Indians in Kentucky Weren't Residents

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Indians in Kentucky Weren't Residents


Over the years people have asked about the Indian tribes in Kentucky. In general I have said that there were no permanent tribes, but that the Shawnees came down from Ohio and the Cherokee up from North Carolina to hunt. Recently, in an article about Poosey Ridge, I did mention the Poos Indians from that area. However, in an old book by Willard Rouse Jillson on Frankfort and Franklin County, I find a more complete story. According to Jillson, before Columbus discovered America, Indians entered Kentucky from the north and the northwest. Old French maps show the Cumberland, the Green, and the Kentucky rivers belonging to the Shawnees. When the whites entered central Kentucky in 1750, the area was still under the Shawnees. The Cherokees were coming up from North Carolina and Tennessee, so the Shawnees moved their main village to the waters of the Scioto, near present day Portsmouth-Chillicothe. Even so, as evidence of their claims to the land north and east of the Kentucky river, the Shawnees continued to maintain, with intermittent occupation, a straggling village, called Eskippakithiki. It was located on the old Warrior's Trail, at a point a few miles southeast of Winchester, now known as Indian Old Fields. Only a short distance from the Kentucky River, it served for a long time as a base for hunting and warring parties. Finally, after a disastrous and bloody defeat by the Cherokees on the old war trace not far from this village in 1754, the last Indian town in Kentucky was permanently abandoned by the Shawnees. I have known of Indian Old Fields for years, but did not know this story. So it seems there were permanent settlements of Indians in Kentucky, but shortly after the arrival of the whites, the last village was abandoned. It was not because of the whites, but because of fellow Indians. *** Upon his return from the Mexican War, wounded and honored, Kentuckian Theodore O'Hara wrote the nine stanza poem, The Bivouac of the Dead. This poem is found in most cemetaries where soldiers are buried. The most famous stanza reads: The muffled drum's sad roll has beat The soldier's last tattoo; No more on life's parade shall meet The brave and daring few. On Fame's eternal camping-ground Their silent tents are spread; And Glory guards with solemn round The bivouac of the dead.


Dr. Fred Engle




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Dr. Fred Engle, “Indians in Kentucky Weren't Residents,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed May 30, 2023,