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Adventure West with Famous Floyds

October 2003

With our exhibit, "Adventure West with Famous Floyds" opening this coming fall, we will tell the story of the colorful, pioneering Floyd family and its role in settling the Falls Region. The story is based on the research of Dr. Jeffrey G. Mauck, a New Albany native who is currently a professor of history at Southwest Texas University.

It begins in the middle of the eighteenth century in Albermarle County, Virginia. The family was of the "gentry class", but they weren't among the "first" families who possessed great tracts of land and dominated political life. John Floyd, fourth oldest of the nine siblings of William and Abadiah Davis Floyd, led the migration west across the mountains into Kentucky.

In 1774, he was appointed by William Preston of Virginia as a member of a team to survey land tracts awarded to Virginia veterans of the French and Indian War. He met up with Hancock Taylor, uncle of future president Zachary Taylor, and floated down the Ohio River to the Falls. Floyd and Taylor laid claim to thousands of acres for themselves and William Preston.

In the summer of 1776, Floyd was living in Boonesborough, Kentucky and found himself in one of the legendary episodes of American frontier life. Indians kidnapped Daniel Boone's daughter, Jemima, and her friends, Betsey and Fanny Callaway. Boone and Floyd led a group that ambushed the raiders and freed the girls. James Fennimore Cooper used this incident in The Last of the Mohicans. Nineteenth century American painters Jean Francois Millet's The Abduction of the Daughters of Boone and Callaway and Karl Bodmer's The Deliverance of the Daughters of D. Boone and Callaway captured it on canvas.

Just as he was making a name for himself in the West, he returned to Virginia because some of William Preston's political enemies had his surveyor's license revoked. Preston set Floyd up as a leader of a privateering expedition against British shipping in the Caribbean, despite his lack of knowledge of the sea. The group managed to capture a British merchant ship, but on their way back to the United States a British warship took them. Floyd landed in an English prison, escaped and made his way across the channel to Paris. There, he met Benjamin Franklin, the leading American diplomat in France, borrowed money from him and arranged for passage home. Floyd family oral tradition holds that during his stay in Paris, Franklin took him to Versailles where he dined with Queen Marie Antoinette, but there is no proof that such a meeting took place.

He returned to Virginia in the fall of 1778, married and began planning his return to the Falls area to develop his lands along Beargrass Creek. About a year later, he and several members of his immediate family arrived at his property to find that several squatters were on his land. He allowed them to remain, knowing they might be needed to defend the place. Following a treacherous winter, he and his brothers and neighbors erected a stockade called Floyd's Station, one of about six on the branches along the creek. Indian attacks made life in the stations a nightmare for the settlers and in 1780 Floyd recruited a militia to participate in George Rogers Clark's raid on the Shawnee village of Piqua in Ohio.

When Kentucky was divided into Jefferson, Fayette and Lincoln counties, Clark arranged for Floyd's appointment as colonel of the Jefferson County militia. He was now in charge of protecting the settlements at the Falls and a large part of Kentucky. Later, Thomas Jefferson appointed him Justice of the Peace and surveyor of Jefferson County and asked him to assist in laying out Louisville.

In early 1783, Governor Benjamin Harrison appointed Floyd the first judge of the judicial district of Kentucky. That required extensive travel in dangerous territory and cost him his life. He and two younger brothers left Floyd's Station and were ambushed by Indians. He received a bullet in the back and died in April 1783. He was buried at Floyd's Station in what is now Breckinridge Cemetery in St. Matthews. His widow Jane Buchanan Floyd married Alexander Breckinridge. Less than two weeks after John Floyd's death, his son was born. John Floyd II made his way back to Virginia were he served as governor from 1830 to 1834.

William and Abadiah Floyd's sons and daughters, John Floyd's siblings, became prominent and sometimes wealthy citizens of the falls area. When William Clark chose seven young men from the falls communities to journey west to the Pacific, two were grandchildren of William and Abadiah Floyd - Sgt. Charles Floyd and Nathaniel Pryor.



Sgt. Charles Floyd
Facial reconstructionist Sharon Long of Laramie, Wyoming cast Sgt. Floyd's head and face from a mold of his original skull. She is one of a handful of experts who has earned the admiration of many noted forensic anthropologists, law enforcement officials, museums and educational institutions in the nation. In collaboration with scientists and anthropologists, she has completed reconstruction on human skulls found at numerous historic and prehistoric excavation sites such as Easter Island, Chili, and Jamestown Fort, Virginia. Upcoming projects include reconstruction of a Chamorie culture skull from Saipan and the eight men who drowned on the Hunley Submarine that sank at Charleston Bay, South Carolina during the Civil War.

Ms. Long has appeared in five documentaries, including National Geographic Explorer TV, The Discovery Channel and PBS, and she will be appearing at the Carnegie Center in October 2003. There will also be a public presentation at the Ogle Center about her fascinating work around the world and, in particular, her recreation of Sgt. Charles Floyd. Coincidentally, she is a descendant of the Floyd family. Don't miss this one; it will be better than watching an episode of Crime Scene Investigation on TV!!

The Carnegie Center for Art & History
201 East Spring Street
New Albany, Indiana 47150

(812) 944-7336
(812) 981-3544 fax

info@carnegiecenter.org

 

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