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
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
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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