Ohio History Journal





Professor of European History, Ohio State University.

From the days of its earliest settlement down through the

American Revolution, the Kentucky country was the scene of

proprietary projects or hostile activities by Loyalists, several of

whom were first connected with Fort Pitt and afterward with

the British post at Detroit. It is needless to say that the hostile

activities included more or less successful efforts at instigating

Indian depredations against the Kentucky pioneers, and contem-

plated almost from the beginning Tory leadership for tribal con-

tingents of sufficient size and bloodthirstiness to accomplish ef-

fectually the single but protracted task of freeing a favorite

hunting ground from occupation by alien intruders and settlers,

as viewed by the Indians, or of ridding the back country of

dangerous rebels, as viewed by the resentless partisans of the

crown. Such Tory leadership, we shall see further on, was to

be provided, with serious consequences and even graver dangers

for the colonists, after the flight of a group of Loyalist con-

spirators from Fort Pitt to Detroit in the spring of 1778.

The proprietary projects of these Loyalists began in July,

1773, with the survey of four thousand acres of land directly

opposite to the Falls of the Ohio by Captain Thomas Bullitt for

Dr. John Connolly, a resident near Fort Pitt, who had previously

been a surgeon's mate with the British forces, and was now in

a fair way to be rewarded for his past - and future - services

by this substantial grant. Connolly's object was to found a town

at the Falls, and to that end Captain Bullitt laid out a town plat

in August. On the tenth of the following December, Governor

Dunmore of Virginia issued a patent to Connolly for this land.1

1Proceedings, American Antiquarian Society, Oct., 1909, 5, 29;

R. T. Durrett, Filson Club Publications No. 8: The Centenary of Louis-

ville, (Louisville, Ky., 1893), 23, 24, 26, 27, 131-133.


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In less than two months thereafter Dunmore was employ-

ing the recipient of this patent, who was captain commandant

of militia on the upper Ohio, to seize Fort Pitt and make it the

judicial seat of a new country (West Augusta), in total disre-

gard of Pennsylvania's prior authority in that region. Connolly

also carried on aggressions against the neighboring Indians, but

did not neglect to join with his colleague, Col. John Campbell,

who had also received an extensive grant at the Falls, in adver-

tising lots for sale in their prospective town in April, 1774. In

the following June the deputy superintendent of Indian affairs

at Fort Pitt, Capt. Alexander McKee, was recompensed for his

services in the French and Indian War by a grant of two thou-

sand acres, which was surveyed for him by James Douglas on

the south branch of Elkhorn Creek. It was probably about the

same time that Simon Girty, who was associated with these men

as interpreter to the Six Nations, secured three tracts of three

hundred acres each, all in the Kentucky country.2

Connolly was soon instructed by his patron to promote the

royal interests among the tribesmen. Accordingly, in June, 1775,

he met with the Delaware and Mingo chiefs and won them over,

if we may credit his Narrative. He also asserts that he entered

into a secret compact with a group of his friends, most of whom

were militia officers and magistrates of West Augusta County,

in support of the king, on condition that he should procure au-

thority to raise men. It was in this season also that Connolly

and Campbell sent a few men to occupy their lands at the Falls

of the Ohio, these persons being instructed by Capt. Bullitt that

they were to pay no attention to the title of the Transylvania

Company, which had been secured by unauthorized purchase

from the Indians. This was in keeping with Governor Dun-

more's proclamation of the previous March, declaring the Com-

pany's purchase to be contrary to the regulations of the king and

W. H. Siebert, "The Tories of the Upper Ohio" in Biennial Re-

port, Archives and History, W. Va., 1911-1914, (Charleston, W. Va.,

1914), 38; Thwaites and Kellogg, eds., Frontier Defense on the Upper

Ohio, (Madison, Wis., 1912) 184; Filson Club Publications No. 8, 28;

R. T. Durrett, Filson Club Publications No. 12: Bryant's Station

(Louisville, Ky., 1897), 30, n., 111, n.; Second Report, Bureau of

Archives, Ont. (1904) Pt. II, 1282.

Vol. XXVIII- 4.

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50        Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

therefore illegal.3 If Connolly could have carried out his project

for this settlement, we may be sure that it would have resulted

in the establishment of a Tory outpost at the Falls.3

Either before, or perhaps after, the inception of Connolly

and Campbell's settlement, Joseph Browster, a Tory of West-

moreland County, Pa., went to Kentucky and, according to his

widow's testimony in 1788, purchased a thousand acres of im-

proved land. As he intended to remove to his new estate, he sold

his farm in Pennsylvania and, while journeying to the West with

his family, was attacked and forced to take refuge at St. Vin-

cent. From this French village, or some other point, Browster

atempted to go to Detroit, but was killed en route by his Indian

guide. His family remained at St. Vincent for three years, and

was then conducted to the British post by savages. In support

of her testimony, which was given before the British commis-

sioners for the settlement of Loyalist claims, Mrs. Browster pro-

duced a brief letter from Dr. Connolly to the effect that at one

time he had suffered imprisonment with Joseph Browster, and

that the latter had been murdered by Indians while on his way

to Detroit.4

Late in May, 1775, the House of Delegates of the Transyl-

vania Company held its session at Boonesborough. One of the

delegates from Harrodsburg was the Rev. John Lythe of the

Anglican church, who conducted a religious service on Sunday,

the twenty-seventh, under an ancient elm in the hollow where

the House had been assembling. Here, in the presence of Epis-

copalians and Dissenters alike, the customary prayers for the

king and royal family of England were recited for the only

time, so far as known, on Kentucky soil. Within the week fol-

lowing the news of the battle of Lexington was brought to

Boonesborough and its three sister settlements on the south side

of the Kentucky River, evoking at once the undivided sympathy

3Biennial Report, Archives and History, W. Va., 1911-1914, 38;

G. W. Ranck, Filson Club Publications No. 16: Boonesborough (Louis-

ville, Ky., 1901), 180-183; Proceedings, American Antiquarian Society,

Oct., 1909, 15.

4Second Report, Bureau of Archives, Ont. (1904), Pt. 1, 477.

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of the colonists, including their frontier missionary, for the


When, therefore, one of Dunmore's emissaries, Dr. John F.

D. Smyth, rode into Boonesborough on June 8, he found condi-

tions anything but favorable to imparting his true business even

to his host, Judge Richard Henderson, the head of the Transyl-

vania Company, but explained that he was gathering material

for a book of travels. With more frankness, however, the ob-

servant gleaner recorded in his notes that these woodsmen were

too proud and insolent "to be styled servants even of His

Majesty". During his sojourn of several weeks Smyth visited

the Shawnee and other Ohio Indians with the purpose of secur-

ing their cooperation with the Loyalists in stamping out rebellion

in the West.6

About the time that Smyth left the Kentucky Valley, Con-

nolly disbanded the garrison under his command, and went to

see Dunmore at Norfolk, Va. The latter sent him on to Boston,

Mass., to submit his plans to Gen. Gage, for they involved secur-

ing the necessary aid of the Canadian and Indian forces that-

might be supplied by Detroit, as also of the garrison from Kas-

kasia on the Illinois, the Ohio tribes, a battalion of Loyalists

and some independent companies to be raised by Connolly in

western Pennsylvania, and the militia of Augusta County, Va.

With these forces at his disposal and a suitable commission,

Connolly proposed to destroy Forts Pitt and Fincastle, penetrate

Virginia, and form a junction with Dunmore at Alexandria,

thereby splitting the colonies in twain and giving the preponder-

ance to the royal cause in the South. After a prolonged stay in

Boston, which did not escape the knowledge of Washington's

staff in the neighboring town of Cambridge, Connolly returned

to Virginia, and received a warrant as lieutenant colonel com-

mandant from Dunmore. Then, in company with Smyth and

Allen Cameron, he started, November 13, on his overland jour-

ney for Detroit. Surely, his plans were prospering.7

5Filson Club Publications No. 16, 28, 30, 31.

6Ibid., 32, 33.

7Proceedings, American Antiquarian Society, Oct., 1909, 17-19;

Biennial Report, Archives and History, W. Va., 1911-1914, 29, 40.

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Since his departure from Fort Pitt, however, the success

which Connolly believed himself to have attained in his confer-

ence with the Mingo and Delaware chiefs had been counteracted

for a time by the mission in July, 1775, of Dr. Thomas Walker

and Capt. James Woods to the Shawnee, Wyandot, Ottawa,

Delaware and Mingo towns. At the instance of the West Au-

gusta committee of correspondence, these tribes, together with

the Senecas, were invited to meet with the commissioners of

Congress at Pittsburgh in the autumn. There a treaty of peace

and neutrality was signed between the Western Indians and the

new American nation.8 Thus, a considerable part of the forces

on which Connolly counted for the execution of his comprehen-

sive plan was eliminated for an indefinite period.

This was despite the efforts of the British commandant at

Detroit who, on learning that the council was to be held, has-

tened to summon the savages from Upper Sandusky and its

vicinity in order to urge them not to attend, but join him until

the subjugation of the colonists by the king's army and navy

when, he added, we shall "have their plantations to ourselves".

Not content with this direct appeal to a limited number of tribes-

men, the Detroit officer had the chief of the Wyandots dispatch

a delegation of his own braves, together with a few Ottawas,

to the Shawnee villages of Chief Cornstalk to persuade them

that the proposed treaty would not protect them from an early

attack by the whites. Cornstalk reported this incident to the

commissioners of Congress at Pittsburgh, as well as its sequel,

namely, that several of the visiting Indians, accompanied by two

young Shawnee guides, proceeded thence to the Kentucky River.

It became known later that this spying party included the son

of "Capt." Pluggy, the Mohawk leader of a band of miscreants

living on the upper Olentangy, and that they fired on three per-

sons near Boonesborough, December 23, 1775.9

By this time greater misfortune had overtaken Connolly and

his companions: they were now in jail at Frederick Town, hav-

ing been arrested near Hager's Town more than a month before.

8 Biennial Report, Archives and History, W. Va., 1911-1914, 40.

9Thwaites and Kellogg, eds., Revolution on the Upper Ohio (Mad-

ison, Wis.), 100, 102, 143; Filson Club Publications No. 16, 45, 46.

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The local committee of safety had learned from an American

officer, just returned from Cambridge, Mass., of the conspira-

tor's recent visit to Boston, and had secured conclusive evidence

against the trio through the discovery of a copy of Connolly's

"proposals". Thereupon they had reported their capture to Con-

gress, and were ordered to send their prisoners under guard to

Philadelphia. To the great chagrin of the committee, however,

Smyth escaped on the night before the date set for the departure

of the culprits, which was December 29. He carried with him

letters from Connolly to his wife and Capt. McKee at Fort Pitt,

Capt. Lord at Kaskasia, and Capt. Lernoult at Detroit. The

letters to the two latter besought them to "push down the

Mississippi and join Lord Dunmore." But on January 12, 1776,

Smyth was retaken by a party from Fort Pitt, after he had suc-

ceeded in crossing the Allegheny Mountains in the depth of

winter. As he still had the letters on his person, he was con-

ducted to Philadelphia, where he shared the imprisonment of his

two colleagues.10

The failure of these Tory leaders to reach Detroit did not

prevent the authorities there from seeking to undermine the

neutrality of the Western tribes. In May, 1776, information was

being circulated as far away as in southeastern Virginia that the

Wyandot, Ottawa, and other Indians had recently been at De-

troit, where they had received presents; and the militia officer

imparting this news said that they would probably be trouble-

some during the summer. In fact, their depredations in Ken-

tucky continued throughout the year, becoming so ominous as

to cause the abandonment of McClelland's Station, the last fort

north of the Kentucky River, at the end of December.11

The petitions which the inhabitants of "Transylvania" pre-

sented to the Virginia Convention in May and June, 1776, show

that the people wanted steps taken both "to prevent the inroads

of Savages" and also to keep their outlying district from becom-

10 Proceedings, American Antiquarian Society, Oct., 1909, 19-22;

Biennial Report, Archives and History, W. Va., 1911-1914, 40, 41.

11 Revolution on the Upper Ohio, 175, n. 6, 177, n. 11, 187, 188;

J. G. M. Ramsay, Annals of Tennessee, (Philadelphia, 1853), 148, 149;

Filson Club Publications No. 16, 49-52, 54.

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ing the refuge of Loyalists. They could see no hope of protec-

tion in a proprietary government that was without an organized

militia. They regarded as illegal the king's proclamation exclud-

ing settlers from the region they had entered, and denounced the

ministerial policy which would delay the erection of "West Fin-

castle" into a new county of Virginia. The observance of such

restrictions, the petitioners pointed out, would bring it to pass

that "this immense and fertile country would afford a safe

asylum to those whose principles are inimical to American lib-

erty." These arguments produced the desired result, Kentucky

County being one of three new divisions created by act of Decem-

ber 7, 1776." 12

Whatever advantages a separate county organization may

have secured to the inhabitants of the new district, certain con-

ditions were developing to the northward from which no such

device could shield their remote part of the frontier. One of

these conditions was the increase in size and daring of the war-

bands, as at Boonesborough, April 24, 1777, when "the big fort"

was actually attacked for the first time, by a party numbering

from fifty to one hundred warriors, and again early in July,

when it was besieged for two days and nights by two hundred

Indians. Another of the menacing conditions was the fact that

Lieut. Governor Henry Hamilton at Detroit received definite

permission from  Governor-General Haldimand at Quebec in

June, 1777, to employ savages against the Americans. A third

condition was fully revealed late in September when the Shawnee

chief, Cornstalk, told Capt. Matthew Arbuckle at Fort Randolph

(Point Pleasant) of the warlike disposition of the Indians, in-

cluding his own nation, adding that although he was himself

opposed to joining the war on the side of the British, he could

only "run with the stream". This admission convinced Arbuckle

that all of the Shawnees had gone over to the enemy, and he

therefore detained Cornstalk and two of his braves as hostages.

Shortly after the chief's son had come to visit his father, a mem-

ber of the garrison was murdered by lurking Indians, where-

13J. R. Robertson, ed., Filson Club Publications No. 27 (Louisville,

Ky., 1914), 38, 39; Hening's Statutes, IX, 257; Filson Club Publications

No. 16, 48, 54.

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The Tory Proprietors of Kentucky Lands.           55


upon the soldiers became infuriated and avenged themselves

upon the four Shawnees. Governor Patrick Henry fancied this

unjustifiable deed to be "the work of Tories", who had taken

this method to embroil the backwoodsmen in strife with the

Indians and so keep them from going to the aid of Washington.13

Governor Henry was correct at least in this, that the murder

of the hostages would bring on hostilities with their tribe. In-

deed, such hostilities had resulted nearly a fortnight before the

Governor had expressed his opinion in the surrender of Daniel

Boone and his camp of salt-makers at the Lower Blue Licks on

February 7 and 8, 1778. But for us the interesting thing about

the expedition which gained this success is that it was under-

taken on the initiative of the Detroit authorities, who sent two

French Canadians to engage four or five score of the Shawnees

in an attempt to seize Boonesborough. Several of Boone's con-

temporaries were so dissatisfied with his action in persuading

the other salt-makers to surrender peaceably after his own cap-

ture, that they charged him later with being a Loyalist and a

traitor. The Shawnees took their captives to Little Chillicothe

on the Little Miami, and then part of the tribe started for De-

troit, March 10, in company with eleven of the whites, including

Boone. At the Northern post the famous Kentuckian was pre-

sented with a horse and trappings by Hamilton, while his com-

panions were sold for ranson-money. It was on this horse that

Boone escaped from his captors in the following June, bringing

intelligence of a new expedition which the Shawnees had in


This proposed foray was to be directed against Boones-

borough, in order to avenge the tribe for an unsuccessful attack

upon Donnelly's Fort on the Greenbriar River, from which one

13Revolution on the Upper Ohio, 236, 237, n. 80, 242, n. 85, 247;

Biennial Report, Archives and History, W. Va., 1911-1914, 41, 42;

Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 149, 150, 157-163, 169, 175-177, 205,

207, 208; R. G. Thwaites, Withers's Chronicles of Border Warfare

(Cincinnati, 1917), 173, n., 209, 211-214, 236, 266; Filson Club Publications

No. 16, 56-61.

14 Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 205, 207, 208, 252, n. 7, 283,

n. 42; Withers' Chronicles of Border Warfare, 265-267; Filson Club Pub-

lications No. 16, 64-69, 104, 105.

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of their war parties had returned on June 15. It was not until

after Clark's capture of Vincennes, however, that steps were

taken to carry out the expedition. But again, as in the previous

February, the movement was organized by French Canadians

under orders from Detroit. These Canadians, who belonged to

the Detroit militia, were led by Lieut. Antoine De Quindre, and

assisted Chief Black Fish in assembling a force of almost four

hundred and fifty Indians, mostly Shawnees, whom they sup-

plied with a stock of ammunition and the English and French

flags that were intended so to impress the inhabitants of Boones-

borough that they would capitulate at once. On arriving at the

fort, September 7, 1778, a messenger was sent forward to an-

nounce that Governor Hamilton had entrusted letters to his rep-

resentatives with the Indian army for Capt. Boone, and to ask

a parley for the consideration of their contents. This was

granted and on the following evening, after Boone had told Black

Fish that the garrison would defend themselves to the last man,

De Quindre reopened negotiations and succeeded in getting the

principal men of the fort to sign a treaty on the tenth, renounc-

ing allegiance to the United States and renewing their fealty to

the king, on condition that the Indians would withdraw at once.

This was evidently all in accordance with the plan of Hamilton,

who believed from what Boone had told him at Detroit that the

Kentucky settlers were already in a starving and nearly naked

condition, and were withot the prospect of relief from Con-

gress. "Their dilemma", he wrote to Sir Guy Carleton, April

25, 1778, "will probably induce them to trust to the savages, who

have shown so much humanity to their prisoners, and come to

this place before winter." But the Lieut. Governor's plan to

convert the garrison into Loyalists, and thus open the way for

their reception at Detroit was, according to the evidence, doomed

to failure from the start. The fort had but two score effective

defenders, and Boone had used stratagem in the hope of ridding

the place of a foe eleven times as numerous. After the signing

of the treaty, however, the redmen tried to detain the whites

during the ceremony of handshaking; but the latter tore them-

selves away and ran back into their stronghold, which was then

assailed repeatedly, though unsuccessfully. As a final means of

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capturing the place, the Indians dug a tunnel from the bank of

the Kentucky River to a distance of about forty yards, or two-

thirds of the way from the stream. But their scheme was frus-

trated by successive rainstorms, which caused sections of the

mine to cave in. Altogether the garrison had withstood invest-

ment for nine days and nights, when the Indian army broke into

detachments for the purpose of pillaging and ravaging about

other stations.15

Shortly after this siege Boone was tried by court martial

at Logan's Station on the charge of making treasonable attempts

to aid the British in favoring the peace treaty at Boonesborough,

in surrendering the salt-makers on the Lower Blue Licks, and

on still another count. His immediate accuser was Col. Richard

Callaway; but he cleared himself by explaining that these acts

were deceptions and stratagems dictated by military necessity,

and practiced for the advantage of the settlers. That his con-

duct was not deemed reprehensible by his superior officers is

shown by his promotion a little later to the rank of major.16

If the year 1778 was marked by Lieut. Governor Hamilton's

policy of detailing French-Canadians to organize and accom-

pany Indian expeditions against Kentucky, the next two years

were characterized by an astonishing increase in the population

of that country and the employment of border Loyalists, who

held large landed interests south of the Ohio, to lead the war

bands thither. This change in leadership was made possible by

the flight of Capt. Alexander McKee, Matthew Elliott, Simon

Girty, and several others from Fort Pitt on the night of March

28, 1778, the fugitives arriving at Detroit about two months

later. Becoming deeply involved in a Tory plot at the former

post, their machinations had been discovered and suppressed in

the previous summer. At Detroit, Girty was appointed inter-

preter in the secret service, Elliott, captain in the Indian depart-

ment, and McKee, deputy agent for Indian affairs. In the fol-

lowing August, they were joined by James Girty, who came in

15 Filson Club Publications No. 16, 68-104; Withers's Chronicles of

Border Warfare, 268-270; Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 283, 284;

Filson Club Publications No. 27, 44, 45.

16Filson Club Publications No. 16, 104, 105.

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from the Shawnee village of Old Chillicothe, and was made in-

terpreter to the Shawnees. Nine months later George Girty ap-

peared, bringing a party of deserters from Kaskasia, and was

likewise appointed an interpreter.17 For the next seventeen

months these Loyalists were permitted to direct their poorly

aided efforts to restoring the king's authority in the Pittsburgh

region. Then, having failed in that quarter, they turned their

attention to the Kentucky domain, which was now beginning to

attract thousands of immigrants from the older settlements, in-

cluding those of the upper Ohio.

Contemporary mention of this westward migration throws

considerable light on its magnitude and character. Early in Au-

gust, 1779, Col. Daniel Brodhead wrote from Fort Pitt that the

inhabitants were so intent on removing to Kentucky that there

would be few volunteers. In March, 1780, Col. Richard Camp-

bell of the Ninth Virginia Regiment recommended to Washing-

ton the removal of his men from Pittsburgh, because they were

constantly deserting to share in the settlement of the Kentucky

lands. In the following May, Brodhead informed the Rev. John

Heckewelder that by fall "the settlements of Kentucky" would

be able to turn out fifteen thousand men, and that the villainous

Shawnees and their allies would soon find troublesome neighbors

in that quarter. Despite this exodus, Col. Brodhead was con-

vinced by disclosures of new Tory activities in his neighborhood

that there was still "a great number of disaffected inhabitants

on this side of the mountain who wish for nothing more than

a fair opportunity to submit to the British government." Still,

one must believe that not a few of these Loyalists, who were

unable to keep their plans hidden, took advantage of the west-

ward migration to go to Kentucky. That such was the case is

indicated by a visitor to that region, who wrote to Col. George

Morgan late in 1780: "Should the English go there and offer

them protection from the Indians, the greatest part will join".18

17 Biennial Report, Archives and History, W. Va., 1911-1914, 42-45,

47; Kellogg, ed., Frontier Retreat on the Upper Ohio, (Madison, Wis.,

1917), 299, n. 1.

18Frontier Retreat on the Upper Ohio, 21, 22, 41, 149, 163, 164, 168,

176, 277.

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It was early in this period of movement to the new country,

namely, in the latter part of May, 1779, that John Bowman,

lieutenant of Kentucky County, undertook an offensive at the

head of more than two hundred and fifty volunteers against the

Shawnee town of Little Chillicothe on the Little Miami. After

beginning the attack the whites, who were partly from Bowman's

district and partly from the upper valleys, were thrown into gen-

eral disorder by the false report that Simon Girty and one hun-

dred Shawnees were hastening from Piqua to the relief of the

place. However, they soon recovered themselves, defeated the

enemy which numbered less than half their own strngth, burned

most of the village and crops, and carried off a great quantity

of plunder.19

The first expedition actually conducted by the Girtys against

Kentucky, so far as recorded, took place in the following autumn,

when James and George advanced with about one hundred and

seventy Wyandot warriors from Upper Sandusky down the val-

ley of the Little Miami to the spot where Cincinnati now stands.

Here, on October 4, they discovered Col. David Rogers' flotilla

of five boats ascending the Ohio with a large store of goods and

ammunition from St. Louis. Some fifty of Rogers' men landed

at once to attack the foe, but were quickly driven back to their

barges, most of which the Indians succeeded in boarding. Only

one, which was defended by thirteen soldiers, managed to escape.

About forty of the whites were killed, while a rich supply of

booty and a few prisoners fell into the hands of the victors.20

Thenceforth, the savages became very troublesome and small

skirmishes became so common, according to Col. George Rogers

Clark, as to receive little notice.

Tory leadership had proved so successful in this first in-

stance in Kentucky annals, that it is not surprising to find it

being again employed in the following summer. Lieut. Gover-

nor Hamilton had surrendered to Clark at Vincennes, February

25, 1780, and been taken to Virginia as a prisoner. Hence,

Major A. S. De Peyster had been transferred from the British


19 Withers' Chronicles of Border Warfare, 271-273.

C. W. Butterfield, History of the Girtys (Cincinnati, 1893), 113;

Frontier Retreat on the Upper Ohio, 17, 79-94, 105, 123,

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post at Michilimacinac to Detroit. He was eager to regain what

his predecessor had lost, and to that end dispatched a body of

troops and Indians to the Illinois, while seeking to engage the at-

tention of Clark and the Kentuckians by an expedition to the

Falls of the Ohio (Louisville). He placed Capt. Henry Bird,

a Virginia Loyalist, in command of the latter enterprise, with the

three Girtys as aides. On leaving Detroit, Capt. Bird's force con-

sisted of one hundred and fifty Canadians and Loyalists and one

hundred tribesmen from the Upper Lakes, carrying two field-

pieces; but they were joined on the Miami by Capt. McKee and

six hundred Indians. When the savages learned on the march

that Clark was in command at the Falls, they refused to try a

battle with him, and insisted on being led against the forts up

the Licking. Although mutinous, they were wise, for the sound

of their cannon was alone sufficient to secure the immediate sur-

render of Ruddle's Station, with its three hundred inmates, on

June 22. After killing all the cattle at this place, the Indians

and their allies marched five miles farther to Martin's Station

where, with equal ease, they gained fifty more prisoners. A

famine now ensued and terminated an invasion that might, ex-

cept for the self-imposed loss of the animals at Ruddle's, have

uprooted the Kentucky settlements. As it was, Bird and his

white contingent, together with Capt. Isaac Ruddle's company

as prisoners, were constrained to return to their boats; by means

of which they descended the Licking to the Ohio, and thence

passed up the Great Miami on their way to Detroit. Here Rud-

dle and his men remained in captivity until November 3, 1782.

The Indians, with their share of the prisoners, crossed the Ohio

River, and proceeded in small parties to their several villages.21

The readiness with which the occupants of the two stations

on the Licking surrendered is explicable by reason of the superior

strength of the attacking force, supported, as it was, by the two

cannon which Capt. Bird had brought from Detroit; but there

were those of the time who attributed the double disaster to

21Frontier Retreat on the Upper Ohio, 192; Withers' Chronicles of

Border Warfare, 254, n. 285, 286, 294-299; Filson Club Publications No. 16,

118, 119; ibid. No. 27, 168.

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widespread disaffection among the settlers, many of whom

refused to volunteer for offensive operations, choosing rather

to remove "into the interior" than take part in the common

defense against the Loyalists and Indians.22

Meantime, in May, 1779, the General Assembly of Virginia

passed an act concerning escheats and forfeitures, by which the

already sequestered estates of Britons and Loyalists were to

be condemned by escheators and sold. A year later it was rep-

resented to the Assembly that there were crtain lands within the

county of Kentucky, "formerly belonging to British subjects, not

yet sold under the Law of Escheats and Forfeitures, which

might at a future day be a valuable fund for the maintenance

and education of youth." In accordance with this suggestion,

therefore, the Assembly now enacted a law vesting eight thou-

sand acres of these forfeited lands in a board of thirteen trus-

tees "as a free donation from the Commonwealth for the pur-

pose of a public school or Seminary of Learning," to be erected

in Kentucky County "as soon as the circumstances of the county

and the state of the funds" would admit. This grant comprised,

as it happened, the two thousand acres of Alexander McKee on

the south branch of Elkhorn Creek in the newly created county

of Fayette, besides two other surveys of three thousand acres

each, one near Lexington formerly belonging to Henry Collins,

and the other, called the Military Survey, at the mouth of Har-

rod's Creek in Jefferson County, lately the property of Robert


Thus far Dr. John Connolly's survey of two thousand acres

opposite to the Falls of the Ohio had escaped forfeiture. But

on May 1, 1780, the inhabitants of this locality, who had recently

laid out a town in half-acre lots, built houses and occupied them,

or in some cases had sold out to newcomers, petitioned the As-

sembly at Richmond, Va., to pass an act establishing their town

as planned and validating their titles, on the score that intending

settlers were declining to buy lots because the land "above the

22Frontier Retreat on the Upper Ohio, 22, 186, 187, 265, 266.

Hening's Statutes, IX, 377; X, 67; H. J. Eckenrode, The Revolu-

tion in Virginia, 187, 188; Robert Peter and Joanna Peter, Filson Club

Publications No. 11, (Louisville, Ky., 1896), 18, 19; ibid., No. 27, 69, 70.

62 Ohio Arch

62        Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

mouth of a gutt that makes into the river opposite the falls" had

been surveyed and patented for Connolly, and would be subject

to escheat and sale. The petitioners argued that the new town

would be of great advantage to the people of Kentucky, and that

its plan was conducive to its growth into a populous and com-

mercial center, which would afford security "from any hostile

intentions of the Indians." In compliance with this petition, the

General Assembly passed an act, July 1, 1780, establishing the

town of Louisville, designating ten men to serve as its trustees,

clearing doubtful titles by vesting them with one thousand acres

of Connolly's survey, and authorizing the sale of lots at auction,

on condition that if they brought thirty dollars the money should

be paid into the treasury of the Commonwealth.24

The same day on which this act was passed, but quite in-

dependently of its adoption, an escheating jury met at Lexing-

ton, Ky., and rendered a verdict of forfeiture against Connolly,

who was still under restraint at Philadelphia as a prisoner of

Congress, but was to be permitted to go to the British at New

York within a few days, in anticipation of his exchange later in

the year. Curiously enough, Daniel Boone, notwithstanding the

charge previously made against him of trying to aid the crown,

was a member of this jury, which decided that Connolly was the

owner of the land at the Falls on July 4, 1776, and that he had

of his own free will joined the subjects of the English king by

April 19, 1775, the date fixed in the law of escheats and for-


That there were Loyalists nearer home than Connolly,

McKee, and the others, whose Kentucky estates had now been

confiscated, was revealed by the expedition against the Shawnees

made during the first week of August, 1780, by Cols. Clark,

Slaughter, and Logan, with nearly a thousand men, in retaliation

for the descent on Ruddle's and Martin's stations. They found

Chillicothe largely deserted and still burning, and their move-

24 R. T. Durrett, Filson Club Publications No. 8: The Centenary of

Louisville (Louisville, Ky., 1893) 50-52, 149-154; No. 27, 53-55; Hening's


25Filson Club Publications No. 8, 54-56; Biennial Report, Archives

and History, W. Va., 1911-1914, 41.

The Tory Proprietors of Kentucky Lands

The Tory Proprietors of Kentucky Lands.        63


ments thoroughly understood by the foe. Nevertheless, in the

fighting that took place the Kentuckians acquitted themselves

with such daring that James Girty, who was in command of

three hundred warriors, retired with his contingent rather than

encounter "fools and madmen." In one of the huts the invaders

discovered a Frenchman who admitted that a deserter from Col.

Logan's division had come in from the mouth of the Licking

and joined the Indians, whom he warned of their danger.26

Although smaller or larger bands of savages were "striking

somewhere in Kentucy" during the autumn of 1780 and the

open season of 1781, it was not until September of the latter

year that they were again led by a Loyalist. About the middle

of the month just named Capt. McKee, who was now accom-

panied by Chief Brant, head of the Six Nations, ally of Maj.

John Butler's Tory rangers at Fort Niagara, and wily leader

of formidable scalping parties on the New York frontier, ap-

peared at Boone's Station (where Shelbyville now stands) at

the head of strong contingents of Hurons and Miamis, and there

defeated Col. John Floyd with a company of men from his own

and other stations on Beargrass Creek, imposing a loss of half

this force. Brant's presence is explained by the fact that he

had been sent early in April, with seventeen of his tribesmen on

a mission to McKee and the Western Indians by Col. Guy John-

son, the Loyalist superintendent of the Indian department at

Niagara. It was McKee's wish to conclude the present cam-

paign with an assault on Boonesborough; but his unruly war-

riors chose to return at once to their villages.27

Whatever successes the Indians won by themselves during

this period, and they were generally minor ones, it is worth re-

marking that thus far the savages had usually been signally vic-

torious when Loyalists served as their captains. That the Ken-

tucky settlements would have fared far worse, perhaps suffering

general annihilation, if the savages had been amenable to ordi-

nary military discipline, is a view in support of wich much may

26 Withers' Chronicles of Border Warfare, 305-308; Frontier De-

fense on the Upper Ohio, 234, 235, n. 98.

27 Filson Club Publications No. 8, 57-59; ibid., No. 12, 84; Frontier Re-

treat on the Upper Ohio, 374, 375.

64 Ohio Arch

64        Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

be said. Certainly, in June, 1782, the Indians threw away their

final chance of spreading desolation among the pioneers south

of the Ohio. At that time Simon and George Girty, Matthew

Elliott, and Alexander McKee met Capt. William Caldwell and

Capt. Andrew Bradt with sixty Tory rangers from Detroit and

eleven hundred redmen of eight different nations, including the

Delawares, at Wakitamiki (now Zanesfield, Logan County, O.).

This host first advanced to the main camp of the Shawnees at

Old Chillicothe, in expectation of destroying an invading force

under Col. George Rogers Clark. It was, according to McKee,

the greatest body of Indians that had been assembled in this

quarter since the beginning of the war.  At any rate, it seems

to have outnumbered slightly the whole force of fighting men

in Kentucky at this time, which has been estimated at about one


Disappointed in their plan of overwhelming Clark, who was

nowhere in the neighborhood, all the tribesmen except a few

hundreds (Caldwell, the commanding officer of the expedition,

says less than three hundred) scattered to their villages. The

others were induced by Simon Girty to accompany the Tory

rangers in a descent upon Bryant's Station. After crossing the

Ohio a decoy detachment was sent to threaten Hoy's Station,

a few miles south of Boonesborough, and was pursued by Capt.

John Holder with men from his own and other stations. Be-

fore sunset on August 15, a messenger brought to Bryant's the

news of Holder's defeat at the Upper Blue Licks; but while

the little garrison there were still preparing to go to the defense

of Hoy's Station, they discovered that they were facing a siege

themselves, and despatched couriers to the other settlements in

their own behalf. In this way they were soon able to increase

their strength to one hundred and thirty-five men, in spite of

the partly successful efforts of the besiegers to shoot or drive

away those coming in to the relief of the place. After the In-

dians had destroyed the crops, killed the livestock, and burned

several cabins of the settlement, Simon Girty, who is said to


28Filson Club Publications No. 12, 87-90, 134-156; E. P. Durrett,

"Girty the White Indian" in Magazine of American History, March 1886;

Butterfield, History of the Girtys, 193, 194, 198, 200, 205, 208.

The Tory Proprietors of Kentucky Lands

The Tory Proprietors of Kentucky Lands.       65

have come provided with a proclamation guaranteeing pardon

and protection to all who would swear allegiance to the crown,

offered the inmates safety, if they would capitulate. But he

was refused and decamped with his force on the night of the

sixteenth, taking the road back to the Blue Licks. He states that

nearly one hundred warriors left him at this time. One hun-

dred and eighty-two Kentuckians followed in pursuit of the

invaders and on August 19 crossed the Licking River, only to

fall into an ambuscade on the height of the open ridge in front.

The Tories and Indians were concealed in the wooded ravines

nearby. Of the advancing party, most of whom had dismounted,

about forty were killed at the first volley. Some thirty more

were overtaken by the savages, now astride the Kentuckians'

horses, and laid low with tomahawk and hunting knife. The

majority of those who escaped owed their preservation to Maj.

Benjamin Netherland, who dismounted on reaching the west

bank of the Licking and ordered his fellow-horsemen to turn

and fire on the pursuing Indians. The latter were thus driven

to cover long enough to enable many of the fugitives to regain

the opposite bank and disappear in the woods and thickets be-

yond, whence they fled back to the stations. On the next day

the Indians, laden with the plunder of the battlefield, crossed the

Ohio with their Tory leaders and allies. The former proceeded

to their camps, while the latter went back to Wakitamiki. It

was from there on August 26 that Caldwell wrote to the De-

troit authorities his exaggerated report of the success gained

under his command. McKee's report was directed to Major

de Peyster from the "Shawnee country" two days later. Like

Caldwell's letter, it multiplied the number of Kentuckians killed

and captured by two, and probably Matthew Elliott, who carried

this report to its destination, was instructed to confirm the

doubled figures.29

By this time Sir Guy Carleton, who had recently been ap-

pointed commander-in-chief of the British forces in America,

issued his manifesto ordering a cessation of Indian depredations,

which reached the West just after the return of Caldwell's exul-

tant expedition from the Blue Licks. The instructions sent from

29Filson Club Publications No. 12, 91-123, 157-209, 211-215.

Vol. XXVIII- 5.

66 Ohio Arch

66        Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

Detroit by De Peyster to McKee and Bradt directed them there-

after "not to make any incursions into the enemy's country.".

These instructions, however, did not arrive in time to prevent a

raid against Fort Henry at Wheeling by Bradt, with his Loyalists

and a considerable body of Indians; nor did they stop the Ken-

tuckians from demanding a retaliatory invasion of the Indian

country under the command of Col. George Rogers Clark.

With a thousand and fifty mounted riflemen, Clark set out

from the mouth of the Licking on November 4, 1782, and six

days later he surprised the settlement of the Miamis, from

which the savages fled in consternation, while their town and

their winter stores were utterly destroyed. Despite the endeavors

of McKee, the Indians could not be persuaded to encounter the

frontiersmen who, "after .... finding all attempts to bring

them to a general action fruitless," in the words of Clark him-

self, retired on account of the lateness of the season. To this

blow, as well as to Carleton's manifesto, is to be attributed the

termination of formidable incursions of Kentucky by the Indians.

Occasional forays from the northwest and outrages by Ohio

savages continued, however, as long as the Northern posts re-

mained in the hands of the British, that is, until 1796.30

The tale of Connolly's interest in Kentucky affairs has not

yet been concluded. Duly exchanged in October, 1780, while

he was in New York, Connolly was soon, appointed a lieutenant

colonel in the Queen's Rangers and sailed with that Loyalist

regiment to Yorktown in December. Shortly after his arrival

in the South he was placel in command of the Tories of Virginia

and North Carolina on the peninsula formed by the James River

and Chesapeake Bay. In September, 1781, he was again taken

prisoner, and three months later was sent to Philadelphia, where

he was kept in jail until March. He was then paroled and al-

lowed to go to New York, on condition of his taking passage for

England, which he did at once. After remaining in London for

some time, occupying himself meanwhile with efforts to secure

compensation for his losses and services as a Loyalist and in

devising plans for the recovery of America to the British

30Publications of the Filson Club No. 6, 50, 56; ibid., No. 8, 59, 62;

ibid., No. 16, 130-132.

The Tory Proprietors of Kentucky Lands

The Tory Proprietors of Kentucky Lands.        67


crown, he recrossed the Atlantic and was in Quebec in the

winter of 1787-88. Thence he proceeded to Detroit, where he

met his relative, Alexander McKee, who was now deputy super-

intendent general of the Indian Department, and his old Pitts-

burgh acquaintance, Matthew Elliott, who was serving as super-

intendent of Indian affairs. He must have come in contact also

with the Girtys, who were still in and about Detroit and whom

he had known at Fort Pitt.31

Connolly soon reported that he had learned from a man

sent by him to Pittsburgh that the people of Kentucky wished to

declare their independence of the United States Government.

Whether this was true or not, it appears that he had received

advances from General Samuel Holden Parsons, who was con-

cerned in the establishment of a new colony on the Ohio, relative

to an arrangement with Great Britain for keeping the Missis-

sippi River open to the western trade. These advances evidently

presented to Connolly's mind the prospect of the overthrow of

Spanish power in Louisiana and the establishment of a British

protectorate over Kentucky and the lower country, if proper

steps were taken. At any rate, the possibilities of a negotiation

were too alluring to be resisted, and Connolly obtained permis-

sion to visit Kentucky "in order to draw out propositions from

men of character."   Setting out from  Detroit, he travelled

through the woods to the mouth of the Big Miami River and

thence by boat down the Ohio to Louisville, where he arrived

on October 25, 1788. He came ostensibly to look after his con-

fiscated estate, but in reality to discover the attitude of leading

Kentuckians towards the proposal, which he made in the name

of the Canadian governor-general, Lord Dorchester (formerly

Sir Guy Carleton), to assist the westerners with a military and

naval force in securing control of the Mississippi and New Or-

leans. Honors, rewards, and military rank in the British army

were to be bestowed upon such influential inhabitants of Ken-

tucky as would raise a force, to be paid, armed, and equipped

by Dorchester, who would also send from five thousand to ten


31Biennial Report, Archives and History, W. Va., 1911-1914, 41;

Proceedings, American Antiquarian Society, Oct., 1909, (Worcester,

Mass.) 32, 36.

68 Ohio Arch

68        Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


thousand men by way of the Miami and Wabash rivers to join

the Kentucky contingent in moving upon New Orleans, where a

British fleet would cooperate with the forces from the north-


Before the end of October Connolly submitted these plans

to Col. Thomas Marshall and Judge George Muter at a joint

interview in Lexington, being introduced by Col. John Camp-

bell who, according to Marshall, had previously communicated

the proposition Connolly was about to make.   In a letter to

Washington of February 12, 1789, Thomas Marshall wrote

that he told Dorchester's emissary of the people's prejudice

against the British, "not only from circumstances attending the

late war, but from a persuasion that the Indians were at this

time stimulated by them against us; and that so long as those

savages continued to commit such horrid cruelties on our de-

fenseless frontiers, and were received as friends and allies by the

British at Detroit, it would be impossible for them to be con-

vinced of Lord Dorchester's offers, let his profession be ever

so strong ......... ". Connolly visited Gen. James Wilkinson

in Lexington on November 8, and was told not only that "the

British were greatly disliked in Kentucky," but also that Wilkin-

son was afraid that the people would kill him if he did not

escape at once. Connolly asked for an escort, which was pro-

vided, and he recrossed the Ohio on his way back to Detroit,

November 20. The only other prominent Kentuckian to whom

Connolly divulged his mission was Gen. Charles Scott, but when

and where this interview took place is unknown to the present


That Connolly remained in and about Detroit for some

months after his return from the South is shown by the fact

that he entered a petition for land east of the Detroit River,

along with the other refugees from Fort Pitt and the many

Loyalists then preparing to settle in that region. A schedule

32Proceedings, American Antiquarian Society, Oct., 1909, 32-35;

Filson Club Publications No. 6, 182-184.

33Proceedings, American Antiquarian Society, Oct., 1909, 33-35;

Letters to Washington, IV, 250; Butler's Kentucky, 184; Filson Club

Publications No. 6, 183, n.

The Tory Proprietors of Kentucky Lands

The Tory Proprietors of Kentucky Lands.       69


of these petitions, which were received by the Land Board for

the District of Hesse, Ont., gives that of Connolly under date

of July 2, 1790, and locates the tract for which a grant is asked

on Lake Erie in the Fish Creek Division. Alexander McKee

was a member of this land board, whose records show that

Matthew Elliott, George and James Girty, Capt. Bird, Capt.

Caldwell, and McKee himself were locating lands in the same

neighborhood, while Simon Girty was taking up a tract of one

thousand acres on the north side of the River La Tranche or

Thames. George and James Girty appear to hate applied for

additional grants near their brother's location, but are recorded

on December 20, 1793, as having "left the country." Elliott's

grant in Malden Township amounted to three thousand acres.34

Only about a fortnight before Lieut. Col. Connolly came to

Lexington for his illuminating interview with Judge Muter and

Col. Marshall, the trustees of the escheated lands of McKee,

Collins, and McKenzie had met, appointed a professor, and

selected a committee "to rent convenient houses in or near the

town of Lexington" for the purpose of the seminary which they

were now ready to open (October 15, 1788). By a law of 1783

the number of trustees had been increased to twenty-five, their

powers had been enlarged, and the endowment of the proposed

school had been supplemented by a provision that the institution

designated by the act the "Transylvania Seminary", should re-

ceive all the escheated lands in the District of Kentucky, not to

exceed twenty thousand acres, which should be exempt from

taxation. The trustees, president, and professors were to take

the oath of allegiance to the government; but both officers and

students were to be free from military duty. On June 6, 1789,

the opening of the school was advertised in the Kentucky


The circulation of the news of this event secured some pu-

pils; but it may also have stimulated a claimant into action, for

in the following November William McKenzie petitioned the

General Assembly of Virginia for compensation for the three

34Third Report, Bureau of Archives, Ont., 1905 (Toronto, 1906),

1-20, 29, 30, 248, 272, 281.

35Filson Club Publications No. 11, 20-22, 38-41.

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70        Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

thousand acres of the Military Survey on the north side of Har-

rod's Creek, which was a part of the seminary's original endow-

ment, on the score that the petitioner was the nearest relative

of the former owner, Robert McKenzie. According to the en-

dorsement on the back of the petition the matter was referred

to the courts of justice for decision; but whether or not a suit

was ever brought does not appear. The dispossessed and now

deceased owner of this land had served as a captain in the Vir-

ginia regiment commanded by Washington in the French war,

but had later obtained a commission in the British regular army,

being attached to the 43d. Regiment of foot when he was

wounded at Bunker Hill.36

In 1792 certain citizens of Lexington, who constituted the

Transylvania Land Company, offered to donate a site of three

acres in the town for the permanent buildings of the seminary,

and on April 8 of the following year the trustees adopted a reso-

lution accepting this site, on which they proceeded to erect a

small two-story brick house.37

A number of Presbyterians had been interested from the be-

ginning in the project of founding the seminary; but some of

them were so opposed to the election of Mr. Harry Toulmin as

its president, February 5, 1794, that in the following December

they secured from the legislature of Kentucky a charter for a

new school, which they named the "Kentucky Academy." After

four years of rivalry between these neighboring seminaries their

respective boards presented a joint petition to the legislature,

asking for the union of the two. Accordingly, a charter was

granted which united the institutions under the name of the

"Transylvania University." This charter went into effect, Jan-

uary 1, 1779, thus creating the first seat of higher education

west of the Alleghany Mountains. During the next seventeen

years the university derived most of its income from the rents

of its landed endowment, totaling now about twenty thousand

acres. Then, in 1816, the trustees sold these lands and applied

the proceeds, with those from other sources, not only to the

36 Filson Club Publications No. 27, 137, 138; Sabine, American

Loyalists during the Revolution, II, 41.

37 Filson Club Publications No. 11, 45-47.

The Tory Proprietors of Kentucky Lands

The Tory Proprietors of Kentucky Lands.       71

erection of a new college edifice and the establishment of the

medical and law colleges, but also to the payment of the current

expenses of the institution.38

The final stage in the history of Transylvania University

was not reached until the close of the Civil War. By act of the

legislature, approved February 28, 1865, the Agricultural and

Mechanical College of Kentucky and Transylvania University

were consolidated with Kentucky University. The buildings of

the last named institution had been erected at Harrodsburg on

lands bought for the purpose by the citizens of Mercer County.

At the close of the war these buildings were destroyed by fire,

and the proposal to remove the institution to Lexington and

unite it with Transylvania, already under consideration for some

time, was now renewed and executed by the curators of Ken-

tucky University. The removal was accomplished forthwith, and

the merged institutions opened their first session October 2, 1865,

under the name of Kentucky University.39

38Filson Club Publications No. 11, 49-52, 64, 66-71, 86, 87, 102.

39Ibid., 175-177.