Big Bill Hardin comes to Kentucky

Jadon Gibson

William “Big Bill” Hardin was a noted pioneer and Indian fighter. The Indians nicknamed him “Big Bill.” He wasn’t that big in today’s sense, six feet tall, but he had a large physique and was a tenacious fighter, just what was needed on the borderland. The Indians fought to dispel the settlers and the settlers fought to remain.

   Hardin descended from a family of French Protestants who fled France for Canada to escape religious persecution. The cold Canadian climate wasn’t agreeable to them so the three brothers migrated to Virginia, South Carolina and Kentucky.

   Colonel William Hardin was one of the brothers. He and his party floated down the Ohio River in 1778, stopping where Louisville is now situated. They remained there for a short time before proceeding a little further down the Ohio River and up Sinking Creek.

   A threatening party of Indians appeared soon after their landing at the Falls. Hardin’s men were outnumbered so they attempted to evade them. They decided to abandon the boat and proceed overland to Hine’s Fort, where Elizabethtown, KY, is now situated. The Indians continued to follow.

   They traveled all night, reaching a large spring the following morning where the men stopped for a short rest and drink. During this respite the Indians overtook and attacked them. Hardin’s main interest was to evade the conflict so they fought to extricate themselves from the fight. One of their number, Mr. St. Clair, was killed but Big Bill and the rest were more fortunate and escaped, continuing toward Hines Fort.

  Hardin found Hines Fort an acceptable site for his colony. He returned to get his family and others with plans to locate in Kentucky. He returned with twelve families in the spring of 1779 and they immediately began construction of a frontier fort with stockade walls, watch towers and several cabins. They also prepared for spring planting.

   After several weeks a small party of Indians discovered the fort while out hunting. They hurried back to their village to notify their tribesmen. A war party, as purposeful as hornets, was soon on their way to destroy the fledgling fort. Upon their arrival the Indians rushed the fort from all sides.

   Hardin, a supreme Indian fighter, saved the day. Fearless, he was everywhere, doing whatever he thought was needed to secure victory, including assisting and encouraging his men. The Indians suffered heavy losses and fell back to the woods to seek shelter. During the night they gathered their dead where possible.

   Hardin knew their next attack would be forthcoming and likely more terrible than the first. He prepared the settlers for another battle. Although the Indians lost many braves, they attacked the following morning more determined than before. They charged the fort with heavy fire. The pioneers met them with guns, knives and tomahawks as the Indians attempted to enter the stockade. Once the Indians fired their rifles they had no time to reload. Their rifles became bludgeoning instruments but the women turned the battle in favor of the men. They quickly  grabbed the rifles and reloaded them after the men fired their weapons and handed them back, ready for firing. The Indians didn’t have that luxury. The women helped save the day. They were instrumental in the victory.

   The second battle ended the attempts by the Indians to take the fort however they continued waiting and watching to do damage to the intruders. They lay in wait and took potshots at residents of the fort from hidden locations. Long periods of time would pass without even seeing a sign of an Indian and then a resident would be killed or wounded when least expected. A search of the nearby woods would often reveal nothing.

   On a day when a shot nearly hit one of his men while outside cutting wood, Hardin decided to attempt a trick in catching the Indian. His men with “long-range guns” (shots using more gunpowder) were posted at the stockade portholes. A dummy with coat and hat was rigged on a pole and elevated near the top of the stockade enclosure where he could be seen from outside. They made the dummy move occasionally and after a while a shot rang out. The flash was seen from a tall tree on a nearby ridge. The men watched and very soon a limb moved and an Indian’s face peered out to see if he had hit his target. Several shots cracked from inside the fort at that time and a dead Indian came crashing down through the branches. Copyright 2019 Jadon Gibson

   Editor’s note: Col. Hardin and residents of the fort learn an Indian village is being built nearby in the next segment at

BereaOnline | Berea, KY’s leading news source since 1995.Christine Potter Fox, age 72 of Berea, passed away on July 9, 2019 at Kenwood Nursing Home in Richmond. Christine was born in Letcher County, Kentucky to the late Patrick Jefferson and Ica Hall Potter. She was a Realtor for Don Foster and Associates and a member of the Baptist faith.

Jadon Gibson is a resident of Harrogate, TN. His writings are both historical and nostalgic in nature. Don’t miss a single posting! 

A Voice for God – A Voice for Good

 Our good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me. My brother Larry Gibson was the first in our family to go to college. He blazed the trail. He set the standard.  He is approximately three years older than me and I’ll say that his decision to enroll in college made it easy for me to follow his lead and go to college after finishing high school.

Larry enrolled in Caney Junior College in Pippa Passes, Knott County, Kentucky in 1955. The junior college was about 25 miles from our hometown of Wheelwright as a crow flies, about 40 miles away via the highway.

Caney was unique. The tuition was very low so the students had work details of approximately one hour daily for them to accomplish. Students were able to go home on most weekends but we had to stay “ín” about one weekend each month and do our normal work chores.

None of the students had vehicles. Many of the boys (male students) “thumbed” rides home after their classes on Friday. The female students and some of the boys were picked up by parents, relatives or friends.

It wasn’t difficult to get rides as the students at Caney who thumbed in prior years had made such a positive impression that local travelers felt comfortable in giving the new students a ride. At that time it wasn’t unusual for some of our soldiers to thumb rides too and many drivers were not hesitant to give them a ride. Thumbing rides is largely a thing of the past in our day. In this day and time it isn’t prudent to pick up strangers.

The Caney students were easily distinguishable because they often carried a carpet-bag satchel of sorts used to carry dirty clothes home for their mothers to wash.

The first weekend that I was to go home back in September of 1958 one of the students from Wayland had someone picking them up in a pickup truck. The bed of the creek was used for the road and it was rough. It made me think of Alice Lloyd’s arrival here many years before. She overcame many obstacles in founding the school and nurturing its growth. Thousands were impacted.

   About once each month about fifteen or so students had to remain on campus for the weekend to perform needed chores. This was posted early each week so the students could make their plans back home or on campus. It wasn’t difficult or unusual to find someone to stay “in” in your place if you had some special reason to home.  My favorite brother-in-law Frank Elmo Hall, was dating my sister and he would generally find someone to stay in his place when his name was on the stay-in list.  Did I tell you that Frank was my favorite brother-in-law? Let me add that he is my only brother-in-law.

While all of this was going on Larry and I completed our first two years in college, putting us on a fast track for attending and graduating from the University of Kentucky and facing the years that followed without debt.

I’ll close this segment of Voice for God by saying Larry was saved by accepting Jesus in about 1952 and I followed his lead on December 12, 1954 which happened to be his birthday. We give much credit to our mother who taught us about Jesus, taught us to pray and made sure we were in Sunday School from a young age. It kept us grounded and confident in meeting life’s challenges. Our good Lord in Heaven has been so good to us.

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