Block House Bottom
House Bottom, situated below the mouth of John's Creek, in Johnson County, was
so named from the block house built there in 1787-88 by the first settlers ever
to come to Eastern Kentucky. The block house or fort was built about 100 yards
from the bank of the Big Sandy River, in a valley of about 1500 acres.
This old fort or block house was built at the site of a
hunting lodge established about the year 1750 by the Harmons and other hunters of Virginia.
It was at this lodge that frontiersmen stopped for shelter while making hunting trips into
what was then a wilderness where the Shawnee, Cherokee, Delaware, Wyandots, Toteros
and Iroquois fought, hunted, and perhaps held religious ceremonies.
It was about this time that Dr. Thomas Walker and his party
of Virginians, the first white men of whom we have record to come to Kentucky, explored this
section, and visited the site of what is now Paintsville. However, it was not until about 30 years
later that the first settlement was established at Block House Bottom.
The Valley chosen for the fort, according to Kerr's history
of the Big Sandy Valley, was filled with trees in size from the shrub to the giant oak,
poplar and sycamore. It was also covered with a thick growth of cane which furnished winter
pastures to buffalo, elk, and deer and which was indicative of the soil's deep and lasting
The fort was about forty-feet square and two stories in height.
The upper story projected beyond the walls of the lower story about two feet on every side and
this extra space was floored with heavy timbers in which loopholes were cut through to fire down
upon attacking Indians, should they ever come to such close quarters.
The door or gate was made of split oak timbers six inches in
thickness. It was hung upon strong wooden hinges made by the hunters, opened inward, and was
secured by an immense beam of oak. The roof sloped up from each of the four sides of the fort
to a point in the center and was made of slabs of white oak timber "pinned" to the log "ribs" or
rafters with long wooden pins or pegs driven into holes bored with an auger.
A small stream flowed from the hills back of the bottom and at
that time passed by the fort, and upon it the settlers relied for water.
The timber about the fort was cut off close to the ground and
burned back the full space of rifle range as a precaution in time of attack.
This crude and strong building thus erected by the rough
of the Virginia frontier,
all of whom were as brave and hardy as any who ever founded a frontier post, was the
famous block house. The settlement started by its erection was called Harman Station.
At this time, there was no settlement in the 14 counties in this
area or on the Tug River or any of the present counties of West Virginia along this stream.
The Indian warpath ran up the west side of the Big Sandy at this
point. John's Creek whose waters headed up against the Big Sandy and Tug rivers afforded an
escape to the settlements in Virginia provided the valley became overrun with Indians.
The names of all the early settlers
who came to Block House Bottom are not known, but Matthias Harmon,
son Heinrich Herrmann who came from Prussia to Pennsylvania appears to have been the leader.
The Harmon family settled at Draper's Meadows in Virginia in 1748. There were many hunters
and explorers in the Harmon family and they became familiar with the Big Sandy country.
With Harmon in the early settlement in Johnson County are mentioned the names of Connelly, Auxier,
Skaggs, Leake, Lusk, Howes, Horn and others.
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