The Ohio River area around Big Bone, Kentucky, is rich in history. The largest town, now extinct, was Hamilton. It was named after an early magistrate, Joel Hamilton, whose descendants still live in the area. Hamilton was originally known as Landing, and was located at the mouth of Little Gunpowder Creek, now generally known as Landing Creek.
The Big Bone Baptist Church was established in 1843, built on land donated by General John Wallace and Thomas Huey. Until then most of the inhabitants of the area attended Middle Creek Baptist Church now called Belleview in Belleview Bottoms, Kentucky. The only other church, Big Bone Methodist Church, was established in 1888 and is still standing.
A number of the farms in the area were tended by slaves before the American Civil War, though the density was probably not as high as in some other areas of the county because of the nature of the terrain.
Probably the most famous visitor at that time was General John Hunt Morgan, who passed by the Lick on a cold snowy day, with Captain Hines. They were escaping from prison after being captured in Union territory.
The hamlet of Big Bone gained some status in the early 1900’s and a “traction road” (railway) was proposed several times, but never materialized.
“The Place the Big Bones are Found”
Big Bone was named after the extraordinarily large bones, including mammoths and mastodons, found in the swamps around the salt lick frequented by animals, who need salt in their diets. The fossil deposits were the most notable feature in the entire geographical region. Even the first maps noted it as “the place the big bones are found.”
The most famous landmark, Big Bone Lick, is now the site ofBig Bone Lick State Park. The salt lick, (or lick as it is more generally known locally), was long known to the original inhabitants of the area. Discovered about 1735 by people of European descent, the first recorded instance was by Robert Smith, an Indian trader. Other notable visitors were Daniel Boone, Lewis and Clark, William Henry Harrison, Christopher Columbus Graham, Mary Draper Ingles , Constantine S. Rafinesque, and countless others.
Big Bone Island
Big Bone Island is a small island in the Ohio River near the mouth of Big Bone Creek at Big Bone, Kentucky. It plays a part in local lore and many tales are told about it. Unfortunately, the island has disappeared due mostly to the raising of the river by the Markland Dam, but also due to large slabs of floating ice which destroyed much of the vegetation and carried away most of the soil. It seems to have disappeared entirely in the 1970s. Some people say the island was kidnapped but will turn up again some day – probably when the dam breaks.