Perrin, William Henry, Kentucky: a history of the state…, 8th Edition, Louisville: F.A. Battey & Company, 1888.
“The pioneer of Breckinridge County was Gen. William Hardin, a frontiersman of the true type. His first visit to the county was in 1780. Together with a few of his neighbors, among whom were the Clay Combs, Brashears, Bruners, Bargers, Haynes, Rices, Jollys, Barrs, Deans, Spencers and others, he penetrated the wilderness of Kentucky. In the early spring of that year (1780), with three companions, the names of whom are forgotten, except one, Sinclair, Hardin descended the Wabasha (the Shawanese name of the Ohio) in search of a suitable location for his proposed colony. They arrived at the falls of the Ohio, where there was then a settlement, but not liking the swampy nature of the country, they re-embarked and floated down the Ohio to the mouth of Sinking Creek, where they landed with the intention of exploring the adjacent country. As it chanced, they disembarked almost in one midst of a band of hostile savages. The Indians allowed them to advance some three miles into the country, when they divided, one party taking possession of the boat, while the other pursued the whites. The latter, experienced borders as they were, had discovered signs of Indians and were on the alert. They found that they were pursued by a largely superior body of savages, and realizing the folly of a fight, they resolved to posh on to Hines' Fort, the present site of Elizabethtown, in Hardin County. They continued their flight during the night, guided by the stars, and in the early morning reached a large spring, where they stopped to rest and slake their thirst. From the description they gave of the spring afterward, it was doubtless where the town of Big Spring now stands. Here they were attacked by the savages, and Sinclair killed. The others, led by Hardin, succeeded in escaping, and finally reached Hines' Fort.
Hardin remained at the forts in what is now Hardin County, until the following spring, when, accompanied by Christopher Bash and Michael Leonard, he returned to the mouth of Sinking Creek, up which they proceeded to the falls, where they disembarked. It was during a periodical overflow in the Ohio, and all the surrounding country was submerged. Hardin cut a '' high water mark" on a tree, which is said to be still discernible. They explored the country in a southeasterly direction, and finally reached the present site of Hardinsburg, where, pleased with the location, Hardin determined to establish his colony. There they at once commenced the erection of a fort, which became known on the border as Hardin's Fort. It was similar to the rude frontier forts or stations, and was constructed of logs with loopholes to shoot from. This was surrounded by a number of cabins, occupied by those who had joined Hardin; with the intention of settling the country, and above referred to as his colony. The whole was enclosed by a palisade, oblong in shape, and of heavy slabs firmly implanted in the earth, rendering it a formidable structure for those primitive days. As the war-cry of the retreating savages died away along the frontier of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, those hardy pioneers came forth from the protecting walls of the fort, and joined by others, made settlements in different parts of the county.
The Hardin family, of whom Gen. Hardin was a prominent member, is one of the noted and distinguished families of Kentucky. The Hardin’s are of French descent. They came to America after the massacre of St. Bartholomew, being forced to fly from France on account of their Huguenot principles. It is claimed by some who profess to be acquainted with the Hardin genealogy, that they are of Scotch or Scotch-Irish origin; and the name does appear in Scottish history far back, but with nothing definite to indicate the place of nativity. The most authentic account of the Hardin’s settlement in America is as follows: Three brothers, French Huguenots of a pronounced type, about the close of the sixteenth or beginning of the seventeenth century, to escape religious persecutions in France, fled to Canada. The severity of the climate soon compelled them to leave Canada, and they joined the English colony in Virginia. Two of the brothers settled there permanently, while the other emigrated to South Carolina. From the brothers who remained in Virginia descended the Kentucky Hardin’s. Martin Hardin, a lineal descendant, emigrated from Fauquier County, Va., to Pennsylvania, about the year 1765, and settled on the Monongahela River. He had a family of four daughters and three sons, all of whom were born in Virginia. The sons were John, Martin and William, the last the pioneer settler of Breckinridge County. Martin died about 1849, in his ninety-second year. John, for whom Hardin County was named, was murdered by the Indians inl792 while on a peaceful embassy to their country. [See historical sketch of Hardin County.] Lydia Hardin, a sister, married Charles Wickliffe, and was the mother of some distinguished men and eminent statesmen. Sara Hardin, another sister, married her cousin, Ben Hardin, and was the mother of the great criminal lawyer, Ben Hardin. A daughter of John Hardin married the Rev. Barnabas McHenry, and was the ancestor of a noted family. Many distinguished families of Kentucky, among whom are the Wickliffes, Helms, McHenrys, Gofers, Ewings, Bufords, Caldwells, Estills, Fields, etc., trace their lineage back to the Hardin brothers, who, nearly 300 years ago, fled to the wilds of America, that unrestricted they might enjoy their religious opinions.
Gen. Hardin, the pioneer of Breckinridge County, as we have seen, was a Virginian, though brought up mostly in Pennsylvania, having removed to the latter State with his parents when quite young. "Upon attaining his manhood he married Winifred Holtzclaw. The result of this union was eight children, as follows: Winney Ann, who married William Comstock, of Hardinsburg; Henry, a prominent farmer of this county, who died about 1855; Malinda, who married William Crawford, the brother of Mrs. Jo Allen; William, who served several terms in the Legislature, finally moved to Frankfort, and was postmaster of that city for several years; Elijah, who was killed at Houston's Spring in 1805; Amelia, who married Horace Merry; John, who died near Brownsville, Penn., in 1850, and Jehu, who died in Hardinsburg some years ago. In addition to his own children Gen. Hardin reared a nephew and niece, Daniel Hardin, and Mary, his sister. The latter married Ben Huff, the first sheriff of the county. . ,
Gen. Hardin was a man of great personal courage, brave as a lion, cool and self-possessed in the midst of danger, and well skilled in all the arts of border warfare. Of giant stature, and a noted Indian fighter, he became a terror to the savages and was known among the tribes as "Big Bill." Every device and stratagem was practiced by the Indians to secure Hardin's scalp, so bitter was their hatred and so great their dread of him. One morning, preparatory to going on a hunt, he fired off his gun outside the stockade and began wiping it out. An Indian, who had been lying in concealment for the purpose of getting a shot at some venturesome white, now sprang from his covert, aimed his gun at Hardin, and tauntingly exclaimed: "Ugh! Big Bill.'' The pause was fatal to the savage; Hardin knocked his gun aside, and with his own gun clubbed out the Indian's brains. But he did not always escape scathless. He was several times wounded. Once, in a skirmish with the savages, he was shot through both thighs and his horse killed under him. The Indians thought he too was killed, and reported in their towns that "Big Bill" was dead. When he recovered and was again seen by them, their superstitious fears got the better of them, and they fled panic-stricken, believing they were pursued by "old Hardin's ghost.'' Once, while standing picket as was the custom on the frontier, over the** who were at work in the field near his fort, he was fired on by Indians and severely wounded, and his life probably saved by a brave girl, named Sally McDonald, who was among those in the field planting corn; and bravely assisted him in reaching the fort after the others had fled.
Such was Gen. Hardin, the pioneer of Breckinridge County, and the founder of Hardinsburg, one of the oldest towns (1781) in Kentucky. He owned a great deal of land at one time in the present counties of Breckinridge, Hardin, Meade, Grayson, Ohio and Hancock, but his house was burned, and thus his deeds and patents were mostly destroyed. By this accident he lost much of the lands rightfully belonging to him, and to which his descendants are entitled, many of whom still live in the county and the State. His house, which he rebuilt, stood on the bluff, overlooking Hardin's Creek, in the western part of the town, and until within the last decade or two was a well known land mark. But the old hero and pioneer, the compeer of Daniel Boone, Benjamin Logan and Simon Kenton, sleeps in an obscure and neglected grave. Men sometimes achieve recognition and fame, as Enoch Arden did, after death; but Gen. Hardin lived out the measure of his days, died and rests in a grave unmarked even by a rude bolder, while his fast receding memory remains un-honored and unsung. He deserves better than this; he deserves better than this from us, for he, and those of his kind, wrought for us a rich and enduring legacy in the noblest civilization the world has ever known.” end