Indians of Kentucky

Indians of Kentucky: It is known that, while the present area of Kentucky was, at the earliest times, the theater of severe Indian conflicts, stratagems, and bloody battles, these efforts of fierce contending warriors were made by tribes, who, during all the historical period of our information, crossed the Ohio from the West. The fierce Shawnee and wily Delaware remained in the country but for short times. They landed at secret points, as hunters and warriors, and had no permanent residence within its boundaries. Such were the incessant bloody attacks and depredations made by these and their kindred tribes, both prior and subsequent to the American Revolution. The history of that State was, indeed, bathed in blood, and sealed with the deaths of some of the noblest and freest of men.

At an early day, the head of the Kentucky River became a favorite and important point of embarkation for Indians moving, in predatory or hunting bands, from the South to the North and West. The Shawnees, after their great defeat by the Cherokees, took that route, and this people always considered themselves to have claims to these attractive hunting-grounds, where the deer, the elk, buffalo, and bear abounded claims, indeed, whose only foundation was blood and plunder.

The history of these events is rife with the highest degree of interest, but cannot here be entered on. The following letter, from one of the early settlers of the country, is given as showing the common tradition, that, while the area of Kentucky was perpetually fought for, as a cherished part of the Indian hunting-ground, it was not, in fact, permanently occupied by any tribe. The writer’s (Mr. Joseph Ficklin’s) attention was but incidentally called to the subject. His letter, which is in answer to a copy of our pamphlet of printed inquiries, bears date at Lexington, 31st of August 1847.

“I have opened your circular addressed to Dr. Jarvis, agreeably to your request, and beg leave to remark that I have myself an acquaintance with the Indian history of this State from the year 1781, and that nothing is known here connected with your inquiries, save the remains of early settlements too remote to allow of any evidence of the character of the population, except that it must have been nearly similar to that of the greater portion which once occupied the rest of the States of the Union.

There is one fact favorable to this State, which belongs to few, if any, of the sister States. We have not to answer, to any tribunal, for the crime of driving off the Indian tribes, and possessing their lands. There were no Indians located within our limits, on our taking possession of this country. A discontented portion of the Shawnee tribe, from Virginia, broke off from the nation, which removed to the Scioto country, in Ohio, about the year 1730, and formed a town, known by the name of Lulbegrud, in what is now Clark County, about 30 miles east of this place. This tribe left this country about 1750, and went to East Tennessee, to the Cherokee nation. Soon after, they returned to Ohio, and joined the rest of the nation, after spending a few years on the Ohio River, giving name to Shawnee-town in the State of Illinois, a place of some note at this time. This information is founded on the account of the Indians at the first settlement of this State, and since confirmed by Black-hoof, a native of Lulbegrud, who visited this country in 1816, and went on the spot, describing the water-streams and hills in a manner to satisfy everybody that he was acquainted with the place.

“I claim no credit for this State in escaping the odium of driving off the savages, because I hold that no people have any claim to a whole country for a hunting or robbing residence, on the score of living, for a brief period, on a small part of it. Our right to Northern Mexico, California, and Texas, is preferable to any other nation, for the simple reason, that we alone subdue the savages and robbers, and place it under a position which was intended by the Creator of the world, as explained to the father of our race.”


Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Archives of aboriginal knowledge. Containing all the original paper laid before Congress respecting the history, antiquities, language, ethnology, pictography, rites, superstitions, and mythology, of the Indian tribes of the United States. Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott & Co. 1860.

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