Bullitt County History

Westerfield Massacre

An inquiry led us to research the facts of an Indian attack on a group in 1781 who were going from Floyd's Station on Beargrass Creek to Harrodsburg by way of the Wilderness Road.

There are conflicting reports on exactly where the attack took place. John Ryker, in his 1834 Revolutionary War pension application, made the following statement:

"In the month of __ 1781 went with a party of men under Floyd Whittaker to Bullets Lick to bring back families defeated and massacred by the Indians (such as survived) while moving from Beargrass to Harrodsburgh, massacre was at Clear Station. Went on 2nd trip to bury the dead. Distance not now recollected, suppose it was fifteen miles. Time occupied in going both trips was about 3 or 4 days."

Ryker's account would lead us to conclude that the attack took place at Clear's Station, and that the survivors fled to Bullitt's Lick for shelter. However, other accounts raise questions about that location.

James Moore has posted an extensive description of this event on the Dutch Cousins in Kentucky pages on Facebook, and we have quoted excerpts from it below.

From The Draper Manuscript, Series CC Vol. 13, pp 11-12 is testimony of Mrs. Strong about her father John Thickston (the Westervelt’s guide).

In it she identifies many of the victims, including the John Westervelt (Westerfield) family, and states that John Thickston escaped and "ran, till he came to Clear Station, near Bullit’s Lick, guided by the crowing of the roosters."

This suggests that the campsite was near enough to Clear's Station that Thickston could locate it from the sound of roosters crowing the dawn, but not at the station itself.

In the testimony of Hiram Stafford, son of Leah Westerfield who escaped during the attack (The Draper Manuscript, Lyman C. Draper, Boone Papers, Series C, Vol. 24, pp 145, 145-1, 145-2, 28 March 1865), he stated that "about 30 persons started from Louisville to the station, camped for the night on the waters of bargrass about 12 miles out and sometime in the night was attacked by a party of indians while asleep, and but few escaped death."

Clearly Mr. Stafford was mistaken about the name of the creek since Beargrass Creek is too far from Clear's Station for Thickston to have reached it in time to hear the roosters crowing. It is more likely that they were near one of the small streams that pass through north-central Bullitt County today.

Later Mr. Stafford gave an additional statement (The Draper Manuscripts, Boone Papers, Series C, Vol. 2, pp 148, 148-1, 148-2, 16 May 1865) in which he said, "My Father was born in Amelia Co., Vir. in 1753. (He) came to Ky when Col. Boon moved his family out on his second trip. My father resided in Ky until his death June 1820- 67 years old. Married Leah Westerfield, 16 years old, near Dicks River (in) 1783. I have no record by which I can give (a) positive date. It is from information received mostly from others... So far as recollected, my grand father, James Westerfield, (Sr.) emigrated to Ky (in) 1780 from Berkeley Co. Virginia. (He) landed at Louisville, Ky in the spring with others... by way of Pittsburgh down the Ohio. Left Louisville for Harrod’s Station. (They) camped about 12 miles out, (and were) attacked by a party of indians while in camp. All the movers (were) massacred, except my grand mother, Leah, Deborah, Isaac, Rebecca, Catharine - My Mother, Leah late Westerfield---Deborah and Polly Westerfield, daughter of John Westerfield, her distant cousin was taken to Detroit, hence to Montreal. (They) remained in captivity (for) two years. (They) got released and returned by way of Philadelphia, PA."

For more details about the event and the people involved, you are encouraged to visit the Facebook site mentioned above.

We cannot say with certainty where this attack took place. If they were camped on a stream, it might have been Clear Run, a tributary of Floyd's Fork. Or it could have been near Brooks Run which is another creek crossed by the Wilderness Road before you get to Clear's Station.

Wherever it occurred, it seems likely that it was in what was to become Bullitt County.

If you, the reader, have an interest in any particular part of our county history, and wish to contribute to this effort, use the form on our Contact Us page to send us your comments about this, or any Bullitt County History page. We welcome your comments and suggestions. If you feel that we have misspoken at any point, please feel free to point this out to us.

The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 13 Mar 2019 . Page URL: bullittcountyhistory.org/bchistory/westerfieldmassacre.html