Goose Creek Salt Works Village Highlights city's, county's, SE Ky's history
One of SE Kentucky's most important sites, dating from mid-1790s. Interpretive signs tell the story of the site. This phase was completed in the winter of 2013.
Pioneer Village and Museum to show how countians lived in early 1800s. A working salt works is included in long-range plans. A unique attraction for history-minded travelers, only 20 miles from I-75.
Center piece of the re-created village is the Jesse Cotton cabin, one of the oldest structures of its kind in Kentucky. It represents Robert Baker's cabin, site of first county government in April, 1807.
It was the most important mountain community in Kentucky
Phase One of the City of Manchester’s ambitious re-creation of one of southeast Kentucky’s earliest and most important settlements is well underway as the photos on this page show. This site, in present-day East Manchester, is ground zero for Manchester and Clay County history, and an important destination for hunters, explorers and merchants well before the city and county were formed in 1807.
The site was established squarely along the famous Warrior’s Path, a well-known Indian route that followed the meanderings of Goose Creek in this area, that was used by explorers such as Daniel Boone (in 1769, during his first hunting trip in Kentucky territory) and before him, Dr. Thomas Walker, who passed by here when he returned to his home after establishing the first structure in Kentucky (in 1750) in nearby present-day Knox County.
By the mid 1790s the site was already well known in Kentucky as being the location of the first commercial salt works in what would become Clay County, the largest producer of the valuable commodity up until the Civil War. The salt works was known as the Langford Works, named after its founder, Stephen Langford. In 1802 the Kentucky legislature considered Goose Creek salt so important to the state’s welfare that it passed an Act to establish a road from the Wilderness Road (at about present-day Livingston, in Rockcastle County), to “Langfords.”
By 1806 the community was being referred to as the Goose Creek Salt Works. That year saltman Hugh White established as wilderness mercantile store here and bought one-forth interest in Langford’s salt works. In December that year White was one of the salt men who was instrumental in having a new county formed, which they named Clay.
In April 1807 White and several other salt men, including Daniel Garrard, the governor’s son who had moved to Goose Creek the preceding year, met in the home of Robert “Julius Bob” Baker at the salt works to officially establish Clay County. Ten acres was allocated from the salt work’s extensive holdings on which to build a new town, which they agreed to call Greenville. Later in 1807 the name was changed to Manchester, and a jail and courthouse was planned for the site that is now known as courthouse hill, just downstream from the salt works.
During the next three decades the state passed several acts to establish roads to help the salt works owners to get their salt to market throughout Kentucky and beyond. The roads were never adequate to move enough salt, however, and the legislature appropriated funds on several occasions to make Goose Creek navigable for salt boats, which moved the bulk of the salt before the Civil War.
Salt was shipped in barrels on 60-foot barges from this site, although modern day viewers will have a difficult time envisioning it owing to shallow Goose Creek adjacent to the site. Most of the water-borne salt was moved during winter and spring “salt tides,” when flood waters made it possible to float the huge barges over the shoals of Goose Creek and the South Fork of the Kentucky River below present-day Oneida.
One of the salt boat builders was Jesse Cotton (1788-1862), who with wife, Jane, lived with a large clan of Cottons and Griffins in the Cotton Bend section of Goose Creek downstream from this site. The Cotton cabin, one of the oldest structures of its kind in Kentucky, was moved to this site in December 2010. This was done in an effort to further preserve the old house, which according to some documents and sources, dates from the 1790s, and to lend a historical perspective to the re-created salt works.
The other cabins at the site were moved from the ancestral property of Hugh White’s oldest son, Alexander (1799-1883), who operated his own salt works on Collins Fork of Goose Creek on present day KY 11 in Clay County (Barbourville Rd.) The cabins were donated by White family heirs in 2010. The cabin to the left of the Cotton Cabin dates to the Civil War; the others were built much later and are meant here only to stand as structures representing the original cabins that were here.
When phase one of the project is finished it will include three large interpretive signs of the types used in state and national parks that tell the story of the Goose Creek Salt Works, the Cotton Cabin, the earliest seat of Clay County and site of Manchester, and the Warrior’s Path. The site sits at the south end of the river walk path that follows Goose Creek north to Rawlings/Stinson Park, home of the nationally-known Red Bird Petroglyph, the large rock that contains historic inscriptions. Click here for map showing the River Walk trail that connects the petroglyph with the Goose Creek Salt Works village.
Article and photos prepared by the Clay County Genealogical and Historical Society, where documentary sources pertaining to this historic site are available for study.
The Cotton Cabin heads out . . .
. . . very carefully . . .
. . . to its new home . . .
. . . where it gets a new foundation.