History of  Gallatin County, Part 37


The following article was copied from an old issue of the Warsaw Independent, and was written by Miss Rebecca Gano.

I wonder who the first of the pioneers in this part of the country to choose the place where Sparta now stands, for his home.

Perhaps he was a lover of beauty, and when he stood in this little valley and lifted his eyes to the encircling hills covered with magnificent trees was so charmed with the beauty of the location; or, he may have thought more of the fast Eagle Creek, and its abundant supply of fresh water for his stock and the valley for rich farm lands.

We will never know just why the first man felled his tree and built the first house in Sparta.  Who came next, and when the mill was built  to grind the farmers' grain, or when the first store opened in Sparta, I do not know.  I do know years ago, on the Owen side of Eagle creek, a flourishing little town strung along the Warsaw and Owenton Pike.  The water powered mill is the center of activity in this tiny hamlet, to which someone had given the name Sparta.  No doubt Sparta was so named because of the heroic existence of her early settlers and the Spartan courage required to clear the ground and build homes in the wilderness.

The road which formed the one and only street for this early settlement, gave outlet to the Ohio river at Warsaw, for the surrounding countryside.  About three miles north of Sparta ran the old Boone road, the trail followed by the first hunters and homestead seekers coming down from the older settlements; while along Eagle creek wound a rough wagon trail used by the early settlers who were building sturdy log cabins with large stone chimneys all along the valley where "Big Eagle" ran to join the waters of the historic Kentucky.  A number of these old homes are still in use.

So the Civil war found Sparta, and the little village gave of her sons to both causes but remained very calm through those troubled years.

There is now a large store near the mill with a Masonic Hall above it.  This splendid order had grown strong in the community and was doing much to hold men together and lift them to higher ideals. It continued in its growth and influence for many years.  The old wooden bridge across Eagle had fallen down and had been replaced by a ferry, which continued in use until several years after the coming of the Railroad, which meant so much to this section of the state.

Just a little over a half century ago, when farmers drove their cattle over bad roads to Cincinnati, Georgetown or Lexington, returning with the money from the sale of their cattle in their pockets, often being attacked by robbers.  If there were extra chickens to sell, it meant a trip to Warsaw in the wagon.  There came a rumor that a railroad would be built from Louisville to Cincinnati.  Is it any wonder that Sparta went wild with joy when they found a new road would run on the Gallatin side, but just across the creek from Sparta.  It was then that a public spirit awoke in the community.  Farmers gave their land as a right-of-way to the R.R. and gave space for the erection of "shanties" for construction gangs.  Ground was also given for the depot, which also became a store and a post office.  Streets were laid off and New Sparta, on the Gallatin side, was a reality.  The first train over the L&N, soon to become known as the "Short Line" carried almost all of the men in Sparta eager to make the first trip on the new road that meant so much to them and their children.

In the year 1870, Sparta had two taverns, a general store, tobacco warehouse and machine shop, but strange to say there was neither church nor school at that time.  It was necessary that children walk a mile to a country schoolhouse, and the nearest church was several miles away.  At this time of community spirit, always strong here, awoke in the hearts and minds of Spartans.  A beautiful plot of ground was given in old Sparta and the "Red Schoolhouse" was erected with the Masonic hall above.  Two teachers with a music was employed [sic], and a flourishing school became the pride of Sparta.  The "Old Red Schoolhouse" was soon a community center.  The boys of the neighborhood planted trees and it was transformed in a beautiful spot of the town.  A few years later the Christian church was built on the corner near the wooden bridge which now crosses Eagle creek.  Later the Baptist church was erected nearby.  These two churches, with the "Red Schoolhouse,"  saw many years of service in the community.  Thirteen years ago the schoolhouse was replaced with a new brick structure that now houses the school children of Sparta.

In 1900 the Sparta Deposit Bank opened its doors, an institution of great help to Sparta in forming a vital part of the business here.  Sparta has four department stores, one grocery, one hardware store, a lumberyard, a restaurant and hotel, garage, moving picture show house, and blacksmith shop.  We are the home of the Willadean Nurseries.  With the erection of a new Christian Church we have three churches and we must not forget the old mill which is still in operation.

This sketch is very incomplete as we have not had the time to give the names of the many splendid men and women who worked and planned to make Sparta what it is today.  Many of them rest from "their labors now but their works do follow them." Others have grown gray in the village, but are still with us to counsel and help.  This bit of history is dear to us but we believe if we all work together in the future as we have in the past, the better part of Sparta's history remains to be written.  Let us remember, "United we stand, divided we fall."


April 11, 1940 from the Gallatin County News, and as noted in that paper, reprinted from an earlier, un-credited issue of the Warsaw Independent.