LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF
CAPT. STEPHEN B. HANKS,
April 16, 1921
Publication of this
Pioneer River History started in our issue dated March 26, 1921. We
can furnish numbers back to that date to new subscribers.
There were not many schools in those days and the only one I recall
in Kentucky was in our neighborhood and perhaps one and one half
miles from our home. Like other buildings it was built of logs, with
a large fire-place built of rocks, or stones, and a chimney of
sticks and mud chinking on the outside of the building. The benches
were made of logs split in half, the hewn side up and the legs
driven in the round part. These were called “punhcherous” and were
of different heights to accommodate the children of different ages
and were arranged about the fire-place to give the most comfort to
the children. The teacher’s desk was in one corner and reaching from
his desk along the side of the room, opposite the fire-place, was a
long counter like desk, or table, far enough from the wall so the
pupils could use both sizes of it for writing. The schoolhouse was
located in a beautiful spot and near one of the finest springs of
cold water I ever saw. The route by road from was a long way around,
so for convenience of our family a path was made direct across our
place, a part of it perhaps a half-mile, being through the timber,
which had to be trimmed to make a passable route. The only Teacher I
ever knew was named Scott. He was a lame man and considered an
excellent teacher. One Christmas day the boys concluded to lock him
out. He was ahead of them however, and locked himself in. The boys
got on the roof and put a board over the top of the chimney and
smoked him out. The outcome was quite pleasant as we had a feast of
cider, apples cakes and other nick nacks from the homes and, for the
first time in my life I had some “store candy”.
When my brother David was a year or perhaps a year and a half old,
my parents went over the Ohio river to visit relatives in Indiana
and Illinois and were gone quite a long time. I well remember the
day they started. It was in winter and they went on horseback. The
horses were fine animals outfitted with new saddles and trappings.
The thing most vivid in my mind was a glossy morocco cap David wore.
As they disappeared from sight I grieved as through they were gone
forever. I now have an impression that on this trip they went to the
Lincoln’s as it was about at that time that Abraham Lincoln’s mother
died and as we were about the only relatives in that section it
seems reasonable to me that they went there during their absence.
While they were away the young people, had several frolics at our
place. At one of them some of the girls constructed a horse’s head
out of some white material and during the evening the door opened
and in came, apparently, a large white horse with huge eyes, with
mouth opening and closing and immense care wagging back and forth, a
very startling apparition. This had an unexpected effect on my
three-year-old sister who promptly fainted. This brought an end to
all the fun and the incident has always remained with me. Many of
the amusements that were popular at gatherings in those days would
be novelties to young people today. One was the singing of songs,
many of which would be original. One of these was abut the doctor
and went something like this;
Physicians of the highest rank,
To pay your fees we need a bank
Combined all wisdom, art and skill,
Science and sense and calo mine!
He takes his patient by the hand
And compliments them as a friend:
“I think your husband would do well
to take a dose of Calo trel.
(The third verse has escaped my memory.)
The patient now grows worse full fast
His days are gone, his time is past
His soul is winged to heaven or hell
All by the fumes of calo mel.
Among the different classes of stock on the place, at least during
the last years of my father’s life there, was a large drove of
mules, a hundred or more. They had been turned into the came brakes
for the winter but fresets(?) from the Ohio had over flown the low
land and the mules were driven to the high lands where they were fed
at the farm yards, Corm was placed in a long string of troughs made
from hollow gum logs. When fed the mules would kick and bite each
other, as is their habit. At one feeding father went in amongst them
and was kicked. I saw him fall and saw the negro man with him lift
or help him into the cart and take him to the house. From that time
he was never a well man and as he died within a year from that time
I am satisfied this accident was the real cause of his death, which
occurred in the spring of the year, but I cannot tell the year.
The incident of his death and burial are a clear picture in my mind.
I was sent on a horse to carry t he news to the neighbors and
friends and procure assistance in making necessary preparations for
The negro domestics on the place were all apparently as grief
stricken as any of the members of the family and in fact much more
demonstrative. My father’s remains were buried on the premises not
far from the outer end of the rope walk, already mentioned, and near
a cluster of large trees, upon a high point of ground.
After my father’s death we remained for a time at the old home, my
oldest brother directing the farm work. We must have been there
between one and two years. During this time my oldest sister Harriet
E. married James Walker a young physician living with his mother.
She came from England and was also a physician and attended my
father in his last illness.
There was a wedding after the custom of that time and country. The
modern custom of sending invitations far and wide with the
expectation of receiving many presents was not then known, but there
was a large company of guests, and the young people had a proper
setting from their parents. My sister went with her husband to her
new home at his mother’s, I spent a short time with her at that
place and remember that mother and son practiced together in the
During the time we resided on the old place after father’s death the
personal property was all sold, including the slaves, and it was a
sad time when they had to go. There was much weeping and lamenting
among us all and I cannot tell how it came about, but a man named
Lacey moved on to our place and we moved to a place where he was in
Hopkins county, adjoining Christian county, and not far away.
This new home was much different from the old one. We were now in a
land of hills and valleys with rocks and ledges, even perpendicular
cliffs, one near by being of great height from whose top, reached y
a circuitous route, and extended view of the region could be had.
Most of the country was heavily timbered and there was much game,
fox hunting being one of the popular sports. Our stay in this place
was short, less than a year I think. We had raised a crop but it was
not all harvested or housed and I can remember that when we went
from there the corn was still standing in the field.
One incident about this time made a lasting impression on me. At a
near by town we went to see a family of twelve boys born at six
births. They were doublers on exhibition and were the recipients of
many presents from merchants and others. I remember they were
dressed in regulation jeans with caps of uniform appearance.