A Look at Carrollton As It Was In 1875 and Before


Many travelers can recall, in passing a certain point on the Ohio River, between Cincinnati and Louisville, the picture of a quiet, sleepy-looking village lying at the junction of the Kentucky and Ohio Rivers. A picturesque and truly beautiful spot, it cannot be denied, and nature could not have bestowed a more desirable location for a flourishing city. The broad, beautiful Ohio sweeping proudly along, into which, flowing silvery clear in its ripples, is the charming Kentucky. Within equal distances of two of the finest cities in the West, namely: Cincinnati and Louisville, every possible natural advantage is offered for capitalists to erect as fine a metropolis as either of the above mentioned citied. And even extending from the very limits of this little village are the finest fields for agriculture, and unrivalled quantities of hill land, for the cultivation of tobacco, &c., &c. But I am leaving the town.  Forty years ago or more, you could have passed this little town and again thirty years later, you would have still beheld the same sleepy hamlet. Year in and year out, the same old dray and old dray-driver, jogged down the same quiet, crooked street, for the few bales of merchandise brought by the boats, for the few little stores scattered here and there in the town. There was a quaintness, too, about it that was interesting, had it not been that it was such a lazy town.


There were houses low built, rambling, and ancient that to unaccustomed eyes would have readily passed for the family residence of Daniel Boone, upon his advent in Kentucky, and these houses belonging to people almost as antiquated as D. B. would have been, had he lived until now. The tenacious manner in which they clung to their wood and mortar and patch of ground revealed plainly they were in no hurry to receive the “inheritance laid up” for them somewhere else.  Perhaps though they were sure of the earthly one. And yet again it may have been owing to the remarkable healthfulness of Carrollton. Yes Carrollton is healthy, everyone will tell you that. I suppose if Carrollton had been built upon the Rocky Mountains, the atmosphere full of smallpox and ague, and a daily threatening of earthquake to give it a final burial, everybody (except myself) would have thought it a fine place to invest. They would have run a railroad up the mountain, spent millions and called it a rising city. It would have been human nature to have done so, and human nature can no more be changed than the spots on a leopard’s back; and so the years went on, and Cincinnati sprang up, and though years younger than Carrollton, left it far behind, in fact out of sight. Well, by and by, some of the old folks dropped off for their inheritance, and a spirit of improvement moved the rising generation. But the improvements were gradual and awful slow. A new dray-horse and the old dray with new sticks; and then after resting from this effort, for the space of four or five years, a new saloon or two; then, by and by, a church and two saloons, and some of D. B.’s family residence pulled down and a neat little cottage in its stead. Thus it went on, until a flourishing cottage in its stead. Thus it went on, until a flourishing woolen factory was started. But Carrollton was destined to shine yet brighter. One night, not many months ago, when the stars kept silent guard over the sleeping town (we have no policemen) the unwarned inhabitants were awakened by a cracking and crackling, and lo! great waves of angry flames were sweeping away house after house.  Poor Carrollton could not boast of a fire engine; so her loss was, indeed, great. But, through the untiring efforts of brave men, the fire was at last extinguished and the next day the bereaved inhabitants surveyed the charred and blackened remains of their one block of business houses, with also several dwellings, and consulted whether to rebuild, or let the ruins be added with those of Pompeii. But they concluded, wisely, to build, and build they did, and during the space of a few months, several handsome houses have been erected, two splendid business ones, with fine fronts, that would do credit to Fourth Street, and greater yet, each store is brilliantly lighted with gas, and the streets that at night were formerly murky and black, are dazzling in their light; and where we once welcomed the moon’s rays for guidance, we now utterly ignore, as we proudly stalk by our lamp posts.


The weekly paper was so much elated over the successful improvement that it straightway changed its form, and is now printed twice as large as formerly. And the energetic young men immediately organized a brass band, and any hour of the night you walk down a deserted street, you will catch the sound of a horn, wafted through the midnight air, and you will know that one of the band is trying to make night hideous with the din – and succeeds. And though, in desperation, you may turn through some by-way, to escape the sound, you will doubtless be greeted by the alt-horn, which resides within hearing distance all over town. But, my gracious! when they get together to practice! The teacher insists that there is sufficient natural genius in the pupils to form, in time, one of the finest brass bands in Kentucky. So we can hopefully look to the future when


                Right among the people

                                So proudly they will stand,

                And wake the finest music

                                Ever heard upon a band.


The wonderful growth and improvements in Carrollton go rapidly on under the inspiring strains of the B. B., and I can only say, in conclusion, that should there exist in Ohio any little, dull town, let it directly receive a baptism of fire. We now believe in the efficacy of firey baptism and brass bands to start a flourishing little city, such as Carrollton now is.


from the Cincinnati Times – 1875