The Famous Crooke Compass

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The Famous Crooke Compass


On display at the Eastern Kentucky University museum is the famous Crooke compass used to survey the Boone's Trace portion of the Wilderness Road. The instrument was originally used by Major John Crooke, Madison County surveyor from 1795 to 1847. Later it passed into the hands of his son, Kiah Crooke and his grandson, Benjamin Crooke both of whom also were the Madison County surveyors. Benjamin Crooke continued to survey up until the turn of the century and not too many years ago men were still alive who remembered carrying the survey chain for "Ben." Each son served his father as deputy, before becoming chief surveyor.

Also surveyed with this compass were Jackson, Clay, Owsley, Lee and Owsley counties (all once a part of Madison). Mr. John (Jack) Green, present Madison County tax commissioner, has in his possession these original surveys complete with compass readings. Green is the grandson of Benjamin Crooke and came into possession of the compass and the surveys through his mother, Mrs. John Green, nee Crooke...

Mention is made in Collins' History of Kentucky of the fact that Major Crooke laid out the streets of Richmond in 1798, using the same compass now on display.

Not many of the Crooke family still live in Madison County. The homestead was on Crookesville Pike between Kingston and Speedwell. The famous General George Crooke who led troops against the Indians in the American West in the latter half of the 19th Century was related to the local family.

History buffs should take advantage of the chance to see a compass used by three generations of Crooke surveyors to fix the boundaries of Richmond and Madison County.


Dr. Fred Engle




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Dr. Fred Engle, “The Famous Crooke Compass,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed July 13, 2024,