After a long weekend attending the Dutch Cousins Gathering, I can honestly say they are some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. The words that come to mind are friendly, openhearted, kind – and they are just as passionate about genealogy and their family history as anyone I’ve ever met. Coming from as far away as California, Oklahoma, Illinois, New York and other home bases, they truly formed one family once they were gathered.
This was the eighth gathering of descendants of Dutch families who came from New Amsterdam to New Jersey to Conewago Colony in Pennsylvania. In the 1780’s these families came on flatboats down the Ohio River, or cross country via the Wilderness Trail, to settle the Low Dutch Tract in Kentucky.
Friday morning we met at the Kentucky State University Harold R. Benson Agriculture Building, a few miles south of Frankfort. Even though no Dutch blood flows through my veins, to my knowledge, I was welcomed into the fold. In the foyer outside the meeting room, family history tables and book displays drew my immediate attention. At the registration desk everyone received their name badge and a Dutch Cousins bag.
President Charlie Westerfield gave us a hearty welcome and the day began with a flag ceremony. We were also welcomed by Senator Whitney Westerfield, himself a descendant of the early Dutch settlers. Members wore their robin’s egg blue shirts, with Dutch family names listed on back. The roll call of family groups was interesting, and I recognized many names due to the large Dutch contingent who came to Mercer County towards the end of the 18th century.
Of course there was time in between activities to talk and share information on our ancestors.
Dr. Kirk W. Pomper, Director of KSU Land Grant Programs, gave an interesting talk on Paw-Paw trees, their use and study by the university. The number of varieties, and regional growing areas in the United States and Canada, were very surprising. He has overseen the development of new paw-paw varieties produced by the university that are sold to nurseries nationwide.
After a delightful lunch the Bluegrass Dulcimer Society played many tunes for us. A group photo was taken outside, using a drone. The sun was shining, a beautiful blue sky sported white fluffy clouds – it was a magnificent day.
The evening speakers were Dr. Stephen Henry, Vince Akers and Dr. Scott Giltner. Dr. Giltner is a member of the Governor Isaac Shelby Chapter of the SAR, and is Color Guard Commander. His presentation on flags was amazing – a very interesting talk about our country’s flags, including a few used before the revolution. I believe there were about ten flags total, and many I had never seen.
Dr. Steve Henry discussed The Parklands, lands along Floyd’s Fork that have been set aside as ‘safe, clean, accessible areas that will be well-used and well-loved by present and future generations.’ There are 100 miles of new trails for hiking and biking, 19 miles of canoe trails along the creek, children’s playgrounds and walking paths, facilities for family picnics and community events and accessible fishing holes, canoe launches, recreational fields and more.
This lovely area was very near the scene of the Westerfield Massacre that happened in 1781. Vince Akers, Dutch Cousins historian, told of the massacre where over twelve people were killed and two girls captured by Indians when James Westerfield and several other families were moving from Jefferson to Mercer County. This tragedy did not stop these early settlers, their sights were set on Mercer County near James Harrod’s station, south of Fort Harrod. They moved a short time later and flourished. How apt that triumph trumped tragedy.
Saturday the group took a bus tour, arriving at The Parklands in time for lunch under one of the pavilions. Dr. Steve Henry joined us for a portion of the tour.
Driving through the area we arrived at the junction of Brown’s Lane, Bowling Parkway and Kresge’s Way in the St. Matthew’s area of Jefferson County.
This is the location of the Low Dutch Station historical marker – ‘In 1780 Hendrick Banta led large group of Dutch pioneers from Pennsylvania. They rented land from John Floyd [yes, the creek is named for him] and built Low Dutch (New Holland) Station here, one of six pioneer forts on Beargrass Creek. Fleeing from Indians, group later bought land from Squire Boone in Henry and Shelby counties. This property was acquired in 1810 by James Brown of Maryland, a leading agriculturist.’
We also stopped at the Long Run Massacre marker – ‘One mile south. Scene of massacre, undoubtedly the bloodiest in early Kentucky, which took place, 1781. A Miami Indian party killed over 60 pioneers en route from Squire Boone’s Painted Stone Station to safety of forts at Falls of Ohio. Next day, reinforced by British Captain McKee’s Hurons, they killed 16 of 25 militia led by Col. John Floyd to bury massacre victims.’
At the same spot on US 60, one mile east of Eastwood, was the marker for Abraham Lincoln, the president’s grandfather, who was killed by Indians in May of 1786, while working in his fields with several of his sons. Mordecai ran for his rifle and killed the Indian before he scalped his father, at least saving him that indignity. Kentucky was a dark and bloody ground during the early settlement period just after the Revolutionary War.
Our final destination on the tour was the dedication of the new Westerfield Marker in Bullitt County located at 1868 West Hebron Lane, Shepherdsville.
The Dutch Cousins procured funding for this marker. This was a memorable occasion for all those involved.
Back on the bus and headed back to Frankfort, Vince Akers and others told the history of the areas we drove through, and one of the ladies recited a stirring poem she wrote for a gathering of the Conewago Colony.
Arriving back at the agriculture building we prepared for dinner – another delicious meal prepared by Family Affair of Harrodsburg (they catered all meals for Friday and Saturday). Afterwards Eddie Price, author of Widder’s Landing and One Drop – A Slave!, spoke about the Battle of Blue Licks which occurred in the Nicholas County area in August 1782. Eddie is such a great speaker and makes you feel as if you are in the middle of all the action.
And his books were a big hit, as always.
Sunday the group moved to Mercer County, to the Old Mud church and cemetery. Old Mud Church is a treasure and was restored by the Dutch Cousins group – they not only know their history, they preserve it.
A worship and communion service was held at 2:00. Russell Gasero spoke. He is the archivist of the Reformed Churches of America, formerly the Dutch Reformed Church.
Before the service, many walked through the cemetery, finding their ancestors gravestones, some easily readable, some lettering very faint. But to trod the ground that our forebears walked is a blessing in itself. We know they are buried there and will not be forgotten.
Website for the Dutch Cousins – www.dutchcousins.org.
Categories: Family Stories