Marker #929, "McAfee Station / Pioneer Teacher, 1779"

Historical Marker #929 commemorates McAfee Station, an early settlement in frontier Kentucky.

McAfee Station was established by brothers Robert, James Jr., and George McAfee, along with James McCoun, Jr. and Samuel Adams. Known as the McAfee Company, this band of explorers left Virginia for Kentucky on May 10, 1773. The Company, like many other early explorers, became interested in Kentucky after hearing “long hunters” speak of the beautiful and bountiful lands across the mountains.

After the McAfee Brothers received a land grant for their services in the French and Indian War, they set out to observe their potential holdings and ventured on horseback to the Kanawha River. Before loading into canoes, the Company sent their horses back with two boys, John McCoun and James Pawling. While at the mouth of the Kanawha River, the Company merged with Thomas Bullitt’s party, which was on a surveying mission by the authority of the Governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore. The two parties traveled down the Kentucky River and split at the river’s mouth; Bullitt’s party headed to the Falls of the Ohio and McAfee’s party journeyed up the Kentucky River.

The McAfee Company followed Eagle Creek from the Kentucky to Drennon Springs. Along the way, the Company found the land undesirable for settlement, as it lacked a spring. The McAfee Company then arrived at what would become Frankfort and surveyed the area, claiming it for themselves. However, Robert McAfee failed to enter the survey and lost the claim on the land. The Company then followed the Salt River, which they called Crooked Creek, and arrived in present-day Mercer County. They found the land desirable and claimed it. Returning to Virginia, the Company planned to come back the following year, but they were hindered by Native groups fighting to maintain control over their ancestral lands. The McAfee Brothers, while away from Kentucky, decided to enter the Revolutionary War effort, joining General Lewis at the Battle of Point Pleasant.

In February 1775 the McAfee Company set out again for Kentucky. David Adams, William McAfee, John Higgins, and an unnamed apprenticed servant of James McAfee joined the party. The Company entered Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap--mere months before Daniel Boone traveled the same route--and arrived on March 11, 1775 at the spring James McAfee had claimed one year prior. The McAfees then encountered James Harrod and realized their 1773 surveys overlapped. The McAfees contested Harrod’s land claims, but because Harrod had built cabins and planted corn--an act used to signify someone’s land claim--he won the rights to the disputed property. Despite the loss of property, the McAfees still claimed land north of Harrodsburg, where they planted corn and fruit trees and erected fences.

Once the corn was planted, the McAfee Company left on May 10 to return to their families in Virginia. John Higgins and Lucian Poulson stayed behind in Harrodsburg to continue planting corn and clearing land. Later in 1775, a herd of cattle was brought to the area to prepare for the future arrival of families.

In the spring of 1776, the McAfee and McCoun families prepared to settle in Kentucky. The women in the families began building up surplus stock of linens, blankets, clothing, bed clothes, and other cloth items, all of it intended to last for several years until a method for manufacturing clothing on the frontier was obtained. The feat would later be engineered by Ann McGinty of Harrodsburg. Enslaved individuals of the McAfee and McCoun families also prepared to enter Kentucky, although it was not by their choice. Some families loaded their household materials into canoes that traveled up the Kentucky River, while the rest of the families entered Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap. Due to low water levels, the river party turned back to Virginia, leaving behind their supplies in a makeshift cabin. While in Virginia, the McAfee Brothers enlisted again in the Revolutionary War, serving from 1777 to 1778 and further delaying their settlement of Kentucky. While serving in 1777, they returned to check on their settlement and found most of the cattle had disappeared.

The McAfee Company returned to Kentucky in 1779 after Virginia had appointed land grant certificates of Settlement and Preemptions. The Company arrived at the Harrodsburg land office on September 27. Shortly thereafter, Robert McAfee erected a double cabin for his family. During the grant process, McAfee had lost his land claim, along with his newly built cabin, and was forced to settle at another point on the Salt River. As the rest of the McAfee Family and the enslaved families arrived from Virginia, conflicts with the area’s Shawnee residents increased, causing the settlers to move to James McAfee’s Station (located in modern-day Talmage, Mercer County). Considered the headquarters of the McAfee settlement, it was here that nearly every family in the area resided by 1781. On May 9, the station was attacked by a group of Shawnee warriors. With the families held up in the station and riflemen running low on ammunition, the nearby William McAfee Station, overhearing the gunfire, sent runners out to Fort Harrod and McGary Station for help. A small group of armed men arrived and successfully repelled the attack.

After George Rogers Clark’s brutal guerrilla warfare campaign of 1780 against Shawnee villages in Ohio, many Shawnee and other Indigenous groups fled the ethnic violence in Kentucky. A number of families moved out of James McAfee’s Station and onto their own properties by 1783. Robert McAfee, along with his brothers Samuel and James and two hired hands, built a grain mill on the Salt River. The mill attracted more settlers and commerce to McAfee Station, which is now part of an unincorporated community in Mercer County, Kentucky.

The marker reads:


Site of stockade built, 1779, by McAfee, McCoun, McGee, Curry and Adams families, 11/2 miles west on Salt River on land owned by James McAfee. He and brothers, William, Robert, George, Samuel, in 1773-5, marked and improved land in area. 1785, New Providence Presbyterian Church formed. The third church erected by this continuous body stands one mile north. See over.


John May, first teacher in school at McAfee Station, 1779. One of four Ky. Dist. delegates, 1781, to Va. House of Burgesses. First clerk of Supreme Court, Ky. Dist., and one of original trustees of Transylvania Seminary, 1783. With Simon Kenton, famed frontiersman, he owned land where Maysville, Ky. was established by Va., 1787. It was named for May. See over.