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AIRDRIE HILL

Chapter 3


Pictures for this chapter furnished by Shirley
Smith and Gary Durham. Thanks to both of you.
a jrd page on 9/7/13
Airdrie-Civil War Era

Of this time frame, in the middle of the nineteenth century, serious trouble was brewing in this country and soon a war would be fought that pitted brother against brother and sons against fathers. In 1861 most of the Southern States seceded from the union. Later, in April of 1861, the Southern Army attacked Fort Sumter and the Civil War began. When the war started, a well know Union Army General was serving as an assistant adjutant general and was quickly promoted to brigadier-general. General Don Carlos Buell would go on to serve the Union Army with distinction and bravery. One of the last battles of the war was at Perryville, KY. General Braxton Bragg invaded Kentucky and General Buell's troops were sent to squelch the Confederate troops. The opposing armies met at Perryville, Kentucky and after several days of fighting, General Bragg withdrew his troops. Both generals claimed victory, but in reality, the results were more likely a draw. For some reason, General Buell did not ensue the withdrawing Southern Troops and those in higher command held General Buell responsible for derelict of duty. Buell was removed from his command and a military commission investigated, but never placed any blame on Buell. When Buell could not be blamed for any inactivity in his role at Perryville, Buell was offered new battlefield commands, but Buell refused. He was mustered out of the volunteers on May 23, 1864. A few days later, on June 1, 1864, he resigned his regular commission as well.

As Airdrie Hill Foundry sat idly by, after Lord Alexander left the area, the land was placed in the hands of a trustee. Over a few years, several trustees would be appointed and then replaced with another, until David B. Roll became the trustee for the Airdrie Hill property. "Squire" Roll, as he was affectingly known, was a county magistrate for ten years, a well-known farmer, and the owner of considerable property. It was "Squire" Roll that was overseeing the Alexander property when General Don Carlos Buell appeared on the scene.

General Buell had an interest in the oil business, and after some research and decision making, was led to Airdrie Hill. In 1866 he left Marietta, Ohio and settled in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky on a belief and an idea that the Alexander land would be an interesting place to search for oil reserves. General Buell and "Squire" Roll worked out a contract where General Buell was offered a forty year oil and mineral lease on Alexander's seventeen thousand acres. Alexander was to receive one tenth of all the oil and mineral rights obtained from the leased land. General Buell now became the president of a new company called Airdrie Petroleum Company.

Prior to the start of construction of the Airdrie Hill Foundry, a large mansion was built on the largest hill in the general area. This mansion was the home of Lord Alexander and was to become the home of General Don Carlos Buell. This historic mansion stood above the surrounding area, away from the river, and in the area where the twenty-five or so houses for the construction workers would be built. A park type setting, with beautiful landscaping would make this mansion, built by William McLean, a site to behold. The river view of this beautifully landscaped property would further enhance the mansion. Looking toward the river, one could see the beautiful farms and forest of Ohio County. An entrance from the Green River consisted of foot-bridges and walkways leading up to the mansion. General Don Carlos Buell married in 1851 and he and his wife made it their new home in 1866. General Buell continued to live there until his death in 1898. Just a few years later, the mansion burned in 1907.

General Buell drilled extensively for oil on the Alexander property and also on some adjoining property. It seems that the numerous coal seams kept getting in the way of locating oil. Finally, the drilling became concentrated along Green River with some drilling done on an old iron ore furnace tract called the Buckner Furnace tract. When the drilling continued to find coal seams and not any oil, General Buell became interested in the coal business and near-by Green River could be a good means for transporting the coal to an emerging market. After Lord Alexander died, the heirs, wanted to dispose of some of the property and worked out a deal with General Buell where the latter would receive the Airdrie Foundry complex plus about a thousand acres and General Buell would have to release the oil and mineral back to the Alexander heirs. This was the lease that he had received some few years back. With this new arrangement, General Buell, knowing that coal was plentiful on his own property decided that the coal industry was more attractive and he changed his plans and directed most of his attention to coal development.

In the meantime (1868) The Green and Barren Rivers Navigation Company leased Green River from the State of Kentucky. After the lease, the corporation increased freight rate for General Buell's company and the increase was more than what his competitors were having to pay. The increased freight rate demanded by the new corporation was so much that Buell could not meet the prices of his competitors. He fought the corporation through the Legislature for some fifteen years. His long, hard, and time-sacrificing work resulted in the Federal government purchasing the unexpired lease of the Navigation Company in 1888. The river was then put in good order and the old locks were improved and new ones added. For this work alone he deserves a monument.

General Buell was now in the Kentucky iron and coal industry. He died on November 19, 1898, near Rockport, Kentucky. He moved to Kentucky at the end of the Civil War and ran a successful mining company for several years. He later worked as a pension agent from 1885 to 1889. Buell died in 1898 at the age of 80.

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