Garrard County, 1797

Historical Marker #1240 describes the founding of Garrard County, the twenty-fifth county formed in the state. Named for James Garrard, an early governor for Kentucky, it was formed from three surrounding counties, Lincoln, Mercer, and Madison.

Created on December 17, 1796, Garrard County was settled primarily because of its proximity to the Wilderness Trail. It is bordered by Paint Lick Creek on the east, Dix River and Herrington Lake on the west, and the Kentucky River on the north; the land is mostly rolling hills with the Palisades of the Kentucky River in the north and the Knobs region on the southeast.

Throughout the nineteenth century, Kentucky (particularly in the eastern part of the state) developed a rather unsavory reputation that it still carries to this day. The “uneducated hillbilly” stereotype of Kentucky was based on the amount of violence seen throughout the state. Feuds and rivalries, politics and family loyalties ran rampant in part because of the ineffective law enforcement of the time. Perhaps the most famous feud is that of the Hatfields and McCoys, however even Garrard County had a feud of its own.

The Hill and Evans feud began in the late 1820s, lasting for more than thirty years until the fighting had wiped out most of the family members. Dr. Hezekiah Evans was said to have beaten a slave he had hired from Dr. John Hill. Just as most accounts have two sides, so does this one. Either Hill took the slave back through trickery causing Evans to speak harsh words, or Evans was abusive to the slave and Hill would not allow it to continue. Regardless of how it came about, the results are still the same. Land conflicts, blackening of reputations, lawsuits, and gunfights in public places occurred multiple times, beginning with the first Hill and Evans, then their sons and grandsons. Peace came about, finally, in the years right before the Civil War. However, it is said that there were incidents even up to 1877, only ceasing because the families were practically extinct.