The name popularly applied to the region embraced within the limits of Barren, Warren, Simpson, Logan, and the lower part of Todd, Christian and Trigg Counties, is very misleading to the modern ear. To the pioneers of the early part of this century, impressed by the stern experiences of frontier life, it meant a land ” where every prospect pleases” the eye only to dupe the understanding. They had been brought up in a timbered country, and had been educated to believe that it was necessary not only to their comfort but to their very existence. They had an exaggerated idea of the amount of timber needed for dwellings and fuel, and seemed to believe that soil too poor to grow it would scarcely grow anything else, while the exposed situation would expose them to the burning sun of summer and the fierce blasts of winter. The region thus early passed by presented a beautiful picture of the splendor and bounty of untrammeled nature. Unlike the great prairies of the Northwest, there was great variety in the configuration of the surface. Beautiful springs of unfailing water gave rise to small rivulets, which, uniting, formed branches of creeks, the banks of which were skirted by more or less extended groves. The more open places between streams had been kept clear by the fires kindled by the Indians so long as they were lords of the soil, but as their power waned hazel bushes made their appearance in great numbers, interspersed with sumac and timber saplings. There were long stretches where the sward, radiant with flowers and fruitful ‘ with a mass of wild strawberries, lay unbroken for miles. So. prodigal was nature with these unappreciated bounties that the odors were wafted on the breeze for miles, while the cows came home at the milking hour with white legs stained a blood red by the berries crushed in their wanderings. Vast herds of deer bounded leisurely over the gently rolling meadows; great flocks of wild turkeys in their panoply of glittering green and blue plumage were met in every direction, and thousands of ” barren hens ” (similar to if not identical with the ” prairie chicken “) and quail could be had for the taking. Nor was there any remarkable dearth of timber, as in some of the early prairies of the Northwest. The region from Little River (Hopkinsville) to the Whippoorwill (Russellville) was devoid of timber save along the margin of the streams. The trace which connected these two points led along the open ground, and but one grove was to be found near it. This was a noted landmark known as Croghan’s Grove, on the west branch of the West Fork of Red River. It was a military survey of 2,600 acres, heavily timbered and untouched by the ax. It belonged to Maj. Croghan of the Virginia Line. It has since been demonstrated that it needed only that the obstacles to the growth of timber should be removed to secure an ample supply. This fact, however, the experience of the pioneers furnished no means of discovering. In his sketches, Mr. Kennedy relates that :

In an early day his father had business at Clarksville, and concluded to come through to John Harray’s, now (1875) John Holland’s, who formerly had lived with him in Upper Kentucky. On his way through the barrens, he called at Maj. Moore’s to get his breakfast and horse fed. In conversation, Mr. Kennedy spoke of settling in this country, when the Major offered to give him 200 acres of the choice barrens near Trenton, at fifty cents per acre, and offered him 200 acres for the horse he was riding, but Kennedy refused, saying he did not wish to starve or freeze for want of fire, or timber for building or fencing purposes, so he afterward came to where I now live and bought land at $1 per acre.” The pioneers were undoubtedly less foolish than would seem at first glance to-day. More fencing was done than was absolutely necessary, and the kind in vogue, the old Virginia worm fence, was not the most economical kind, but some fencing was absolutely necessary, and in those days of limited cash and more limited markets, the purchase of timber was not to be seriously thought of.


Battle, J. H. Counties Of Todd And Christian, Kentucky. Historical And Biographical. F. A. Battey Publishing Co., Chicago And Louisville. 1884. At current time this manuscript consists of only the Todd County section and a few biographies from Christian County.

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