Enoch: More chronicles of Lower Howard’s Creek
The main fork of Lower Howard’s Creek rises in the neighborhoods of south Winchester and flows in a generally southwesterly direction to its confluence with the Kentucky River.
The entire watershed is underlain with thick layers of limestone. Water trickles down through fractures and fissures in the rock before breaking out in hundreds of springs, some large, some small.
They supply water to the creek all along its roughly nine-mile route. At least a half dozen have been found in the Lower Howard’s Creek Nature and Heritage Preserve.
One of the most noted springs, and one that still puts out a large volume of water, is located on the property of George Rogers Clark High School.
Known as McMillan’s, and later Calmes’ Spring, it surfaces near Old Boonesboro Road, making a sizeable stream that flows into the creek just before the highway bridge. Its history was described in a previous column (see Where In The World? Volume 2).
There are many more, mostly unnamed.
One recently rediscovered — Buffalo Spring — got its name well more than 200 years ago in April 1780.
We have Capt. Billy Bush to thank for the story, which he related in a deposition. He said he “passed by this place in company with Several others, and Just below this Spring, the place we are now at, lay a Dead Buffelow bull in or near the Spring, and the Company named the Spring the Buffelow Spring, which is one of the calls of Aaron Bledsoes Entery of three hundred acres on the Right Hand fork of Howards Creek.”
Aaron Bledsoe (c.1732-1809) was an Orange County resident who Bush knew from back in Virginia.
Bledsoe had served as a militia officer during the French and Indian War, and later became a Baptist minister.
He was arrested in Fredericksburg and imprisoned for preaching without a license; Patrick Henry rode 60 miles to defend him.
Bledsoe later helped organize the North Pamunkey Church in Orange County and became its first pastor.
He was one of several men from that county Billy Bush acquired land for in the Bush Settlement.
Bush made the entry at the land office then assisted James McMillan with the survey, serving as the pilot and marker.
The 300-acre tract was situated south of the Bypass, straddling Two Mile Road and Highway 627.
Bledsoe did not stay long in Kentucky. He returned to Orange County and sold his land to John Quisenberry, a brother of the well-known Rev. James Quisenberry.
Two other pioneers were called upon to share their memories of the spring.
Benjamin Dodd Wheeler said in 1788 “he was Riding in Company with Mr. William Bush and passed by this Spring…and there was a number of Buffelow bones about this Spring, and that Said Bush informed [him] that this was called the Buffelow Spring.”
John Old recalled in 1793 he and “Captain Bush…rode to the Spring, and [Old] dismounted from his horse and drank out of the Spring, and that the Spring had generally gone by the name of the Buffelow Spring ever since.”
Jumping a century ahead, in 1905, we have a newspaper account in the Sun-Sentinel written by Lucien Beckner describing a ride he took out Reservoir Road: “About one and a half miles out (from Winchester), in the ages past, was a buffalo lick, towards which roads, worn by the huge wild cattle, ran in every direction. The lick is on the farm now occupied by Mr. Joe Wills. The salt-sulphur spring, which now has a pump in it, has long since lost its mineral salts.”
Beckner’s column was followed two weeks later by an anonymous letter to the editor elaborating on the spring.
“As to the Buffalo lick on Joe Wills’ place, a pump was first put in it about 40 years ago by the late Colby B. Quisenberry Sr., who up to the time of his death in 1870 owned considerable bodies of land on each side of the pike along there. The buffalo lick gives out, or once did, an almost inexhaustible supply of good water.”
The writer recalled that during the Civil War, the 14th Kentucky Infantry, the 6th Kentucky Cavalry and other units camped on the grounds nearby.
“All together the ground was occupied as a brigade camp for at least six months (in 1862), and the troops got all their water for all purposes from the buffalo lick.”
Trying to locate historical springs can be a difficult task. They are not shown on maps and with our reliance on “city water,” the use of springs as a water supply has largely ceased. Also, many of the old springs have dried up.
We are fortunate in this instance, since the general location — on Joe Wills’ place — could be determined by mapping the metes and bounds described in the deed to his farm.
He purchased 75 acres of land from the heirs of Colby B. Quisenberry in 1888. (The farm later passed to Wills’ children, Clayton and Nancy.)
A plot showed the tract began near the intersection of the Bypass and Highway 627, and extended northwest all the way back to Terry Drive in Westmeade subdivision.
Much of that land is now owned by Bob and Bill Strode. Last week, Bob was kind enough to take me out to a spring, which he said was the only one he ever knew of on the property.
It is a small affair, not much to see now. Bob said it dries up in summer but after all the rain, was running strong when I saw it.
The spring emerges about 250 yards from Old Boonesboro Road and flows into Lower Howard’s Creek, which runs through the front yard.
I’m sad to report its glory days are over, but the Buffalo Spring still exists and deserves to be remembered.
Harry Enoch, retired biochemist and history enthusiast, has been writing for the Sun since 2005.