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Month: November 2018

Henry Crist

Cover on both shores made for dangerous travel.

A couple of weeks ago I told you about Henry Crist, one of the early pioneers of the Kentucky Territory and a sort of left handed relative of mine. From the age of around 15, Henry, along with members of his family and mine, made several trips into the Kentucky Territory. At a very early age Henry began working with a man named Jacob Myers, locating and laying claim to large tracts in the wilderness.

The most valuable commodity in this new land, besides the game, was the land itself…and salt. Salt deposits near the streams drew herds of deer and buffalo which drew hunters. The hunters required large quantities of salt to preserve their meat. But salt was expensive and difficult to transport over the mountains from the east.

The discovery that the area contained salt laden clay which leached into the waters, made this a prime area for the first industry in Kentucky…salt making.

Entrepreneurs found they could produce large quantities of salt by boiling away the water in huge kettles over a trench of fire.

In 1788, Henry Crist, with a friend named Solomon Spears, obtained interest in a production site called Long Lick. In the spring of that year, the two men purchased a quantity of large kettles in Louisville and hired a flatboat with crew to transport them by river to their claim.

Crew and passengers, totaling twelve men and one woman, boarded the boat to travel along the Ohio to the Salt River, then up that river to a place called Mud Garrison, located near where modern-day Shepherdsville, Kentucky now stands.

You need to understand that in the late 1700’s, rivers were the interstates the pioneers used to move goods. On the map, the area of the salt licks was almost directly south of Louisville and not that far by land, but to move the heavy cargo of huge 100-pound kettles, the river was the route of choice.

The spring levels of the Ohio and Salt rivers made the journey somewhat easier. The water flowed above the sand banks and by May, the current was fairly slow and dependable. The broad Ohio was safe and easy. Traveling down the center of the river, boats and their passengers were out of reach of any sudden attacks from the ever-present Indians on shore, but upon entering the much narrower Salt River, the boats were in range of rifles and arrows from both shores. For this reason, the men sent out scouts on foot to watch for danger.

On the evening of their first day on the Salt River, Henry and a man named Floyd went ashore as scouts. While they did see some sort of trail, they found no recent evidence of Indians. Early in the morning they returned and around eight o’clock the crew took the boat ashore to cook and eat breakfast.

As they chained their boat to a tree, the party could hear what sounded like the gobbling of many turkeys and two of the crew, anxious to acquire fresh game, headed into the brush with their rifles. As they disappeared over the riverbank, gunfire and yelling erupted.

Horrified, the men on the boat watched as the two hunters reappeared, running for their lives, pursued by several Indians.

Henry Crist was standing in the bow of the boat with his rifle and he was able to fire at the pursuers causing them to drop back and seek cover. As the two hunters reached the water’s edge and climbed into the boat, others were able to retrieve their rifles and return fire. One of the would-be hunters was hit by a bullet which broke his arm, but he managed to get into the river and around to the back side of the boat to be hauled in by his companions.

The huge salt kettles had been loaded in rows down either side of the boat forming a long corridor in the center. Unfortunately, the boat, chained to a tree, was bow to the shore, allowing the Indians to shoot down the length of the boat, providing no cover for the defenders.

Desperate to loosen the chain that bound them to shore, the men needed to free the boat to gain cover and some mobility. Fossett, the injured hunter, could no longer use his rifle, so he grabbed a pole and with covering fire from the others began trying to dislodge the hook on the chain. Eventually, he was able to loosen the chain and the boat began drifting into the river, slowly turning so that the sides faced the bank, finally giving some cover from the Indians’ rifle fire.

With this short respite, the survivors took inventory of the damage. Five men lay dead. Spears, Floyd, Fossett and Boyce were injured, Spears so seriously that it was evident he would not survive. Only three men, Crepps, Moore and Henry Crist were uninjured.

Spears as he lay dying, urged the men to run the boat up on the opposite shore and run for their lives leaving him to his fate, but his companions refused to abandon him.

Ahead of the boat, the men could see a group of Indians crossing the river. They were now under fire from either side making a river escape impossible. As Spears breathed his last, the others saw they must do as he had advised: run the boat aground, separate and hide in the woods.

As the men clambered out of the boat, Crepps and Crist reached out to help the woman disembark, but she was frozen with fear and refused to move. No amount of coaxing would get her to budge and finally, the men had to use their rifles to cover their own escape into the woods.

Hopeless and desperate, the men charged the Indians that attempted to block their escape and managed to get past them, but as they slipped into the covering brush, the Indians fired a last volley. One shot ricocheted off a rock and struck Crepps in the side. Another bullet struck Crist in the heel, breaking several bones in his foot.

Looking back from their cover, the men saw the Indians turn and converge on the boat to take their woman companion captive. While the Indians were thus distracted, Crepps and Crist escaped into the woods where they became separated.

Next week, I’ll tell you of Crist’s desperate fight for survival.

Crist Story Continued

In 1767, George Heinrich Crist married Elizabeth “Betsey” Collings, sister to my fifth great grandfather, William Elston Collings.

George was the third of six sons of Johanne Nicolaus Heinrich, the original author of the account book from which I have been quoting, one of five brothers who traveled to America from Germany.

In 1778, Nicolaus reported that he was setting aside the account book as “it hurts to bad to write in it.” He may have been suffering from arthritis or from age (he was 62) or he may have been speaking of both physical and emotional pain, as life had been hard on him and his family.

Son George, who took over the writing of the account book after returning from service in the Revolutionary War, reports a few months later about an event: “… Pa was not well enough to take a part. His leg wound and the hard work he had to do while we was gone to war took its toll on him and Ma too.”

On February 12, 1783, five years after Nicolaus gave up the writing of the account book, George wrote: “We buried our parents today. Ma died the day before Pa…they died with pneumonia. What a loss and we will feel it for a long, long time.”

Thankfully, George was a good steward of the family account book, so we have a continued fair account of the Crist family, now directly related to my own Collings family as a result of George’s marriage to Betsey Collings.

In May of 1778, George wrote that: “Me and Nicholas and Henry want to explore the land in Kaintuck that Daniel Boone keeps talking of. He says there is thousands of acres of land waiting to be claimed. Plenty of wild game and wild horses and that the land will grow anything. The Indians are worse there but we think with enough men it would be safe enough.”

I’m sure in the passage above that George referred to himself and his brother Nicholas. I believe Henry to be George’s nephew, his brother Nicholas’ son.

This Henry was quite the character and he deserves a little sidebar in the story of the Crists and their relationship to my family, the Collings and the Richeys. At the time of George’s account book entry, his nephew Henry would have been 14 or 15 years old.

We have to be careful in our study of genealogy when trying to guess or attribute motive to our ancestors. We don’t really know why they chose to travel to the areas they did or why they settled in the areas they did or even why they undertook some of the adventures in which they found themselves.

On May 26, 1778, George reported: “Henry, Moore, Spears, Brown, Patton, Graham, Sanders, Green, Thomas, Shaw and about six others went to a meeting and after it was over they decided to go to Kaintuck. Daniel Boone says that ‘A man that stays in the valley always wonders what is on the other side of the mountain, he can guess but never knows for sure.’ So they decided to see for their self.”

We know what brought them to the area around what was to become Bullitt Co. Kentucky…salt.

To understand this, you must understand that in those days, food preservation, mainly the preservation of game, was vital to the survival of the settlers. And in those days, that meant salt was nearly worth its weight in gold.

Bullitt’s Lick was part of a concentration of salt, ranging from Bardstown Junction, Kentucky in the south, to across the Salt River to just north of present-day Fairdale, Kentucky, along the eastern side of the “Knobs” of the region. The salty streams drew deer, buffalo and other desirable game to obtain the salt they required in their diet, and hunters learned that not only were those spots great hunting grounds, but they could boil away the water to produce the great quantities of salt needed to preserve meat for storing through the winter.

Transporting salt over the mountains from the east was difficult and expensive. Being able to produce salt on the spot where hunting was most successful ensured the salt licks of Kentucky would become the new hot spot for speculators and entrepreneurs.

First came the surveyors, then the agents grabbing up all the land around the creeks and streams, then the actual workers who leased land to set up the saltworks.

Salt was extracted by boiling water in 100 pound kettles above a trench of fire. As the water evaporated from the heat, salt crystals resulted. Eventually, salt produced in and around the area was sold and shipped into the Illinois and Tennessee Territories and sent downriver to New Orleans.

Henry Crist, while still in his teens, saw the possibilities when he and his father first came to the Kentucky Territory. At that early age he became a land scout or “land locator” for a wealthy man named Jacob Myers, who eventually laid claim to most of the Kentucky Territory. As a result of his work for Myers, Henry obtained rights to some of the land he scouted.

At the age of about 20, Henry and a man named Solomon Spears bought out another man’s claim at the site called Long Lick.

In 1788, while supplying that claim, Henry and Solomon encountered a large band of Indians and fought for their lives in the Battle of the Kettles.

Next week, I’ll tell you that story.

Thankful Thursday

The best way to know something is to look it up!

The writer Philip Gulley cracks me up. Gulley has written several books and he also writes a monthly column in the city magazine, Indianapolis. His take on life is a wry, dry, take-life-as-it-comes sort of wide-eyed optimism that I can fully identify with. He can see the humor in every situation…even if that humor is ironic and off kilter.

I recently read an article Gulley wrote about being without the internet for three days. The article featured a litany of things he never had in his childhood and early life, but now cannot live without. (Spoiler alert, the internet was not one of them.) It might help you to understand Gulley to know that bungee cords were prominent on this list.

Anyway, the article (and this being November, the month of thankfulness (in spite of elections)) got me thinking about things I use in my life and for which I am not sufficiently thankful.

Google came to mind. I doubt that there are any of my readers who don’t know what Google is, but I try to use my mom as my target audience and she would require a bit of explanation if I started any conversation with the word Google, so let me briefly explain the noun/verb Google.

To do that, I’ll have to use Google. According to Wikipedia (that’s a definition for another day), in technical terms, Google is a search algorithm developed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Development began sometime around 1996, and at the time it was being developed, Google was tentatively named “BackRub.” I do not know why. No one ever should try to guess where these technical types come up with names for their projects. Anyway, the company that became Google was actually launched in 1998.

I can imagine a sort of blank look as I make this very unhelpful explanation to my mom…what’s a search algorithm? Let’s see. My aunt was a librarian for all the years of my childhood. If I ever had to know anything, I could catch a ride downtown and climb the stone steps of the Carnegie library in my town. At the top of the steps, I entered a very special world with its own special smell and a quiet, peaceful authority. My aunt’s office was behind an official looking wooden checkout desk and I had the special dispensation to walk up to that desk and ask if Aunt Kathryn was available. She always was. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was in for everyone…I had no special “in” with her.

I could ask Aunt Kathryn anything. She didn’t know everything, but here’s the thing…she knew how to find out anything. And she didn’t just give me an answer to my question, she pointed me to the card catalogue or the reference section which gave me, not an answer, but several answers, from which I could draw my own choice answer, right or wrong.

That’s Google.

You ask Google a question, any question, and Google will go out on the internet and search for an answer. It will usually return hundreds of thousands of possible answers, but based on that algorithm we don’t really understand, the best answer to your question can usually be found in the first 5 or 6 possible answers.

This service does not cost a penny, but there are some pretty significant costs for using it. Just so you know, Google keeps track of your searches and of you, and you are likely to see an ad for whatever you last searched for pop up on the next internet page that loads. Lately, I’ve notice that when I go to a brick and mortar store and look at a particular item, that item also pops up in future ads on my internet. I’m not sure how that happens, but I think that’s Google, too.

The lesson is that, sort of like I wouldn’t ask Aunt Kathryn for certain bits of knowledge I did not want shared with my Mom, I don’t ask Google everything I want to know.

Thanks, Mr. Gulley, for making me think about this. Google is great and it’s one of the things I am thankful for this November.

Even if it does scare me just a little.

Things I found out from Google when researching this blog:

A Carnegie library is a library built with money donated by Scottish businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. At one point there were over 3,500 Carnegie libraries in the US. I was disappointed to find that Google couldn’t tell me how many are actually still in operation today. The one in my hometown, Aunt Kathryn’s library is.

Philip Gulley lives in Danville, Indiana. He’s a Quaker pastor who is the son of a Catholic mother and a Baptist father. That right there is grist for a lot of stories! He’s a writer and a front porch philosopher with a very Hoosier outlook on life. There’s a lot more about him online, you can Google him if you want to know!

The name Google is a variant of googol, a word that sort of means very large numbers.

There are at least 14 other search engines you can use besides Google. I also like Dogpile and Duck Duck Go (as I said, don’t ask me to explain where tech people come up with these names…but you could Google that, too).

Some Days

The kids have the right idea.

Some days I find it harder to write than others. My mind is wrestling with many things and won’t settle on any one topic that I can think through.

I’m thinking about work, not my job so much as work. My job required a lot of physical labor this week and though I was able to get all my tasks done in a timely manner, I’m thinking about how much longer I will be able to physically accomplish simple tasks like moving, unboxing, placing 21 computers in a classroom and removing, moving and stacking the 21 computers that are being replaced. I had good help, but I’m a little weary after a satisfyingly successful transition.

I’m thinking about friends. This has been an autumn of loss for me. Last night I visited with the family of a friend I had known all my life, grown up with, gone to school with, laughed and cried with. There have been too many of those “visitations” for me this fall.

And I’m thinking about the election coming up, concerned not that my candidate won’t win, but that whoever wins will not do so in a caring, responsible, adult way. I don’t like the mood of my country and I’m not sure any candidate, or party, or governmental body is going to be able to pull us back out of this mood any time soon.

So I thought I would tell you a feel good story. Maybe it will help lift my mood, center my mind, make you smile. Simple goals are sometimes the best, right?

My religion is pretty simple. I believe there is a God, one God, who created us and expects us to act like rational and caring human beings for as long as we are on this earth, so that’s what I try to do. The most compelling and universal religious commandment given us is to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting a friend and we decided to visit her church on Sunday morning. It’s a small, country church very much like the church I grew up attending…my favorite kind of church. Small enough that you know the people who sit next to you and if you don’t, they shake your hand and welcome you. Where they sing songs off key and enthusiastically, sometimes faster, sometimes slower than the accompanying piano. And after church, when you stop someplace for lunch, you see most of the people you were with for the past hour.

As part of the service the children are invited to come up to the front of the church for a special story and sometimes some treats.

This church is such a small one, only two little girls came up for the special children’s story. I don’t even remember what the children’s story was, it was unremarkable, but when the leader was done, she asked if one of the children would like to say prayer.

That’s exactly what she said, “Would one of you like to say prayer?”

One of the little girls raised her hand eagerly and the leader asked everyone to bow their heads. The crowd bowed their heads.

The little girl said loudly and proudly, “PRAYER!”

I think God laughed out loud with the rest of us and I think that was His favorite prayer that Sunday.

Maybe the children are on to something. It might really be that simple.

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