Kenton Ambushes Indians

Historical Marker #1614 in Bracken County notes the location where, in 1793, Simon Kenton and a party of settlers crossed the Ohio River to attack a group of Native Americans returning from a raid into central Kentucky.

By the 1770s, most Native American tribes that frequented the eastern half of Kentucky lived either north of the Ohio River or in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Those who lived in what became Ohio were mostly Shawnees and their allies. Through the 1780s and into the 1790s, the Shawnee and their friends raided into Kentucky for horses and to create terror among the encroaching settlers.

Fights among the settlers and raiding Native Americans were quite common and often resulted in brutal engagements and the taking of prisoners. Both sides learned from each other just how to carry out this type of frontier war to best effect.

By the time Kentucky became a state in 1792, the frequency of native raids had declined. This was due largely to the rapidly increasing number of white settlers and their defensive settlements. During the summer of 1793, however, a group of Indians from north of the Ohio River made a raid into central Kentucky.

Once across the Ohio River and on Kentucky soil, the raiders sunk their canoes in Holt's Creek, which emptied into the Ohio. They then began their journey on foot. Local settlers spotted the sunken canoes and quickly gathered a force to meet the Indians when they returned and attempted to recross the Ohio.

Led by noted frontiersman Simon Kenton, the pioneers crossed to the Ohio side and waited for four days. When the first group of Indians finally appeared, they had stolen horses with them and swam across. Kenton and his men killed the Indians and a white man that had previously joined the native band. The white settlers did the same to the next contingent of Indians, who had yet another white convert with them. That night, the main body of Indians sent one of their party ahead who warned of the ambush. Those Indians still on the Kentucky side scattered. The horses they had stolen were recaptured by the Bourbon County militia, who had been pursuing the natives. An attempt was made to track the panicked Indians, but as they had gone in different directions the mission was soon abandoned.