Owenton, Kentucky Links

Abram Owen

Abram, or sometimes Abraham, Owen

Owen County, and Owenton, are named for Abram Owen. Owensboro and Owen County, Indiana are also named for him. More on him at his Wikipedia page. Owen County was the 63rd county formed in Kentucky.  The law enacting Owen County was passed on February 6, 1819 and the county was formed on April 1, 1819 from a parts of Franklin, Gallatin, Scott and Pendleton Counties. Its boundaries are unchanged since February 9, 1876. It has an area of 352.1 square miles, making it the 44th largest of Kentucky's 120 counties.

Discover the highest point in Owen 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. Owen County has had 4 such changes, and you can see the Owen 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!


“Aunt Polly Rogers,  who has reached the good old age of 97 years, was in Owenton last Monday, the first time in thirty-five years, although  she has lived within five miles of the town for more than half  of a century.  She had her picture taken for the first time in  her life and visited the Herald office to see how newspapers are made.  When asked if she had ever been to Louisville or Cincinnati, she replied 'Bless your life, no, and I  wouldn't ride on a steam car for anything.'”  from The Warsaw Independent, of 11-26-1898:

A history of newspapers in Owen County.

“Owenton would enjoy lively sensation just now.  Gossip languors from a depletion of
 nutrition, but we predict the old gal will not die of starvation.  Our frailties are many.” 
The Owenton Democrat, April 1, 1887

You'll not want to miss a 1923 Louisville Herald article
 by Ralph Coghlan on the history of Owen County, here


Owen County, Kentucky Owen County, Kentucky
USS W. A. Lee Vice Admiral Lee

Midshipman Lee went on to become Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee, one of Owen County's most famous sons.
He was born in Natlee.  Find out more about him at this site. The ship the US Navy named after him - a destroyer - is at this site.

“The annual competition for three prizes for marksmanship was held at the Naval Academy rifle range this afternoon, May 25th.  Midshipman W. A. Lee (Wikipedia) of Owenton, Ky., captured the gold medal.”
  New York Times, May 26, 1907.


As a part of the WPA Writers Project, John Forsee wrote a history
 of Owen County and Owenton in the 1930's.  It's in six chapters, all pdf's.

Part 1: History of Owen County Part 4: Accommodations
Part 2: History of Owenton Part 5: Miss Hill's History
Part 3: Story of the Civil War Part 6: Game Refuges, Art, Literature, and Religion

John Forsee was an early editor of the News-Herald and native Owen Countian, in addition to his history of the county in 1936 under the Federal Writers’ Project, he also interviewed former enslaved people about their lives in Owen County.  The slave narrative is here (128 page pdf). Thanks to Terry Combs-Caldwell for updating us on Forsee.

The Boone County Library has a web site detailing known escapes of enslaved
people from Northern Kentucky. The Trimble-Carroll-Owen only list is here.


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

The World War I list is here.

In WWI, Owenton's Frank Ford was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.  Read about him here.


“John Branham, a wife murderer of Owen county, Kentucky was taken out of jail by an armed mob yesterday and hanged by the neck until he was dead, dead.  The frequent recurrence of these lynching affairs in Kentucky is disgraceful, yet there is some satisfaction in knowing that this one was conducted ‘quietly.’”   Indianapolis Journal, May 31, 1872

“A negro was lynched in Owen county, Kentucky, on Wednesday last, for an attempt at rape on a respectable white girl.  It was with great difficulty that the infuriated people were restrained from roasting him over a slow fire.”  Indianapolis Daily Herald, October 12, 1866

“Information wanted of two brothers and one sister, whose names are Ambrose Dudly Carroll, Phelix Gurry Carroll and Polina Carroll, respectively. Our former owner was Foster Mundy, whose sold them to the Negro trader. Any information concerning them will be thankfully received by Mrs. Adeline Sanders, Owenton, Ky.” The Christian Recorder, November 5, 1896

“A slave in Owen Co. Ky. has been murdered by his master and another man, without any material provocation.” Freedom’s Journal, June 8, 1827

1879 Jail escaped foiled. Owen County Association of Baptists formed in 1953, details.
 On July 7, 1915 a terrible tornado hit northern Kentucky. There's a story of the Owen County damage here, and here (“most destructive flood that ever visited Owen county“).  For much more coverage on the Northern Kentucky damage, go here. And a week later, this storm hit Owen County.
In 1906, the Courier-Journal published a list of out-of-state residents who would come home to Owen County. Advocating for a telegraph in 1860, here.
James Dorman was born on Eagle Hill above Glencoe in 1831. You can read his account (pdf) of his life. 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 Owen County.

Breckenridge Cites “Sweet Owen.” The story's here.
A less flattering spin on the compliment is here.

A site that has post a lot of older high school yearbooks  of Kentucky schools is here.  They invite your scans.

Doris Shell Gill has compiled a listing of all of the Owen County tavern licenses from 1842 to 1853.  Read it here(pdf) The Kentucky Department of Agriculture's assessment of agriculture in Owen County, in 1898-1899 can be found here. (pdf)


Judges in Owen County seem to run the gamut from eminent jurists to nut cases:
Judge Nutall. Nutall again. Owen County's Judge Perry disappears, story here. (pdf)
In 1870, Judge Pryor, tells the grand jury, in no uncertain terms, to enforce the law, regardless, here. In 1874, Judge McManama delivers an even more emphatic charge to the grand jury, here.

“The Owen News has this item: ‘On last Saturday, a case coming up before our County Prosecutor, J. W. Perry, wherein the liberty of a white man was at stake, and where a portion of the witnesses were negroes, he refused to swear and take their testimony. He says he will not take the negro testimony where the liberties of white citizens are involved.’” Courier-Journal, April 6, 1872

Col. Thomas Buford assassinated Judge John Elliott in Henry County, but the trail was moved to Owen.  It was a major event in Owenton, and got national press coverage.  Story's here. (pdf)


Owen County, Kentucky Owen County, Kentucky
Owen County Resources, c. 1935


Owen County, Kentucky

Owen County gets a bookmobile
from the News-Herald. September 23, 1954


Rev. Albert Ruschman

The Rev. Albert Ruschman wrote a history of the Catholic Churches of Owen County. Read it here (pdf).

A List of the Owen County Historical Markers is at this site. In 1879, New York Times calls Owen Countians “ignoramuses.” Here. Provost Marshall Killed, 1864, here. Racial insurrection in Owen County in 1861?  Details, or maybe rumors, here.
The Greenup's Fork Baptist Church sells their property, Citizens protest having to do their share of the roadwork, here. Lawyers of Owen County, 1872, here.
Sparta citizen lynched, 1872.  Story here. (It's gruesome) Charles Johnson has written on Buffalo Trails and Indian Encampment - Prelude to Present-Day Owen County from the Central States Archaeological Journal, October, 1958
Owen County bootlegger nabbed in 1874, here. 10,000 people attend Taft Highway opening.  Story here. and follow-up here.
A List of men from Owen County who went to the Kentucky penitentiary, from 1798 through 1834, is here. In 1919, there was a farm census, counting livestock, crops and farms.  Owen County's is here.

There are two Owen Counties in the US - the other one is Owen County, Indiana.

The 1925 bus schedule from Owenton to Covington is here.
Mrs. Florence Schoeffel (1860 - April 16, 1900)  died at her residence, 69 Madison Avenue in  New York City.  She was married to General George Schoeffel, and was born and grew up  in Owenton.  She's the author of a number of novels she wrote under the pseudonym “Wenona Gilman.”  Her most popular title was Saddle and Sentiment,  a story of Kentucky life. (NKYViews bought and attempted to read her novel The Lady of Beaufort Park. We made it thru three pages. Horrible stuff.) “The little town of Owenton, Ky., boasts of 121 men born within its limits who have become cashiers of banks.  They are scattered through the States of Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio.”  The New York Times, September 20, 1903.
“If Owen is not an open town for the sale of intoxicants, we have more generous “treaters” to the square inch than any town in the state.”  News Herald, April 30, 1908 “Mrs. Field closed a series of temperance lectures Tuesday night.  Two-hundred and sixty signed the pledge and put on the ribbon.”  Owen County Democrat, March 11, 1886.
  In 1969, Edna Talbott Whitley compiled a list of Cabinetmakers in Kentucky.  The Owen County portion of that list is here. Leading Owen County Citizens of 1847, here. A few words on the Greenup Fork Baptist Church can be found here. (pdf)
In 1930, Kentucky Progress Magazine ran a feature letting each of Kentucky's counties list their accomplishments for 1929.  What Owen County came up with is here. (pdf) The editor of the News-Herald takes a field trip to New Liberty and Wheatley in 1905.  What he wrote about his trip is here.
Data on Owen County state banks of 1907 are here; national banks here. Owen County Sheriff in shootout in Carrollton, here.

“James P. Jump is the champion egg-eater of Owen county, Kentucky, and proved his right to the title the other day by devouring twenty-two eggs.  He wants to eat eggs against any man in the State for $50.”  Indianapolis News, March 5, 1895

Lynching threatened in Owenton in 1903, here. Camp Meeting in Dallasburg goes for three days, story here. The failure of a 1902 lynch mob, here. A site dedicated to the bridges of Owen County is here.
Report from Owen County Kentucky By J. W. Cammack from the Handbook of Kentucky by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, 1908, here. (pdf) “A woman has been presented to the grand jury of Owen county on the charge of being a witch.” Courier Journal, May 18, 1869 “The Owen News reports the passage though Owenton of a Mormon elder named Smoot, to visit cousin G. W. Smoot, near Pleasant Home, Owen county. Elder Smoot was born in Owen county and emigrated to Utah forty years ago. He has five wives and twenty-two children and is very rich. It is also said that he has a wife yet living in Owen county, to whom he was married before he left.” Courier-Journal, December 18, 1880
The Sponsors of the 1907 Tri-County (Carroll, Gallatin, Owen) Fair in Sanders are listed here. (pdf)60 Pages of ads from merchants of those three counties, plus Vevay. Thanks to Dale Samuel for the images. A status report from the Superintendent of Schools in Owen from 1900 is here. The 1907 report is here.
Auntie Gross turns 103, here. In 1944, a California newspaper sent a reporter around the country to write feature articles on various towns. He found Owenton, and wrote this piece. Accounts of the 1876 lynching of Henry Smith and Squire Hammond are here, and here. An Overview of Kentucky River Locks and Dams, here.
“The Legislature should certainly give their attention to some necessary laws if they would escape the everlasting condemnation of the people. They should by all means make provision for the negro school tax to go for their education. The should provide for the Vienna Exposition and aid the emigration movement, so as to gain a new class of laborers in the State, coming from Europe.” Courier-Journal, April 4, 1873, quoting the Owen News. Politics. 1892. Here. An 1835 auction to settled an estate has items sold and prices brought. It's a pdf, here.

“Dr. Newton passed 27 rebels near Knoxville, [Pendleton County] Ky., at 8 o'clock this morning. A force of 400 rebels under Major Van Hook, of Morgan's staff were following them. They crossed the turnpike at Tucker, six miles north of Williamstown, at 6:30 P. M. yesterday. They said their destination was Owen county , where they expect to be largely reinforced. Dr. Newton saw a good many more en route to join this force.”  The Weekly Vincennes Western Sun, June 18, 1864

Col. J. D. Morris reports (pdf) on his experiences in Owen County.
The account of the 1892 lynching of Lego Gibson is here. The Geological Survey of Kentucky did a geological analysis of Owen County in 1856.  Read it here. (pdf) In 1937 UK released surveys of known archaeological sites by county.  Owen County’s is here (pdf). An account of the Eagle Valley Hotel, near Sanders, is here.
“TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD. TWO NEGROES. Ran away from the subscriber, living in Louisville, on the 2nd, one negro man and girl.  The man's name is MILES. He is about 5 feet, 8 inches high, dark brown colour, with a large scar upon his head, as if caused from a burn; about 25 years; and had with him two carpet sacks, one of cloth, the other enameled leather; also a pass from Louisville to Owenton, Owen  County, Ky., and back.  The girl's name is Julia, and she is of light brown colour, short and heavy set, rather good-looking, with a scar upon her forehead; had on a plain silk dress when she left, and took the other clothes with her; looks to be about 16 years of age.  The above reward will be paid for the man, if  taken out of state, or 100 dollars for the girl; 100 dollars for the man if taken in the State, or 50 dollars for the girl.  In either event they are to be secured, so I get them.  John W. Lynn.” from the Louisville Daily Journal, October 23, 1852 “In Kentucky more men are killed in six days than in eight years in Vermont. In a village in Connecticut a death from homicide has never occurred from its foundation, while in one graveyard in Owen county, Kentucky, the majority are murdered men.” The Mariposa (California) Gazette, August 7, 1881
True love equals getting the measles? Here. There are some Owen County cemetery records are at a site here. A 1917 view of Owen County is here(pdf) Owen County related excerpts from Collins' History of Kentucky are here.
“Owenton, Ky., June 8 - Surveyors are at work in the route of the new railroad from Worthville to Carrollton.  The new road will be a continuation of the Worthville and Carrollton Road.  All of the right-of-way has been donated and the money is insight to build the road.  The road, after leaving Worthville, Continues up Eagle Creek until it strikes Twin Creek, following that stream to New Liberty, and thence by way of Harrisburg to Owenton.  The cost of construction is figured at $20,000 per mile.  The distance is 17 miles.” from the Cincinnati Enquirer, June 9, 1906
NewThere was push to get a railroad, or a traction line, from Owenton, to Dry Ridge, to connect to the Southern
J. W. Waldrop's 1914 description of Owenton in 1854 is here. The Owen County Democrat says county's roads are a disgrace. In Owenton in 1891, Dr. James L. Massie shoots and kills J. L. Kenakee over a slander.  More here. Owen County sites placed on the National Places of Historical Places are at a site here.
Gratz' Otto Smithers talks about Kentucky River steamers, here. (pdf) Mexican General Santa Ana born in Owen County?
“Owenton, Ky., Sept. 25 – Gov. Beckham was given an ovation here today by the largest crowd that has gathered in Owen county for a long while. He spoke at the Fair Grounds this afternoon, and was heard by no less than 5,000 people. In the vast audience there was scarce a man, woman, or child who did not wear a [William Jennings] Bryan and Beckham button, and the reception given the nominee could not have been more cordial.”
Sparta, Ky., Sept. 25 – Gov. Beckham and Representatives Trimble and Cantrill arrived here at 6 o’clock from Owenton and spoke tonight to a crowd of about 500 people from the porch of the Kelly Hotel.  The speakers had no appointment here, and the meeting was an impromptu affair. Voters in the vicinity heard that Gov. Beckham was to come here on his way to Louisville, and they turned out to meet him.”  Courier-Journal, September 29, 1900.
The turnpike from Owenton to Sparta to span Eagle Creek, is authorized in 1868. “Only $2,500 is lacking in subscriptions to the Owenton and Stamping Ground turnpike. It will be constructed.” Courier-Journal, June 16, 1877
Here are two news items reprinted from the Owenton paper in the Boone County Recorder. The first one is a crime story, but note the second story about a madstone. And if you need more background on what a madstone is, by all means, brush up on this fascinating but arcane piece of folklore at this site.
Detailed Presidential voting statistics from Owen County are here. A little gallows humor – no, literally – from 1886 is here. Bio of Physician Robert Hardin Gale is here. (pdf) Bio of Lawyer James A. Violett, here


Owen County School

We know this one-room school is in Owen, but don't know where, or who.

The end of one-room schools in Owen Co. in 1937.  Story here.

In his 1936 masters thesis, “History of Education in Owen County,” Capitola Simpson added a chart of all of the Owen one-room schools by the type of building.


Mobs attack Kentucky River boats in Civil War.
A. P. Grover's southern sympathies and the attack of a Kentucky River steamer were the subjects of a hearing in 1867.  Some excerpts here(pdf) Theophilus Steele arrested in Owenton as a Civil War criminal.
“Confederates in Owen County. - A gentleman who arrived in this city Tuesday from Carrollton, states that about two hundred Confederates, under Captain Jessee, crossed the Kentucky River at Gratz, on Tuesday afternoon.  They had been to New Castle, Henry county, and were going to Henry County.” Cincinnati Enquirer, June 16, 1864  (Jessee was a leader of the “Home Guard,” in this case, a band of thugs and thieves who terrorized in the name of defending.  Jessee was notorious in the Henry/Carroll/Owen area.
Ohio National Guard troops ambushed in Owen County, here.
It says here that bushwhacking is a problem in Owen County. How bayonets controlled the elections of 1863, here.
“Parties from Gallatin county. who were in this city, state that Mose Webster, the famed guerrilla leader, was captured near Owenton, Owen county, Ky., on Saturday, after desperate resistance.”  Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, December 6, 1864.
Summary of Civil War Operations in Owen County in October, 1864,  here. Civil War prisoners from Owen County, here.
Outlawry in Civil War era Owen County. John Hunt Morgan's men - almost certainly without Morgan himself - in Owen.
Civil War news from Owen County, 1861, here; from 1864, here. Rebels tend to go to Owen county, “a sanctuary for thieves and vagabonds” according to this item.

Alexander Home

Confederate hero John Hunt Morgan escaped his imprisonment in Columbus Ohio, came south to Cincinnati, crossed the river into Ludlow, wound through Boone County to Napoleon in Gallatin County, and then through Owen County, where he stayed at the Anderson house, above.  You can read more details on his route here, (pdf) and here.

More on Capt. Jessee and Mose Webster on our Civil War page, here.


    The New York Times printed the US Marshal's account of Bill Smoot and the Kentucky Kuklux, operating in Owen County in 1874.  Read it here. The Times story is true, but there's a novelized account of the events, The Courage Place, by Thomas Fiske a grandson of one of the victims of the Klan.  Get it from Amazon at the left.     “A band of Kuklux made an attack upon the farm of Mrs. Mason Brown, mother of Hon. B. Gratz Brown, in Owen County, Kentucky, on Friday night, killed Louis Wilson, colored, burned his house, and damaged other farm property.  The farm contains large growing crops of tobacco and corn, which will be difficult to harvest in the absence of labor driven off by Kuklux. Other farms were also visited and warned not to employ negroes as workmen.  It is said the Kuklux came from Henry County.” - New York Times, July 29, 1873.
A news account of the Smoot affair is here.

In 1870, Judge Pryor, tells the grand jury to enforce the law, regardless, here.

In 1874, Judge McManama delivers an even more emphatic charge to the grand jury, here.

“Governor Leslie offers a reward of $500 each for the lawless men engaged in the murder of Lewis Wilson, a colored man, on Mrs. Brown's plantation, in Owen county, some weeks ago.” Courier-Journal, August 18, 1873


Rennick Map

Robert Rennick drew this map of where many of the post offices of Owen County have been over time.
Over time, Owen County has had 75 differently named places that had post offices. That list is here.

A history (pdf) by Robert Rennick for the WPA Owen County post offices and how the towns they served got their names.

Here's a curious collection of official 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.
Avery Balls Landing Beechwood Bethany
Brack Bromley Canby Clegg
Cull Dane-Danish Eagle Hill East Eagle
Eastland Eck Epville Fairbanks
Fawnburgh Gratz Greenup Fork Hallam
Harmony Harrisburg Hartsough Hessler
Hills Ioppa Jonesville Lemon-(illeg)
Lone Oak Longridge Lusby's Mallory's
Margaret Monterey Morgadore Moxley-Perry Park
Natlee New New Columbus New Liberty
North Savern Owenton Poplar Grove Proverb
Rockdale Slayton Sparta Squiresville
Stamperton Sweet Owen Swope Tackett's Mill
Teresita-Walnut Grove Truesville West Union Wheatley


There are 10 houses and farms in Owen County the National Register of Historic Places. Applications here - all pdf's - contain histories, maps, and interior and exterior photography.

Mason Brown House L. O. Cox House Ford House Enos Hardin Farm
Highfield Jacob Hunter House William Lindsey House McCay House
E. E. Settle House Byrns Landing




Owen County, Kentucky

Owen County, Kentucky

Owenton, Sparta, and Warsaw Stage Line Ticket
1877 on the left, and 1880's on the right


Owen County, Kentucky

In 1876-1877 the R. L. Polk Co published a directory of 
businesses in Kentucky communities. The ad above is 
from that gazetteer. Owen places listed are:

Owenton New Columbus Monterey Rock Dale New Liberty
Gratz Poplar Grove Lusby's Mill Pleasant Home Lone Oak
( We did NOT make up the name of the Lusby's Mill's wagon maker!! )

In 1883-84, Polk issued a new edition of their Gazetteer, which included these Owen County communities:

Bromley Eagle Hill Ep Gratz Hesler
Jonesville Lusby's Mill Monterey New Columbus New Liberty
Owenton Poplar Grove Squiresville Sweet Owen Truesville


Membership Rolls for the 1890 Masonic Lodges in Owen County:
Pleasant Home Owenton New Columbus
Dallasburg Monterey Bethany


Membership Rolls for the 1911 Masonic Lodges in Owen County:  (all pdf's)
Pleasant Home Owenton New Columbus
Wheatley Monterey Jonesville
Caney Fork Church

For membership rolls of ALL Masonic Lodges in ALL cities in Kentucky,
from 1878 thru 1922, they're at the Hathi Trust Digital Library, by individual year.


Who's who in Owen County, in 1840

In his 1936 masters thesis, “History of Education in Owen County,” Capitola Simpson added an appendix (pdf) with lists of all of the county officers of Owen County since the county was formed. He also added some other interesting data.


Owen County, Kentucky

The steam packet Sonoma hit a snag and sank, June 27, 1913, at Marshall’s Landing, between Gratz and Perry Park.
We're unclear on the location of this picture.

Owen County, Kentucky Owen County, Kentucky Owen County, Kentucky
The New Hanover The Revonah The New Hanover
While these three pictures were all taken at Louisville, the boats were in regular packet service from Louisville to Monterey. The Revonah ran in the 1920's, followed by the New Hanover in the early 1930's.  Both boats were gas powered stern-wheelers. Notice that “Revonah” is “Hanover” spelled backwards.


“The Owen News says: Mr. John D. White, a short time ago, caught at Herndon’s Mill, on Eagle Creek, two very fine large otters. One of them whipped seven dogs before it was killed.”  from the Covington Journal, March 2, 1872


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, but is erratic in its coverage.  In Owen Co., it had detail on:

New Liberty Monterey


From Young & Co’s Business and Professional Directory of Kentucky, 1906-1907 
Monterey Gratz


Owen County, Kentucky

from Trow's Legal Directory of Lawyers in the United States, 1875


In a letter to the May 30, 1908 Frankfort Weekly News and Roundabout, W. Len Hardin, the postmaster in Monterey,
says “No cause exists for night riders in Owen county.  There is not a tobacco bed in the county; not a pound
of tobacco will be raised in the season of 1908.” Why not?  Details here.

More details on Night Riders in Owen County are here.

On the other hand, a tobacco barn in Poplar Grove, which held Equity tobacco is burned, here.

Dying woman fired at by night riders

“Carrollton, Ky., Nov. 13. - The big tobacco barn of A. A. Lee, at Poplar Grove was destroyed by fire.  Seventy-five hogsheads of fine tobacco belonging to the American Society of Equity were burned.  The fire was incendiary in its origin,  Officers are on the trail of the guilty parties.”
from the Hopkinsville Republican, November 16, 1907



We can't tell you whether the unfortunate Mrs. Daily lived on the Owenton Pike in Owen or Franklin County, but we can tell you that toll roads became extremely unpopular in both.

Courier-Journal's 1896 report on Owen Co Toll Roads, here.

Owen County toll road law amended in 1976.



A feature on Owen County, at the American Bicentennial, 1976


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