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The Dark and Bloody Ground

The popular belief that the name Kentucky means "Dark and Bloody Ground" is apparently without foundation. Yet through the years, the image has persisted in literary and oral tradition as a description of the Kentucky country.

One traditional explanation sites Delaware legend in which the ancient tribe of the Lenni-Lanape allied with the Iroquois to fight the Allegewi, the original inhabitants of Kentucky. In a single bloody battle the Allegewi were virtually exterminated. The land where an entire nation had been eradicated became known as the "dark and bloody ground". The violent clashes between the Iroquois and the southern Indians only helped reinforce the image.

In his book, "Historical Sketches of Kentucky" (1874), Richard H. Collins says that a northern Indian once asked Indian fighter Joseph H. Daveiss how white men could live in land that had seen so much bloodshed. The Indian said that the ghosts of those killed in the Indian wars haunted the land making it dangerous.

At the execution of the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals the Cherokee Cheif Dragging Canoe is said to have told Col. Richard Henderson that the lands south of the Kentucky river were "bloody ground"and would be "dark and difficult to settle". However Ruben T. Durrett said in his book, "The Centenary of Kentucky"(1892) that the phrase was used to discourage Henderson from purchasing the land.

 

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