COLUMN: Kincheloe Station Massacre

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By Tom Watson

They came from the east to challenge the elements and face the dangers of territory that would become the state of “Kentucky.”
It was 230 years ago, in the spring of 1780, that a few brave families chose to settle near the upper waters of a creek named for explorer Tom Simpson.
A stockade was constructed near Simpson Creek and was named for the leader of the group, William Kincheloe, and was called “Kincheloe Station.”
There is a difference of opinion among researchers, but it appears the most likely scenario is that Native Americans camped near the fort August 31, 1782 and attacked the next morning. It has been said that the attackers were Shawnee, possibly led by “Dirty Simon Girty,” a Pennsylvania-born Caucasian who lived with the Senecas. My friend David Hall of Bardstown isn’t so sure about the Shawnee being the guilty parties and thinks they could have been Wyandot, Mingo, Miami or Delaware or a mixture of braves from those tribes.
The attack was made when many pioneers referred to the station as “Polke’s,” which followed Kincheloe’s departure to the Chaplin area in 1781.
The bravery of an unidentified African American who was on watch when the attackers began scaling the stockade was noted. Col. Cornelius Davis joined the slave and both were fatally shot. The powder flash from the Native Americans’ guns set Davis’ shirt on fire.
Thompson Randolph’s wife was fatally shot through an opening in one of the cabin’s log walls and the couple’s infant child was killed, but another Randolph child survived. Mrs. Cornelius Davis and a widow Davis survived, but seven Davis children were killed. One was a daughter who was beheaded. A Davis son, Isaac, was adopted by the Native Americans.
It was believed Osborne Bland escaped after being taken prisoner. His wife escaped after she and their four children were made prisoners. She wandered in the woods for 18 days before being found by settlers near the Falls of the Ohio. Benjamin Ash escaped but a “Mrs. Ash” was killed after her child was slain on the trail to Detroit where the captives were to be sold as white slaves.
William Harrison and his wife survived as did a relative. The two women hid in a potato hole under the floor of their cabin where they found a jug of whisky. They put it outside the hole and one of the braves found it and fled, not exploring the cabin further.
Three of the attacking force were killed and two wounded.
Charles Polke’s wife, who was pregnant, and her children were among the prisoners taken to Detroit. Charles followed them and bought them back. After the slaughter ended, the fort was burned, but the flames didn’t reach the two women in the potato hole. The Harrison cabin, in the middle of the fort, did not ignite.
It was nearly four decades ago that David Hall did definitive research on Kincheloe Station and we worked together to compose a historical highway marker so travelers would know when they were near the site. The marker is number 1586 and is seven miles east of Bardstown on US 62.
Some writers in years past mistakenly reported there were two forts built and occupied in 1780 along Simpson Creek. The accounts include an erroneous one in Collins History of Kentucky. It correctly had Kincheloe’s Station at the site David and I pinpointed on what became the Edward Drake farm south of Bloomfield. But Collins also said in his widely-quoted book that a fort called Polke’s Station was built in what became Spencer County. There were stories that it was just above the Spencer-Nelson County line near a fork of Simpson Creek, all probably as a result of the Collins blunder.
There was never a Polke’s Station in Spencer County. In fact, years of research have failed to produce conclusive evidence that there was ever a pioneer fort in Spencer County. It has been speculated, but never proven, that there was a fort on what became the E.T. Holloway farm.
On Sept. 21, 1933, Spencer County Judge I.F. Jewell and Taylorsville Mayor J. Henry Greenwell marked the alleged site of Kincheloe’s Station by driving an iron stake into the ground. They attached a metal tag to the stake that was engraved with “1782-K.F.”
The site they chose for imbedding the metal stake was a half-mile south of the Spencer-Nelson county line in Nelson County. I have seen the stake and it is close to the creek. It is on what was the George Dennis farm when the officials went to explore with hopes they could claim the site of the fort for Spencer County.
Depositions in the Nelson County Courthouse repeatedly refer to “Kincheloe’s or Polke’s” station and some call it “The Burnt Station.”
There’s an indication the captives from Kincheloe Station were taken through what is now Spencer County on the forced march to Detroit.
John Floyd messaged Gen. George Rogers Clark: “ ... the savages crossed Harrod’s Oak Trace on the ridge beyond Brashears Creek.” The report said the prisoners were driven by about 30 of their captors.