Jefferson's Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy

By Boynton Merrill Jr. | Go to book overview

18
THE CHURCH IN
WEST KENTUCKY

BEGINNING IN 1797, there was a period of religious fervor and upheaval in Kentucky and neighboring southern states that lasted for more than a decade. Out of this Great Revival came the camp meeting, three new protestant denominations, and a tremendous surge of religious fundamentalism with all its suspicion of the human intellect, of the arts, and of education. In addition to leaving its mark on the Lewis family, the revival had far-reaching, long-lasting, and most unfortunate effects on the development of the South. At least one scholar believes that the impact of the revival on the character and growth of the South was more important than any other event in American history except for the Civil War.1

Strangely enough, this spectacular religious event began in a place where there was probably the greatest concentration of criminals on the frontier, Logan County, in west Kentucky—or, as one resident called it, “Rogues' Harbor.”

Logan County, when my father moved to it, was called “Rogues'
Harbor.” Here many refugees, from almost all parts of the Union,
fled to escape justice or punishment; for although there was law,
yet it could not be executed, and it was a desperate state of society.
Murderers, horse thieves, highway robbers, and counterfeiters fled
here until they combined and actually formed a majority. The
honest and civil part of the citizens would prosecute these wretched
bandetti, but they would swear each other clear; and they really put
all law at defiance, and carried on such desperate violance and out-
rage that the honest part of the citizens seemed to be driven to the
necessity of uniting and combining together, and taking the law
into their own hands, under the name of Regulators. This was a
very desperate state of things.

Shortly after the Regulators had formed themselves into a so-
ciety, and established their code of by-laws, on a court day at
Russellville, the two bands met in town. Soon a quarrel com-
menced, and a general battle ensued between the rogues and
Regulators, and they fought with guns, pistols, dirks, knives, and
clubs. Some were actually killed, many wounded; the rogues

-189-

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