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First Name: James

Last Name: Floyd

Birthplace: Amherst County, VA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Continental Army (1775 - 1784)

Middle Name: John

Date of Birth: 1750

Date of Death: 10 April 1783

Rank: Colonel

Years Served:
James John Floyd

•  Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783)


James John Floyd
Colonel, Kentucky Militia

James John Floyd was born in 1750 in Amherst County, VA, to William and Abadiah Davis Floyd, descendants of Welsh immigrants. His mother was also of partial American Indian ancestry and, according to family tradition, was a descendant of the Powhatan chieftain Opchanacanough. Another family tradition maintains that her brother was Evan Davis, the grandfather of Jefferson Davis. In Virginia the Floyd family operated a farm and made a decent living there, but the younger Floyd knew opportunity to do better was in the West.

At the age of 18 he married Matilda Burford, daughter of Daniel Burford, sheriff of Amherst County, but she died a year later during the birth of their daughter, Mourning Floyd. In 1770, at the age of 20, Floyd moved to Botetourt County, VA, to seek employment. He worked as a teacher while living in the home of Colonel William Preston. Preston, a prominent frontier Virginian, was the surveyor for the western part of Virginia then known as Fincastle County, VA, which stretched as far as the Mississippi River.

Floyd became a deputy surveyor under Preston, doing land survey jobs from time to time. When he was not working with Preston, he rode as a deputy sheriff with Daniel Trigg, working under Sheriff Colonel William Christian of Botetourt County. Preston started receiving applications for land claims to be located and surveyed from veterans of the French and Indian War. In 1774, Floyd was selected to lead a group of surveyors into what is now West Virginia and Kentucky.


Floyd and a team of seven surveyors set out for the Falls of the Ohio on 7 April 1774 with a group of men claiming land. They traversed the Kanawha and Ohio River for most of the trip. Floyd had previously surveyed land for George Washington and Patrick Henry along the Kanawha River. In mid-May they arrived in Kentucky Country and had an experience with Indians who came down the river and had passes from the commandant at Fort Pitt warning-off white men as a part of Dunmore's War. This scared off some of the group, but none of the surveyors left, and the rest of the expedition continued on. While in the area sectioning land tracts, Floyd bought a 2,000-acre site for himself in what is now present day St. Matthews, KY.

With the threat of a war with the Shawnee looming, Preston and Captain William Russell sent frontiersmen Daniel Boone and Michael Stoner on a mission to warn settlers and surveyors to come back to Botetourt County. Unfortunately, Indians attacked Floyd's group before the warning arrived, killing two members of the surveying party. The remaining members of Floyd's group fled to safety down the Ohio and Mississippi River to New Orleans. Floyd, unable to hold out by himself, went for the most direct route to Virginia, traversing across the terrain in 16 days. He arrived near Clinch Mountain in Virginia to discover the locals rallying for Dunmore's War. Floyd, eager to participate, gathered a militia together and followed the main army's trail and arrived half a day late to the 10 October 1774 battle that ended Dunmore's War at the Battle of Point Pleasant.

On 21 April 1775, Floyd began preparing to re-enter Kentucky through Cumberland Gap. Floyd took a party of 32 men to Dix River in 1775 to set up a camp. Only twenty miles from Boonesborough, KY, which was founded by Daniel Boone on the Kentucky River. On 23 May 1775, Floyd was sent as a delegate from the settlement of St. Asaph to Boonesborough to meet to agree on laws and regulations for requirements to establish a colony called Transylvania. This marked the earliest form of any government west of the Allegheny Mountains. During the summer of 1776 he was living in Boonesborough and accepted the surveyor of Transylvania by Richard Henderson the leader of the colony attempt.

Floyd participated in the rescue of Jemima Boone from four Shawnee Indians and one Cherokee in July of 1776, an event that would become a popular frontier story. The first night, only five miles were covered due to a delay at crossing a river. The next day they tracked them over 40 miles and overtook them while the Indians prepared a campfire to cook.

Information began trickling into the Kentucky Country about the American Revolution in late 1776.


Floyd's surveyor license was revoked in 1776 after the political enemies of Preston gained power. Floyd then returned to Virginia. Back east, Floyd was licensed a position as a Privateer to attack British supply ships in the Atlantic. Floyd would command the USS Phoenix. When they left port heading for the West Indies, they caught a large prize just days after leaving. They went to return to port but where apprehended by a British man-of-war in Chesapeake Bay. After he was captured, he lived as a captive in a British prison for almost a year before escaping and heading to Dover, England where he was shuttled to France. In France he was able to secure passage home with the help of the American Ambassador to France, Benjamin Franklin. In the autumn of 1778 he returned to Virginia. Later that same year he remarried, to Jane Buchanan who was a ward of Preston.

He lived in Virginia on his father's homestead for a year before meeting George Rogers Clark.

Return to Kentucky

Floyd returned to the Falls of the Ohio again in October of 1779 with his new wife and son, William Floyd. His brothers Isham, Robert, and Charles, and sisters Jemima and Abadiah, came with him to Kentucky. Floyd returned to the 2,000 acres of land he bought in 1774 to keep squatters off his land and became the first settler in Jefferson County who had ownership of the land he lived on. They built a cabin (near 3rd and Main Street in present day Louisville) as a temporary shelter for the women and children while they established a settlement near Beargrass Creek. The settlement became known as Floyd's Station as 10 more families located there and a Stockade was added. There he was the leader of the area that took in part a small local war with the Indians and was led by George Rogers Clark. All the Floyd brothers participated. In 1780, by the act of the Virginia General Assembly, Floyd was named as one of seven trustees of Louisville with the power to lay out and establish the town. In 1781, George Rogers Clark convinced Governor Thomas Jefferson to appoint Floyd as Colonel of the Kentucky Militia and also, later in the year, as Justice of the Peace and Surveyor of Jefferson County.

Floyd succeeded Colonel Christy as the County Lieutenant of Jefferson County in 1781, making him responsible for the defense of the settlers in the county. The area was regularly being raided by Indians and dozens of settlers had been killed. Floyd wrote two letters to Thomas Jefferson pleading for support.

During a rescue attempt for survivors of a raid in today's present day Shelby County, KY, Floyd led 27 men there and was ambushed by Indians. Several of his men were killed, but Floyd managed to barely escape with a couple of his men, and this became known as Floyds Defeat.

Floyd participated in the Battle of Blue Licks which then lead George Rogers Clark to raid several Indian villages along the Great Miami River. Floyd also took part in these raids. On 4 November 1782, it was reported during the raids by Clark that Colonel Floyd took 300 men to approach a village of Indians but was discovered too early causing the group to flee and most of them escaped.

In 1783, Virginia organized the government of Kentucky and Floyd was appointed to be one of the first two judges of Kentucky. Later in the year, in March, he would write Preston informing him of his brother-in-law Billy Buchanan being killed by Indians. Also in the letter, Floyd wrote that he dreamed that his fate might become the same. This proved true as a month later Floyd was wounded on 8 April 1783 by Indians while on his way to Bullitt's Lick; he died two days later.


Floyd County, KY, is named for John Floyd. He is also credited as the namesake of Floyd County, IN, although it has been argued that this county was actually named for Davis Floyd.

Floyd's Station Springhouse still stands today.

The Floyds Fork River is named after him as well. Where it meets with the Salt River is near the location of Floyds Defeat.

Floydsburg, KY, a small unincorporated community is named after Floyd.


James John Floyd's son, John Floyd, and his grandson, John, both became governors of Virginia.

Death and Burial

James John Floyd died on 10 April 1783 in Louisville, KY. He is buried at the Floyd-Breckinridge Cemetery in Plymouth Village, KY.

Honoree ID: 2497   Created by: MHOH




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