Monday, April 3, 2017

Birth Dates of Notable Kentuckians: April 3, 1755 – Simon Kenton

















Image from www.touring-ohio.com




From The Kentucky Encyclopedia –
Simon Kenton, pioneer settler, was born April 3, 1755, in Fauquier County, Virginia, the son of Mark and Mary (Miller) Kenton. Kenton refused to attend school and remained illiterate all his life, learning only to sign his name. At age sixteen, he fought with William Leachman over a girl. He knocked Leachman unconscious and, believing he had killed him, ran away from home. Kenton assumed the name Simon Butler and worked his way to Pittsburgh, where he met adventurers who persuaded him to travel down the Ohio River in search of "cane-lands." After several attempts, he and Thomas Williams entered Limestone Creek (now the site of Maysville) in the spring of 1775 and went into the interior. There they found tall cane, cleared it, made a rough camp, and planted some corn, probably the first cultivated by white men north of the Kentucky River . Kenton and Williams are considered the first permanent settlers of Mason County. In the autumn, Kenton moved to Boonesborough.

For the next few years, Kenton traveled through Kentucky meeting fellow pioneers, including Daniel Boone , Robert Patterson, and George Rogers Clark. In 1777 Clark appointed him spy for defense of the frontier. Kenton is credited with saving the life of Boone during an Indian attack at Boonesborough. In 1784 he built a station on Lawrence Creek in Mason County to which he welcomed incoming settlers. His first guests included the widow Dowden and her four daughters, one of whom, Martha, became his bride on February 15, 1787. They were the first to be married at his station. Four children were born prior to December 1796. As Kenton's family grew, he built a brick house for them near his station. He operated a store in Washington, near Maysville, and hired Israel Donalson, teacher, to keep his books. The new house caught fire, and Martha, who was pregnant with their fifth child, was burned and died of shock. Within fifteen months, Kenton married Elizabeth Jarboe, Martha's first cousin. They had five children. In 1798 he moved to Ohio, where he spent his later years, often in poverty but still a traveler. He made four trips to Missouri, where he bought more land, visited Boone, and considered relocating in the new state.

Kenton managed his finances poorly, lost large acreages of land, and while on a visit to Washington, Kentucky, in 1820, was imprisoned for debt. As he was a popular figure, the jailer, Thomas Williams, allowed him considerable freedom, and the citizenry were incensed by his incarceration. Kenton was released from prison on December 17, 1821, after the Kentucky legislature repealed the Debtor's Law. Kenton died on April 29, 1836, near Zanesville, Ohio, and was buried there. In 1865 his remains were moved to Urbana, Ohio. In 1840 the Kentucky legislature created a new county out of the western half of Campbell County and named it in Kenton's honor.

JEAN W. CALVERT, Entry Author


Selected Sources from UK Libraries:

Clark, T. (1943). Simon Kenton, Kentucky scout (SOLINET/ASERL Cooperative Microfilming Project (NEH PS-20317) ; SOL MN02783.04 KUK). New York ; Toronto: Farrar & Rinehart.
Young Library   Books - 4th Floor   F517 .K35

Eckert, A. (2001). The frontiersmen : A narrative. Ashland, Ky.: Jesse Stuart Foundation.
Special Collections Research Center   Closed Stacks - Ask at desk on 2nd Floor for assistance   copy 1 F517.K383 E25 2001 

Jahns, P. (1962). The violent years : Simon Kenton and the Ohio-Kentucky frontier. New York: Hastings House.
Special Collections Research Center - Research Room   F517 .K367 

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