Sycamore Forest

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.

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].

Salt Spring Trace in Clark County
Salt Spring Trace in Clark County. The map shows the route of the Salt Spring Trace from Boonesborough cross­ing the Kentucky River, going up Lower Howard’s Creek, then the North Fork, and con­tin­u­ing north­ward cross­ing present-day Van Meter Road and on to the coun­ty line. The Sycamore Forest is marked by the yel­low oval.

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. 

Sycamore Forest patents
Sycamore Forest patents on a USGS topo map. This map of orig­i­nal patents shows the loca­tion of Samuel Henderson’s 400-acre set­tle­ment (1) and 1,000-acre pre­emp­tion (2) and the over­lap­ping 400-acre set­tle­ment of William McCracken (3). The red dashed line indi­cates the route of the Salt Spring Trace. It passed along the ridge through the Sycamore Forest in the mid­dle of Henderson’s settlement.

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