Bullitt County History

Colonel William Fleming's Journal
from November 10 - 25, 1779

Colonel Fleming's journal is an account of his travels in Kentucky while head of a commission appointed to settle claims of unpatented land. During November 1779 he recorded in his journal the details of the commission's trip from Harrodsburg to Louisville and back. Within that text is information about the salt works at Bullitt's Lick. It is transcribed below.

Little attempt has been made to correct spelling and punctuation, and parts are somewhat difficult to follow, but it is an important first hand account.

The first part of this journal is lost. Lewis Collins, in his History of Kentucky, Vol. I, p. 20, states that the commissioners opened their session at St. Asaph's on the 13th of October, 1779.

1779 Nov. 10. We kild the Buffalos [and] the Pack horses followed us for some miles but dropt behind when they came up with us and missed the horse they turned back to look for him but came no more up with us we marked [marched] about three miles over short broken hills and then fell into a Buffalos path that run on a ridge dividing the waters of the Town from Chaplains fork [Town Fork, or the East Fork of Salt River which flows close to Harrodsburg, and Chaplin's Fork which is the West Fork of Salt River.] we went through some very good upland with water but too beachy. Our march this day [was] 10 miles.

Nov. 11. The 11th set out early [and] in 4 miles fell in on the Town Fork went through beach bottoms, on the river on each side, kild a Buffalo, crossed by the mouth of Bucheers Creek shot an Elk a three Year old 4 feet high, so poor we could not use any of it. Kild a Buffalo Cow very fat, but so old her horns wrinkled from the top down. Our march about 8 miles went along a Buffalo path crossed the River several times went through some rich bottoms but subject to overflow, went up a sidling pass, high steep rocks remarkable near the surface and very fit for building, being in natural squares etc. fell in on Floyds Creek and came to a settlement [Brashears' Station] where we dined and got some taffieo drink here we were informed that day week a young man was wounded and another taken prisoner on the path we came down, on inquiry we found Bucheers Creek was 25 miles from this place so that we had fell on the Town fork below it and what we imagined to be Bucheers Creek was a nameless Creek 12 miles from this, we came on to Bullets Creek 4 miles further over very level flat Oak land our march 16 miles.

Nov. 13. Bullets Creek [Bullit's Lick, discovered by Captain Thomas Bullit in 1773] as it is cald is perhaps the best Salt Springs in the Country. The Earth is excavated for twelve or fo[u]rteen feet over an area of many acres. By digging from thence to any depth of feet, water boils up the deeper, the stronger, they have a trough that holds very near 1000 Gallons which they empty thrise in the 24 hours, they have 25 kittles belonging to the Commonwealth which they keep constantly boiling and filling them up as the water waistes from the trough first into kettles which they call fresh water kettles and then into others after this management for 24 hours they put the brine into a Cooler and let it stand till cold or near it and draw off the clear brine into the last boilers under which they keep up a brisk fire till they observe it begin to grain when they slacken the fire and keep them at a simmering boil till it grains they then put it to drain when drained they think it fit for use it is observed that the pits will some weeks fill with strong water and then decline when the present pits were first dug it was observed that every four or five days the pits flowed up and over the tops and then sunk that they continue to swell up now, but not so regularly nor so high — it is noticed that the brine increases in strength as the moon does in Age and so remarkable that it looses or gains half a bushel in the 24 hours making the trough thrise emptied that is near 3000 Gallons water boil[ed] down yields from three to 4 and 4 1/2 bushels Salt. mostly 3 and 1/2 bushels the dryer the weather the better for making Salt these remarks I had from Cheneth the manager here was several flocks of Parrots flying about — I observed several Stones in a brown husk, when broke the inside consisted of a multitude of irregular hexagonal Crystals some well defined — we set out for the Falls[The Falls of the Ohio at Louisville] three quarters of a mile from the lick on the road to the Flat Lick we went up some rising hills that had earth rich in salt peter. Pine trees grew on the top of them the first Pine I met with in this Country we went through some fine level Oak Land but scarce of water met with none but at the Fish Pool 8 miles from the lick, that very bad — the sand round these springs seemed glazed or cased over with lead — four miles further we reached the Flat Lick the land round it good but low standing in water, we encamped two or three miles beyond the lick at a place so scarce of water that most of our horses strayed a great way in quest of water.

Nov. 14. We went through some ponds and some good flat land and reached the falls in Six miles there is a great number of Cabbins here and a considerable number of Inhabitants the many of them were absent — there is a pond runs just beyond the Town the water of which drains through the earth and breaks out in the River bank which is the water used generally by the Inhabitants and is not wholesome the River when the Channel is coursed is 3/4 of a mile broad but at this time the bed was dry for 2/3 of the breadth which contributed to the sickliness of the Inhabitants there being a great number of them complaining of the fever and Ague and many of the Children dying the banks of the river are 40 or more feet high and an Iland [Corn Island] opposite the Town of about 50 acres which overflows almost entirely in freshets the bed of the River in some places is one continued Rock stone which may be raised in squares fit for building, interspersed is pieces of excellent coal and some of the Channel appears so mixed with a coaly substance that it seemed a vein of coal, cald the Cat head vein there are several other Ilands below the town the falls are about a mile in length the Channel at present on the other side, there is a fall on this side 8 feet perpendicular so that it cannot be passed but when the River is full when there is no difficulty, great number of Geese Duck and Swan resort to the falls the land round the Town is not near so rich as about Harrodsburg and upwards, there is little Cane and that small about this place, but it will always be a place of importance — several people died whilst we were here the disorder they complained of was occasioned by a relaxation of the solids, from bilious Complaints which brings on such a Corruption of the fluids with a Visidness of the Juices that it degenerates and breaks out in cancerous eating soars I have seen the Maxillary and the glands about the throat and tongue both in Old and Young persons entirely destroyed some have Vomited corrupted bile as green as Verdigrease so that the whole of the disorders that at this time reign here is occasioned by bile — Capt. Doge arrived here with a recommendation to Col. Clark [George Rogers Clark] as an Indian Agent from what I can discover of him he is a man that thinks he is of more importance than he really is, his conduct seems superficial the only thing to reccomend him is what he has suffered, whether justly or not time is to discover — Col. Clark continued here whilst we were here his plan of operation was to settle a number of people at the Iron Banks 30 miles below the Ohio on the Mississippi. All met with Capt. Henry Smith who was incamped on the Iland opposite to this. Nickl. Welch lodged in a hollow tree precipitally they had sold their possessions and settlement and came out after suffering many losses they were here and knew not where to go Welch proposed to go up with us Smith to fall in with Col. Rogers Clarks proposal of going to the Iron Banks. I rode out to Jno Floyds [Captain John Floyd was the founder of Floyd's Station on the Middle Fork of Beargrass Creek, six miles south of the Falls.] incamped and got the lines of a survey run out for 1000 acres but as Mr. Douglass one of the surveyors rode one of my horses and came in the day after me they were turned out seperate and when the business was finished my horse was lost my boy had been taken ill with the fever and Ague and continued still sick.

Nov. 25. Left the Falls and came to Brashiers Station in our way back to Harrodsburg the 26th went up Salt and crossed it in six miles above the Station at the first Iland that had trees growing on it and where two men were fired on by Indians One taken the other wounded a few days before we got down. We went up Salt River for two miles on a Buffalo path up a Creek for 18 miles then crossed a Ridge and fell on another Creek went up it, passed several Cabbins, in about four miles above the mouth of the first Creek and several on the second Creek on the 27th which we passed and took a left hand draught went through good land. The 28th likewise went through considerable tracts of good land and fell on a Creek that emptied into Chaplains Fork of Salt River over bad beach knobs, it rained last night which was the first rain we have had since coming into this country this night there fell a snow and so dark on the 29th that was bad travelling and we made but a small journey. We lost three of our Company. One went after a Buffalo two took a different course we did not join before we got to Harrodsburg.

This is taken from Travels in the American Colonies edited under the auspices of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America by Newton D. Mereness. The edition from which this was transcribed was last copyrighted in 1916. It is available in the Harvard University Library and online in Google Books (pages 619-623).

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The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday appointments are available by calling 502-921-0161 during our regular weekday hours. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 12 Jan 2024 . Page URL: bullittcountyhistory.org/bchistory/flemingjournal.html