Why did the Tylers choose to settle where they did?
When choosing a site to settle, a pioneer family in the late 1700s looked at the nature of the land and the kind of life it could support. Over the past 200 years, land has changed in Jefferson County. For example, parts of downtown Louisville, the fairgrounds, and the airport were wet and swampy when the area was still a frontier. The swamps known as the Wet Woods have almost all been drained and filled in.
The Tyler’s also steered clear of the southern part of the county, where the hills were steeper. The Tylers knew that the steeper the hill, the harder it would be to plow the soil and to take care of crops. Hilly land also made it more likely that hard rains would wash away the topsoil wherever trees were cut down. The land where Blackacre sits today was just right for the Tylers. There were streams nearby (Chenoweth Run just to the west and Floyd’s Fork to the east), a source of water and transportation. The stream that flows through Blackacre is a tributary of Chenoweth Run, which flows into Floyd’s Fork to the Salt River and finally to the Ohio River near Westport. They were also many cold-water springs gushing out of the hillsides on the land. The Spring water was essential for whiskey, something that the Tylers made on the farm and sold at their tavern in Louisville. Edward Tyler II was also selling whiskey wholesale as early as 1784, when he sold 22 gallons for resale to Samuel Boone, a relative of Daniel Boone.
The Tylers selected land that had the right blend of sand and clay and other minerals in the soil. That was partly good luck and partly skill. Back in the 1790s, people familiar with land knew from experience which kinds of soil supported which kinds of trees. By looking at the trees growing on a piece of land, settlers could tell whether the soil would be good for certain crops. For example, oak, hickory, and walnut trees grow on well-drained soil, so they would be good indicators that row crop‘s would do well. Gums, sycamore, and ash trees grow best in wet soil, which is not suitable for farming.
Clay was a natural asset to the Tylers. Clay makes good bricks, and the Tylers used bricks for building. (The big yellow house was built in 1844 of bricks.) In addition, as we know from our local stoneware factories, clay makes excellent plates and other kinds of pottery. The land the Tylers packed had just about anything an experienced builder needed in the late 1700s. First, there was plenty of wood, particularly poplar, from the local forests.
Poplar makes an excellent building material. It’s a durable and extremely sturdy hardwood once it dries out. Poplar also is reasonably easy to cut and shape into logs, clapboard siding, and roofing shingles the Tylers needed and used throughout their buildings, including the smokehouse, still, house, and barn. Poplar also is very light weight for the strength of wood. This is important when the only way to lift them is with a horse or muscle power. Coincidentally, poplar also resists moisture and bugs. This keeps it from rotting if it comes into contact with the ground or getting chewed up if there are wood-eating insects around. The Tylers also wanted stone for walls, paths, building foundations, and other construction uses or strength and durability for factors. Most of Kentucky has a lot limestone in formations close to the surface of the earth. This is called karst topography. In addition to limestone formations close to the surface, there is an abundance of caves and sink holes. Walk around Blackacre and you will see outcroppings of limestone in several places.
There was plenty of water, but the land was well drained so moisture wasn’t a problem, in the soil conditions were apparently just right. In other words, the place we know 200 years later as Blackacre had ideal conditions for creating a prosperous frontier-era farm in the 1790s.