Fort Paint Lick

Historical Marker #1525 marks the site of the settlement and fort named Paint Lick built by Lieutenant Colonel William Miller. The fort’s lands are now bordered by highways 52 and 21 through the small town.

Colonel William Miller was born in Botetouret County, Virginia in 1747, and came with Daniel Boone to mark the Cumberland Gap. He chose the site for Fort Paint Lick in 1776, and it was built over a cave-like spring. In 1780, Miller went back to Virginia and married a woman named Nancy Yancey who traveled to the fort with him; the first child born at the fort was their daughter, Isabella, in 1781. William and Nancy had five daughters, four of whom lived into adulthood, and no sons.

Fights often broke out among the settlers and Native Americans. One such skirmish led to the death of a girl named Jinney Adams who was killed by Chief Thunder in 1791. Her grave was the first marked grave in the cemetery, which has been moved along with William Miller’s to the present cemetery, which was the original location for the first Paint Lick Presbyterian Church.

There are two possible stories of how the fort was named. One story states the site was named for signs painted by Native Americans along creek banks and the nearby salt lick in the area. The second version is rather morbid in its telling. Two hunters ambushed a Native woman, killing her. Hidden Native warriors captured one of the men, hanging him by his feet from a branch and cut his throat. The man’s blood was then caught and splashed on the white sycamore trees that grew along the banks or the creek. These blood “painted” trees supplied the fort with its name. However, “Paint” as a town name can be found in a few other places around Kentucky; for example, Paintsville in Johnson County and Paint Cliff in McCreary County make for a compelling case that it was the Native American’s paintings on surrounding rocks and trees around those areas.