WHERE IN THE WORLD?
Benjamin Hieronymus Place
Winchester Sun, October 6, 2012
By Harry G. Enoch
This is the last of three articles describing the John Holder Trail at the Lower Howard’s Creek Nature and Heritage Preserve. As before, we will focus on the people who lived or owned land along the trail and the events that occurred there. The land referred to as the Benjamin Hieronymus place is located on a rise above the Kentucky River cliffs just west of and above Hall’s Restaurant. It is bound on the south and west by Athens-Boonesboro Road, on the north by the Bush Mill Road (the Preserve entrance road) and on the east by Lower Howard’s Creek (excepting the 15-acre Thompson Ridge).
The early history of this tract is significant. It is where John Howard made one of the earliest improvements north of the Kentucky River in 1775. Howard sold his claim to John Holder, who established Holder’s Station here in late 1781 or early 1782. At that time, Boone’s Station, McGee’s Station and Strode’s Station were already in place and formed a sort of defensive barrier. Holder’s was never attacked by Indians, but he and the men from his station saw frequent combat, including one disastrous encounter on August 14, 1782. While pursuing a party of Wyandot, Captain Holder’s company was ambushed at a place since known as Battle Run in Fleming County. Six men were killed and several wounded in what came to be called the Battle of Upper Blue Licks or Holder’s Defeat.
According to local folklore, Holder’s station, warehouse and boatyard were located on the east side of Lower Howard’s Creek on the site where Hall’s Restaurant stands today. However, numerous historic records indicate that each was in fact on the west side of the creek. The warehouse and boatyard were at the mouth of the creek in the area of Hidden Grove Lane, while the station stood on the ridge more that 200 feet above the river. No description of the Holder’s Station has been found, but we know that about 80 people were living there soon after it was established.
After Holder died (1799), his son-in-law Samuel R. Combs bought out the interests of Holder’s other heirs. Sometime after Combs’ death (1833), Benjamin Hieronymus acquired 75 acres of Combs’ land, the tract referred to at the head of this article. Hieronymus must have run into financial problems, as he executed a series of mortgages on the tract beginning in 1841. Eight years later, his wife Susan acquired legal title to the land.
The Hieronymus name, once well known locally, is no longer found in Clark County. The patriarch of the family here was Johann Franz “Francis” Hieronymus, who was born in Austria and immigrated to America in 1747. He married Elizabeth Rector (Elspeth Richter) and resided in Loudoun County, Virginia, for about 40 years. Their homeplace at Trapp was very close to where John Holder lived on the Blue Ridge. No doubt their families were acquainted. Francis came to Clark County about 1795 with his adult sons, John, Benjamin and Pendleton. John bought 100 acres on Jouett Creek from Holder and later deeded the farm to his father. Pendleton married Mary “Polly” Bush, daughter of Ambrose. Their daughter, Julia Ann Tevis, described her Bush and Hieronymus grandparents in her autobiography, Sixty Years in a School Room. Her grandmother Elizabeth Hieronymus “was a Methodist of the old order” and had been one of the charter members of Ebenezer Church, organized in 1797.
Benjamin Hieronymus (1772-1859) married Mary “Polly” Bush, daughter of William and widow of Richard Stites. Benjamin and Mary had ten children: Cynthia, William Tandy, Nancy, Emily, Sophia, Shelton, Lucy Ann, Francis, Benjamin Jr. andMary Jane. After Mary died, Benjamin married Susan Grigsby, daughter of Lewis Grigsby, the blacksmith, and widow of Wilson Hampton. Benjamin and Susan had three children, Clifton, Albert, Eliza, and possibly a fourth, Sarah.