Echoes From The Past

By JUDY MAUPIN *- Echoes From the Past
(A Column of historical and genealogical anecdotes, stories and family notes.)
Calloway County, Ky.

History of Ballard County

September 15, 1981
Continuing the short histories of the counties in the Jackson Purchase, we will look today at Ballard County, in the extreme western part of the state.

Ballard county covers an area of 393 square miles. Its boundaries are the Ohio River on the north, Graves and McCracken Counties on the east, Hickman County on the south, and the Mississippi River on the west.

The county was formed In 1842, when it was created from parts of Hickman and McCracken Counties. Ballard County was named for Captain Bland Ballard, an early hero of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Ballard County shares with Graves County its largest stream, that being Mayfield Creek, which as we noted last week, was named for Mr. Mayfield, who drowned In it at an early date. it is comprised generally of good farmland, being gently rolling and having a light clay soil which drains well It was at one time very much like the open prairie found in America's western states, covered with waving grass and very few trees.

Evidently these prairie lands were the result of raging fires started either accidentally or by the Indians long ago, causing young forest growth to be stunted and resulting in open grasslands. Ballard County was once the site of early Indian tribes now known to archaeologists as the Mound Builders. Especially near Wickilife, we can still see remains of ancient earthworks, some as high as 60 feet. The early mound builders seemed to settle along the various rivers and streams in the county.

The first white man to come to Ballard County is said to be George Rogers Clark, who came with about 200 soldiers in 1780. He established a military outpost of Iron Banks. five miles below the mouth of the Ohio; this was named Fort Jefferson. This old fort, which is just about totally gone now, was about a mile and a half south of Wickliffe.

Some time aftr the fort was established, a few hardy pioneer famifies settled in Ballard County. These settlers were evidently killed by marauding Indians about 1784, which halted attempts at settling the land until about 1820.

At that time, John Humphrey, Solomon Redferrin, Robert and William Crafton and a a few other hardy souls again established residence, mostly along the Ohio River. The land was described as a "hunter's paradise," and this fact, along with the good farmland available was incentive enough to overcome the threat of Indian attack. By 1843, the county seat of Ballard County, at BlandviIle, was organized. The first courthouse was actually a tobacco barn, with the first jail being a substantially-built pen. After the county seat was moved to Wickliffe, more substantial public buildings were built.

The first religious organization in the county was organized about 1828, the Baptist's Old Mayfield Creek Church. Schools were formed at an early time, most of them being the subscription school, where parents paid fees for their children's education. During the Civil War, Ballard County showed divided sympathies, with some leaning toward Southern sentiment. About 400 men from the county joined the army of the Confederacy, with about 100 fIghting for the Union side. Although no major battles were fought within the county, Fort Holt was built opposite Calro, Illinois, on the Ohio River, and was used by a garrison oE Federal troops, for the purpose of commanding the river. -

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