Dix River’s name was the source of much controversy

Published 9:55 pm Friday, July 5, 2019


Contributing writer

A controversy over the name of Dick’s or Dix River went on for many years, according to articles in the Kentucky Advocate and Danville Advocate-Messenger.

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The matter apparently was not settled until in the 1920s when plans were made for Kentucky’s first hydroelectric project dam project to be located on the river.

“It is being incorrectly called ‘Dix’ River, and when the Dix River Power Co. was incorporated the name was spelled Dix.”

Top left, Rutledge Laurene and E.P. Faulconer canoeing on Dix River. Bottom left, Martha Home and Rutledge Laurene on Dix River. Other images are from people canoeing on the river. (Photos from Faulconer scrapbook at Boyle County Public Library)

The newspaper wanted the name right, and hoped the name would be officially changed back to its original name, but that did not happen.

The first known spelling of Dix River is found in Mercer County records in 1854.

Newspaper’s opinion to keep Dick’s name

A copy of an article that first appeared in Louisville newspapers and later reprinted in The Advocate gave more information about the river’s name.

In an early land patent, the river was referred to as Dyx River. The writer pointed out that several Kentucky counties are not spelled the same way as the names of the persons they bear.

The newspaper was of the opinion correct names for rivers, towns and counties in Kentucky should be used.

The discussion came up in July 1894 about the proper way of spelling the name of the river that runs through Boyle, Garrard, Lincoln and Mercer counties.

“A large and respectable party insists that it should be spelled ‘DIX,’ while others claim, with equal persistency, that the proper orthography is ‘Dick’s.’”

The opinion of those wanting the river to be called Dick’s offered a good reason.

“Collin’s History of Kentucky,” written at a period when the oldest settlers could be consulted, refers to this beautiful stream as “Dick’s River,” and so does Greeley’s “History of the Rebellion.”

Another reference states “in the fall of 1769 a party of hunters from Virginia led by Col. James Knox, were searching for game in this section of the state, but with poor success.

Their travels led them to a friendly Cherokee Native American chief, Captain Dick. They told him of the scarcity of game in this area and the Native American told them “they could come to his river, where they should find meat plenty; to kill and go home.”

The Draper Papers by Lyman Draper confirm that Colonel Knox and a Native American named Dick visited the Danville area and wrote in a letter in 1768 that the river was named for the Native American.

More theories

Others claim the river was named for Daniel Boone’s brother, who had a surveyor named Dick, and was murdered by Native Americans at the source of the river in Rockcastle County, then Lincoln County. After his death, it was named Dick’s River.

• The river also may have been named for Archibald Dick, a Scotchman and surveyor in Harrodsburg. He did much of the surveying in the early days of Kentucky.

• Minutes of Transylvania Presbytery, which began in 1786, listed one of the first Presbyterian churches in Kentucky as the Dick’s River Church.

• All the early maps and histories of Kentucky give the name as Dick’s for the river, so it would seem that there should be no controversy about the true name of the river. It is spelled Dick’s in 1784 and 1789 on Filson’s maps and in histories by Collins, Butlers, Marshall.

• Another reason Dick’s River should not be spelled D-i-x, according to an article in September 1899: A land grant issued in 1784, in the eighth year of the Commonwealth of Virginia, signed by Governor Harrison, refers to a body of land in Lincoln County, bounded in part by “Dick’s river.”