Enoch: Sycamore Forest

Published 8:00 am Saturday, October 7, 2023

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By Harry Enoch

Contributing Writer

Sycamore Forest was located on the ridge between Johnson Creek and Hancock Creek, near present-day Renick on Van Meter Road (KY 2888).  Old depositions in Clark County state that the forest was a grove of sycamores about 200 yards wide and about half a mile long.  The grove ran along the ridge top and did not extend down to the creek on either side.  The Sycamore Forest was a notable place name in pioneer times because it was on one of the most important trails in Kentucky—the Salt Spring Trace—which was in use by 1775.  The trace led to the Lower Blue Licks where the pioneers went to hunt buffalo and to make salt.

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According to Billy Bush, this unusual “grove of syccamore trees” became one of the landmarks along the Salt Spring Trace.  Another Boonesborough pioneer stated,

“Some time in the Summer 1776 or 1777 that the deponant was in Company with Richard Calloway, Samuel Henderson, Nathaniel Hart and Thomas Hardgrove.  On our Return from the Lower Salt Springs on Licking, we made a stop at the place then Cald the Sycamore Forris.  At that time and place, this deponant Saw Samuel Henderson mark a tree on said trace to Boonsborough, and I have always known it Cald said Hendersons claim since.”

Further detail is provided in William Clinkenbeard’s testimony in support of Samuel Henderson’s land claim.

“Question By Mathew Patton:  Do you know that the trace from Boonsborough to the lower Salt Springs run through the center, or nearly so, of the Sycamore forrest?

Answer:  I beleave it did.

Question by Same:  Do you know of any other place on said trace that bore the name of the Sycamore Forrest?

Answer:  I do not.

Question by Same:  Was there not sycamores on each side of the ridge, both on the waters of Hancock and Johnson?

Answer:  There was.

Question by Thomas Kennedy:  Was not the sycamore forrest a Large body of wood extending from Hancocks fork to Johnsons fork with the salt spring trace runing through it?

Answer:  It was a large body of wood, but I do not think they extended to either [fork].”

The Salt Spring Trace ran from Boonesborough to Lower Blue Licks, passing many landmarks along the way that are little known today.  From the fort, the trail went to the Kentucky River at the mouth of Lower Howard’s Creek at “Blackfish Ford,” where the Shawnee crossed the river on the way to the siege of Boonesborough in 1778.  The trail then followed a buffalo trace up Lower Howard Creek.  According to an early resident “after passing the Indian Camp, the said Trace crossed the North fork of Howards Creek within one hundred Yards of the now dwelling house of Mr. William McMillan.”  McMillan’s house was near the present reservoir.

The many crisscrossing buffalo roads made it difficult for the hunters to follow the trace.  Thus, Robert McMillan and his brother marked the route in the winter of 1775–76.  They started marking at the point where the trace left the Big Buffalo Road (on US 68 about 3 miles west of Carlisle).  McMillan described the process in a deposition, in which he began by stating that he

“came to Kentucky in the latter part of the summer 1775 and settled at Boonsborough in the same year.  And on the last day of 1775 and the first day of 1776, he and his brother marked the trace from the lower blue lick to Boonsborough.  We commenced marking about eight miles on this side of the blue licks at a place where a man since lived called by the name of ready money Jack, on the Buffalo road that led from the lower blue lick to or near the place where Grants Station was since erected.  And this deponent and his Brother marked said trace from the place where said ready money Jack since lived and crossed the two main forks, a creek that has since gone by the name of Brushy fork of Hinkstons, and so crossed Hinkstons fork and by the Flat lick and near to a lick he has since heard called round lick, and crossed the dividing ridge between the waters of the flat lick creek and the waters of Harrods lick [creek], and passed by Harrods lick and crossed Stoners fork and crossed Strouds creek at the rocky ford and crossed said creek again at the many crossings, and passed through the Sycamore forest and so on to Boonsborough.”

The trail ran between Johnson Creek and Hancock Creek (about where Van Meter Road is today) and followed a ridge through the Sycamore Forest, before crossing Strodes Creek, near the Bourbon County line.