Migrations into and out of Kentucky

While reading the Somerset County New Jersey Historical Society Quarterly from volume 1 through volume 6, I came across this very interesting page of migrations into Kentucky:

Those going to Kentucky seem to have formed themselves into the Low Dutch Tract Company in 1784 and purchased 12,000 acres of land which they divided up.  For a long time they had troubles with the Indians.  Peter Van Arsdale was scalped on his own clearing.  About 1796, or slightly later, they organized the Six-Mile Run Church (whether named from the Somerset Six-Mile Run church or not has not been ascertained).  The Church was later known as the Pleasureville (Presbyterian) Church.  From this church other churches were organized in Kentucky and Indiana and later in Iowa.  (See article by Rev. B.F. Bedinger in “Christian Observer,” of Louisville, KY, July 18, 1883.)

One of the early Conewago settlers, RulifVoorhees, who married Elizabeth Nevius, and who was born in Bernards township, Somerset County, and afterward became a resident of Harlingen, went from the Conewago settlement to Kentucky, and was the great-grandfather of the late Senator Daniel D. Voorhees, of Indiana.

It would seem possible to follow out the wanderings of many of the Somerset families who went to Conewago and then to Kentucky with more detail, but it would require more investigation into records in York County Pennsylvania and at Pleasureville, KY…

It will be sufficient to add that I had the satisfaction, about ten years ago, to visit the site of the Conewago Low Dutch Church near Gettysburg.  The churchyard was still enclosed, but full of grass and weeds, as was to have been expected.  Scarcely any gravestones were visible; it is to be doubted if many ever existed, although there must have been scores of burials there beside the church, during the life of that community.  A few stones left of the wall of the edifice, grass, trees, the twittering of birds, are all that now remain to tell us of the sermons and worship on that spot for the thirty years of an active church life.

The initial records of the settlement will be in the journals of the Low Dutch Tract Company–not the land records in Kentucky counties.  This is rather common–where an organized group applies for the land and divides up the lots themselves to their own members. Ask specifically for these records in university special collections, Kentucky rooms at local public libraries, and manuscript collections at the State Archives or Kentucky Historical Society.

This migration comes from The Netherlands, through New York, into Somerset County New Jersey, into Conewago, York County Pennsylvania, through Pleasureville, Kentucky, on to Indiana and Iowa.

Centered around the Low Dutch Church, a reformed congregation and fully compatible with the Presbyterian church it later became.  This is a common migration orientation.  And it appears from the description of the churchyard, still enclosed, that the whole congregation could have moved together or following after.

Dutch, as used here, means from the Lowlands, not German Reformed as might be misinterpreted.

Pleasureville spans the Henry/Shelby Counties border in Kentucky.  Its population in 2000 was only 869.  So this is a very small place.  Intermarriage among those Low Dutch families will be extensive–even if the surnames themselves do not seem to reflect their Dutch background.

Although the author of these few paragraphs did not do the research for you, he pointed the way if your Kentucky origins are located here.  The York County Historical Society many years ago abstracted the basic county records, including cemetery readings, for many families in family books.  These are available in typescript form at the historical society and on microfilm through the Family History Library–some 40 volumes of abstracts.  While they did not take the time to put the families together, they prepared easily searched and used stuff for you to do it yourself.

Your favorite Kentucky genealogist, Arlene Eakle  http://arleneeakle.com

PS  Kentucky and Indiana are states where the origins of ancestors can easily be directed incorrectly.  Scots-Irish are Presbyterians.  German Reformed are Presbyterians.  Huguenots are Presbyterians.  And Low Dutch are Presbyterians.  Be sure you check the sources carefully and study the historical background where you research to avoid creating a new identity for your ancestors that they would not relate to or acknowledge.

About Arlene Eakle

I trace your family tree; or, teach you how.
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