Stay In Clay
Stay for a day, maybe two, and take home a memory that will last a lifetime.

Stay In Clay County Kentucky...

Stay In Clay invites you to discover the backcountry of Clay County, the Gateway to the Elk & Redbud Capitals of Kentucky and the Land of Swinging Bridges! Camp, hike, bike or ride. Learn about our rich Appalachian history and culture. Picnic and play at our parks, golf at Big Hickory Golf Course, view abundant wildlife and weathered barns on scenic country drives, navigate miles of ATV trails. Step back in time with our historic towns and old swinging bridges. Come explore the beautiful Appalachian mountains, Daniel Boone National Forest and the Bert T. Combs Lake & Recreational Park. Stay for a day, maybe two, and take home a memory that will last a lifetime.

Visitor's Center 606-391-6161

Discover Clay County Kentucky

The Land Of Swinging Bridges

Clay County's swinging bridges are historical pedestrian bridges towering above the rivers and creeks. During floods they were one of the only ways to cross the waterways. In some remote areas of Clay County, this is still true today. These suspension footbridges are often called swinging bridges because the bridge sways beneath your feet as you walk across. They are also referred to as rope bridges due to their historical origin based on the ancient Inca rope bridge.

Swinging bridges would span a wide river without the need for foundation pillars in the middle. This meant there was no obstruction to river traffic and no danger of the pier being damaged during floods. They were also cheaper to build than pier designs. Typical construction would start with a ball of twine to judge the curve and distance. The upright piers were constructed first before being pulled into position by men in boats or on horses or mules. The cable was then dragged across by hand using a wheel or pulley. Men would mix cement and haul river gravel and timbers from local farms.

Many of these historic relics of Appalachian history still tower over Goose Creek, Red Bird and the South Fork rivers. Visit Clay County Kentucky, the Land of Swinging Bridges, and discover the romance, history and adventure of these cherished swinging bridges.

"Stay In Clay" is comprised of progressive Clay County residents who have come together to cross all boundaries of race, economic, and social class, to empower our people, bond our community, and strengthen our local move Clay County forward with pride and purpose. Stay in Clay is a group formed to help boost the spirit, pride, and morale of our people and help improve the look and condition of our hometown/county. We want Manchester and Clay County to be the place people want to live, stay, retire, visit, come home to! This dedicated organization has completed swinging bridges restoration projects, created promotional murals,  organizes special events and established a story telling theater called Monkey Dumplin’s. And we’re just getting started. Many more projects are in the works.

Project Hope began when a group of people, seeing that Clay County was in need, formed to repair and paint buildings, sweep sidewalks, and organize community garbage pickups. As they listened to citizens they saw the need to involve youth. It became Project Hope's focus to involve youth in improving the community. Projects have included the middle school art class painting of a "Welcome to Clay" mural, teaming up with VOA and the leadership team of CCHS to create a "Hope Endures" mural, and revitalizing the basketball courts during Covid. A Flag Project promotes a sense of pride in the community for our country, funded entirely through community donations. Project Hope has also hosted a ceremony for area veterans, hosted Christmas parades, and organized Tour of Lights; all Covid friendly events. The organization jumps in wherever there is a need.

Stay In Clay

Cross Mountain Campground

Cross Mountain Campground is located in the scenic hills of Clay County just 1.5 miles outside of Manchester on Miracle Mountain, featuring 25 sites large enough for any camper or RV. All sites have  electric, water, and sewer hookups.

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Clay County Airbnbs

Explore Stays or Experiences in Clay County Kentucky, learn about your host, read guest reviews — then book in just a few clicks. Connect with your host through the app for local tips, questions or advice. You can also contact Airbnb anytime for additional support..

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City of Manchester

Manchester is a tightly-packed little town arranged around the town square, Court House hill and north and south entries. The town has an old-fashioned, "real town" feel about it, but is also graced with handsome, modern structures on all sides. Visit the city parks, Veterans Memorial, Town Square, shops and restaurants. Heritage Pavilion and Goose Salt Works contain interpretive signs outlining the county's history. An ongoing mural project depicts the county's rich Appalachian heritage, visitors can brave the Goose Creek Swinging Bridge and a community folk-life theater, Monkey Dumplin's, empowers individuals to capture and tell their family stories.

Village of Oneida

Discover Appalachia off the beaten trail in wonderfully wild, breathtakingly beautiful Oneida, Kentucky. Home to the world renowned Oneida Baptist Institute and history museum, Goose Creek and the Red Bird River confluence here to form the South Fork of the Kentucky River. Winding mountain roads feature family farms, roadside stands, small country stores, hilltop cemeteries, historic weathered barns and swinging bridges. Oneida is a natural, backcountry paradise for those who want to experience the peace and adventures of raw, untamed nature.

Historic Hamlets

A hamlet, or unincorporated community, is a small settlement in a rural area. These historic gems are home to early structures, unbridled natural beauty, wildlife, family businesses and farms, and the people who have preserved the customs of their ancestors. Natural wonders and fascinating, warm, friendly people await you. Clay County Kentucky historic hamlets include Alger, Ammie, Ashers Fork, Barcreek, Benge, Bernice, Big Creek, Bluehole, Botto, Brightshade, Brutus, Burning Springs, Chestnutburg, Cottongim, Creekville, Deer Lick, Eriline, Fall Rock, Felty, Fogertown, Gardner, Garrard, Goose Rock, Grace, Hector, Hensley, Hima, Hooker, Jacks Creek, Larue, Laurel Creek, Lincoln, Littleton, Marcum, Mill Pond, Ogle, Oneida, Panco, Peabody, Pigeonroost, Plank, Portersburg, Queendale, Sextons Creek, Shepherdtown, Sibert, Sidell, Spring Creek, Spurlock, Tanksley, Teges, Trixie, Urban, Vine and Wild Cat.

Gateway to the Redbud & Elk Capitals of Kentucky

With over 11,000 elk, Southeast Kentucky has more elk than any state east of the Rockies and has been declared the "Elk Capital of the East." Clay County is the “Gateway to Elk Country”. Located in the heart of white-tailed deer, wild turkey and elk country, Clay County provides unlimited opportunities for wildlife viewing. The majority of Clay County lies within the Daniel Boone National Forest as part of the Redbird District.

Clay County is also the gateway to the "Redbud Capital of Kentucky." Each Spring thousands of redbuds bloom in the majestic mountains of eastern Kentucky along Daniel Boone/Hal Rogers Parkway and historic Highway 80, providing a breathtaking drive into the “Redbud Capital of Kentucky". In the wild, eastern redbud is a frequent native understory tree in mixed forests and hedgerows. The flowers are showy, light to dark magenta pink in color, and appear in clusters from Spring to early Summer on bare stems before the leaves. The flowers are pollinated by long-tongued bees such as blueberry bees and carpenter bees. After the redbud bloom, dogwood flowers decorate the county fence rows, followed soon after by sarvis blooms.

Clay County Kentucky Off-Road Adventures

The community of Manchester is an official “Trail Town” thanks to its connections to local streams, forests and natural landmarks. With the combination of beautiful mountain forests, natural streams and other outdoor recreation opportunities, Manchester is the perfect trail town. Manchester is located in the Daniel Boone National Forest and is near Goose Creek, the Redbird River and the South Fork of the Kentucky River. These streams provide excellent paddling opportunities for visitors. There are also hiking, camping, ATV trails, horseback trails and cycling routes in the area.

Clay County host some of the best ATV Trails in the United States.  With miles and miles of trails, a day or weekend would not begin to be enough time to cover even a portion of the trails offered in our mountains. 

Our trails range from easy to extreme with an abundance of wildlife to view and a population of Elk that is plentiful.  It is very common to see herds of Elk as you ride through the moutains of Clay County.  Come on home to Clay County for your next ATV vacation, where new adventures await and memories last a lifetime.

The Y-Hollow Trailhead is located inside the City Limits of Manchester. The Y-Hollow is an area of over 400+ acres. From the Y-Hollow Trailhead you can asscess any and all trails from river trails, hiking/biking trails, horse trails and atv trails. From the Y-Hollow you can travel to any trail in the County, from Beech Creek, Elk Mountain, Newfound and Redbird. The Y-Hollow is primitive camping only.

The Elk Mountain Recreational area is located just 7 miles outside the City limits of Manchester. Elk Mountain is an area of over a 1000 acres. The mountain offers restrooms and covered shelter and primitive camping.

Located in the Goose Rock community of Clay County, D & K Off-Road Park is a unique park featuring 3,150 acres of off-road fun. Challenge yourself with trails, mud, rocks and hills. The park also offers dirt drag racing under the lights. D & K Off-Road Park is a paradise for buggies, ATV’s, motorcycles, rock crawlers, jeeps and any other off-road vehicles. Tent and RV camping and cabins are available.

The Redbird District OHV Trail within the Daniel Boone National Forest is a 65-mile loop trail that begins and ends near the Redbird District Office in the eastern corner of Clay County. Located near Big Creek, the trail generally follows the ridge with some steep and rough areas. There are some areas so narrow that only single track vehicles can drive on them. It is a multiple-use trail; hikers, horses, mountain bikes, motorcycles and ATV’s under 50 inches are all welcome.

Clay County River Trails

Clay County has three main rivers: Goose Creek, Redbird and South Fork. 

The Goose Creek River starts a few miles south of Manchester and runs through downtown Manchester. The Goose Creek runs into Oneida where it meets the Redbird River. The Goose Creek River with its' many twists and turns create about 30+ miles of kayaking and canoeing.

The Redbird River runs right through the heart of the Redbird Ranger District.  It offers 30+ miles of kayaking and canoeing. The Redbird runs into Oneida where it meets the Goose Creek River. These two rivers come together to form the South Fork of the Kentucky River.

The South Fork River runs through Clay County into Owsley County, with 20+ miles before you enter Owsley County.  The South Fork River has wide banks and creates a perfect river for spending a lazy day tubing, hitting the narrows on a kayak, or paddling a canoe.

Daniel Boone National Forest

Daniel Boone National Forest is located along the Cumberland Plateau in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Kentucky. The forest encompasses over 707,000 acres of mostly rugged terrain. The land is characterized by steep forested ridges dissected by narrow ravines and over 3,400 miles of sandstone cliffs. Daniel Boone National Forest is one of the most heavily used forests in the South, with over 5 million visitors annually. People come here to backpack, camp, picnic, rock climb, boat, ride and relax. Daniel Boone is comprised of four ranger districts: Cumberland, London, Stearns and Redbird.

Millions of visitors come to enjoy the scenic Appalachian beauty and abundant wildlife that the forest has to offer. Cave Run Lake and Laurel River Lake are popular attractions of the forest. Other special areas include the Red River Gorge Geological Area, Natural Arch Scenic Area, Clifty Wilderness, Beaver Creek Wilderness, and five wildlife management areas.

Over 600 miles of trails provide a quiet escape to more remote places within the forest. Hikers, horseback riders and other trail users get back to nature along the 269-mile Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail that extends the entire length of the Daniel Boone. Hundreds of miles of winding rivers and streams provide the finishing touch in outdoor Appalachian beauty.

Come and discover what you've been missing. Daniel Boone National Forest is Appalachia's best in southern and eastern Kentucky.

There are two areas designated as Wilderness: Clifty Wilderness and Beaver Creek Wilderness. Daniel Boone National Forest is a haven to many species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and other wildlife including: black bears, deer, bobcats, chipmunks, squirrels, elk, fox, shrews, voles, opossums, skunks, raccoons, rabbits, wild turkeys, woodchucks, songbirds, hawks, owls, eagles, bats, vultures, hummingbirds, turtles, snakes, lizards, frogs, toads, salamanders and treefrogs.

The Appalachian forest consists of sloping hills, ridge top flats, narrow valleys, hardwood forests, bottom wildlands and miles of rivers and streams. The Appalachian forest contains three large lakes (Cave Run Lake, Laurel River Lake and Lake Cumberland), many rivers and streams, two wilderness areas, and the 269-mile Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail that extends across the length of the forest. Abundant wildlife, lush vegetation, magnificent scenery and numerous recreation opportunities offer visitors much to enjoy. Please practice Trail Safety and Leave No Trace to make your visit safe and enjoyable while protecting resources we all enjoy. Most national forest system lands are open and free of charge for your use and enjoyment. Entrance and user fees may be charged at some areas.

Monkey Dumplins Story Bridge Theater

A story is born, a story is "growed", and then it is harvested, so it can be told... We gather them together, with little muss and fuss, to present "Monkey Dumplin's", the story of US.

Monkey Dumplins Story Bridge Theater harvests local stories by teaching the art of story telling, then capturing and performing the fascinating oral history of Clay County on stage. Monkey Dumplins draws people with varied backgrounds and beautifully interweaves their many creative talents.

Participants share important, untold stories. Actors extract the essence through drama, movement, and song. The performance may be moving, funny, or profound, and leaves the teller and the audience with fresh insight and a stronger sense of community.

Clay County Kentucky's Farm Markets & Roadside Stands

There is something special about preparing home-cooked meals with fresh fruits and vegetables picked up at a farm market within hours of harvest. Discover farm fresh foods at Clay County's farm markets, roadside stands and small town grocers...offering the freshest produce and seasonal favorites. From homegrown potatoes, lettuce, corn, beans, cucumbers, broccoli  radishes, cider, gourds, and fall squash - to a vast array of fruits - you'll find everything you need for your cooking needs at Clay County's farmers markets and roadside stands.

Clay County is known for its abundance of yard sales and roadside tag sales, including the annual East 80 Yard Sale...a 22 mile yard sale! The yard sale route goes through Manchester and London, KY along Hwy 80 each Labor Day Weekend from Thursday through Monday. In addition, several vendors malls and thrift stores dot the county. Furniture, clothing, antiques, home decor, never know what you'll find around the county at local yard sales, vendors malls, thrift stores and roadside stands.

Manchester & Clay County Parks

Within the City Limits of Manchester, KY is a unique park system that, when connected by a riverside walking trail of serene beauty, offers the visitor a chance to soak up some of the early history not only of Manchester and Clay County, but southeast Kentucky as well.

The key to the historic park system is the River Walk Trail that begins on the north end of town at Rawlings/ Stinson Park, and ends at the south end at the Goose Creek Salt Works Pioneer Village. This unique trail is anchored at the north by the famous Red Bird Petgroglyph, the large rock of national reknown that contains ancient inscriptions by either European explorers, or Indians, or both. The trail itself follows the route of the Warrior's Path, one of the most historically significant trails in American History. Created by buffalo searching for salt deposits, the route was used for countless years by Indians traveling between the Smoky Mountains in the south and the wilderness north of the Ohio River. The trail was used by long hunters and explorers, including Dr. Thomas Walker who followed it in this section of Goose Creek in 1750, and by Daniel Boone 19 years later in 1769.

Begin your riverside journey at the north end of Rawlings/Stinson Park, home to the world famous Red Bird River Shelter Petroglyphs. A park sign marks the trail. Enjoy a scenic walk along Goose Creek on the River Walk Trail. The views of the river and woods are breathtaking. Pass by the Manchester Goose Creek Swinging Bridge, or enjoy an exciting diversion by crossing this fascinating relic of Appalachian heritage. Lovingly restored, this footbridge leads to the historic village of Downtown Manchester featuring Heritage Pavilion with interpretive signs of the county’s history.

Just past the swinging bridge lies Riverside Park overlooking Goose Creek. Goose Creek itself was one of the most important waterways in early Kentucky history. The state legislature recognized its importance as a way to transport extremely valuable salt from the salt works early on and passed several acts to help improve it for navigation for salt barges. The walker will have to use his imagination to visualize 60-foot barges loaded with salt barrels floating down the river during "salt tides" -- so called spring and winter floods.

Finally, at the south end of the trail is the recreation of the Goose Creek Salt Works, which was located at this spot beginning in the mid 1790s when it was known as the Langford Works. The small community here was designated by the State Legislature to serve as the county seat when the county was created in April 1807. The first court met in the cabin of Robert Baker, most likely very similar to the Cotton Cabin seen here now, which according to several sources was built before the county was formed. It was moved here from its original location on the "Cotton Bend" downstream, where salt barge maker Jesse Cotton lived in it with his wife Jane.

Rawlings/Stinson Park

The north end of the historic River Walk Trail walking path, anchored by the nationally known Red Bird Petroglyph rock with ancient inscriptions. Features include a crumb rubber walking track that circles the park, a large covered stage for outdoor concerts, a playground, a wedding gazebo, Clay County Veterans Memorial, large shelter houses with grills, a concrete boat ramp on Goose Creek, and a shaded walking trail along beautiful and historic Goose Creek that connects Rawlings/Stinson Park to the Goose Creek Swinging Bridge, Riverside Park and Goose Creek Salt Works.

River Walk Trail

This beautiful trail along the river follows the route of the famous Warrior's Path, the ancient trail made by buffalo then by Indians for countless years before being used by explorers such as Dr. Thomas Walker, who passed by here in 1750, and Daniel Boone, who also came this way on his first extended hunting trip to Kentucky in 1769. River Walk Trail starts in Rawlings/Stinson Park, passes by the Goose Creek Swinging Bridge connecting to Historic Downtown Manchester, then leads to Riverside Park, followed by Goose Creek Salt Works.

Goose Creek Swinging Bridge

Manchester's Goose Creek Swinging Bridge was originally constructed to replace the old wagon bridge that was washed away in the Flood of 1947. This unique icon of cultural heritage literally connects the area's history...the Warrior's Path on Goose Creek to the Heritage Pavilion on Manchester on the Square. Walking the Goose Creek Swinging Bridge takes you back in time. The Goose Creek Swinging Bridge, recently restored, connects Clay County with the historical narratives of the whole state of Kentucky.

Riverside Park

On the banks of Goose Creek, the water course by which early salt makers shipped their product to the Bluegrass in the late 1790s up until the Civil War...when winter and spring floods made it possible to navigate their 60-foot salt barges. This park features a pavilion, scenic views and River Walk Trail...connecting it to Goose Creek Salt Works to the south, and Goose Creek Swinging Bridge and Rawlings/Stinson Park to the north.

Goose Creek Salt Works

The most historic spot in the county. It was here in the mid-1790s that the Langford Salt Works was established and later, in 1807, when it was being called the Goose Creek Salt Works. This is where the first county government was formed in a cabin most likely like the Cotton Cabin, which was moved to this site. The Cotton Cabin is one of the oldest log structures in Kentucky.

Bert T. Combs Park & Lake & Governor's RV Park

Located in the center of Clay County, Bert T. Combs City Park offers nonmotorized boating opportunities, while the park offers a large swimming pool, playground, covered picnic pavilions, hot showers and restrooms. This park, one of the best-kept secrets in the Daniel Boone National Forest, is nestled in a beautiful mountain valley at the forks of the head waters of Beech Creek, about three and a half miles northeast of Manchester on Beech Creek Road. Governor’s RV Park & Campground offers mountain scenery and features trails that take those hardy enough to walk or ride horses to the tops of the ridges that define the park. It has 75 campsites, many with electric hook-ups, water and dump station. There is a large community swimming pool and kiddie pool, tennis and basketball courts, and a banquet room complete with kitchen and event facilities. A large shelter house adjacent to the RV park has room for 250-300 people along with grills and electricity. Bert T. Combs Lake is a short walk from the park. Located on a hillside adjacent to the center is the final resting place of former Kentucky Governor Bert T. Combs.

Big Double Creek

A scenic picnic area is located near Big Double Creek in Daniel Boone National Forest. The picnic area contains two large fields suitable for baseball, volleyball, football, and kickball. There are also in-ground grills, picnic tables and toilet facilities. It is suitable for community picnics, family outings, reunions, weddings, birthdays, and school events.

Martin L. King Park

Located in the Pennington Hill section off the four lane near the Eastern Kentucky University Manchester Campus, this park features a play ground and shelter.

Splash Park

Located on Town Branch Road next to Mountain View Heights, this park features a sprinkler pad for kids with several spraying fountains. A skaters and skateboarders section is adjacent to the splash pad. Change rooms and bathrooms are available. A shelter for adults with picnic tables is on site.

Equestrian Trail

Set in the beautiful Appalachian mountains of eastern Kentucky, the Bert T. Combs Equestrian Trail offers the area’s best horseback riding. As you ride along the 3 ½  miles of mapped trails (provided by request), plus unlimited miles of trails in the Daniel Boone National Forest and Beech Creek Wildlife Management Area, you will experience nature at its best. The Equestrian Trail offers breathtaking views, wildlife and several picnic areas with amenities for both you and your horses. There are picnic tables and trash receptacles for you and hitching posts and natural springs to water your horses. Surrounded by the Beech Creek Wildlife Management Area and the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Equestrian Trail provides easy access to the 25 acre Bert T. Combs Lake.

Cawood Recreation Area

A Daniel Boone National Forest picnic area is by a hemlock shaded creek at an old Civilian Conservation Corps Camp. Cawood Picnic area is also used for weddings, birthdays, church socials, reunions and Boy Scout outings. In-ground and pedestal grills, picnic tables, horse shoe pits and toilet facilities are available. There are no developed trails in the area, but lots of room to explore.

Redbird Wildlife Management Area

The Daniel Boone National Forest Redbird Wildlife Management Area is hilly to steep with gentle slopes in bottomlands and on ridge tops; mostly forested with approximately 100 acres of openings and 25 miles of improved hiking trails. No developed facilities. Mobility impaired access to permit holders on designated area, which is currently the Redbird Crest Trail.

Big Hickory Golf Course

Situated on a rolling knoll made by the Cotton Bend of historic Goose Creek, the course is surrounded by lush, hardwood forest-covered mountains. The course is owned by the City of Manchester and is accessed off Beech Creek Road (on the way to Bert T. Combs Park). Just follow the signs. Beautiful Big Hickory Golf Course is a challenging 9-hole layout that offers the best golf value in Kentucky. Its beautiful Bermuda fairways and immaculate undulating bent grass greens provide a golfing experience that is a thrill for all ages and skill levels. It is a 3,000 yard course that plays to a par 36 and includes a variety of holes framed by scenic trees as well as ponds and streams. Its signature hole is the par 4 ninth whose green is fashioned in the shape of the state of Kentucky. Big Hickory Golf Course is located at 521 Big Hickory Rd, Manchester, KY 40962. Call (606) 598-8053 for additional details.

Oneida Park

Located in the tiny village of Oneida in northern Clay County on RT 66, this beautiful community park features a pavilion, large meadow area, walking and jogging path, playgrounds, and a basketball court. James Anderson Burns' Museum & Gift Shop, the Kentucky River and the Oneida Baptist Institute are close by. Explore the scenic back roads in the area featuring historic barns, untamed nature, old swinging bridges, mountains, hollows, streams and forests.

Experience Elk Country

In addition to being nestled within the Daniel Boone National Forest, Manchester and Clay County are doubly blessed by being within the beautiful backcountry of Kentucky's Elk Country Corridor. The Elk Country Corridor, located in southeastern Kentucky’s Cumberland Plateau, consists of the counties of Clay, Breathitt, Knott, Leslie, Letcher and Perry. A portion of the corridor borders on Virginia. Major routes through the region include US Highways 119 and 421 and KY Highways 15 and 80 (Hal Rogers/Daniel Boone Parkway). The landscape, featuring some of Kentucky’s most remote and unspoiled areas, includes rounded mountains, rolling hills, valleys and hollows. Elevations vary from 3,273 feet in the mountains to 675 feet in the valleys.

The six counties in Elk Country Corridor have a combined population of 129,100. Major towns include the county seats of Manchester, Hazard, Hindman, Hyden, Jackson and Whitesburg. Small towns dot the landscape. Red Fox, Buckhorn, Bearville and Wildcat attest to the importance of the region’s abundant game to the early settlers. Goose Rock, Shoulderblade, Sizerock, Topmost, Fall Rock and Grays Knob bring forth images of the rugged terrain that challenged the pioneers. Once the mountains were conquered, waterways became the main source of transportation within the region. The settler’s attitude toward the unpredictable waters is evidenced in names including Troublesome Creek, Quicksand, Cut-Shin Creek and Hell-Fer-Sartin Creek.

The region, known for its fantastic array of natural environments, is home to two national forests, two state parks, four wildlife management areas and nature preserves. The small towns, scenic parks, rugged terrain and plentiful wildlife play an important role in the character of Elk Country Corridor, but the largest factor remains the people. They are dedicated to their mountain heritage and are willing to share it with visitors. Throughout the corridor, there are opportunities to hear their music, view their architecture, study their history and experience their craft-making traditions.


In the mid 1700s, in the Elk Country Corridor region, Shawnee, Cherokee and Iroquois tribes claimed ownership of the land and hunted in the dense forests. During that period, colonists in Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina heard rumors about the sparkling streams and plentiful wildlife on the other side of the mountains, but the forbidding terrain kept them from entering the region. Dr. Thomas Walker, who followed an Indian War Trail to the area in 1748, is believed to be the first person to provide a written account of the region. Outbreak of the French and Indian War in 1754 delayed further exploration for over a decade. After Daniel Boone marked the Wilderness Road in 1775, settlers soon began crossing through Cumberland Gap. Kentucky became the 17th state to join the Union in 1792, but the population in the southeastern portion remained small until after the Civil War when northern companies initiated their grand plan for the area. They bought lumber and mineral rights to much of the land. After harvesting the salt and lumber, they began building railroad and small towns to support their coal mining ventures. By the early 1900s, coal had taken over the local economy. Today, tourism is one of the major industries in the area. The scenic beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities along with the system of state parks and new highways beckons visitors to the Elk Country Corridor.


Lexington Blue Grass Airport (859-425-3114) is served by ATA Connection, Continental Express, Delta, Northwest Airlink, United Express, and US Airways Express. The airport is located approximately 70 miles from Manchester, 100 miles from Hyden, 110 miles from Hazard, 125 miles from Hindman and 140 miles from Whitesburg. From Lexington, the Elk Country Corridor is accessible by driving Interstate 75 South to Kentucky Highway 80 (Hal Rogers/Daniel Boone Parkway) East. Major car rental companies are located at Lexington Blue Grass Airport. Wendell H. Ford Airport (606-439-5140), located on KY Highway 15, ten miles northwest of Hazard, is open to general aviation on 3,200 foot and 5,000 foot runways.

Time Zone

Eastern Standard Time

Historical Sites & Museums

Elk Country Corridor’s history is preserved at its museums and historical sites including:
  • Historic Manchester
  • Warrior's Path
  • Garrard Salt Works
  • White Salt Works
  • Oneida Institute & Museum
  • Bad Old Feuds Area
  • John Gilbert First Settler Site
  • Colonel Garrard fights the Rebels Site
  • The "Magnificent Retreat"
  • Union Secret Raid Site
  • Dillion Asher's Cabin
  • Bert T. Combs Birth and Burial Place
  • Bert T. Combs Marker
  • Garrard and White Cemeteries
  • Masterful Retreat and Salt Works Destroyed Markers
  • Cedar Valley
  • Old Swinging Bridge
  • Chief Redbird and John Gilbert Markers
  • John and Mollie Gilbert Site
  • Dillion Asher Site
  • B. F. White House
  • Jesse Cotton Cabin
  • Old Joe Clark Home
  • William Reid Home
  • Dillon-Asher Cabin
  • Bobby Davis Museum and Park
  • Knott County Historical and Genealogical Society
  • The Pioneer Village
  • C.B. Caudill Store & History Center
  • David A. Zegeer Coal Railroad Museum
  • Hindman Settlement School
  • Frontier Nursing Service
  • Breathitt County Museum

Cultural Venues

The region offers many opportunities to experience its rich cultural heritage including:
  • Monkey Dumplin's Theater
  • Red Bird Mission Crafts
  • Morris Fork Crafts
  • Marie Stewart Crafts
  • Kentucky Appalachian Artisan Center
  • Kentucky School of Craft
  • Appalshop Center
  • The Cozy Corner
  • Seco Company Store & Highlands Winery/Bed & Breakfast
  • Pine Mountain/Letcher County Craft Co-op
  • Valley of the Winds

Recreational Activities & Nature Areas

Elk Country Corridor offers a wide variety of outdoor activities including boating, golfing, hiking, mountain biking and wildlife viewing including:
  • Daniel Boone National Forest
  • Jefferson National Forest
  • Carr Creek State Park
  • Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park
  • Starfire Wildlife Management
  • Beech Creek Wildlife Management Area
  • Redbird Crest Wildlife Management Area
  • Pine Mountain Wildlife Management Area
  • Bad Branch State Nature Preserve
  • Lilley Cornett Woods
  • Robinson Forest
  • Bert T. Combs Park
  • Rawlings and Stinson Park
  • Big Hickory Golf Course
  • Splash Park
  • Martin L. King Park
  • Riverside Park
  • Governor's Campground RV Park

Other Attractions

Ancient Rock Writings (606-598-1754), believed by some to be the oldest known Christian inscriptions on the North American Continent, made by an Irish Monk. Others believe the markings on the stones reflect on the Indian bone tool-making industry. The writings were discovered in 1994 when a huge piece of rock fell from a sandstone cliff onto State Road 66 near Manchester. The huge stones can be viewed daily at Rawlings & Stinson Park in Manchester.

Yoder’s Bulk Foods (606-785-3344), located on the Hindman Bypass, offers an opportunity to step back in time. The store offers specialty cheeses and food items unique to the Mennonite community, baked goods, deli items, bulk cooking supplies and craft items.

Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky (606-436-5721), located in downtown Hazard, features a Children’s Interactive Science Center and a simulated space mission to study a comet or the planet Mars. At the gift shop, visitors can purchase freeze dried ice cream and other freeze dried specialties that astronauts take into space. Reservations are required.

Festivals & Events

There’s something for everyone at Elk Country Corridor’s many festivals and special events. The offerings include, but are not limited to:
  • Manchester Music Fest, Labor Day weekend, Manchester
  • Saltworks Appalachian Homecoming, Memorial Day weekend, Manchester
  • Mountain Showcase, first weekend in April, Buckhorn State Park
  • Springfest, April, Bert T. Combs City Park and Campground, Manchester
  • Seedtime on the Cumberland, second weekend in June, Appalshop, Whitesburg
  • Mountain Arts Festival, third Saturday in June, Valley of the Winds Gallery, Eolia
  • Summerfest, July, Rawlings and Stinson Park, Manchester
  • Elk Festival, July, Hazard
  • Wildlife Day, first Saturday in July, Hyden Fish & Game Club
  • Family Folk Week, last week in July, Hindman Settlement School
  • Knott County Gingerbread Festival, the weekend after Labor Day in downtown Hindman
  • Osborne Brothers Hometown Festival, first weekend in August, Hyden
  • Writer’s Workshop, first week in August, Hindman Settlement School
  • Ride the Cyprus, Labor Day Weekend, Addington Wildlife Management Area
  • Knott County Gingerbread Festival, weekend after Labor Day, downtown Hindman
  • Black Gold Festival, third weekend in September, Hazard
  • Fallfest, September, Bert T. Combs City Park and Campground, Manchester
  • Mountain Heritage Festival, last weekend in September, Whitesburg
  • Buckhorn Lake Elk Watch, first weekend in October, Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park
  • Mary Breckinridge Festival, second full week in October, Hyden
  • Our Appalachia Day, second Saturday in October, Alice Lloyd College, Pippa Passes
  • Honey Festival in Jackson, first weekend in September
  • Winterfest, December, Downtown Manchester


Visitors to Kentucky’s Elk Country Corridor will find a variety of accommodations offering Southern hospitality. Options include cabins, historic bed and breakfast inns, independently owned motels, familiar chain lodgings and a family-friendly state resort park with a lodge and cottages.


Many treasures can be found in the shops of Elk Country Corridor. Shopping adventures can include discovering a great antique at Oven Fork Mercantile in Eolia, a rare recording at Appalshop in Whitesburg or a special bottle of local wine at Highland Winery in Seco. Co-ops, such as Pioneer Village in Red Fox, Morris Fork Crafts in Breathitt Co. and Pine Mountain/Letcher County Crafts Co-op in Whitesburg, allow shoppers to view the work of many artisans at one stop. Fine works of art can be found at Valley of the Winds in Eolia, Kentucky Appalachian Artisan Center in Hindman, and Marie Stewart Craft Shop in Hindman. Along with offering a wide selection of expertly crafted items, several shops are housed in historic structures. Examples include Red Bird Mission Crafts in Beverly, Pioneer Village in Red Fox, J.D. Maggard’s Cash Store in Whitesburg, Oven Fork Mercantile in Eolia and The Cozy Corner in Whitesburg offers one of the finest selections of Appalachian music and books in the area, as well as a selection of the finest quilts and other crafts.


The aroma of fried cornbread hovers over the valley and mingles with the crisp mountain air. Pull up a chair. A variety of lunch and dinners are on the table at restaurants in Elk Country. Favorite Southern entrees are usually accompanied by fresh-baked biscuits and cornbread, along with plenty of sweet tea.

Country-style cooking can be found throughout the Elk Country Corridor. Every town has restaurants serving up their own variation of treasured Southern recipes. Sample the offerings of the region. The spectacular mountain scenery rivals the food in the area. Enjoy both at the Dining Room at Buckhorn State Resort Park or at Pine Mountain Grill in Whitesburg.

Discover Appalachia In Clay County Kentucky

Appalachia is rich with history, cultural expressions and distinct characteristics such as dialect, music and food. Since its recognition as a distinctive region in the late 19th century, Appalachia has been a source of enduring myths and distortions regarding the isolation, temperament, and behavior of its inhabitants. Early 20th-century writers focused on sensationalistic aspects of the region's culture, such as moonshining and clan feuding, and often portrayed the region's inhabitants as uneducated and prone to impulsive acts of violence. Sociological studies in the 1960s and 1970s helped to deconstruct these stereotypes, although popular media continued to perpetuate the image of Appalachia as a culturally backward region into the 21st century.

Experience the real Appalachia in Clay County, Kentucky...a place of beauty, art, music, nature, unique traditions and friendly, fascinating people.

Early History

Native American hunter-gatherers first arrived in what is now Appalachia over 12,000 years ago. By the time English explorers arrived in Appalachia in the late 17th century, the central part of the region was controlled by Algonquian tribes (namely the Shawnee) and the southern part of the region was controlled by the Cherokee.

European migration into Appalachia began in the 18th century. As lands in eastern Pennsylvania and the tidewater areas of Virginia and the Carolinas filled up, immigrants began pushing further and further westward into the Appalachian Mountains. A relatively large proportion of the early backcountry immigrants were Ulster Scots - later known as "Scotch-Irish" - who were seeking cheaper land and freedom from Quaker leaders, many of whom considered the Scotch-Irish "savages." Others included Germans from the Palatinate region and English settlers from the Anglo-Scottish border country.

Between 1730 and 1763, immigrants trickled into western Pennsylvania, northwestern Virginia, and western Maryland. Thomas Walker's discovery of Cumberland Gap in 1750 and the end of the French and Indian War in 1763 lured settlers deeper into the mountains, namely to upper east Tennessee, northwestern North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, and central Kentucky. Between 1790 and 1840, a series of treaties with the Cherokee and other Native American tribes opened up lands in north Georgia, northeast Alabama, the Tennessee Valley, the Cumberland Plateau regions, and the highlands along what is now the Tennessee-North Carolina border. The last of these treaties culminated in the removal of the bulk of the Cherokee population from the region via the Trail of Tears in 1838.

The Appalachian Frontier

Appalachian frontiersmen have long been romanticized for their ruggedness and self-sufficiency. A typical depiction of an Appalachian pioneer involves a hunter wearing a coonskin cap and buckskin clothing, and sporting a long rifle and shoulder-strapped powder horn. Perhaps no single figure symbolizes the Appalachian pioneer more than Daniel Boone (1734–1820), a long hunter and surveyor instrumental in the early settlement of Kentucky and Tennessee. Like Boone, Appalachian pioneers moved into areas largely separated from "civilization" by high mountain ridges, and had to fend for themselves against the elements. As many of these early settlers were living on Native American lands, attacks from Native American tribes were a continuous threat until the 19th century.

As early as the 18th century, Appalachia (then known simply as the "backcountry") began to distinguish itself from its wealthier lowland and coastal neighbors to the east. Frontiersmen often bickered with lowland and tidewater "elites" over taxes, sometimes to the point of armed revolts. In 1778, at the height of the American Revolution, backwoodsmen from Pennsylvania, Virginia, and what is now Kentucky took part in George Rogers Clark's Illinois campaign. Two years later, a group of Appalachian frontiersmen known as the Overmountain Men routed British forces at the Battle of Kings Mountain after rejecting a call by the British to disarm. After the war, residents throughout the Appalachian backcountry refused to pay a tax placed on whiskey by the new American government, leading to what became known as the Whiskey Rebellion.

Early 19th Century

In the early 19th century, the rift between the yeoman farmers of Appalachia and their wealthier lowland counterparts continued to grow, especially as the latter dominated most state legislatures. People in Appalachia began to feel slighted over what they considered unfair taxation methods and lack of state funding for improvements (especially for roads). In the northern half of the region, the lowland "elites" consisted largely of industrial and business interests, whereas in the parts of the region south of the Mason–Dixon Line, the lowland elites consisted of large-scale land-owning planters. The Whig Party, formed in the 1830s, drew widespread support from disaffected Appalachians.

Tensions between the mountain counties and state governments sometimes reached the point of mountain counties threatening to break off and form separate states. In 1832, bickering between western Virginia and eastern Virginia over the state's constitution led to calls on both sides for the state's separation into two states. In 1841, Tennessee state senator (and later U.S. president) Andrew Johnson introduced legislation in Tennessee's state senate calling for the creation of a separate state in East Tennessee. The proposed state would have been known as "Frankland" and would have invited like-minded mountain counties in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama to join it.

The U.S. Civil War

By 1860, the Whig Party had disintegrated. Sentiments in northern Appalachia had shifted to the pro-abolitionist Republican Party. In southern Appalachia, abolitionists still constituted a radical minority, although several smaller opposition parties (most of which were both pro-Union and pro-slavery) were formed to oppose the planter-dominated Southern Democrats. As states in the southern United States moved toward secession, a majority of Southern Appalachians still supported the Union. In 1861, a Minnesota newspaper identified 161 counties in Southern Appalachia - which the paper called "Alleghenia" - where Union support remained strong, and which might provide crucial support for the defeat of the Confederacy. However, many of these Unionists - especially in the mountain areas of North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama - were "conditional" Unionists in that they opposed secession, but also opposed violence to prevent secession, and thus when their respective state legislatures voted to secede, their support shifted to the Confederacy.

Kentucky sought to remain neutral at the outset of the conflict, opting not to supply troops to either side. After Virginia voted to secede, several mountain counties in northwestern Virginia rejected the ordinance and with the help of the Union army established a separate state, admitted to the Union as West Virginia in 1863. However, half the counties included in the new state, comprising two-thirds of its territory, were secessionist and pro-Confederate. This caused great difficulty for the new Unionist state government in Wheeling, both during and after the war. A similar effort occurred in East Tennessee, but the initiative failed after Tennessee's governor ordered the Confederate army to occupy the region, forcing East Tennessee's Unionists to flee to the north or go into hiding. Both central and southern Appalachia suffered tremendous violence and turmoil during the U.S. Civil War. While there were two major theaters of operation in the region - namely the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia (and present-day West Virginia) and the Chattanooga area along the Tennessee-Georgia border - much of the violence was caused by bushwhackers and guerrilla war. Large numbers of livestock were killed (grazing was an important part of Appalachia's economy), and numerous farms were destroyed, pillaged, or neglected. The actions of both Union and Confederate armies left many inhabitants in the region resentful of government authority and suspicious of outsiders for decades after the war.

Late 19th & Early 20th Centuries

After the war, northern parts of Appalachia experienced an economic boom, while economies in the southern parts of the region stagnated, especially as Southern Democrats regained control of their respective state legislatures at the end of Reconstruction. Pittsburgh and its surrounding areas in western Pennsylvania grew into one of the nation's major industrial centers, especially regarding iron and steel production. By 1900, the Chattanooga area and north Georgia and northern Alabama had experienced similar changes due to manufacturing booms in Atlanta and Birmingham at the edge of the Appalachian region. Railroad construction between the 1880s and early 20th century gave the greater nation access to the vast coalfields in central Appalachia, making the economy in that part of the region practically synonymous with coal mining. As the nationwide demand for timber skyrocketed, lumber firms turned to the virgin forests of southern Appalachia, using sawmill and logging railroad innovations to reach remote timber stands.


The late 19th and early 20th centuries also saw the development of various regional stereotypes. Attempts by President Rutherford B. Hayes to enforce the whiskey tax in the late 1870s led to an explosion in violence between Appalachian "moonshiners" and federal "revenuers" that lasted through the Prohibition period in the 1920s. The breakdown of authority and law enforcement during the Civil War may have contributed to an increase in clan feuding, which by the 1880s was reported to be a problem across most of Kentucky's Cumberland region as well as Carter County in Tennessee, Carroll County in Virginia, and Mingo and Logan counties in West Virginia. Regional writers from this period such as Mary Noailles Murfree and Horace Kephart liked to focus on such sensational aspects of mountain culture, leading readers outside the region to believe they were more widespread than in reality. In an 1899 article in The Atlantic, Berea president William G. Frost attempted to redefine the inhabitants of Appalachia as "noble mountaineers" - relics of the nation's pioneer period whose isolation had left them unaffected by modern times.


Appalachia, and especially Kentucky, became internationally known for its violent feuds, especially in the remote mountain districts. They pitted the men in extended clans against each other for decades, often using assassination and arson as weapons, along with ambushes, gunfights, and pre-arranged shootouts. Some of the feuds were continuations of violent local Civil War episodes. Journalists often wrote about the violence, using stereotypes that "city folks" had developed about Appalachia; they interpreted the feuds as the inevitable product of profound ignorance, poverty, and isolation, and perhaps even interbreeding. In reality, the leading participants were typically well-to-do local elites with networks of clients who were fighting for local political power.

Modern Appalachia

Income for most mountain families originally revolved around forest farming, based predominantly on family labor which was practiced by the vast majority of the population. Contrary to stereotypes about Appalachian farms, most farms were extremely large and successful. Over the course of time, the division and re-division of the limited land to accommodate the new generations of families reduced the size of farms, thus reducing their commercial productivity. An emphasis on subsistence, rather than commercial agriculture, resulted. The same pattern had occurred in New England in the eighteenth century. What was unique in Appalachia was that subsistence farming lasted so long, owing to growing isolation from the rest of the country as the area was bypassed in the construction of modern means of transportation.

As farming became less profitable, many families moved to new urban and industrial frontiers in the cities of the Midwest. Others moved into the mines and mills that sprang up in Appalachia almost overnight as railroads opened up the region to capitalist industrialization early in the twentieth century.

Logging firms' rapid devastation of the forests of southern Appalachia sparked a movement among conservationists to preserve what remained and allow the land to "heal". In 1911, Congress passed the Weeks Act, giving the federal government authority to create national forests and control timber harvesting. Regional writers and business interests led a movement to create national parks in the eastern United States similar to Yosemite and Yellowstone in the west, culminating in the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and the Blue Ridge Parkway (connecting the two) in the 1930s. During the same period, New England forester Benton MacKaye led the movement to build the 2,175-mile (3,500 km) Appalachian Trail, stretching from Georgia to Maine. In February 1937, a national forest for Kentucky was officially established under a proclamation signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Originally named the Cumberland National Forest, the forest was renamed in 1966 as the Daniel Boone National Forest in recognition of the adventurous frontiersman that explored much of this Kentucky region.

By the 1950s, poor farming techniques and the loss of jobs to mechanization in the mining industry had left much of central and southern Appalachia poverty-stricken. The lack of jobs also led to widespread difficulties with outmigration. Beginning in the 1930s, federal agencies such as the Tennessee Valley Authority began investing in the Appalachian region. Sociologists such as James Brown and Cratis Williams and authors such as Harry Caudill and Michael Harrington brought attention to the region's plight in the 1960s, prompting Congress to create the Appalachian Regional Commission in 1965. The commission's efforts helped to stem the tide of outmigration and diversify the region's economies.

The economy of Appalachia traditionally rested on agriculture, mining, timber, and in the cities, manufacturing. Since the late 20th century, tourism and second home developments have assumed an increasingly major role. In 2000-2001, tourism in Appalachia accounted for nearly $30 billion and over 600,000 jobs. The mountain terrain - with its accompanying scenery and outdoor recreational opportunities - provide the region's primary attractions. The craft industry, including the teaching, selling, and display or demonstration of regional crafts, also accounts for an important part of the Appalachian economy.

The mineral-rich mountain springs of the Appalachians, which for many years were thought to have health-restoring qualities, were drawing visitors to the region as early as the 18th century. Along with the mineral springs, the cool and clear air of the range's high elevations provided an escape for lowland elites. The establishment of national parks in the 1930s brought an explosion of tourist traffic to the region.

A Natural Paradise

Stretching nearly 2,200 miles from Alabama in the United States to New Brunswick, Canada, the Appalachian Mountain range is one of the richest temperate areas in the world. Home to over 200 species of birds and well over 6,000 species of plant life, the Appalachian Mountains offer amazing diversity.

Moose inhabit the northernmost reaches of the Appalachians. Weighing in at 1,000 pounds or more, these large animals roam deep woods and wetland areas from Massachusetts into Canada. White-tailed deer are plentiful the entire length of these mountains and can be spotted often. Black bear, bobcats and coyotes are also plentiful. Elk have been reintroduced to the region over the years in parts of Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. If not observed, their distinctive bugling can sometimes be heard. Wild boars are also a species contained in a smaller region of Appalachia.

An abundance of smaller animals like squirrels, chipmunks, raccoon and opossum live all along the Appalachians. More rare species include fox, porcupine, mink and muskrat. Along with a variety of salamanders and lizards, snakes–both poisonous and non-poisonous–inhabit the woods and rocky areas of the mountains. Many streams and some ponds are fed by springs and their cold water supports trout. Bass, catfish and bream are also plentiful in these waters.

With 255 different species identified, it would be difficult to list all the birds in the Appalachians. Some of the more unique species include whippoorwills and fly-catchers, while songbirds are abundant everywhere in the mountains. Large birds like turkey and grouse are very common, and falcons, eagles and hawks roam the skies in search of prey.

According to a study, 6,374 plant species are documented in the Appalachians. Scientists believe the actual number is five or six times that number. The mountains are well known for azaleas and rhododendrons. Laurel, jack-in-the-pulpit, columbine, trillium and bog laurel cover some hillsides and wild sarsaparilla grows in dry, open woods. Wood nettle can be found growing thick in some fields. Most of these species are spring and summer bloomers but goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace, wood sorrel and aster can be found in the fall and, occasionally, into early winter.

Forests are described as mixed deciduous with oaks and hickories the most common species of tree found in the Appalachians. A smattering of maples and beech are also in the mix. To the north, spruces and firs are plentiful. The southern end of the mountains is more species diverse than any other forest in North America with basswood, tulip trees, ash and magnolia among the variety.


Appalachian music is one of the most well-known manifestations of Appalachian culture. Traditional Appalachian music is derived primarily from the English and Scottish ballad tradition and Irish and Scottish fiddle music. African-American blues musicians played a significant role in developing the instrumental aspects of Appalachian music, most notably with the introduction of the banjo - one of the region's iconic symbols - in the late 18th century. In the years following World War I, British folklorist Cecil Sharp brought attention to Southern Appalachia when he noted that its inhabitants still sang hundreds of English and Scottish ballads that had been passed down to them from their ancestors. Commercial recordings of Appalachian musicians in the 1920s would have a significant impact on the development of country music, bluegrass, and old-time music. Appalachian music saw a resurgence in popularity during the American folk music revival of the 1960s, when musicologists such as Mike Seeger, John Cohen, and Ralph Rinzler traveled to remote parts of the region in search of musicians unaffected by modern music. Today, dozens of annual music festivals held throughout the region preserve the Appalachian music tradition.

Arts & Crafts

Appalachia’s craft traditions are rich and alive. They are as diverse as our people and can be found in every corner, holler, and river valley of the mountains. The artisans who create them reflect the culture, folklore and entrepreneurial spirit of Appalachia. They are finely hewn and richly expressed, whether inspired from traditional or contemporary influences. The treasured works of hundreds of Appalachians can be found in the many shops, galleries, festivals, and museums throughout Appalachia.


Appalachian folklore has a strong mixture of European, Native American (especially Cherokee), and Biblical influences. The Cherokee taught the region's early European pioneers how to plant and cultivate crops such as corn and squash and how to find edible plants such as ramps. The Cherokee also passed along their knowledge of the medicinal properties of hundreds of native herbs and roots, and how to prepare tonics from such plants. Before the introduction of modern agricultural techniques in the region in the 1930s and 1940s, many Appalachian farmers followed the Biblical tradition of planting by "the signs," such as the phases of the moon, or when certain weather conditions occurred.

Appalachian folk tales are rooted in English, Scottish, and Irish fairy tales, as well as regional heroic figures and events. Jack tales, which tend to revolve around the exploits of a simple-but-dedicated figure named "Jack," are popular at story-telling festivals. Other stories involve wild animals. Regional folk heroes such as the railroad worker John Henry and frontiersman Davy Crockett are examples of real-life figures that evolved into popular folk tale subjects. Murder stories, such as Omie Wise and John Hardy, are popular subjects for Appalachian ballads. Ghost stories, or "haint tales" in regional English, are a common feature of southern oral and literary tradition.

Manchester & Clay County Appalachian History

Historic Salt Works

Historic Salt Works in Manchester was established due to the presence of many salt springs. Daniel Boone offered a plan to reroute the Wildnerness Road to pass by the headwaters of Goose Creek. The production of salt led to Manchester becoming a major trade center. During the Civil War and thereafter, the salt works became a point of contention and led to long-term feuds and skirmishes. The Baker-White feud started in the 1820s and continued until 1932. The feud claimed roughly 150 lives; the deadliest such struggle east of the Mississippi.

The City of Manchester and the Clay County Genealogical and Historical Society have teamed up to create one of the most exciting historical sites in eastern Kentucky with the re-creation of the famous Goose Creek Salt Works at the site it occupied in the mid-1790s. It was one of the state's most important industries. This was also the site, in April 1807, where the newly formed Clay County came into existence making the salt works the first county seat. It was the center of government for the huge territory of SE Kentucky that encompassed all the headwaters of the Kentucky River -- North Fork, Middle Fork, and South Fork -- and their tributeries, including adjacent Goose Creek. The site was situated squarely on the famous Warrior's Path, the early Indian trail used by Kentucky's first explorers, including Dr. Thomas Walker who passed by the site in 1750, and Daniel Boone in 1769.

The cabins at Goose Creek Salt Works include Cotton Cabin, one of the oldest log cabins in Kentucky dating from the 1790s, around the time the salt works started producing salt commercially. Interpretive signs lead visitors through the entire history of the site.

Red Bird River Shelter Petroglyphs

The Red Bird River Shelter Petroglyphs are a series of petroglyphs, or carvings, on a stone in Manchester, Kentucky. The petroglyphs have been interpreted as inscriptions in at least 8 Old World alphabets, all of which were extinct when Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492. The rock was enrolled on the National Register of Historic Places in September 1989. On December 7, 1994, the 50 ton stone stone fell from a sandstone cliff above the Red Bird River and rolled onto Highway 66 at Lower Red Bird. On December 9, 1994, it was transported to its present location, where it is roofed over and fenced. The alphabets apparently inscribed on the stone include 1st century Greek and Hebrew, as well as Old Libyan, Old Arabic and Iberian-Punic which probably dates from the 9th century BC. Ogam, Germanic Runes, and Tiffinag-Numidian inscriptions have also been identified. It has been argued that finding eight different languages inscribed in one place is highly unlikely, and that the claims are fanciful interpretations of the evidence. The inscriptions on the rock have been compared to other Cherokee inscriptions in the area, and it has been suggested that those on the rock have been altered in modern times. The interpretation that the petroglyphs represent Old World inscriptions has been linked to 18th century arguments that the Cherokee Nation had no right to live in Kentucky as an ancient white race settled here before them.

James Anderson Burns' Cabin Museum & Gift Shop

James Anderson Burns' cabin houses the Oneida Baptist Institute Museum & Gift Shop in the little village of Oneida. The two room museum offers a glimpse into the rich and fascinating history of Oneida, Ky. A large gift shop includes handmade items by volunteers, Oneida clothing and souvenirs, books, decor, antiques and more. A thrift store is also located nearby with proceeds benefiting the school. The school sits on a knob overlooking the confluence of Goose Creek and the Red Bird River, which forms the South Fork of the Kentucky River. The Oneida Baptist Institute was founded in 1899 by Professor James Anderson Burns as a way to help stop the feuding at the end of the 19th Century. Burns hoped that by educating the children of the feuders they would find better uses for their time. In 1899, Burns, a former feuder himself, gathered some of the feuding residents of the area and convinced them to support a school. The little boarding school on the knoll overlooking its namesake town has played a large part in the history of Clay County and has attracted students from around the world.

Dillon Asher Cabin

The Asher house is a log cabin built around 1799 on the site of what later became the grounds of the Red Bird Community Hospital. Dillion Asher's cabin is one of the oldest structures in Clay County. The well-preserved structure is thought to have been built around the time Asher located on the waters of upper Red Bird. Asher moved to the area when the only known resident was John Gilbert. Asher had served as the keeper of the toll gate at Cumberland Ford on the Wilderness Road at Cumberland Ford, the site of present-day Pineville, since the toll gate was established in 1795. Asher was on the grand jury the day the first Clay County court was seated, April 13, 1807. He went on to establish a large clan of Ashers in Clay and Leslie Counties and was a major player in the early development of the timber industry in Clay County. The cabin is located at the Red Bird Mission Hospital at the far southern end of Clay County on KY 66, an especially scenic drive that takes you from Oneida through the sparsely settled Red Bird Purchase Unit of the Daniel Boone National Forest.

Heritage Pavilion

The Clay County Genealogical and Historical Society's Heritage Pavilion is located on the Square in Manchester. The copper-topped structure serves as a visual symbol of Clay County’s heritage. The pavilion contains three large interpretive signs that recount the county’s history from before its founding, to well into the 20th Century, focusing on early history and places and of some of the most prominent people of historical interest. 

The first sign is a graphic rendering of the county’s “Historical Trails and Places,” and guides the visitor along the famous Warrior’ Path that traversed the county from north to south and was followed by such early explorers as Dr. Thomas Walker and Daniel Boone in the mid to late 1700s, and countless Indians before them. The graphic also maps out some of the earliest roads funded by the state legislature in the early 1800s that were built expressly for getting salt from several Goose Creek works to customers in the Bluegrass and in other states. This sign shows the location of several of the salt works, and contains pertinent information.

The second sign details the significant Civil War activity that took place within the border of the county from 1861 to 1864. The sign takes the visitor from the raid on the Goose Creek salt works by Rebel forces under the command of Gen. Felix Zollicoffer before the first battle of the war in Kentucky, and through the years of skirmishing between the armies around Manchester and on Red Bird, and details the destruction of the five major salt works by Union forces that was carried out in order to keep salt out of Confederate hands. Much of the sign details the activities of Clay County’s famous Colonel (later Brigadier General), T. T. Garrard, in the county.

The third sign gives brief biographies and photos or renderings of some of the most historically prominent Clay County citizens, and shows where they lived and are buried. Included on this sign is the first known settler of the county, John Gilbert, a long hunter who decided to settle on Red Bird at the close of the American Revolution and raised a large family there with his wife, Mollie Bowling.

A Wild History

Clay County is famous for its fascinating, wild history of Appalachian clan feuds...including the Baker-Howard feud, the largest and longest of all feuds...and the rich history of the founding of Oneida Baptist Institute to stop the feuding through education.

Appalachia, and especially Kentucky, were once internationally known for violent feuds, especially in the remote mountain districts. They pitted the men in extended clans against each other for decades, often using assassination and arson as weapons, along with ambushes, gunfights and pre-arranged shootouts. Journalists often wrote about the violence, using stereotypes that "city folks" had developed about Appalachia; they interpreted the feuds as the inevitable product of profound ignorance, poverty, and isolation, and perhaps even interbreeding. In reality, the leading participants were typically well-to-do local elites with networks of clients who were fighting for local political power.

Warriors' Path

The Warrior's Path is one of the most historically significant trails in American History. Created by buffalo searching for salt deposits, the route was used for countless years by Indians traveling between the Smoky Mountains in the south and the wilderness north of the Ohio River. They called it Athiamiowee, or "Path of the Armed Ones". As pioneers began to come through in the late 1700's, the trail became part of what was known as the Wilderness Road. In the 1750's English speakers began referring to the trail as the Warrior's Path.

Gabriel Arthur was probably the first European to cross the gap in 1673 when he was taken by a band of Cherokees throughout the region. It wasn't until 1750 before Europeans started making regular trips across the gap. Dr. Thomas Walker led a famous exploration of the area. He was the first recorded person to discover and use coal in Kentucky. He named the Cumberland River after Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. The name stuck to the region and soon the gap was known as the Cumberland Gap. In 1775, Daniel Boone was hired by the Transylvania Company and led a group of men to improve the trails across the gap so wagons could traverse them.

Daniel Boone

Daniel Boone was an American pioneer, explorer, and frontiersman whose frontier exploits made him one of the first folk heroes of the United States. Boone is most famous for his exploration and settlement of what is now Kentucky, which was then part of Virginia but on the other side of the mountains from the settled areas. Despite some resistance from American Indian tribes such as the Shawnee, in 1775 Boone blazed his Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap in the Appalachian Mountains from North Carolina and Tennessee into Kentucky. There he founded the village of Boonesborough, Kentucky, one of the first American settlements west of the Appalachians. Before the end of the 18th century, more than 200,000 European people migrated to Kentucky/Virginia by following the route marked by Boone.

Boone was a militia officer during the Revolutionary War (1775–83), which in Kentucky was fought primarily between the American settlers and the British-aided Native Americans. Boone was captured by Shawnee warriors in 1778, who after a while adopted him into their tribe. Later, he left the Indians and returned to Boonesborough to help defend the European settlements in Kentucky/Virginia.

Boone was elected to the first of his three terms in the Virginia General Assembly during the Revolutionary War, and fought in the Battle of Blue Licks in 1782. Blue Lick was one of the last battles of the Revolutionary War, coming after the main fighting ended in October 1781.

Following the war, Boone worked as a surveyor and merchant, but fell deeply into debt through failed Kentucky land speculation. Frustrated with the legal problems resulting from his land claims, Boone emigrated to eastern Missouri, where he spent most of the last two decades of his life. Boone remains an iconic figure in American history. He was a legend in his own lifetime, especially after an account of his adventures was published, making him famous in America and Europe. After his death, he was frequently the subject of heroic tall tales and works of fiction. His adventures—real and legendary—were influential in creating the archetypal Western hero of American folklore. In American popular culture, he is remembered as one of the foremost early frontiersmen. The epic Daniel Boone mythology often overshadows the historical details of his life.

Clay County: A Salty Beginning

He was not the first to visit Clay County, but “long hunter” John Gilbert was likely the first to settle here. Following the Revolutionary War, in 1783, Virginia opened more Kentucky land for settlement and Gilbert made a home on Red Bird River near the mouth of Gilbert’s Creek. It wasn't long before more settlers arrived, including James Collins.

Collins built his cabin upon the headwaters of Collins' Fork in 1800 at a salt spring he had discovered when following a buffalo trail. He made the first salt ever made in the county.

Pioneer Collins first crossed from Virginia over the ridge into what afterwards became eastern Kentucky in 1798. He came with a party to hunt in what is now Clay County for the game which abounded in the region. The wolf still howled on the uplands, the panther brought down the fawn, and the antlered elk walked in stately fashion along the forest trails.

About this time an Indian chief by the name of Redbird made his hunter's headquarters in a "rockhouse" on the upper portion of the beautiful stream which now bears his name, and it was also about this time that a white hunter some thirty miles away, at another stream, slew a huge bull buffalo, removed his skin, and hung it on the limb of a great walnut tree near the bank, an act which gave the stream the name of "Big Bull Skin," which takes its rise not a gnat way from the waters of "Hell-fer-sartin."

Over the ridge to the north of the place where Redbird Creek joins Goose Creek and Big Bull Skin are "Whoop-fer-larrie" and "Squabble." The former of the last two streams acquired its name from an incident told by a hunter upon returning from a journey into the forest where he evidently found both game and fire water. While sleeping one night, on his return, he was awakened by a voice which seemed to come down from the tree tops and cry out, "Whoop-fer-larrie! Whoop-fer-larrie!" The voice was interpreted as belonging to some foul spirit of the mountains intent on doing harm to hunters. Without staying for investigation, the hunter hastened out of the rugged region, assured that an evil spirit was abroad. For a long time thereafter many hunters declined to spend a night in that locality for fear that the strange voice might assume some horrible physical form and do them harm.

"Squabble Creek" also received its name from an incident, or rather a series of incidents, of pioneer days. After a successful hunting trip, when time came for dividing the "kill," one man wielded the hunting knife and ax while the rest, save two, stood by to see that fair play was done. One of the two was blindfolded and stationed behind a tree. The other was placed there with him as guard. The blindfolded man was to act as judge and jury in making awards, and the guard was to see that all awards were made according to the demands of justice and the occasion. Whenever the knife-man cut a share from the carcass, he would call out, "Who's here?" The blindfolded judge would shout back the name of the hunter who should receive it. This process of "cut and call" was continued until all the carcasses were equitably divided. But the hunters of that region quite often found fire water as well as game before the "out and call" was begun. When this was the case, there was usually much wrangling or squabbling over the division. Such scenes were enacted so frequently that some hunter, with a bit of wit and a sense of the eternal fitness of things, called the stream "Squabble Creek," an appellation which it has ever since borne.

It was back in such days, during the latter part of the eighteenth century, that Collins came over into the Kentucky mountains to hunt. Who came with him, and how many, it is not known, but during his ramblings about on what is now Collins Fork of Goose Creek, in Clay County, he chanced to find a spring whose waters were salty. An idea immediately came to this sturdy huntsman. Why not keep still about the find, mark the place well, return to Virginia, and secure the necessary equipment for starting a salt-making industry? Evidently being a man of initiative, and possessing a knack for bargaining, he soon set out on the return journey to make his dream come true.

Some weeks later a cavalcade of men and mules started back on the long, long trail to Collins Fork in Kentucky. Some of the mules carried food and other supplies, but the majority carried on either side huge cast iron kettles, such as had long been used by the pioneer housewives for boiling the family washing.

The procession arrived intact at its destination on Collins Fork a few years before the beginning of the last century, and upon its arrival the important salt-making industry of Clay County began to get under way. Much of the materials necessary to salt making were brought by pack train from Virginia. Lime was brought in bags and small barrels for the purpose of insuring proper texture and whiteness of the product. As soon as the salt was made and a considerable quantity scooped into carefully sheltered bins, the small casks made of oak staves were filled. Two were firmly bound to panniers on each pack mule in preparation for the long journey back to the old settlements. There it became a popular medium of exchange.

Hides, furs, skeins of thread, flour, whiskey, and other commodities were traded for Clay County salt. People came from long distances with ox-drawn wagons for a supply of the precious product, which they distributed at a profit among the people back at home. Wagons from Knoxville, Lexington, and other points, laden with flour, dry goods, and numerous other supplies, made the long, slow journey to Goose Creek to exchange the incoming load for salt. Now and then some staunch old pioneer might be seen trudging along the trail driving one or more milk cows for the transportation of a supply. The salt was loaded upon the cattle in the same fashion as upon the pack mules. The advantage in using the cows lay in the fact that they not only transported the salt but also, on the same amount of grazing required by mules, furnished fresh milk for the drivers.

After Collins had demonstrated that such an industry was financially profitable, other men came into the region, prospecting for salt water. They drilled wells and established industries of their own. One man, a molder of pewter dishes, had come from Connecticut. His son married a Clay County girl and settled down in the salt-making business. Among the owners of works, at different times, appear the names of White, Daugherty, Dates. Reid, Horton, Potter, and Garrard, who was the son of Kentucky's second governor. Not all were actively interested at any one time, but shortly after Collins was well established, enough salt works were started to create no small amount of rivalry in the business. This rivalry was sometimes a contributing cause to serious misunderstandings between some of the families interested in the business which made that region famous.

Not only on Collins Fork, but on other streams in Clay County, salt works were established. The Potter works were on upper Redbird Creek and at the bead of South Fork of Kentucky River, just across the stream from where Oneida is now located. At most of these old sites evidences of the furnace pits and mounds may still be seen.

Perhaps the most exciting method of transportation was by freight boat down the Kentucky River. Much of east central Kentucky was supplied in this way. Boats were built near the works by laborers from material cut with whipsaws driven by water power. They were substantial craft with a walk-way from end to end along each side. They could be run only when a freshet was on the streams, and when travel was slow, they were hurried along somewhat by means of poles. A man would step to the front end of the walk-way, set one end of a long pole against the bottom of the stream, with the other end resting in his hand laid against the pushing shoulder, and walk to the stem of the boat, pushing all the while, whereupon he would return to the prow of the boat and repeat the walk.

Very little poling was necessary during high tides. On such occasions the boats were guided almost altogether with long oars. One oar, some thirty or forty feet long, was fastened by a pin to the front end and another similar one to the stern. These were "bucked" or manned by husky workers who remained on the job twenty-four hours of the day, loafing when the water was good, but working like mad in shallows and sharp bends.

One treacherous shoal on Redbird Creek known as "The Narrows," four miles below Oneida, was the scene of many disasters. It is a long series of dangerous shallows ending at the lower reaches of a cataract among huge, threatening boulders over which the high water breaks and rolls up like a miniature gorge of Niagara. Whenever a fatality occurred, some boatman with a knack for rhyming told the details of the tragedy in uncertain measures, and thus gave to all his fellows another river song full of pathos and local color. Such songs were sung for many a day afterwards by the saltmakers and many of their friends.

The Cattle Wars

In 1800 Judge John Amis, a successful lawyer and Circuit Judge, moved to Oneida and purchased a partnership in the Goose Creek Salt Works. So vital was salt to frontier life and trade that Daniel Boone had offered to re-route the Wilderness Road to pass the Goose Creek Salt Works. Clay County went on to become the leading salt producer in the state during the nineteenth century. The struggle behind the scenes to control the industry was fierce.

At the same time John Amis was establishing himself on the south side of the Kentucky River, William Strong and a group of Virginia farmers and cattle ranchers were setting down roots on the North Fork of the river. Trouble was about to brew between John Amis and William Strong.

In the spring of 1806, Judge Amis went hunting in the area where his cattle were wintering. He discovered some cattle from the North Fork farms grazing in what he thought were grass fields reserved for him and his cohorts. Amis proceeded to stab about twenty head of the North Fork cattle and drive them into the water where they sank and died.

William Strong was outraged and took a group of men from the North Fork to Amis' house only to find that he was not home. His wife, Kate Bowlin Amis, was there. The North Fork cattlemen shot Amis' horse and took twenty head of cattle from his farm to compensate themselves for the cattle that Amis destroyed. Kate is reported to have been slapped in the face as the cattle were being rustled. In reprisal, Kate sent her slave to follow them and shoot at them. Instead, her slave was himself attacked by the North Fork men as they departed the area.

John Amis contacted the Kentucky militia asking them for help. The militia was unable to respond. A gunfight between the disputants ensued. Several men were injured. Eventually, they all agreed to end the fighting and settle the dispute in court. The first day of trial for those involved in the Cattle War was August 5, 1807, in the Clay County courthouse. John Amis was shot dead by Joel Elkins as he was testifying from the witness chair.

The inability of the militia to be able to react in a timely manner, and the failure to maintain law and order during the months before the trial, recommended that a local constabulary be organized through a smaller county structure with a sheriff. Thus, the Kentucky legislature established Clay County on December 2, 1806 from parts of Madison, Floyd, and Knox Counties. Having local law enforcement did not help maintain law and order, however. Descendants of these combatants figured prominently in subsequent feuds that occurred in Breathitt, Perry and Clay counties, leaving a bloody heritage for future generations.

The Baker-Howard Feud

In 1844 in Clay County, Dr. Abner Baker Jr., known for erratic behavior and a bad temper due to mental disease, married Susan White. Daniel Bates, a prosperous salt maker, married Baker's sister, but separated from her in 1844. Baker charged Bates with undue intimacy with his wife, and killed him. As he lay dying, Bates directed his son to take revenge on Baker and see he was prosecuted or killed. He left $10,000 to make sure it was done. The community was divided between those who did not feel a crazy man should be hung, and those who thought he should. The Whites prosecuted the doctor, but he was deemed insane and acquitted and moved to Cuba.

Baker eventually returned, and in violation of the U.S. Constitution he was tried a second time for the murder of Bates, convicted and hanged. Thenceforth there was "bad blood" between the Bakers and the Whites, involving the Garrards on one side and the Howards on the other, as allies to the respective clans.

In 1883 James Anderson Burns and his mother moved to the old “Burns Homestead” near Oneida.

Called “Burns of the Mountains,” James Anderson Burns was born August 2, 1865 in West Virginia. His father, Hugh Burns, a farmer and Primitive Baptist minister, had moved there from Oneida, Kentucky. The family had moved to West Virginia to escape the feuds that were expected to become worse after the Civil War. The nearest school to the Burn's homestead in West Virginia was 8 miles away so the Burns children studied in the evenings after chores. They learned to read from the Bible and an almanac. At night they gathered around the fireside while Hugh read Bible stories and prayed. At age 14, James learned that a new school was being built 3 miles away. He wanted to go, but had no money for books. He spent his summer digging ginseng roots and earned enough money to buy books and his first pair of store-bought shoes.

By age 16 James had completed the school’s curriculum, but what he wanted most was to learn about Kentucky. When he asked why they had left, his father told him about the feuds. James felt that his father had left their relatives to fight the battle alone and said, “I’m going to Kentucky.” His father made him promise to wait a year. A week later Hugh died from a heart attack.

Soon after Burns arrived in Oneida, his only living uncle took him to the family graveyard. Pointing to the graves, his uncle told him stories of the untimely deaths their relatives had suffered. Burns left with a burning determination to avenge their deaths.

For the next four years, Burns earned a legendary reputation in logging and feuding. Then an event occurred that would change the direction of his life. He and several of his relatives attacked a cabin on Newfound Creek. Burns was hit over the head and left for dead. In The Crucible he wrote, “When I regained consciousness...I went to the top of a mountain and spent two days in lonely vigils. On the third day I slept. When I woke up...the urge of vengeance was gone and peace reigned within. I was determined that the feuds should be stopped.”

Burns returned to West Virginia and began to preach, following in his father’s footsteps. He went to Dennison University in Granville, Ohio, then returned to Kentucky in 1892. From 1893-1897 he taught in Clay County public schools. During the school year 1897-1898 Burns taught at Berea College, where he met Rev. H.L. McMurray. They became close friends and Burns told McMurray about the vision he had for the children of the Clay County Mountains. McMurray agreed to return with him.

At around that same time, Tom Baker, reputed to be the best shot in the Kentucky mountains, bought a note given by A. B. Howard, for whom he was cutting timber. Howard became furious, a fight ensued, one of the Howard boys and Burt Stores were killed from ambush, and the elder Howard was wounded. Thereupon Jim Howard, son of the clan chief, sought out Tom Baker's father, who was county attorney, compelled the unarmed old man to fall upon his knees, shot him twenty-five times with careful aim to avoid a vital spot, and so killed him by inches. Howard was tried and convicted of murder, but it is said that a pardon was offered him if he would go to the State Capitol at Frankfort and assassinate Governor Goebel, which he is charged with having done.

In Clay County, where this feud waged, the judge, clerk, sheriff, and jailer were of the White clan. Tom Baker killed a brother of the sheriff and took to the hills rather than give himself up to a court ruled by his foemen. Then Albert Garrard was fired upon from ambush while riding with his wife to a religious meeting. He removed to Pineville, in another county, under guard of two armed men, both of whom were shot dead "from the bresh."

Governor Bradley sent State troops into Clay County, and Tom Baker surrendered to them. Baker was tried in the Knox Circuit Court, on a change of venue, and was sentenced to the penitentiary for life. On appeal his attorneys secured a reversal of the verdict, and Baker was released on bail. The new trial was set for June, 1899. Governor Bradley again sent a company of State militia, with a Gatling gun, to Manchester where the trial was to be held. Baker was put in a guard-tent surrounded by a squad of soldiers. A hundred yards or so from this tent stood the unoccupied residence of the sheriff, at the foot of a wooded mountain. An assassin hidden in this house spied upon the guard-tent, and, when Baker appeared, shot him dead with a rifle, then took to the woods and escaped.

Shortly after Baker's death, four Griffins, of the White-Howard faction, ambushed Big John Philpotts and his cousin, wounding the former severely and the latter mortally. Big John fought them from behind a log and killed all four.

A School is Born, a Town Soon Follows

In his attempt to end the feuds, James Burns organized a meeting of the clans in the old mill near Oneida. Around 50 men from both sides of the feud gathered to hear Burns speak about his dream of building a school. He said, “We’ve been teaching our children to hate each other for more than a hundred years. Let’s teach them to love each other and then we will have peace. Let’s join together to build a school.” After several minutes of silence two men, Lee Combs and Frank Burns, from opposite sides of the feud, came to the middle of the room and shook hands. At that moment, a school was born.

Burns and McMurray went up Sandlin Hill, climbed an oak tree, looked down on Oneida and picked a site for the school. The knoll they selected was owned by Martha Coldiron Hogg, who donated the property. Soon after Burns laid the cornerstone, men came from both sides of the feud to help build their school. “Big Henry” Hensley gave fifty dollars and Robert Carnahan gave twenty-five. Others brought lumber. The men often worked until midnight and slept on shavings. Burns had announced that the school would open on January 1, 1900. By Christmas they still needed 400 board feet of lumber. Then Frank Burns crossed the frozen river in his wagon loaded with logs he had removed from the loft of his cabin.

While the school was being built, four of the Philpotts were attacked by four Morrises, of the Howard side. Three men were killed, three mortally wounded, and the other two were severely injured. No arrests were made.

The school opened as planned January 1, 1900, called the Mamre Baptist College. Burns was named the first president. On the opening day of school there were 100 students--boys, girls, men, and women. The school was now in session with three teachers: Burns, McMurray, and C.A. Dugger. Classes ranged from grades one through eight. Tuition was $1 a month. Only a few were able to pay cash. Others brought farm animals, produce or coal dug on the family farm.

Finally, in 1901, the Clay County feuds came to an end. The two clans fought a pitched battle in front of the court-house in Manchester. At its conclusion, they formally signed a truce.

Following an invitation by Dr. Carter Jones for Burns to speak to the State Board of Missions meeting in Louisville, the Broadway Baptist Church pledged to send $70 a month to the school. When Dr. Jones invited Burns to Louisville in 1901 to meet with Dr. and Mrs. J. B. Marvin, Burns told them about the need for a larger building. A few days later Dr. and Mrs. Marvin sent $5,000. The new building was completed in 1902 and named Marvin Hall in their honor.

As the enrollment grew, Burns turned students away because they couldn’t find lodging in nearby homes. In 1905 he arranged to start the construction of a girls’ dormitory while he raised the money. He made the rounds across the state to any church that would listen to his story. Burns said in The Crucible, “Somehow the payrolls were always met. Bob Carnahan took care of any overdrafts. In due time Carnahan Hall was completed and a home for 50 girls was provided.”

In 1908 Oneida Baptist Institute (the name had been changed in 1904) had its first graduation. Five men received high school diplomas. The teachers had studied at night in order to teach them during the day. All five went to Georgetown College, where they were put in the sophomore class.

After hearing Burns speak in New York City, Elizabeth Anderson gave $5,300 to buy a farm. A year later in 1911, Anderson donated $11,000 for the construction of Anderson Hall.

An article, “Burns of the Mountains” written by Emerson Hough, appeared in American Magazine in 1912. Hough told how Burns had stopped the feuds and built a school for the mountain children in Clay County. Speaking invitations came from everywhere. The Chautauqua and Lyceum Lecture Bureaus offered to pay Burns a salary, railroad fare and expenses. Burns delivered over 4,000 lectures in almost every state. Listeners were captivated, and many gave donations.

In October 1920 Burns suffered a mental and physical breakdown due to overwork and complications from influenza. Thomas Adams had served as Associate President since 1917 and was named president in 1921. The school was in major financial trouble. Neither Adams nor the teachers had received salaries for over a year when Adams resigned in January 1922.

Sylvia Russell was named president in April 1922. With the help of Charles Goins, Russell was able to bring the school out of financial crisis. Burns resumed his lecture tours in June 1923. He met his second wife, Margaret Benner, on a tour. They were married February 14, 1925 and James Benner Burns was born November 19, 1926.

Mrs. Russell led a campaign to raise funds to build a home for the Burns’ family. The new house was constructed on the hill overlooking the campus where Burns and McMurray had selected the site for the school. Russell resigned in 1928 and Burns served a second term, 1928-1934.

After James Anderson Burns retired in 1934, he moved to Anderson Hall. When he died, the following note was sent to his friends all across the USA: “At 4:00 p.m. September 12, 1945, the forty-seventh year of Oneida Baptist Institute, James Anderson Burns, Founder, Builder, and President Emeritus, passed away in his room in Anderson Hall. The final services were in the school chapel on Friday afternoon with a great funeral oration by Dr. Elmer Gabbard, President of Witherspoon College, Buckhorn, Kentucky. Burial was on Cemetery Hill in Oneida, overlooking the buildings and grounds of the institution into which went his life and through which he forever lives.”

The End of an Era

In the days before Kirby Smith drove the Union troops from Cumberland Gap with a small contingent of soldiers, foraging bands of Federal troops found their way throughout much of southeastern Kentucky, picking up food, stock feed, horses, mules and other things which might be useful to the army.

When it became known that a great area of seceded territory was dependent on the Clay County works for salt, and that large numbers of Confederate soldiers were drawing supplies from the same source, detachments of Union soldiers were dispatched to the various salt works with instructions to plug up the wells and dismantle the furnaces. These orders were promptly carried out, and both friends and foes of the Union were the sufferers. Most of the works were never reopened.

An incident connected with these foraging expeditions is not without interest. Some of the substantial people of the section had very fine horses and other stock. They were anxious to keep those for their own use rather than suffer them to be ridden or led away by soldiers of one of the contending armies. So whenever news reached the neighborhood that soldiers were headed that way, the stock was promptly got together and hurried far away from the road through fields and woods to the top of the mountains where enormous boulders conveniently arranged by nature formed large comfortable rooms. In these enclosures the stock was concealed, the feed being taken in stealthily by night by the work hands. Watch was kept by day and by night, and after the war was over, more than one proud, high-spirited mount carried his rider along the highways because the horse, with many others, had taken his place in the spacious hallways among the "Town Rocks" far up on the mountain tops where marauding soldiers never suspected that valuable war booty was in hiding.

As salt-making industries became established in other states, and as railroad transportation became more efficient, efforts to revive the Clay County works finally ceased. Those who had depended on the industry for a livelihood turned their attention to farming, lumbering, and other occupations. By the early 1900s, coal had taken over the local economy. With the dismantling of the works near the mouth of Horse Creek, one of the great early industries of the Kentucky mountains came to an end.

An Agrarian County

By the early 1800s, Clay County salt had become one of Kentucky’s leading exports, reaching as far west as the Missouri Valley, south to Tennessee, and east to Virginia. But early life in Clay County for most mountain families revolved around forest farming, based predominantly on family labor which was practiced by the vast majority of the population.

Natural resource industries, although secondary to farming as a means of securing a livelihood, also employed a growing number of people throughout the nineteenth century. It was natural for mountaineers to harvest the forest around them for profit. From the earliest settlement they had utilized the timber to construct dwellings, barns and out buildings, mills, and other necessary structures. As demand for wood products increased with the population, both in the mountains and beyond, more and more timber became a commodity for the market.

Contrary to stereotypes about Appalachian farms, most farms in Clay County were extremely large and successful. Over the course of time, the division and re-division of the limited land to accommodate the new generations of families reduced the size of farms, thus reducing their commercial productivity. An emphasis on subsistence, rather than commercial agriculture, resulted. The same pattern had occurred in New England in the eighteenth century. What was unique in Appalachia was that subsistence farming lasted so long, owing to growing isolation from the rest of the country as the area was bypassed in the construction of modern means of transportation.

Large-scale commercial exploitation of the forests began after the Civil War when the national demand for timber increased and the spread of rail lines made the transportation of lumber possible. Lumbering was managed by outside syndicates who hired local labor. Production peaked in 1909, but by 1920, with the forests nearly depleted, the large companies were moving out. Small companies, relying on small mills and circular saws, took over what was left of the industry. By the 1960s only temporary work at low wages was available, and workers, who might have two or more lumbering jobs each year, had to supplement their wages through other forms of employment.

As farming became less profitable, many Clay Countians moved to new urban and industrial frontiers in the cities of the Midwest. Others moved into the mines and mills that sprang up in Appalachia almost overnight as railroads opened up the region to capitalist industrialization early in the twentieth century.

A New Era Begins

For a half-century after its founding in the early nineteenth century, the salt industry grew and stimulated local development of coal to fire the salt brine boilers, and after the Civil War when the salt industry declined a vital coal industry took its place as a major employer.

By the mid-nineteenth century technology permitted the use of coal to fire iron furnaces. Consequently, the proximity of coal and iron deposits provided the points of concentration for the industry in the mountains.

The earliest known use of coal in the Americas was by the Aztecs who used coal for fuel and lignite for ornaments. Kentucky coal mining evolved following the discovery of coal in Virginia in 1701 by Thomas Walker, a physician. The Loyal Land Company formed around 1750 and Dr. Walker went to Kentucky in search of coal, which he found and used it to heat his camp fire.

There was little use for coal in the 18th and early 19th centuries, other than in blacksmith fires. But when the Civil War ended, and the industrialization period began, coal was needed to fuel factories and railroads. Coal mines were operating in Southern Appalachia run by small operators before the Civil War, but following the war coal barons from outside the region moved in and independent operations consolidated. World War I brought a coal boom to Kentucky, bringing European immigrants and African-Americans to join the Appalachian farmers turned miners.

Coal mining was one of the most dangerous occupations. Cave-ins were common, as was pneumoconiosis, or “black lung.” Early mines were primitive, involving digging and blasting into a hillside, shoring up tunnels with wooden timbers, and using hand drills to drill holes to set explosive charges. Mules were used to haul coal from the mine shaft, followed by mining cars. Mining companies built crude homes for workers. Coal was used for cooking and food was grown on hillsides or purchased at the company store. Miners worked about 12 hours each day and were paid $3-$5 a day.

Coal saw an over expansion of the industry during the early part of the century, leading to a collapse. Following World War I, European mines reopened and the demand for American coal prices dropped. Wages were reduced and thousands of mines closed, went bankrupt, or consolidated. World War II resulted in a temporary coal industry boom, but more efficient mining machines resulted in less jobs. Industries began using natural gas and fuel oil instead of coal and diesel powered trains replaced steam locomotives. Many mine workers migrated out of Appalachia or returned to farming.

Coal mining continues in the Southern Appalachian region today due to coal's low cost and abundance when compared to other fuels, particularly for electricity generation, though domestic coal consumption for power production is being displaced by natural gas.

Clay County Today

Clay County has entered the twenty-first century with a new vision forming a new shape that will continue to serve its people with new opportunities for a better way of life for decades to come. The county is moving forward with additions and improvements to infrastructure. Resurgence on many fronts is occurring in manufacturing, industrial, and service jobs. There are new roads, bridges, industry, manufacturing, schools, and construction projects. Major contributors to Clay County's economy today are family farms, timber and coal. Most of the heavily wooded county, approximately 61,000 acres, falls within the Redbird Purchase Unit of the Daniel Boone National Forest. Tourism is destined to play a large part in Clay County's future.

Prominent Clay County Citizens

  • John Gilbert, first known settler of the county, a long hunter who decided to settle on Red Bird at the close of the American Revolution and raised a large family there with his wife, Mollie Bowling.
  • Brigadier General Theopolis Toulmin Garrard, one of the county’s leading salt makers, and a hero of the Civil War for his brave leadership at the battles of Perryville (Kentucky) and Vicksburg (Mississippi) and numerous other battles. Garrard, who was prominent in local political affairs, continued to wield influence locally and statewide until his death.
  • Laura White, who was home schooled at her home at Goose Rock and went on to attain prominence far beyond the borders of Clay County by her pioneering educational activities, which included stints at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Sorbonne in Paris, France. Ms. White, after traveling widely in Europe, came back to Clay County to successfully transition her father’s salt business to the emerging timber business toward the end of the 1800s.
  • Governor Bert T. Combs, widely considered Kentucky’s most progressive governor and a champion of school integration and of education in general. He was born and raised on Beech Creek, schooled at Oneida Baptist Institute, and is buried at the Beech Creek Cemetery, scene of the largest state funeral in Kentucky history upon his death.
  • General Hugh White, patriarch of the powerful White Family of salt makers, who, with the purchase of the old Collins Salt Works in 1804, was more instrumental than any other with putting the county on the map and establishing what was for a while Kentucky’s most important industry.
  • David Yancy Lyttle, the famous Manchester lawyer who is credited with being “The Father of Kentucky Education” for his efforts after the Civil War in providing free education to Kentucky’s school children.
  • Colonel Daniel Garrard, father of General T. T., son of Kentucky’s second governor, James. He was instrumental (along with General Hugh White) in establishing the salt industry that became famous nation wide. Colonel Garrard distinguished himself by leading a significant number of Clay County men to the northwest territories (near Fort Detroit and into Canada) during the War of 1812.
  • Martha Hogg, a business woman who donated much of the land where Oneida Baptist Institute and the town of Oneida were built. Mrs. Hogg, who with her husband C. L. Coldiron, owned what became the legendary Webb Hotel in Manchester, went on after Coldiron’s death to become one of the county’s leading business people despite laws that curtailed such activity by women.
  • Nancy Potter was, like Martha Hogg, was at a disadvantage in business because of her sex. Upon the death of her husband, Robert, she was able to have the courts declare her a “femme sole”, which allowed her to take over the family business that she parlayed into a significant real estate and financial empire in the late 1800s.
  • Elijah Griffin, one of the county’s relative few free black men in the time of slavery, and who had to be issued a permit even to travel about in 1827, went on to achieve remarkable success in the white business world of Clay County in the early part of the Nineteenth Century.
  • Colonel Reuben May, salt maker, postmaster at Mount Welcome (Goose Rock), and an officer in the Eighth Kentucky Infantry in the Civil War. He went on the lead the Seventh Kentucky at Vicksburg after his friend, Colonel T. T. Garrard, was promoted to Brigadier General.
  • John White, son of Hugh, was one of the early Manchester lawyers who went on to represent Madison County in the state legislature, then on the U. S. Congress where he served as Speaker of the House of Representatives, perhaps the highest office ever attained by a Clay Countian.

Henry L. Faulkner

Henry Lawrence Faulkner (January 9, 1924 – December 3, 1981) was a Kentucky born artist and poet known as an eccentric, cross-dressing rebel and bohemian. Faulkner is best known for his wildly colorful oil paintings and bizarre acts, including his bringing a bourbon-drinking goat to parties and art shows.

Faulkner was born in Holland, Kentucky in 1924. Following his mother’s death in 1926, he and his ten brothers and sisters were placed in a children’s home in Louisville, Kentucky. By 1930 he had been placed in several foster homes, but eventually settled in Falling Timber, in Clay County.

He was always interested in art, making his early paints from poke berries and other natural materials. At age 15 he enrolled in the Louisville School of Art. In 1942 he began what was to be a long period of traveling.

He seemed destined to be connected to celebrities. He was incarcerated in a mental ward with Ezra Pound, whom he befriended. His art was sought after by many serious art collectors and celebrities, such as Bette Davis, Marlon Brando, Nat King Cole, Phyllis George and Vincent Price. Socialite Anita Madden, famous for her wild Derby parties, was a friend of Faulkner’s. In 1959 he met Tennessee Williams and a life-long friendship began.

He would travel back and forth from Kentucky to Florida until his death. In 1961 he went to Taormina, Sicily, in Italy, and it was there he perfected his painting style. In the mid-sixties, he made Lexington his permanent summer home and the Florida Keys his winter home.

Faulkner loved cats, chickens and goats, of which he had many. One of his favorites was a goat named Alice who loved to drink bourbon and even accompanied Faulkner to a court appearance once.

Faulkner continued his painting, writing and traveling throughout the seventies. Never losing his awe of nature, he often expressed himself in paintings of flora and fauna. He was an avid collector of furniture, antiques and clothing on which he spent all of his earnings. His personal style, wit and imagination left lasting impressions on all who met him. He died in 1981 as a result of an automobile accident.

Nestled down in the Red Bird River Valley along the Red Bird River off HWY 66 is Red Bird Mission Craft Store. Appalachian crafts include works by gifted artisans in wood carving, weaving, basket-making, toy making and corn shuck flower name a few. Red Bird Mission has been marketing local crafts since the early 1960’s and continues to be a source of secondary income to mountain families today. Located at 70 Queendale Center, Beverly, KY. For additional information call 800-898-2709.

Native Americans of Clay County & Kentucky

Contrary to popular myths, American Indians have lived in Kentucky since time immemorial.  When Kentucky was declared the fifteenth state on June 1, 1792, more than twenty tribes, including the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Chippewa, Delaware, Eel River, Haudenosaunee, Kaskaskia, Kickapoo, Miami, Ottawa, Piankeshaw, Potawatomi, Shawnee, Wea, and Wyandot, held legal claims to the land.  At that time, Kentucky was also considered home to the Mingo and Yamacraw, and Yuchi.

For more than 200 years following statehood, American Indians in Kentucky refusing to acknowledge land cession and forced removal were subjected to ecocide, genocide, ethnocide, assimilation, and deprivation. However, they had the will to survive, and survive they did. American Indians preserved their languages, arts, crafts, religions, and representative governments, generation after generation, in locations that have been closely guarded secrets, from mountain cabins and farms, to deep grottos inside caves, remote rock-shelters, and beyond. American Indians in Kentucky concealed their identity in order to survive. It did not stop them, however, from representing their home state in every American war, even when they lacked citizenship and human recognition.

Cultural Contributions

American Indians domesticated a plethora of plants including the bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria), the gourd-like squash (Cucurbita pepo), the sunflower (Helianthus annuus), maize (Zea mays), beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), amaranth (Amaranthus hypochondriacus), cushaw squash (Cucurbita argyrosperma), and tobacco (Nicotiana species).  In addition to cultigens, American Indians practiced silvaculture of nut-bearing trees such as black walnut, pecan, and the chestnut.  Aside from the economic significance of these cultigens and masts, they are literally helping to feed people around the world today.

American Indians recycled of all of their natural resources including those obtained from plants, animals, and the earth.  Most important of these, they managed their water resources by creating and maintaining sustainable landscapes that provided irrigation to their crops and villages.  American Indians were the original environmental stewards.

The political system of the United States was modeled after the confederacies and leadership formed among and between American Indian tribes during the eighteenth century.  Decisions were made of the people, by the people, and for the people through consensus.  Power and prestige among American Indians came not from the accumulation of personal material wealth, but from how much was given away.  In this vein, everyone was
cared for.  No one went hungry, unsheltered, or unclothed.  Each person had a purpose and role in society.

Most of the major roads in Kentucky were built on American Indian trails.  For example, US 27 was known as the Great Tellico Road and US 25 was known as the Warriors road, as was significant portions of US 421.  Much of Daniel Boone’s Wilderness Road was actually an American Indian trail used for seasonal migration and trade.

American Indians used a wide variety of therapeutic plants, many of which have been synthesized and are key ingredients in modern western medicine.

American Indians have served in the armed forces of the United States in every war including the American Revolution.  They have fought and died for their country even when they were not considered human beings or citizens.

American Indian Identity

American Indians living in Kentucky have intermarried outside their tribe since time immemorial.  Unfortunately, many people today still hold antiquated stereotypes about American Indian identity and use mixed-blood terms such as full-bloods, half-bloods, and quarter-bloods.  These modern misconceptions of biology and culture can be traced to the very beginning of the state.  In the complete absence of a single genetic laboratory, the Shawnee Treaty of 1831 was used to define and enforce who was a “real” American Indian and who was not.  The treaty gave Joseph Parks, a reported quarter-blooded Piqua Shawnee, entitlements including six hundred and forty acres of land.  Park’s blood quantum was assumed and assigned to him rather than reflecting his actual genetic background or cultural identity.  Unfortunately, the Shawnee Treaty of 1831 became the standard for identifying American Indians in Kentucky.  Today, rather than an understanding of American Indian people or their culture, most people have a stereotype about them.  For example, many people still believe that American Indians in Kentucky lived in cave or tipis.  At the time Kentucky was declared a state, American Indians were actually living in log cabins, multi-story wooden homes, and brick houses.  Failure to recognize American Indians and their tribal cultures has led to the destruction of many of Kentucky’s historic and cultural resources. 

Historical Myths

For more than 200 years, American historians have argued that the American Indians never lived in Kentucky.  Instead, they portrayed Kentucky as either a middle ground used by all tribes for hunting or the center of many dark and bloody disputes.  John Filson, an opportunistic investor, land speculator, and entrepreneur, created this myth and many others in a book, The Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucke, published five years after his death in 1788.  The book included an account of American Indians inhabiting within the limits of the thirteen United States including their manners and customs, and reflections of their origin.  Filson’s book falsely explained that there were no American Indians living in Kentucky, but they were located in the adjacent states.  Filson further emphasized that American Indians had no valid claim to Kentucky because it was originally settled by an ancient white race that greatly predated the Indians.  Ironically, the very people Filson claimed did not live in Kentucky killed him.

Filson’s book was widely printed and circulated in England, France, and Germany as a way to entice Europeans to immigrate to the United States and settle in Kentucky.  To further allure them to this new land of opportunity, Filson created a story about an American Indian silver mine.  His fictitious story emphasized that Kentucky was a land filled with riches just waiting to be taken.  Unfortunately, all of Filson’s myths about American Indians were perpetuated and elaborated upon in subsequent books on the history of the state such as Lewis Collins’ 1847 Historical Sketches of Kentucky, Richard Collins’ and Lewis Collins’ 1874 History of Kentucky, Bennett Young’s 1910 The Prehistoric Men of Kentucky, and W. D. Funkhouser’s and W. S. Webb’s 1928 Ancient Life in Kentucky and are still being taught in some quarters of the state today.

European Contact

Prior to European contact, Kentucky was inhabited by Algonquian (e.g., Delaware, Miami, Shawnee), Iroquoian (e.g., Cherokee, Haudenosaunee, Mingo, Wyandot), Muskogean (e.g., Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek), and Siouan (e.g., Saponi) speaking peoples.  The Cherokee were the first people to come in contact with Europeans.  The earliest known contact with Europeans occurred in 1540, when a party of Cherokee warriors successfully defended their northwestern border against the advances of Hernando DeSoto and his Spanish soldiers. They forced the Spanish to retreat from Kentucky to the north side of the Ohio River at present-day Fort Massac, Illinois.

Interestingly, the word Cherokee comes from the 1557 Portuguese narrative of DeSoto’s expedition, which was then written as chalaque.  It is derived from the Choctaw word, choluk, which means cave.  Mohawk call the Cherokee oyata’ge’ronoñ, which means people who live in caves or in the cave country.  In Catawba, the Cherokee are called mañterañ, which translates as the people who come out of the ground.  Kentucky is a land of caves and home to the longest cave in the world.  Kentucky caves are full of evidence of Cherokee people, from salt and crystal mines to exploration and habitation.  As the Cherokee explored and settled in Kentucky, they came across the entrances of great caves, some of which were filled with mineral resources that extended many miles underground.  They ventured into caves in search of protection from the elements, to mine minerals, to dispose of their dead, to conduct ceremonies, and to explore the unknown, as indicated by the footprints, pictographs, petroglyphs, mud glyphs, stone tools, and sculptures they left behind.  Wherever the Cherokee found a dry cave in Kentucky with a reasonably accessible opening, they entered and explored it systematically.

Before European colonization, Kentucky was a significant part of the Cherokee country, representing the northern quarter of the Cherokee Nation since time immemorial.  Its boundaries extended to the Ohio River in the north, the Cumberland River in the west, and the Great Kanawha River in the east.  By the end of the American Revolution, the northern boundary of the Cherokee country was moved southward to encompass the land below the Cumberland River.  Eventually, some 38,000 square miles of Cherokee land in Kentucky was ceded to Great Britain and the United States.

After the British arrived on the present site of Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, there was continuous contact with Cherokee in Kentucky as traders strengthened their alliances and worked their way into the Appalachian Mountains.  Perhaps the earliest evidence of an English trader with Cherokee in Kentucky is in Wolfe County, where a date of 1717 occurs with traditional symbols of Anitsisqua, the Cherokee Bird Clan, incised on a sandstone outcrop overlooking Panther Branch.

Changing Alliances

Cherokee claims to Kentucky were seriously challenged when the Tuscarawas joined the Haudenosaunee, a confederacy of Iroquoian speaking peoples that included the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas in 1722.  Expanding by alliance and conquest, they penetrated deeply into the state.  The newly formed Six Nations took over control of all of the land north of the Cumberland River.

By 1729, the Shawnee were serving as guides into northern Kentucky for the French military who considered Kentucky part of New France.  At this time, the Cherokee were busy fighting the Choctaw, Creek, and Yamasee to the south for their British allies.  As a gesture of thanks, Sir Alexander Cuming took principal Cherokee Chiefs to England with him in 1730 including Attakullakulla, Clogoittah, Kollannah, Onancona, Oukah Ulah, Skalilosken Ketagustah, and Tathtowe.  Although this visit strengthened allegiance with the British, the Cherokee population in Kentucky and elsewhere was cut in half by smallpox just eight years later making it difficult to defend their northern borders.  To make matters worse, the Creek and Choctaw had allied themselves with the French.

At the onset of the French and Indian War in 1750, Cherokee, Delaware, Shawnee, and Wyandot leaders seeking inter-tribal peace traveled back and forth through Kentucky on the Great Warrior Road in route to council meetings with representatives of the Six Nations.  While the Cherokee were granted permission from the Six Nations to return to their land north of the Cumberland River, it was a political exchange for their partisan position against the French and all villages sympathetic to French traders.  As part of the peace agreement, Shawnee families began to spend winters with the Cherokee, and warriors began to spend time with the Shawnee.

During the French and Indian War, between 1754 and 1763, blockades cut off salt shipments from the West Indies.  Salt springs and licks in Kentucky became an important resource to the colonists.  Shawnee made salt at Big Bone Lick in Boone County and Blue Licks in Nicholas County in the north.  The Cherokee made salt and buried their dead along Goose Creek near the mouth of Collin’s Creek in Clay County.  The abundance of salt in Kentucky, north and south, did not escape the eyes of the Europeans and later became an issue of national security.

With the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, France gave up all mineral resource and land claims to Kentucky.  In exchange for their help during the war, the British victors proclaimed that Kentucky was to be recognized as Indian Territory and no person could make a treaty with the Cherokee or buy land from them without their permission.  While the treaty of 1763 allowed the Cherokee to retain all of their land in Kentucky, their possession was short-lived.

In 1768, the British superintendent of Indian Affairs convinced the Cherokee to cede their holdings in what is today the state of Virginia to prevent conflicts with encroaching colonists.  British representatives insisted on the negotiation of a new treaty on October 18, 1770, which moved the northeastern boundary of Cherokee country from the New River of West Virginia to the land within the extreme western corner of Kentucky, today known as Pike County.  Two years later, Great Britain requested yet another treaty to purchase all of the land between the Ohio and Kentucky rivers.  

Entrepreneur and colonial judge Richard Henderson, his agent Daniel Boone, and other private citizens met with Cherokee Chiefs along the Watauga River on March 17, 1775.  Henderson and Boone illegally negotiated the cession of all of the land in between the Kentucky, Ohio, and Cumberland rivers to the privately owned Transylvania Company.  Although it has become known as the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals, the entire event was in direct violation of the Royal Proclamation of 1763.  On behalf of England, the colony of Virginia, which then included Kentucky, revoked the treaty.  However, it did not stop Boone and the Transylvania Company from creating the Wilderness Road, which opened the way for an unstoppable and unlimited flow of European immigrants into Kentucky and in direct conflict with the Cherokee.

The Treaty of Sycamore Shoals was negotiated just one month before the beginning of the American Revolution.  Many American Indians living in Kentucky supported the British through the war and beyond to 1794.  Following the example of the Delaware Chief, Coquetakeghton White Eyes, who served as a guide and lieutenant colonel in the American army, a number of mixed-blood Cherokee living in Kentucky, such as King David Benge and Jesse Brock, agreed to serve as scouts.  At the decisive Battle of Kings Mountain, October 7, 1780, there were Cherokee warriors from Kentucky fighting on both sides.

By 1782, individual Cherokee political alliances had become extremely complex.  Some traveled to St. Louis, Missouri to seek protection from the Spanish government, while others moved north and joined the Shawnee on the Scioto River getting supplies and council from the British military.  At the same time, representatives of the Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Wyandot traveled to the Cumberland River valley to council with the Cherokee about joining them in an all out war against the United States.

The American Revolution ended on September 3, 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.  The Cherokee were not consulted and many did not recognize England’s cession of Kentucky to the United States.  To make matters worse, a group of Tennessee colonists illegally created the State of Franklin with John Sevier as their Governor.  On May 31, 1785, Major Hugh Henry, Sevier, and other representatives of the self-declared state met with Cherokee Chiefs to negotiate the "Treaty of Dumplin Creek," which promised to redefine and extend the Cherokee boundary line.  Because the United States government did not recognize the State of Franklin, the Treaty of Dumplin Creek was deemed illegal.  Seiver and his Franklinites engendered a spirit of distrust between all subsequent treaty-makers and the Cherokee, which led to many bloody conflicts and, ultimately, genocide in Kentucky.

The first official treaty between the United States and Cherokee Nation was negotiated at Hopewell, South Carolina on November 28, 1785.  The Hopewell Treaty included the cession of all land in Kentucky north of the Cumberland River and west of the Little South Fork.  Although Cherokee Chief Corn Tassel, brother of Doublehead, signed the treaty, other clan chiefs did not.  The Hopewell Treaty began a war between the European settlers and the Cherokee living in the Cumberland valley.  They fiercely resented the intrusion of immigrants and were determined upon their expulsion or extermination.

Many Cherokee warriors from Kentucky joined into a confederacy with the Delaware, Miami, Shawnee, and Wyandot who continued to be supplied and encouraged by England to defeat the newly formed country.  For the next thirteen years, they waged war upon the settlements in their land.  Although most American history books do not include this war, it was the first to be declared by Congress in 1790.  It has been referred to as George Washington’s Indian War in the struggle for the old northwest.  In December of 1790, Kentucky settlers petitioned Congress to fight the Cherokee in whatever way they saw fit.  A Board of War was appointed, and on May 23, 1791, it authorized the destruction of Cherokee towns and food resources by burning their homes and crops.

In an attempt to make peace with the Cherokee, and redefine the new boundary lines in Kentucky, the United States negotiated the Treaty of Holston on July 2, 1791.  It restated that the Cherokee land in Kentucky was restricted to the area east of the Little South Fork and south of the Cumberland River.  The treaty was signed by Kentucky born Cherokee Chief Doublehead, his brother, Chief Standing Turkey, their nephew, John Watts, and witnessed by Thomas Kennedy, a representative of Kentucky in the Territory of the United States South of the Ohio River.  Unfortunately, the boundary line remained unclear and disputed by Cherokee not present at the treating signing, and the fighting continued for the next seven years.  One of the last skirmishes in Kentucky occurred at the salt works and Cherokee burial grounds on Goose Creek in Clay County, on March 28, 1795.

The Treaty of Greenville, negotiated in Ohio on August 3, 1795, ended the war between the United States and the confederacy.  The treaty was made between Major General Anthony Wayne, commander of the army of the United States, and the Chippewa, Delaware, Eel River, Kaskaskia, Kickapoo, Miami, Ottawa, Piankeshaw, Potawatomi, Shawnee, Wea, and Wyandot.  Although the treaty tried to settle controversies and to restore harmony and friendly intercourse between the United States and all American Indian Nations, Cherokee chiefs, shamans, and warriors were not permitted to attend.  All of the Cherokees who were living north of the Ohio River subsequently returned to their homes in southern Kentucky.

On October 2, 1798, the first Treaty of Tellico was negotiated with the Cherokee Nation.  It allowed for safe passage of settlers using the Kentucky road, running through Cherokee land between the Cumberland Mountain and the Cumberland River, in exchange for hunting rights on all relinquished lands, a further refinement of the Holston Treaty of 1791.  By 1803, the demand for salt on Cherokee land in Kentucky dramatically increased when England seized American ships involved the salt trade.  In 1805, the remaining Cherokee land in Kentucky was considered crucial to the national security of the United States.  Between October 25 and 27, 1805, Kentucky Cherokee Chief Doublehead singed the final Treaties of Tellico, ceding the land south of the Cumberland River.  Feeling that they had been betrayed and sold out, Doublehead was assassinated on August 9, 1807 in McIntosh Tavern, Hiwassee, Tennessee, by Charles Hicks, Alexander Saunders, and Major Ridge—his own people.

After the last tribal lands were ceded in 1818, Richard Mentor Johnson, a Kentucky born United States Vice President under Martin Van Buren, 1837-1841, acting on behalf of the state of Kentucky, opened the Johnson Indian Academy in Scott County, under the auspices of the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions.  Its purpose was to hasten the civilization process of American Indians by educating the sons of Chiefs of Tribes that had ceded land in Kentucky.  In 1825, the school received federal funding through the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit, and the name was changed to the Choctaw Academy.  The school closed in 1845 from the mismanagement of federal funds.  Many American Indian families that had moved to Scott County to be close to their children remained as a painful alternative to removal to Indian Territory in the West.

Many American Indians who remained in Kentucky acculturated into the existing communities throughout the state. The Sizemore family of Clay County is an old and well documented example.  In January 1822, the Clay County Court was informed that a man named Pickney from Alabama came to the home of James Sizemore and dropped off his five year-old mixed-blood Creek son named George.  His mother was a Creek named Anny.  Five years earlier, 1817, about the time of George’s conception, Major General Pickney presented and liquidated the Creek treaty at Fort Jackson, Alabama.  One year later, on December 8, 1818, Author Sizemore testified in the Claims of Friendly Creeks Paid Under the Act of March 3, 1817.  Four years after that, Pickney arrived in Clay County at the home of James Sizemore with a Creek child name George.  George was given the surname Sizemore and his many descendants lived as traditional American Indians.  For some, this livelihood resulted in prejudice and, in some cases, death.

Chief Red Bird

Red Bird, Dotsuwa, was a Cherokee who lived and died in what is known today as Clay County, Kentucky, before and after European colonization, a time when the Cherokee Nation extended to the Ohio River in the north, the Cumberland River in the west, and the Great Kanawha River in the east.  

The well-known Warrior’s Trail, today known as US route 421, ran from Florida to Michigan, and served as an important trade route for many thousands of years.  It passes through Clay County.  Remnants of the trail survive to this day, running up Goose Creek to the mouth of Otter Creek, up Otter Creek, and down Stinking Creek.  Other segments of the trail are present on the bench tops of mountains along the Middle Fork. 

Clay County provided Red Bird and his people with a bounty of game, fish, and natural resources, many considered sacred to this day.  There was an extremely large natural gas seep with jets that were several feet high and burned day and night over an area of more than twenty-square-feet, creating a mystifying fog in the surrounding hills in places today known as Burning Springs and Fogertown.  Along Goose Creek, in present day Manchester, there were salt licks and springs where salt was manufactured and collected, ceremonies conducted, and the dead were buried.  Red ochre, the mineral hematite, was used to make paint for ceremonies of life and death.  It is also the namesake of the Cherokee family clan, Ani Wodi.  Cherokee mined this ore in Clay County on a small parcel of land between the South and Middle Fork rivers.
By the second half of the eighteenth century, Europeans intruded the area around Clay County.  In 1769, expeditions including those of Daniel Boone and John Stewart came into the area.  It was the first of Boone’s many encounters with William Emory Jr., also known as Will, a redheaded Cherokee who frequently traveled with the Shawnee.  Will was the son of England born William Emory Sr. and Cherokee born Mary Grant.  She was the daughter of Cherokee Elizabeth Idui Tassel and Scotland born Ludovic Grant.  Another expedition, led by James Knox in 1770, met with a band of Cherokee on the Rockcastle River.  Knox and his men recognized their leader as Dick, pronounced Dix, who frequented the lead mines on the Holston River.  Realizing Knox’s party was in need of food, Dick suggested they cross Brushy Ridge and hunt for game in his river valley, known today as Dix River in Rockcastle County.  He ended the conversation with Knox’s party by saying, “kill it, and go home.”  While initial contact with the Cherokee was peaceful, increasing numbers of Europeans strained relations and fighting broke out in February 1772 on Station Camp Creek.  With the increase in European encounters, the Cherokee had trouble maintaining control over Kentucky, especially in the land north of the Cumberland River valley.  

Following the Treaty of Paris and the end of the American Revolution in 1783, Boone personally wanted the Wilderness Road to cut through the Cherokee’s sacred ceremonial and burial ground on Goose Creek because he knew the economic importance of salt.  While Boone was never given a contract to extend the Wilderness Road to Goose Creek, he was employed as a Deputy Surveyor of Lincoln County, today known as Clay County, to survey 50,000 acres of Cherokee land for Phillip Moore, James Moore, and John Donaldson.  In 1784, with the assistance of William Brooks, Septimis Davis, and Edmund Callaway, Boone began surveying one mile from the mouth of Sextons Creek.  As the surveys increased so did the conflict between the Europeans and Cherokee.  

Red Bird spent a good deal of his time with his friend Will in the vicinity of two rockshelters on the east and west banks of the Kentucky River, a stretch of the upper headwaters, known today as the Red Bird River in Spurlock.  The opposing shelters are strategically located in a narrow constriction of the valley overlooking a shallow river crossing where the fishing is good and game animals can be easily dispatched.  Both shelters are well marked with traditional Cherokee symbols—engraved images of the Bird, Wolf, and Deer clans.  It was in this setting that Red Bird and Will were murdered, brutally and maliciously tomahawked to death by two men from Tennessee, Edward Miller known as Ned, and John Livingston, known as Jack.  Livingston lost family members at the hands of the redheaded Red Paint Clan Cherokee, Robert Benge, also known as the Bench.  He was the son of John Benge and Wurteh Watts, a brother of Sequoyah, and the first cousin of King David Benge who lived nearby.  

In 1788, Robert Benge successfully defeated John Sevier during his attack on the Cherokee village of Ustali on the Hiwassee River in North Carolina.  It was during this battle that Thomas Christian coined the term “nits make lice” as he brutally murdered a Cherokee child.  It was an incident that Robert Benge never forgot.  Robert Benge repeatedly attacked the families of Sevier’s militiamen, including the Livingston homestead near Moccasin Gap, Virginia.  Paul Livingston and his brother Henry Livingston, sons of Sarah and William Todd Livingston, were officers in the Holsten Militia and thus considered enemies of the Cherokee.  Benge’s first attack occurred on August 26, 1791, which resulted in the capture and death of Mrs. Livingston, the daughter of Elijah and Nancy Ferris, who were also killed.  The second attack occurred on July 17, 1793, when Robert Benge captured a woman enslaved by Paul Livingston.  Robert Benge’s final and best-documented attack began about 10 AM, on April 6, 1794.  

Robert Benge and a party of Cherokee warriors tomahawked Sarah Livingston and three children, and took Elizabeth Livingston, wife of Peter Livingston, her sister Susannah, known as Sukey, and their surviving children as well as all of the adults and children enslaved by the Livingston family.  On April 9, 1794, Lieutenant Vincent Hobbs of the Lee County Militia hunted down and killed Robert Benge and freed his captives.  

John Russell and his men, who were traveling with Hobbs, pursued Robert Benge’s surviving Cherokee warriors to the shallow river crossing in the headwaters of the Kentucky River, in present day Clay County.  Russell and his men took refuge nearby and shot to death two of the escaping Cherokee warriors and badly wounded another as they tried to cross the river.  Since then, the site was known as a place where the Cherokee could be found and killed.  It was where John (Jack) Livingston and Edward (Ned) Miller found and cruelly murdered Red Bird and Will. 

John Sevier was inaugurated Governor of Tennessee on March 30, 1796.  As governor, it was his sworn responsibility to enforce the treaty between the Cherokee and the newly formed United States of America.  He was bound by office to take responsibility for any and all violations against the Cherokee by the citizens of the State of Tennessee.  He consistently met this responsibility with denial to the Cherokee with added threats of war and removal.  One of his first correspondences to the Cherokee Nation was written on April 2, 1796 addressing a complaint that a Red Bird had been killed.  On July 7, 1796, Sevier wrote a follow up letter to the Cherokee Nation explaining that he should not be held responsible for murders that occurred under the previous administration of Governor Blount and in the state of Kentucky, not Tennessee.  By January 1797, Sevier had been informed that Red Bird was murdered.  It was also clear to Sevier that the murder had been committed by citizens of the State of Tennessee, which were under his jurisdiction.  As a trained lawyer,

Sevier knew that he had to respond, as the incident was a direct violation of a United States treaty with the Cherokee.  On January 12, 1797, Sevier wrote a letter to Cherokee agent Silas Dinsmore to be read aloud to the Cherokee.  Initially, Sevier wanted to express his condolences for the murder of Red Bird by stating that he doubted any of his people would do such a thing.  However, he later decided to strike out this section of the letter.  It was not until February 1797 that Sevier clearly understood that it was not one, but two Cherokee that were murdered—Red Bird and William Emery.  On February 10, 1797, Sevier wrote another letter to the Cherokee Nation.  While it does present condolences for the murders, he denies that they were committed by anyone under his authority.  Like the previous letter, it is disingenuous and patronizing in its posture, criticizing and threatening the Cherokee with war and subsequent removal from their homeland. 

Months later, Sevier became concerned that the murders of Red Bird and William Emery could become a National incident and lead to an untimely war for the newly formed country.  On February 14, 1797, Sevier wrote to former governor William Blount, then in the United States Congress, informing him of the crime and naming Ned Mitchell and John Livingston as the murders.  By March, Sevier clearly understood that citizens from Tennessee murdered Red Bird and William Emory in Kentucky, and he was solely accountable.  On March 5, 1797, Sevier wrote to John Watts Jr. and other Chiefs of the Cherokee Nation, in response to their letter of March 4, 1797.  While he did admit that it was his citizens who violated the United States Treaty, he begins the letter by accusing Chief Dick, a well known friend of Red Bird and William Emory, for committing acts in retaliation of their murders.  On March 17, 1797 Sevier wrote a letter to Governor Garrard of Kentucky specifying Edward Miller and John Livingston as the murders of Red Bird and William Emory.  On March 19, 1797, Sevier issues orders to the Sheriff of Hawkins County, Tennessee to apprehend the murderers of Red Bird and William Emory committed by Edward Mitchell and John Livingston, both citizens of the State of Tennessee and living in Hawkins County.  It is important to note that Sevier was untruthful when he stated, “I am just now informed” of the murders.  On March 28, 1797, Sevier wrotes to the Cherokee Nation further explaining that he has been requested by the Governor of Kentucky to have the two Tennessee citizens who murdered Red Bird and William Emory apprehended and sent to Kentucky to be tried for their crime.  It is a fact, which Sevier has known for some time.  While he admits the injustice to the Cherokee, it is not done without threatening them with war and removal.  As a final letter on the subject, written on March 30, 1797, Sevier focuses on the killings by the Cherokee in retaliation for Red Bird and William Emory.  For him, the matter of their murders is now closed. 

John Sevier was re-elected for a second term as Governor of Tennessee between 1803 and 1809.  During this time, the third and fourth Treaties of Tellico were negotiated and signed.  The fourth treaty, signed on October 25, 1805, ceded Cherokee land in Kentucky, south of the Cumberland River.  Among the Cherokee chiefs and headmen who signed the treaty were Kentucky born Taltsuska (Doublehead), phonetically written as Dhuqualutauge, Robert Benge’s oldest brother Ahuludegi (John Jolly), phonetically written as Eulatakee, and Dotsuwa (Red Bird), phonetically written as Tochuwor.  By the time of the fourth Treaty of Tellico, it was likely that either one of Red Bird’s sons or nephews was given his name.  Traditionally, names of a father or uncle are given in a naming ceremony before or after their death.  Because the treaty ceded land in Kentucky and Red Bird was murdered in Kentucky during Sevier’s previous term, it was in the best interests of Indian agents Return J. Meigs and Daniel Smith to make sure that a descendant and namesake of Red Bird was represented.  

About fifty-years after Red Bird’s murder, Lewis Collins published History of Kentucky.  Much of Collin’s 1847 book reiterates the myths and sterotypes about the Indigenous people of Kentucky first introduced in John Filson’s 1788 The Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucke.  Collin’s publication is largely devoted to Kentucky “Indian Fighters,” which most of the counties, cities, and towns are named after.  Red Bird is one of the few exceptions.  It is the name of towns in Bell, Clay, Whitley, and Wofford counties, and the namesake of the Red Bird River, a tributary of the Kentucky River.  In consideration of this immunity, Collins wrote that Red Bird Fork and Jack’s Creek are named after two friendly Indians bearing those names, to home was granted the privilege of hunting there, they were both murdered for the furs they had accumulated, and their bodies thrown into the water.  Unfortunately, Collins confused the names of Red Bird’s killer, Jack, with Red Bird’s friend, William Emory.  Because Collin’s book serves as the foundation for all Kentucky history books that follow, his mistake became a historical fact, which has been told and written over and over again for more than 150 years. 

About a hundred years following Red Bird’s murder, the Reverend Dr. John Jay Dickey, a Methodist minister, moved to southeastern Kentucky to help establish schools such as Lees Junior College in Jackson, Breathitt County, and Sue Bennett College in London, Laurel County.  In the autumn of 1898, he was assigned service in several churches in Clay County including Fogertown, Hayden, Manchester, Paces Creek, and Wyatts Chapel.  He was very interested in local family oral histories, which he recorded in his diary of more than 6,000 handwritten pages.  Three of Dickey’s diary entries are specifically related to the murder of Red Bird.  While each testimony contains a bit of truth, it is clear that they have been influenced by the distortions in Collins’ initial 1847 book, and its revised edition.  Kentucky schoolteachers used the book in their history classes.  On February 2, 1898, John Jay Dickey recorded the testimony of Captain Byron, in Manchester, Clay County, Kentucky.  He noted the Cherokee Chief lived on Red Bird River near the mouth of Jack's Creek in this county.  Byron also told Dickey that Red Bird lived with a crippled Indian named Willie (i.e., William Emory) and they were both shot to death.  He added that their bodies were thrown into a hole of water known today as Willie's Hole, which were found by John Gilbert and others who buried them.  Another oral tradition recorded by Dickey was that Red Bird was sitting on the bank of a creek fishing when he was shot and that he fell into the creek.  On July 12, 1898, Dickey recorded the testimony of Abijah Gilbert, in Clay County, Kentucky who believed Red Bird was killed below the mouth of Big Creek.  Gilbert also stated that only Red Bird was murdered and his companion had escaped.  Also on July 12, 1898, Dickey recorded the testimony of John R. Gilbert, grandson and namesake of the person reported to have buried Red Bird.  He placed the murder site at the mouth of Hector’s Creek.  Unlike Byron’s testimony, he suggested that Red Bird was killed with his own tomahawk.  His testimony also differed from his father’s suggesting that both Red Bird and his companion were murdered.

Roy White, the editor and publisher of the Manchester Guardian, was fascinated with the area’s history.  White wrote a series of articles for the Clay county newspaper between May and December 1932.  Although much of White’s information came from the Clay County Court Order Books, it is clear that all of his references to the murder of Red Bird were a recycling of of earlier publications.  

Not long after World War II, Kentucky State Route 66 was dug across the narrow patch of ground in front of the rockshelter where Red Bird and Will were murdered.  Because of the wet underlying shale, and its close proximity to the river, this portion of the road experienced seasonal landslides.  To solve the problem, the Kentucky Department of Highways dug deeply into the shale immediately in front of the shelter.  The traditional Cherokee symbols originally engraved at eye level were left hanging more than twenty feet above State Route 66.  Fill from the highway excavations was used to make a small parking area between the shelter and river.  In 1966, the Kentucky Historical Society and Kentucky Department of Highways erected a bronze State Historic Marker, Number 908, in the parking lot.  While the purpose of the marker was to honor Red Bird, the text contains Collins’ original error in 1847 and was recycled by Collins and Collins in 1874, and White in 1932.  

After the dedication of the State Marker, Fred Coy and Thomas Fuller 1969 examined petroglyphs at Red Bird’s murder site and gravesite.  They concluded that the petroglyphs were quite different than any of those previously reported in the Commonwealth.  The historic nature of the petroglyphs is evident in their sharply incised straight lines.  They were likely carved with a sharp metal instrument such as a knife or tomahawk blade, rather than a ground-stone or flaked-stone tool.  In 1989, the grave of Red Bird, known as the Red Bird River Shelter Petroglyphs site, 15Cy52, was added to the National Register of Historic places, Number 89001183.  In 2003, the murder site of Red Bird, known as the Red Bird River Petroglyph site, 15Cy51, was also added to the National Register of Historic places, Number 89001182.  Both sites are federally listed as religious and ceremonial sites.  Riverbank erosion and seasonal landslides of the underlying shale continued into the 1990s.  Following subsequent road improvements, a significant portion of the petroglyph bearing cliff-face at Red Bird’s murder site detached and fell to the ground. The State Marker was re-located to the campus of the Big Creek Elementary School, south of its original location on State Route 66.  The rock containing the petroglyphs was moved to a park in Manchester, where it is currently protected beneath a pole building.  When photographs of the petroglyphs taken when they were in place at the rockshelter site are compared to those on the rock in Manchester today, it is evident beyond a reasonable doubt that many of the traditional Cherokee symbols have been modified.  Followers of the late Barry Fell, a self-proclaimed “epigraphic” expert, interpret the now modified petroglyphs as the inscriptions of ancient Greek Christians, a throwback to Filson’s 1788 argument that the Cherokee Nation has no valid claim to Kentucky because it was originally settled by an ancient white race that greatly predated them.  Cherokee descendants of Red Bird frequently monitor the gravesite, as they have since his murder, and regularly pay homage to their ancestor in prayer ceremony.  Recently, descendants found that the sites where Red Bird and William Emory were murdered and buried have sustained damage by grave robbers.  

The Yahoo Falls Massacre

Yahoo is a local variation of the Cherokee word Yahula, which is a traditional Cherokee story about a mixed-blood trader who lived in a great stone house and was taken away by the Nunehi, the little people.  Yahula would sing his favorite songs as the bells hanging around the necks of his ponies tinkled, echoing through the mountains along the Great Tellico Trail, today known as US route 27.  The Great Tellico Trail extended from the Sequatchie Valley, near present-day Chattanooga, Tennessee, to the Cumberland River Valley of Kentucky, and beyond.  The Alum Ford Trail, today known as State Route 700, connected the Great Tellico Trail with east-central Tennessee by way of an enormous sandstone rock shelter located behind Yahoo Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the state. 

According to traditional Cherokee story tellers, one day, all the warriors left on a hunt, but when it was over and they returned, Yahula was nowhere to be found—the Nunehi had taken him to the Spirit World.  While he was there, Yahula made the mistake of eating the food of the Nunehi, which meant that he could never return to his people except as a Spirit.  Although he was never seen again, the Cherokee believe that the songs of Yahula and the tinkling bells of his horses can still be heard at night near the running water of Yahoo Falls located in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, McCreary County, Kentucky.  On the Trail of Tears, the story of Yahula was used to urge the people forward to Oklahoma, suggesting that Yahula has gone there and we will hear him, but they never did.  The story of Yahula is hauntingly similar to the story of Jacob Troxell and the massacre of Yahoo Falls.  

In the winter of 1777-1778, Jacob Troxell, also known as Big Jake because of his height, was a private in the Continental Army at Valley Forge under the command General George Washington.  Jacob Troxell, born in 1758, was the son of a Jewish immigrant from Switzerland and his mother was Delaware.  In February 1778, word reached Washington that British forces had abandoned the old French Post Vincennes in present day Indiana, and it was in the hands of American militia.  Cherokee, Miami, Piankeshaw, and Shawnee, along with Jesuits, Voyagers, and traders were using it.  Washington’s staff assigned Jacob Troxell to pose as a trader and go to Post Vincennes to persuade as many American Indians as possible to support the Continental Army in their war against the British.

At Port Vincennes, Jacob Troxell befriended a young Cherokee warrior about his same age from the Cumberland River valley, Tukaho Doublehead, son of Taltsuska (Doublehead) and Creat Priber.  Doublehead was born in McCreary County, Kentucky, son of Wilenawa (Great Eagle), grandson of Moytoy, and great-grandson of Amatoya Moytoy—a fourth generation Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.  Tukaho invited Jacob Troxell to his village, Tsalachi, which was located near present-day Burnside, Kentucky.  In the summer of 1779, Doublehead welcomed his son’s new friend and invited him to stay and trade with his people.  Not long afterwards, Jacob Troxell became smitten over one of Doublehead’s four daughters.  

During the winter of 1779-1780, Tory infantry from Watauga, under the command of Major Patrick Ferguson, British Commander of the 71st regiment, were robbing and killing Cherokee hunters as they traversed the Great Tellico Trail.  Jacob Troxell accompanied Doublehead and his daughter in their attack on a Tory camp on the Little South Fork, in what is today Wayne County, Kentucky.  He used the incident to explain why Doublehead and his warriors should support Washington and the colonial army.  Jacob Troxell successfully completed his mission.  At the decisive Battle of Kings Mountain, October 7, 1780, there were Cherokee warriors fighting against the British.  Among them was King David Benge, nephew of Red Paint Clan Mother, Wurteh, granddaughter of Doublehead, and first cousin of Sequoyah.

Following the end of the American Revolution, Jacob Troxell married the sister of Tukaho and soon had a son known as Little Jake.  By this time, Cherokee living in the Cumberland River valley were almost unrecognizable to the whites now settled in the area.  Jacob Troxell and his family, like other Cherokee, lived in a cabin, herded cattle, horses, and pigs, and used metal farming tools to tend crops of potatoes, native corn and beans, orchards of peach trees, and they kept bees for honey and wax for trade.  By this time, Doublehead had built an estate near Muscle Shoals, Tennessee.  His estate included twenty enslaved African Americans and at least one mixed blood, thirty head of cows, 100 head of fine stock cattle, two stud horses, eight mares and geldings, and nine head of common horses, fifty head of sows, pigs and small stock hogs, and 100 head of large hogs.  His home was furnished with four large beds with contemporary bedding and bedsteads, six dining room and twelve sitting chairs, dining room and kitchen tables, dishes and tableware, large and small iron cooking pots, a brass kettle and teapot, three large ovens, and three pair of iron fire dogs.  Doublehead’s immense fortune was thought to have come from money that he skimmed from treaty entitlements.  

News of Doublehead’s murder in 1807 spread across the Great Tellico Trail and into the Cumberland River valley.  Without the protection of his powerful father, Tukaho Doublehead was powerless and vulnerable.  His people were greatly reduced in number and dispirited from fighting off the advance of white settlers and smallpox.  To make matters worse, Tukaho Doublehead had married a white woman, Margaret Mounce, from Cherry Fork, present-day Helenwood, Tennessee.  The prejudice and hatred of Doublehead’s people grew among European settlers.  They hunted down and murdered Jacob Troxell’s brother-in-law, Tukaho Doublhead atop a ridge that still bears his name, Doublehead Gap, in present-day Wayne County, Kentucky.

On January 15, 1810, the “War Hawks” of Congress expressed concern about the Indian presence in Kentucky and extinguished all Cherokee land claims in the state.  Although the Cherokee in the Cumberland River valley had made every possible concession to maintain peace with the United States, many of the European settlers were former Franklinites, followers of John Sevier.  The European settlers’ hatred of the Cherokee grew, in part, out of their indifference between those who fought Shawnee in the Northwest Territory against Kentucky troops at Fallen Timbers, Tippecanoe, and the River Raisin, and those who fought alongside American forces in the Southeast against the Creek at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.  Expecting the worse, Tukaho Doublehead’s  sister, Jacob Troxell’s wife, realized that the only way her people could survive would be if they moved south on the Great Tellico Trail.  Between 1803 and 1804, her father had helped Reverend Gideon Blackburn, a Presbyterian pastor from Jacob Troxell’s hometown of Philadelphia, open a school on Cherokee land near present-day Chattanooga, Tennessee.  In the late summer of 1810, Blackburn agreed to offer protection and education to all Cherokee women and children from the Cumberland River valley.  Doublehead’s daughter sent Little Jake on horseback to spread the word that anyone seeking protection at the Blackburn school in Chattanooga should meet in the rockshelter behind Yahoo Falls when the moon was full and round. 

All that remained of Doublehead’s people in the Cumberland River valley, mostly women and children, gathered at Yahoo Falls.  They waited for Doublehead’s daughter and her son, Little Jake, to arrive and lead them to safety.  Fearing that she was not going to show up, some of the mothers gathered their children, shouldered their packs, and began to walk out of the shelter.  A volley of gunfire erupted from the darkness in front of the falls.  A local militiaman, Hiram Gregory, had learned of the gathering behind Yahoo Falls, enlisted a group of young vigilantes, and set out to exterminate the Cherokee from the Cumberland River valley once and for all.  Gregory’s mercenaries focused their initial attack on the few warriors that were present, and then they been began to slaughter the women and their children.  Campfires illuminated the shelter leaving the Cherokee completely open and exposed—there was nowhere for them to run or hide.  After it was all over, more than 100 Cherokee lay dead or dying behind Yahoo Falls.  Doublehead’s daughter died from injuries received during the massacre.  She was buried at the base of a large flat stone in what is today Stern’s Kentucky, the birthplace of her father.  Jacob Troxell was said to have lost his mind in grief.  A mass grave was excavated in a high terrace behind the falls, the only place where the soil was deep enough to dig a trench.  The bodies of the slain Cherokee men, women, and children were laid to rest until the grave was exposed during logging operations during the early twentieth century.

The exact date of this horrific event is unknown.  Some say that the massacre occurred on the 130th anniversary of the Pueblo Revolt, August 10, and others have placed it in the fall, early October.  Regardless of the exact day and month, all of the published documents and family histories agree that the massacre of Yahoo Falls took place in the latter half of the year 1810.  There is a similar misunderstanding on the date and place of death of Big Jake Troxell.  Although the military tombstone along SR 700 reads Jacob Troxell, Pennsylvania, Pvt, 6 Co., Philadelphia, Co. Militia, Revolutionary War, January 18, 1758, October 10, 1810, family records indicate that he was taken to Alabama where he lived until 1817.  If he suffered catatonic depression following the death of his Cherokee wife as reported, then he would have been considered a living dead man, a person whose body was alive, but his spirit had left him, a situation not unlike the trader in the story of Yahula. 

There is also great deal of confusion about the death of Doublehead.  What most people missunderstand is that there were many Cherokee named Doublehead because all of his thirteen children with four wives were named Doublehead—Tukaho Doublehead, Tuskiahoote Doublehead, Saleechie Doublehead, Nigodigeyu Doublehead, and Gulustiyu Doublehead with Creat Priber—Bird Tail Doublehead and Peggy Doublehead with Nannie Drumgoole—Tassel Doublehead, Alcy Doublehead, and Susannah Doublehead with Kateeyeah Wilson—Two Heads Doublehead, Doublehead Doublehead, and William Doublehead with an Cherokee woman whose name is unknown.  Because Tukaho Doublehead’s murder occurred in the same year as his father, 1807, the two events have been confused.  Chief Doublehead was murdered in Tennessee and Tukaho Doublehead was killed in Kentucky.  

Perhaps the biggest problem with all versions of the massacre, both written and oral histories, is that Jacob Troxell’s wife, Tukaho’s sister, Doublehead’s daughter, was named “Princess Corn-blossom.”  The first problem with the name Princess Corn-blossom is that there was no such thing as a “Cherokee Princess.”  The term came from the time when Moytoy (1730-1760) was the Principal Chief of the Cherokee.  Sir Alexander Cuming proclaimed him as King of his people.   If Moytoy was a King, then his daughters must have been princesses.  Doublehead was the son of Great Eagle, who was the son of Moytoy, and tribal leadership was passed down from father to son.  Princess is the way eighteenth century British communicated the kin term daughter of a Chief.  Secondly, the name Corn-blossom is not a Cherokee word.  While Corn-tassel (Utsidsata and Onidosita) and Corn-silk (Seluunenudi) are Cherokee words that approximate Corn-blossom, they are masculine names.  One of Doublehead’s children by Kateeyeah Wislon was named Tassel.  Unfortunately, the gender of the offspring is unknown and was not born until about 1798.

Cherokee census and enrollment records indicate that Doublehead had four daughters living with him at the time Tukaho brought Jacob Troxell to Tsalachi and they were all very close in age—Tuskiahoote, Saleechie, Nigodigeyu, and Gulustiyu respectively.  Tuskiahoote and Saleechie were both reported as the wives of Colonel George Colbert, and Nigodigeyu and Gulustiyu were reported as the wives of Samuel Riley.  We can rule out Saleechie Doublehead because it is well documented that she survived the Trail of Tears and died in Indian Territory, Oklahoma in 1846.  Tuskiahoote Doublehead is thought to have lived until 1817, but we cannot rule her out because this date is by no means a certainty.  It is also interesting that Tuskiahoote Doublehead’s death date not only matches that of Jacob Troxell, she reportedly died in Alabama.

Samuel Riley is an especially interesting character because he seized most of Chief Doublehead’s personal property after his murder in 1807.  Furthermore, he was known as the "White Patron" of Gideon Blackburn's School, the same school Doublehead’s daughter was taking the Cherokee of the Cumberland River valley to at the time of the massacre.  Although Riley is reported to have fathered five children by Nigodigeyu and eleven by Gulustiyu, it is quite possible that he falsely claimed two wives in order to ensure his entitlements to Doublehead’s fortune.  On April 28, 1819, Riley filed a suit for Doublehead’s entitlements, about fifteen days before he succumbed to an illness.  He is assumed to have been Doublehead’s son in law solely on the basis of his last will and testament, which was accepted by the Supreme Court of the Cherokee Nation on October 25, 1825, as recorded by John Martin.  

On January 31, 1811, just months after the Yahoo Falls massacre, the former Cherokee land was granted for sale at the minimal price of ten cents an acre in order to encourage the development of iron and salt works.  As salt was an expensive commodity at $25.00 a barrel, the families who had orchestrated the Yahoo Falls massacre purchased the land containing salt springs and became rich.  

During the first forty years of the 20th century, blight devastated the American chestnuts.  Although the blight provided an economic boom to the local timber industry, logging operations deforested the shallow unstable soils around Yahoo Falls.  Unprecedented erosion extended into the great sandstone rock shelter behind the falls and exposed a mass grave filled with human skeletal remains.  Grave robbers, artifact collectors, curiosity seekers, and gravity began to disperse bones down slope until it was impossible to walk into the shelter without stepping on them.  All that survives is an empty trench behind the falls, which approximates the size of the mass grave at Wounded Knee Memorial on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.  Today, Yahoo Falls is located in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, National Park Service, McCreary County, Kentucky. 

The Trail of Tears

In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which ordered the removal of all American Indian tribes living in the east to lands west of the Mississippi River.  Although it was successfully challenged by the Cherokee Nation and declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court, then President Andrew Jackson refused to recognize the decision.  His refusal to enforce the court's verdict resulted in the expulsion of more than 16,000 Cherokee from their homes.  The paths of removal through Kentucky are known to the Cherokee as the Trails Where They Cried, also known as the Trail of Tears.  

The Cherokee were forced to move out of Kentucky on three routes, one by water and two by land.  About 3,000 Cherokee traveled out of Kentucky by river to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma.  On June 6, 1838, a steamboat and barge made its way from Ross's Landing on the Tennessee River, today known as Chattanooga, Tennessee, through western Kentucky to the Ohio River, on to the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers, and finally on into Oklahoma.  Extreme drought and disease resulted in many deaths, especially for the children and elderly.  The remaining Cherokees traveled out of Kentucky overland on dirt roads in multiple detachments, upwards of 1,600 each.  John Benge was one of the detachment conductors appointed by then Cherokee Principal Chief, John Ross.  A combination of insect filled flour and corn, tainted meat, lung ailments, and drought made travel through the state extremely difficult and resulted in the death of an untold number of Cherokee.  The exact death toll is impossible to calculate, but it clearly was in the thousands.

In 1830, at the time of the Indian Removal Act, remnants of the Cherokee lived along Little Goose Creek, in Clay County, which was the dividing line between the Cherokee and Euroamerican settlers.  Some of the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears escaped and secretly joined their extended families in Clay County.  Since then, Cherokee families living in Kentucky have been subjected to ethnocide.  Ironically, outside of their reserve lands in North Carolina and Oklahoma, there are more people of Cherokee descent living in Kentucky than any other state.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.  It includes a park in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, which is one of the few documented campsites used on the Trail of Tears.  In 1996, the National Park Service certified the campsites used between 1838 and 1839 as part of the National Historic Trail of Tears, the only non-federally owned property with this title.  Of particular significance, the Hopkinsville, Kentucky park includes the graves of Fly Smith and Whitepath, Cherokee Chiefs who died during the removal.  

Piqua Shawnee Tribe

Historically, the Piqua, also spelled Pekowi and Pekowitha, was a division of the Shawnee.  The name Piqua literally translates into American English as “made of ashes.”  The word originates from a Shawnee phoenix creation story in which a man rises from the ashes.  Some Shawnee have also translated Piqua as the dusty feet people.  The Piqua were known as the second oldest brother of the five brothers or bands of the Shawnee.  They were also known as the talking band because they arranged for the speakers for the Principal Chief.  

In 1774, colonial troops fought the Piqua Shawnee under the leadership of Cornstalk in the battle known as Point Pleasant, West Virginia.  With the death of Cornstalk, they, like the Cherokee, became split in their support of the American Revolution.  By 1778, most of their towns in Kentucky such as Eskippakithiki, today known as Indian Old Fields in Clark County, had been repeatedly destroyed by the American army.  According to the Draper manuscript, many Piqua Shawnee moved from Lower Shawnee Town, in present-day Greenup and Lewis counties, Kentucky to a village near the mouth of the Little Miami River in present-day Hamilton County, Ohio.  Archaeologically, this site is known as the Fort Ancient Madisonville site.  In addition to European trade goods and French gunflints, radiocarbon dating demonstrate that the site was indeed occupied at that time by the Shawnee.  Interestingly, the Madisonville site also produced numerous copper pendants and engraved bone artifacts as well as what may be one of the largest serpentine-shaped earthworks ever discovered.  The importance of the snake symbol is illustrated by the fact it was often used as a tribal sign on eighteenth century Shawnee treaties.  It is quite possible that the earthwork represents a marker for Manato, the snake clan, and the Madisonville site may have been a Shawnee Snake Town.  

Fort Ancient livelihood combined farming, hunting, and gathering.  Domesticated plants such as beans, gourds, maize, squash, and sunflower were grown, and their diet was supplemented with small game hunting and wild plant gathering.  Fort Ancient agricultural land was well-planned and maintained with staggered planting to reduce the risk of crop failure.  They stored their agricultural produce in abundant voluminous bell-shaped storage pits, which allowed them to seasonally leave their villages to make salt and hunt game such as bear, bison, deer, elk, and turkey at places such as Big Bone Lick, Kentucky.  

Recent DNA studies suggest that the ancestry of the Piqua Shawnee may extend even further back in time.  Of the five mitochondrial DNA haplogroups found among all Native Americans (i.e., A, B, C, D, X), haplogroup A has been found in high frequency among living Shawnee and Woodland populations that date between 500 BC and AD 500.  This finding may be related to the initial movement of Shawnee into the North.  

Today, the Piqua Shawnee speak an Algonquian language related to that of the Chippewa, Fox, Kickapoo, Sauk, and other American Indians of the Ohio River valley.  Their kinship is patrilineal, which means that group descent and tribal affiliation is inherited through the father’s family.  Oral histories and traditional ways of life were passed down generation after generation from those who escaped the forced removal during the 1830s.  In 1991, the Governor of Kentucky recognized the Piqua Shawnee as an American Indian tribe indigenous to Kentucky, and the Alabama Indian Affairs Commission under the authority of the Davis-Strong Act recognized the Piqua Shawnee as an American Indian tribe in the state of Alabama.  The Piqua Shawnee have reserve land along the Warrior’s Trail in Jackson County, Kentucky.  Tribal members gather there four times a year for Winter and Summer Council meetings, Spring and Fall Bread Dances and Ceremonies, and the Green Corn Dance and Ceremony.  Today, the Piqua Shawnee are the only recognized tribe in Kentucky.

American Indian Legislation

American Indians in Kentucky were not considered human until 1879, when Standing Bear, a Ponca filed a Writ of Habeas Corpus in the District Court of the United States.  His case set precedence for American Indians living in Kentucky and elsewhere the United States.  However, most American Indians in Kentucky were not considered citizens until 1924.  Before then, some American Indians living in Kentucky acquired citizenship by marrying Euroamerican men or through military service.  Most American Indians living in Kentucky were barred from citizenship until the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act was passed.

Further steps toward the recognition of American Indians in Kentucky began with the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act (NRHPA) of 1966, signed into Public Law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson.  Through the NHPA, a National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) was created, which documents historically significant American Indian places, objects, and culture.  It also provided funding to establish a State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) and staff to conduct surveys, undertake comprehensive preservation planning, and establish standards for programs in each state.  The NHPA also required all states to establish a mechanism for certifying local governments to participate in the National Register nomination and funding programs.  In response to the NHPA, Governor Edward Breathitt created the Kentucky Heritage Council (KHC) in 1966 as an agency of the Commerce Cabinet.  One of the directives of the KHC is to identify, preserve, and protect all meaningful American Indian cultural resources in the state.  The KHC subsequently focused its efforts on the documentation and preservation of vestiges of American Indian artistic and cultural resources from hundreds and even thousands of years ago.  Contemporary American Indians, tribes, and organizations in the state were essentially ignored because they were not included in the original composition of the NHPA.  

Visibility of American Indians in Kentucky began to change with the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA), which was signed into Public Law by President James Earl Carter Jr. on August 11, 1978.  Not only does the AIRFA protect and preserve the inherent right of all American Indians and tribes to believe, express, and exercise traditional religions and use items of artistic and material culture that are considered sacred, it also provides American Indians with unlimited access to sacred sites, including those in Kentucky that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Unfortunately, these sites also attracted the attention of grave robbers and plunderers for profit.  In 1987, the repugnantly large-scale pillaging of an American Indian cemetery near Uniontown, Kentucky brought international attention to the American Indian people, tribes, and organizations in the Commonwealth when they spoke out against the desecration.  The outcome was a positive change in laws concerning the protection, preservation, and conservation of these sacred places.  Most notably was the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) signed into federal law by President George Bush Sr. on November 16, 1990.  NAGPRA provides a process for the return of human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony to Indigenous lineal descendants and culturally affiliated tribes. 

By 1996, the NHPA had been amended many times to include American Indians, tribes, and organizations in partnership with State and Federal government to provide leadership in the preservation of cultural resources.  The amendments were specifically made to assist American Indians in the expansion and acceleration of historic preservation programs and activities.  The intention of the amendments was to foster communication, cooperation, and coordination between American Indians and the SHPOs in the planning and administration of the NHPA.  These activities include the identification, evaluation, protection, and interpretation of historic properties.  The new amendments to the NHPA allow cultural items and properties of traditional religious and cultural importance to American Indians, tribes, and organizations to be protected and eligible for inclusion on the NRHP.  The amendments to NHPA made it essential that all preservation-related activities, including planning, are carried out in consultation with Indigenous people, tribes, and organizations.  

In 1996, First Lady of Kentucky, Judi Conway Patton, a person of native heritage, felt strongly that American Indians, tribes, and organizations should be represented in the KHC and state government.  At her urging, Governor Paul Edward Patton established the Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission (KNAHC) as an advisory board attached to the Education, Arts, and Humanities Cabinet (EAHC), and authorized by Executive Order 96-272 on March 5, 1996.  Since the creation of the KNAHC, Kentucky has participated in the Governor’s Interstate Indian Council (GIIC), a national organization established in 1949 by the National Governors' Association to promote and enhance government relations between Tribal Nations and the states.  Its mission is to bring respect and recognition to the individual sovereignty of Tribal Nations and states.  The GIIC also supports the preservation of traditional American Indian culture, language, and values, and to encourage socioeconomic development aimed at tribal self-sufficiency. 

In an effort to acknowledge all American Indian people, tribes, and organizations in Kentucky, Governor Paul Edward Patton signed House Bill 801 on April 7, 1998, which designates November as Native American Indian Month.  House Bill 801 not only recognizes that American Indians are important to the state’s history, playing a vital role in enhancing the freedom, prosperity, and greatness of the state, it also reflects the Commonwealth's commitment to American Indians as an integral part of the social, political, and economic fabric of the state of Kentucky.  On April 2, 2004, Governor Ernie Fletcher, a person of native heritage, signed House Bill 167 into law.  House Bill 167 was written by Reginald Meeks and passed by both houses.  It ensures that the KNAHC is a permanent part of the Governor’s cabinet to promote awareness of Indigenous influences within the historical and cultural experiences of Kentucky.  

Notable American Indians

  • Nonhelema (1720-1787) A female Piqua Shawnee Chief.
  • Red Bird (1721-1796) Also known as Dotsuwa, he inscribed traditional Cherokee symbols on the walls of rosckshelters in Spurlock, Kentucky.  He is the namesake of the Red Bird River and several towns in Kentucky.  He was murdered in Clay County, Kentucky by two men from Tennessee, Edward Miller and John Livingston, an incident of National significance. 
  • Blue Jacket (1737-1808) Last principal War Chief of the Shawnee, Piqua Division, Rabbit Clan, and given the name Sepettekenathe, Big Rabbit.  His chosen name was Waweyapiersenwaw, Whilpool.  He signed the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 and the Treaty of Fort Industry in 1805.
  • Black Hoof (1740-1831) Also known as Catahecassa, he was born near Winchester, Kentucky, and became principal Chief of the Shawnee.  He was present at Braddock’s defeat in 1755, and played a significant role in the battle of Point Pleasant.  He is best known as a Shawnee leader who emphasized peace.
  • Doublehead (1744-1807) Also known as Dsugweladegi and Taltsuska, was born in Sterns, Kentucky.  He served as Principal Chief of the Cherokee and signed multiple treaties with the United States, which ceded significant portions of tribal land and resulted in his blood oath murder on the Hiawasse River in Tennessee. 
  • Jesse Brock (1751-1843) Son of Dotsuwa, Red Bird, he was a Cherokee scout during the American Revolution and present at Yorktown when Cornwallis surrendered. He lived in Wallens Creek in Harlan County, Kentucky.
  • David Benge (1760-1854) Also known as King David Benge, he was the first cousin of Robert Benge and Sequoyah.  He served during the American Revolution and the War of 1812, fighting in the battles of Kings Mountain and Thames.
  • Robert Benge (1766-1794) Also known as the Bench, he was a red-headed Chickamauga War Cherokee Chief, half-brother of Sequoyah and son of John Benge and Red Paint Clan Mother, Wurteh Watts.  
  • Techumeh (1768-1813) Also known as Tikamthi and Tecumtha, Sky Panther, he was born in the Piqua Shawnee village on the Mad River, which was destroyed by Kentucky militia in 1780.  He called for a unification of all Indian people west of the Appalachians, denouncing alcohol, fighting between American Indian groups, and the ways of Europeans. Together with his brother the Prophet, they founded Prophetstown where the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers meet in Indiana. But their movement to found a unified American Indian nation disbanded after their defeat in the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811.
  • The Prophet (1775-1837) Also known as Tenskwatawa, brother of Tecumseh, he was a self proclaimed spiritual leader of the Shawnee whose influence spread as far south as the Southern Creek and Siksika.  He had more than 1,000 converts, and his teachings helped create a northern confederacy that held together until the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811.
  • Sequoyah (1778-1844) Also known as George Guess and George Gist, the single most well-known Cherokee who standardized a system of writing that is still in use today.  He was the son of Nathaniel Gist and Red Paint Clan Mother, Wurteh Watts.  His earliest known writing can be found inscribed in stone at the grave site of Red Bird in Clay County, Kentucky.
  • John Benge (1788-1854) Chickamauga Cherokee Chief, he was the son of Robert Benge.  He served in Morgan’s Cherokee Regiment during the War of 1812.  He voted against removal and served as a wagon-master on the Trail of Tears.
  • Tassel Doublehead (1798-1807) Also known as Tukaho, he was the son of Chief Doublehead and Kateeyeah Wilson.  He was murdered and is buried on a mountain top in Wayne County, Kentucky, known today as Doublehead’s Gap.
  • William Benge (1799-after 1860) Also known as Booger Bill Benge, he was the son of King David Benge.  He performed the Cherokee Booger Stomp dance in Great Salt Petre Cave in Rockcastle County.

Getting To Manchester & Clay County Kentucky

Coming from the Northeast

Follow I-77 South to Rt. 64 West. Go west on Rt. 64 to Rt. 23 South. Go south on Rt. 23 to Rt. 80 West. Follow Rt. 80 West (becomes Hall Rogers Parkway) to Rt. 66 Oneida Exit or Manchester KY Exit.

Coming from the North

Follow I-75 South to first London, KY exit (Hall Rogers Parkway.) Turn left and follow the parkway approximately 23 miles to Manchester, KY. Exit at Manchester and turn left.

Coming from the West

Drive north on Rt. 65 to Cumberland Parkway East. Follow signs and proceed to Rt. 80 East towards London, KY. Follow Rt. 80 to Hale Rogers Parkway East. Follow the parkway approximately 23 miles to Manchester, KY. Exit at Manchester and turn left.

Coming from the East

Drive west on Rt. 64 to Rt. 23 South. Go south on Rt. 23 to Rt. 80 West. Follow Rt. 80 West (becomes Hall Rogers Parkway) to Rt. 66 Oneida Exit or Manchester KY Exit.

"Stay In Clay" is comprised of progressive Clay County residents who have come together to cross all boundaries of race, economic, and social class, to empower our people, bond our community, and strengthen our local move Clay County forward with pride and purpose. Stay in Clay is a group formed to help boost the spirit, pride, and morale of our people and help improve the look and condition of our hometown/county. We want Manchester and Clay County to be the place people want to live, stay, retire, visit, come home to! This dedicated organization has completed swinging bridges restoration projects, created promotional murals,  organizes special events and established a story telling theater called Monkey Dumplin’s. And we’re just getting started. Many more projects are in the works.

Project Hope

Project Hope began when a group of people, seeing that Clay County was in need, formed to repair and paint buildings, sweep sidewalks, and organize community garbage pickups. As they listened to citizens they saw the need to involve youth. It became Project Hope's focus to involve youth in improving the community. Projects have included the middle school art class painting of a "Welcome to Clay" mural, teaming up with VOA and the leadership team of CCHS to create a "Hope Endures" mural, and revitalizing the basketball courts during Covid. A Flag Project promotes a sense of pride in the community for our country, funded entirely through community donations. Project Hope has also hosted a ceremony for area veterans, hosted Christmas parades, and organized Tour of Lights; all Covid friendly events. The organization jumps in wherever there is a need.

Join The Movement

"Stay In Clay" is comprised of progressive Clay County residents who have come together to cross all boundaries of race, economic, and social class, to empower our people, bond our community, and strengthen our local move Clay County forward with pride and purpose.

Stay in Clay is a group formed to help boost the spirit, pride, and morale of our people and help improve the look and condition of our hometown/county. We want Manchester and Clay County to be the place people want to live, stay, retire, visit, come home to!


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