A Venerable Patriarch


August 5, 1897

 

A VENERABLE PATRIARCH.

 

Has Lived in Crittenden County Ninety-two Years.

 

EDITOR PRESS:  Your correspondent in his perambulations recently visited Col. Ephraim Washington Hill at his home on the bank of Crooked creek, about one mile as the crow flies southwest of Marion.

It was late in the afternoon of a very warm day, and I found him quietly resting in his easy chair on the porch.  He had been riding that day and was somewhat wearied, but he talked freely.  Like most old people he appears to live much in the past, and always finds pleasure in talking of old times.

You wonder at the facility with which he carries you back to the time when this county was a wilderness, covered with pea vines; when deer were as common and plentiful as rabbits are now, and wildcats and catamount and panthers and bears and wolves contended for the mastery, and made night hidious [hideous] with their discordant voices; when there was not a church, nor a school house, nor mill, nor blacksmith shop in all the length and breadth of the county.

He pointed to a very large stump in the yard and told me that was the stump of a tree that decayed and died and was cut down about twelve years ago.  The tree at that time was some four feet in diameter, and was but a sprout that sprang up from the stump of a chinquapin oak that his father cut down when clearing the spot upon which he built his house about a century ago.  Col. Hill saw the tender twig grow to a sapling, then become a sturdy oak, the monarch of the surrounding forest.  He saw it wither, and die, and may yet live to see the stump rot away and disappear.

His father, David Hill, was a native of North Carolina.  When a very young man, nineteen or twenty years old, he came westward into the region of the Holston river, in East Tennessee.  There he fell in with one James Richie [Ritchie] and came with him to this country.  Richie [Ritchie] selected for his future home the place where the late N. B. Clement lived and died, and there young David assisted him to build a log cabin, the first house, so far as known, ever built for human habitation within the present limits of Crittenden county.  That was about the year 1795.

David was then unmarried; he looked around and selected for himself the place where the subject of this sketch now lives, and for his father, Ephraim Hill, he selected the place where Cal Adams now lives, well known as the George Long place.  He then went back to North Carolina and assisted his father to move out, and they settled on their respective places as selected by David; but before his death the father moved on to the same place with David, occupying a separate house, where he remained during the remainder of his life.

About the year 1798 a number of emigrants came from North Carolina and East Tennessee and settled in the vicinity of Marion.  George Elder settled the place now occupied by his daughter in law, Mrs. Joe Elder, on the Salem road.  He was a single man at that time but soon after married a Miss Henry; he lived his entire married life on that place.  Alexander elder settled the place where Mrs. W. B. Crider now lives on the Princeton road, and his brother, John Elder, settled just across the creek west; these two were related to George Elder, but were not his brothers.

George Mayes settled the place where Mrs. Wheeler Mayes now lives in the Midway neighborhood; he first built where the fair ground buildings now stand; he afterwards discovered a spring only a few yards from the present residence of Mrs. Helen Mays [Mayes].  He then built there; he married a Miss Elder, and was the father of Thomas Mayes and the late Terah Mayes.  These were all pioneer settlers.

Among the other early settlers were the Dickeys, Jacksons, Hillhouses, Brices, Stinsons, Pickenses, Cruces, and Canadys.

Now to return to my subject, David Hill married Hannah Elder in the closing years of the last century.  Ephraim W. was the third or fourth child of this marriage in a family of six, three boys, Anthony, William and Ephraim and three daughters, Margaret, Mary and Lurana.

Ephraim W. married Polly B. Porter in 1827 or 28, and from that marriage were born three children, two sons, Ezekial Porter, of this town, and David Edgar, who died in 1861, and one daughter, Mary E., now the wife of Judge R. A. Dowell, of Wellford, Kansas.  His wife died in the early 60's and 1865 he married a Miss Williams.  A daughter of this second marriage, Mrs. John W. Belt, now lives in his home with him.

About the year 1840 David Hill sold out to his son Ephraim W., and went to Illinois.

The first school house that Colonel Hill ever saw, very probably the first ever built in the county, stood about one hundred and fifty yards from the present site of Midway school house.  Robert Dickey was the first teacher.  It was probably not what we now call a graded school, nor did the teacher have to pass through a term of the county teachers institute before he was allowed to teach.  There were no county superintendents then, no trustees, no teachers institutes, no teachers certificates, no pay--no nothing.  But we must not despise the labors of the teachers of those days, for they were heroically laying the foundation of an intellectual empire the most sublime that the world has ever seen.

The first church building probably ever built in the county was the old "log church" at Crooked creek on the Fords Ferry road, about two miles north of Marion.  It was built by the Presbyterians and afterwards sold by them to the Baptists, and the Presbyterians built the old brick church near where Bigham's mill now stands.  This was long before the town of Marion was commenced, and these two church buildings were distinctively known as the "Brick Church" and the "Log Church," almost as long as the two houses remained standing.

Rev. Terah Templeton was the first Presbyterian minister in this county, he boarded with George Mayes, and the latter named his son Terah for him.

James Ritchie, already mentioned as settling the W. B. Clement place, built the first mill ever built in the county.  It was operated by horse power.

Colonel Hill held the rank of Colonel of militia of Livingston county, when this county was detached from Livingston.  He was then made Colonel for Crittenden; so he has been Colonel for both counties.  He has also been a Justice of the Peace.

He was present at the first circuit court ever held for Crittenden county.  It was held at the house of Samuel Ashley, where Pierce Butler is now living, near Crooked creek church.

The opening order of that term of court reads as follows:

"Agreeably to an act of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, establishing the county of Crittenden, approved 26th January, 1842, and an act attaching said county to the 16th judicial district, approved 23 February 1842, a circuit court was begun and held for said county at the residence of Samuel Ashley, on Monday the 23 day of May, 1842, being the time and place prescribed by law.  W. P. Fowler, Judge."

David C. Flournoy and Harvey W. Bigham made application for appointment as clerk of the court.  Bigham secured the appointment and executed bond with Joseph Watts, Presley Gray, John S. Gilliam, Joel E. Grace, Wm. B. Hickman, Peter Clinton and Daniel Travis as his sureties.

Following are the members of the grand jury of that court:

Alexander Dean, foreman, Edward Ashley, Wm. Ashley, Matthew Parmley, Martin Hammond, Wm. Hoggard, John M. Wilson, Isaac Lloyd, Jacob Gill, George Uselton, John E. Wilson, Uri G. Witherspoon, Andrew Hill, James W. Hill, Thomas Akers, and Auguis McAlister.

Col. George W. Barbour, Francis H. Dallam, Robert H. Marr, Patterson C. Lander, and Sumner Marble presented license, took the prescribed oath, and were admitted as attorneys and counselors at law for Crittenden county.

Presley Gray, William Kenneday, and James Cruce were appointed jury commissioners to select grand and petit jurors for the next term.

It will be noted that this court was held fifty five years ago.  The present site of Marion was then an unbroken forest, the nearest residence being the place where Mrs. Joe Elder now lives, on one side, and Mrs. Rochester's place on the other.

There was a post office called Cross Keys at the place where the court was held.

Of all the men that are mentioned in the records of that court so far as know, not one is now living.  Such is the brevity, the evaniscence [evanescence] of human life.  In contemplating it our minds turn inevitably to the closing stanzas of Bryant's "Thanatopsis":

"So live that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan that moves
To the pale realms of shade, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but sustain[e]d and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him and lies down to pleasant dreams."

The first house ever built in Marion was the double log house that stood opposite the court house, and known in recent years as the Hoover property.  It was burned a few years ago.  It was built about the time the county was established.  Col. Hill was at the raising and "carried up a corner."

After an hour pleasantly spent with this noble specimen of a generation that is rapidly passing away, we shook hands with him and took our leave, sincerely hoping that his sun, which is so clearly setting, may not be dimmed by a single cloud; that the remainder of his well spent, busy and useful life may be an evening of rest, spent amid the benedictions of neighbors, friends and relatives, that he may yet live to round out the five score years no so nearly accomplished.  He belonged to a generation to whom we owe a debt of gratitude that will never be repaid.

At this day, surrounded by every conceivable comfort and luxury, we can not fully appreciate the difficulties that the early settlers of this country met and successfully overcome.  They were Nature's noblemen.  They felled the forests, fought the savages, and drove out the wild beasts.  They were brought into conflict with the forces of nature, and found malaria to be the most stubborn of all their enemies.  They belonged to that patient, heroic, uncomplaining class of men that with bleeding feet tread down the thorns of life's rugged pathway that succeeding generations in satin slippers may walk daintly [daintily] over beds of roses.

That Heaven's richest blessings may rest upon the few remaining survivors of that generation is our sincere hope.

IGNOTUS.

Source:  Crittenden Press. (Marion, Ky.) 1879-1907, August 5, 1897, Image 1 - Chronicling America - The Library of Congress.

 

[My comments are in brackets.]