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Part 2: A neighboring hero named ‘Bland’

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By Tom Watson

This article is courtesy of the History of Kentucky by Lewis Collins and J.A. and U.P. James, published in 1847. It was reprinted by the Henry Clay Press, Lexington, Ky., in 1968.
Of all that has been written about the frontiersmen of Kentucky, Daniel Boone undoubtedly became the popular favorite. Yet it was men like Bland Ballard, Simon Kenton and others who deserved more accolades than they received.
This is the second and final part of an 1847 historical piece that began last week in the Magnet. It is the incredible true story of the Native American fighter Bland Ballard, for whom Ballard County was named.

In 1788, the Indians attacked the little Fort on Tick Creek (a few miles east of Shelbyville), where [Bland Ballard’s] father resided. It happened that his father had removed a short distance out of the fort, for the purpose of being convenient to the sugar camp.  The first intimation they had of the Indians, was early in the morning, when his brother Benjamin went out to get wood to make a fire. They shot him and then assailed the house.  The inmates barred the door and prepared for defence. [sic] His father was the only man in the house, and no man in the fort, except the subject of this sketch and one old man.
As soon as he heard the guns he repaired to within shooting distance of his father’s house, but dared not venture nearer.  Here he commenced using his rifle with good effect. In the meantime the Indians broke open the house and killed his father, not before, however, he had killed one or two of their number.  The Indians, also, killed one full sister, one half sister, his step-mother, and tomahawked the youngest sister, a child, who recovered.  When the Indians broke into the house, his step-mother endeavored to effect her escape by the back door, but an Indian pursued her and as he raised his tomahawk to strike her, the subject of this sketch fired at the Indian, not, however, in time to prevent the fatal blow, and they both fell and expired together.  The Indians were supposed to number about fifteen, and before they completed their work of death, they sustained a loss of six or seven.
During the period he was a spy for General Clark, he was taken prisoner by five Indians on the other side of the Ohio, a few miles above Louisville, and conducted to an encampment twenty-five miles from the river.  The Indians treated him comparatively well, for though they kept him with a guard they did not tie him.  On the next day after his arrival at the encampment, the Indians were engaged in horse racing.  In the evening two very old warriors were to have a race, which attracted the attention of all the Indians, and his guard left him a few steps to see how the race would terminate.
Near him stood a fine black horse, which the Indians had stolen recently from Beargrass, and while the attention of the Indians was attracted in a different direction, Ballard mounted this horse and had a race indeed.
They pursued him nearly to the river, but he escaped, though the horse died soon after he reached the station.  This was the only instance, with the exception of that at the river Raisin, that he was a prisoner.  He was in a skirmish with the Indians near the Saline Licks, Colonel Hardin being the commander; the Colonel Hardin who fought gallantry under Morgan at the capture of Burgoyne, and who fell a sacrifice to Indian perfidy in the northwest; the father of General M. D. Hardin, and grand-father of Col. Hardin of Illinois, whose heroic death at Buena Vista was worthy of is unsullied life.
Major Ballard repeatedly represented the people of Shelby county in the legislature, and commanded a company in Colonel Allen’s regiment under General Harrison in the campaign of 1812-13.  He led the advantage of the detachment, which fought the first battle of the river Raisin - was wounded slightly on that day, and severely by a spent ball on the 22d January.
This wound, also, continues to annoy his old age. On this disastrous occasion he was taken prisoner, and suffered severely by the march through snow and ice, from Malden to Fort George.
As an evidence of the difficulties which surrounded the early pioneer in this country, it may be proper to notice an occasion in which Major Ballard was disturbed by the Indians at the spot where he now resides.  They stole his only horse at night.  He heard them when they took the horse from the door to which he was tied.  His energy and sagacity was such, that he got in advance of the Indians before they reached the Ohio, waylaid them, three in number, shot the one riding his horse, and succeeded not only in escaping, but in catching the horse and riding back in safety.
The generation now on the sphere of action, and the millions who are to succeed them in the great valley, will have but an imperfect idea of the character and services of the bold patriotic men, who rescued Kentucky from the forest and the savages.  The subject of this sketch, however, is a fine specimen of that noble race of men, and when his gray hairs shall descend to an honorable grave, this short biography may serve, in some degree, to stimulate the rising generation to emulate his patriotism.