Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dr. William Goforth to President Thomas Jefferson. On the Bones of Big Bone Lick. 1807

 Dr. William Goforth to President Thomas Jefferson. On the Bones of Big Bone Lick.  1807

Letter from Dr. William Goforth of Cincinnati
 President Thomas Jefferson

On the Bones of Big Bone Lick

 edited by
 James Duvall, M. A.

Note: This letter was written in 1807

Cincinnati, Ohio
Thomas Jefferson, Esq.
President of the United States.

Respected Sir,

      I received a letter from Caspar Wistar Jun. dated 1st of Dec. 1806, on behalf of the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia requesting information concerning the head of the mammoth; the bones of a large animal with claws; an account of other unknown bones; and also my opinion of the probability of procuring more bones, and the method of attempting it — and I was desired to address my answer to you.

      The bones I collected were unfortunately intrusted to the care of a person who descended the Mississippi with them some months since; whether he proceeded to Europe with them, I am ignorant, as from accident or some other cause, I have received no account either of him or them. — My answer cannot therefore be expected to contain accurate or exact descriptions of the bones, but such a general description as I can give from memory, follows: The part of a head which was in my possession, and which I thought to be the head of the mammoth, appeared small. I only possessed the maxilla superior, and maxilla inferior with the teeth, — two on each side of the jaw,—the 2 nearest the jaw were molars, and had two points or cones on each side of the tooth, making double processes thickly enamelled on the cones or masticating surface.

      The maxilla inferior was in two parts naturally, teeth the same as in the maxilla superior, and from the appearance of both jaws, I concluded they had their full complement of teeth—(I judged the head to which these bones belonged was small, as I had teeth of the same kind more than 5 times the size of the largest of either jaw—each under-jaw with the teeth weighing 48 lbs.)

      I had a number of teeth ribbed transversely on the masticating surface, and enamelled, weighing from 1¼ to 12 lbs. each.

      Of the teeth of the mammoth kind furnished with double-coned or blunt-pointed processes on the masticating surface and thickly enamelled and generally 4 processes for insertion in the jaw, as many as a wagon and 4 horses could draw, weighing from 12 to 20 lbs. each.

      One small femoris, weight 31 lbs.; 4 ribs, weight and length not recollected—they appeared to be so connected with the vertebrae as to throw their edge outwards; one tusk weighing 100 lbs., 21 inches in circumference, and measuring 10 ft. 6 in. in length; its form thus — one horn 5 ft. long, weight 21 lbs.

      The bones of one paw nearly filled a flour barrel; it had 4 claws and then the bones were regularly placed together measured from the os calcis to the end of either middle claw 5 feet 2 inches.

      The bones of this paw were similar to those of a bear’s foot. Where I found these bones, I found large quantities of bears bones at the same time, and had an opportunity of arranging and comparing the bones together, and the Similarity was striking in everything particular except size.

      The vertebrae of the back and neck, when arranged in order with the os sacrum and coecygis, measured nearly 60 feet, allowing for cartilages. Though I am not confident the bones all belonged to one animal, and the
number of vertebrae I cannot recollect.

      I had some thigh bone of incognita of a monstrous size when compared with my other bones, which I much regret I neither weighed or measured, and a number of large bones so much impaired by time it was fruitless to conjecture to what part of any animal they belonged.

      As to the probability of obtaining some more bones, and the method of attempting it; the best answer I can give will be a relation how and where I procured the fore-mentioned: They were all procured at a place, called the Big Bone Lick, about 60 miles by river below this place and 3 from the Ohio. From my long residence in this country I had long cherished a desire to make researches at Big Bone Lick, but my circumstances (having a large family, and my practice as a physician, though extensive, is not profitable, owing to the poverty of the people) would not enable me to bear the necessary expenses. About 3 years ago, some persons understanding the avidity with which skeletons of this kind were sought after in Europe, and believing a complete skeleton of the mammoth might be procured, said that it would sell well in Europe. After several exertions to obtain what might be necessary to carry my object into execution, I accordingly proceeded to Big Bone Lick, and with a few hands, such as my trifling resources would permit, commenced my researches, when the agent of David Ross of Virginia (who owns the tract of land), forbid my proceeding further. Since which time I have endeavored, by every means which my contracted situation enables me, to procure liberty to prosecute my search.

      Big Bone Lick was formerly a salt marsh — Salt is made there at present — We generally dug through several layers of small bones, in a stiff blue clay, such as deer; elk; buffalo and bear bone, in great numbers, many of them much broken, below which was a strata of gravel and salt water, in which we found the large bones, some nearly 11 feet deep in the ground though they were found upon the surface.

      The large bones were not found regularly connected together as those of a carcase, which has been consumed by time without disturbance, and I was led to form strong suspicions, that the carcase of the large animals were preyed upon and the bones scattered here and there. —I am so firmly persuaded that large — nay, almost any quantity of teeth bones and tusks may be procured, — that I have long entertained a sanguine hope of bettering my circumstances by procuring skeletons, provided I could obtain permission to prosecute my search, perhaps it may be in the power of your learned body to procure me this permission, and if the society would wish collections of the bones of these non-descripts for their own use, I would undertake to superintend the collection and forward it to Philadelphia, or elsewhere, for such compensation as the Society should think proper to allow me for my trouble and quitting my business during the time of the work. I spent about 4 weeks in my former research, with 6 and sometimes 8 hands, and I think with 10 or 12 hands (who must be found, victuals, and liquor), I could completely search the whole Lick. The expense would be about $1.25 each man per day; we could take provisions from this town, or take a hunter to kill for us. I have now, respected sir, given all the information that suggests itself, and have mentioned the place where the collection is to be made, and the best method to pursue. With sincere wishes, that the Society may prosper, and that you may long continue your labors for the benefit of your country, I am,

With sincere respect, your friend,


Big Bone History








Thomas Jefferson to William Clark. 1807.

Thomas Jefferson to George Rogers Clark

Washington Dec. 19. 1807.
Dear General,

     As I think it probable your brother will have left you before the inclosed comes to hand, I have left it open,
and request you to read it, and do for me what it asks of him, and, what he will do should he still he with you,
that is to say to have the bones packed and forwarded for me to William Brown, Collector at N. Orleans, who
will send them on to me.
     I avail myself of this occasion of recalling myself to your memory, and of assuring you that time has not
lessened my friendship for you. We are both now grown old. You have been enjoying in retirement the recollection
of the services you have rendered your country, and I am about to retire, without an equal consciousness that I
have not occupied places in which others would have done more good. But in all places and times I shall wish
you every happiness, and salute you with great friendship & esteem.
Th: Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson to William Clark

Washington Dec. 19.07.
Dear Sir,
     I have duly received your two Favors of Sep. 20 and Nov. 10. and am greatly obliged indeed by the trouble
you have been so good as to take in procuring for me as thorough a supplement to the bones of the Mammoth as
can now be had. I expect daily to receive your bill for all the expences which shall be honoured with thanks. The
collection you have made is so considerable that it has suggested an idea I had not before, I see that after taking
out for the Philosophical society everything they shall desire there will remain such a collection of duplicates, as
will be a grateful offering from me to the National institute (sic) of France for whom I am bound to do
something. But in order to make it more considerable I find myself obliged to ask the addition of those which you
say you ‘have deposited with your brother at Clarkesville, such as ribs, back bones, leg bones, thigh, ham, hips,
shoulder blades, parts of the upper and under jaw, teeth of the Mammoth and elephant, and parts of the
Mammoth tusks, to he forwarded hereafter if necessary.’ I avail myself of these last words to ask that they may
be packed and forwarded to me, by the way of N. Orleans, as the others have been. I do this with the less
hesitation knowing these things can be of little value to yourself or brother, so much in the way of furnishing
yourselves if desired, and because I know they will be so acceptable to an institution to which, as a member, I
wish to be of some use. I salute you with great friendship & respect
Th: Jefferson

Big Bone History

Letter of Meriwether Lewis to President Thomas Jefferson, Big Bone Lick. 1803.

Letter of Meriwether Lewis to President Thomas Jefferson, 1803.

Big Bone Lick was visited by both Lewis and Clark

 edited by
James Duvall, M. A.

     Meriwether Lewis visited Big Bone Lick in 1803 and reported the visit to Thomas Jefferson, and sent him specimins. Jefferson was so interested in Big Bone Lick that he later hired William Clark to supervise an excavation there. In 1807, Clark came to Big Bone Lick and hired workmen; and obtained a number of specimens for Jefferson. Clark wrote an eleven page report to Jefferson Nov. 1807 (in the Library of Congress) discussing this operation. Jefferson wrote to Lacepede, 14 July 1808 a letter concerning this (also in Library of Congress). William Goforth, a Cincinnati physician, had written Gen. Thomas Proctor in Philadelphia, 18 June 1803, revealing his discovery of mammoth remains and inquiring whether he might exhibit the objects in the U.S. or Europe. He said he had "the upper part of the head and the under jaws of the large Animal I have a large number of teeth from 19 or 20 pounds weight down to 4 or 5. One thigh bone weighing 31 pounds some ribs intire [sic] some broken the whole of the back bones one horn weighing about 100 pounds about twenty one Inches in Circumference & one horn about 5 feet long weighing 21 pounds and one other about seven feet long" (In Library of Congress). Proctor reported this to Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), who had founded the Philadelphia Museum and was interested in the display of fossil remains. Peale wrote of the matter rather delicately to Jefferson (in a letter of 18 July 1803) explaining that he already had a mammoth on display in his own museum, and declining to comment on Goforth's potential success. "I marval what are the teeth which he says weighs 19 or 20 pounds, can they be grinders. The largest I have seen belongs to Doctr. Wistar, its weight 10 pounds." (Letter in Library of Congress)

Cincinnati, October 3rd 1803.
 Dear Sir,

     I reached this place on the 28th Ult.; it being necessary to take in a further supply of provisions here, and finding my men much fatiegued with the labour to which they have been subjected in descending the river, I determined to recruit them by giving them a short respite of a few days, having now obtained the distance of five hundred miles. On the evening of the 1st inst. I again dispatched my boat with orders to meet me at the Big Bone lick, to which place I shall pass by land, it being distant from hence only seventeen miles while by water it is fifty three, a distance that will require my boat in the present state of the water near three days to attain.

     The late reserches [sic] of Dr. William Goforth of this plase [sic] at that Lick has made it a place of more interesting enquiry than formerly, I shall therefore seize the present moment to visit it, and set out early tomorrow morning for that purpose.

     Dr. Goforth in the begining of May last with a view to obtain a complete skeleton of the Mammoth, sunk a pitt 30 feet square and eleven feet in debth [sic] in a moist part of the Big Bone Lick, from which he obtained a large number of specimens of the bones of this anamal, tho' generally in a very imperfect and mutilated state; he also obtained from the same pitt several grinders of the anamal [sic] generally supposed posed to be an Elephant from their affinity to the teeth of that an these last are very perfect: a part of this collection of bones the has in his possession at this place and has been so obliging as to favour me with an examinetion of them; the other part of the Dr.'s collection is yet at the Lick, these he informs me are much more perfect than those he shewed me, particularly the upper portion of a head, and some other specimens which had been obtained from a small pitt, sunk in a dryer part of the Lick by a young man to whom, in his absence he had confided the prosecution of his researches; among these specimens the Dr. also mentioned a tusk of an immence size, the dementions of which he could not furnish me with, not having yet seen it, but from the information of his assistant, states it's weight at 180 lbs.; this tusk is said to be in a good state of preservation.

The Dr, informed me that he had been interdicted by the Agent of Mr. David Ross of Virginia, (the proprietor of the Lick) from removing these bones, as he was also from the further prosecution of his researches; he is much chagrined at this occurrence, and seems very anxious that some measures should be taken by which to induce Mr. Ross to suffer him to prosecute his enquiries. The Doctr. presented me with two handsome specimens, the one a grinder of the Elaphant, the other, that of the Mammoth, the former weighs ten and 1/2 pounds, the latter I have not weighed, from the circumstance of it's roots being attatched to a lump of clay, without seperating from which, it's weight could not be accurately ascertained; I concluded it would be better to forward it in it's present state, as the clay will not only guard this part of the tooth from injury in transporting it, but will at the same time furnish a good specimen of the earth of which the lick is formed. Dr. Goforth was so good as to grant me his permission to take from those bones now at the Lick the large tusk before noticed, and any other bones that are to be found among his collection at that place: Capt. Findley who accompanys me to the Lick says he is well acquainted with the Agent of Mr. Ross, and thinks that he can obtain his permission also for the same purpose; should I succeed you may expect to recieve through Mr. Trist, this large tusk together with the two grinders before mentioned, and such other specimines as I may be enabled to procure, and which, I may think worthy your acceptance.

     All the bones, which I observed in the possession of Dr. Goforth appear to be those of the Mammoth, accept only the Elephant-like griners [grinders]; the most remarkable. among them was a portion of the lower or larger part of a tusk; measuring one foot ten inches in circumpherence and five feet eight inches in length, the Dr. informed when he first obtained it, it was upwards of six feet in length and weighed one hundred pounds; the greates circumpherence of the tusks of Mr. Peale's skeleton I believe is not more than one foot six 1/2 inches. As the anatomy of the Mammoth has already been so well ascertained by the skeleton in the possession of Mr. Peal (the upper portion of the head excepted) I confined my enquiries mearly to a search for this part of the skeleton, and for such specimens of the tusks as would enable me to deside a question which appears not yet fully to have been satisfyed (viz) Whether the flated or sythe-shaped tusks so frequently found in the same bed with the acknowledged tusks of the Mammoth, are the tusks of that anamal, or a different one? With regard to the fist [first] of these enquiries I was unsuccessfull, finding only one mutilated specimen of the upper portion of the head, the frontal bone of which had entirely decayed; I was therefore unable to form any just idea of it's shape; as to the second, I was more fortunate, obtaining many specimens of both the acknowledged Mammoth tusks, as well as those of the flat tusks, both in a sound and an imperfect state; these I compared with attention; but before I proceed to express an opinion with respect to the homogeniallogy of these tusks I will give a short description of those specimens, in order Sir, that you may from thence draw your own inferences, and make your own deduction.

     The tusks of the Mammoth were conical, much Curved, and also spiral or twisted; the fragments of whatever portion of the tusk were homologus to the same part of a complete tusk; when by decay the end of a section of any large part of the tusk was observed, the ends of the broken lateral stratas of the lamina, formed a number of circular rings, each imbracing and inclosing the other from the center to the circumpherence of the tusk, these rings however, were of unequal thickness; when perfet the lamina assumes a yellowish white or creem colour, in it's decayed state it resembles white chalk, both in colour and consistance (see No. 2. specn. inclosed); the surface of the tusk sometimes assumes partially a black colour, which from it's resembleance to the Buffaloe horn might on a slite examineation be taken for a similar substance, but on a more minute investigation it appears to be ivory, or the common lamina of the tusk, which, has acquired that colour from some cause, most probably, from the properties of the clay in which they had been so long deposited; this black Ivory (No. 2) is rarely more than two lines in thickness, gradually loosing it's hue inwards, untill it becomes the common colour of the tusk.

     The flat or sythe-like tusks assumed a great variety of figures, tho' uniformly curved; one was flat on both sides near the large end of the tusk, where it was connected with the head; this was rendered conspicuous from the conic concavity common to this part as well of the Mammoth, as these tusks at the larger end; and so much was it flated that this end of the tusk was left in a forked shape, while the smaller end assumed the curved, and connic shape, and was also spiral, as is that of the Mammoth: several were flated unequally on both sides near the small extremity of the tusk, the larger end being conical, curved, and spiral; while others were flat on one side only throughout the whole extent of the tusk: the lamina of these tusks whether perfect, decayed, or assuming the horn-like appearance, is the same substance precisely of the Mammoth tusk: in every instance where the tusk is flatened, the circular rings of lamina are perfect when the diameter of those rings do not exceed the thickness of the tusk, which last I found unequal in the different specimens; and when the rings of lamina exceed the thickness of the tusk they are broken, but still we find the corrisponding parts of these broken rings, attatched to either side of the perfect one, and succeeding each other throughout the whole width of the tusk; thus presenting the exact figure of the Mammoth's tusk reduced to a flat surface on both sides by being ground down. I also observed that several bones that were in a good state of preservation, appeared to have been woarn away in the same manner, or from the same cause which had flattened the tusks, particularly a large grinder of the Mammoth which struck my attention, it was unconnected with the jaw bone; one third of the volume of this tooth seemed to have been woarn away, as if reduced on one side by being grown down to a plane surface; the enamel of the fractured edge appeared to have given way equally with the bone of the tooth and presented a smooth surface; no part of this tooth shewed any sharp fracture which, might induce a belief that it was reduced to it's pesent [present] shape by a violent or sudden stroke.

     Finding that the upper part of a tusk was flattened, which shape it could not have acquired during the existence of the living anamal, it being that part of the tusk which by bone or cartilage must have been united with the head; that in every case where the same specimen united both the character of the Mammoth and fiat tusk, that portion resembleing the Mammoth tusk was in all respects it's prototipe; that the tusk of the Mammoth is well defined, and that it's characteristics strongly mark it; that the lamina of both the flat and the conic tusks, are invariably the same in similar states of preservation; and that in all instances where the tusk is flattened the lateral lamina shews evedent marks of violence; I can therefore have no remaining doubt these flat or sythe-like tusks being the tusks of the Mammoth; and the appearance of the flatten grinder of the Mammoth before noticed, I am strongly disposed to believe that these flat tusks of the Mammoth have acquired that shape in consequence of the sand and gravel passing over them for a great length of time caused by a runing stream or agitated water.

     The Elephants teeth which I saw in the possession of Dr. Goforth weigh from four to eleven pounds, and appear to me precisely to resemble a specimen of these teeth which, I saw in the possession of Dr. Wister of Philadelphia; and which if my recollection serves me Dr. Wister informed me was found in S. Carolina: the Dr. has since assured me, that from a comparison of this specimen with the plates representing the teeth of the Asiatic Elephat contained in the late Vols. of the British philosophical transactions, that he is perfectly convinced that it is the tooth of the Asiatic Elephant or an anamal very much resembleing it. Relative to these teeth it may not be unworthy of remark, that so far as I have been able to inform myself, they are never found adjacent to the bones of any anamal of their comparitive size, except those of the Mammoth; or such as from their affinity to the anatomy of that anamal, have always been admitted to be the bones of the Mammoth. These teeth are never found attatched to the bones of the jaw; and notwithstanding the high state of preservation in which those Elephant's teeth are found, that no other pat [part] of it's fraim should yet have been discovered in America. From the shape and termination of both extremities of these grinders they each appear to have completely filled it's respective jaw bone.

     Not any of the bones or tusks which I saw were petrifyed, either preserving their primitive states of bone or ivory; or when decayed, the former desolving into earth intermixed with scales of the header [harder] or more indissoluble parts of the bone, while the latter assumed the appearance of pure white chalk.

     I would thank you for forward me some of the Vaxcine matter, as I have reason to believe from several experiments made with what I have, that it has lost it's virtue.

     Conner, the interpretter I had calculated on engaging, has declined; however I do not feel much disappointment at this occurrence, being well assured that a suitable person of that discription can be procured at St. Louis.

     So soon Sir, as you deem it expedient to promulge the late treaty, between the United States and France I would be much obliged by your directing an official copy of it to be furnished me, as I think it probable that the present inhabitants of Louisiana, from such an evidence of their having become the Citizens of the United States, would feel it their interest and would more readily yeald any information of which, they may be possessed relative to the country than they would be disposed to do, while there is any doubt remaining on that subject.

     As this Session of Congress has commenced earlyer than usual, and as from a variety of incidental circumstances my progress has been unexpectedly delayed, and feeling as I do in the most anxious manner a wish to keep them in a good humour on the subject of the expedicion in which I am engaged, I have concluded to make a tour this winter on horseback of some hundred miles through the most interesting portion of the country adjoining my winter establishment; perhaps it may be up the Canceze River and towards Santafee, at all events it will bee on the South side of the Missouri. Should I find that Mr. Clark can with propiety also leave the party, I will prevail on him also to undertake a similar excurtion through some other portion of the country: by this means I hope and am pursuaded that by the middle of February or Ist of March I shall be enabled to procure and forward to you such information relative to that Country, which, if it dose not produce a conviction of the utility of this project, will at least procure the further toleration of the expedition.

     It will be better to forward all letters and papers for me in future to Cahokia.

     The water still continues lower in the Ohio than it was ever known. I am with every sentiment of gratitude and respect Your Obt. Servt.

Ist. U.S. Regt. Infty.

 Jefferson's endorsement is 25 Oct., but his index of letters says 26 Oct. 1803.

     The specimens went astray at Natchez and apparently were lost. Gideon Fitz sent a message to Jefferson that some of the bones were recoverable and that he would undertake to save them. Jefferson wrote to Fitz at Opelousas, Louisiana, 17 September 1804: "You will render me a very acceptable service if you will be so good as to do it, and send them to the care of Mr. Trist at New Orleans to be forwarded to me to the care of Jefferson & Gibson in Richmond as they are intended to be brought to this place" [i.e. Monticello]. Fitz acknowledged this from Washington, Mississippi Territory, 19 Oct. 1804, and said he would try to salvage them but doubted now if many could be recovered. There is no record of Fitz's search, but the fate of the specimens is mentioned by Thomas Rodney: "The bones Collected by Capt. Lewis came down the River to Natch the following Spring — 1804. and unhappily the boat that brought them sunk at the Landing, and I understood that Most of them were lost, but one being Saved, among them was a jaw bone and grinder of the wild Boar our Country — but there being no person to take care of these Curiosities box was thrown on the Shore, & broken open, by the Tennessee Militia, then at Natchez". [In a letter dated February 1806 to Peale] In an earlier draft of the letter, Rodney says that in 1803 he was going down the Mississippi, and he "walked out six miles to the Big Bone Lick but Captn. Lewis had been there a little before on his way to the Missouri, and had taken off most of the bones that had been found there".

Captain Charles Lemoyne de Longueil and Big Bone Lick.

The History of Big Bone

Captain Charles Lemoyne de Longueil
"Discovers" Big Bone Lick, 1729
 Willard Rouse Jillson

More than two hundred years ago — in 1729 to be exact — an intrepid French Canadian soldier and explorer,
then commanding at Fort Niagara, Captain Charles Lemoyne de Longueil,¹ descended the Ohio River from the
eastern Great Lakes and discovered Big Bone Lick in Northern Kentucky. His was the military entourage that
accompanied and protected the famous French engineer, M. Chaussegros de Lery,² whose compass surveys at this
time gave basis for the first reconnaissance charting of the meandering course of the Ohio River. Though records
do not so state, we may assume without fear of error that he was taken to this locality by the Indian guides who
accompanied him, for this lick in southwestern Boone County was widely known among the aboriginal tribes that
inhabited the Ohio Valley.

¹ Later the Governor of Montreal and Interim Governor or New France; born 1687, died 1759. commanded Fort
Niagara, 1726-1733.
² Remarques sur le Carte de l'Amerique Septentrionale by Jacques Nicolas Bellin, pp. 120-121, Paris, France,

from Jillson, Big Bone Lick, 1936, p. 3.

John Uri Lloyd. The Big Bone Country of Kentucky. 1935.

The Big Bone Country of Kentucky


John Uri Lloyd
typed and edited by
James Duvall, M. A.

Note:    John Uri Lloyd (1849-1936) was the founder and first president of the Big Bone Lick Association. He exercised significant in drawing attention to the Lick, and in getting it preserved as a park. The following paper is in the Lloyd Papers at the Lloyd Library in Cincinnati (LLM collection 1 Box 39 file 551). It is presented as written with some additional notes, which are kept separate from the text. The typescript, with handwritten annotations in Lloyd's hand is undated, but it appears to have been written in 1935.

      "Big Bone," a valley hemmed in by high hills, is situated in the western side of Boone County, Kentucky, about three and a half miles from the Ohio River. To reach it from Covington, take the Lexington Pike to Florence, (9 miles,) thence the Union Pike to Union, (six miles,) thence the Big Bone road to the Springs, (six miles); or somewhat longer, but not so hilly, continue on the Lexington Pile through Florence to Richwood, thence branch off to Big Bone. Or take the Cincinnati Southern Railway to either Erlanger or Richwood, and by vehicle proceed to Big Bone. Or go by boat on the Ohio River to Hamilton, (a landing place), thence three and a half miles up the valley to the Springs. In all cases, transportation must be provided in advance. Probably the picturesque road via Florence and Union will be preferable.

     Big Bone stands conspicuous as a Kentucky wonder. When the early settlers came into its precincts, great beaten roads, fifty feet wide, from all directions, led to its waters. These were "Buffalo Roads." The springs were sought by thousands of wild animals and numbers of their bones lie yet beneath its soil. Here the Mammoth and Mastodon struggled and perished, leaving their remains scattered over the surface of the earth, to amaze the pioneer, and it is a matter of record that the early settlers used the rib bones of these great beasts for tent poles, when visiting the springs to make salt.

     In 1784, John Filson, a surveyor and student, the man who came from Lexington, Kentucky, to lay out the village of Losantiville, afterward changed to Cincinnati, issued a History of Kentucky, which, in the preface was certified by Daniel Boon, Levi Todd, and James Harrod, as "as accurate a description of our country as we think can possibly be given."

     In this history, printed while Cincinnati was an untouched wilderness, reference is made to Big Bone as follows:

"The amazing herds of Buffaloes which resort thither, by their size and number, fill the traveller with amazement and terror, especially when he beholds the prodigious roads they have made from all quarters, as if leading to some populous city; the vast space of land around these springs defolated as if by a ravaging enemy, and hills reduced to plains; for the land near those springs are chiefly hilly. These are truly curiosities, and the eye can scarcely be satisfied with admiring them. A medicinal spring is found near the Big-bone Lick, which has perfectly cured the itch by once bathing ; and experience in time may discover in it other virtues." [Filson, p. 32-33]

     Concerning the monstrous bones, one and a half pages are devoted thereto, beginning as follows:

"At a salt spring, near Ohio river, very large bones are found, far surpassing the size of any species of animals now in America. The head appears to have been about three feet long, the ribs seven, and the thigh bones about four; one of which is reposited in the library in Philadelphia, and said to weigh seventy-eight pounds. The tusks are above a foot in length, the grinders about five inches square, and eight inches long. These bones have equally excited the amazement of the ignorant, and attracted the attention of the philosopher. Specimins of them have been sent both to France and England, where they have been examined with the greatest diligence." [Filson, page 33-34]

     In corrobation of this, the writer, who as a boy lived near Big Bone, affirms that teeth and monstrous fragments were then (1852-1860) common. His father-in-law, Mr. Thos. Rouse, born in 1816, near the Springs, whose parents came into this section among the earliest pioneers, verifies the recorded statements. Big Bone was then a great centre [sic], to which led wide beaten roads, on which thousands of buffalo tramped. And the springs were a centre for every beast known to this section. There they fought for water, as before had done the mastodon, the mammoth, and possibly other prehistoric animals, as next did the white man and the Indian.

     The jelly ground of Big Bone is a muck of quagmire that surrounds each spring. Their depths are yet unexplored. In the early days, they covered acres of ground, but creeping shells of dry earth have covered them to near where now spring the monstrous saline sulphur waters. In these mud mires, preserved by the salt water, lie yet bones of the prehistoric mastodon and mammoth, and perhaps other forms of animal life unknown; the buffalo and bear of recent days having here a common tomb.

     The Springs are known as "Big Bone Springs," "Big Bone Lick," or to the people of that section, as "The Lick." It was once a popular resort, especially before the day of the railroad. One hotel in the valley, built in the early part of the century, served its purpose and disappeared. Another, still standing, was built on the hillside overlooking one of the springs. The Springs, (excepting the quagmires), are unchanged. Great streams of rich saline sulphur water, cold, clear, blue-clear, rush from the earth, accompanied by volumes of free sulphuretted hydrogen gas.

     They are a marvel now, as they ever have been. To one acquainted with this country, in its primative beauty, the loss of the great forest is painful. No such woods were elsewhere to be found as stood in and about this valley. But the deadly ax has kept pace with the deadly rifle; the herds of deer, the bear, the buffalo or bison, the great proud woods, all, all have gone down before the touch of so-called civilization, that withering, scorching thing,that leaves but the bones yet hidden in Big Bone's quagmire, and in the minds of a few men yet alive reminiscences of these things I have just touched upon.

John Uri Lloyd

LLM col 1 Box 39 file 551

The following paper in the same file, dated 5 June 1935 is on the same subject and forms a fitting appendix to this paper. [ed.]


     Said Mr. Thomas Rouse to me, in his reminiscences concerning Big Bone: "It occurred to us at one time to try to find out how deep the jelly was in the bog at its center. We therefore had the blacksmith take iron rods, such as were used in making horses shoe nails, and attach them together in such a manner that we could run them down through the jelly to the bottom of the bog.
      "One Sunday morning we laid planks down to the middle of the jelly ground, and from that point we lowered the rods, one after the other, all attached. When all the rods were used, we had not yet reached the bottom"
     I did not mention this in my article on Big Bone because of the indefinite record. I negleted to ascertain the length of the rods and the number of them used. Now I comprehend that in one direction it is important that this record should be made.
     To me this is evidence that if there had been mammoth bones in the middle of the jelly ground, the rods could not have been run that length. Consequently, I would argue that mammoth and mastodon and other animals were mired near the edge of this jelly ground and did not reach the center.
     If this is true, probably the vast amount of bones discovered around the edges would not be found also in the center.
     To the foregoing it must be added that practically the entire jelly ground has been drained of surplus water because the entire tract is now in cultivation with one small exception.
     John Uri Lloyd

June 5, 1935

Constantine S. Rafinesque. Visit to Big Bone Lick, in 1821.

Visit to Big Bone Lick, in 1821


Constantine S. Rafinesque
 Professor of Historical and Natural Sciences, &c.

from the

Monthly American Journal of Geology and Natural Science

 Vol. 1 no. 8 (February 1832): 355-358.

edited by

James Duvall, M. A.
Big Bone, Kentucky

 At the
Big Bone University Press
Nec ossa solum, sed etiam sanguinem.
Big Bone.   Kentucky


C. S. Rafinesque, Professor of Historical and Natural Sciences, &c.

      Mr. Cooper, in his account of Big-bone Lick, has craved further information from other explorers. I shall, perhaps, add some additional facts to his. He has omitted Mr. John D. Clifford and myself among the explorers. To my knowledge Mr. Clifford visited the place in 1810 or 1817, and dug for bones. He procured many, which I have seen in his museum, in Lexington, among which a fine tusk of mastodon, and some horns of the oxen found there. His collection of bones has been removed, by purchase, to the museum of Cincinnati, and latterly to the Academy of Natural Sciences, of Philadelphia.

      We proposed to visit this lick together in 1820; but his death that year prevented us. In 1821. I went with Dr. Short, from Lexington to Northbend, at the mouth of the great Miami. I left him there at his brother’s seat on the Ohio, and went on purpose to the Lick by myself to explore it, and wait for him on his return. A horse having been lent to me, I went by the road of Cincinnati, following the banks of the Ohio. I visited in the way a beautiful elliptical mound, near the banks of the river, and the house of major Pratt. It has been preserved intact, with the trees that grow on it. The base measures 550 feet in circumference; it is 25 feet high, and the top is level 100 feet long from N. E. to S. W., by 50 feet broad. This mound, or altar, is nearly half way between the stone fort, at the mouth of the Miami, and the ancient city, temples, circus, and mounds on which Cincinnati has been built, now mostly levelled and destroyed. All are on the second bank of the Ohio.

      Without stopping long in Cincinnati, I crossed there the Ohio to Covington, in Kentucky, on the west side of the mouth of Licking river. I went to survey the singular ancient monument near Covington, at Mr. Jacob Fowle’s ; the main road passes between two circular mounds of unequal size; the eastern is 12 feet high; the western 25, and has a pavilion on the top; but the singularity consists in a long sickle-shaped esplanade, running out of it to the south, which is 350 feet long, about 80 broad, and 8 feet high.

      From Covington to Big-bone Lick, the distance is only 18 miles, nearly S. W. over the limestone upland, gently undulating: near the Lick the ground is more broken into ravines which open into the Big-bone valley.

      I remained several days at the Lick, which is a watering place, with ample accommodations; but I found the actual owner a very surly man, who would no longer allow any excavations, having imbibed the notion that digging would take away the water from the spring, around which a pavilion and seats had lately been erected. Seeking for bones was then out of the question and I spent my time in taking an ample survey of the place, the valley, and the landing on the Ohio, with the surrounding hills and monuments, now only two miles from the lick, where steam boats land their passengers. I made some maps and drawings, and collected several plants and fossils.

      Mr. Cooper’s account of the place is tolerably correct, but his map does not show all the streams, ravines and springs around the place, and omits entirely the remarkable ancient mound, connected with the Indian traditions mentioned long ago by Jefferson, in his notes on Virginia. Yet this mound is only 300 yards from the large boarding house, but in the woods on the steep hill behind it, towards the S. E. It is elliptical, 10 feet high, 430 feet in circuit at the base, 150 feet long, from N. to S. and is level on the top, with a hollow in the centre, which I ascribe to some late excavation, but am not positive, as no rubbish is seen.
      This was the mound from which the Great Spirit destroyed the last mastodon, according to the tradition recorded by Jefferson.

      Behind this mound, and towards the landing, are three small sepulchral mounds near one of the springs of the western branch of Gunpowder creek, which empties itself into the Ohio at the landing; but the main branch comes from the north. The ridge separating the waters of Gunpowder and Big bone creeks, is not very high, and forms a kind of gap where the road crosses it the lick may have once communicated with the Ohio by this gap.*

      I walked to the landing, where there was a very inconvenient landing place; near it was a farm house only, the cliffs being there very near to the Ohio, quite steep, and subject to avalanches. I was told by the farmer, that not long ago, in a storm at night, he was frightened by a dreadful noise like an earthquake, which lasted a long while; and in the morning found a small ravine south of his house almost filled up by an avalanche of huge stones from the cliffs. I went to see the place, and found it so; the stones were of all sizes and shapes, but all angular; some must have weighed many thousand pounds, and yet had rolled 200 yards or more. These cliffs, as usual, are of limestone, in horizontal strata, and 200 feet at least above the river.

      The water at the Lick springs contains salt and sulphur; it has a bluish cast, like that of the, Blue licks, on Licking river; both are limpid, but of an abominable taste, although readily drank by the idlers who come there to loiter, drink, bathe, and kill the game—very plenty yet on the hills.

      I should have wished to follow Big-bone creek to its mouth, but had not time. I have since regretted it, when I heard some years afterwards that a very singular ancient tomb had been found there. It was formed by two large slabs uniting into an angle above, and covered by the soil; some human bones were found in it, the fate of which I could not learn. I am inclined to believe it situated in the alluvion of the creek, which is ample in some places, and even contains many fossil shells, or unios, the same as those now inhabiting the creek and the Ohio. It would be interesting to know what connection may exist between this tomb; the mound on the hill, and the regular arrangement of the fossil bones at the lick, although I should myself be inclined to believe in the diluvial eddy which may have brought the bones there in a regular heap, in the bend of the valley.

      At Blue licks, in a rocky valley, no bones and no monuments are found, but Drennon’s lick has bones and mounds. Out of the limestone region, in the sandstone hills, many licks are found with fossils, but no bones and no monuments. Is it not strange that there should be an apparent connection between them, or rather their locality? as if some Indian tribe had collected these bones as relics.

      The valley of Big-bone creek is nearly a mile wide at the lick and above it, but becomes much narrower below it, as if the lick had been formerly a basin, or small lake. All the hills are of horizontal blue limestone, with some shells, chiefly terebratulites, productus, &c. But the valley, with the sides of the hills, are of clay. This clay is of various hues and consistency, often mixed with sand and gravel damp in the middle, dry and arid on the sides of the valley. It contains in the ravines several fossils, chiefly alcyonites and entrochites. The hills rise 120 to 180 feet above the valley. They are wooded and full of game, but with a very thin soil. The soil in the valley, near the lick, is rather sterile, but higher up becomes fruitful, and is well cultivated.

      Many pretty plants are found in the valley and hills, but no saline plants. The stream of Big-bone often changes its course, and washes away its banks when it overflows in the spring. The back-water of the Ohio, when very high, comes near to the lick, and may have reached it formerly.

      No bones were protruding or visible in the banks, in 1821; but some were visible as late as 1810, at least. The first European discoverer of this place was Longueuil, in 1739, who took away many bones to Louisiana and France. They were then quite out of the around. He was led there by the Indians, who held the place as holy, and never took away the bones.

      Having well explored the lick and valley, I returned to Lexington with Dr. Short, as soon as he called for me. This was in September, 1821.

*    Which is badly laid out in the map, as well as Gunpowder creek, erroneously called River creek. [Note by Rafinesque]

Rafinesque refers here to Little Gunpowder Creek, now usually called Landing Creek. The mouth of Big Gunpowder is at mile 513.5 below Pittsburg, Little Gunpowder is at mile 514.6, and he refers to the latter.

See The Ohio River: Charts, Drawings, and Description of Features Affecting Navigation. Compiled under the direction of the Chief of Engineers, United States Army. ed. 5.   (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1935), Chart 31., p. 108-109.

 Both creeks appear just north of Big Bone Creek on Cumings's Chart No. 11, but only the larger one is labelled. See Samuel Cumings The Western Pilot, 1825.  [Note by editor.]

Big Bone Lick Chronology

Big Bone Lick Chronology

Time Line
to 1799
Big Bone History

compiled by

James Duvall, M. A.
edited by
Avi Hathor, M. S., M. F. A.


Colonel Wood explores Kentucky. He reached as far as the Mississippi River.


John Lederer makes three trips into the Blue Ridge Mountains.


James Needham and Gabriel Arthur explore the region of Tennessee.


John Salling of Williamsburg, Virginia, is the first American to explore Western Kentucky. He was captured by the Indians.


Some Canadians on their way to Illinois find near the Ohio River "the skeletons of seven elephants." This was probably not Big Bone Lick, according to Dr. George G. Simpson, but another location, probably in Trimble County.


French Canadian captain Charles Lemoyne de Longueil finds fossils in Kentucky. Many people think this was at Big Bone Lick in Boone County, but this is uncertain He sent the bones he found to Louis XV in France.


Many bones are taken from Big Bone Lick to France.


Robert Smith collects bones from Big Bone Lick


John Howard crosses into Kentucky from Virginia.


Lower Shawneetown a major Indian settlement in Kentucky is established.
Dr. Thomas Walker of Virginia leads a party of Americans through the Cumberland Gap.
The Ohio Company hires Christopher Gist to explore Kentucky.


Christopher Gist visits Big Bone Lick and Blue Licks in March of this year with a serving boy and a pack horse. Following this he visited Drennon's Lick. And proceeded to the Kentucky River near Frankfort.


The word "Kentucke" is first used.


Mary Ingles was captured by the Shawnee near Blacksburg, Virginia. She and a Dutch woman were taken to Big Bone Lick. They made their escape while procuring salt at Big Bone Lick.


French traders establish the first village in Kentucky, opposite Portsmouth, Ohio.


A party of hunters led by Elisha Walden come through Cumberland Gap and explore the Cumberland River.


Indians at Fort Pitt bartered a tooth and a piece of tusk, probably from Big Bone, for trade goods. These artifacts eventually reached Benjamin Franklin in London.
Letter from James Wright to John Bartram about Indian Legends of Big Bone Lick


The Treaty of Paris is signed, ending the French and Indian War.
King George III issues the Proclamation of 1763 prohibiting settlements west of the Appalachian Mountains.


George Croghan visits Big Bone Lick and takes away a single tusk. (May 30-31)


George Croghan returns to Big Bone Lick. He carries off tusks and other remains.
Capt. Henry Gordon, chief engineer in the Western Department in North America, visits Big Bone Lick. He described them minutely.
Col. George Morgan visits Big Bone Lick and proceeds down the Ohio River to Ft. Chartres in Illinois where he is an Indian trader.


 George Washington began the first survey made in Kentucky. This survey was made on both sides of the Big Sandy River. He made another on the Little Sandy River.


Article by John Hunter published in the Transactions of the Royal Society
The Treaty of Fort Stanwix deeds to the British crown the title to lands south of the Ohio River and east of the Tennessee River and southward to the border of North Carolina.


Daniel Boone, John Findley, John Stuart (Boone's brother-in-law), and three men other men cross into Kentucky.


William Christian is granted land at Big Bone Lick by Gov. Thomas Jefferson
Daniel Boone comes to Big Bone, travels west along the south bank of the Ohio, reaches the Falls of the Ohio, and follows the Kentucky to near Frankfort.

 Falls of the Ohio. 1796

The Long Hunters enter Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap. Among these was James Graham.


Simon Kenton and others visit the Ohio River Valley. They navigated the tributary streams.


George Rogers Clark at Fort Pitt (now Pittsburgh).



James Douglass camps with a party at Big Bone Lick. They collected many tusks, some of them ten to twelve feet in length, and used enormous rib bones to support their tents.
The American settlements had reached 350 miles below the mouth of Fort Pitt.
Pennsylvania veterans of the French and Indian War survey Virginia lands near the Ohio River in the Thompson Expedition.
Thomas Bullitt and a company of over forty men, including James Harrod and Hubbard Taylor, survey parts of Kentucky, reaching the Falls of the Ohio. Bullitt, Taylor, and the McAfees ventured into Northern Kentucky.
Daniel Boone brings his family to Kentucky but turns back when his son is killed in an Indian attack.


Thomas Hanson's Journal from his trip on the Ohio River in 1774
Lord Dunmore's War begins a twenty-year struggle between Indians and whites for Kentucky and the Ohio Valley.
James Harrod, Abram Hite, Jacob Sandusky, and others navigated the Kentucky. They arrived in what is presently Mercer County. The company begin laying out Harrodstown.


Daniel Boone, thirty-five men, and two women blaze the Wilderness Trail into Kentucky and establish Fort Boonesborough in present-day Madison County.
Nicholas Cresswell at Big Bone collected fossils and hunted bison. Journal (1774-1777).
Richard Henderson purchases a large portion of Kentucky from a group of Cherokee in the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals.
St. Asaph, later called Logan's Fort, is erected about a mile west of the present-day courthouse in Stanford.
McClelland's Station, the first stockaded station north of the Kentucky River, is founded in present-day Georgetown.
Simon Kenton and Thomas Williams enter Kentucky at Limestone Creek and nearby plant what is probably the first corn crop north of the Kentucky River.
Pennsylvanians stake out Lexington and name it after the historic Massachusetts battle. Permanent settlement begins four years later.
The Kentucky National Guard, one of the oldest military organizations in the United States, is organized under the name of the Kentucky Militia.


Kentucky County created along with Montgomery County and Washington County to replace Fincastle County. This makes Virginia's claim to Kentucky definite.
About 200 people live in Kentucky, mainly in the forts at Boonesborough, Harrodsburg, and Logan's Station.
Jane Coomes organizes at Harrodsburg what is probably the first school in Kentucky.
Molly Logan is the first black woman to arrive in Kentucky.
Jemima Boone and the Calloway girls are captured by Indians and rescued by Daniel Boone.
The first Baptists, Filson calls them Ana-baptists, an old European name for them, enter Kentucky. Filson says they are the first to ever have public service in the state.


A group of frontiersmen kill Shawnee Chief Cornstalk, a son, and some other Indians at Point Pleasant.
After his capture by Shawnee while on a saltmaking expedition, Daniel Boone is adopted by Chief Blackfish and his wife.
Daniel Boone escapes from the Shawnee and travels 160 miles in four days to warn the settlers at Fort Boonesborough of an impending invasion. The ensuing siege lasts ten days.
Petition of the Inhabitants of Kentucky Concerning Salt Licks. 25 November.
The House of Delegates meet at Boonesborough under a huge elm tree. They pass laws and sign a compact between the proprietors and the settlers.
George Rogers Clark's small army and several families land on Corn Island near the Falls of the Ohio. They erected a fort.
George Rogers Clark and a hundred seventy-five men take Kaskaskia by surprise.
Long Island Conference near Holston, Virginia. Col William Christian, one of the Peace Commissioners who opened the Conference, was the first owner of the land and springs at Big Bone.
Salt Petition to Virginia


Louisville is founded.


Bryan's Station is erected in present-day Fayette County.
Squire Boone establishes a station in Shelby County.
Floyd's Station is built at St. Matthews, Jefferson County.
Colonel John Bowman, the first military governor of Kentucky, establishes Bowman's Station in Mercer County.
Strode's Station is established in what is now Clark County.
Craig's Station settled by Baptists seeking religious freedom established east of Lexington.
All of the major Virginia land laws have been passed.


Forts built in Kentucky. Fort Jefferson, Fort Nelson, and possibly at this time a fort at Big Bone Lick to protect the salt makers. It is shown on Cooper's map of 1831.
Kentucky County, Virginia, is divided into Fayette, Jefferson, and Lincoln Counties. Kentucky County becomes the District of Kentucky.
Dr. Thomas Walker runs the deviant survey of Kentucky's southern boundary that becomes known as Walker's Line.
Samuel Goodwin founds a fort on the Salt River west of present-day Bardstown.
One hundred fifty settlers are captured when Martin's and Ruddle's Forts are attacked by nearly 1000 warriors led by British captain Henry Bird.
The over 600 inhabitants of Kentucky and Illinois ask the Continental Congress to form a new state along the Ohio Valley.
Transylvania Seminary (later becomes Transylvania University) is founded.


1781 Kentucky in a state of seige; Alexander Henry in the North West asked the Royal Society to finance exploration of the High Country
A Virginia act allows the county courts to have surveys done for people who can not pay for them.
Pottenger's Station is established in Nelson County.
The first Baptist congregation in Kentucky is established near present-day Elizabethtown in Severen's Valley.
Lewis and Elijah Craig lead 500 members of the Traveling Church from Virginia to present-day Lancaster and found Gilbert's Creek Station.


The Row-galley "Miami" is built and lands at Big Bone
Jefferson to Clark on the fossils at Big Bone Lick. Clark promised to send a collection of bones. George Rogers Clark had decided that the Mastodon was not carnivorous
Indians at an intertribal council decide to eliminate the Kentucky settlements while British help is still available.
Native American and Canadian forces defeat a disorganized group of settlers at the Battle of Blue Licks in present-day Robertson County.
Monk Estill becomes the first freed slave in Kentucky history.
Supreme Court set up for the District of Kentucky.


Jefferson asked for more bones, he hinted at the expedition to the west.
The Virginia General Assembly creates the District of Kentucky as a judicial region.


John Filson publishes The Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucke
Spanish authorities close the Mississippi River and New Orleans to American trade.
John Clark family, with 14 year old William, set out for Kentucky.
The first statehood convention is held in Danville to discuss separation from Virginia. (December 27)
Christopher Columbus Graham (1784 - 1885), the son of a Long Hunter, and excavator at Big Bone Lick for the Public Museum of Kentucky, is born at Worthington Station.
The first Presbyterian congregations in Kentucky are organized, by David Rice including the Pisgah Church near Versailles.
Nelson County is created.


Valley View Ferry begins operation on the Kentucky River between present-day Fayette and Madison Counties.
Catholic families from Maryland settle in present-day Nelson and Scott Counties.
Bourbon, Madison, and Mercer Counties are created.
Second Statehood Convention meets. (May 23)
Third Statehood Convention meets. (August 8)


Fifty Dutch families found Low Dutch Colony in Mercer County.
Bishop Francis Asbury appoints James Haw and Benjamin Ogden circuit riders for the District of Kentucky.
Bryan Station Baptist Church is organized.
The Danville Political Club is organized.
Frankfort is founded.


James Wilkinson journeys to New Orleans to convince the Spanish governor that Kentucky is about to separate from the United States.
John Bradford of Lexington begins printing the state's first newspaper, The Kentucke Gazette.


Mason and Woodford Counties are created.


William Clark rode with Col. John Hardin's volunteers
The Fourth Enabling Act in the Virginia Compact sets the conditions of separation.
Harmon's Station, founded on the Big Sandy River, becomes the first permanent settlement in eastern Kentucky.
The Indians launch their last major attack against the settlers in the Chenoweth Massacre near present-day Middletown.
The process for making bourbon whiskey is developed.


The first U.S. census reports 73,077 persons living in Kentucky, 16 percent of them African American slaves.


On June 1, Kentucky becomes the fifteenth state in the Union. Isaac Shelby is inaugurated as the first governor.
1792 John Heckwelder's family camp at Big Bone, notice salt boilers going to and fro.
The legislature approves Frankfort as the state's first capital and the motto "United we Stand, Divided We Fall."
Innes's Station is established northwest of Frankfort.
Logan, Scott, Shelby, and Washington Counties are established.


Gilbert Imlay publishes the novel considered to be Kentucky's first, The Emigrants; or The History of An Expatriated Family.
Clark, Green, and Hardin Counties are established.


Kentucky riflemen fight in the decisive Battle of Fallen Timbers near present-day Toledo, Ohio.
Harrison County is established.


Letter ofEdward Graham to John Breckenridge in which he proposed a Museum to be started with a skeleton from Big Bone
The Treaty of Fort Greenville opens the Northwest Territory to settlers.
Harry Toulmin, James Brown, John Breckinridge, and John Bradford organize a subscription library to serve the subscribers and Transylvania University.
Campbell and Franklin Counties are established.


1796 Capt. William Henry Harrison, a future president, brought men with wagons from Cincinnati, where he lived, to the Lick. They collected 13 hogsheads of bones.
James Garrard is elected governor by electors on a second ballot.
The Pickney Treaty guarantees to Americans freedom of navigation of the Mississippi River and the right of deposit of goods at New Orleans.
The General Assembly gives the county courts authority to oversee road construction and repair.
Henry Clay moves to Kentucky at age twenty.
The Kentucky Jockey Club is organized in Lexington.
Bracken, Bullitt, Christian, Garrard, Montgomery, and Warren Counties are established.


Kentucky passes resolutions denouncing the Alien and Sedition Acts.
A new penal code abolishes the death penalty except for first-degree murder.
Fleming and Livingston Counties are established.


The state's second constitution is adopted.
Transylvania University is established.
Barren, Boone, Cumberland, Gallatin, Henderson, Henry, Jessamine, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Pendleton, and Pulaski Counties are established.


Governor Garrard is elected to a second term.
Napoleon forces Spain to cede the entire Louisiana province to France in the Treaty of San Ildefonso.
Breckinridge, Floyd, Knox, and Nicholas Counties are established.
First Federal Census of Boone County: total population of 1,534; of this number 325 were slaves (more than 1 in 5). There were 15 free blacks.

The total population of Kentucky was 179,873 whites, 40,343 slaves, and 739 free blacks.

Committee was appointed by the Boone County Courty to mark the best way from the courthouse to the salt works on Mud Lick and from thence to Eagle Creek.

First distillery in Boone County, by Archibald Reid.

Jeffersonian Republicans strong and Jefferson elected President.

Garrard was the first Kentucky governor directly elected by the people.

Start of the religious revivals.


Woolper Creek Baptist Church organized.

George Christy becomes the first coroner of Boone County.

John Hall, Sheriff.

John Cave, Elzephan Hume. Alexander McPherson, Justices of the Peace.

Kentucky Legislature fixes number of Justices of Peace for Boone County as not to exceed eight.

Squire Grant was first State Senator from Boone County.

William Arnold was first State Representative from Boone County.

Jefferson became President and Aaron Burr Vice-President.

Napoleon in power in France and gained control of Louisiana in a treaty with Spain, and Spanish officials in New Orleans withdrew the right of deposit at New Orleans.

Biggest of camp meetings in Bourbon County about 30,000.

Jefferson sent Monroe and Livingstone to France and Napoleon offered Louisiana to the US for $15,000,000.

Camp Meeting at Cane Ridge in Bourbon County was attended by more than 20,000.

Kentucky Legislature fixes number of Justices of Peace for Boone County as not to exceed eight.


District and General Courts abolished and Circuit Courts established statewide. Boone, Campbell and Pendleton Counties were in the same district.

William Goforth excavates at Big Bone Lick; David Ross, the owner, refuses further permission to dig
Capt. Lewis visits Big Bone Lick

(4 July) Washington, D.C. - President Jefferson officially sent Lewis on his mission. He gave Lewis a "letter of general credit" dated July 4, 1803. News of the purchase of the Louisiana Territory
was published in the newspapers on this day. (6 July) Harpers Ferry, Va. (now W.Va.); (17 Jul) Elizabeth, Penn., (Pittsburgh area); (31 Aug) Elizabeth, Pennsylvania The 55 foot long keelboat was completed on this day, and Meriwether Lewis began his journey down the Ohio River; (4 Oct) Big Bone Lick, Kentucky. Meriwether Lewis excavated here; (14 Oct) Clarksville, Indiana, to home of George Rogers Clark; Louisville, Kentucky Lewis joined his old friend William Clark, the “young men from Kentucky” joined the expedition; (11 Nov) Fort Massac, Illinois.
Middle Creek (now Belleview) Baptist Church organized.

William Monteague, William Sebree, Archelaus Alloway, Uriel Sebree and John Hall, Justices of the Peace.

Boone County Court of Quarter Sessions to be held on the fourth Monday in March, June and October.

Louisiana Purchase.


John Taylor moves from Boone to Gallatin County.


(6 May) Joseph Brann makes a motion to build a mill at Big Bone (saw and grist) Boone County Court Orders; Court Orders, (3 Jun 1805); the motion is quashed on a technicality.
Cary L. Clark, Judge, and Absalom Graves, Clerk, of Boone Circuit Court.

Jeremiah Kirtley, Justice of the Peace.

Aaron Burr passes through Florence. Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a dual and went west to escape imprisonment; many in Kentucky regarded him a hero since Hamilton was so disliked.


Big Bone Lick was deeded by David Ross to Wilson Allen, Edmund W. Rootes, and Jacob Myers, to discharge a debt of $14,000 plus interest, though Ross retained possession until 1 August.


John Bush, Sheriff.

Aaron Burr again passes through Florence.

Tanner's Station, on present site of Petersburg, renamed Caledonia.

First Lutheran church organized in Boone County.


Bank of Kentucky was organized; chartered 46 new banks and authorized them to issue paper money.

Shakertown at Pleasant Hill established.

Letter from Dr. William Goforth of Cincinnati to President Thomas Jefferson
 Thomas Jefferson to George Rogers Clark
Hopeful Lutheran church was organized in Boone County.

Archibald Huston, Sheriff.

Robt. Fulton developed a steamboat suitable for the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

Capt. Clark visits Big Bone Lick.

Shakers establish South Union in Western Kentucky.


Boone County Court heard a murder charge against Ziba (also known as Zedick) Campfield for beating Ned, a slave boy to death.

Elzephan Hume, Sheriff.

Moses Scott, Justice of the Peace.

An Inspection Station to be Established in Boone County for tobacco, hemp and flour on the lands of Zarah Tousey opposite Lawrenceburg.

Congress outlawed the African slave trade.

Boone and Gallatin Counties made one of the 70 state representative districts.

Boone, Campbell, Gallatin and Pendleton became senatorial district number 25.


School in North Bend Bottoms taught by Thomas Henderson and William Hodges.


Court Order permitting a ten foot high mill dam to be build on Middle Creek.

Boone County population doubled since 1800. The total population doubled; the slave population doubled. Nearly one third of the families in the county owned at least one slave.

Alexander McPherson, Sheriff.

School in East Bend taught by William Hodges.

Commercial lumber production begins in Kentucky.


Willis Graves, Notary Public.

Thomas Streshly advertised 320 acres of second rate land on Big Bone Creek for sale in the Lexington Reporter (2 Feb 1811).

Zadoc Cramer's "Navigator" published in Pittsburgh, 1811, reported on the salt works of James Colquohoun at Big Bone. Colquhoun owns Big Bone Lick and has two extensive salt furnaces at work
Henry Clay elected to Congress from Kentucky. New Orleans, first steamboat on Ohio River, the Enterprise, reaches Louisville from New Orleans, La., in 1815.

Indians in the North West were getting ready for a war; William Henry Harrison attacked first and won a victory at the Battle of Tippecanoe on the Wabash River.


Last commercial salt boiled at Big Bone.

Reelfoot Lake created by the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes.

Kentuckians supply over one-third of the troops for the war with England north of the Ohio and in New Orleans.

War of 1812 against England.

Kentuckians fought at Frenchtown (near Detroit) on the Raisin River.

Isaac Shelby elected governor.


The first Lutheran preacher, William Carpenter, comes to Boone County.

William Sebree, Sheriff.

Two armies of Kentuckians went north to fight the British - about 3000 men under Gen. Green Clay and about 4000 under Shelby.

At this time Oliver Perry defeated the British at the naval Battle of Lake Erie so the British retreated north.

We won a victory at the Battle of the Thames - Tecumseh was killed and the River Raisin were revenged.


Boone Academy established. Trustees: Absalom Graves, Moses Scott, John Flournoy, Jacob Rouse, Jeremiah Kirtley, John Brown, and Mr. Bosson.

Roger Wigginton, Sheriff.

Treaty of Ghent ended the war of 1812.


Clay Hotel established at Big Bone Lick, named after Henry Clay
Kentucky Legislature allowed Boone County another Justice of the Peace.

Bank of Kentucky (organized in 1806) chartered 46 new banks and authorized them to issue paper money.

James M. Gaines was the postmaster at Walton, then known as Gaines Cross Roads.

Kentuckians in the Battle of New Orleans (occurred after the peace was signed).

There were 500 black volunteers that fought for the US.

War of 1812 left the US nearly bankrupt.


John D. Clifford excavates at Big Bone Lick (possibly in 1817)
Ferry to and from Rising Sun, operated by Mr. Meeks.

Abner Gaines, Sheriff.

Mammoth Cave first promoted (second oldest tourist attraction in the U.S.)


Petersburg Steam Mill incorporated (Absalom Graves, John J. Flournoy, Whitfield Early, John Terrell, James Conn).


Caledonia, oldest settlement in Boone County, renamed Petersburg.

Town of Petersburg incorporated. Trustees: Jacob Piatt, Benjamin G. Willis, John Alloway, Jr., Rufus H. S. Bostwick, and Archibald Huston.

Bank established in Petersburg: The Petersburg Steam Mill Company with $100,000 capitol stock.

Bank established in Burlington: Bank of Burlington with $100,000 capitol stock.

Boone County allowed two more Justices of the Peace.

Boone Academy authorized by the Legislature to raise $5000 by lottery.

Jeremiah Kirtley, Sheriff.

Jas. M. Preston and Benjamin Fowler, Justices of the Peace.

Stagecoach line from Cincinnati to Lexington by Abner Gaines.

First oil well in Kentucky.

First major waterway alterations made to navigable rivers in Kentucky.

The Jackson purchase was annexed after being bought from the Chicasaw Indians.

1818 Jackson Purchase (7 million acres) negotiated with the Chickasaw Indians by Isaac Shelby and Andrew Jackson.

Gen. George Rogers Clark died.


Collection of Bones made for the Western Museum Society of Cincinnati
Sand Run Baptist Church organized.

East Bend Baptist Church organized.

Burlington Library Company incorporated.

First commercial coal mine in Kentucky, known as the “McLean drift bank” opened in Muhlenberg County Kentucky.

The first commercial oil well in Kentucky, on the Cumberland River in McCreary County.

Centre College founded.

Gen. John Adair, an 1812 War hero, elected governor.

Replevin Law passed and creditors had to accept notes of the Bank of the Commonwealth which were virtually worthless.


First house built on the site of Florence, about 1819-1820.

Joseph Graves, Sheriff.

Cave Johnson and Moses Scott, Justices of the Peace.

A small corner of Gallatin County was added to Boone County.

Daniel Boone died in Missouri.

Missouri applied for statehood.


Constantine S. Rafinesque, Science Professor at Transylvania University, visits Big Bone Lick and the Landing.
The steamboat “General Pike” built at Big Bone
The steamboat “Pilot” built at Big Bone


Levy for tools to be used on public roads in Boone County.

Benjamin Willis, Sheriff.


The Replevin Law was ruled unconstitutional.


The "General Pike", a high-pressure steamboat of 150 tons, was built at Big Bone.

Burlington was incorporated.

Whitfield Early, Sheriff.

The Court of Appeals had thrown out the Replevin Law; they abolished the Old Court and established a new court. The Old Court refused to be abolished; there were now two courts.


The "Pilot", a low-pressure steamboat of 150 tons, was built at Big Bone.

Letter of Archibald Huston to Abraham Wiseman proposing to buy 50 acres of land.

The court issue went to the voters and the Old Court group won the house but the New Court supporters kept control of the senate.


John M. Merrill, Sheriff.

Edward Fowler brought the first buggy to Boone County.

LaFayette and his son spend the night in Florence.

The law abolishing the Old Court was repealed; the old court was back in.


Two high-pressure steamboats, the "Chesapeake" and the "Speedwell", were built at Big Bone.

Additional Constable granted Boone County for Petersburg.

Additional Justice of the Peace for Boone County.


Cooper and Cozzens, excavate and make maps.


New trustees of "Burlington Academy" appointed by the Legislature (actually Boone Academy - in 1833 this act was revalidated under the correct name): Erastus Tousey, Jas. M. Preston, Edward S. Armstrong, Richard Collins, Willis Calvert, Nathaniel E. Hawes and Churchill Gaines.

Prof. William Cooper of New York vists Big Bone Lick to study the bones and the geology of the area.

Andrew Jackson won the Presidency; he carried Kentucky over John Adams who was backed by Henry Clay.


Louis Web surveys Big Bone Lick for the owner, Thomas Carneal
Capt Benjamin Finnell, a resident of of Big Bone Lick, makes a collection of bones; William Bullock also makes a collection

The town of Florence was incorporated; the population was 62, with an area of about 5 acres; the name changed from Connersville. Trustees: Pitman Cloudas, Jacob Shotts, B. A. Collins, Henry Stuck and William T. Bainbridge.

Abner Gaines of Boone County was among six commissioners appointed to examine the Georgetown and Cincinnati Turnpike.

Thos. Connelly, Sheriff.

James Brown was the postmaster at Union.

Peak iron ore production in Kentucky. 1830 - 1860.

2,000 tons of coal mined in Kentucky.

Louisville and Portland Canal opened.

By 1830 there was a canal at the Falls of the Ohio and Louisville had become a major shipping port and passed Lexington in size and importance.


Boone County Court authorized by the Legislature to established a road from Big Bone Lick through East Bend Bottom to Waggner's Ferry opposite Rising Sun, Indiana.

Richwood Presbyterian church organized.


Cave Johnson, Sheriff.

Rafinesque publishes an account of his visit to Big Bone in 1821.

Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson ran for President; Clay carried Kentucky but not win the election.

First Rail Road in Kentucky; the cars were pulled by horses and went from Lexington to Louisville.

Nullification Crisis. Nullifiers had "collected in considerable numbers" at the Big Bone Lick, according to the Kentucky Gazette (19 Jan 1833. p. 3.)
 Legislature decides that all fines in Boone County are to be appropriated for benefit of the Boone Academy.

Cholera outbreak in Lexington, which kills 1,500 people in less than 10 days.


Chasteen Scott, Sheriff.

Legislature repealed the section regarding the fines to be paid to Boone Academy.

First railroad in Kentucky. completed - Lexington to Frankfort.


Town of Landing established. Plat laid out by Joel Hamilton and George McGlasson. Trustees: Wm. Winston, Jr., George McGlasson, Joel Hamilton, Henry L. Rose, James Dukan.

Constable added for Landing.

Constable added for East Bend neighborhood.

County Clerk Willis Graves died; his successor Isham G. Hamilton required to record deeds and other instruments.

Joshua Zimmerman donated land on Dry Creed, near Florence, for a schoolhouse.

First Christian church organized in Boone County.

First locomotive west of the Alleghenies began service from Lexington.

James G. Birney of Danville formed the Kentucky Anti- Slavery Society.


Burlington Turnpike established from Porter's Ferry on the Ohio opposite Lawrenceburg, to a point on the Covington and Lexington Turnpike towards the direction of Georgetown.

John Cave, Sheriff.

Kentucky River Lock and Dam construction begins.

150,000 tons of coal mined in Kentucky.

Kentucky. Geological Survey formed.

Act of the Kentucky Legislature establishing a Common School System. Boone County was divided into 26 school districts.

Joseph Bullock, a Centre graduate, became the 1st superintendent of education for the state.


Charter of Burlington Turnpike Company amended to require the road to be located so as to pass through Union.

Boone Election Precincts established: Home of Jacob Shotts in Florence, home of Alanson Adams in Union, home of Jesse Gregory Burlington, home of George Black in the "lower precinct.

Boundary between Boone and Gallatin redefined.


Town of Union incorporated. Trustees: John C. Riley, John P. White, Morris Lassing, James Brown, Alanson Adams and Henry F. B. Childres.

Union Literary Society authorized to promote literature and education.

Benj. Watts, Sheriff.

Boone - Gallatin line made more particular.

Kentucky becomes the first state to permit suffrage of any kind for women; property-owning single women were given the right to vote in school board elections.

First public school system in Kentucky was begun in Louisville.

First School term ever held in Boone County; three months.

First public school system in Kentucky was begun in Louisville.


Two more Justices of the Peace authorized for Boone County at Union and Francisville.

Charter of Petersburg amended. Five trustees appointed: Hugh M. Allen, William Snyder, Wm. H. Chapin, William Fisher and Benj. Emley.

10,000 acres, the "Gordon Tract", was offered for sale in Boone County.


Town of Walton established. Constable and magistrate to be appointed.

Town of Landing trustees appointed for one year or until election: William R. Johnson, Benj. E. Garnett, John F. Allen, John M. Brasher, and Middleton S. M'Manima.

Samuel Hardesty, Sheriff.

The peak years of Boone County's slave population: 2183 slaves in 1840 census, which was 21.8% of the total population of 10,034.

One-fourth of Kentucky's population was slaves.

Kenton County created from Campbell.


Big Bone Lick visited by Sir Charles Lyell.


City limits of Florence enlarged.

Morgan Academy (name changed from Boone Academy) in honour of Allan Morgan, whose slaves and property were transferred to the academy.

Burlington Baptist Church organized.

Lyell returns to Big Bone.

First Methodist church organized in Boone County.


Big Bone Baptist Church organized.

100,000 tons of Kentucky. coal production.


Robert Walton, Sheriff.

Clay was the Whig candidate and he opposed annexation of Texas. Clay feared annexation would mean war with Mexico, and his stand cost him the election.


Elections in Landing to be held at the house of Benj. E. Garnett.

Justices of Peace in Boone County to be reduced to 15, and no vacancies are to be filled until then.

Samuel Hardesty, Sheriff.

Cassius Clay began his anti-slavery newspaper in Kentucky, "The True American".


Road from Carlton's Ferry on the Ohio to Union and then to the Covington and Lexington Turnpike.

Lewis Webb and Leonard Stephens and County surveyors appointed to mark the line between Boone and Kenton Counties.

Boone and Kenton Counties to be part of the Fourth Judicial District.

The name of the Town of Landing changed to Hamilton in honour of Joel Hamilton. Trustees:
Benj. E. Garnett, John J. Miller, Marshall M. McManama, James R. Hawkins and Richard Johnson.

John P. Graves, Sheriff

The Mexican War begins.


Burlington and Florence Turnpike incorporated.

Burlington and Hamilton authorized to levy taxes.

Election precinct established in Walton at house of Garrett Brooks.

Creation of a General Index to County Deeds, etc., authorized by the state legislature.

Moses Scott Rice was Boone County Surveyor.

Robert Vickers, Sheriff.

Burlington authorized to levy poll taxes and a tax on real estate.

Hamilton authorized to levy a real estate tax, not to exceed fifty cents per hundred dollars. Same trustees as previous year.

Additional Boone County constable for Union.

John P. Gaines was the first Boone Countian elected to Congress.

David Leidy began scientific description of the fauna of Big Bone.


Election precinct established at home of James Carleton.

William J. Sanford, Sheriff.

Benj. W. White, Sheriff.


Town of Hamilton, limits extended. Citizens not required to work on the road more than half a mile from the new limit.
Slave Murder. Gabrial, a slave, killed another slave Edwin. The local paper cautions people not to make up their minds about the matter, as that would make it impossible to form a jury.
275 acres for sale on the waters of Gum Branch and Landing Creeks by John Q. Johnson.

John Uri Lloyd born in New York state.
Land was purchased from Lewis Conner for $125 for a school at Florence.
Zachary Taylor, Kentucky hero of Mexican War, becomes 12th president of United States.


Florence Academy established. Trustees: Paschal Conner, B. F. Rust, Samuel Craig, Jacob J. Carpenter, John M. Stevenson.

There were 46 children in Florence between the ages of 5 and 16.

The town of Walton had a population of 50.

Union had a population of 50.

Henry F. James, Sheriff.

Additional Boone County Justice of the Peace and a Constable allowed in Walton.

Election precinct established at home of A. H. Hedges, Taylorsport.
Limits of Taylorsport and Petersburg extended.

Kentucky was the 8th most populated state in the nation in the 1850 census. There were 982,405 citizens listed.

In the 1850 census the number of slaves in Boone County dropped to 2104, which was 18.8% of the total population of 11,185. One third of the slaves in Boone County were under ten years of age. Almost half of them (48%) were under the age of 15.

There were 37 "free colored" people in Boone county.

The Third Kentucky Constitution and all the slave provisions were kept in the Fourth Constitution, and in addition emancipated slaves were required to leave the state.


New Charter for Burlington and Florence Turnpike.

Napoleon and Big Bone Lick Turnpike.

Union and Beaver Turnpike chartered.

Big Bone Hotel Company incorporated for 100 years. $50,000 stock sold by: M. M. McManama, J. Russell Hawkins, Joseph C. Hughes, B. M. Allen, Esau Click, Thomas Rouse, John W. Leathers.

William J. Sanford, Sheriff; died in office.


Hamilton and Union Turnpike chartered.

James Calvert, Sheriff.

Lexington to Louisville railroad completed.

Henry Clay died.


Lloyd family migrates to Boone County.


First Agricultural Fair in Boone County.

Berea College opened for blacks and whites.


The Garner family, slaves of Archibald Gaines, flee to the home of Elijah Kite in Cincinnati. Margaret Garner murders her daughter rather than see her returned to slavery.


Lewis Loder of Petersburg starts a diary which he keeps daily records for over fifty years.

A building was constructed for the Morgan Academy in Burlington.


The Lloyd family moves from Petersburg to Florence.


334 acres for sale in Boone County by Geo. T. Gaines.

Hon. Jno. W. Stevenson gives a major political speech at Big Bone.

J. J. Dulaney is representative from Boone County.

D. L. Youell and Charles Chambers run for the Senate from this district (Boone, Carroll, and Gallatin).

John Uri Lloyd writes "The Kentucky Marksman" at age 14.

Beriah Magoffin, a Southern sympathizer and Centre graduate, was elected governor; the majority of the legislature was pro-Union.


Florence is incorporated in February, but this is repealed in March.

583 people counted in the Petersburg census.

Florence had 63 children between the ages of 5 and 16.

The number of slaves in Boone County was 1745; there were 9373 whites. Slaves were 15.8% of the total, which was the lowest percentage since the formation of the county.

Lincoln elected President.

Dec. 20th – South Carolina seceded from the Union beginning the Civil War.
 Seabury Kite, a local resident, helped place the Sycamore Stump in the Gum Branch Spring at Big Bone Lick about this year

(29 Nov) Having spent night in Union, John Hunt Morgan and Capt Hines ride by Big Bone Lick with Perry Corbin after escaping a Northern prison


Nathaniel S. Shaler, native of Newport, excavates Big Bone Lick


New hotel built. Owned by C. A. McLaughlin


Dr. Christopher C. Graham excavates at Big Bone Lick. This is an important excavation, but it has been generally ignored.
(Dec) Boone County Court (Order Book M p. 512): Ordered to lease grounds at Lick for excavation
(1 Jan) Boone County Court (Bk M, p. 521): Lease 2 acres for not less that $190.00 for one year; holes to be refilled; not to interfere with spring or creek

Nathaniel H. Bishop visits Big Bone

Dr. John E. Stevenson and Dr. John A. Woods practice medicine at the Springs

Atlas of Northern Kentucky, including Boone County and Big Bone Lick is published by D. J. Lake and Company


Big Bone Methodist Church established

Myrix J. Crouch, M. D., a resident of Union, delivers a paper on Big Bone Springs; Reuben G. Thwaites visits Big Bone Lick. His description - sulphur smell in the air for half a mile; Still 50 acres of swamp

The population of Big Bone is 120

John Uri Lloyd writes a paper on Big Bone Lick

1936 Jillson publishes the best history of Big Bone Lick


Big Bone History