The Diary of Major Erkuries Beatty

Erkuries Beatty was paymaster of the Western Army in the 1780's. He did us the favor of leaving a rather famous diary of his travels on the frontier.This excerpt is from a diary which is part of the manuscript collection of the New York Historical Society, New York City. His duties required him to travel about the region of the Ohio River Valley. The journals span his career and many years.

This excerpt from April 19-May 6, 1786 concerns information of interest to the History of the Bullitt County area. It is not particularly flattering, but informative. Spellings reflect the original as best as possible. This is from an unattributed copy and typos have not been corrected. If anyone out there knows of other documents like this particlar to the region, email me.

Note: this information contains some fairly graphic remarks. (AF)

April 19,1786- In the morning, at daylight passed the 18 mile Islands, passed the other two, and arrived at Fort Finney, at the Rapids (near Louisville on the Ohio River), 7 o'clock, making one of the quickest passages that was ever known, when the water was so low; only 93 hours from Fort Harman here, which is upwards of 500 miles. Saw no Indian or anything to interrupt our passage, found Major Wyllys here; commands with Capt. Finneys and Zieglers Companies, on a beautiful bank about half a mile above the beginning of the Rapids, on the Indiana shore. A very strong defensible fort, built of block houses and pickets about 90 yards from the margin of the river; beautiful gardens between the fort and the river on the sloping bank, which has afforded salad this some time past, and pears in blossom; very easily perceive the vegetation much more forward than at Muskingham. The officers appear to be exceeding happy here, having the company frequently of a genteel circle of Ladies, who come over, dance of an evening and stay all night, as the officers have very neat rooms; the men in this country are as in all other new settled countries, no great things, excepting a few characters. Saw Genl. Clark , who is still more of a sot than ever, not company scarcely for a beast; his character, which once was so great, is now entirely gone with the people in this country; failed in Ms expedition last fall against the Wabash Indians; raised some troops for three years, which he left to Garrison postvincent, robbed a boat worth a great deal of money to clothe them, and now the troops have all deserted the Post, and he sued for the robbery of the boat. People here say that the goods he took out of the boat amount to upwards of 10,000, and those people who now exclaim against his conduct, converted great part of his property to their own private use. I think the man ruined as well in character as in property. The fort built much in this manner (manuscript has missing info here.) It is about 3 miles to Clarksville, across the woods, which is a trifling place. Indians killing some few people and stealing a number of horses through the Kentucke country frequently; exceeding busy all the time I am here, in regulating the accounts. The troops mustered by Major Wyllys to January, 1787. Men looked exceeding well on parade, and very healthy. The Colonel intends hiring horses to ride through the Kentucky country,and meet the barge at Limestone, which Mr. Pratt goes in accordingly.

April 25-In the morning we started in a great hurry, the Colonel and myself, over to Louisville, and Mr. Pratt and the Barge up the river; as our horses were not quite ready- detained here sometime; saw the genteeler sort of people in numbers coming in from the country, each with a young girl behind them or woman on the same horse (the way of riding in this country), to a great barbecue on the Island opposite to Louisville, and to conclude with a dance in town in the evening; we got a very polite invitation to attend it some days before, but Colonel Harmer would not stay; only two officers of the troops stationed here intended to go, for the people and they do not agree very well, Suppose there will be near 100 men and women at this frolic; saw some of the young ladies in town dressed in all their finery for the honor of the treat; some of them middling handsome, rich enough dressed but tawdry. Saw the barbarous custom of gouging, practiced between two of the lower class of people here; their unveiled way of fighting. When two men quarrel they never have an idea of striking, but immediately seize each other, and fall and twist each others thumbs or fingers into the eye and push it out from the socket till it falls on the cheeks, as one of those men experienced today, and was obliged to acknowledge himself beat, although be was on the top of the other, but he, in his turn, had bitten his adversary almost abominably, and frequently they catch each other by the testicles. It chlls my blood with borror to see the unmanly, cruel condition these two men were left in today from this manner of fighting, and no person, although a number stood by, ever attempted to prevent them from thus butchering each other, but all was acknowledged fair play. Soon after our troops came here, one of the officers being in a public house in Louisville, was grossly insulted by one of these Virginia Gougers, a perfect bully, all the country round stood in awe of him, for he was so dexterous in these matters that he had, in his time, taken out five eyes, bit off two or three noses and ears and spit them in their faces. This fellow our officer was obliged to encounter without side arms or any weapon but his bands, and the insult could not be got over. The officer knocked him down three or four times without receiving a blow or striking him when he was down, and would have beaten him to death if be could have kept him at arms length, but the fellow getting near without a-catching hold of the officer, made a snap of his nose like a wolf and nearly bit it off, the scar of which he will carry all his life; they were then parted. Several other such fracases have happened with our officers and the people here, which latter took every opportunity of insulting them, and now never cross the river without their swords, pocket pistols, or durkes under their coats. I don't speak generally of the people for certainly there are some very genteel families in this country, and treat the officers very politely. Was treated very friendly by Mr. Lacasagne, who kept store here. Got a very indifferent beefsteak at Mr. Easton's tavern; all the family going to the barbecue; nothing but barbecue from one end of the town to the other. Our horses being ready and our canteens filled, set off at 2 o'clock. Major Wyllys and Capt. Doyle accompanying us, glad to get clear of the bustle; stopped at Sullivan's old station, 6 miles, where we heard that Col. Bullet had returned from pursuing the Indians, who had stolen horses and fired on some people two or three days ago, about ten nules from the rapids. Col. Bullet pursued them near to the mouth of Kentucke River, and more than probably would have over taken them before they crossed the Ohio, but he had only 22 men, and supposed the Indians was 3O or 4O, so returned. Kept the main wagon road and went to one Col. Moore's, sheriff of the county, about one half mile to the right hand of the road and 13 miles from Louisville. Stayed here all night; much discouragedby every person, as they considered it extremely dangerous to ride through this country at present, for they say it is full of Indians. Col. Moore had a servant boy taken away by them last Monday, within a mile of his house, and 20 or 30 horses were taken from Bullets Lick, 6 or 8 miles from here, about the same time.

April 27-Parted with Major Wyllys and Capt. Doyle this morning, who returned; did not keep the main road past Bullets Lick to Salt River,but a path to the left hand, as they told us the road was most dangerous; came to Salt River to breakfast, about ten miles; here we were informed of the excellency of Bullets Lick for making salt. It at present belongs to Mrs. Christian, widow to Colonel Christian, who was lolled by the Indians two or three years ago. She rents it to different people in this manner. There are five furnaces of kettles, each furnace boils 20 kettles, every kettle holding about 20 gallons of water; these furnaces she rents for twelve bushels of salt each a week, which brings her in a year 3120, and that will sell in this country for two dollars a bushel in produce or about a dollar and half cash. It takes between 50 and 60 gallons of water to make a gallon of salt, and each of these furnaces boils between five and six bushels of salt a day, and can get sufficient sale for the whole of it. Crossed Salt Piver in a flat just where Floyd's Fork empties itself, about eighty yards wide; took the Knob road to the left of the main road, crossed over a pretty high steel hill, stopped at a Mr. Overalls, a very pretty improved farm, and got some very good water. Here we were informed that Gen. Scotes son was killed a few days ago by the Indians, in the sight of the General's house, on Kentucky River, near Leestown; fed our horses at one Hopkins' about eleven miles from Salt River, got to Bardstown, eleven miles further, about 4 o'clock, ate dinner; saw Mr. Cape, and set out about 5 o'clock, and rode to a Mr. Parkers, seven or eight miles, where we put up for the night; As I have described all this route before, when I travelled it last September, shall say very little of it now, except that there are a great number of houses and well improved farms between Louisville and Bardstown, and a number of streams of water which we now cross, scarcely fordable, had very little water in them when I travelled the road before. Unhappily for us, the house tonight was crowded with travellers; one of the handsome girls, which I mentioned at the house before, is married; the handsomest still single, and took a good many airs with the other travellers.

April 28-Slept rather uncomfortable last night; started early in the morning, and breakfasted at Wilson's, about 14 miles. Got to old Mrs. Harbison's about 13 miles farther, where we prevailed upon the girls to let us have a fowl, which our boy boiled; four or five dirty girls live here, and what is still worse, they have the itch. God help them. Stayed here near two hours, and got to Danville a little before dark, ten miles further.

April 29- Saw a good deal of company here; very much disturbed by a Political Club, who met in the room next where we slept, and kept us awake till 12 or 1 o'clock. This club is very commendable in a new country; it is composed ofa number of the most respectable people in and near Danville, who meet every Saturday night to discuss politics. Some pretty good speakers and some tolerable good arguments made use of last night. The dispute was, one side insisted: That an Act of Assembly was no Law when it did not perfectly agree with the Constitution of the State." It was opposed by the other party, and a very long debate took place. Ate our breakfast here this morning, and set out about 9 o'clock, accompanied by Maj. Quirks; a very honest, clever Irishman found him to be. Was Major in the Illinois Regt. till its dissolution; owns a good deal of property in this country, but lives in Old Virginia, where, I am informed, keeps a very hospitable house; has good acquaintance and interest in this country, and a jolly companion. As Colonel Harmar intended going to see Genl. Wilkinson, went down Licks River to its mouth, about eleven miles, where we crossed Kentucky River; a steep ugly descent to the river, and amazing perpendicular cliffs of rocks on the East shore, suppose 150 or 160 foot high; ferried over the river, and found our passage among the rocks to the top of the hill, and came to Mr. Curds, where we received a very pressing invitation to dine, and paid as well for it; about twenty miles from here to Lexington; about 4 miles from Curds turned off the main road to the right, and six or seven miles farther came to Col. Crocket's, a friend and relation of major Quirks, where we intend staying all night. Col. Crocket was a Major in the Virginia Line last war; treated us extremely kind indeed, a man very much respected and esteemed here; has a most excellent farm, and very well improved.

April 30-Slept very comfortable last night, got our breakfast in the morning and set out, accompanied by our friend, the Major, and Col. Crocket, the latter having business five or six miles up the road we are going. Stopped at a very beautiful improved farm four miles from Col. Crockets where one Craig lives in an excellent stone house, (the only one I believe in all the settlement) is a Baptist preacher, and all the family very religious; must here remark that a greater part of the people in all this country are Baptists, and opposed to the other part of the community, which has no religion at all, and am informed that these Baptists are a very superstitious, hypocritical set, leading away all the lower class of people, Negroes, servants, etc. Soon after leaving here Col. Crocket left us, and we went on to Lexington, ten or twelve miles from Col. Crockets. Stayed here to dine. Did not go to Genl. Wilkinson's for Col. Crocket told us that the day before yesterday be had left home on his way to Kaskaskais by water. Saw two Indian prisoner boys here, who were brought from Danville, I think, for a cruel purpose, which was to be hunted by dogs, to teach them to follow Indians hereafter. There is a number of Indian women and children at Danville, taken prisoner by Col. Logan in the Shawnees towns last fall, the men were all killed they could catch. Col. Logan is much blamed in the country for suffering King Meluthany, of the Shawnees, to be killed, after being prisoner sometime; but for the other murdering he got credit, although Congress had treateyd with them and taken them under protection. Had the pleasure of Major Reese, Capt. Pierce Butler, Mr.Barr and other company; drank some very bad wine indeed. Set out from here about 4 o'clock, accompanied by Mr. Barr, Major Reese and Major Quirks, all pretty well in for it. Mr. Barr took us three or four miles out of our way to see his plantations, and Major Quirks left us with regret, being obliged to return to Louisville on business; got to Bryants Station, five or six miles from Lexington, a little before dark, when Major Reese, and Mr. Barr returned. Got in company with a set of those Baptista, who plagued us intolerably with their religion.

May 1-Sick this morning drinking bad wine yesterday. Set out early in the morning and rode five miles to Grants Station to breakfast; soon after leaving Grant's overtook about thirty militia and eight or ten wagons going to Limestone for some arms, which old Virginia has sent to them for defense of tbeircountry; rode fifteen miles to McClellans, where we dined, and fifteen more to the Blue Licks or Licking River, where we got about sundown. Unhappily, for Col. Lyons was not at home, but was treated very well by a young man who kept his house; was much disturbed by the militia arriving about 9 o'clock and making a confounded noise. Still boiling salt here in thirty or forty kettles.

May2-The militia all up by daylight, and with their usual noise of drinking drams and firing their rifles left us; we breakfasted and set out at half past 8 o'clock, my horse exceeding tired, which obliged the Colonel and me to take turns in walkng. Halted ten miles from Blue Licks to feed our horses, -no houses between the Blue Licks and the new town called Washington, 18 miles; had to carry corn for our horses; passed the militia again and got to the new town to dinner about 3 o'clock, where we stayed sometime to let the militia and their wagons get to Limestone, which is only about five miles from here, and arrived at Limestone ourselves about 6 o'clock, where much to our satisfaction we found Mr. Pratt and the barge, having arrived here the eveningbefore last. He made one of the quickest passages from the Rapids here that was ever known. It is counted 240 or 250 miles, and he began his tour April 26th, at 10 o'clock in the morning, and got here on the evening of the 30th, in less than five days without the assistance of a sail for ten miles. Have a much more favorable opinion of Kentucky now, than when I travelled it before, as I saw it then to every disadvantage, such as sickly people, no herbage, little water; which gave everything an unfavorable appearance; now I see it in its greatest perfection, for the hot sun has not yet dried up the waters, nor stagnated or putrefied any pools to increase sickness, but in the full bloom of spring everything has put forth, and the herbage is a foot high throughout all the country. Natural pastures of the finest clover you will travel through for days together, and every once and awhile refresh yourself at a cooling spring.
The stout, tall Oak, with the shell Bark Hickory, Poplar, Maple, etc., is but the second rate land, but when you see the mighty Black Walnuts, numberless wild Cherry trees, and Honey Locust, etc., which is very common near Danville, and from Kentucky River on the waters of Elkhorn to Lexington and so beyond, every once and awhile with difficulty peeping through large canebrakes, you would think you had gotten into a second Paradise, and nature left you nothing to wish for. Stock of all kind increase very fast, and there is no necessity for keeping them up or foddering any part of the winter, for even when the snow is on the ground they feast deliciously on the Cane Brakes. It is undoubtedly one of the finest countries for cultivation that ever I saw, but in dry seasons there is very little water, which naturally leads to sickness. At Limestone a few Shawnees Indians have come in with five or six prisoners, to exchange for some of theirs at Danville; this business is transacted by the people themselves, who take prisoners and exchange them at pleasure, and if Mr. Wolfe (who is chief of the Indians here) doesn't look sharp, he and his people will be caught in a trap that they won't soon extricate themselves from, and even if the Wolf should escape the snare, some of our innocent sheep will suffer before he returns to his town, so I don't know which is the worse, the Ind. when she was told that was her father, and much more dejected when she found she was to be taken from the Indians, perhaps forever. Left Limestone at 10 o'clock, and lay all night at anchor a few miles above the 3rd Island from Limestone; perhaps went today 25 miles.

May 4 --- Set off early, rowed easy, and reached the mouth of Sciota a little before sundown, where we lay all night; about 35 miles today.

May 5-Had a very severe storm last night of thunder, lightning, rain and wind. The barge rode it out t when she was toldthat was her father, and much more dejected when she found she was to be taken from the Indians, perhaps forever. Left Limestone at 10 o'clock, and lay all night at anchor a few miles above the 3rd Island from Limestone; perhaps went today 25 miles.

May 4 --- Set off early, rowed easy, and reached the mouth of Sciota a little before sundown, where we lay all night; about 35 miles today.

May 5-Had a very severe storm last night of thunder, lightning, rain and wind. The barge rode it out tolerable well; we only got a little wet. These kind of storrns are frequent on the Ohio River, but seldom last more than fifteen or twenty minutes. Water rising today a little, and very strong; went about thirty miles.

May 6-Middling strong water; passed Great and Little Sandy Rivers; about sundown passed the Guyandot, and lay all night about five miles above it; 35 miles today, or more.