Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Here’s a map, crucial to identifying the early settlement in Kentucky of John M. James, after the American Revolution and his entry into the Western frontier.
What this map reconstructs is some original military land grants distributed by Virginia to participants who served in the American Revolution. Virginia set aside these lands about 1783 and began to dispense them about 1790. John M. James was among the first of the Kentucky pioneers to acquire land here. In his lifetime, John leased, owned, sold, and controlled most all of the land on this map.
The principal grant holder here was Col. Nathaniel Welch, who acquired most everything west of Buck Creek, identified on the right. On another map not shown here, Welch also acquired about 3,500 acres east of Pitman Creek. From the land at Pitman Creek to the land at Buck Creek, most al of it intermittently fell under the control of the James family. These are the lands that formed the foundations of Pulaski County, Kentucky, of which John M. James was a founder.
Looking more closely in the upper center, Fellowship Knob identifies the first acquisition by John M. James. Following the road, upper center of Fellowship Knob takes you to the site of John’s Flat Lick Baptist Church, founded in 1799, and still operational today. John’s land extended further, well beyond the top boundary of this map to adjoin the military grant of Robert McAlister, another family relation.
From Fellowship Knob on the road extending to the lower left is a black square identifying the Mansion House of John M. James, built sometime in the 1790s.
Proceeding from the Mansion House around the corner and down brings you to the intersection of Dahl Road & Shopville Road at Flat Lick Creek. The black square here identifies the stone house of the “talented, but erratic” Rev. Joseph Martin James.
The open space below Shopville is the big Flat Lick, still in the possession of James descendants today. A buffalo trail originally came down the center of this map from Crab Orchard to Flat Lick, where the buffalo then, and still do today, gorge themselves on its abundant salts, next to Flat Lick Creek.
This map is part of a recent two-volume history Dawning of the Cumberland by Charlene Adkins who is 93 years old. The old military surveys were drafted by surveyor Bobby Hudson, and identified by D. E. Coates, a Pulaski County historian. Their work has proved critical in putting the James family lore about John M. James’ lands into clearer perspective, while adding definition that is plainly identifiable today.
This map arrives just in time for the publication of Volume II of Jesse James Soul Liberty, This Bloody Ground, which tells the story of the first arrival and settlement on the Western frontier of Frank and Jesse James’ grandfather, after the service of all of these patriots and first military grant holders after the American Revolution.