Vince Akers’ fascination with the Long Run Massacre began with his connection to the Low Dutch people. His mother’s family, the Demaree’s, were of Low Dutch descent. Many of the families involved in the Long Run Massacre also had ties to the Low Dutch, thus intertwining their lives and futures forever.
Born in Indianapolis, Akers learned a lot from his grandfather, John Owen Demaree, whom he classified as “a historian.” Akers’ grandfather did a “lot of investigating on the Low Dutch,” he said. Akers remembers when his grandfather Demaree would “wave his arm across his property line and say ‘that was Squire Boone’s land’.”
When Akers, 61, began to seriously research the Low Dutch people, he became aware that “they bought most of their land from Squire Boone,” he said. Boone was the founder of Painted Stone Station in what is now Shelby County, Kentucky in 1779-1780. As setters fled the fort for Linn’s Station in 1781, they were attacked, thus the incident became known as Boone’s Defeat or the Long Run Massacre.
Akers still has an aunt who lives east of Defoe, Henry County, Ky on land originally belonging in the Low Dutch tract. An uncle gave Akers a collection of Civil War letters and property receipts from the 1850’s that predated the war. All of these personal items “told the family history,” he said. He then put everything together to tell a complete story.
His grandfather Demaree was born in 1862 and was 90 when Akers was born. “He was fascinated with local history,” Akers said. “I guess it rubbed off on me. I never did well in elementary school, except for history.” Akers went on to enter the field of finance and auditing. He spent 31 years at Cummings Engine Company from which he retired last September. He now “spends two days a week on research,” he said. “At first, no one else was working on some of these topics. But it seems like it was in my blood” to do so.
Akers poured over the Draper Manuscript, one of the best available resources for the colonial time period in America. This led him to the Long Run Massacre story and in 1974-1975 he, “decided to make a diligent search of Shelby County history.” He probed through piles of depositions filed by many associated with Long Run: Boone, Bland Ballard, the Yount family and Tyler ancestors. “All these were named in the Draper Manuscripts,” he said. Akers literally camped out at the Circuit Clerk’s office in Shelby County to go through “bundles of old court cases, bundle by bundle, case by case.” From these court cases, he assembled his own small history of Shelby County.
He also “collected what I could find on the Long Run Massacre and Floyd’s Defeat.” Because “it was an obscure event”, Akers pinpointed many errors along the way. The only sources to give an account of the event were based upon “the remembrances of children and grandchildren. Their accounts did not jive with the original stories,” said Akers. “Bland Ballard’s is the best account.”
But Akers didn’t just stop at reading and researching the Long Run Massacre. In 1981, he and a friend walked the original route as best they could, that the settlers took when fleeing to Linn’s Station. “We hiked the route from Painted Stone to the massacre site,” said Akers, “and slept at the site of Floyd’s Defeat.”
This experience gave him “a real appreciation” for the actual event, he said. “U.S. 60 runs right along Boone’s Wagon Road across Long Run and across the country the settlers crossed.” Akers admits that, due to work and family, he hasn’t spent as much time as he would have liked on researching the event in the last 30 years or so. Nonetheless, he has accumulated a “huge file” of notes and valuable information. Akers said he is “really interested in the Low Dutch and Squire Boone, and battles fought mainly in the 1780’s in Kentucky.”
“I consider Vince to be not only the authority on the Long Run Massacre, but also a preeminent authority on the Revolutionary War in Kentucky,” said General Ronald Van Stockum, local Shelby County historian and author of Squire Boone and Nicholas Meriwether: Kentucky Pioneers. In Van Stockum’s introductory paragraph on the chapter about the Long Run Massacre he gives full credit to Akers:
“My understanding of the tragic events that now transpired has benefited considerable from a careful reading of “The American Revolution in Kentucky, 1781: The Long Run Massacre (Boone’s Defeat) and Floyd’s Defeat”, an unpublished 1995 manuscript by Vince Akers. This scholarly paper, exhaustively researched and footnoted, not only places these battles in the overall context of the Revolution, but also describes them in great detail.”
Van Stockum first met Akers in 1996 when Akers spoke to the Shelby County Historical Society about the Long Run Massacre and Floyd’s Defeat. “Subsequently, Vince gave me copies of articles he had published in historical and genealogical publications, and manuscripts regarding “The American Revolution in Kentucky,” said Van Stockum. “He had a talent for placing local events in Kentucky at that time in the context of the American Revolution.”
Akers credits the 16,000 pages of the papers of General George Rogers Clark as having “added a lot to history. It’s good stuff.” He has painstakingly gone through Clark’s collection of financial papers and found receipts, payrolls, provision lists, names of people who supplied guns and lost guns at places such as the Battle of Blue Licks. By going through the Clark papers, Akers discovered that at least 15 per cent of the names associated with Blue Licks and other period events were incorrect.
As an example he sited James Harrod, whose name appears on the monument at Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park. In the Blue Licks incident, Harrod only loaned a horse to John Isaacs, said Akers. Therefore, it was assumed Harrod was at the battle and Isaacs was not. Akers found an appraisal for “Harrod’s horse along with an indication that Isaacs rode the horse and was killed at the Battle of Blue Licks. But Isaacs name is not on the monument.”
So vast is Akers’ knowledge of Kentucky history that Van Stockum said, “For years, I have been advising him to publish his manuscript. Now that he has retired, I am sure that we will soon have the benefit of seeing in print the results of his scholarship and research.”
As to the question of whether or not he will record his research in a book, Akers said, “A book was well on its way 30 years ago.”
Akers will speak at Noon on Sat., Sept. 10 about the Long Run Massacre and Floyd’s Defeat.