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Mason County, which in 1787, was a part of Bourbon County, Virginia, petitions Virginia to be made a county. But two months later, they ask for extension of time. Seems like they've busy fighting Indians. But Bourbon has a different opinion. Other petitions to Virginia, before Kentucky statehood were from Washington in 1786, to ask to be a county seat, and from Charleston, in 1787, to be made an official city.


George Mason Mason County
George Mason Mason County's size when it was formed


Mason County was first formed as a Virginia County, carved out of what was, then, a very large Bourbon County, and is named after George Mason, whose biography can be found at Wikipedia.

Mason County was the 8th county formed in Kentucky.  The law enacting Mason County was passed on November 5, 1788 and the county was formed on May 1, 1789  from a part of Bourbon County. Its boundaries are unchanged since March 27, 1890. It has an area of 241.1 square miles, making it the 89th largest of Kentucky's 120 counties. Note that some of those dates are prior to Kentucky's 1792 statehood, so those acts are from the Virginia General Assembly.

We should note, just to be contrary, that the Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, in January, 1903, says that the county was named for Stevens T. Mason, (Wikipedia) the first Governor of Michigan. We also note that Governor Mason wasn't born until 1811. So there's that.


“When we arrived at Mr. May's deer lick, in the autumn of 1788, there were no inhabitants in that part of the country. But immigration . . . was a constant, not a mere wet weather stream. Within the six years that elapsed, the number of settlers had increased to such an extent that one could not wander a mile in any direction without meeting with a clearing of from two to ten acres, often enclosed with a brush fence, and designated as a human residence by a one story unhewed [ie. round logs, not square ones] log cabin.” Daniel Drake, in Pioneer Life in Kentucky

A Kentucky Legislature's Act regarding Maysville is here (pdf), and Washington's is here (pdf).

Discover the highest point in the county.


Chicago's Newberry Library has posted online a complete set of maps of American counties formations. They start with the date of county formation, and trace every little change to the boundaries after that. Mason County has had 7 such changes, and you can see the Mason maps here (pdf). To see the counties from which the county was formed, you'll have to download the entire Kentucky state pdf. There's also a feature that you can use to import all this data into Google maps. Good stuff!

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R. P. Duvall, Mason County's “pioneer road builder,” writes on the status
and accomplishments of the Mason Highway folks in this 1935 pdf.


Historic District

This is a plat of Maysville's Historic District.
For detailed descriptions of the buildings, you'll want to read the application submitted
to request the historical district status. It's a big pdf, and it's here. Good stuff.

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Washington Charleston
Mayslick Maysville
The four items above are from Joseph Scott's A Geographical Dictionary of the United States of North America, from 1805, at a time when many printer's used a long s, or ƒ (a.k.a, a medial s), as well as a regular s.


From Morehead University's Scholar Works, we get these documents, believed to have been written under the auspices of the WPA in the 1930's, of place names in Mason County. “Place names” is something of a misnomer - they're part history, part geography, a little genealogy, and yes, sometimes they actually deal with place names. All are pdf's.
Mason County Dover Jersey Ridge
Lewisburg Taylor's Mill Tuckahoe
County History (again) County Post Offices  


An 1871 directory lists what appears to be every last business in Maysville, here(pdf)


In 1876, the R. L. Polk Company published The Kentucky State Gazetteer and Business Directory, which listed information about virtually every town in Kentucky.  The listings from Mason County are these:
Shannon Minerva Rectorville Maysville (pdf) Lewisburg Dover
Washington Helena Mays Lick Fern Leaf (pdf) Orangeburg  


In 1883-84, Polk published an updated version of their Gazetteer, with these Mason County Communities:
Chatham Chester Concord Dover Fern Leaf
Helena Mayslick Maysville (pdf) Orangeburgh Rectorville
  Sardis Shannon Washington  


The 1818 edition of The Emigrant's Guide describes Maysville and Washington.


An earlier Gazetteer published in Louisville, was George W. Hawes’ Kentucky
State Gazetteer and Business Directory, for 1859 and 1860
It's pre-Civil
War, and has detail on, other than Maysville, these two towns:

Dover Orangeburg Maysville (pdf)


Hawes' also published an 1861 Gazetteer of the Ohio River, which
included towns on both sides of the Ohio. Read the Mason County portion here.

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Elizabeth Jefferson Dabney wrote her Masters Thesis at UK in 1930, The History of Education in Mason County, Kentucky, which contained these fascinating lists:
Academies Newspapers (1797-1873) 1 Room Schools (1917) 1 Room Schools (1925)

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A list of every Mason County post office, with years they opened and closed.

The Post Office Department, in 1870, listed these towns as having post offices in Mason County, Kentucky: Dover, Fern Leaf, Germantown, Helena, May's Lick, Maysville, Minerva, Mount Gilead, Murphysville, North Fork, Orangeburgh, Sardis, Slack, Springdale and Washington.

A list of the post offices in 1899 is here. (pdf)

Here's a curious collection of documents from the 1860-1940's, from the post office, with town names, maps, and name changes. You really should start here, and they might make more sense to you. All are pdf's.
Bernard-Summit Bramel Chester Dover
Fern Leaf Germantown Helena Howard
Jenkins Kennard Mays Lick Maysville
Millcreek Minerva Moransburg Mt. Gilead
Murphysville Needmore-Bramel North Fork Orangeburg
Peed Plum Fork-Vilas Plumbville Rectorville
Sardis Shannon Sharon Slack
South Ripley Springdale Tanglewood Tuckahoe
Washington Wedonia    

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There was a HUGE explosion in Maysville on Sunday morning, August 13, 1854.
800 kegs of gunpowder exploded.  A 105-pound stone was blown to Aberdeen. At least 20 pendulum clocks were stopped by the force of the blast.  In the words of the Louisville Daily Courier (August 15, 1854): “The general impression was that the day of judgment had come.”  Read all about it, here. (pdf)

This site has an additional write-up on the explosion.

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from Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, Squier & Davis, 1847

“In April, 1784, Col. Robt. Johnson went out surveying in Fleming County. Daniel Boon [sic] was pilot. Crossed at the upper Blue Licks, where we saw 600 buffaloes. Dan'l Boon, and & Col. Johnson, stood by the river and counted 300 that we drove over to seem them cross the [Licking] river. And they thought as many were left behind on this side yet.” from the Draper Papers
The story (pdf) of William Henderson emigrating from Mason County to Missouri. In 1815. Miss Hattie Scott went thru a mess of old Mason County newspapers from the 1840's and 1850, and compiled a list (pdf) of names found in them.
Mason County sites placed on the National Places of Historical Places are here. Maysville's radio station's call letters, WFTM, stand for World's Finest Tobacco Market.  Read the history of WFTM on their site, here. The story of how they got those call letters is here.
  In 1875, Maysville thru a big party to celebrate the Simon Kenton Centennial. You can read about it here.
In 1854, Father William took a steamboat from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh. What he wrote about Maysville is here. Detailed Presidential voting statistics from Mason County are here.
John C. Breckinridge (Wikipedia) spoke at Mayslick, but was persuaded not to go on to Maysville because of threat on his life. At least, that's what it says here.
In 1864, the editor of the Maysville Bulletin was not happy about Abraham Lincoln, his Kentucky Commandant, Gen S. Burbridge, and especially with the local commissioners, the latter of whom had evidently never heard that old saying about not picking a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel.  Read the editor’s rant, here.
Death notice of Mary Sayres, the last survivor of an Indian raid in Maysville in 1790, is here. Mason County fox hunt, in 1874, here.
Several short items about discoveries of antiquities in Mason County in the 1870's are here. A description of Maysville from the Journal of Cyrus P. Bradley, in 1835 is here.
Richard Collins, editor of the Maysville Eagle for a period, expanded his father Lewis Collins' History of Kentucky in 1874, and included this section (pdf) on the history of Mason County.
A mother-lode of data about Mason County, broken down by town, from 1875, is here. “The Maysville Bulletin says that a fortune is waiting for the man who discovers a lazier game than croquet.” Courier-Journal, May 13, 1876
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture's assessment of agriculture in Mason County, in 1898-1899 can be found here. (pdf) In 1930, Kentucky Progress Magazine ran a feature letting each of Kentucky's counties to list their accomplishments for 1929.  What Mason County came up with is here. (pdf)
In 1969, Edna Talbott Whitley compiled a list of Cabinetmakers in Kentucky.  The Mason County portion of that list is here. Mary Shotwell kept a journal of her trip, in 1788, from New Jersey to Washington, Kentucky.  It's not real detailed, but it'll give you an idea of what an ordeal it was in that time.  Read it here (pdf)
The Maysville Road was opened as far as Washington on November 7, 1830.  The road struggled  for funding after a famous, and controversial, veto by President Andrew Jackson earlier that year.  More at this site. (Wikipedia)
The first telegraph lines became operative on December 31, 1847. They went to Nashville, via Lexington, and to Cincinnati. In 1906, the Courier-Journal published a list of out-of-state residents who would come home to Mason County.
Former President John Quincy Adams visited Maysville. “The intelligent editor of the Maysville Herald has actually discovered that the Mammoth Cave was bored out by an antediluvian ground-hog”  Cincinnati Enquirer, August 30, 1850 

Rebel troops invade Maysville in 1863.
Story from the Louisville press; story from the Maysville press.

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Desha Glen Wernwag House Thomas Marshall House
Marshall Key House Old Beasley Church Mill Creek Christian Church
Lewisburg Baptist Church Mays Lick Baptist Church Washington Methodist Church
  Shannon  Methodist Church  
In the early 1960's, the Lexington Herald-Leader ran a series of vignettes by noted Kentucky historian Winston Coleman on a variety of Kentucky historical locations.  Some from Mason County are above.  (all pdf's)



Colonial Dames from various parts of Kentucky. That's Maysville's Miss Elizabeth Pickett second from left, honoring an historical marker for the National Road, 1936.

In 1937, not to be outdone, the DAR erected a bronze tablet on the George Mefford farm, a mile and a half south of Maysville on Maple Leaf Road. Mefford, one of the six original trustees of Maysville, then Limestone, dismantled the flatboat that brought him to Kentucky, an old Kentucky broadhorn, an crated the flatboat house. The DAR erected the bronze tablet honoring his home. It was thought to be the only flatboat house in Kentucky.

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You can read G. Glenn Clift's 1936 History of Maysville and Mason County, all 486 pages of it, from the Hathi Trust.

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Mason County, Kentucky

“Simon's Kenton Ride” a painting from the Ky Historical Society showing Kenton
being tied on a horse, on his back, and sent through the woods, and across
the river.   It was meant as torture, and killed some who were forced to do it.

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Many very early travelers who wrote about their visits to the “western” part of America came to Maysville and environs.  Here are several of them:
Judge McLean, 1776 John Woods, 1820 F. Cuming, 1810
Elias Pym Fordham, 1817 Andre Michaux, 1793 James Flint, 1818
George Imlay traveled thru the region in 1793, and wrote an account.
A longer version of Fordham's account is here. A second Michaux account, from 1802, is here.

Timothy Flint's 1832 account is here.

The Draper Papers give us these very early accounts of Mason County and the Kentucky Frontier.
“Machis’s Station, 6 ½ miles from Washington, on the road to Minerva”. 1782 “There was no Washington then”. 1774 Joe Taylor got “$8 for his canoe”. 1784
“It must have been an Elephant.” undated
“Nobody lived this side of Washington. 1787” “Landed at Maysville, the last day of March, 1786.” “Remained at Washington” 1788

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The Mason County Museum is here. The City of Maysville is here. A list of Mason County citizens born in the 18th century, here. The Maysville Chamber of Commerce is here.
A brisk cavalry skirmish took place near Helena, Ky., in which several rebels were killed and wounded on April 20, 1863. One of the Arizona's first territorial Governors was Benjamin J. Franklin, born in Maysville.  More about him, at this site. A new road to to be built to Cincinnati is announce here in 1918. A list of men who went to the penitentiary from Mason County from 1798 through 1834 is here.
R. S. Cotterill's “Old Maysville Road,” from 1917, is here. (pdf) A list of the first automobiles registered in Mason County is here. Lafayette comes to Maysville.  Read about it, here. L. Alberta Brand's Place Names of Mason County is here. (pdf)
In 1914, the Louisville Auto Club offered helpful routes to get from Louisville to Maysville. “Experienced engineers say that Maysville is the best site for a railroad bridge upon the Ohio River. The banks on either side are ten or twelve feet above the highest flood ever known in the river, and good solid rock foundations can be had both upon the Kentucky and Ohio sides.” Courier-Journal, May4, 1872
A pair of items on Mason County Indian mounds, here and here.
Confederate reunion coming to Maysville, here.
Maysville's 100 year old Nancy Dowden, waited on George Washington, here. General Ulysses Grant returns to Maysville, here.
In October 1986, around the time PBS film producers were releasing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which was filmed in the area, the New York Times wrote a piece about Augusta, Maysville, and Washington, called “Old Kentucky Towns” which provides a wealth of history about the area. Here. Mason's had two court houses: one in Washington, and the one in Maysville.  Washington was used until 1844. Maysville - not Mason County - built its courthouse in 1844, before Maysville was named the county seat.   It was used as a city hall until January 22, 1848, when it officially became the Mason County court house.
A site dedicated to the bridges of Mason County is here. Archeological happenings above and below Maysville in 1898, here. Some Mason County Cemetery Records are at this site, and this site. Maysville citizens kidnap citizen from Sardinia, Ohio, 1853, here.
A look at Maysville, in 1791. Mason County Officials, Merchants, Doctors and Lawyers, 1847, here 18th Century Mason County Distillers, here. R. S. Cotterill's The Old Maysville Road, from 1917, is here. (pdf)
“Ruins of ancient fortifications are found near Mayslick, Ky.; and not far from Germantown, in the same county, may be seen a very curious excavation, 10 feet deep and 100 feet square.  Flat rock covers the floor; seats appear to have been placed around the well.  Many suppose this to have been an Indian Council Chamber, although there are no certain proofs of it.”from Winnie Rover's 1881 Lessons in Practical Science “A drove of over two hundred turkeys passed through this town Tuesday from Piqua en route to Maysville, which city is certainly preparing to gobble this Thanksgiving, as she has received several thousand fine turkeys from this county within the past few weeks.”from the Mt. Olivet Tribune Democrat, November 27, 1902
Governor remits the fine a veteran was given for having a public pool table, 1880, here. In 1937 UK released surveys of known archaeological sites by county.  Mason County’s is here. (pdf) This site has a list of the Mason County Historical Markers. Lucy Lee's Historic Places of Mason County is here. (pdf)
A Maysville history from Eleanor Duncan Wood is here. A status report from the Superintendent of Schools in Mason County from 1900 is here. The 1907 report is here. In 1919, there was a farm census, counting livestock, crops and farms.  Mason County's is here. Lucy Lee's A Historical Sketch of Mason County is here (pdf).
The laws of Maysville. In 1803. The town of Chester - roughly where Chester Street is today in east Maysville - was established as its own town on January 17, 1878.
The great Kentucky Senator Henry Clay is honored in Maysville in 1825. Concealed carry was a concern in 1878. Mason County celebrates is centennial in 1875.
“Two girls” from Maysville get the scoop on a Paris, Kentucky, lynching. Drilling for water in Washington, they hit gas. Oops. Maysville celebrated it's centennial in 1833. After which the organizers were indicted.
In 1815, the Maysville Eagle published a 36 page almanac. You can read it here (pdf). Lawyers of Mason County, 1872, here. 1861 law covered which birds you can and can not kill in Mason County.

“June 21. – Seventy-five farmers of Mason county, Ky., hanged Archie, Bert, and William Haines, negroes, who are said to have been stealing horses and sheep.  Two of the Haines boys lived here. They are said to have been terrorizing that vicinity.  They were seen stealing by several stockmen, who were compelled to move on at the points of the desperadoes’ revolvers.  This enraged the people of the neighborhood and they concluded to organize a lynching party, with the above result.”  Daily Greencastle  (Ind.) Banner and Times, June 21, 1894

“Mr. A. J. Harrington, Deputy United States Marshall, arrived her yesterday from Mason county, Kentucky, with D. R. Hedges, of that county, under arrest for violation of the Revenue laws, for illicit distilling.  Harrington had been after Hedges for over a year. ” Terre Haute Daily Gazette (Ind), September 20, 1872

“The Cincinnati News of Friday last says “We are informed by Capt. Powell, that a severe shock of an earthquake was experienced at Maysville, on yesterday morning at sunrise.  It lasted several seconds and made quite a rattling of the furniture and glass in the city.”   Maumee City (Ohio) Express, September 21, 1839
The Rev. James Finley writes about his youth, coming down to Ohio River to Maysville, c. 1788 (pdf). from The Ladies' Repository: A Monthly Periodical, Devoted to Literature, Arts, and Religion.
The outbreak of the War leads to these resolutions between the citizens of Ripley, Augusta, Dover, and Maysville.
Evidently, the war effort in 1940 required a list of Mason County's civilian organizations. Read all 19 pages of them here. (pdf) One of the most distinguished citizens in Cincinnati's history, Theodore Berry, an African-American , was born in Maysville.  Read all about him at this site. C. 1928, the Kentucky Opportunities Department published a fact sheet about Mason  County for potential businesses that might be interested.  You can read it here(pdf) An excerpt from The Writings of Caleb Atwater (1833) describing his visit in 1829 to Maysville, is at this site.
A book lauds Mason County's citizens, but, well, there's this. How the mail came to Limestone. In 1794.
Mason County used to have a race track: “On Saturday last, at the Clayton Race Track, in Mason County, Kentucky, James Brother, a one-legged man made an assault on George Hunter. He first threw a bottle at Hunter, and then, drawing a pistol, shot at him. The assaulted party turned, and discovering who assaulted him, drew his pistol and shot at Brothers dead on the spot. An examining court cleared Hunter.” Daily State (Ind.) Sentinel, October 6, 1869 There's a pdf of a 1917 promotional brochure about Maysville and Mason County here. A few recipes from New Kentucky Home Cook book, compiled by the Ladies of the Methodist Church, South, in 1884, here.
Mob of 300+ pursue William Sanders in 1917. Accounts from the Enquirer and the Courier-Journal. President John Quincy Adams visited Maysville on November 14, 1843. Shakers in Mason County? We think yes and no, here.
A tourist visits Mason and Bracken Counties. His report is not exactly flattering. 1817 Descriptions of Washington and Maysville. Description of Maysville, from 1808, here.
Jack and Jennet breeding stock imported from Spain.  Story here. The 1832 mail route details, and pay scale, from Maysville to Cincinnati is here. The progress of the Methodist circuit rider in Mason and Bracken, in 1828, here. John Cochran's short history of Mason County from 1917 is here. (pdf).
Mason County has a huge watermelon crop in 1869, here. “A fellow entered Johnson's Station, near Maysville, one night last week and stole $60 in money. He then got so drunk on Johnson's whiskey that he laid down behind the counter and slept until morning, when they found him.” Courier-Journal, November 7, 1871
Obituary of one of Mason's earliest settlers, Isaac Thomas, is here.
General Winfield Scott stopped in Maysville in 1852. An account here. A compilation of Mason County Tavern Bonds, from 1814-1920 is here. (pdf) The notable life of very early Mason Countian Richard Seward, here. Maysville man invents spring driven wagon, here.
Railroad workers discover ancient coin stash.  Here. Fleeing Maysville Treasurer has a grand time in Winnipeg. Here. “Venison is cheaper than beef in Maysville.” Louisville Courier, January 5, 1870 Maysville men kidnap Ohio girl to sell into slavery, here.


“The Cincinnati News of Friday last says “We are informed by Capt. Powell, that a severe shock of an earthquake was experienced at Maysville, on yesterday morning at sunrise.  It lasted several seconds and made quite a rattling of the furniture and glass in the city.”   Maumee City (Ohio) Express, September 21, 1839
“A shock of an earthquake was felt in Maysville, Ky., on Sunday night week, about 10 o'clock.” The American, November 18, 1843

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Horse at Stud Bizarre Animals
Horse Breeding for Trotters, 1872 Deformed Animal Exhibition, 1859

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Toll Roads were a big issue in Maysville and Mason County in the 1890's

Dissatisfaction over paying tolls on roads is widespread in 1895, here. Courier-Journal's 1896 report on Mason Co Toll Roads, here,
April, 1897, and tollgates vigilantes appear, here. In September, 1897, renegade citizens again act, here.
In 1898 the Evening Bulletin urges people to vote yes on bonds to free the roads.
The county leases the roads, and a truce is reached. But in May, 1899, the leases are about to expire, here.

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There are a total of
six Mason Counties in
the US.  Here's a list of
the other five.

Mason County, Illinois
Mason County, Michigan
Mason County, Texas
Mason County, Washington
Mason County, West Virginia

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Gold Stars

WWII Blue Stars from Mason County

Service members' families displayed a widow flag in WWII which featured a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the armed forces of the United States. During any period of war or hostilities in which the armed forces of the United States were engaged. If that loved one died, the blue star was replaced by a gold star. Learn more about these service flags at Wikipedia.

This list of Mason County deaths from WWII is from
 the National Archives. There's a key to what the
 various abbreviations mean here.

The World War I list is here.

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“The Maysville packet Bostona No. 3, brought the news [to Cincinnati] last evening that Maysville is occupied by a force of rebels, under the notorious Pete Everett.  The steamer was notified of the fact at the mouth of Cabin Creek, when they were coming down yesterday afternoon.  They were reported to be 300 strong.  Learning that the rebs had no artillery, the officers of the steamer concluded to run the blockade, which they did successfully.  Ten or twelve shots were fired at the boat, from pistols and carbines, none taking effect.  The rebels came to Maysville about 3 o’clock yesterday morning.  It was reported that they had killed three men there.”  From the New York Times, June 12, 1964.
“An unusually large number of bears have been killed in Lewis county this season. They are reported to be very plentiful in the jungles between Salt Lick and Kinney, and their depredations on the farmers in that neighborhood have not been infrequent.” Courier-Journal, December 9, 1869 An overview of Mason County, from 1908, is here (pdf).
“A controversy is going on as to whether the rebel flag was raised at Lawrenceburg on the Fourth of July. What if it was raised, as alleged? Is there any law in this free country against a man acting the fool if he wants to do it?” Courier-Journal, July 27, 1876, quoting the Maysville Eagle,

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“Maysville, Ky., Oct. 25-A parade of 3,500 geese was witnessed here today, The birds, which came from the Eastern Kentucky mountains, were lured through the streets by a man dropping corn.  The geese were unloaded from a car on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad yards after making the night hideous with their noise.  They were taken to a farm to be fattened for the Christmas markets.”  from the New York Times, October 26, 1910
A list of the dollar value of personal and real property, by each of Mason County's 21 precincts, in 1899, is here.  (pdf) A few words on the origin of the Mason County Historical Society.
Drivin' Woman, by Elizabeth Pickett Chevalier, is a best-seller novel published in 1942. It's mentioned in Thomas D. Clark's Agrarian Kentucky, in his discussion of Kentucky agrarian writers. She's listed right along with Elizabeth Madox Roberts and Robert Penn Warren. (both Wikipedia). The book follows heroine America Moncure from her father's Virginia plantation right after Appomattox to Maysville, Kentucky in 1911. Guilty of some pretty embarrassing racial attitudes in the first section especially, the story is full of loyal old mammies and butlers and evil carpetbaggers. It follows Kentuckians in the post-Civil War era up through the tobacco wars of 1910 or so. If you can overlook the books racism, or at least view it as anachronistic, the portrait of Kentucky in the later half of the 19th century is not bad. You can buy one cheap at Amazon or on eBay.
“Disgusting Orgy” comes to Maysville in 1897. Details here. The Geological Survey of Kentucky did a geological analysis of Mason County in 1856.  Read it here. (pdf)


  A Civil War in . . .Fairville?
So called “Home Guards” in the Civil War were frequently nothing but thugs and horse thieves. Post-Civil War suit from Mason County on property confiscation of the rebels.
Several prominent citizens were arrested from Maysville during the Civil War for their alleged Confederate sympathies, including Maysville's Congressman Richard Stanton (Wikipedia). Controversy ensued (pdf).
Home Guard captures rebel troops in Civil War near Mason Fair Grounds, here. Homemakers from Maysville, Orangeburg, Minerva and Rectorville all had recipes published in Mrs. Owens' Cook Book and Useful Household Hints, published in Chicago in 1884.  Reproduced for your culinary adventuring, here.


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A souvenir 1976 Bicentennial newspaper had this feature on Mason County.

Additional Links that apply to all of Northern Kentucky Views, and may or may not
be related to Mason County, are on the main Links & Miscellany page, here.

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