Early History of Gallatin County, Part 8


The first home we have record of in what was then Gallatin, now Carroll county, was the ill fated home of Mr. Elliott on the Point where Carrollton now is.  We have no description of this home that was burned by Indians in 1785.  We suppose this was a rude log cabin and such no doubt were the other homes scattered over our present counties of Carroll, Gallatin and parts of Owen and Trimble that formed Gallatin County in 1798, when it became the 33rd county of our great Commonwealth.

The earliest homes had to be built with few tools and with the ever lurking danger of being destroyed by Indians, who Collin's History tells in a few words: “The Indians were then troublesome.”

For the first homes of this section we had best look to the brave little town of Port William [Carrollton], which was laid out with streets and building lots in 1792.  We know that boats began to call at this town as early as 1795 and having the advantage of the trading boats on both rivers, beautiful homes of brick were soon built and well furnished.  Some of these old homes must date back to the time Port William was the county seat of Gallatin county, from 1798 to 1839.

Perhaps if we could follow the history of some of these old homes we might learn a great deal of the early settlers.  One is a plain square house, with unusually large, round, classic columns to the front porch, which extends over both stories.  This house is too near the street to give it a perfect setting, however the porch is an architectural gem.  This house, like several others of the very old ones, is situated near the Point in Carrollton.  There are other very interesting old homes.  One is set in a large yard on High street which I remember being called the old Coburn house.  This house is a red brick with a stone wing at the side very much weather but still beautiful.  Some years ago I saw such a lovely small brick house in Carrollton, if I remember right this house was on Fifth street.  Everything about the house, yard and brick wall were all in perfect scale.

On the road between Worthville and Carrollton there is an old stone house that makes a beautiful picture on a knoll above the road.  One old house standing on a hill some distance from Carrollton is the home of General William O. Butler.  He is buried there and his monument can just be glimpsed from the cemetery in Carrollton, where so many of this note pioneer family are buried.

At Warsaw, first known as Fredericksburg and established in 1831 and became our county seat in 1839, there are several very old homes still standing.  Some are of brick and a few are of wood, notable among thee bricks are the stately old Gibson homes on the Sparta and Warsaw pike and the Paine home in the edge of town.  The latter has been changed a good deal.  Along the river and down to the boat-landing are many old houses.

With the exception of the Ohio river valley, the early homes of Gallatin county were nearly all log-houses as we had some of the very finest timber for building.  Great logs of oak, beech and poplar was used.  The floors were of the finest ash, often the mantels and sometimes doors were of solid walnut or yellow poplar.  The favorite style for the earliest houses was two large log rooms with an open “passage way” between.  Often this passage was nearly as wide as a room and the stairway usually went up from this to the low upstairs bedrooms.  These “passage ways” were cool and delightful in summer when they became the family living room. In the winter when the snow was falling, it often blew across the passage, and the boys if the family who usually slept upstairs often left their tracks in the snow when they came down to build the morning fires.  These “passage ways,” like the kitchens built twenty or thirty yards from the house, were really intended for a warmer climate than ours and were soon left out of the building plans.

Some of the houses like the Sandford log house, had an ell also of logs, and all the early houses had great rock chimneys made of our native rocks gathered from the hills and branches.  This fine building material was largely overlooked by the early home builders except for chimneys and their rock fences.  The oldest house for miles around, however, was built of this stone, proving how durable and beautiful it could be. This is the old stone house at Sanders (which until some time in the 1870's was a part of Gallatin county).  I can remember when there was a beautiful stone fence around it, a big lilac bush in the yard, and a few gnarled old apple trees at the side near the family graveyard.  This house had, until it fell into disuse some years ago, a fascination all its own.  Built in 1809 (fortunately, the date is carved above a window) when the county was so thinly settled that men had to come from miles around and camp there to lift the heavy timbers and haul rocks for the building.  The rafters were fastened with wooden pins and the doors are of solid walnut, also put together with wooden pins and with hand made latches and knobs. The chimneys of this house are the most perfect I've ever seen and each room has a quaint little wood fireplace built unusually small for early American homes.  Evidently the thick stone walls were supposed to keep out the4 cold and make the house easy heated.

The great attic, with its two little square windows at each end commanding a lovely view of the Eagle creek valley, was evidently the family workshop, Here, the spinning and weaving for the family and the slaves they may have owned was done.  Standing at the top of the little winding stair that comes up from the tiny hall on the second floor, looking about this attic, in imagination, we might see one or more clumsy home looms with their heavy beams for weaving the woolen and linen cloth.  Big and little spinning wheels, “hanks” of yarn hanging from the rafters and a barrel or home-made chest filled with “trusty tallow-dips.”  The candles were  made from tallow in the fall when the winter supply of beef was butchered and cured like hams of pork.  Then somewhere in the rear would be the smoke-house, doubtless of logs. Here would be stored the supply of meat and enough soap, kept in a big barrel of hollowed out log trough to last the family a year.

The log houses of this section built from sixty to ninety or a hundred years ago, a few of which are still standing differ widely in type. Some like the old Brock home in Willadean Nursery had long steep roof lines, with a deep porch across the front and end chimneys making a perfect balance.  The favorite height for the log house was one and a half stores and we find this in both one and two room log houses.  Often the one room log house was a lean-to kitchen and low bedrooms above was by far the prettiest type of our pioneer homes.  At least the ones that have come down to us have usually be beautiful in line and proportion, the slope of the roof a long line where it comes down over the lean-to.  A big rock chimney at one end, sometimes rough, sometimes as fine an example of the stone mason's art as one might wish to see.  The battened front door, broad and low, a quaint window of many small panes often placed in the end near the fireplace, since there was often but one and it must light the busy house wife about her knitting and sewing.  In the end opposite the chimney would be the small square window lighting the upstairs bedroom where the eaves came nearly tot he floor.  An example of this type of house was A. B. Bruce's home near Lost Branch.

There are several houses of this type still standing in the county - some above Warsaw on the road to Covington.  If there is a bluegrass lawn with some old locust or cedar trees and a bit of rail fence about, the picture is complete.  Scattered over Gallatin county, at the present, are several aged, mellow red brick homes of the type so dear to the hearts of Kentuckians.  One is the lovely old home of Virginious Craig on the Ohio river, between Ghent and Warsaw.  This house with its classic entrance porch facing the Ohio river and its beautiful trees is a perfect example of the “Old Kentucky Home,” and still belongs to the family of its builders.  At the end of the drive was a boat landing where boats once stopped for the products of their farm and that of the neighbors.

In Glencoe, there is the old square brick house once the home of the Hon. M. J. Williams, known as the “Old Williams Brick.” Until a few years ago there was a grove of magnificent beech trees in front of this farm.

The Squire John O. Hamilton home is still standing near Sparta, a dignified old brick with such beautiful interior woodwork, including a stairway with a turned mahogany handrail.  This house is now owned by Will Young.

In the Drury neighborhood is the home known as the “Hoggin's Brick” which belongs tot he family of Harry Godman, who are descendants of the original owners.  At Warsaw and near Napoleon and scattered over the county are some more of these old brick houses that have stood through the many changes the years have brought to Gallatin County.