Henry County Historical Society
The Henry County Web, History, Henry County KY
Henry County Kentucky
Drennon Springs Archeology
Drennon Springs Salt Works
by Bettina White
(The following article
appeared in the
A group of archaeologists has uncovered the location of the old salt works at Drennon Creek. Working under a red and white striped tent in the heat of the day, the group painstakingly uncovered the location of one salt furnace and numerous artifacts, including redware shards, cast iron kettle fragments, buttons and bones of large mammals such as pigs.
The site of the saltworks is scheduled as the location of the new Drennon Creek bridge. Before construction begins, however, the Department of Highways must ascertain the significance of the site in historic and pre-historic terms.
According to Kurt Fiegel, project archaeologist with the Department of Highways, there is no question of the historic significance of the site, but there may be some pre-historic significance, as well. In The History of Henry County, Willard Rouse Jillson states that there are the fossilized remains of pre-historic creatures such as mastodons and mammoths in the bottom of Drennon Creek, just as were found at Big Bone Lick, but no one can be certain of this until such remains are recovered during the dig.
Said Fiegel, "Unfortunately, you have to destroy the historic in order to find the pre-historic."
When questioned as to whether the significance of the site will change the location of the bridge, Fiegel replied, "No. It would just hit something else. I looked at seven or eight alignments for this bridge and this alignment will hit the least (historically significant sites)."
The archeologists have been working at Drennon for about a month and have uncovered the location of one salt furnace and an ash pit where pioneers slaughtered animals. According to Fiegel they're at least two more furnace locations to be excavated.
|Col. George Rogers Clark was the first land owner of
Drennon Springs. He crossed the salt lick on the old game trail from the mouth of Licking
River and became interested in its salt-making possibilities, accord to Jillson's history.
Clark obtained a certificate of settlement for 400 acres from the Land Court of Kentucky
County, Virginia, which saw fit to give him an additional adjacent 1,000 acres for
"having improved the land (built a cabin) and raised a corn crop prior to the year
The bottoms of Drennon Creek boast up to five or six salt and saline springs, along with two mineral springs on the north side and one on the south side of the creek. Salt boiling began about 1775 and continued at least 20 years, but the salt content was light compared to Big Bone Lick, Lower Blue Lick and Mann's Lick, which were not too far away, so the area had little appeal to those seeking to make salt.
Clark erected a log fort around 1775 which house hunters, explorers, salt boilers, land surveyors and others while they were in the area. In late 1787, Indians from north Ohio surprised and captured the station, killing two men and taking one captive. They missed one of the four men at the fort, as he was out on a hunt. This put an end to the salt-making enterprise at Drennon Springs, but the area was still much noted by geographers, gazetteers and cartographers.
In 1817, the medicinal and curative properties of the mineral springs became known, drawing people from all over. In the 1820's, cabins were built to house more invalids and the first "Summer Hotel" was built in 1840 by Dr. Robert Hunter. A.O. Smith later built a larger hotel. The springs reached the height of its popularity in 1849, registering 1500 guests, when cholera broke out in Kentucky. A case broke out at the springs and within 24 hours, the place was deserted, never to regain its popularity.
In 1851, smith sold his property to the Western Military Academy, which occupied it until 1854, when the Academy was moved to Tennessee due to sympathy for the cause of the South.
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