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.