History of  Gallatin County, Part 12


In the years 1805-07, before the pioneer day had reached its peak of gloriously romantic history, and became a quite civil community, a motley array of emigrants, restless and often highly strung immigrated from the Piedmont regions of the "Old Dominion" state to the wilders beyond the Cumberland.  Altho those times were more deliberate and leisurely carried out than they are now, the mode of travel across the Appalachians was by packhorse and the newly invented ox-cart, a two-wheeled vehicle.  The wheels were made of solid wood sawed off the end of a great oak log, some four feet in diameter.  Yet those days were somewhat more colorful, something rich and rare, that cannot be easily analyzed from the standpoint of 1930.  There were something more than the tedious recording of the clock; each become a leaf among the pages of the Old Commonwealth.

Among every cavalcade that arrived were to be found carpenters, cabinet makers, coopers, and distillers, barrels and hogsheads encased every thing that had to be transported, and the only medicines were herbs saturated in whiskey.  It is to the Scotch Irishman that the art of distilling whiskey belonged.  The town of Sparta acquired the art son after its first settlers arrived.  It was nothing unusual to see a distillery erected most anywhere a spring bubbled forth.  This industry went hand-in-hand with the grist mill, which at first was operated by horse power.  Sparta had the distinction of being noted for fine beverages until the 18th amendment made it as "dry as a powder house," to quote Mark Twain.

Agriculture also had absorbed some attention by this time.  Great clearings were opened, domestic animals were being brought into the settlement, and the hum of industry could be heard.  The shuttle of the loom, the sound of the woodsman's ax, the constant buzz of the whipsaw, and the crack of the rifle gave evidence that trackless forests were soon to become home to the white man.  But in the year 1802 Kentucky, in common with the whole western country, was thrown into a ferment, by the suspension of American right right of deposit in New Orleans, which had been guaranteed by Spanish treaty.  This struck at the most vital point.  Christopher Greenup was Governor of the State and President Jefferson was re-elected and Aaron Burr was working up his conspiracy in Kentucky, Gallatin County being a border county of the famous Ohio and sent all her products on flat and keel boats down the river to the port at New Orleans where they sold to foreign markets, since Spain had flatly refused to give the western county a port of entry.  Gallatin Co. hade no place to dispose of her surplus, luckily, however, Napoleon secured this territory and President Jefferson instantly took up this project and purchased the vast territory.  James Monroe went to France in order to arrange to the first consul.  He found Napoleon on the eve of a rupture with Great Britain.  He was fully impressed with the impossibility of retaining this colony, while Great Britain ruled the seas.  He determined to place it beyond the reach of the English navy by selling it to the Americans before England could equip an expedition against it.

After the purchase of Louisiana and the port at New Orleans falling to the United States, settlers along the Ohio River had a natural transport line from Pittsburg to New Orleans.

November 16, 1793, the first line of "Ohio Packe Boats" (flat or keel boats) was established at Cincinnati, to make trips to Pittsburg and return monthly, with separate cabins for ladies.  Persons could work for their passage.  Officers for insuring goods were to be found at the terminal.  In 1804 these boats were plying in countless numbers between Cincinnati (the metropolis of the west) and New Orleans.  On one occasion Gallatin County settlers banded together with a number of flat boats, popularly known as Kentucky boats, proceeding from Gallatin County as a flotilla.  The cargo consisted of ginseng, yellow root, snake-root, etc., furs hides, sugar made from the sap of the rock maple, salted pork, soft soap, whip poles, barrels, kegs, peck[-sized] piggins and hemp, bound for New Orleans.   The Captain's name was McClean.  The trip  was made and returned in three months, bringing in exchange mostly ware and implements.

Samuel Henderson wrote in 1800: "The quantity of boats laden with various products of the state would be incredible to relate - and now they are passing ten to twelve every day."  The earliest export of tobacco from the county dates back to 1807 and was flat-boated to New Orleans, weighed 800 pounds per hogshead, and was sold to Wilkinson & Co., for $7.00 per hundred.  For several years this was the main commodity sent to New Orleans.  Hemp, pork and flour soon began to assume expansive proportions.  In 1802, 72,000 pounds of dried pork was shipped from the state and during the year 1801-02 the foreign exports amounted to $626,673.


1930, from the Gallatin County News