FIFTY YEARS AGO AND EARLIER
Note: This article was written in 1921, so “fifty years ago” referred to 1871.
Green River is the boundary line of Ohio County on the west and south for about eighty miles. This river was improved and opened to navigation about the year 1835 or 1836. Point Pleasant, Ceralvo and Cromwell were trading posts in Ohio County. South Carrolton, Paradise and Rochester were located in Muhlenburg and Butler Counties on Green River and did a flourishing business, much of what was drawn from Ohio County.
Oliver Cromwell Porter founded Cromwell and gave it part of his name. Abe Kahn, Archie Montague and others were traders and ran general stores there. Q. C. Shanks put up a large lumber mill and Cooper put up a good flour mill (both were run by steam). Shanks was the first man to use what was known as the “Muley Saws.” Up to this time in Ohio County all lumber was hews or sawed by hand with Whip Saws or by old-fashion Sash Saws. My grandfather – Mosby James – owned a mill on Indian Creek that was run by water power. I can remember when he would set the saw for a line in a twelve-foot log, start the saw, go and have his lunch before the saw cut through the log. While Shank’s mill in Cromwell using “Muley Saws” would run such a line in five to six minutes. The flour mill did a flourishing business.
Rochester was one of the best and largest trading points on Green Riper and had several stores. The Kinnimoths, Evans, and Pools were the leading business men. Skillesvllle at the mouth of Mud River was another flourishing town with stores and Marble Works conducted by Craig Bros. Brewer and Cowan built large carding machines, a flour mill and saw mill, that drew an enormous trade from Ohio and Muhlenburg counties. Prior to the building of the mills at Cromwell and Skilesville, the southern and western parts of the county had had to patronize the Hartford mills. Jacob Stom founded the town of Paradise and he also gave it its name. Captain William Wand was doing a good business there before the year ‘61.
The first steamer I ever saw was in 1849 -72 years ago - it was the General Breathitt. Later on the General Warren, General Logan, Sofia, Evansville, Bell Quigley, Falls City, Fulton, Bridges, Bowling Green, Lyon, James White and several tow boats all navigated Green River. I was at Paradise on the occasion when three steamers with passengers and freight landed, all within an hour. Scarcely a day passed that we did not see one or more steamers blow in for landing along Green River. It is said that Green River is the deepest river in the world considering its width and length. So far as I know, that statement has never been disputed for it is never unnavigable and seldom freezes up.
Spinning wheels, winding blades and handlooms were almost all laid aside fifty years ago. People were wearing store clothes and custom made shoes and the girls began to decorate themselves with ribbons and frills. When I was a small boy the farmers cut much of their wheat with sickles but cradles soon took the place of sickles. Grass was cut with scythes and wheat was tread out on the ground by driving oxen or horses over it or threshed out with flails. The first thresher in this end of the county was operated in 1860. It was only a cylinder with teeth in it. The wheat chaff and straw all came out together and had to be separated by hand. In 1861 Joshua Benton operated a separator in this community. It separated straw and wheat, but left the chaff mixed with the grain. Fifty-four years ago there was a combined reaper and mower in the Hopewell neighborhood and a year later there were two or three single mowers run in the community. J. R. Shull and L. T. Reid ran the first reaper and mower in this end of the county. The first combined thresher and separator was run by Columbus Reid.
The first Sorghum in this community was raised on the Reid farm in about 1856 or 1857. The seed was brought from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia by Rev. W. T. Reid and was known as “Chinese Sugar Cane.” R. G. Reid made the first cane mill in the neighborhood to grind this crop of cane. It was made of wood, the rollers or drums were turned by hand and operated by horse power. This crop of cane turned out considerably more than one hundred gallons of the blackest syrup that was ever made but it was surely sweet.
Fifty years ago nearly every farmer in this part of the county owned a two horse wagon, many of them owned buggies, and a few had surreys. Many heavy log wagons and ox teams were employed in hauling logs and lumber, many portable saw mills were running. Framed dwellings gradually replaced log houses all over the south part of the county. Barns and shelter for live stock were numerous. In or about 1848 Joshua Benton, John Hunsaker, Robert Sharrod, James Reid, William Taylor and J. W. D. Coleman built each a two story dwelling in the Hopewell neighborhood. Many improvements were made on almost every farm south of Hartford. There were three brick buildings built, one, I believe, by Richard Taylor on the old Hartford and Morgantown Road, and one in what was known as the Stevens neighborhood, north of Cromwell, and one by Tobias Taylor near Rochester. There were frame churches at Goshen, Green River, Philadelphia, Beaver Dam, Pond Run, Hopewell and Bethel.
In my boyhood days, I have seen my father strike fire with flint and steel, and I have on several occasions gone a mile early of morning for a live coal to kindle a fire to get breakfast with, but that was about 70 years ago. In 1858 R. G. Reid and Warner Smith ran a store boat on Green River, and I remember well that they kept a stock of friction matches. The matches came in wooden boxes containing about 100 matches, and retailed at 25c each.
There were public roads from Hartford to Cromwell, Rochester, Paradise, Ceralvo, Hogs Falls, Dixon Ferry, Williams Ferry, Vans Riffle, Point Pleasant and others from Ceralvo to Cromwell, from Paradise to Pincheco, from Cromwell to Leitchfield, and from Cromwell to Wilsons and Borah Ferry. All important streams were bridged. There were seven or eight voting precincts in the southern end of Ohio county, Baizetown, Cromwell, Beaver Dam, Cool Springs, Brown's Tan Yard, Rockport, Centertown, Ceralvo and Point Pleasant.
In 1866 there were three lines surveyed for Railroads through Ohio county. One survey crossed Green River at Paradise, one at Rockport (then known as Benton’s Ferry) and one at Ceralvo. The road was known on the Elizabethtown and Paducah line. The piers for the bridge were quarried in Rockport and a locomotive was brought to Rockport on a Barge, unloaded and placed on the track in 1869 or 1870, mail, freight and passenger train were running on regular time-tables in 1871.
The farmers of southern Ohio county were well posted In agriculture. Farming papers were found on almost all center tables. The Louisville Farm and Home predominated. Religious literature was liberally distributed among all church members, the Western Re- corder and the Christian Advocate in the lead. Political Journals were plentiful. The Courier-Journal, Cincinnati Times and Commercial, the New York Times and other papers were common with us. As to social features, there was the old stand-by, Godey’s Lady Book, and Peterson’s Magazine. The Holy Bible was in every home, and our girls modestly followed the fashions, perhaps with cheaper materials and less trimmings, but the cutting and fitting was very close to the fashions of the day, especially in regard to the exaggerated hoop skirts of that period. When at a church basket dinner, Sunday school picnic or at a social dance our girls looked like a flower garden and their beauty and behavior would compare favorably with any bevy of girls in the state or elsewhere.
Schools usually were taught in three months terms. Spelling, reading, arithmetic and writing were all the branches taught in this neighborhood up to about 1860. At that time Michael Nourse from the east came to the neighborhood and started a private school, teaching the higher grades. Many of this community took advantage of the school to prepare themselves for college. Mr. Nourse taught up to the year 1870. He was a noted character, a good teacher, and honest man, but he was certainly a “rough ashler,” a very strict disciplinarian, and administered condign punishment without fear or favor. He certainly ruled with an iron rod, but he seldom failed to advance his pupils. Mr. Frank Griffin, one of the most noted professors in the state at that time, conducted the Hartford Seminary. He taught Greek and Latin and educated some of our most distinguished men and women in Kentucky.
Fifty years ago farms were abundant in the Rockport, Cromwell and beaver dam districts. Many farms joined each other. You could travel miles and miles on the pubic roads and be in sight of a farm. Especially was this a fact about Beaver Dam, Cromwell, Paradise, Ceralvo and Point Pleasant. Many good substantial dwellings and commodious barns dotted the map of southern Ohio County. I reasonably believe that this was a fact throughout the whole county fifty years ago. The writer who contributed an article to the Hartford Republican recently surely made a mistake in dates or else he was sadly misinformed as to the history of the county. His statements would have corresponded very well with conditions seventy-five or one hundred years ago.
Lycurgus T. Reid
Published in the Hartford Herald November 23, 1921
Special Thanks to Helen McKeown