Image from History of Kentucky by Connelly and Coulter
From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
John Filson, historian, surveyor, and cartographer, was born in East Fallowfield, Chester County, Pennsylvania, the eldest child of Davison Filson and his first wife, Eleanor (Clarke) Filson. According to family tradition, Filson was born on December 10, 1753. He was educated at the local schools and reputedly also at West Nottingham Academy in Colora, Maryland. Filson then taught school in the Chester County area of Pennsylvania. He is believed to have taught school during the Revolutionary War.
In the fall of 1783 Filson arrived in Kentucky. He acquired land, surveyed, taught school, interviewed early pioneers, and soon began writing a book about and drawing a map of Kentucky. The book was published in Wilmington, Delaware, in October 1784 as The Discovery, Settlement, And Present State Of Kentucke. Filson's excellent map, the first to focus strictly on Kentucky, was engraved and printed in Philadelphia the same year. The purpose of both book and map, sold both separately and in combination, was to promote Kentucky and its settlement, from which Filson stood to gain through land investments. Both publications were very popular, and within a matter of years French and German editions appeared. An appendix to the book, " The Adventures Of Colonel Daniel Boon," assured Boone's immortality and created the model of the American frontiersman.
Following brief residence in Philadelphia and Wilmington, Filson returned to Kentucky in the spring of 1785. He made two trips to St. Vincent (now Vincennes, Indiana), where he acquired property, engaged in business, and interviewed the inhabitants, apparently with the thought of using this information, along with his journals, to write a book about the Illinois country. He returned to Kentucky in June 1786 and made several trips to Pennsylvania's Chester County before the end of 1787. In January 1788 Filson proposed opening a seminary in Lexington, but it is doubtful that plans went any further.
In 1788 Filson traveled about Kentucky and surveyed a road from Lexington to the mouth of the Licking River, where he helped found the town of Losantiville (now Cincinnati). After Filson and two partners acquired eight hundred acres of Ohio land opposite the mouth of the Licking River, they publicized the proposed town and in September began surveying and laying it out. While exploring with a group north of the site, Filson disappeared and is believed to have been killed by Indians around October 1, 1788.
JAMES J. HOLMBERG, Entry Author
Selected Sources from UK Libraries:
Walton, John. John Filson of Kentucke. Lexington: U of Kentucky, 1956. Print.B F488w, Special Collections Research Center - Biography Collection
Filson, John. The Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucky. And an Introduction to the Topography and Natural History of That Rich and Important Country; Also Colonel Daniel Boon's Narrative of the Wars of Kentucky: With an Account of the Indian Nations within the Limits of the United States ... and the Stages and Distances between Philadelphia and the Falls of the Ohio, from Pittsburgh to Pensacola, and Several Other Places. London: Printed for J. Stockdale, 1793. Print.F454 .F481, Special Collections Research Center - Rare Books
Phillips, Philip Lee. The First Map of Kentucky by John Filson. Washington: W. H. Lowdermilk &, 1908. Print.F451 .F483 copy 1, Special Collections Research Center - Reading Room