MORGAN BRYAN’S SONS BUILD BRYAN STATION IN KENTUCKY IN 1779
Kentucky Historical Marker on Bryan Station Road about five miles from Lexington. (The following story is taken from the book, “Bryan Station, Heroes and Heroines” by Virginia Webb Howard (Mrs. Peyton B. Howard), Regent of Bryan Station Chapter, DAR, Lexington, KY 1928-1930.)
“The year of 1779 brought a full tide of immigration into that part of Virginia called Kentucky and permanent settlements were made for the first time within the present limits of Fayette County. One of these was Bryan’s Station. This Station was founded by four brothers, William, Morgan, James and Joseph Bryan, and William Grant, all of whom had brought their families, with all their possessions from the valley of the Yadkin River in North Carolina.
“During the winter of 1779-1780 a court was held in the snow covered block houses of Bryan Station. Commissioners, appointed by the State of Virginia to settle land claims and give to the settlers the certificates that meant so much to them, made this station their headquarters for miles around. During this time many of Kentucky’s most famous pioneers spent several days visiting at Bryan Station and settling up their land claims. Among these were Robert Patterson, Simon Kenton, Daniel Boone, the Todds, McConnells and many others.
“It was at this time that the Bryans discovered they had built the station upon land which did not belong to any of them. This was a real calamity and coming as it did at the end of a long hard winter when provisions were almost exhausted caused great unhappiness and dissatisfaction in the ranks of the Bryan family.
“Further calamity comes to the Bryans. “As spring came on, the game was becoming more and more scarce, due to the terrible winter, and it was necessary for the hunters to go farther and farther in search of a large supply to furnish food for the settlement. The Indians, also were hunting, and roving bands were on every side. They were killing the settlers whenever possible. In the month of May a body of twelve men left the station to secure a supply of meat. Going several miles, the party divided, William Bryan taking charge of one-half the party. He was mortally wounded by Indians and carried back to the station by reinforcements who had come to the aid of the hunters, but he died within a few hours. Three other men were severely wounded but the death of William Bryan was the first to occur in the station.
“It was not until August of 1780 that the party was ready to turn their back upon Bryan Station and go back to their old homes in North Carolina. Ranck, 12th, Filson, page 83, states that not a Bryan remained in the settlement which they had started and although practically the entire party returned to Kentucky about four years later, none of them is known to have ever again lived in Bryan Station.
(The following part of this story is from Spraker, p. 632.)
“In August, 1782 Bryan’s, not far from Boonesborough, was besieged by about 600 Indians under the leadership of the notorious Simon Girty. It so happened that Bryan’s Station was one of the few forts erected without a spring or well within its walls, and the water supply had to be brought from a spring some distance from the stockade.
(And also from Spraker, p. 633,) “A modern writer, H. Addington Bruce, gives the following graphic word- picture of the event:
“It was at this juncture that the women of Bryan’s Station proved themselves the bravest and noblest of heroines. … while, in excited whispers, the men were consulting together, Mrs. Jemima Sugget Johnson, wife of Col. Robert Johnson … quietly stepped forward and offered to conduct a party of women and girls to the Indian-surrounded spring.
“Every morning, she reminded her astonished hearers, it was the custom of the women to go to the spring and procure the day’s supply of drinking water. There was just a chance that the Indians in their eagerness to surprise the garrison, would not molest them if they went out as usual. At any rate she was ready to go and she was sure that her daughter Betsy, a little girl of ten, would accompany her, even if nobody else would.
“There was a moment’s hesitation while the women gazed inquiringly into one another’s faces. Then, one after the other, they announced their willingness to make the desperate attempt. … The rear gate of the stockade was thrown open, and the girls and women, twenty-eight in all, set out on their perilous journey.
“Not for an instant did they falter, but advancing with apparent unconcern, dipped their buckets and gourds, their piggins and noggins, into the spring, and returned to the stockade at the same leisurely gait. It was a consummate piece of acting, a marvelous exhibition of self control, and it completely deceived the Indians.
“With their safe return the defender’s of Bryan’s Station hastened into action. Nearing the station, the entire mass of Indians converged towards the stockade gate. On they came, rapidly on, while the settlers, silent as death, grimly set their lips and waited. Still nearer they came. Then at a hoarse word of command, a deadly volley flashed from every port-hole. Casting their rifles aside, and snatching others from the hands of their wives and daughters, the settlers fired again. Through the smoke could be heard howls of amazement, wrath and pain; and when the air had cleared not an Indian was to be seen save those who had been laid low by the garrison’s bullets.
“But there was no second charge, the Indians choosing rather to adopt their usual tactics of assailing the settlement with bullets and fire-arrows launched from cover. Early in the afternoon, to the chagrin of the savages a small party of horsemen, summoned from Lexington by a messenger who had left Bryan’s Station before the engagement began, forced their way through the Indians’ lines and entered the station without the loss of a single man. Their arrival not merely strengthened the garrison, but brought the siege to a sudden end; for, realizing that the entire countryside would soon be aroused, the Indians, after continuing their attack until nightfall, started in full retreat to the Ohio. (continued on P. 7, See Bryan’s Station) (continued from page 6 – Bryan’s Station)
“Next day three different relief parties, each about fifty strong, arrived from Boonesborough, Lexington, and Harrodstown. Among them were many of the best-known men in Kentucky. Foremost of all, of course, was (Daniel) Boone, burning to avenge the death of his brother Edward, who had been killed during an earlier Indian invasion. … The route taken by the Indians was soon ascertained … Thence the trail led to the lower Blue Lick. All along the way were signs indicating to the experienced veterans in the little army that the Indians were courting, rather than evading pursuit. Boone declared that it would be madness to proceed without Logan’s reinforcements, as the enemy were almost certainly setting a trap. This wise council might have been heeded had not McGary, with a taunting cry, spurred his horse into the river, swinging his rifle above his head and exclaiming: “Delay is dastardly! Let all who are not cowards follow me!”
“It could scarcely be called a battle, so quickly was it at an end. Rather was it a massacre, a butchery, a pitiless hewing down. All who, escaping the tomahawk, plunged headlong into the river and sought safety by swimming, found themselves assailed by a hail of bullets. Of the army that had so gallantly, though recklessly, responded to McGary’s challenging appeal nearly seventy were left dead on the field, while four were carried off to the Indian towns and tortured to death. To add to the bitterness of the defeat, as the survivors approached Bryan’s Station they were met by Logan with his army of almost five hundred men, a force which, in conjunction with their own, would have overwhelmed the enemy had they only heeded Boone’s warning.”