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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.

Aerial with arrow

This aerial view shows the southern end of the Benjamin Hieronymus place. The top arrow points to Hall’s Restaurant and the bottom arrow to where Benjamin Hieronymus’ house stood, over 200 feet above the restaurant. Also visible are the abandoned quarry on Athens-Boonesboro Road and the Allen Co. quarry in Madison County. (Photo by Ramsey Flynn)

Benjamin originally settled on Twomile Creek. According to a family history, he was a large landowner, slave owner and horse breeder and, with Stephen Eubank, owned the famous race horse Robin Gray. Around 1840, Benjamin moved to the 75-acre ridgetop farm on Lower Howard’s Creek. A chimney is all that survives of his log house (Stop 9 on the John Holder Trail) and his gravestone stands in the cemetery (Stop 10). A 1939 newspaper article stated that the house at that time was 150 years old, which means it could have been built about 1789, close to the time of Holder’s Station or shortly after.

There is a stone springhouse located on the hillside, about 200 yards west of the house(Stop 7). It was in use well into the 20th century and is still flowing strong today. The house is shown on an 1861 Clark County map—labeled as “B. Hieronymus”—with an entrance drive from the Kentucky River Turnpike (now Athens-Boonesboro Road).

Benjamin’s wife Susan died in 1864 and is buried in Winchester Cemetery. Her heirs conveyed the farm to James T. Woodward, who sold it to William L. Martin. William Lorenzo Martin (1823-1915) was a son of Hudson Martin and grandson of William Martin, the Revolutionary War pensioner. William always gave his occupation as carpenter. He married Martha Bush, daughter of Hiram, in 1846. After her death, he married Servilla Hill, a daughter of George Hill; he was 43 and she was 19.

William bought 60 acres of the Benjamin Hieronymus place in 1863. After living there for thirty years and finding himself a widower again, William sold the place to Mary Martin, the wife of his first cousin. According to terms of the deed, Mary and her heirs were “to take William L. Martin with her to live as one of her family during his natural life” and “to board and lodge him.” William was “to occupy the front room of the house, now occupied by him, during his natural life.” He was allowed “to keep upon said land not to exceed six head of stock” and reserved “the right to be buried upon the ground herein described.”

graveyard

Hieronymus Graveyard. In addition to graves of the Hieronymus family, the cemetery contains a marker to John Holder and his wife Fanny Callaway, who are thought to be buried here. (Photo by Kathryn Owen)

Mary Martin died in 1899, and William continued to reside in the house with Mary’s eldest daughter, Lucy, and her husband Major Downey. William managed tooutlive Lucy, who was buried in the Downey Cemetery (Stop 8), and he was still living with Major Downey at the time of his death in 1915. The Benjamin Hieronymus place was divided between Mary Martin’s heirs in 1922. Daughter Lucy’s children got the south end of the farm with the old house (Major Downey received a life interest). Daughter Florence got the north end.

( continued)

Sources: Harry G. Enoch, Colonel John Holder, Boonesborough Defender and Kentucky Entrepreneur (Morley, MO, 2009); Clark County Deed Book 1:502, 5:69, 6:557, 29:632, 638, 30:17, 34:317, 40:302, 320, 59:456, 98:355, 393; Ben T. Hieronymus and R. Dean Heironimus, The Hieronymus Story, 1985 (Baltimore, MD, 1985); Lexington Herald, January 4, 1939.

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