Historical Marker #1307 marks the site of the first “road” in the wilderness. This path allowed settlers to follow the trail to the site of present-day Owensboro. Herds of buffalo walked along this stretch, created the trail, and led to it being called “Buffalo Road.”
Bill Smothers was among the first pioneers to follow the trail, build his cabin, and settle at the site in 1797-1798. Many other important historical figures, though, also owned land in the present-day Owensboro area, most likely following the Buffalo Road to settle between Panther Creek and the Ohio River.
One of the earliest to arrive after Smothers was Colonel John Banister of Battersea, which is near Petersburg, Virginia. He was a member of the pioneer land firm of May, Banister and Company, and was also a member of the Continental Congress. He was also a framer and signer of the Articles of Confederation (which held the young nation together from 1781 until the Constitution was written and ratified in 1790). A second landholder in what became Daviess County was George Mason of Gunston Hall, Virginia. Well-known for his part in writing the Virginia Constitution, Mason drafted the Virginia Bill of Rights, assisted with composing the United States Constitution, and, thanks to his efforts, the Bill of Rights was attached to the U.S. Constitution (and were based on Virginia’s Bill of Rights). Mason was a friend and associate of both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Finally, James and Dolly Madison were also landholders in Daviess County. Madison was a member of the Continental Congress, the Constitutional convention of 1787, the first four congress of the nation, Secretary of State under Thomas Jefferson, and the fourth president of the United States. He inherited the land, but later sold it when he and Dolly needed to pay off her son’s debts.