Tag Archives: Harrodsburg Historical Society

Revolutionary War Veteran Cornelius O. Vanarsdall Pension Papers

Old Mud Meeting House

The Old Mud Meeting House in Mercer County is one of only two log meeting houses to survive in Kentucky.  The Harrodsburg Historical Society has restored it to its former glory.  It is also the first Dutch Reformed Church west of the Alleghenies, built in 1800 from sturdy oak timbers with walls filled with mud mixed with straw and sticks.  It is located on Dry Branch Road off US68 south of Harrodsburg.

In the adjoining cemetery, surrounded by a rock wall, lie the bodies of thirty-one Revolutionary War veterans.  Most graves are graced with bronze markers, a few with regular gravestones, a few with both.  Fifty families came to Mercer County from Pennsylvania in 1791, many originally from New Jersey.

Today I would like to share a portion of the pension papers for Cornelius O. Vanarsdall – there are over one hundred total!  In his story Cornelius gives us a vivid picture of what life was like for the soldiers during the war.  At the beginning he was a spy.  Have you watched the series Turn?  Must have been much like that.  Later he had many duties including guarding prisoners, driving wagons and trying to keep the British from taking food and stock from the local citizens.  For a gentleman of seventy-four years his memory seems very good!  I checked dates, places and the men he served under – and everything checked out!

In her statement, which is not in this post, Cornelius’ wife, Elizabeth, swears they were married before the first day of January 1794.

State of Kentucky, Mercer County

On this 17th day of April 1834, personally appeared before me, Isaac Pearson, a Justice of the Peace, and one of the judges of the Mercer County Court, Cornelius O. Vanarsdall, a resident citizen of Mercer County, Kentucky, aged seventy-four years, who being first duly sworn according to law, doth on his oath make the following declaration, in order to obtain the benefit of the Act of Congress passed June 7th, 1832.

That he entered the service of the United States under the following named officers and served as herein stated:

That is the year 1776 he volunteered in Captain VanCleave’s Company and he was employed by Colonel Vroom and Major Baird, who commanded the New Jersey Militia when stationed in Sumerset County near Flagg’s old tavern, to act as a spy and give them all the intelligence he could obtain in relation to the British lines, their movements in which capacity he acted faithfully until the taking of the Hessians at Trenton, which was fully three months, he was always in the fullest confidence with the Jersey officers, in the service at many times he was in great danger and peril of his life, he thinks it was the day after the battle at Princeton, he knows it was about the first of January he thinks, 1777, he was detailed out of his uncle’s company, to wit, Captain Vancleave, to guard the lines on the Millstone River, and to keep back the cattle and prevent the enemy from plundering and foraging on the people.  Major Baird was our principal commander and a great one he was.  The enemy’s main army then lay in Brunswick and our army on the Millstone River, in this service he was actually engaged five months and a half, when he was discharged, again in the fall of the same year.  Captain Vancleave’s wagon was possessed by Major Maury, he thinks, of the 2nd Jersey Regiment, a driver was wanted, he immediately volunteered for the service and joined General Wagner’s army then station on the Raritan River, in this service he was actively engaged in conveying provision to the 2nd Regiment, hauling and procuring wood for the officers and soldiers

Until the spring of the year following, and God knows during this winter he had like to have freezed several times.  The army moved from this encampment in April and he was discharged.  This was a tour of ten months which he served faithfully.  Again he entered Captain Vancleave’s Company as a volunteer and joined the army under the command of Baron Steuban and General Winans, or some such name, at Springfield for a tour of three months.  This was after the battle at this place, he cannot recollect certainly the year, he thinks it was in 1780 during this tour, he was in frequent skirmishes when acting as piquit(?) guard.  He honorably discharged after having served his full tour by Captain VanCleave, again he served another tour, as a drafted soldier in Captain Swems Company from Sumerset County and marched to join General Wayne’s army, then at the North River.  We marched to a place called Pompton, when we received orders to halt.  When we were stationed for some time, we then marched to Morristown when we were delegated to guard the prison then stationed in the Morristown Meeting House.  We were stationed here for some time.  He knows he served his full tour and was honorably discharged, again he served another tour at Millstone when the courthouse was burnt.  This was a tour of one month guarding prisoners at this place.  He again joined Captain Lott’s Company for a full tour of three months and marched from Somerset County to the landing on the Raritan River above Brunswick where we were stationed for some time and discharged.  He served other tours several days at a time which he thinks unnecessary to mention.  He knows he was in actual service upwards of two years.  His general officers were Wayne, Steuband, Winans, Col. Vroom, Major Baird, Captain VanCleave, Swim, Lott and some others not recollected.  He has long since lost his discharges.  He hereby relinquished every claim whatever to a pension or annuity except this present and declared that his name is not on the pension roll of the agency of any state.

Cornelius O. Vanarsdall

The deposition of Cornelius A. Vanarsdall, who was a Lieutenant in the Army of the Revolution, aged eighty-five years, taken at the Clerk’s office in Mercer County, Kentucky, this 17th day of April 1834.  This deponent being first duly sworn states upon oath that he is well acquainted with Cornelius O. Vanarsdall, who has subscribed and sworn to the foregoing declaration that he knows him to be the identical man he represents himself to be, that he knows that he served faithfully in the War of the Revolution, he lived in the same county and state with him and served in the same army, but not all the tours with him, but he is fully satisfied that he served upwards of two years faithfully and further sayeth not.

Cornelius A. Vanarsdall

Also the deposition of Peter Huff and Lawrence Vanarsdall, both Revolutionary pensioners, taken at the same time and place and for the same purpose, both being duly sworn according to law, do upon oath, state that they are well acquainted with the said Cornelius Vanarsdall, who has subscribed and sworn to the foregoing deposition that they lived at the time of the Revolution in the State of New Jersey and near the county of Somerset and served in the same army with the said Cornelius O. Vanarsdall and know that he served as he states in his declaration.  They have long been intimately and well acquainted with the said Vanarsdall and know his to be a man of truth and further sayeth not.

Peter Huff

Lawrence Vanarsdall

Cornelius O. Vanarsdall further states that owing to his age and feebleness he is unable to attend the County Court for the purpose of swearing to his aforesaid declaration without difficulty and bodily pain and further sayeth not.

Cornelius O. Vanarsdall

Cornelius O. Vanarsdall, Continental Line, Revolutionary War, November 14, 1760 – February 24, 1843.  Old Mud Meeting House Cemetery, Mercer County, Kentucky.

Cornelius O. Vanarsdall, Pvt. Col. Vroom’s NJ Regt, Revolutionary War, November 14, 1760 – February 24, 1843.  Spy.

Morgan Row – Kentucky’s Oldest Row

It is a pleasure to visit the Harrodsburg Historical Society in Morgan Row.  These buildings were renovated and preserved beginning in the 1960’s.  I’m so grateful that the citizens at that time decided they were worth keeping!  So much history has passed through these rooms.

If you are in Mercer County researching those elusive ancestors, the Harrodsburg Historical Society is a must stop!

The Advocate Messenger, Danville, Boyle County, Kentucky

Sunday, July 15, 1979

It’s Kentucky’s oldest row

Harrodsburg – By 1807 Kentucky’s large game had all but disappeared.  Forts were becoming towns.  Trails were being made into roads, and farms began to dot the once wooded land.

At Fort Harrod settlers were moving out of the fort and starting to build the town of Harrodsburg.  It was a busy community with hordes of strangers passing through, and many spent a night at Harrodsburg’s finest hostelry – Morgan Row.

Facing the courthouse square on the street called Chiles, in the center of Harrodsburg, Morgan Row played its part in the economic, political and social life of Harrodsburg.

Built by Squire Joseph Morgan in 1807, its architectural plan was actually four houses side by side, connected by shared sidewalls.  Although such houses were fairly common in the eastern colonies, they were unusual this far west.

Much of the local activity revolved around the gala balls held at Morgan Row.  They were attended by some of the most handsome beaux and most beautiful belles in the county.

Stories of its gambling room, its grog shop, and even its barber shop; of political meetings and horse races as late as the Civil War days tell much of the colorful history of the tavern and the town.

Morgan built the row house fire walls of timber from the Harrodsburg area and home-burned brick.  They separated the units in the sturdy two story building and extended above the roof.

The street in front of the row house bears the name of Morgan’s son-in-law, John G. Chiles, who ran the tavern and operated stagecoach and U.S. mail routes from the hostelry.  Chiles Tavern, or Chiles Hotel as it was sometimes called, flourished until 1845.  (Chiles then sold his property and moved to Lexington to manage the Phoenix Hotel.)

Morgan Row today, a part of Harrodsburg for 172 years [now 211 years], houses several businesses and the Harrodsburg Historical Society Museum.

The historical society has restored the north end of the row to serve as a community cultural center as well as a museum.  Portraits by Kentucky artists are on display as well as early glass and silver, pioneer tools and household utensils and many documents pertaining to Kentucky history.

Main Street in Harrodsburg – 1904 and 113 Years Later!

Let me introduce you to my town!  Harrodsburg, located in Mercer County, was laid out June 16, 1774, by Captain James Harrod and his band of men.  It was first called Harrodstown, then Oldtown, and finally Harrodsburg.  In the very early years there were Indian attacks, and many settlers were killed.  But the rich and fertile land of the Bluegrass area was too profitable to give up.  As more and more families moved to Mercer County, and the Indians gave way to Ohio and Indiana, life became more peaceful.

In the 130 years since the site was laid out, and this picture was taken, there is no comparison to the log fort and this photo from 1904.  Fort Harrod, and the cabins within, fell into disuse and decay.  This is a photo of a bustling little town!  Power lines dominate the picture, large buildings, churches, horse and buggies, men and women on the streets – with no worry of Indian attacks!  Progress was here.

And if we go an additional 113 years forward to today, we see a modern, small town, but with a few signs from the first photo.  The brick building on the right side of the street, in the middle of the photo, is still standing.  For many years it was used as the home for the County Clerk’s Office.  Directly across the street is the courthouse, which cannot be seen in either photo.  A new courthouse was built a few years ago, and the county offices were moved to a building on Lexington Avenue.

The yellow house is still there, with a bit of renovation.  In the original photo the Christian Church stands beside it.  The church, which has been rebuilt, is hidden by the tree, but can be see in the above photograph.

I wanted to show you a close up of the old photo.  You will have to imagine that the first two buildings on the right (the church and store front) are now the large Christian Church from the modern photo.  The brick building begins with what was the County Clerk’s Office.

Past the building that housed the clerk’s office is The Kentucky Fudge Company – one of our favorite places to eat!  Studio G is next, with local music and talent.  Several other businesses are located down the street.  The building at the end – blue, with a turret – is the office of Dr. Tammy Hoskins, my optometrist.  You can see this building in the original photo!

Power lines are now underground, giving a nice, neat Main Street appearance.  I love small towns – and I especially love living in one!  Come visit – I’ll show you the replica of Fort Harrod, with the huge Osage orange tree in front, that has been the center of many school photos.  We’ll visit The Kentucky Fudge Company for lunch.  The Harrodsburg Historical Society on Chiles Street is a must for genealogy research.  There are many old cemeteries to visit.  And Shaker Village is just a few miles away – they serve a lovely dinner.


Kentucky Fudge Company – Harrodsburg’s Historic and Culinary Treasure

The Kentucky Fudge Company in the early years – when it was Dedman’s Drugstore.

If you have never visited the small town of Harrodsburg, I heartily recommend you do.  Located in central Kentucky, we have so much history to offer since we are the oldest town in the state, founded in 1774 by a group of pioneers led by James Harrod, of Pennsylvania, who built Fort Harrod.  It was the only colonial city and the first permanent English settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains.  I am proud to call Harrodsburg ‘home’.

Originally Kentucky was called Fincastle County when it was part of Virginia.  In 1776, after Harrodsburg had been a town for two years, it was renamed Kentucky County, Virginia.  Four years later Kentucky County was divided into three counties – Fayette, Jefferson and Lincoln.  Harrodsburg was the county seat of Lincoln County, and remained so until 1785 when Mercer County was formed, Harrodsburg becoming the county seat for Mercer.  Kentucky became a state in 1792.

With our county clerk’s office that has records back to the very early years, our wonderful public library that has its own genealogy room and the Harrodsburg Historical Society located on Chiles Street, it is a genealogists dream.

But today I want to talk to you about the Kentucky Fudge Company located on Main Street.  It is located in the old Smith and Dedman Drugstore building that opened in 1868 at 225 South Main Street.  C. M. Dedman bought out his partner and it was known as Dedman’s Drugstore, and continued as a pharmacy until 1983.  The James Harrod Trust eventually acquired the property through the generosity of a local citizen, and restored the first floor of the drugstore.  The Kentucky Fudge Company was opened in 2006 and is a wonderful gathering place for adults and children – to enjoy ice cream in huge waffle cones or lunch or dessert – and to spend time talking and visiting with friends.

As you come through the front door it seems as if we’ve walked back in time.  From the original soda fountain, stained glass windows and the original cherry cabinets of the pharmacy to the ceilings and floors, history is in present time.  Drugstore memorabilia, old photos and such are on display.

But let’s talk about the food – you know how much I love to eat!  The menus are written on blackboards and the list is filled with yummy sandwiches, soups, salads, ice cream, bakery items.  The Saturday after five menu can be anything from a Roast Beef Manhattan to Pot Roast and Horseradish to personal pizzas and quesadillas.  On St. Patrick’s Day weekend we enjoyed Bangers and Mash!

My personal favorite lunch is their Triple Scoop – I always choose chicken salad, potato salad and olive nut spread.  Served with crackers, this is heaven on a plate!  The chicken salad is filled with chunks of chicken, grapes and celery; the potato salad is wonderful (tastes like it is made with baked potatoes); and the olive nut is by far the best I’ve ever eaten – pecans, green olives and cream cheese!  My mouth salivates just thinking about it!

And Saturday at 6:30 the Trivia begins – tables are filled with locals enjoying food, drinks and answering those mind-boggling questions!  Such fun!

And what about the fudge?  Oh, my!  One taste and you are hooked!  It is creamy, smooth and delicious!  Last time I tried the peppermint schnapps – now a personal favorite.  They also have buckeye (chocolate and peanut butter), milk chocolate and walnuts, bourbon, and several others.

Any visitor who stops by the Kentucky Fudge Company always returns!  We have friends from Canada who can’t wait to come back to to KFC to have lunch and some pie!  My sister loves the food so much she said the tea room is unnecessary.  And for any genealogy enthusiasts who visit, I always take them to the Kentucky Fudge Company!  Come to Harrodsburg and I will take you!

The Mysterious Lewis Rose Cemetery On VanArsdall Farm In Mercer County

Photo taken by Roy VanArsdall in 1952.

I have mentioned several times since November the finding of the Rose Cemetery in the little town of Burgin, in Mercer County, where my mother lived for thirty plus years.  Her best friend and next door neighbors, Geneva and Roger Vanarsdall, owned a farm at the back of the two homes, along with his brother Roy.  I did not realize until I helped the Lewis family with research that the Lewis Rose family is buried on this farm.  Members of the Rose family married into the VanArsdall family, and the property eventually was handed down to the two brothers.

In November two members of the Lewis family, Patricia and Gerald, and I went to this cemetery.  The bodies of Captain Lewis Rose and his wife, Mary McMurtry Rose, and his son, Charles Rose, were moved to Memorial Acre in Fort Harrod, in Harrodsburg, in July of 1937, but the original markers were left on the farm.  When we arrived at the Rose Cemetery we realized that after the exhumation there was built a rectangular monument, about two feet high, eight feet wide and two feet deep, with the gravestones affixed on top, two rows of six, for a total of twelve stones.  As you can see from my photo above, a lot has changed in 64 years!

Charles Rose, October 6, 1778 – February 29, 1845.  Son of Lewis Rose and Barbara Thair.

When you realize how long the stones have been out in the elements you can understand that it is difficult to read much that is written on them.  Through additional research on those who visited the cemetery in the early days of the nineteenth century, Bible records and a couple of early photos, I believe we can determine who is buried in this small cemetery.

David R. Rose, died December 2, 1814, aged 21 years.  Son of Lewis Rose and Mary McMurtry

Roy VanArsdall wrote to the Harrodsburg Historical Society in a letter dated March 16, 1993, ‘There is an old cemetery on our farm (VanArsdall Brothers Farm) just west of Burgin.  Sixty years ago it contained three or four carved sandstone markers and one of marble.  In addition there were several markers of simple slabs of field stone set on end.  The distances apart indicated that most buried under these field stone markers were children.’  He names two people buried in the cemetery and describes another stone – David Rose, Jemima Rose McMurtry and a third stone with the dates February 4, 1779 – November 24, 1854, but no name.  This last stone is evidently that of Mary Lewis Rose, wife of Charles Rose.  When we visited I could also read the names of Captain Lewis Rose and Charles Rose, bringing our total to five.  In the cemetery books of the Harrodsburg Historical Society they list Samuel McMurtry, husband of Jemima Rose McMurtry, as buried in this cemetery.  And elsewhere is listed a Rebecca Rose McMurtry as also buried there – probably a granddaughter, who died at the age of sixteen.  And even though there is no actual proof, I’m sure Captain Lewis Rose’s two wives are buried there – Barbara Thair Rose, his first wife, who died about 1788, and his second wife, Mary Todd Hutton McMurtry Rose, who died after 1828.

Mary Lewis Rose, February 4, 1779 – November 24, 1854.  Wife, of Charles Rose, daughter-in-law of Lewis Rose.

Mary Lewis Rose, in back, and in front, possibly Mary Todd Hutton McMurtry Rose in front.

This is a very interesting family since Captain Lewis Rose and wife Barbara Thair had six children; and Mary Todd Hutton and husband Captain John McMurtry had eight.  The older children were grown when Lewis Rose and Mary McMurtry married in November of 1793, but they had six children under the age of ten living in the household.

In back, Charles Rose, and in front possibly Rebecca Rose McMurtry

In memory of Mrs. Jemima McMurtry, born October 12, 1782, died September 14, 1840.  Daughter of Lewis Rose and Barbara Thair.

Mrs. Jemima McMurtry – taken by Roy VanArsdall in 1952.

Jemima Rose married her step-brother, Samuel McMurtry.  Catherine Rose also married into the McMurtry family – her husband was John.

If you look carefully you can see the fourth stone over, in the back, is identical to the photo taken by Roy VanArsdall.  The name and most of the dates have flaked off, but it is definitely Jemima McMurtry’s stone.

Samuel McMurtry, July 18, 1776 – April 17, 1815.  Son of John McMurtry and Mary Todd Hutton, son-in-law of Lewis Rose.

Behind Jemima’s stone is the one for her husband, Samuel McMurtry.  Since they are similar I believe it must be so, although the top portion of Jemima’s stone has broken off.

Both of the fifth stones are foot stones – they are smaller than the other gravestones.  In front is David R. Rose, and the one in back is unreadable.

The sixth stones – the one in back is probably a foot stone and the one lying on its side is unreadable.

Patricia and Gerald were ecstatic at finding the cemetery where their ancestors are buried.  More on this family at a later date!