By L. S. Pence
The Lebanon Enterprise January 2, 1920
The lives of many early Washington county citizens, before the county was formed in 1792, were made safe from attacks of the Indians, then rambling in the unbroken forest, by reason of the privations, labors and sacrifices endured by Captain Samuel Pottenger. Had it not been for this pioneer, many a settler would have banished hope and ambition in endeavoring to establish a cabin home within the wilds of Kentucky county. This article and any that may follow, is a tribute to the noble achievements of Captain Samuel Pottenger. The following sketch of his life is copied, in part, from a recent publication made by a great grandson, Samuel Forrest Pottenger, Washington, D.C.
“Captain Samuel Pottenger was born at “Parrott’s Manor” in Prince George’s county, Maryland, on April 29, 1754. Served in the Continental Army, and was afterward a Captain in Wm. Harrod’s company of pioneer soldiers of Kentucky.” (then Virginia)
“He first married Jane Gilkey, in Nelson county, in 1782; and for his second wife, he married a widow, Jennie (Caldwell) Logan, a Washington county, in 1799, a niece of Gen. Benjamin Logan, founder of “St. Asaph’s station” in Lincoln county. He had several sons and daughters, and the descendants of this eminent man are scattered over many of the states. He died Jan. 20, 1881 and lies buried in Cox’s Creek church cemetery in Nelson county, Ky.” In the spring of 1776 Captain Samuel Pottenger came to what is now Nelson county (then Kentucky county Va.) from Maryland. At that date there was but one station, or fort, in Nelson county, where the new bound settlers making into the wilds of an unbroken forest might find refuge, and that was at Cox’s station, on Cox’s Creek, in upper Nelson county. It was at this latter station that Captain Samuel Pottinger first lodged, after having landed in company with a party of settlers at the mouth of the Kentucky river. Very soon Colonel Isaac Cox, who founded this station bearing his name, realized that with such rapid increase of settlers as found their way to this one distributing center, that necessary shelter and food could be furnished to supply the needs of all. Samuel Pottenger, although but 21 years of age, was quick to perceive the situation at this former station, and he turned his attention to find another station for the usefulness of settlers. The exact words of a witness, found a deposition are as follows: (Isaac) “Cox having told them (settlers) there was not land enough on Cox’s Creek for the needs of all,” the patriotic young Samuel Pottinger at once determined to start for the Rolling Fork of Salt river, in 1777, in company with a friend from his boyhood, James Harrod; (after whom Harrodsburg was named) for the purpose of settling upon a “fine body of land near that stream, and with a fixed hope of founding in that section of the Rolling Fork, a distributing center; such a Colonel Cox had permanently founded in upper Nelson county. The impressive words of Captain Samuel Pottenger are as follows: “I came to this county in 1776 and in 1777 (James) Harrod and myself in going from Cox’s station over to the Rolling Fork, came to a creek, and Harrod then gave this creek the name of “Pottenger’s Creek.”
However, the reader must not get confused with any idea that James Harrod had any part in working out the scheme in the “Pottinger’s Creek settlement.” He did not. It is made to appear from a deposition given by James Harrod, in Harrodstown, (but not in any affairs regarding Pottinger’s Creek) where he incidentally makes mention of his return from Asturgus station (Beargrass) near Louisville, to his home, and by a mere chance meeting ran across Samuel Pottinger at Cox’s station. While Samuel Pottinger knew the fact that James Harrod was somewhere in Kentucky (Va.) yet James Harrod did not know that Captain Samuel Pottenger ever intended to invade the wilds of the unbroken forest, until their glad coming together at Cox’s station. At once, Captain Samuel Pottenger unbosomed his plans to James Harrod of going over to the Rolling Fork to view the “fine body of land,” and the feasibility of founding in a permanent distributing center in that region of the Rolling Fork, which was wholly unsettled between that stream and the valley of the “Big Beech,” which latter valley lead into the older settlements upon the upper Salt river, were “land was cleared in brush heaps along the “old traces.” It will be remembered that the “improver’s cabin” indicated in the years of 1776 and 1777 that the settler had pledged allegiance to “raise a crop of corn” in the district of Kentucky. But back to the subject. Captain Samuel Pottinger (then 21 years old) had formerly discussed with Colonel Isaac Cox (before James Harrod came to the station) an intention of founding a settlement upon the Rolling Fork river. The ample experience of Colonel Cox was imparted to the young and stalwart hero of “Parrot’s Manor,” and the helpful offices of Colonel Cox assured in the undertaking soon to be commenced. In the making the proposed journey from Cox’s station over the “fine body of land” upon the Rolling Fork of Salt river, as mentioned, James Harrod accompanied Captain Samuel Pottenger upon the adventure, and the came across a creek, and the source of this creek was near a “big knob,” and they “camped” for some days upon this creek, and in a warm friendship and esteem for the young adventurer, James Harrod gave the newly discovered creek the name of “Pottenger’s creek,” and “by which name and no other it has always been called since that date.”
However, shortly after James Harrod had in fact conferred the name “Pottenger” upon the newly discovered creek, an attempt of dastardly cowardice has hatched to defeat Captain Samuel Pottenger out of the name and further white livered plan sought to establish the spurios name of “Heaton’s creek,” as the true name of said (Pottenger) creek; in honor of a “sap-headed” gun smith, Jonah Heaton who falsely contended that some time in the year of 1775, he in company with Sam Richardson, Daniel Holeman, Thomas Jones and Richard Richardson, “went out in order to take up improvement lands,” and in their wanderings had first discovered the above mentioned (Pottenger’s) creek, at a chain of licks at the foot of the knobs, on the south side,” and these demons endeavored a first cabin to fasten the spurious name of “Heaton’s creek” upon the true and genuine name of “Pottenger’s creek.” It is often said: Every one wishes to have truth on his side, but it is not every one that sincerely wishes to be on the side of truth.” In the example at hand, Jonah Heaton did not desire to be upon the side of truth, because it was unearthed during the dispute concerning the said creek claimed to be first discovered by Jonah Heaton, that by the “calls” as turned into the rude form of a land office, or “land entering office” as then called, that neither the boundary of land, nor the creek flowing through the tract, came in any close proximity to “Pottenger’s Creek,” but was “south” of the knobs; and instead of being “Pottenger’s creek, the mystic creek was none other than Prather’s creek (then unnamed) and Heaton and company had marked the trees with “red keal” all the way down “Prather creek” to its mouth at the Rolling Fork. The genuinely discovered and honor named “Pottenger’s creek” also flowed into the Rolling Fork of Salt river. Thus triumphed and will forever legally remain the glorious name of “Pottenger’s creek,” in honor of the illustrious Captain Samuel Pottenger.