August 27, 1793 We saw a settlement of several houses at the place called Three Islands, ten miles before arriving at Lime Stone; these settlements are considered the first belonging to Kentucky. We reached Lime Stone toward evening.
Limestone is considered the Landing Place or Port of Kentuckey. Goods are landed there that are sent from Philadelphia for Danville, Lexington, etc. A small town founded six years ago at a distance of 4 Miles on the Lexington road is called Washington and is very flourishing being situate in very fertile land. . .
September 4. The soil in the vicinity of Washington is clayey and blackish, very rich. The stones are of an opaque bluish calcareous Substance, full of petrifications of sashells. The bones of those monster animals supposed to be elephants are found in the neighborhood [Big Bone, in Boone county]. It is to be presumed that those bones belonged to marine Individuals, judging by the great abundance of debris or marine bodies collected in those places.
The 4th started from Washington; passed by a place where the soil is impregnated with saline substances and whither the Buffaloes used to go in great numbers the lick the particles of Salt continually exuding from the Surface of the Soil. There are at this spot springs whose water is bitter, putrid, blackish, and full of mephitic air which frees itself at the slightest movement of the soil by the bubbles appearing on the surface of the spring as one approaches. The people living in the neighborhood erect ovens with kettles and extract Salt by the evaporation of the water. We traveled 33 miles.
The 5th we made 27 miles, and, at an early hour, reached Lexington, the chief town among the settlements of the state of Kentuckey. We passed a small Settlement, looked upon as a town and called Paris, the capital of Bourbon county. It contains about 18 houses.
This is a brief excerpt from Andre Michaux’s Travels to the West of the Allegheny Mountains, published in London in 1805, on his trip in America several years earlier. You can find the entire work on line at the Library of Congress’ American Memory Website, here. It’s in the Travel Narratives Collection. Search for Michaux.