The following is reprinted from the McLean County Centennial Program of 1954 and the American Bicentennial Issue of 1976, the latter of which left out some information from the former. It has been 45 years since the article was last published, so I thought it would be interesting to see it as it was written 67 years ago.
“Before the coming of the white man, what is now McLean county was a wilderness like most of the remainder of Kentucky. Most of it was in forest, frequented by all kinds of game, and occasionally by Indians. There are no indications of regular settlements. However, Indian burials on the W.T. Hull farm indicate that the Indians probably camped there on occasion, where there was a ford across Green River.
This ford of the river (eliminated by the building of the dam in 1834) seems to have some connection with the first settlement in McLean county. The first permanent settlement in Kentucky was made in 1775 at Harrodsburg. Unconfirmed tradition has it that a John Hayes raised a crop of corn at “Long Falls” in the summer of 1776. Why this should be so we do not know. There are other traditions that the Long Falls was chosen as the site for a fort which might protect the settlers further east by guarding against Indians crossing at the ford.” (Note that the Long Falls mentioned here refers to present-day Calhoun, however, Calhoun was never officially called Long Falls.)
“The first settlement of McLean county of certain records was about 1784. John Rowan, lawyer, judge, U.S. senator, famous as the master of My Old Kentucky Home, arrived at Long Falls on May 11, 1784. He wrote that his father went there from Louisville with ‘about five families, with the intention of settling at the Long Falls upon land which he had bought before he left Pennsylvania, and to which he supposed he had a good title.’ Whether Rowan’s party was the first to settle there we do not know.
There are others who are known to have settled at Long Falls (possibly some on the Rumsey side) about the same time. One of these was Henry Rhoads, who is reported to have laid out a town at Long Falls in 1784 and called it Rhoadsville. About the same time John Hanley appeared there, acting as agent for the Dorsey family of Maryland. As a result of the uncertainty over land titles, a suit arose between Hanley and Rhoads, with Hanley winning. Thus, John Hanley became the leader in the new town and its name was changed to Fort Vienna. Hanley apparently stayed on and his family name still turns up in county deeds and genealogies.
The second settlement in the county was made by James Inman at Pond Station in 1790. The portion of McLean county south of Green river, in Logan county in 1792, was included in Muhlenberg county, formed in 1798. The northern part was in Hardin until Ohio was formed in 1798. Then in 1815 Daviess was carved out of Ohio, and part of what is now McLean went with it.
Rumsey was the leading settlement in the Muhlenberg county portion. The town was named for Edward Rumsey, Muhlenberg county lawyer and brother of James Rumsey, inventor of the steamboat. The building of the new locks there in 1834 gave Rumsey a boom, and the town was incorporated in 1839. For some time it appears to have been the largest town in the county area, boasting of groceries, taverns, shipyards, woolen mills, carriage and wagon factories, lawyers and doctors.
William Brown founded a settlement at the juncture of Green and Rough rivers, and donated the land for its streets and public square in 1837, but suggested it to be named for a storekeeper at “Livermore’s Landing.” Stimulated by the coming of the railroad and furniture factories, Livermore later became the largest town in the county—twice as large as Calhoun.
In contrast to its early and promising beginning, Fort Vienna seems to have declined in importance as Rumsey grew. As late as 1850, there were only a few houses there. In 1852, John Calhoon was given a charter for a new town, which was named for him. Apparently it took in all of old Fort Vienna. Possibly Calhoon, who was then the country’s leading politician, anticipated—or promoted—the establishment of the new county.” This article will conclude next week.
The Museum is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but will be closed Jan. 18 for the holiday. Due to a volunteer shortage, the Treasure House has set these dates for the rest of January, when they will be open: Jan. 15, 18, 22, and 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. To reach us at the Museum you can call 270-499-5033, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Facebook page is: McLean County KY History Museum & Regional Family Research Center. I wish everyone a safe week!