Bullitt County History

Colonel Daniel Trabue's Journal
Making Salt at Bullitt's Lick

In 1916, Lillie DuPuy VanCulin Harper edited a volume titled, Colonial Men and Times which contained the journal of Col. Daniel Trabue which may also be found in the Draper Papers. The following except is taken from Daniel Trabue's journal, as transcribed from earlier sources. In it Trabue describes a trip to Bullitt's Lick to obtain salt in the winter of 1779-1780.

"My brother James informed me we had very much writing to do, and I went to it. My Brother had to go to the other Garrisons to make settlements with his Deputies.

"We soon got our books and accounts in good order. People had moved to this country this Fall more than ever. The Commissioners that were appointed by the Virginia Legislature to grant pre-emptions also had come out. There were so many people the conclusion was to discontinue keeping up the soldiery at the Forts. So they were all discharged about the last of this year 1779. The public stores and Magazines were locked up Jan. 7, 1780.

"James Trabue went to Virginia again to draw money to pay for the provisions which we had purchased previous to his departure. He said if I could, there ought to be meat procured this winter for next Spring.

"The conclusion was that we must try to get some salt and kill wild meat. We understood that a company of men was to start on a certain day from Harrodsborough to go to Bullittslick to boil & make salt. The conclusion was that I should go, and Foster would send a negro man with me and we would take pots & kettles with us. Mr. Smith also sent a young man, and we made up a little company, to wit, Jeffry Davis, William Maxey, the negro man, & 2 or 3 others. We had good guns and ammunition. When we got to Harrodsburg there was no one going from there.

"We set out, and went some distance, stopped to eat, and let the horses eat some grapes. We ate all the provisions we had. The young men said they were afraid to go on with me; as they were afraid of Indians, also that there was no road or path; that I would not find the way, and that as we had nothing to eat we might starve to death -- I told them they ought to have brought provisions with them, and as to the Indians we had to run that risk; as to finding the way I was not uneasy about that as I knew about steering in the woods. I could find the way as I had been there before. At any rate whether they went or not, I would go on with the negro Jo.

"We went on our journey, and at a little before sun-set we stopped and took up camp, I told the negro boy to hopple out the horses and all the men to go as quick as they could out hunting, and try their best to kill something. We were encamped on Chaplins Fork. When I returned I had killed a large fat Raccoon; the men had killed nothing; the negro had a large fire; the Raccoon was soon prepared for cooking. The men began again with their woeful tale saying, "we are in a wilderness without any path, we have nothing to eat but a koon for 6 or 7 men without bread or salt; we are liable every moment to be massacred by the Indians. If we can only be spared until morning, we will return to Logan's Fort." One of them said "I will return to old Virginia as quick as I can, & those who like Kentucky may enjoy it, but I will not stay in such a country."

"This was a very pretty night, and the moon was bright; after we got pretty well settled, I said "we have 2 good dogs, I know mine are exceptions for game, let us go out hunting." The men refused and I told the negro Joe to take his axe, and I took my gun, and off we went. In going about 200 yards, just where some of the men had been hunting, I saw 5 turkeys in one sycamore tree, over the creek, I moved to a place where I got the Turkeys between me and the moon. I killed all 5 of the largest fattest turkeys I had ever seen. When I got to shooting I made sure the men would come to us, but they stayed where they were at the camp, looking at their koon roasting.

"We took our turkeys to the camp and I said "now pick and clean them and eat some of the best food in the government." I soon had one roasting, the koon was ready for eating; they asked me to come up and eat some of it. I refused saying "I would choose turkey." The turkeys were all cleaned and some of them cooked for the night and the next morning we ate heartily. The next day we went on our journey, and no one turned back. I went on before. I killed that day a fine Deer, and one or two turkeys. We put the meat on the pack horses. One of the men we had with us was a young Irishman; who was constantly disputing with the other young men that were from Virginia, about words and customs.

"Some time that morning I shot a Buffalo; he fell down and we all went up to him. Some of the men had never seen one before. I soon discovered I had shot this buffalo too high, and I told some of the boys to shoot him again; the young Irishman said he would kill him and aimed at him with his tomahawk, and struck him in the forehead. I told him it would not Do, he could not hurt him, the wool, and mud, and skull were all so thick, it would not do; but he kept up his licks, the buffalo jumped up, the man ran, the buffalo after him. It was an open woods, no bushes, and the way the young Irishman ran was rather quick, and with every jump he cryed out.

"The buffalo was close to his heels, the man jumped behind a birch tree, the buffalo fell Down with his head against the tree. The boys laughed. One of them went up and shot the buffalo again, and killed him. * * * When I saw that the Irishman would go back I advised him to take a load of the buffalo meat, as it was very fat, & and he was welcome to it, to which he agreed. We took a little of it, and bid him a Due. We went on our journey, and before we got to Bullitts Lick I killed a Buffalo cow; as fat a cow as I ever saw in my life, wild or tame.

"We took a goodly part of it with us, and arrived at the lick we found some people there making salt. They were from the Falls of Ohio, a Mr. McPhelps, an acquaintance of mine, was there; he had a furnace of small pots and kettles. He wanted to go home, and hired his small establishment to us for 2 weeks, for which we were to pay him in salt. We fixed up our pots and kettles in addition to McPhelps' and went on very well making salt. The water we had was standing in the lick; there was a hole or well only about two feet Deep that had been dug out. I was there previous to my digging, and the water stood then in a puddle so that the buffaloes would go there and Drink it.

"We saw Buffaloes in sight of our works. We killed them when we needed them. We had been there three days when some men came from Harrodsburgh. They had started 3 days before us; they had been lost. We had cold weather. These men also began making salt, and we were very glad of more company; the fact was, I was very Dubious of Indians. In about 2 weeks or a little more we had got to each had about 2 bushels of Salt, and I bought a little more from Mr. McPhelps.

"So we were ready for our return and there were three or four men from the Falls of Ohio came to us and were going to the upper Forts, and wished to go with us as company. They waited until we were ready. We went on that night, and just before we camped one of these strangers, his name was Mr. Sullivan, killed a capital Buffalo, and as we had plenty of salt we lived well. That night we had a Fall of Deep Snow, and the next morning was very cold, so we had a good fire and did not start early. One of these Gentlemen, a stranger, observed "this morning would be very suitable to sit in a good Tavern, and have a drink of good rum, and hot tea or coffey for Breakfast." Mr. Sullivan observed that he thought a pan of fried hominy would suit him best. It was taken as an insult, blows ensued and they had a smart scuffle in the snow. We parted them and our Tuckeyho boys laughed heartily at it. We reached home safe with our salt."

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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 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday. 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 Sep 2020 . Page URL: bullittcountyhistory.org/bchistory/trabuejournal.html