John M Smith case study #9

I’ve spent some time thinking about the Clarence Smith interview story on Ancestry that I mentioned in a previous post. It said, “Elias was born in Virginia. He came to Kentucky with his parents and 2 or 3 brothers and settled near Danville, KY, where his father (John M.) and brothers operated a trading post.”

I am also thinking about the letter from Louise (Smith) Jones to Bessie (Smith) Kimble. Bessie was the granddaughter of Elias Smith (1853). Bessie was born over 30 years after Elias died (although Elias’s wife, Elizabeth, lived until Bessie was 7 years old), so if she had information on the family history, it would have been passed down from others. While we don’t have the complete letter, the page that we do have begins with, “One brother stopped there – the other came over to the mountains. She also understood that the one who stopped in Danville owned most of the land that is now the town of Danville. Can you tell me whether or not this is true?”

So I’m looking for a potential trading post in the Danville area.

My mind immediately went to the map that I have of the various “stations” found in early Kentucky. The Kentucky History and Genealogy Network, Inc. has an article about Kentucky Early Stations and Forts[1]. The article states that stations were located about 10 miles apart from one another and they were a safe place to stop while traveling to various forts – which were more spread out. I don’t believe that a trading post and a station are the same thing. In fact, Calvin Fackler in his book, Early days in Danville [2], stated, “According to Marshall they (stations) were composed of cabins which adjoined or were connected by intervening palisades; while a fort was a little more elaborate, having one or more blockhouses, usually at the corners.”  but I wanted to go back through my notes to see what I could find because I haven’t thought about this at all recently.

Years and years ago, I came across this image. I have no idea where it comes from. My biggest mistake as a new genealogist was not to make note of such things!

A portion of the map for the Mercer County/Danville area is here:

You can’t see the key on here, but #7 is Smith’s Station. This seems to be located up near Cane Run and not Harrod’s Run. Station #6 is Trigg’s Station. Lewis Collins wrote about the stations of early Kentucky in his book, History of Kentucky[3]. This website has transcribed the information and put it online. On the website, it states that Smith’s Station was on a road from Danville to the mouth of Dick’s River. The site also says that Trigg’s Station was 4 miles N. E. of Harrodsburg, in Mercer co., on Cane run, 4 miles from its mouth at Dick’s River; settled in 1780 by Col. Stephen Trigg, and called Viney Grove, because of the number of large grape-vines. John Haggin lived there, and it was sometimes called Haggin’s Station. John Haggin was a neighbor of Captain John Smith, so I feel that Station #7 was most likely Captain John Smith’s station.

The 1784 map of Kentucky by John Filson[4] shows more than one Smith’s Station. One is east of Dick’s River and the other is west of Dick’s River very near Danville. On an Ancestry message board on 21 Jul 2000[5], Margaret Simpson says that one of these is James Smith’s station and she gives several references for documents to show the location.

Going back to the Clarence Smith note, he mentioned that “his father (John M.) and brothers operated a trading post.” The words “trading post” sound very much like a place in the wilderness. The Fackler book lists several taverns and stores in Danville. Nothing mentioning Smiths is included in the book.

  • Walker Daniel’s store – this store opened “soon after his arrival”. In June of 1784, John Crow sold to Walker Daniel the land that soon became the town of Danville. (p. 24)

Taverns before 1800

  • Benjamin Grayson’s tavern – this was the meeting place of the Political Club (p.25)
  • Thomas Barbee – between 1788 and 1799 (p.27)
  • Gill’s tavern (p.27)
  • Clemens tavern (p.29) – built about 1793

So at this point, I haven’t been able to confirm a trading post or station for John M. Smith’s family. But I am beginning to work on a project of mapping the land of the Smith men in the area and their neighbors and creating an interactive program to help me put all of the pieces together in one place. This will be a long-term project – not one that I can easily complete in a week or two – so if you’re interested in following along with it, let me know in the comments and I’ll find a way to share my work.


[2] Fackler, Calvin Morgan. 2002. Early days in Danville. Utica, KY: McDowell Publications.

[3] Collins, Lewis, and Richard H. Collins. 1924. History of Kentucky. Louisville, Ky: John P. Morton & Co.