Manuscript Travel Account to Kentucky by a Revolutionary War Veteran in 1797
With Two Manuscript Plats of Kentucky Lands
A fascinating manuscript document of an early trip to Kentucky to survey land, including two manuscript plats of the lands on what was then part of the western frontier of the United States. The travel account and plat maps are wonderful source documents for the history of the early settlement of the region. Daniel Boone's 1769 expedition through Cumberland Gap was followed by the first permanent settlement in Kentucky in 1774. After the American Revolution, Kentucky grew rapidly, with migration drawing mostly from Virginia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, including German-speaking Pennsylvania Dutch settlers. The present manuscript concerns the surveying of a substantial tract of land in Kentucky by the Maryland-born son of German immigrants - as such it stands as evidence of how the western frontier of the United States at that time was surveyed in preparation for settlement.
Valentine Brothers, a.k.a. Valentine Brudder or Valentine Brunner (1758-1841) was a Revolutionary War soldier from Frederick, Maryland, the son of German immigrant parents originally from Rhineland-Palatinate. He enlisted as a private on July 1, 1776 in Captain Peter Mantz's Company of the Flying Camp, marching from Frederick Town to Philadelphia in the summer of 1776. The present manuscript relates to nearly 2000 acres of land near Lexington, Kentucky that Valentine inherited from his brother Henry Brother (a.k.a. Heinrich Brudder, who died in 1776). Brothers set out for Kentucky in 1797 with H. McClery to affirm his claim to this significant frontier land holding. Leaving Maryland on May 2nd, the two men traveled overland to the Muskingum River and descended the Ohio, reaching Limetone (modern day Maysville) in Kentucky fifteen days later. For the following month they traveled within Kentucky, including a side trip to Louisville indicated by an entry in the accounting for 15 shillings of expenses at a horserace! They succeeded in finding the tracts and getting proper surveys made, and both manuscript plats are included here with their narrative of the trip. Although unsigned, the two plat maps are evidently by a surveyor named McIntire who is referenced in the manuscript. Their return to Maryland, overland via Tennessee and Virginia on the Old Wilderness Trail, is also described in some detail, including mentions of some of the stations that appear only in the earliest accounts of the Trail, with a few that are apparently unrecorded elsewhere. Consequently, the manuscript stands as one of the very few extant accounts of the stations along the Old Wilderness Trail, and is among the latest known accounts of the Trail before it fell into disuse shortly thereafter.
While the manuscript is undated, the travel account begins on Tuesday, May 2, suggesting a date of either 1786 or 1797; the place names suggest the latter date. Brothers refers to Union or Beasontown, though the place was already being called Uniontown as early as 1788. He also refers to Muskigum, which is an earlier name used by travellers before the settlement of Marietta. The taverns mentioned by Brothers during his travels corroborate a date of 1797. Finally, the expenses are listed in Maryland currency. In addition, the document seems likely to be by Valentine Brothers (1758-1841) rather than his nephew (?) Valentine Brothers (1773-1820), who also travelled to Kentucky in this early period, and whose trips are recorded in a memoir held by the Frederick, Maryland Historical Society and do not match the present dates.
According to Find a Grave, Valentine Brothers (or Valentine Brunner) is buried in the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Frederick County, Maryland: "Pvt. Valentine Brunner was an Associator in Dec. 1775. He enlisted as a Private on July 1, 1776 in Capt. Peter Mantz's Co. of the Flying Camp. He marched from Frederick Town to Philadelphia arriving in Aug. 1776. He was a Juror to the Oath of Allegiance in 1778. He died on June 29, 1841 at the age of 83, and is buried on Lot 207, Area E."
The integral blank leaf of the second bifolium is docketed on verso: "An Account of Expences in travelling to & from Kentucky. Valtine Brothers."
Wednesday [May] 24th
At [Peter] Forts.
I engage McIntire to run the Land - we go in search of it night comes on, & we cannot reach a House are obliged to lye in the woods this night"
We come to Peter Kiles - Engage him & Wm. Osborne to carry the chain, we again go in search of the Land & find one of the corners at half after one o'clock, we return to Kiles get Dinner &c.
Paid Kile for Chain carrying "3" I Employ Ez. Black to carry the chain. After we get Dinner we begin one of the Lines & proceed to make the Survey night comes on & we adjourn this night we take up quarters at William Blacks, (free cost)
I set out for Lexington to search the office in order to get copies of Entries of the Lands interfering & clashing with our claim.
Deduct Expences in travelling to the Falls [of Ohio] £1-8/ equal to £ 1-15-2. Ditto expences at a Horse Race 0-12-0 equal to 15.-
Place names and locations mentioned in the manuscript:
Maryland: Middle Town, Williams port, Ferry over Conococheague River [a tributary of the Potomac River that originates in Pennsylvania and empties into the Potomac River near Williamsport], Big Spring, Hancock Town, Kings, Old Town, Cumberland, Cumberland, Frederick.
Pennsylvania: Union Town, Redstone, Pittsburgh, Buffalo Creek.
Ohio: Muskingum [Muskingum River, which empties into the Ohio River]
West Virginia: Guyandot [Guyandotte River - tributary of the Ohio River], Charles Town courthouse, Harper's Ferry
Kentucky: Limestone [a natural harbor at the mouth of Limestone Creek, now Maysville], Washington, May's Lick, Blue Lick, Millersburgh, Bourbon/Paris, Mount Sterling, Lexington, Bairdstown [Bardstown], Frankfort, Ferry over the Kentucky River, Shelbyville, Louisville Falls of the Ohio, Springfield, Crawford, Maddison Courthouse [i.e. Madison County], Smith's Station, Rock Castle River, Longforth Station, John Thomas's Station, Ballenger's Station.
Tennessee: Collin's Station, Cumberland River at Danville Station, Rogersville, Ross's Furnance [probably David Ross]
Virginia: Wythe Courthouse, Bottetourte [Botetourt], John Boogher's [a friend or relative], Lexington, Staunton, Keezle Town [Keezletown], Sebastian [placename or innkeeper], New Market, Woodstock courthouse, Strasburgh, New Town, Winchester, Opecan [Opequon].
The plat maps:
The two plats were likely by a surveyor named McIntire who is mentioned in the main manuscript text.
The larger sheet identifies six surveyed tracts of land, four with 350 acres and two with 300 acres, for a total of 2000 acres.
The smaller of the two plats, captioned Lands in Kentuckey, contains the following manuscript note about the location of the land:
2000 Acres of Land Laying on the Waters of the Slate Creek said to be from 20 to 25 miles of Lexington & about 5 or 6 miles of Iron Works on Slate Creek formerly the Estate of Henry Brother, Deac'd. & now belonging to Mr. Valentine Brother & Henry McCleery of Fredericktown, Frederick County, Maryland, being yet undivided.
Sold by Walter R. Benjamin Autographs in 1971, and described in their journal, The Collector, as follows:
Original manuscript account of a trip from the eastern settlement down the Ohio River to Kentucky, and the return via the Old Wilderness Trail. The manuscript ... is far more than a mere list of expenditures. While traveling, Brothers names two or three stopping places or locations each day, with interesting notes and comments on each. Starting off on the old Braddock Trail to Pittsburgh, he rambled through Kentucky for 3 weeks then started home on the Old Wilderness Trail. He mentions stations which appear only in the earliest accounts of the Trail, with others apparently unrecorded elsewhere. Place names at this time were in transition and have changed since. He does not refer to Marietta, but to Muskingum. All expenses are listed in Md. currency. With this fascinating account are two other fol. sheets on which Brothers has sketched two plat maps of Kentucky lands.