Dry Ridge


Every community has its history, written of unwritten, and this history is inseparably connected with the lives and characters of those who have composed it.

 The great charm of any history is that it reproduces the peculiar characteristics and habits of the people in the times when they lived.  In this short sketch we hope to have caught the essences and spirit of Dry Ridge, the thing that makes this history different from every other of its kind.

 In the early days, before Grant County had separated itself from Pendleton County, before the old Lexington Pike was built, there was a state road which followed the ridge or watershed from Williamstown to Crittenden.  This ridge was named and known by stock drivers as Dry Ridge, because there were no streams of water at which they could water their stock.  This was of course long before the railroad was built and all stock going to the Cincinnati markets had to be driven in on foot.  The approximate date of these happenings is, as near as we were able to find out, about 1810 or 1820.  These stock drivers, finding no water on the dry ridge were compelled to stop at the various inns, which soon made their appearance on their route.  One of the very first of these, kept by James Kinlaer, was located about where the old John Conrad brick house now stands.  It was known as the first stop, or watering place, on the dry ridge.  Consequently, when a post office was established here, it was named Dry Ridge.  We were not able to find the exact date of establishment of this post office.

 This dry ridge was, as we have said, a watershed, as all of the water falling on the east side found its way to the Licking and all on the west into Eagle Creek.

 In the days of which we are speaking, the old state road, a dirt road, wound its way along the dry ridge through dense forests.  Some of the finest timber in the state was to be found along the old state road.  One of the largest walnut trees in the state stood where the tool house of the Dry Ridge [L&N] section [house] now stands.  The largest poplar tree, which is told to have been so large that when felled a man on horseback could barely reach the top, stood on what is now a part of the Conrad sub-division about where the pump house is now.  The early settlers cleared their land, erected their log cabins and lived in the midst of a virgin forest.  It is along this old state road that Lafayette once passed, while on his trip through Kentucky, spending a night on the dry ridge in the old Henderson Rouse house at what is now Crittenden.  Along this old road rolled the stagecoach of Henry Clay as he set out on his journey to Washington to take his seat in the U. S. Senate.

 Some traces of this old road are yet to be seen and in some places it follows the same path as the present Dixie Highway, while in others the Southern Railroad approximates its course, while in still other places a gentle sway indicates the location of Kentucky's first highway.  Many and famous are the men whose feet have passed along.  The old road lies forgotten, the stage coach rumbles not again, knee breeches and powdered wigs, buckskin coats and flintlock rifles can be seen no more.   Over a concrete road we hum along in our motor cars with scarcely a thought of that which was - of the hardships, the struggles of the early beginnings and development of this country.

 This writing would appear too incoherent if we tried to trace each and every event as it happened.  We will endeavor to classify our writings and tell as much s we have been able to find about the olden times.

 The first Primitive Baptist preacher in the county was Jarrard Riley who was here in 1818.  The first Methodist preacher was Jess Robinson, whose descendants still live in this community.  He traveled over the county and preached in private homes.  Christian Tomlin first proclaimed the doctrines of the Missionary Baptist Church.  Barton Stone was the first Christian minister in this district.  He was preaching here in 1827.

 The first church organization in the county was of the denomination known as the Primitive Baptist Church and the building stood one-half mile south of Dry Ridge on the site of what is known as the old depot.  This later became a part of the Williamstown church and the present Primitive Baptist Church was organized in 1890.  It was in this old church, made of logs and surrounded by a dense forest that Elder Wm. Conrad listened to Jarrard Riley and was converted.

 We were not able to find much about the early history of the Missionary Baptist Church.  The first church of this denomination in the county was organized July 12, 1817.  The present church building was erected in 1901. 

 The first Methodist Church was dedicated in 1847 by Father John James and was named James Chapel in his honor.  This church was located just opposite the present primitive Baptist Church and stood approximately on the spot now occupied by the residence of Miss Clara McCoy.  This building was torn down in 1896 and the present building was erected.

 The Christian Church had its first beginning in a meeting held on December 11, 1897, in the Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. G. W. Mills officiating and organizing the 38 members into the Dry Ridge Christian church.  J. N. Gosney and J. T. Hinton were elected elders; R. H. Martin, B. N. Lemon and Florence Huchinson were deacons; J. M. Conley treasurer and Tandy House clerk.  Of the original 38 members only the following are at present still living in Dry Ridge: Mrs. Flora Thomas, R. H. Martin, Mrs. Hattie Evans, Tandy House, Sr., Mrs. Louvina House.

 The beginnings of education in Dry Ridge date far back, so far that the real beginnings are lost to us in the moldering dust of forgotten years.  When Grant County was organized in 1820, there were two schoolhouses in the county.  One of these was situated a little down the road (north) of the residence of Eldred Conrad.  The house was built of small round logs, 14 x 16 feet square, and covered with clapboards, which were retained in position by heavy weighted poles.  It was a heavy puncheon floor and was profusely ornamented with puncheon seats.  The benches were supported by legs made of round saplings driven in auger holes bored in the benches.  The roof of the house was just high enough to admit the teacher and larger scholars without bumping their heads.  There were no windows and but one doorway, to which there was no door.  In this house William Littell, member of the legislature who had Grant County organized as a county, taught many years.  He had from 12 to 16 scholars and charged $1.50 pr quarter, one-half to be paid in money and the rest in coonskins.

 The first division of the county into school districts was made in 1822, by order of the Circuit Court.  There were 6 districts, each one embracing the bounds of one militia company.

 The first school building in Dry Ridge proper was one much like the one herein described and stood on a spot which is now just back of Jno. McCoy's barn.  The building stood for many years and many sons and daughters of Dry Ridge received their elementary education within its walls.  It was in this building that Burrell Y. Carter and William Gordon, two of Grant County's early educators, presided as pedagogues.  We are unable to find the names of any other teachers who taught here.  This building was very old and according to reports dates back in construction to the [18]20's or [18]30's.

 After [this first school] had served its usefulness a lot from the old Tucker farm was set aside and the new school building erected on it.  This building stood opposite the residence of J. J. Blackburn on the opposite side of the pike and a little toward town.  We are unable to find dates and names connected with this building.  It was disposed of and the land bought by John Conrad in 1892.

 To take its place, a new 4-room frame building was erected on the site of the present school building.  The new building was occupied in the year 1893.  The first corps of teachers to serve here were J. M. Flege and Miss Mattie O'Hara.  This was the first time Dry Ridge ever had over one teacher.   

This building served out its usefulness and by 1911 Dry Ridge was ready for a new building.  The old one was sold and torn down, and a new, modern brick building erected in its place.  The first teachers to serve here were O. P. Gruelle, Miss Anna Beasley, Miss Mary B. Carter, and Miss Lizzie Bracht.  In 1915 this building was burned and the present school was erected. 

It was at this time that the controversy arose as to the establishment and location of the County High School.  Williamstown aspired to the honor and to the financial aid of the Fiscal Court, but through the efforts of John Jackson and Seldon Steers, Dry Ridge received the honor and became the County High School of Grant County.

 Dry Ridge has always been a school town and has always been progressive in such matters.  Just at present there is a movement on foot to provide more room, adequate auditorium facilities and a gymnasium, all of which are much needed.  There seems to be no doubt that in such a public-spirited community as Dry Ridge, such a move will be successful.

 Without doubt the first public industry in Grant County was a tanyard.  This was conducted by Elder Wm. Conrad, and the old tannery was located on what is now the farm of F. K. Conrad.  Elder Conrad was also one of the very first ministers in this county, settling here September 22, 1817.

 The first saw and grist mill was built and operated by R. L. Collins.  Mr. Collins old mill stood on the spot where the millpond in back of the Carlsbad Hotel now is.  The mill was operated for many years and was then moved up on the road, where the Carlsbad Hotel stood and was turned into a flour mill.  Here it stood for many years and finally came a part of the Carlsbad Hotel. The men operating this mill after R. L. Collins were Jaspar Hume, Ed. Kinslaer, B. F. Lemon, E. N. Bannister, Arthur McBee, and John Judy.

 The first village smithy in Dry Ridge was begun in the early [18]50's by Charles O'Hara.  His shop was located about where Jno. McCoy's barn now stands.   It was afterwards moved down toward the corner.  In those days the farmers could not use the ordinary turning plows on the nearly cleared ground because of stumps and roots.  Mr. O'Hara manufactured a jumping-shovel plow that became famous in Northern Kentucky.  Connected with this enterprise are the names of Boswell, Hedges, and others.

 We were unable to find definite information as to the date of the first store, but it seems that the honor belongs to Flem Nesbitt, who operated a general store on the spot where Holbrook's garage now stands.  Following him in the same location where John McPhersopn, C. P. Price, Newt Lemon, and Coleman Reed.  Contemporary with McPherson, Jaspar Hume owned and ran a general store on the site of what was the old Sanders store building.  Following him in the same location was Newt Lemon, J. B. Sanders, and Geo. McAtee.

 The first drugstore n "Dry Ridge was opened in 1889 by Dr. A. D. Blaine in Tucker's old store house which was located in the Broadway corner of what is now the Avon Moore Hotel.  Following him came John Judy, Jack Johnson, R. E. DeHJarnette and our present druggist.

 The first bank organized in Dry Ridge was the Farmers Bank of Equity.  It opened its doors June 1, 1892, in the building that it occupied up to the time of the fire last year.  Beginning business with a capital stock of $50,000, the first officers were P. J. Renaker, Pres.; J. L. Price, Vice-Pres; W. T.S. Blackburn, Cashier; J.C.B. Conrad, E. B. Kinslear, R. J. Blackburn, John Conrad,, and J. B. Renaker, directors.

 The First National Bank was organized in 1903, with T. J. Browning as Pres.; John Blackburn, Vice-Pres.; W. T. S. Blackburn, Cashier; and J. A. Bracht, James Ervin, J. DeWalt, J. Glasscock, E. D. Webster, directors.  These two banks have grown to be among the largest and most substantial banks in Northern Kentucky.

 The first court in Grant County was held in a log house about one-half mile south of Dry Ridge on the site of Chas. Lee's residence.  Judge Childers was on the bench.

 The first telephone in Dry Ridge was a toll phone installed in the drugstore of G. W. Miller in the year 1897.

 The first automobile owned in Dry Ridge was the property of Elmer Jennings.

 The first train over the Southern Railroad was scheduled for July 4, 1876.  Prior to that time there was a stagecoach line from Williamstown to Covington, owned by O. P. Hogan and driven by Kit Webster.  They made one round trip a day.  Quite a contrast with our modern busses running every hour.  The old stagecoach days also carried the mail.  The post office was very small and located in the corner of some store.  We are unable to find when the first post office was established, but the RFD service was established in the year 1903.  At this time, the post office became an institution large enough to permit a full-time postmaster.

 In the year 1907 or 1909, the year the old Equity cut out tobacco, [Read more about 1908 and tobacco, here] there was a creamery company formed in Dry Ridge.  Difficulty was experienced in procuring water to operate the creamery.  Consequently a contract was let to drill a well.  Water was found at 1,100 feet, but not the pure sparkling staff of life.  [It was] mineral water.   The creamery project was abandoned as it proved unprofitable and the property, including the well, was sold to J. B. Sanders.  He conceived the idea of building a health resort.  He then bought the old mill and the old town hall and drugstore building connected and built to them, forming the Carlsbad Hotel.  This was in operation for many years and brought relief to many sufferers, and was standing and in operation up to the fire, February 25, 1927.

 Some of the older or pioneer families in and around Dry Ridge are the Conrads, the Tuckers, the Clarks, the Humphries, the Ecklers, the Thomases, the Kinslaers, the Renakers, the Conyers, the Lewises, the Nichols, the Carters,  the Theobalds, the Hutchinsons, the McGineses, the McCoys, the Anderspns, the McClures, the Ruddles, the Lawlesses, and we must not forget our faithful colored people, Zach Chabres, who worked for the Hogan Bros., as a horse trainer; Uncle Allen and Aunt Louise Tucker and their flower garden; and no one forgets Barney Morgan and his faithful old grey horse, Bill.

 The first resident doctor in Dry Ridge was Dr. C. E. Lewis, coming here from Vermont at a time anterior to the Mexican War.  Following him was Dr. W. H. McClure in 1883.  Then Dr. R. P. Thomas in about 1889.  Then Dr. Blaine, Dr. Renaker, Dr. Scroggin, and Dr. Eckler.

 The first man to practice dentistry in Dry Ridge was Dr. Allen in about 1893.  He was succeeded by Dr. Kirtley Bannister.  Following him came Dr. J. Cleek, who practiced for only a short time.  Dry Ridge was without a dentist until Dr. Nickell began practice, and then came our present dentist, Dr. S. B. Rich.

 The first undertaking establishment was operated by J. B. Sanders, who began it in about 1900.  Following him came G. W. Sanders and R. Houston.  Following these came our present undertaker, H. J. Eckler.

 On the morning of February 25, 1927, Dry Ridge experienced on of the most disastrous fires in the history of the county.  The property damage was great and the following buildings were destroyed: The Carlsbad Hotel, The Farmers Bank of Equity, Clements' Restaurant, the post office, R. E. DeJarnette's drugstore, Chas. Northcutt's grocery, Geo. Sanders' grocery, Doc Bowman's picture show, Dr. J. G. Renaker's residence, Mrs. Lang's residence and the old J. B. Sanders store building, and the Beasley Sisters' notion store.  They who suffered this great disaster did not accept it as a final defeat.  The spirit of their ancestors manifested itself and it is remarkable what has been done in the past year.  The Farmers Bank of Equity has almost completed a handsome and commodious modern bank building, one of the best in Northern Kentucky; Chas. Northcutt has constructed and is now occupying a much larger and much better store building; the Beasley Sisters have erected on their lot a neat and handsome building which they now occupy as a residence and notion store; Dunn & Jones have erected a splendid store building on the lot formerly occupied by Bowman's picture show; Dr. C. A Eckler, sensing the community's need, erected a pretentious building which is now occupied by the post office and by Henry Spilman's [sic] grocery and dry goods store.  The hotel has not yet been rebuilt, but we hear rumors from time to time and would not be surprised soon to see it arise, Phoenix-like out of the ashes of the old, a new and great Carlsbad.  In the meantime, the Avon More Hotel has been caring adequately for those who need relief from rheumatism and diverse ailments that respond to treatment by the famous mineral water and baths.

 The following is a roster of the present business houses and professional men: 

 Geo. Miller &Son, drugs; 
A & P Co., Eric McBee, Manager;
Albert Carter, groceries and meats;
C. L. Alexander, hardware;
Fred Hutchinson and Wife, dry goods and notions;
Chas. Northcutt, groceries;
Roy Gardner, groceries;
George Jones, restaurant;
Beasley Sisters, notions; 
W. P. Crouch, lumber and building material;
D. V. Conyers, general merchandise;
Albert Lucas, coal;
C. W. Burton, garage;
H. L. Marshall, filling station & creamery;

Farmers Bank of Equity, A. C. Webb, president, Jno. McCoy, Cashier, Clara McCoy and R. D. Hogan, assistant cashiers;

First National Bank, W. T. S. Blackburn, president, Elmer Rice, Cashier, Thelma Wright and Anna D. Rash, assistant cashiers;

Hotel Avon More, R. Chapman, prop.;
Richard Eckler, postmaster;
H. J. Eckler, funeral director;

RFD Carriers: Rt. #1, James Blaine; Rt. #2, Orville Webster; Rt. #3, Logan Blaine; mail delivery, Tip Hume;

Leslie Smith, barber;
O. G. Ramsey, agent, Southern Railway. 

Professional: C. A. Eckler and A. D. Blaine, physicians; S. B. Rich, dentist; O. P. Gruelle, Supt. Of Grant County Schools, and Rev. B. A. Miller, pastor of the Baptist Church.

 We probably have omitted many things which should have been said, have failed to mention many persons who should have been mentioned.  The time of preparation as well as the time we were compelled to confine our remarks to was short, we hope to be pardoned for any oversight.


The History of Dry Ridge Community was prepared for the Rural Community Conference held in Dry Ridge, February 17-19,1928, under the supervision of county agent J. E. Wilson.  The history was collected and arranged largely by J. C. Miller and written and read by Z. O. Price.