History of  Gallatin County, Part 23


Writer Gives an Interesting Account
 of Early Days Around Sparta

So sleeps the pride of former days
So glory's thrill  is o'er
And hearts that once beat high for praise
Now feel that pulse no more!

In the fall of 1800 and spring of 1801 several different settlements were made in Gallatin, Sparta, Carson, New Liberty (now Owen County) Lick Creek, Craig's Creek and Old Providence [Concord].  In the spring of 1801 or 1802 a company consisting of seven families arrived in Gallatin county, and encamped at the mouth of Two Mile Creek, which is now in Owen county.

The appearance of the company was wild and rude in the extreme.  The one who seemed to be the leader of this band, was above the ordinary stature of men.  Their clothing was uncouth and shabby, they were weather-beaten and dirty, which bespoke of long exposure to the weather.  In those days, the dress and furniture were of the simplest kind. Many who are now proud of their ancestors would be ashamed of them if they were to appear before them in the costliest dress of early Kentucky statehood.  Imagine the grandfather in a coonskin cap and buckskin breeches and his wife dressed in her best attire of linsey-woolsey.

The party of Virginians had spent the winter at "The Burning Springs" of eastern Kentucky, near the present town of Prestonsburg.  In this party were three Swango families: William, father of the late Wm. (Blackbeard) Swango who settled in "Old Sparta" with Jacob Carlock; Greenberry Swango, who dropped off in Wolf county; and another brother, Jabes, who continued the immigration to the great state of Illinois and settled near Decatur; also Jacob Walters, Sr., and John and David Alcorn.  The other names we were unable to learn.  A John Carlock, a young man and nephew of the leader of the party [maybe a brother - see Gullion #27a] was a scout who went in advance to look out for Indian signs and to decide the best route to pursue.

These parties, headed by their leader, Jake Carlock, were the earliest settlers of Sparta, which now forms part of Owen county, known as "Old Sparta" and was formed into Owen county in 1819.  Why they stopped there is no doubt a decree of fate.  They were tired from their long journey, the conditions were favorable, and all seemed to be happily blended in this new land.  Springs of salt and fresh water bubbled up all along the willow fringed banks of Eagle Creek.  Tall forests of hardwood crowned the uplands, while in the glades and creek bottoms flourished the luxuriant cane, rye-grass, and clover.

But what more excited the admiration of the immigrants was the variety of game that abounded everywhere and included beasts of every kind east of the Mississippi.  River elks were found in the hilly country and came frequently to the lick springs at the mouth of Ten Mile, deer moving in small companies or herding together in large numbers thronged the uplands and the valleys, where bears and buffaloes in large number were also found, adding piquancy to the mingled duties and pleasures of the hunter.

They had ascended about ten miles from the shores of the Ohio and supposed they had arrived at the foot hills of a mountain, only to find themselves upon an extensive level of 800 feet above sea level.  Here an eternal verdure seemed to reign, the brilliant sun of latitude of 35 degrees, piercing thru the azure heaven, produced in prolific soil an early maturity which was truly astonishing.  Flowers, full and perfect as if they had been cultivated by the hands of a florist with all their captivating odors and with all the variegated charms which color and nature can produce, were found in a state of elegance and beauty, decorating the smiling gowns.  The climate gave a glow of health and vigor that seemed to ravish the intoxicated sense.  The birds in soft modulated tones warbled their tender notes together with love and nature.

After a long tiresome journey across the Allegheny mountains, amid such surroundings they felt a glow of gratitude for the blessings Almighty God had bestowed upon them.  To the pioneer nature was vocal with "a various language," and Jacob Carlock, who had a prudent regard for the future decided to stop here and amid all the strange vicissitudes of the frontiers he never neglected the cultivation of his farm.  He was the first farmer to grow hemp and cotton in the locality.  The hemp thrived but the cotton required longer summer months and therefore it proved a failure.  He was one of those connecting links between the hunter and the farmer which blended the social product of the early adventurers into the more stable form of society which arose out of the pioneer husbandman.

After an elapse of sixteen years he decided to move to the northwest, as it was then called, amid the scenes of an expanding civilization and became a relic of a bygone period.  It is difficult to draw a typical figure of these pioneers; they can only be recorded in the mass of the "forgotten millions," the people of the day. Among them more distinguished than many may be mentioned the name of founder of the first settlement of Sparta, Jacob Carlock.  Nothing is know of his early antecedents [not true, see Gullion's #27a]. He probably came from the Pennsylvania border of Virginia and justly claimed he distinction of having erected the first cabin in what is now known as "Old Sparta."

The cabins were of the round log variety at first and were replaced by the hewed log house.  Many emigrants came later and Sparta's population increased rapidly.  A store house was erected in 1806 and operated by a man named Enoch Winkfield, who afterwards served in the War of 1812, as a private under Captain Presley

A horse mill and a distillery were erected.  Later, the overshot mill at Sanders was erected and a natural mill race at Glencoe had been discovered and a mill built there, adding greatly to the conveniences of the settlers, as the horse mills ground slowly.  One had to take a sack of corn, which he placed upon the back of a horse, taking the harness along also, hitched the animal to the sweep and set the mill to work, which turned out coarse meal.  After a larger  distillery replaced the first one and in the year 1821 a large two-story building was erected by a stock company, which was to put out a large quantity of spirits per day.  They made one run of whiskey and the building took fire and burned to the ground.  As late as 1860 the charred posts could be seen standing as a silent reminder of what was once one of Gallatin's earliest industries.  In 1828 David Ross and Wm. Garnett purchased the site of the ill-fated distillery and erected the present mill. It has been improved from time to time and has been in the possession of different millers: John J. Brock, 1848; Grand Brock, 1865; Solomon Ellis. 1870; and Allen Brock, 1877. the present owner, who has operated it 52 years and has never known to be absent from his post of duty.  He compares favorably with the Miller of the Dee, a jolly good fellow content to live amid these ecstasies that have matured into a sober pleasure.