He was a pioneer and politician from the U.S. state of Virginia and later, Kentucky. He participated in Lord Dunmore's War in 1774, serving under his brother, Benjamin. After moving to Kentucky County, Virginia, he took part in several expeditions against the Shawnee, including some led by Daniel Boone, John Bowman, and George Rogers Clark. After Kentucky County was split into three counties, Logan represented his home county, Lincoln in the Virginia House of Delegates and at several of the conventions that effected the separation of Virginia from Kentucky.
When Kentucky became a state in 1792, Logan briefly served in the Kentucky Senate and was appointed as the state's first treasurer, an office he held continuously until his death in 1807. After being appointed treasurer, he moved to Franklin County, where he became one of the first trustees of the city of Frankfort, which became the state capital. He also represented Franklin County at the 1799 state constitutional convention and later became the county's first circuit court judge.
John Logan was born to David and Jane (McKinley) Logan in the spring of 1747. He was one of eight children in the family. Prior to John's birth, his parents had immigrated from Ulster by way of Pennsylvania and settled near the North River in Virginia. John Logan was baptized into the Presbyterian church on May 10, 1747.
David Logan died in 1757, leaving no will, and his entire estate passed to his oldest son Benjamin when he came of age in 1764. Benjamin sold the entire estate and divided the money among himself and his brothers and sisters. Benjamin and his brother, Hugh, used their shares to purchase a farm on the James River, and their sister Jane joined them there. John Logan soon purchased 200 acres of land for himself near his family. In the early 1770s, he married Jane McClure; they had six daughters and a son. Benjamin Logan moved again, this time settling on the Holston River, and John and his wife followed in 1773, establishing their home at Black's Fort (now the city of Abingdon, Virginia).
In 1774, Logan served as a non-commissioned officer in a militia unit led by his brother Benjamin during Lord Dunmore's War. His unit arrived too late to participate in the Battle of Point Pleasant, but were able to accompany Lord Dunmore during his invasion of the Shawnee lands beyond the Ohio River.
In 1776, Benjamin Logan made claims for himself and several members of his family, including John, in Kentucky County, Virginia along the Dix River, although the family did not immediately move there. John Logan joined the local militia in several excursions against the Indians. During one engagement, the forefinger of Logan's right hand was severed by a bullet. In August 1778, Logan and Daniel Boone led an unauthorized expedition against the Shawnee known as the Paint Creek Expedition. The party engaged a small detachment of Shawnees with indecisive results before retreating; the Shawnee group may have been sent in advance of the larger war party that later laid siege to the settlement of Boonesborough.
In 1779, Logan answered John Bowman's call for volunteers for a campaign against the Shawnee. On May 30, 1779, he participated in a raid on the Shawnee village of Chillicothe. In July, he was charged with ensuring the safe conveyance of gunpowder and ammunition from Boonesborough to the fort at St. Asaph's (near the present-day city of Stanford, Kentucky). Later that year, he was promoted to captain; his brother Benjamin was promoted to colonel and John assumed command of his brother's old unit. In 1780, he was ordered to bring four-fifths of his company to the mouth of the Licking River for a retaliatory mission against the Indians, who had combined with British forces to overwhelm the settlements of Ruddle's Station and Martin's Station. The mission, led by George Rogers Clark, resulted in the complete destruction of the Shawnee settlements of Chillicothe and Pekowee in August 1780.
In January 1781, the Virginia legislature created three counties from Kentucky County. John Logan's property lay in newly created Lincoln County. When the county court of Lincoln County was organized at Harrodsburg on January 16, 1781, both John and Benjamin Logan were appointed as justices; this was the first court organized in what would become the state of Kentucky. At the first meeting of the county court, John Bowman presented his commission as lieutenant of the county militia and Stephen Trigg presented a similar commission as colonel. Benjamin Logan and James Harrod received commissions as lieutenant colonel and major, respectively, but both declined because they thought they deserved a higher rank. John Logan was subsequently recommended to Governor Thomas Jefferson for the lieutenant colonel's commission Hugh McGary was recommended for the major's commission. Due to a delay – left unexplained in the court's records – John Logan was not sworn in as lieutenant colonel until January 16, 1782.
Logan was briefly given command of George Rogers Clark's militiamen who were building a fleet of armed boats and fortifications and Louisville later that year. In August 1782, he was ordered to gather as many men as possible and pursue the Indians that had attacked Bryan Station. At Lexington, Logan met his brother Benjamin and the remnants of an advance party led by Stephen Trigg and Fayette County Lieutenant John Todd. Trigg and Todd's party had been soundly defeated at the Battle of Blue Licks; Trigg and Todd, along with two majors, five captains, and five lieutenants were among the casualties. The combined force returned to the battlefield at Blue Licks, but the Indian forces had already returned north of the Ohio River, and the men returned to their homes. In November, John Logan was among the men led by George Rogers Clark on a retaliatory mission that destroyed the Indian settlements at McKee's Town, Willstown, and Standing Stone.
Logan was commissioned by Virginia governor Benjamin Harrison as colonel of Lincoln County to replace Stephen Trigg on July 22, 1783, although he had already been functioning in that capacity for three months. He served a single term in the Virginia legislature in 1784. He arrived late to the session, and consequently served on no committees. He helped defeat a resolution calling for the repeal of laws that conflicted with the Treaty of Paris and voted with the majority to restrict the ports that could be used by foreign vessels. When the town of Stanford was established in March 1786, Logan was named one of its first trustees.
In October 1785, Logan and twenty-two militiamen recovered property and prisoners from an Indian raiding party that had attacked several families camped along the Wilderness Road. He again joined George Rogers Clark for an expedition against the Shawnee in October 1786, but was later critical of Clark's actions during the campaign. He co-signed a letter to Governor Edmund Randolph claiming that Clark had, without proper authority, enlisted men and commissioned officers for a garrison at Vincennes and confiscated Spanish property to supply the garrison.
On December 12, 1786, Logan was sworn in as sheriff of Lincoln County. In February 1787, Logan gathered a group of militiamen to avenge the killing of a Virginian named Luttrell by Indians near the city of Somerset. Logan tracked the Indians over the Cumberland River into Indian territory in what is now Tennessee. He and his men attacked the group of Cherokees – killing seven of them – and recovered horses, pelts, and other items believed to belong to settlers in the area. The Cherokee who survived Logan's attack formally protested his actions to the government of Virginia. Governor Randolph ordered Harry Innes, attorney general for the state's western district, to prosecute Logan for violating the terms of the United States' treaty with the Indians, but Innes refused, citing Logan's recovery of items belonging to Virginian settlers as proof that his actions had been justified. No other action was taken against Logan.
During the 1780s, Logan served as a delegate to the first, fourth, sixth, and seventh Kentucky statehood conventions in Danville. In June 1788, he represented Lincoln County at the Virginia convention to consider ratification of the United States Constitution. Logan and nine of the other thirteen delegates from what is now Kentucky voted against ratification, but the convention voted 88–78 in favor of it. Logan's primary opposition was due to his fear of federal power without the inclusion of a bill of rights. The following year, John Logan replaced his brother Benjamin as lieutenant of Lincoln County following Benjamin's resignation.
In 1789, Logan was elected to the first of three consecutive terms in the Virginia House of Delegates. During the first of these terms, he helped draft the legislation authorizing the separation of Kentucky from Virginia. In 1790, he helped author a bill providing funds to clear obstacles from the Wilderness Road; he was named as one of the supervisors of the work, along with Henry Innes, Isaac Shelby, Samuel McDowell, and John Miller.
When Kentucky became a state in 1792, Logan was chosen as a member of the state senate. Just two weeks after the Senate convened for the first time on June 4, 1792, a joint ballot of the House and Senate was taken to select a state treasurer, and Logan was unanimously chosen for the office. A week after the ballot, he resigned his position in the Senate and assumed the post of treasurer. As treasurer, Logan had the difficult task of financing the state using a combination of currencies from the Netherlands, France, Austria, Prussia, Portugal, Italy, and elsewhere. The situation was complicated when the federal government refused to redeem the paper money issued by the states of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina to finance the Revolutionary War, rendering these notes worthless. In the early days of the Commonwealth, tobacco, animal pelts, and land warrants were more useful as currency than paper notes. At times, Logan had to personally borrow money to cover the state's obligations.
With near-total autonomy over the state's finances, Logan created the county offices of justice of the peace, sheriff, auditor, and surveyor and set their salaries. Logan was also charged with finding a way to ensure adequate defense of the frontier state; he divided the state into districts based on population in order to ensure equitable conscription of soldiers for the state militia.
Concurrent with his service as treasurer, Logan was named as a trustee for the city of Frankfort in December 1794 and served on a five-man commission to oversee the construction of the jail there. In 1799, he represented Franklin County at the constitutional convention that produced the second Constitution of Kentucky. He was chosen as a trustee of the Kentucky Seminary in 1800, and was appointed the first circuit judge of Franklin County, presiding over the court's first session on April 18, 1803. He continued to serve as state treasurer until his death in July 1807 at Frankfort.
The remainder of his term was served by David Logan, although records are unclear whether this was his son or his nephew – the son of his brother Benjamin – who were both named David. Logan's son David married the daughter of Stephen Trigg and their son, Stephen Trigg Logan, became a judge in Illinois and a law partner of Abraham Lincoln.
He was buried in the Fort Harrod Pioneer Cemetery in Harrodsburg, Mercer County, Kentucky.
"In a letter to Dr. Lyman Draper, from Robert B. McAfee, Harrodsburg, Ky., written Nov. 25, 1845, and in the Draper collection at Madison, Wisconsin is this extract: ' In the summer of 1807, Col. Logan, being in feeble health, came to Harrodsburg and died. He is buried in the graveyard in the old public square, a few yards south of the old fort. A plain stone marks the spot and unless speedily repaired it will soon be obliterated and forgot.'" - Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, "Old Fort Hill Cemetery" by Henry Cleveland Wood, page 189.