Looking back: Tanyard was an early Danville business

Published 12:39 pm Thursday, May 6, 2021


Community columnist

Tanyards for making leather were a necessity in Kentucky when the first settlers began arriving in the new settlements west of the Appalachian Mountains.

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A tanyard was an operation where animal skins and hides were tanned by using water and tannic acid to turn them into leather for making shoes, harness and saddles.

One of the earliest enterprises in Danville was a tanyard, located on town branch, between the spring and Walnut Street, according to an article in The Advocate.

It may have been run by John Crow before Danville had its beginning. The tanyard is mentioned in a deed from Crow to Walker Daniel.

Robert Daniel sold about 5½ acres of land and a tannery to Baker Ewing for 10 shillings on Sept. 13, 1785, according to Calvin Fackler’s book, “Early Days in Danville’’.

The lot began at the southwest corner of Public Square, running east to the branch, 60 yards from a spring, west to a line running south and south to the northeast corner of the Public Square.

Others had tanyards

Benjamin Prall, Michael G. Younce and Phillip Yeiser also owed tanyards Danville.

Younce came to Kentucky in 1807, when he and Bast bought town plat lot 50 which was later Green Street, west of Fourth Street.

In 1844, the Prall & Younce Tannery was the largest business in Danville, according to the Advocate. They also branched out and operated a second one in Bardstown.

The main branch of their Danville operation was on Clark’s Run about a half mile from Danville where 30 vats were used for treatment of hides. All the necessary equipment for processing finished products with “a very comfortable dwelling house, part brick and part log. The first-rate stone kitchen, smokehouse, ice house, bee house and several servant’s houses were included.”

A 2,000-acre forest land was eight miles from Danville to supply necessary bark for tanning the leather.

The establishment outside of Bardstown was equally extensive and both were up for sale later after the death of Prall.

Younce soon became a leading citizen in town. He was on the promoters list of the Danville Academy, one of those who transferred its funds to Centre College, when the latter was established.

He was a Centre trustee and a member of the town council.

Younce also was an elder in The Presbyterian Church for nearly 40 years, the session of which so often convened “at the counting house” of M.G. Younce.

Moore tanyard

S.S. Moore (1779-1844) who lived on Stewart’s Lane, had a  tanyard and buildings in the mid-1800s that went to his heirs.

After his death, the property was the subject of Boyle Circuit Court in March 1876 to decide if the property on Clark’s Run on the west side of Fourth Street was to be rented to the “current renter to have of free ingress and egress there to, over the usual ways, for himself, hands, stock, wagons , etc., for all purposes essential for carrying on said tanyard.”

The contract was for two years from April 1876 — “one-half of the rent to be paid at the end of the first year, and the other half at the end of the second year, to give bond with approved security, having the force and effect of a judgment and condition for the proper keeping and care of the property wear and tear of time, and unavoidable accidents, excepted, and for its surrender at the expiration of the release.”

The renter was to have immediate possession, according to John Cowan, special commissioner.