Old Wills

William McBride – Killed at the Battle of Blue Licks – August 19, 1782

William McBride, born in Fauquier, Virginia, about 1745, was the son of William H. McBride and Sarah Priestly.  His father was of Scottish descent and died at the age of 40 in 1754.  His mother lived until 1770.

William McBride married Martha Lapsley, daughter of Joseph Lapsley, Sr., and Sarah Wood.  Joseph Lapsley was of Irish descent.  He died in Rockbridge County, Virginia, in 1787.  Sarah Woods Lapsley lived until 1787.

William McBride and Martha Lapsley had six children, all of whom are named in his will. 

  1. Sarah McBride was born September 15, 1766, in Augusta County, Virginia, died in 1829 in Davidson County, Tennessee, married James Priestly, born 1760, Augusta County, Virginia, died February 6, 1821, Davidson County, Tennessee
  2. William McBride, born April 20, 1771, Augusta County, Virginia, married Jenny Haggin, August 9, 1792, in Mercer County, Kentucky.
  3. Martha Lapsley McBride, born October 18, 1775, Rockbridge County, Virginia, died December 10, 1850, Franklin County, Kentucky, married June 25, 1795, in Mercer County, Kentucky, Stephen Arnold, born 1764, died 1809.
  4. Mary Margaret McBride, born August 24, 1781, Lincoln County, Kentucky, married a Mr. Embree.
  5. Lapsley McBride, died in January 1813, killed at the river Raisin during battle.  He married Elizabeth Smart, 1806, in Franklin County, Kentucky.
  6. Elizabeth McBride.

When Lincoln County, Kentucky, was formed in 1780, along with Fayette and Jefferson.  The first court was held in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, January 16, 1781.  A commission from the governor of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, was sent, naming William McBride, along with John Bowman, Benjamin Logan, John Cowan, John Kennedy, John Logan, Hugh McGary, William Craig, Stephen Trigg, Abraham Bowman, Isaac Hite, William McAfee and James Estill as Justices of the Peace.

Before the commission arrived from Virginia five of the justices were dead – John Kennedy and William McAfee were killed by Indians; three more fell at the Battle of Blue Licks – Stephen Trigg, James Estill and William McBride.

William McBride wrote his will October 3, 1781.  Knowing the uncertainty of death, living in a time when an Indian attack could happen at any moment, he prepared for the possibility of death.

Will of William McBride

Lincoln County Will Book A, Page 7-9

In the name of God, Amen.  I, William McBride, of Lincoln County and Commonwealth of Virginia, being in perfect health and of sound mind and memory, but calling to mind the mortality of my body and that it is appointed for all men once to die, and first I recommend my body to the earth to be buried in a Christian manner at the discretion of my executors hereafter to be appointed, and my soul I commend into the hands of almighty God who gave it me and as to what worldly goods God has been pleased to bless me with in this life I give and demise in manner following, to wit, and first I require that all of my just debts be paid or discharged.

Item.  I give and bequeath unto Martha McBride, my well beloved wife, one Negro wench due to me from Hubert Taylor and one good mare to be 20 pounds value old rate, a good side saddle and father bed and furniture and all the dresser furniture as also on equal third of my cattle and further she is to have all the utensils for husbandry and privileges of supplying the plantation I now live on freely to enjoy during her widowhood, as also a Negro man due to me from said Taylor.

Item.  I give and bequeath unto my two

beloved sons William and Lapsley McBride all singular my lands not otherwise divided to be equally divided between them, as also the horses and cattle not already bequeathed and all the utensils for husbandry together with the Negro man and the plantation at the said Martha McBride’s death or marriage whichsoever may happen first, as also the above said wench and her increase if any to be equally divided between said William and Lapsley McBride at their mother’s death and provided either of said sons should die before they come of age, the survivor to be heir to the deceased.  I further require that my executors do sell 300 acres of land (for the best advantage) that due me from John McEntire, as will more plainly appear by a bond on said McEntire for said land, the money arising from said sale to be applied in purchasing cattle and other necessaries for my daughter hereafter named.

Item.  I give and bequeath unto each of my beloved daughters, Sarah, Martha, Elizabeth and Mary, a good feather bed and furniture, a silk gown and other clothing suitable so as to make up one decent suit to each, four cows and a good horse and saddle each with dresser and dresser furniture proportionable to each, also a new Bible and Confession of Faith to each, these legacies to be paid to each of my daughters when they come to twenty years of age or at their marriage as they be arrived at eighteen years, to be paid by my sons William and Lapsley McBride or by my executors out of said estate and I do hereby constitute and appoint my well beloved wife, Martha McBride, John Lapsley and James Davis, Executors of this my last will and testament and to see to it that my children may be properly educated and brought up in a Christian manner, hereby revoking and disannulling all former wills, testaments and bequests heretofore made, ratifying and declaring this to be my last will and testament ,in witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 3rd day of October 1782.

William McBride

Signed, sealed and declared in presence of James Curd, John Marshall, James Calley

At a court held for Lincoln County 21st January 1783, this instrument of writing was exhibited into court as the last will and testament of William McBride, deceased, proved by the oaths of James Curd and John Marshall, two of the witnesses and ordered to be recorded.

This is a good article about the Battle of Blue Licks, even though it was written almost 50 years after the battle occurred.  The descriptions are good, but it does fail to mention that there were about 50 British soldiers with the native Americans in this fight.  Headed by British Captain William Caldwell, his soldiers and 300 Indians, the group first destroyed the settlement of Bryan Station.  It was after this that the brave men from Fayette and Lincoln County came to the rescue of Bryan Station, and the Battle of Blue Licks occurred.

Kentucky Gazette, Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Friday, November 24, 1826

Notes on Kentucky: Section 14

The Blue Licks, remarkable for the sanguinary battle fought in its vicinity, is situated about 40 miles from Lexington, and about 35 from Bryan’s Station.  The Licking River at this place is about 300 feet wide, at common water, and forms a semi ellipsis, which embraces on its N.E. side, towards Limestone, a great ridge of rocks which had been made bare by the stamping of buffalo and other game, drawn together from time immemorial, to drink the water and lick the clay.

Two deep ravines, heading in this ridge near each other, and extending in opposite directions, formed the longest diameter of this ellipsis.  This ridge had very little timber on it, and what it had was very indifferent, and exhibited a dreary appearance, but the ravines were furnished not only plentifully with timber, but with thick brushwood also.

Shortly after the Indians left Bryan’s Station, the men at Lexington, Harrodsburg and Boonesborough, assembled at that place, to the number of 160, and determined to pursue them immediately – and on the 18th of August, Col. John Todd of Lexington, and Colonel Stephen Trigg, took the command.  These men, well-armed and accoutered, were skillful marksmen, and animated with an ardent desire to chastise the insolence of these savage invaders of their settlements.

Col. Boone encouraged the expedition by his presence.  This force was very small, compared with the number of the enemy; but so eager were they in the pursuit, that they could not be prevailed on to await the arrival of Col. Logan, who was known to be collecting all the force at his station to join them.

It requires no strong effort of the imagination, to portray the affecting scene produced by the departure o these brave men.  The forebodings of the mother, the misgivings of the wife, the sighs of the parent, the solicitude and tears of congenial affection, strongly marked the feelings of almost every individual.

Every preparation having been made, the army commenced their march on the route the Indians had taken but had not proceeded more than nine or ten miles, before lynx-eyed Boone discovered certain signs on their rout indicating a willingness of the part of the Indians, that they should be pursued, which was plainly evinced by their leaving a plain trail.  Notwithstanding, they evidently used every means in their power to conceal their number, for which purpose they marched in single file, treading in each other’s footsteps.

After a very fatiguing march, this gallant band reached the south bank of Licking River, at the lower Blue Licks, without having seen a single Indian.  On the arrival of the front of the party at the river, they discovered Indians on the ridge on the opposite side, who without manifesting any symptoms of fear, retired leisurely over the hills out of their sight.  Upon this discovery, a halt was ordered, and a council of the principal officers held, in order to determine the most prudent course to be pursued.  In this critical moment, the age and great experience of Col. Daniel Boone in Indian warfare, insensibly attracted the attention of every one present, to solicit his advice at this perilous moment, to obtain which, Col. Todd address Col. Boone as follows:

‘Skilled in Indian warfare, and familiar with the ground in the vicinity of this place, we require your opinion on the expediency of attacking the enemy in their present position.’  To which Boone replied: ‘I am of opinion, and indeed fully persuaded, that the enemy exceeds us in number fully three hundred – that their main body is at no great distance, and that they are lying in ambush.  Their position is equal to an host, should we continue our march, and be drawn in between the ravines they occupy, I therefore advisee that we divide our gallant band, that one half march up the river on this side and cross over at Elk Creek, fall upon the upper side of the ravine – whilst the other half take a position (to cooperate with them) in another quarter.  By this means the great advantage of their position will be changed effectually in our favor.  But gentlemen,’ continued Boone, ‘whatever may be your ultimate decision, I caution you against crossing the river at any rate, before spies have reconnoitered the ground.’

A deep silence ensued, and the superior officers seemed to acquiesce to the salutary advice of Colonel Boone, when Maj. Hugh McGary, remarkable for the impetuosity of his temper, exclaimed, ‘Delay is dastardly!  Let all who are not cowards follow me, and I will show them the Indians,’ so saying he spurred his horse forward into the river.

The rashness of McGary was contagious.  He was followed in quick succession by the whole part, who crossed the river in great disorder and confusion, whilst the officers were reluctantly borne along in the tumult.  After crossing the river, no authority was exercised, nor any order observed in the line of march, but everyone rushed forward, tumultuously pursuing the road over the bare rocks, to the end of the ridge of hills, where a forest of oaks, deep ravines with underwood, concealed the enemy from view, who waited in their ambuscade to receive them.

McGary led the van of the army, closely followed by Major Harlan, and Capt. William McBride, supported by the men on horseback, when Girty, with a chosen part of his tawny host, rushed forth from their covert, and with horrid shrieks and yells, attacked them with great impetuosity.  The conflict instantly became hot and sanguinary.  The advantageous position occupied by the Indians, enabled them to assail the whole of the whites at the same moment, and from the confused manner in which the approach was made, soon turned their right wing, and a retreat was the inevitable consequence, and that too, under the immediate edge of the tomahawk.  Cols. Todd and Trigg, and Maj. Harlan, fell early in the action, whilst many brave officers and men fell near them.

The survivors attempted to gain the river at the ford, some on foot and some on horseback; but the Indians so managed, as to prevent a great part of them, by getting between them and the ford, forcing them into the river below, where it could only be crossed by swimming.  As most of the fugitives aimed to gain the ford, the Indians pressed their principal force to that point, where the greatest carnage took place, and where many were tomahawked in the river.  IT was at this moment that Benjamin Netherland,* whose personal bravery had by some been doubted, not only gave evidence to the contrary, by assuming the office of a commander, called aloud to his flying companions as they arrived on the south side of the river, to HALT and fire on the enemy; which order many obeyed, and thereby arrested the pursuit for a few moments, which enabled many who were almost exhausted, to escape from the hatchet suspended over their devoted heads.

Brave or benevolent actions should never be permitted to pass unnoticed by the historian.  It is therefore with please this opportunity is embraced to perpetuate the conduct of the gallant Aaron Reynolds.  He was a young, active man, in the prime of life, and when the retreat took place, was on horseback, on his way to the ford he overtook Col. Robert Patterson, who though not an old man, was inform, having suffered very much from wounds which he had received from the Indians on a former occasion.  When Reynolds overtook him, he was entirely exhausted, and the Indians in close pursuit.  Reynolds, with a greatness of soul, which will forever redound to his honor, dismounted from his horse, and assisted Patterson into the saddle and risked his own safety on foot.  He crossed the river by swimming, some distance below the ford, when he discovered many Indians had also crossed.  He had on a pair of buckskin overalls, which became so heavy from the water they had absorbed in crossing the river, that getting on shore, he sat down to pull them off, and whilst in the act of doing so, three Indians came to him and took him prisoner.  At that moment several white men passed in sight, when Reynolds was left in the possession of one of his captors, whilst the other two pursued the white men.  One of the moccasins of the Indian with whom Reynolds was left, became untied, and the Indian stooping down to tie it, Reynolds sprang from him, and being an active man, was soon out of danger.

It is supposed that one fourth at least, of the men who fought the battle of the Blue Licks on the 19th day of August 1782, were commissioned officers.  The whole number was 176, out of whom 61 were killed, and 8 taken prisoners.  Among the most prominent who fell were Colonels John Todd, Stephen Trigg, Majors Silas Harlan, Edward Bulger; Captains John Gordon and William McBride, together with Isaac Boone, a son of Col. Daniel Boone.  The loss on the part of the Indians was never rightly ascertained.  By some it was said to be op, but that calculation is very improbable, as the whites stood but a very few minutes before they were compelled to retreat.

Dispatches had been sent to Col. Benjamin Logan in Lincoln County, during the siege at Bryan’s Station, which preceded the battle of the Blue Licks only two days.  Col. Logan hastily collected about 300 men and marched for the relief of that place; but before col. Logan reached Bryan’s Station, the Indians had raised the siege and were gone.  Col. Logan followed as fast as possible, with the hop of coming up with those who marched from the neighborhood of Lexington, before they overtook the Indians; but met them not far from Bryan’s on their return.  Logan continued on to the battleground, with the view at least of burying the dead, if he could not chastise the enemy.  Col. Logan was joined by many of the friends of the killed and missing from Lexington and Bryan’s Station and arrived on the fatal ground on the 25th.  A solemn silence pervaded the whole party as they approached the field of battle.  No sound was uttered but the cry of the gorged vulture hovering over their heads.  Those who were drawn by affection to the horrid spectacle, with the hope of saving some relic of hair or garment from a lost father, brother or friend, were denied this favor.  The remains of the mangled bodies were so distended by the excessive heat of the weather, or so disfigured by the tomahawk, vultures and wild beasts, that was was impossible to distinguish one individual from another.

The martyrs of the last battle of the Revolution lie buried here. Dedicated March 14, 1935 by the Kentucky Society Daughters of the American Revolution.

The solemn rites of sepulture were performed in a very rude manner.  The ground was so rocky that without spades or shovels, it was with great difficulty a quantity of earth could be collected sufficient to cover the mangled remains of the slain.

*Major Netherland now living in Nicholasville.

5 replies »

  1. Wow!! What an account! Thanks for finding & posting this.

    (My first Kentucky ancestor, Rev. Francis Clark, arrived from southern Virginia in 1783.)

    There is one typo in the transcription. Regarding the Indian casualties, in the last sentence of the third to the last paragraph, it should be “… By some it was said to be 90, but …” (not “…said to be op, …”).

    • Do you have any information about Rev. Francis Clark? My ancestor was Rev Christopher Clark. He was born in 1753 in England. The first documentation I have of his is when he married in 1789 in VA now WV.

      • Hi Rebecca … I have a fair amount of info. His family in Kentucky and descendants are well known … but I haven’t nailed down the surname of his first wife (Dorcas) or his parents. He came to Kentucky from the Mecklenburg/Lunenburg area of southern Virginia. I figured out that his land there is now under water of the Kerr Reservoir.

        Clarks in Virginia are very confusing, however. There’s another Francis Clark (not a Reverend) who also died in 1799, but he’d gone to North Carolina.

        A cousin & I visited his gravesite back in 2005. I should see about updating the site that the cousin put up on findagrave (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/57819769/francis-clark) to add some of his children. (There are too many worthwhile tasks to do. 🙂 )

      • Thanks. I have never found anything about siblings. His tombstone in Madison County lists his birth date, so I know he was born in England in 1753. No knowledge of him until his marriage in 1789.

  2. Thank you for this. As always, leadership….is hte John Marshal mentioned the future chief justice?

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