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Kenton's Bear Creek Expedition

From "Thunder Before The Dawn"
By Rick Crawford

If anyone person should ever be singled out for the credit of opening this area to American settlement for white people, it would have to be Simon Kenton. He was involved in much more history of the Clermont County area than only fighting in the Battle of Grassy Run.

Kenton was a people person, he enjoyed the company of people and went to great lengths to help them. The Bear Creek Expedition is a good example of how great a length the fearless Kenton would go to help people.

Settlers were being killed or captured and horses stolen. Kenton's Station (located just south of present Maysville, Ky., where a K-Mart store sits at the intersection of U.S. 68 and West Martin Luther King Highway), Limestone (the original name of Maysville), Old Washington and Mayslick were constantly being harassed.

In April 1791 raids and killings had increased. Scouts Cornelius "Neil" Washburn and Benjamin Whiteman had found four canoes hidden in driftwood and willows- at the mouth of Snag Creek in Kentucky (just east of present Anthony Meldahl Dam which is situated on the Ohio River),.

Immediately upon this discovery on April 10, Kenton led a party of 30 men and boys with the hopes of returning a surprise ambush on the Indians. They entered the Ohio River at Limestone and floated downriver (west) to the mouth of Bear Creek (located between the Meldahl Dam and the present village of Neville in Clermont County). Here they waited for the Indians to re-cross the Ohio River. Two of the whites scouted at the mouth of Bear Creek and the others went to the base of the hill north of the mouth to camp. They did their cooking behind the hill to hide the fire and smoke.

Among the settlers with Kenton were Washburn, Whiteman, Charles Fallenash, Fielding Figgans, Joe Lemon, John Mefford, Alexander McIntire, Nathaniel Tomlinson, Jacob Wetzel and Christopher Wood.

The whites waited until noon of April 12 when they killed two Indians and a white renegade by the name of Bill Frame who were crossing the Ohio with seven horses. Frame had been released after his capture during Josiah Harmar's campaign of 1790 to present Fort Wayne, Ind. Frame's head was placed on a 20-foot high pole at the camp.

On April 13 the whites killed three more Indians who had five horses with them. About 10 p.m. on the foggy night of April 14 more Indians were heard across the Ohio River at the mouth of Snag Creek. They yelled for their comrades who had already made the trip across and when they received no reply one Indian sneaked across the river. He discovered the fate of his comrades and climbed the hill above the whites' camp and yelled a warning to the others still on the Kentucky side. They made no attempt to cross.

Kenton did not learn until later that another party of Indians had crossed the Ohio just west of his ambush site with one prisoner, Timothy Downing, who would later fight at the Battle of Grassy Run. Downing made his escape soon after, bare-chested, because his shirt had been stripped off him and stolen by Bill Frame just a few days earlier.

The total Indian losses were six men killed and 32 horses recovered by the whites.


Cornelius Washburn was born in 1779 in Redstone, Pa. He and his father, Jeremiah, moved to Kenton's Station in April. 1785. In June 1785 he is said to have killed his first Indian along Eagle Creek near present Ripley and his second in October 1785 near Old Washington, Ky.

Washburn was a scout for the Bear Creek Expedition and is believed to have been waiting in ambush with Kenton across the Ohio River at the mouth of Bear Creek. He was with Kenton and Whiteman as the three led in the rescue of Lewis Wetzel from imprisonment at Fort Washington because the latter had murdered some Indians.

Washburn fought in the Battle of Grassy Run and later settled on the site of the Grassy Run battlefield. The remains of his cabin can still be seen along Burdsall Road in Jackson Township, Clermont County. From here he headed west and is believed to have been killed by Indians, possibly in 1833, in the area of present Yellowstone National Park.

In 1804 Washburn was a leader of the party searching for the lost child of Williamsburg, Lydia Osborne.


Benjamin Whiteman fought in the Battle of Grassy Run and was a member of the Bear Creek Expedition. He was also a member of the large prisoner exchange which took place August 1787 in present Aberdeen.

Whiteman was born in 1769 and moved to Kenton's Station.

Whiteman succeeded Kenton as Brigadier-General of the Ohio militia after Kenton resigned his commission on Apr. 18, 1805. He later became an associate judge of Greene County, Ohio (1803- 1806).

He was a founder of the Greene County village of Clifton in 1800; it was first known as Whiteman's Settlement. He was visited at his home by Tecumseh. Whiteman's home is located just east of Clifton on North River Road, four-tenths of a mile east from its intersection with Ohio 72, on the north bank of the Little Miami River.


Christopher Wood and his family arrived at the mouth of Limestone Creek, present Maysville, Ky., on Dec. 31, 1784.
As a youth he was trained as an Indian fighter in a group which became known as "Kenton's Boys".
As a member of the Grassy Run Expedition he served as a spy for the pioneers' leader, Simon Kenton. He was also a member of the Bear Creek Expedition.