Article from The Somerset COMMONWEALTH-JOURNAL Tuesday, September 11, 1979
Contributed by John Parsons, jparsons@cafes.net Sept 1997

Following the Revolutionary War, many of the early Americans found their savings were gone, their homes broken and their hopes dampened. These people were predominantly Scotch, Irish, Welsh and English, who sought a new start in life.

The long hunters, frontiersmen who were accustomed to spending long continuous periods hunting in the mountains of Tennessee and Kentucky, brought word to the colonies of a new land to the west. With this incentive, pioneers quickly started the long trek westward. Some of them brought their families and meager possessions in ox carts or by pack horse, never knowing if they would safely reach their destination. After weeks of toiling over trackless mountains, through rain and cold and with the constant fear of Indians and wild animals, these hardy men and courageous women from the "backwater'' section of Virginia and the Carolinas joined the hordes that streamed through Cumberland Gap into this new land.

They came over the Wilderness Trail down to the Orchard (Crab Orchard), crossed Rockcastle River and Buck Creek into what was later to be known as "The Glades,'' of Pulaski County. As it was flat, swampy land and held no appeal for the emigrants, they pressed on, settling in various sections of land later known as Pulaski County.

Pulaski County, located in the south central section of the state, was the 27th county formed in Kentucky. It was created by an act of the General Assembly, December 10, 1798 - to begin June, 1799 - out of territory belonging to Lincoln and Green counties. The act passed by the assembly read:

"That from and after the first day of June next, all that part of the counties of Lincoln and Green, included in the following boundary, to wit -- beginning at the mouth of Rockcastle, thence up the same four miles, where reduced to a straight line, above the reserve line; thence to the dividing ridge between Skegg's Creek and Buck Creek; thence a straight line to the Round Knobs; thence south 45 degrees west to the present line between Green and Lincoln; thence to the proposed new county east line taken from Green; thence with the said line to the state line; thence along said line so far that a north line will strike the beginning, shall be one county, and called and known by the name Pulaski and all the residue of the said counties shall retain the names Lincoln and Green."

The assembly named the county in honor of Count Casimir Pulaski, a Polish patriot and brigadier general in the U. S. Army during the American Revolution.

Since the creation of Pulaski County, several changes have been made to her boundary. The first change was when Wayne County was formed and part was taken from Pulaski's territory on December 18, 1800. When Rockcastle County was created in 1810, another section was taken from it. Then on February 20, 1825, a part of Pulaski was added to Whitley. Again a part of Pulaski was added to Wayne, January 6, 1831. The last change was made when McCreary was formed from parts of Pulaski, Wayne, and Whitley.

Pulaski County today is bounded on the east by Rockcastle and Laurel counties, on the south by McCreary and Wayne, on the west by Russell and Casey and on the north by Lincoln. It lies in the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains and is drained by the Cumberland and South Fork rivers, Pitman, White Oak, Buck, Lyne, Cold Water and Fishing creeks.

When it was created, its southern boundary reached the Tennessee line. In the Thirteenth Biennial Report of the Commission of Agriculture, 1898-99, it was listed as the largest county in the state, with a length of 40 miles form north to south and 30 miles from east to west. Pulaski is now the third largest county in the state, having an area of 401,920 acres or 628 square miles.

The section of the act by the General Assembly creating the county has the following provisions for the county courts:

"The courts of Quarter Sessions for said county shall be held on the fourth Tuesday in the months July, October, January, and March in every year, and the court of said county shall be held on the fourth Tuesday in every month in which the courts of Quarter Sessions are not hereby directed to be held.

The justices to be named in the commission of the peace for said county of Pulaski, shall meet at the house of Thomas Hansford upon the first court day after the said division shall take place; and having taken the oath prescribed by law, and a sheriff begin (being) legally qualified to act, shall then proceed to fix upon a place to hold courts in said county, in such place as shall, deemed the most central and convenient to the people, and then after the county court shall proceed to erect the public buildings at such place; and until such buildings are completed the court of Quarter Sessions and county court may adjourn to such place or places as they may severally think proper.''

The first record of this county court, according to Pulaski court record. was:

"At the house of Thomas Hansford, in the county of Pulaski on Tuesday, the 25th of June, 1799, a commission of the peace from his excellency James Garrard, Esquire, governor of the commonwealth aforesaid, where upon the said Samuel Gilmore, Esq., took the oath of office and the oath to support the constitution of the United States, who, then afterward administered the said oath to the other justices.''

After the justices took oath, Samuel Newell I, took oath as first sheriff of the county, William Fox was appointed county clerk; Samuel McKee took oath as first surveyor; and Charles Neal was granted an earmark for his livestock.

"The first court of Quarter Sessions was held at the home of Henry Francis in county of Pulaski on Tuesday the 23rd day of July, 1799. A commission of the peace from his excellency, James Garrard, Esq., governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, directed to Samuel Gilmore, Joseph McAlister and John Hardgrove, appointing them justices of the court of Quarter Sessions for said county of Pulaski,'' according to Pulaski court records.

A county court held Feb. 24, 1801, entered the following minutes, which fixed the location of the county seat.

''The court having taken into consideration the business of fixing on the place for erecting the public buildings for this county, after mature deliberation it is ordered that the permanent seat of justice for this county is fixed on a tract of land containing 40 acres, this day conveyed by bond to the county court of this county on land given by William Dodson. He received it as part of a survey made July 25, 1799 on certificate number seven -- this land lying on the waters of Sinking Creek."

On February 24, 1801, William Dodson, Reubin Hill and Moses Hands made bond for $1,000 to justices for Dodson, conveying the 40 acres of land to the court on or before March 1, 1812. Dodson made bond to convey all this land except one acre on which the Sinking Creek Baptist Church stood and three lots which he retained for himself. The 40 acres were to be laid off into convenient streets and lots, Dodson getting two lots first choice, the court next, and then Dodson third choice. Also, Dodson was to have the same liberty of the use of the water as other persons.''

Somerset was selected as the name for the county seat. According to a legend, the county seat was named after Somerset, England. The 40 acres making up the town were divided into 80 lots, four of which were set aside for a public square. The plan for the town was not recorded, "owing to neglect.'' until Jan. 16, 1820. On the designated land was a spring, the town's water system. The path or street by which the spring was reached became the main street of Somerset - Spring Street (Vine Street).

 

 

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