The Buckner Grant and Holbert McClure's Survey

Note on grant placement: Due to recent discoveries and further analysis of the land grants in the area, the placement I have indicated for the Buckner grant on the maps on this site may be a little too far southeast, perhaps as much as 850 feet but probably less. I hope to have a more accurate placement shortly. This will not affect the northeast-southwest lines; I feel the error range for those is still less than 300 feet.

On 16 Jun 1790 the surveying for a 10,000-acre land grant in what would become southeastern Kentucky was completed. The grant, issued by the state of Virginia to Robert Buckner, was located in Kentucky, adjoined a grant issued to Robert Moore, and had its southwestern boundary on the "reserved line." Although not mentioned in the original survey, Skagg's Trace, an important early route into central Kentucky, bisected the land. There were several grants issued which lay on the reserved line, following each other northwest to southeast down the line. The Buckner grant was one of the larger land grants issued during that time period in southeast Kentucky.

As far as we know today, Buckner never lived on the land (neither did many grant-holders from that era actually live on their granted land). Unfortunately for his heirs, he (and they) also evidently failed to pay taxes on the land to Rockcastle County, and by the 1830s the county finally took steps to get some monetary compensation and closure to the situation and sold the land at auction in 1832. In 1833 Holbert McClure received a deed to the land which he had bought for the incredibly low price of $15.

Between 1790 and 1832 much had changed in Kentucky. Lincoln County, where the Buckner grant lay, was split several times. In 1799 Pulaski County was formed largely from Lincoln, then in 1810 Rockcastle was created mainly from Lincoln, Pulaski, and Madison Counties. The "reserved line" was set as the border between Pulaski and Rockcastle. This line was supposed to run at an approximate 45-degree angle, northwest to southeast, from the mouth of the Green River to Cumberland Gap. The term came from the fact that the land south of the Green River and west of this line was reserved for veterans of the American Revolution.

During the surveying of the county line, though, errors were made. The reasons are unknown but the results, which placed the county line almost a mile northeast of the reserved line, continue to cause confusion even today.

Also between 1790 and 1832 many families had moved into the area covered by the Buckner grant. It must have been a kind of no-man's land, presumably with families living as "squatters." (We don't know this for certain, since there are very few surviving deeds which date to that time.)

There was another geographical problem with the survey--it was too far south; that is, it didn't connect on its northwest side with any other grant like it was supposed to. (It should have bordered the Samuel Moore grant on the northwest; James Kincaid ultimately patented the Moore grant.) The boundary also seemed to be in slightly different places, depending on whether one was in Pulaski or Rockcastle County.

So, between the county line being mis-surveyed and the existence of an unsurveyed area to its northwest, other grants were issued which infringed on the Buckner grant's territory.

Perhaps these problems allowed Holbert McClure to purchase the land so cheaply. Or perhaps some deal was made among officials and residents. McClure doesn't appear to have been particularly well-off, although he was a bit more prosperous than the average area resident.

In any event, he did purchase the land and promptly began selling off pieces of it, most likely giving official deeds to squatters, including his family, who had been living on the land for years.

In typical Kentucky fashion, Pulaski and Rockcastle Counties continued to issue grants inside Buckner after McClure purchased the property. While we don't know how many times McClure was forced to defend his claim (the 1873 Rockcastle County courthouse fire destroyed all court records and he didn't file any actions in Pulaski County), we do know some of the infringing grants in Pulaski were not allowed to stand, as in later years there are deeds in which McClure sold portions of Buckner to people in configurations almost identical to their wrongful grants.

One particularly interesting example of this is the 9 Mar 1846 transaction between McClure and Amos Chaney in which McClure sold Chaney a tract of land which covered a large portion of a grant Chaney had surveyed in 1834 and later patented. The 1834 survey lay partially inside Buckner and evidently McClure disputed the grant's issuance (and won), as the 1846 transaction included the part of the 1834 land inside Buckner. The deed descriptions call for corners marked "RB", presumably a reference to Robert Buckner. If so, these would seem to be markers set in the original 1790 survey and would thus represent our oldest placement of the lines.

The existence of the "RB" corners present an interesting dilemma, if they were indeed the original markers, because they indicate that the location of the reserved line was much more accurately known than the county line placement would indicate. These "RB" markers are only about 1,000 feet from where the reserved line should have been; the county line is yet another 4,000 feet away. There is only one other nearby survey which explicitly mentions the reserved line: an 1823 grant lived on by William Cotton. It's east boundary called for the "old reserve line." A reconstruction of the Line Creek land grants places this property within a few feet of a line drawn following the reserved line description.

Perhaps these discrepancies contributed to McClure's action in 1866. That year McClure had a re-survey made of the original Buckner grant and of the lands he still owned in the area (in addition to Buckner, McClure received several grants over the years, primarily on Buckner's northeast side). The original of his survey was destroyed in the 1873 fire. Fortunately for us, someone, perhaps a family member, discovered a partial copy of it and brought it back to the Rockcastle County courthouse to be re-recorded in 1911. It's in Deed Book K, page 25, complete with a copy of the original drawing made by the surveyor.

This document has made possible the placement of many families in the Walnut Grove area of Skeggs Creek around the time of the Civil War.

Below is a reconstructed map I've made (with further discussion below) based on the 1866 McClure survey and other contemporary sources.

Holbert McClure Sr had this land surveyed in either January or July of 1866; the date is hard to read, but it is probably January, which would have been a better month to have been in the field with a survey team. After the courthouse fire, someone brought a copy of this document to the courthouse to be re-recorded. It must have been in poor shape, because some portions of the text are missing and other portions appear twice. In any case, this is a rare and valuable find for Rockcastle County. The document runs ten 11 x 17-inch pages and includes a plat with the approximate locations of some roads and creeks. Click here to see a copy of the plat.

The document first goes through the boundaries for the Buckner land, which McClure had re-surveyed. According to his new survey, the Buckner land totaled 10,506.25 acres. His surveyors said the original survey was off by 660 feet on the long sides and 412 feet on the short sides.

However, the landmarks for the Buckner boundary lines as given by McClure, such as creek crossings, just don't fit properly; they're not off by much, but enough to be noticeable. In addition, the corners common to Buckner and McClure's own land don't meet correctly when using McClure's survey of Buckner. But if the old Buckner survey is used, the land inside fits almost perfectly. At times in Pulaski County, the southwest line is placed a bit further southwest and the southeast line is bit further northwest.

Therefore, the blue box above is the boundary of the original Buckner survey, as close as can be approximated from McClure's re-survey. I feel the reconstruction of the Buckner grant is accurate to at least a few hundred feet. I'll fine-tune the location as more data becomes available.

The document then moves on to "the remaining or unsold part of said survey yet owned by said McClure." That land is outlined in red on the above map, with arrows pointing to various pertinent corners. As stated before, some of the text of the survey is missing, most notably the northern section where McClure goes northeast of the Buckner line a few corners past Mize all the way to the corner above Charity Renner. Those lines were reconstructed using the plat included on the document. The acreage of Holbert McClure's land in red above was 2,260 by his survey and 2,089.36 according to my reconstruction.

One noticeable item on the original plat is the Kincaid Road. Today, there is a small section of road in the western edge of county called the Kincade Ridge Road. It joins Pitman Hill Road on the east and runs northward toward, appropriately, Kincade Ridge. This road is mentioned in several deeds and in the 1920 census much too prominently to be isolated then as now in that one area. I had once speculated that the Kincaid Road and Highway 1249 were the same. This is not the case. While still not certain of where it connected with what is now Hwy 1249 (it may have been at Pennick Hollow, where Pitman Hill Road connects, or maybe even as far north as Blue Springs), the Kincaid Road ran at least down to Eagle Creek and maybe all the way to the Rockcastle River. At one time there was a four-way intersection at Pongo, instead of today's three-way, with the Kincaid Road going straight ahead (southeast) on the ridge above Eagle Creek.

Also concerning roads, the Line Creek Road seems to have been the northeast-southwest avenue through the area. It would have been comprised of the Luner/Cleftrock/Pongo roads, joined Hwy 1249 at Pongo, turned south toward Buffalo, then southwest on what is now the Thaney Bullock or Dyer Branch Road, and continued down to Line Creek.

Note for "U" marked on the map from the text of the survey: "I will now give the notes of the outside boundary of the [unreadable word] land sold by Holbert McClure to James Smith, including the plat of the old Daugherty survey at the mouth of Skeggs Creek, now owned by George Decker. Also the Joseph Baker 50-acre survey adjoining this claim on the west and 250 acres land off in the old Buckner survey on the N.W. of these other surveys. Beginning at a beech standing close on the N.E. side or bank of Skeggs Creek, very near its mouth, it being corner to Evans, Bray, Baker, Smith, and Daugherty original..." Too much of the description is lost to reconstruct the survey properly and the plat is somewhat confusing in that area.

I now have all of the surveys between Buckner's southeast line and the Rockcastle River and am in the process of making a map of the area. When completed, the map will cover the entire area from the river northward to Blue Springs, joining the Line Creek grants. Combined, these two maps will show the original land grants for the Line Creek and Skeggs Creek watershed, south of Blue Springs.