The Big Bone Lick

Henderson County came about when Richard Henderson purchased 17,000 acres from the Cherokee Indians in 1792. It was located between the Ohio, Cumberland, and Kentucky Rivers in Kentucky and Tennessee known as the Transylvania Purchase and its purpose was to resell it to a white settler. The county seat is Henderson.
Since the days of Lewis and Clarke, Kentuckians have been in awe of the large animal bones discovered in Big bone Lick State Park in Union, Kentucky. The belief is that during the last great Ice Age enormous herds of herbivorous animals existed in the vicinity. According to park experts, the mammoth and the mastodon were among the animals to visit the Lick. Later, ancestors of the sloth, bison, and horse came to the salty soil and vegetation around springs. From the excavations there, animals became mired in the bogs and died in the wet, marshy land. The Delaware and Shawnee Indians were quite familiar with the bones of the animals in the Ohio Valley and collected the salt. Later, the Europeans learned of Big Bone Lick from the Indians. The first remembered European to visit this site was a French Canadian, de Longueil, in 1739. In fact, a Louisiana map dated 1744 marks the lick as the place where they found the elephant bones in 1739. In 1744, an American Indian trader by the name of Robert Smith removed some of the fossil bones. And, The first map of Kentucky, prepared by John Filson in 1784, bore on the legend: ” Big Bone Lick; Salt and Medical Spring. Large bones are found there.” Later on in 1803, when Meriwether Lewis traveled to Big Bone Lick en route west to join William Clark and the men assembling in Louisville for the Corps of Discovery, he sent a box of specimens to President Jefferson, along with an extremely detailed letter describing the finds of Goforth. President Jefferson devoted much time to the study of Big Bone Lick and believed that some of the large animals might still be living in the western regions of the country. In 1807, the present sent Clark to Big Bone Lick for the first organized vertebra paleontology expedition in the United States. During the three weeks that Clark was there, he hired laborers to collect bones and shipped three huge boxes to the President. Jefferson maintained a room in the White House for the display of the Big Bone collection.
Henderson County Genealogy Records Available to Members

Images of Wills and Estates

  • Book A, 1799 to 1821
  • Book B, 1820 to 1840
  • Book C, 1837 to 1875
  • Book D, 2876 to 1898

Colonel Richard Henderson

Colonel Richard Henderson (1734-1785) who purchased 17,000,000 acres of land from the Cherokee Indians, part of which would eventually make up the county of Henderson. His purpose was to create a colony called Transylvania. However, at the onset of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the organization of the state government in North Carolina, he was re-elected judge, and thus prevented from participating in that scheme, known as the Transylvania Compact. During the Transylvania Purchase at Sycamore Shoals in Elizabethton, Tennessee, and the Wilderness Road into Kentucky, Henderson met with the chiefs of the Cherokees and purchased all the land lying between the Cumberland River, the Cumberland Mountains, and the Kentucky River, and situated south of the Ohio River. Then, he hired Daniel Boone to help settle the area, to blaze the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap and into the Transylvania land purchase. Henderson also purchased the land known as the Path Grant which allowed access to the Transylvania lands. To appease other early explorers, he offered Joseph Martin, founder of Martin’s Station on Martin’s Creek in present-day Rose Hill, Lee County, Virginia, a spot as an agent and entry taker for the company, in charge of keeping tabs on settlers moving westward. Henderson was originally from Hanover County, Virginia, and removed to Granville County, North Carolina where he studied law and was admitted to the bar. In 1769, he was appointed a judge of the Superior Court. At the period when North Carolina was resisting tax collectors (the War of Regulation), Judge Henderson condemned caught resistors to death.