William Leathers Remembers Covington


I would like to contribute a few items about the town of Covington, Kentucky, when the inhabitants numbered about 500. As water is one of the mot important factors in our lives, let me tell you how people got their drinking water. It was from a well on Greenup Street, between Second and Third, opposite the old log schoolhouse. When the rope was not capable of performing its duty, the citizens got their water from a spring on the bank of the Ohio river, about the foot of Garrard Street. For washing, the majority did it at the Ohio River.

The next in importance is schools. The first teacher we had was Miss Betsey Scholes. The next was Mr. Stephens and then Uncle Jimmie Adams, and it was healthy and cheering to see him barefooted with only one suspender holding up a pair of linen pants. He did not wear a coat or a vest. He had a full school and everybody loved him. After Mr. Adams came M. M. Benton, Geo. B. Marshall, and Bushrod W. Foley, and after Mr. Foley came modern times.

The first preacher was Lorenzo Dow, and he preached in the old log schoolhouse.

The first church building was on the west side of Garrard and was open to all denominations. It was liberally supplied by gifted Methodist preachers from Cincinnati, such as Reverends Hamblin, Swanstead, Willis, Croft, and others.

In 1836 the Rev. Pitcher was sent as a preacher in charge of the Garrard Street Church.

The first class leader was Father David Musselman, who was a manufacturer of tobacco. His sons were William, Birch, and Jacob.

The next place of worship was the chapel built by Father Montgomery on Fifth Street, and at the same time he built the mansion for a school and the White Cottage for his residence.

It will hardly do to speak of old times of Covington without mentioning odl Granny Kyle, who had her residence about where the German National Bank was located on Pike and Madison. Her orchard was jus south of her house and fairly well-fixed for the kids getting in and out, filling their pockets with apples. There was another apple orchard that was very handy for the boys which was managed by a man named Arnolds. He owned the ropewalk that ran from Fish Gut to Main Street on the Ohio River.

Only a few persons now living can call to mind the large hickory and walnut trees that were in Willow Run and the butternut trees that were in the meadow upon the east bank of Willow Run, where they got their supplies for the winter use. There was a graveyard upon the bank of Willow Run as late as 70 years ago [1934].

Manufacturers of tobacco were john B. Casey, David Musselman; and his son, William Musselman. Benjamin W. Leathers was the first manufacturer and the first merchant. He died in 1822. I have one of his notes. As he was the first banker, the note is dated in 1819. Platt Kennedy's name is on it. He was the first doctor.

The early tavern keepers were Hays, Graves, Connelly, and Fisher.

One of the earliest settlers was Alex Drake, who built the brick house ojn the Licking River, now owned by Judge Fenton. Levi Daugherty lived in it for a number of years. Another one was John A. Gano, who built the house at the east end of Fourth Street, on the south side, next to the bridge. Dr. John King lived there and after him was Harmon J. Groesbeck. Groesbeck married Dr. King's step-daughter. Another old dwelling was the house built by B. W. Leathers at the corner of Greenup and lower Market, the Connelly Hotel at the corner of Second and Garrard, the dwelling of W. M. Southgate on the bank of the Licking River and the stone Kennedy house.

I have no doubt tire readers in writing so much about the old times and places and persons in Covington, but I am the oldest native-born of Covington and have sold goods in the town for 35 years. I certainly am entitled to speak of what I remember so well. I have not been back to Covington for 25 years. With the shaking up of my memory I begin to feel young, notwithstanding my 83 years.


by William M. Leathers, living in Mapleton, Iowa, and printed in the Covington's The Courier in 1904.