Captain Richard Chenoweth


Quick Links

[Master Site Menu] [Main Page]
[Pirtle's Account] [Richard & Peggy Chenoweth] [1887 letter, William James Chenoweth to L.C. Draper]



By BLAINE A. GUTHRIE, JR.* Louisville, Kentucky

published in the The Filson Club History Quarterly, Vol 46, #2 April 1972, Louisville, KY [note this copyrighted article posted with permission of the Filson Club.]

"With both hands wrapped in her hair and with his feet on her back, he tore off the entire scalp, leaving her bare skull dripping blood from a thousand little blood vessels. She was conscious all this time, which seemed weeks to her."(1)

This gory description of the scalping of Peggy Chenoweth might well be pioneer Kentucky's most heart-rending drama. The sheer horror of being scalped alive tends to overshadow the accomplishments of her husband, Captain Richard Chenoweth, one of Louisville's founding fathers and, in his own right, one of Kentucky's leading citizens.

Chenoweth's deeds have been largely ignored except for brief references in local histories. Even his most important contribution, the construction of Fort Nelson, has seldom been acknowledged. And the brief references to it, including the historic marker at 7th and Main, incorrectly identify the construction date as 1782.

The researcher's quest for information about Captain Chenoweth can be frustrating. His name, in contemporary records, is spelled with great imagination and includes such variations as "Chinowith," "Chenowith," "Chynowith," "Chaneyworth," and "Chinith."

We know many minute details about Captain Chenoweth; that his hogs and cattle were marked by "a crop off the left ear and a shallow fork in the right."(2) Yet, we do not know the name or even the numbers of his children. [JE: Richard left no will. The children who survived him are known by a lawsuit on his estate. There is a question on children that may have died in the "Chenoweth Massacre". The accounts vary.] We know he was buried in the Chenoweth Cemetery which, by 1843, had been enclosed by a stone wall and was approximately 100' x 100'.(3) Yet, we do not know the actual location of the cemetery, or for that matter, whether it still exists. There is a distinct possibility that the cemetery has been literally blasted off the face of the earth by quarrying for limestone at the site of the Chenoweth homestead.

What, then, do we know about this man who had shaggy-eared hogs and cattle?

Richard Chenoweth was born in Baltimore County, Maryland, in 1734, [JE: dates on his birth vary widely 1734 - 1748] the son of John Chenoweth, Jr., and Mary Smith.(4) The latter Chenoweth had migrated from St. Martin Island off the coast of Wales at Cornwall shortly after his birth in 1706.(5) [JE NOTE: It is now believed that John, Jr. was born in America, probably Pennsylvania. His father is belived to be an immigrant from Cornwall].

The Chenoweths moved to Frederick County, Virginia, prior to 1746, the year Richard's paternal grandfather died in that county.(6) In 1773, Richard Chenoweth married Margaret McCarty, the 18-year-old daughter of Thomas McCarty of Hampshire County.(7) [JE NOTE: Some claim her father was Nicholas and her brother Thomas] The newlyweds lived in Berkeley County (formed from Frederick County), probably on land inherited from his father in 1771.(8)

The family's removal to Kentucky cannot be definitely established. Their son, James, states that the Chenoweths settled on the Ohio River near Wheeling in the fall of 1775.(9) He further stated that his father, in 1776, was appointed Captain of a Whig company of militia. He was captured the following year by a party of Tories and was being taken to a British prison, but was saved "through the agency of Sergeant McCarty."(10) Richard Chenoweth made affidavit in 1801 that "in the year 1776, he made an improvement where he now lives for Nicholas McCarty, and another for a certain Robert Jones on Pottengers Creek."(11)

Other sources(12) state that the Chenoweths remained in Berkeley County until 1778 when they trekked over the mountains to Redstone (present-day Brownsville, Pennsylvania) where Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark was mustering his army. The latter has the advantage of logic because one of Clark's ablest captains, Joseph Bowman, had gone to neighboring Frederick County to recruit his company for the expedition.(13) One can imagine that Richard Chenoweth, who had visited Kentucky as early as 1776, became intrigued with the opportunity to move to the new paradise called "Kaintuckee" under the protection of an army whose announced mission was to defend that exposed frontier. Additionally, accounts of Clark's voyage down the Ohio have no references to the Chenoweth or other families joining it at Wheeling.(14) [JE NOTE: The first version is probably correct. It is known that Richard held land in Monongalia County, 30 to forty miles from Wheeling, which he sold to James Seaton, his sister Rachel's father-in-law before he left for Kentucky. Nicholas McCarty, now thought to be Richard's father-in-law, was also located here]

But, regardless of whether Chenoweth joined the expedition at Redstone or as it moved downstream to Wheeling, his family was part of the group that reached the Falls of the Ohio on May 27, 1778, and helped establish Clark's base on Corn Island.(15)

The Chenoweths remained on Corn Island after Clark's motley army left for its ultimate conquest of the old Northwest Territory.(16) Chenoweth was one of the principals in the construction of Fort-on-Shore which replaced Corn Island as the main defensive position at the Falls.(17) On April 10, 1779, he was one of seven elected trustees of the newly formed town of Louisville.(18) Chenoweth was one of the first, if not the first, superintendents of the important salt works at Bullitts Lick,(19) and was paid $1,788.00 for expenses in making 42 bushels of salt(20) for Clark's forces in December of 1779.

Captain Chenoweth was busily engaged in other business activities. On July 14, 1779, he purchased "one Barrel of Good and Merchantable whiskey Containing Thirty Gallons @ 12/pr Gallon." from Philip Engle of Vincennes, promising to deliver "good and Merchantable Summer Deer Skins at Twenty pence pr. lb." before Christmas. Chenoweth was apparently unable to meet the terms of the obligation and Engle was awarded 60 pounds damage via court action eight years later.(21)

James Sullivan purchased a tract from Chenoweth in 1779 where he built "Sullivan's Old Station." The following year, however, Sullivan learned that the land was really the property of Southall and Charleton, necessitating his move and the construction of Sullivan's New Station. (22) This was the first of at least three instances when Chenoweth sold land not belonging to him.

The capture of Vincennes by Clark on February 25, 1779, was an active catalyst to bring settlers swarming into Kentucky. Over three hundred large boats filled with immigrants arrived at the Falls in the spring months of 1780.(23) The welcome awaiting them must not have been to their total liking. Timothy Corn, for example, said: ". . . that in the year 1780 in March, himself and his father's family emigrated from near Brown town {sic} in Penna then called Redstone, and landed at the mouth of Bear Grass near the Falls of the Ohio, sometime in the same month. Upon our arrival, we were informed by some of the men belonging to the Fort that if we did not immediately hurry to the Fort and take shelter that we would all be killed by the Indians. We succeeded in getting into the fort. He, said Timothy, was enrolled in Captain Richard Chenoweth's company as one of the guards, the fort being beset by the Indians on every side during the summer and fall of the same year. We continued forted up, and during the ensuing winter, sometime in December where we had to remain at the Port holes night and day until the winter came on and the Indians retired. During the time we were forted up, 12 or 14 persons were killed a short distance from the fort, principally hunters.(24)

That May, Chenoweth with John Swan and others went to Harrodsburg to enter land titles with the commissioners. They returned in a week having recorded deeds including the preemption for Nicholas McCarty in "the Bushy Woods of Floyd's Fork,(25) the tract which was to become the site of the Chenoweth homestead.

The Indians' capture of Ruddle's and Martin's stations that June brought an instant response from Clark who formed an army for a punitive invasion of what was to become the state of Ohio.(26) Captain Chenoweth commanded a company of artillery and participated in the destruction of the Indian villages of Chillicothe and Piqua.(27)

Captain Chenoweth's greatest service to the frontier, however, occurred in January of 1781 when he built a major portion of Fort Nelson, the fortification which was to become Kentucky's most important military base. Colonel George Slaughter commanded the garrison of the Virginia Army at the Falls and, in a sworn statement, reported, ". . . by my orders Capt William Shannon on behalf of the publick contracted with Mr. Richard Chenoweth to build one square of Fort Nelson for the sum of 12,000 pounds paper currency. The winter being severe and the Soldiers unable to work for want of cloathing and it being necessary to raise a fortification with the utmost Expedition from the information of one of the Regular Captains who was a prisoner among the Indians and came in at that time and made Oath that the British Troops were determined to attack us that Spring. . . That Mr. Chenoweth at his own expense (which was very considerable) compleated the Fortification in March 1781 in a proper manner. . . (28)

The work on the fort, however, apparently was not completed that year; as late as 1782, Captain Chenoweth's company and that of Captain Davis were called out and paid for the purpose of working on the fort.(29)

The need of preparation for an Indian invasion proved to be vital. Colonel John Floyd reported on April 16, 1781, that "forty seven of the Inhabitants have been killed and taken by the Savages, besides a number wounded since Jany."(30) That summer, an army of 500 Indians, Rangers and British agents moved against the settlements at the Falls. One group, under the leadership of Joseph Brant, ambushed on August 24 a force of 100 Pennsylvanians en route to reinforce Clark.(31) Its commander, Colonel Archibald Lochry, and 36 others were killed while the balance were taken prisoners at the mouth of Lochry's Creek on the Ohio River.

Following this success the invaders moved towards Louisville. When a mere 30 miles from their destination, the Indians captured two American prisoners who told them "the results of a Large Council (that Clarke held with the principal officers in those parts) was that no Expedition was to be carried on this Season against the Indians.(32) The news that the feared Clark would not attack their villages removed the incentive for further action; the majority returned north to their villages. (33)

A party of Miami Indians, however, turned south and, on September 14, ambushed on Long Run Creek a group of settlers fleeing Squire Boone's Painted Stone Station for the safety of the settlements near the Falls.(34) Captain Alexander McKee and a party of Hurons reinforced the savage band that afternoon and stayed at the battle site of the Long Run Massacre ". . . to wait their coming to bury their dead.(35)

Colonel Floyd gathered a force of 27 men from the Beargrass settlements the following day to recover the dead. The small party rode into the Indians who were busily engaged in looting the baggage left by the massacre victims and survivors. Both sides were equally surprised, but the Indians' superior numbers resulted in a stunning defeat for the pioneers who lost 14 men to the Indians' 4, including a Huron chief.(36) This action, known as "Floyd's Defeat," occurred at present-day Eastwood, Kentucky.

The year 1781 probably marked the high point of Chenoweth's career. He was sheriff of Jefferson County,(37) a post he probably had held since the founding of the county in 1780. He was a substantial landholder and certainly had every reason to expect soon to become a wealthy man as a result of his work building Fort Nelson. On September 6, 1781, a committee of six, headed by Colonel John Floyd, had reviewed his work and recommended that the Commonwealth of Virginia pay him 30,725 pounds paper money, a sum which was intended to equal 768 pounds specie.(38)

But Chenoweth's dream never became a reality. Although it is generally agreed he received some payment for his work, his heirs were still attempting to obtain payment as late as 1841.(39) Inflation also took its toll. Even while the committee was establishing a basis for settlement of his work on Fort Nelson it had believed that the conversion of paper money to specie was 40 to 1, while in reality it had depreciated to 100 to 1.

April 2, 1782, is the last reference to "Richard Chenoweth, Gent., Sheriff" in the minute book of Jefferson County.(40) His role in military affairs, however, required increasing attention. In March, Colonel John Floyd sadly reported that Chenoweth's "men ordered for duty from his Comy refused to march."(41) The mutiny was short-lived as his company was paid for active duty "from 20th of April until the 12 May" and during that time Chenoweth drew powder for thirteen men "in actual service" at Fort Nelson.(42)

The efforts of Chenoweth's military unit, however, were not to the total liking of Colonel John Floyd, Lieutenant for Jefferson County and commander of its militia, who wrote acidly to General Clark on August 12: "I've just understood that Captain Chenoweth and his Warriors sent yesterday on an excurtion to the 18 Mile Creek have bent their course toward the Falls: if it is so, I hope you will take care to order them on board the Galley. Those were men that to my knowledge have not been a night from home on duty except at the Falls, for twelve Mo & by their maneuvering before they set out, I expect nothing done, but I hope they are on Board, if you took the Hint."(43)

It is unknown whether Chenoweth and his men were impressed for service aboard the galley, a heavy, hand-rowed vessel which Clark used to patrol the Ohio River. Although it was an effective deterrent to Indians, it was so unpopular with the militiamen that its use had to be discontinued.(44)

The wrath of his colonel, however, did not prevent Chenoweth's company from being mustered for the second invasion of the Indian towns in November, 1782. Once again, the unit served as an artillery company with John Voris as First Sergeant.(45) The unit's strength was so small, however, that the commissioners reduced the personnel's pay; the captain to receive pay as lieutenant; the lieutenant as ensign; and two sergeants as privates.(46)

Chenoweth first appears as "Gentleman justice" [Justice of the Peace] of the Jefferson County Court in its September 2, 1783, session.(47) He continued in that capacity as one of the justices throughout 1784 and is last so listed in the minute book of Jefferson County on April 7, 1785. He was re-appointed justice on August 2, 1785, but there is no record of him having taken the oath of office.(48)

Hard times knocked continuously on his door in 1784 when he appeared fourteen times in court to answer complaints from his creditors. He lost ten of these cases, having only four dismissed. On April 9, 1784, the honorable court "ordered that Richard Chenoweth, Gent., do appear at May court to settle for the County Levys as assessed in the year 1781."(49) Evidently he failed to comply for on May 7, 1784, the command of the court was more pointed: ". . . ordered that a summons issue requiring James F. Moore & Ric'd Chinewith, gentleman, to shew cause that report has not been made of the state &- situation of the papers & records of this court as directed to Will Johnson present clerk agreeable to a former order of this court, etc."(50) Apparently, Captain Chenoweth made his peace with the Jefferson County Court as the minute book makes no further reference to this subject.

Colonel Floyd's 1782 reference to "Captain Chenoweth's Warriors" indicated Chenoweth's home was no longer at the Falls; Chenoweth made" a list of tithables at the Spring Station, Middle Station, New Holland, Sullivan's Old Station & Hoglan's Station" in the summer of 1784,(51) indicating that he lived at one of the foregoing posts. By the same court order, Samuel Culbertson made the list for Lynn Station and A'Sturgus Station.

Pressing financial problems undoubtedly prompted Chenoweth to increase his efforts to collect his still unpaid debt for constructing Fort Nelson. On November 3, 1784, the Jefferson County Court, with Chenoweth sitting as a justice, ordered "on the motion of Richard Chenoweth gent it's considered by the court that the petition he intends to prefer to the legislature, concerning the exps. incurred by him in the first building of the garrison at the Falls of the Ohio is reasonable & that the same be certified."(52)

The exact date that the family moved to Chenoweth Station, near present-day Middletown, Kentucky, is unknown. Bland Ballard, a pioneer with a reputation for accuracy, states that it was in 1783.(53) David White, in a 1793 complaint against Chenoweth, stated that he, White, settled on Chenoweth Run in December, 1784, and that Richard Chenoweth was "his neighbor and of long acquaintance."(54) Another account gives the year as 1785.(55) Bland Ballard indicated that several families moved to the station but left because of its exposed position to Indian attacks.(56)

And attack they did! Three Indian raids are recorded. The first, in 1786, was a small party which was driven off, but not before young James Chenoweth, age nine, was wounded in the back of his leg.(57) According to his grandson, Dr. W. J. Chenoweth [JE: William James Chenoweth] of Decatur, Illinois, the arrowhead penetrated to the bone and caused James to be crippled for the remainder of his very long life.(58) The following year, Thomas Chenoweth, then a lad of 12, was captured by the Indians and carried off to Detroit. He remained captive about 2 1/2 years before he escaped, with the aid of an unnamed British.officer.(59) [JE: Other accounts say that Thomas was a captive for 6 years and General George Rogers Clark negotiated his release]

The same year in which Thomas became an Indian captive, Captain Chenoweth was in Richmond, the capitol of Virginia.(60) The trip was probably encouraged by his desire to seek payment for his work on Fort Nelson. The Committee of Claims, headed by Richard Lee, made a favorable report on December 10, 1787, and recommended that the General Assembly pay Chenoweth 768 pounds specie with interest from September 6, 1781.(61) The House of Delegates approved the measure on December 15,(62) and it was approved, with amendment, by the Senate on December 18.(63) There remains serious doubt, however, that Chenoweth ever received payment; Chenoweth's heirs, as late as 1841, were still attempting to collect for their father's work.(64)

The Board of Commissioners for apportioning lands to the Illinois Regiment in its October 10, 1787, meeting acknowledged the services of Louisville's founders with this resolution:

"Resolved that the officers and soldiers who were left at the Falls, by order of Colo. Clark when the detachments were going against the Illinois, be allowed Quotas of Land in the Grant."(65)

Chenoweth, Alexander McIntire, William Foster, Samuel Finley, James Patten, Neil Doherty, and Isaac McBride were all awarded 100 acres as a private's allotment. Isaac Ruddell was "allow'd as a Captain."

On August 29, 1788, Daniel Colgan brought legal action against Captain Chenoweth, Thomas McCarty, Jasper Griffin, and James Denny - a suit which was to plague Chenoweth for the remainder of his life and cause financial distress to his heirs. Colgan's suit claimed that McCarty and Chenoweth had agreed to sell Colgan 500 acres on Chenoweth Run for 2,000 pounds. Before making title, however, McCarty and Chenoweth sold the same tract to Griffin and Denny.(66)

In his reply, Chenoweth stated that he was unable to deed land of equal value but had offered Negro slaves to the amount of value of 500 acres. Colgan refused, according to Chenoweth's sworn statement."(67) Chenoweth's offer to substitute slaves for land may not have been one which he could have honored. The April 7, 1789, tax assessment for Jefferson County shows no slaves owned by Chenoweth, nor do any other tax rolls indicate that he was a slaveholder.(68)

The Chenoweth massacre occurred July 17, 1789, the same year that George Washington was inaugurated as our first President. The frontier was in flames; The Kentucky Gazette, during the months of June, July, and August mentioned fourteen instances of Indian attacks. The U.S. Garrison at Fort Knox near Vincennes, Indiana, feared it would be overrun by hostile Indians.(69) The government, seated on the eastern seaboard, was unable to cope or even understand the desperate warfare on the frontier of Kentucky. Beverley Randolph, Governor of Virginia, instead of increasing military protection, instructed his County Lieutenants as follows:

"The enclosed copy of a letter from the President of the United States, rendering it unnecessary that this state should any longer, at her own particular charge, support the troops called into service for the defence of the western frontier; you will immediately discharge all the scouts and rangers employed in your county. In case of any future incursions of the Indians, you will give as early information of them as possible to the officer commanding the continental post on the Ohio, nearest the point of attack. I have communicated to the President the instructions now sent you, and have no doubt but effective measures will be taken to protect all the inhabitants of the frontiers."(70)

The governor's plan proved ineffective to the savage assault. A report to Congress headed "An account of the Depredations Committed in The District of Kentucky by the Indians, since the first of May 1789 listed:

Another contemporary account is from the September 11, 1789, issue of the Maryland journal:

"Extract of letter from Danville, Kentucky, to a gentleman of this town, dated 9th of last month. 'It is with great concern to communi- cate to you the following truly melancholy intelligence; about three weeks ago, Mr. Richard Chenoweth had six or eight men allowed him by the officer of the garrison at the Falls, to guard his exposed plantation, in the bear grass settlement below (sic) the falls. In the evening of their arrival, before they had taken their main stations as a guard, a number of Indians rushed into Mr. Chenoweth's home, killed two of the six soldiers and three of Mr. Chenoweth's children, and tomahawked and scalped his wife, leaving her on the floor for dead. Mr. Chenoweth, who had his arm broken by the savages, with the rest of the men made their escape. There was one of Mr. Chenoweth's children, sick in a chamber and it is reported she never heard anything of the dreadful massacre; but next morning, crawling downstairs, she was inexpressibly shocked by the sight of a beloved parent almost breathless. Mr. Chenoweth returned the following day to his house, and carried his wife to a neighbor's plantation, where they are both likely to recover and what is remarkable, she wants to return to her own home."(72)

Bland Ballard remembers the massacre like this: "Capt. Chenoweth settled his station about 1783 on the waters of Floyd's Fork, on west side, near what is now Middletown. In Middletown now lives James Chenoweth, then a boy, wounded in the back & crippled him ever since. Capt. Chenoweth was the only family then living there, that four men engaged to stay and guard the place. Several other families had lived there but left on account of the exposed situation of the place. One man named Ward, lay in the Spring house unwell . . . they were at the supper table -one man killed - & some of the Chenoweth children; Mrs. Chenoweth knocked down, scalped and left for died; a daughter nearly grown, Amelia, was wounded and ran off & Ward took her to Linn's Station about 4 miles away. Capt. Chenoweth escaped & another child escaped by running out of the house and hiding in the wood pile till the Indians went off. A younger child had been placed on the bed asleep & rolled to the back of the bed; was not injured by the Indians; though they took her clothing off. The man that was killed was killed in the house & scalped. Capt. Chenoweth was himself slightly wounded."(73)

Most records agree that one of the soldiers killed was named Bayless; one account states that he was burned at the stake.(74) In addition to Ward, there was another soldier - John Rose [JE: A John Rose was the husband Elizabeth Seaton. They married August 24, 1787, in Jefferson Co., Kentucky. Elizabeth was a niece to Richard(3), so the question becomes, was this the same John Rose who helped Richard and his family? Richard Chenoweth was a witness for their marriage. John Rose signed affidavits on behalf of Richard Chenoweth in several claims. It is very likely that John Rose, the neighbor guard, was Richard the husband of Richard's niece.] who escaped and carried the message of the massacre to Soldier's Retreat, the home of Colonel Richard C. Anderson.(75) Colonel Anderson formed a rescue Party from men at his station and nearby Linn's Station. "A clever party, perhaps forty or thereabouts" left the following morning. Included in the party was William Clark, brother of George Rogers Clark; William Elliott and John O'Bannon, deputy surveyor.(76) They found that the block house and other buildings had "been fired in several places but not destroyed." After dressing Mrs. Chenoweth's wounds, the party "pursued the Indians to a ford at Floyd's Fork, but did not follow, remembering Blue Licks."(77)

Even the passing of seven years did not blot the memory of the Battle of Blue Licks where Kentuckians suffered over 80 casualties at the engagement near a ford on a branch of the Licking River.

Mrs.'Chenoweth was taken to the Anderson home where she regained her health.(78) One of Anderson's relatives wrote the Colonel on December 10 of that year: "I am truly sorry to hear of the depredations committed by the Indians. I sincerely pity poor Captain Chenoweth and his family. You say he lost three of his children and a man who lived in the house. Were they killed or carried away? I am glad to hear that the wounded are like to get well."(79)

The three children who were killed, according to W. J. Chenoweth, were Peggy, Polly, and Levi. The wounded included Mrs. Chenoweth, Captain Chenoweth, son James, and daughter Amelia.(80)

Chenoweth's wounds were so severe that he was confined to his house until September 13. On the 25th of that month, he still considered his wife's condition as "same desperate way."(81)

By tradition, Peggy Chenoweth forever wore a skull-cap to hide her lack of hair. A March 20, 1931, letter from Mrs. Laura Washburn of New Albany, Indiana, states that she had in her possession the cap worn by Mrs. Chenoweth.(82)

Certainly a mere scalping did not long deter our hardy pioneers. Mrs. Chenoweth became the proud mother of two more children after her scalping: Tabitha, born in 1790, and Anna, in 1792.(83)

Captain Chenoweth returned to the settlement of Virginia again in 1792.(84) One need not have imagination to guess his mission was another plea to Virginia for compensation of his work on Fort Nelson. Logically, he would have believed his likelihood of obtaining money greater before Kentucky separated that year from the Old Dominion State. There is no record, however, of his success or failure. In October of that year, he was back in Jefferson County where he sold 200 acres for 200 pounds to Nicholas Buckner.(85)

Chenoweth's principal biographer, Alfred Pirtle, states that the Captain was killed in 1796 while erecting a building near Middletown ... as a matter of fact, Pirtle claimed that the Captain was crushed to death by a falling log.(86)

The report of his death was apparently premature. A warrant was issued for Chenoweth's appearance on the first Tuesday in July, 1798, before the Jefferson County Court. The sheriff made this notation on the warrant ". . . Executed on Chenoweth and committed him to jail from which he escaped."(87) Earlier that year, Chenoweth sued Thomas Griffy in Shelby Quarterly Court. The complaint stated that Griffy had "with force and arms to upon him the said pltf. assault and did make him and did beat wound & villy treat to the Great Injury of the Pltf and other Injuries to him then and there did against the peace and dignity of this Commonwealth and to the damage of pitf 100�." The jury found for the plaintiff in the April 1799 term, but awarded only 6 pounds in damages ... a rather insulting amount for one suffer- ing "Great Injuries."(88)

Chenoweth's declining years became increasingly more troubled financially. John Williamson, Jr., filed suit in the Jefferson Circuit Court in 1800, claiming that the Chenoweth homestead had been built on land belonging to his father, John Williamson, Sr.(89) The court found for the plaintiff and was sustained in 1810 by the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

Captain Chenoweth's death occurred in 1802.(90) The Jefferson Circuit Court ruled that he was insolvent at the time of his demise.(91)

Mrs. Chenoweth continued to live at the Chenoweth homestead. Her daughter, Mrs. Naomi Porter, stated that her mother died in 1825.(92) Harmon Nash of Bagdad, Kentucky, wrote in 1887 that Mrs. Chenoweth died about 1830 in Shelby County.(93) Mrs. Pauline Crawford stated that she knew Mrs. Chenoweth in 1824 and that she died in 1825.(94) Still another account indicates that "The widow of Captain Richard Chenoweth died at Dr. James Porter's within one half a mile of the old Chenoweth Station."(95) [JE: James Poter was married to Peggy's granddaughter, Amelia Naomi Nash]

The stone fort-spring house constructed at Chenoweth Station survives. Located on Aiken Road in eastern Jefferson County, the neglected structure is roofless and the stone walls crumbling. Weathering accomplishes the destructive force which Indian attacks, nearly two centuries ago, were unable to accomplish.

And Captain Richard Chenoweth, one of Louisville's founders, remains in relative obscurity.

Historic Middletown, Inc., is, however, making a serious effort to assure that Captain Chenoweth and the tribulations of his family will not be forgotten. Since 1966, this group has sponsored twice annually The Massacre Trail, a hiking trek for boy and girl scouts. Nearly 10,000 young hikers from 11 states have walked the 12 historic miles from Middletown to the trait's end at Long Run Historical Cemetery where Abraham Lincoln, grandfather of the sixteenth President, was killed from ambush on May 19, 1786.

A highlight of the hike is a visit to the old spring house and the site of the Chenoweth Massacre where members of Historic Middletown, Inc., give a brief lecture on the area's history. After hearing the gory story of the massacre and Mrs. Chenoweth's scalping, one of the scouts was overheard muttering to his friend "Do you really believe that stuff."

Even in an era of instant TV communications, the true life story of the Chenoweths seems unreal. But, who would possess adequate imagination to invent a fictitious character such as Captain Richard Chenoweth?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Blaine A. Guthrie, Jr., Creative Director for F.S.&M. Advertising, Inc., started the famous Perryville Pilgrimage Treks. He has appeared in the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, and his involvement in the history of the Middle- town, Ky., area led to his interest in Richard Chenoweth.

  1. Pirtle, Alfred. James Chenoweth. The Story of One of the Earliest Boys of Louisville and where Louisville Started. (Louisville, 1921) p. 38.
  2. Minute Book A, Jefferson County, Virginia, p. 40.
  3. Draper MSS, 3CC120. All references from Draper Manuscripts are from microfilm copies at The Filson Club.
  4. Private Papers of Mr. Joshua C. Everett, Louisville, Kentucky, hereafter entered as Everett Papers.
  5. ibid.
  6. ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Keith, Arthur L. "The Chenoweth Family," Tyler's Quarterly Magazine, vol. 3, 1922, Richmond, VA.
  9. Petition to the U.S. Congress by James Chenoweth and others. See Rep. No. 182, House of Rep., 2nd session, 26th Congress, Washington, February 12, 1841.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Answers by Richard Chenoweth to complaint; Williamson vs Chenoweth, Jefferson Circuit Court, Chancery No. 10. Pottengers Creek is located in present-day Nelson County, Kentucky.
  12. Pirtle, p. 2.
  13. English, W. H. Conquest of the Country Northwest of the River Ohio, vol. I (Indianapolis, 1896), p. 469.
  14. Ibid., pp. 413 and 470.
  15. Johnson, J. Sloddard, Memorial History of Louisville, vol. 1, American Biographical Publishing Co. (Chicago, 1886), p. 39 "Collins, Richard. History of Kentucky, vol. 1, republished by Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort, 1966, p. 19.
  16. Pirtle, p. 14.
  17. Johnson, p. 42.
  18. Colonel Fleming's journal In Kentucky, November 10, 1779 to May 27, 1780," 7'#-a-voli in the American Colonies, edited by Newton D. Mereness, Antiquarian Press, Ltd., New York, 1961, p. 621.
  19. George Rogers Clark Papers, 1781-1784, vol. IV, Illinois State Historical Library, Springfield, p. 270.
  20. Engle vs Chenoweth, Jefferson Circuit Court, Old Circuit Common Law no. 1144.
  21. Deposition by William Pope in Hite and Fishback vs Breckenridge, et. al., Jefferson Circuit Court, Chancery no. 554.
  22. Collins, p. 20.
  23. Corn, Timothy & Elizabeth application for pension (WI147 Virginia).
  24. Deposition by Thomas McCarty in Williamson vs Chenoweth. loc. cit.
  25. Collins, p. 20.
  26. Petition to Congress, affidavit, by Bland W. Ballard (September 26, 1839) and John Gritton (November 20, 1837). loc. cit.
  27. George Rogers Clark Papers, Virginia State Library, Richmond. R. C. Ballard Thruston Collection of photostats, The Filson Club, print no. 815.
  28. G. R. Clark Muster Rolls D133 Virginia State Library.
  29. Clark Papers, pp. 529-53i. I
  30. Draper, 3OS79-82 and Clark Papers, p. civii.
  31. Halderman Papers, MG 21, B-123, The Public Archives of Canada.
  32. Ibid.
  33. Willis, George L.,, Sr. History of Shelby County, Kentucky, The Shelby County Genealogical Historical Societies Committee on Printing, Louisville, 1929, pp. 177-180.
  34. Halderman, MG 217, B-223.
  35. Ibid.
  36. Minute Book A, P. 34.
  37. Journal of The House of Delegates, vol. 6, Commonwealth of Virginia, Richmond, 1828, p. 89.
  38. Petition of James Chenoweth and others to Congress. 40
  39. Minute Book A, p. 34.
  40. Clark Papers, p. 47.
  41. Clark Papers, p. 334.
  42. John Floyd to Brig. General Clark, August 12, 1782, Ciark Papers, p. 88.
  43. The Filson Club History Quarterly, Louisville, vol. 41 ', no. 3, p. 207.
  44. petition by James Chenoweth and others to Congress affidavits by John Voris, November 21, 1837, and John Gritton, November 20, 1837.
  45. Clark Papers, p. 329.
  46. Minute Book A, p. 72.
  47. Minute Book No. 1, Jefferson County, Virginia, p. 117.
  48. Ibid., p. 25.
  49. Ibid., p. 41.
  50. Ibid., p. 22.
  51. Ibid., p. 72.
  52. Draper, 3CC.
  53. Complaint by David White in White vs Chenoweth, Jefferson County Circuit Court, Chancery case no. 323.
  54. Pirtle, p. 27.
  55. Draper, 3CC.
  56. Pirtle, p. 28.
  57. The Chenoweth Family Massacre, read by Alfred Pirtle before The Filson Club, June 6, 1910. Copy in The Filson Club Library.
  58. Draper 3CC 17
  59. Ibid., 3CC A.
  60. Journal of Homse of DeAegares, p. 89.
  61. Ibid., P. 101.
  62. Journal of the Senate, vol. 3, Commonwealth of Virginia, Richmond, 1827, p. 52
  63. Petition by James Chenoweth and others to Congress.
  64. Clark Papers, p. 430.
  65. Colgan vs McCarty, Chenoweth, Griffin, and Denny, Jefferson Circuit Court, Chancery no. 53.
  66. Ibid.
  67. Tax Rolls of Jefferson County, Virginia, entry of April 7, 1789. (Photostatic copy in library of The Filson Club.)
  68. Outpost on the Wabash, Indiana Historic Society (Indianapolis, 1957), p. 169.
  69. The Kentucky Gazette, August 1, 1789.
  70. American State Papers, Indian Affairs, vol. I., Washington 1832, p. 85.
  71. Draper, 3CC8. The girl was Naomi Chenoweth.
  72. 73 Ibid., 3CC14.
  73. Pirtle, p. 36.
  74. Ibid., p. 34.
  75. Draper, 3CC14.
  76. Ibid.
  77. Pirtle, p. 39.
  78. Draper, 3CC4.
  79. Ibid., 3CC49.
  80. Chenoweth VS joyes, Jefferson Circuit Court, Chancery No. 75.
  81. Letter from Mrs. Laura Washburn, The Filson Club Library, Louisville.
  82. Draper, 3CC2.
  83. White VS Chenoweth. loc. cit.
  84. Deed Book 4, page 4, Jefferson County Clerk's office.
  85. Pirtle, p. 46.
  86. Ammer vs Mayfield, Chenoweth and Nash, Jefferson Circuit Court, Old Circuit Com- mon Law, case No. 4147.
  87. Chenoweth vs Griffin, Shelby Circuit Court, Bundle 9.
  88. Williamson vs Chenoweth, Jefferson Circuit Court.
  89. Petition by James Chenoweth and others to Congress.
  90. Curry vs Chenoweth, Jefferson Circuit Court in Chancery, case no. 55
  91. Draper, 3CC-3.
  92. Ibid.
  93. Ibid., 3CC-3.
  94. Ibid., 3CC14.

    Comments and additions appreciated - Jon Egge

    You can reach me by e-mail at:
    Webpage copyrighted c 2000 by Jon D. Egge. The orginal article is copyrighted by the Filson Club of Louisville, KY, published here by permission. All Rights Reserved. Any republication of this page material for personal use requires inclusion of this copyright. Any other republication of this webpage material requires the express consent of the author and Filson Club.

    [IMAGE] to return to Chenoweth Main...

    A special thanks to Peter Chenoweth who made this page so much more. Last Revision Monday, October 16, 2000 Return to Start