It has been stated that Barren County, KY has the most fertile land in the state. It is easy to understand this ” old statement” when exploring the Big Barren River, undulating creeks, the old ancient trees lumbering over country lanes and the soft rolling hillsides of this area of Kentucky. I often wonder as I explore these places of abandonment, of the people that once called this fine and fertile land their own, the joys and hardships that they encountered and wishing there was someone to pass on the stories to me…..even if it is a faint whisper of some feeling from standing quietly for a moment where they once stood. I just have my camera, my eyes and an eager openness to capture what is left now.
The following photographs and writings come from the area of Barren County along its country lanes, Allen County near the Barren River, the very old Parrish Cemetery and a Family plot in a winter corn field near my home property. I hope you enjoy!
There is a summary of early history in Barren and Allen Counties that I would like to display from a forward to Allen County, Kentucky Tax Records of which is compiled by Jeanette Steenbergen Gardner.
It is an important note that Kentucky was part of Virginia in the 1700’s and a section of Fincastle County, Virginia was taken to form Kentucky County in 1776. A division of this county formed Fayette, Jefferson and Lincoln Counties. June the 1st of 1792 Kentucky became a state. In September of that year Logan County was created from Lincoln and in turn Warren County was created from Logan in 1796. Barren County came to be on a chilly December 20th 1798 from Green and Warren Counties. Allen County became to be created on January 11, 1815 from part of warren and Barren Counties.
Some of the first Families to arrive here were the Claypool, Venable, Stovall, Hagans and the Sonoma County Cockrills of which settled the area in the beginning of 1800’s. They were attracted by the heavy virgin timber forest and lushness of the area in game and land. Barren County was also called “The Carolina District” for it was settled during 1801 to 1812 by Anglo Saxon people who still spoke Elizabethan English from the Carolinas area.
This is a journal note from John Spencer and Family who settled in Allen County in 1797 near Walnut, Big Difficult Creeks near the Big Barren River.
“…. The country was gently undulating, rather than hilly, an intense unbroken forest covered the whole region between Barren River and the Tennessee Line. The trees were of great size, comprising many species among which were Poplar, Ash, Chestnut, Black Walnut, White Walnut, Hickory, varieties of Oak, Elm, Honey Locust, Hackberry, Beech and Sugar Maple. The last named was of special value to the settlers since from it they manufactured nearly all sugar and molasses they used for more than a third of a century after the country began to be settled. The undergrowth comprised of redbud of which was valuable in the manufacture of gunpowder, Dogwood, Sumac, Sassafras, Persimmon, Pawpaw, Spicewood and Hazel. Immense canebrakes covered a large portion of the richest uplands. Bear, elk, deer and wild turkey with smaller game were abundant and all the streams teemed with excellent varieties of fish. The peavines and other nutritious vegetation in summer and the canebrakes in winter, furnished abundant supplies of food for cattle and horses and an abundance of nuts and acorns for all the hogs the settlers needed. The soil was fertile and water was plentiful and excellent quality. Cotton, flax and wool, for home consumption, were easily produced and wives and grown up daughters of the settlers were skilled in spinning and weaving them into fabrics, and making the fabrics into garments. The skins of wild animals were also dressed and made into garments, caps and moccasins for the men. Perhaps there was no spot on our globe where men could live better with so little labor…”
I hope you all enjoyed a few of the photographs I have collected on my journeys through Barren County, KY. There is so much beauty here and I could write and post so much more but I promise you will have a chance to read about these things in my second volume of ‘The Abandoned Story”.
This book features many of the rural haunts, forgotten stories, abandoned places, historical towns, rivers and countryside of Mid-west America that I truly love to document and write about.
Please follow me if you would like to see more on these beloved areas and know more of the history of ‘Old’ America.
Live your vision, walk in your light-