Monday, August 31, 2020

Who Was James Harrod?

 Photo from the Armstrong Archives

Fort Harrod
Part One

On March 8, 1775, James Harrod led a group of forty or more men back to Harrodstown to the first permanent white settlement west of the Alleghany Mountains. Flooding had ruined many of the structures built the previous summer and the land was soaked, so these cabins were abandoned, and the decision was made to construct a log fort on the hill west of the Big Spring. The site of the fort, to be started later in the summer, was chosen by Harrod because it had several good springs and good view of the town site and the adjoining countryside.
Personal photo

During Harrod’s years in Kentucky, his first loyalty was to the men who had chosen him as their leader. Some of his men were unwilling to obey what they considered unnecessary and arbitrary restrictions on their movements. Newcomers, seeing the muddled situation in the Transylvania colony, choose to ignore the rulings or returned to their old homes in the east rather than risk their efforts on uncertain claims.

The settlers started running short of flour and suffered from lack of greens until the vegetable patches began to mature. Richard Henderson and the Transylvania Company provided ammunition for the men, but could help little with other needed articles because of their inability to bring out the bulk of provisions they had packed in the wagons, still on the other side of the Wilderness Road pass.

Others came to the west that summer, and more and more turned to James Harrod for authority, leaving Richard Henderson in a depressed state of mind. Finally, disheartened and ignored, Henderson returned to North Carolina for consultation with his co-proprietors.
Historic postcard from Armstrong Archives

The Kentucky frontiersmen could plow the ground, fence in new clearings, and erect cabins, but only the arrival of women and children could give stability to the settlements. The women and children began arriving in September 1775. There was also resurgence in the work of completing Fort Harrod, which the increasing number of the Native American attacks rendered a necessity. The construction on the stockade began and it was completed by early spring 1776. The fort enclosed an area of about one and a half acres, with a spring and a stream running through for fresh water. Settlers were warned of Native American attacks by a large cedar horn sounded from the fort.  

To be continued next Monday ...

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Harrodsburg Christian Church

Photo from Armstrong Archives

This photograph is a 1920s view of the first Christian Church building (1848-1926) in Harrodsburg.  A group of ten responsible subscribers agreed to fund $4,500 for a lot and the construction of a church on this South Main Street location.  The building to the left is the George Bohon Buggy Company.  On the right is the Dixio Inn, a boarding house that served “delicious meals” to both boarders and locals.

Harrodsburg Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is the oldest continuous congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), chartered in 1803 and even pre-dating the denomination by several years. With ties to Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) founders Barton Stone (Kentucky) and Alexander Campbell (West Virginia), Harrodsburg Christian Church (HCC) was one of the original churches of the Springfield Presbytery.

One cannot tell the story of HCC without including such notable institutions as Bacon College (now Transylvania University), the College of the Bible (now Lexington Theological Seminary), and Kentucky University (now University of Kentucky). Harrodsburg Christian Church played a prominent role in the life of all three of those educational facilities. In fact, Bacon College President James Shannon and Professor Samuel Hatch served as the church’s first two regular preachers while the college was still located in Harrodsburg.

Photo from the Armstrong Archives

The current church was built in 1927. To prepare for our Bicentennial Celebration 2003, a $1.4 million renovation was initiated in 1998; completed in 2002. It has been said each generation builds on the accomplishments of the prior generation. The Harrodsburg Christian Church has had a vivid past with a membership which has sacrificed much to support the Lord’s work in Harrodsburg and beyond. A long line of distinguished ministers has shepherded the congregation, serving as our spiritual guides. 

Today, Harrodsburg Christian Church is truly “embracing our past and touching the future” as we begin our third century of Lord’s work. Indeed, a storied past, but it’s our vibrant present and future which distinguishes us. Our Church life is characterized by freedom, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. A very important slogan used by Disciples through the years governs our relationship to one another: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love.” Come celebrate Jesus with us!


Saturday, August 29, 2020

Graham Springs Collector Plate

Photo provided by Helen Dedman

Excited that Helen Dedman provided this photograph of a collectors plate about Graham Springs! I will include this photograph in the new book I'm under contract for, Hidden History of Harrodsburg: Saratoga of the South. Thank you, Helen Dedman!

Grain Elevator


Photo from the Armstrong Archives

After posting about the Farmer's Supply Company earlier this week, I thought I'd also post a photograph of the grain elevator. The presence of the railroad tracks and depot in the Marimon Avenue and Office Street area attracted businesses such as coal and brickyards, flour mills, and grain elevators, all benefiting from the close proximity to shipping.  In the late 1800s, J. D. Marimon had a flour mill here.  By 1908 it was known as the City Roller Mill and by 1914, it was Adams and Langford, as shown in the photograph above.  

Friday, August 28, 2020

Farmer's Supply Company


Photo from the Armstrong Archives

From the late 1800s to the early to mid 1900s, this north side block of Broadway between Main and Chiles Streets was a busy, commercial area.  The 1908 Sanborn Insurance Map shows a steam laundry, livery and farm implement store, boarding house, and grocery all located there.  The Farmer’s Supply Company building was originally Dallas Chinn’s Steam Laundry, but by 1914, that business had been replaced by a second livery stable.  Most likely during the 1920s both livery stables went out of business when the horse and buggy gave way to the automobile.  The Farmer’s Supply building continued as a seed grinding and farm supply business until it was bought in 1967 by the city and torn down in order to move the police and fire departments to a new site.  

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Blue Front

Photo from the Armstrong Archives

On the corner of East Poplar and Main sits the Blue Front, one of Main Streets' most impressive buildings.  Built in 1887 in the Queen Anne style, with Romanesque details of rough stone arches and a corner tower, it gives the street a feeling of substance.  Its name was acquired from its best known business, the Blue Front Department Store, which operated there at the turn of the century.  James Isenberg and his brother started out there with a dry goods store and quickly expanded into a department store which always seemed to be ahead of its time.  Among its many innovations were an electric carrier system which took transactions to a central office where change was made, packages wrapped, and returned to the customer.  During the local street fairs, which took place right in front of their businesses, the Blue Front provided a nursery with “20 nurses in uniform, cradles and swings” for children to be cared for, “throwing open its doors to make the store your home while in town.”  After 58 years in business, the Blue Front closed in 1939.

Photo from the Armstrong Archives

These 1940s photograph shows Chenoweth Hall, a sad reminder of the beauty it once was.  In the foreground is the semi-circle balcony overlooking the stage.  The regular seats below cannot be seen because old merchandise, fixtures and other junk was brought upstairs when the Blue Front closed.  The photo below is an up close look at the stenciling done on the walls and ceilings.  This was not wallpaper - each stencil was hand painted. According to a 1991 quote by Mrs. Lucille Graves, “The Blue Front Theatre had the most beautiful ceiling and as a child I remember looking up and seeing the stars on that ceiling …” Harrodsburg native, Ralph Anderson, bought the Blue Front in 1988 and, after a lengthy renovation inside and out, returned the Blue Front to its original glory. However, the upstairs theatre is not open to the public.

Photo from the Armstrong Archives

Each Christmas Mr. Isenberg had a great party for all the children.  Santa Claus came with a noisemaker for every child.  Have you seen the Opera House on the second floor of this building?  It was restored by the late Ralph Anderson to its original beauty.  Many years ago the opera came to Harrodsburg and enjoyed this fine house as did the folks here in Harrodsburg.  

Grand Opening - Advertisement from The Danville News

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Mud Oven at Fort Harrod


Old Fort Harrod State Park is adding a mud oven to its historical living museum. David Coleman, park superintendent, is making the best of "down time" due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo from The Harrodsburg Herald.

Blue Grass Fair & Horse Show

Photo from the Armstrong Archives

The Blue Grass Fair and Horse Show, located at the city limits on Cornishville Street, opened in 1947 and closed in 1951.  Owned by local horseman and business owner Glave Sims, the property, as seen in the above photograph, had a 5,000 seat grandstand, a quarter mile track, two barns that would stable 225 horses when full, surrounding acreage, and an 11 room house for family.  The first show in June 1947 was a four-day extravaganza featuring a parade, a concert by the Lawrenceburg High School Band prior to the horse show, 10 classes announced by George Swineboard of Lexington, who would become a successful blood stock auctioneer.  There was a carnival with 66 “clean and entertaining concessions.”  Glave Sims won the blue ribbon competing at his own show in the roadster class.  The bottom photograph shows the entry gate to the property.

Photo from the Armstrong Archives

In addition to the yearly horse shows, which were in June so as not to compete with the Mercer County Fair and Horse Show in July, the Blue Grass Fair Grounds hosted many other events.  There were one-day plug horse derbies and mule races.  The Blue Grass Auto Racing Association that was organized in Harrodsburg used the track to host interstate championship midget auto races featuring “big name drivers from surrounding states.”  The Cross Roads Jamboree, a 2-hour radio show, was broadcast there in 1947.  In addition to horse activities, there were foxhound, coonhound and bird dog shows. 

Photo from the Armstrong Archives

The above photograph is of Anna Armstrong and her mother Kathleen on the carousel in 1949.
Photo from the Armstrong Archives

From the Harrodsburg Herald, 1949, came this report by Jack Bailey on the road horse class at the Mercer Fair and Horse Show:  “I recall playing the organ, probably ‘Roll Out the Barrel,’ in the center bandstand of the old bullring, with Jim “Buck” Ison shouting over the loud speaker, ‘let your horses rack on!’  And Glave Sims, I.C. James, Edwin Freeman, and Marshal Freeman all yelling ‘ye-ow,’ dust flying and horses in a white later.  My, what a time that was.  Those boys gave us something to remember for always."  The competition among these horsemen was always fierce, often resulting in crashes in the ring.  But their friendship was sold, and there was nothing any of them loved more than to be together in the ring for the Saturday night grand champion ship class.  Glave Sims not only drove road horses, but also bred and trained them at his Blue Grass Farms, which was part of the fairground property.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Arcade Livery or The Big Stable

Photo from the Armstrong Archives

The Arcade Livery, or Big Stable as it was also called, is pictured above at the turn of the century.  The Harrodsburg Democrat of 1890 says:  “Erected by R. E. Coleman in 1884, this well-equipped brick livery style is double-decked with inclined driveway.  The stable extends from Main to Greenville Streets and "is large and roomy and equipped with cribs, mows, stalls, water works, electric lights and ladies parlor.”  Another article written in 1885 called the Arcade “the largest, most commodious, and the best equipped stable in Kentucky.  Its stock consists of drummers’ wagons, buggies, road carts, omnibuses, landaus, phaetons, and surries.  Together with the best of horses.  Prices are as low as the lowest.” 

Photo from the Armstrong Archives

This photograph was taken by William H. Reed, a local businessman whose hobby was photography and was labeled “Mr. Willis Slaughter, March 1896.”  The Arcade Stable is seen in the background.

Two famous horses stayed at The Big Stable in April 1913
Captured from Newspapers+

Monday, August 24, 2020

2014 West Side Hall of Fame

Photo provided by Lolita Short

These are the family members of the inaugural Class of 2014 of the West Side Hall of Fame. 2014 marked the 75th anniversary of West Side School winning a state championship in basketball. The entire team and Rev. James Foster Reese received the Distinguished Alumni Awards.

Each of those in this picture represent family members who were on the basketball team. 
First row, left to right: Geneva VanDyke Penman (George Singleton), Doris Bartleson (Samuel T. Bess), Barbara Short Hudson (John D. Short, Jr.), David Yates (Lucian Yates, Jr.), and Claudine Sallee Garr, deceased (James Wesley Sleet and Clinton Sallee).
Second row, left to right: Rev. James Foster Reese, Deborah Lay Jackson, Chris Short, and Wilma Lay Linton (Calvin Lay), Phyllis Bryant Yates (John Lee Bryant, Lottie Taylor Yates, deceased (Charles Jackson), Curry A. Taylor, deceased (George Childs), and Duke Dunn (Charles Dunn).

Photo from the Armstrong Archives

The above poster is of the 1939 West Side Scalpers basketball team, FIRST winners of a state championship by a team from Harrodsburg/Mercer County.

Who Was James Harrod?

Payne's Spring - Photo from the Armstrong Archives

First Permanent Settlement West of Alleghany Mountains
Part Two

James Harrod drew an out-lot at Boiling Spring, also known as Payne’s Spring, about three miles east of Harrod’s Town. He proceeded to build several rude log cabins. Harrod built at Boiling Spring because he was guaranteed a bountiful, flowing supply of fresh water.

Soon more surveyors were passing through Harrod’s Town and they reported an increasing number of Native American attacks along the western borders of Virginia and Pennsylvania. The governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, and his agents were alleged to have incited both sides of the Native American conflict. Dunmore declared a state of war with the hostile Native American nations and then ordered up an elite volunteer militia force for the campaign.
Frozen spring at Fort Harrod
Photo from the Armstrong Archives

Captain William Russell, per instructions of Colonel William Preston, sent Daniel Boone and Michael Stoner to notify Harrod and the other white men of the increasing Native American hostilities. Scouts were also sent out because of fears the Cherokee would combine with the northern Native Americans.

On July 16, 1774, James Harrod’s dream of a permanent settlement in Kentucky abruptly came to an end. Nine men from Harrod’s Town were busy at their favorite task of claiming and surveying land and were camped at Fontaine Bleau Springs, which was located only a few miles north of their new settlement. Suddenly they were attacked by twenty Shawnee warriors, who instantly killed two men.
Photo from the Armstrong Archives

Several men escaped to Harrodsburg and reported the tragedy to their leader. Captain Harrod collected thirty-five men and returned to the site of the battle, but the Indians had disappeared.
Shortly after Boone and Stoner came through Harrod’s Town, on July 20, 1774, a party of men was ambushed near a Mercer County spring. Two of the men, while separated from the others, were surrounded, and killed. Two of the others escaped but headed straight back to their homes in Virginia with nothing but the clothes on their back. A fourth man reached Harrod’s Town and reported the news.

In fleeing the Indian attacks, Harrod and his men joined the campaign to defend the western border of Virginia. The conflict resulted from escalating violence between British colonists who were exploring and moving into land south of the Ohio River, and the Native Americans, who held treaty rights to hunt there. Harrod and twenty-five men from Harrod’s Town joined the Fincastle Battalion under the command of Col. Christian’s regiment and went on to the Point Pleasant campaign but arrived too late to participate in the wars only major battle. The Battle of Point Pleasant, now officially recognized as the first battle of the Revolutionary War, ended on October 10, 1774.
Illustration by W. W. Stephenson

After the long and furious battle, Shawnee Chief Cornstalk agreed to a treaty, ending the war. By their treaty, the Native Americans pledged not to cross south of the Ohio except for trade, and to do no harm to white men coming down the river. History shows the war was provoked more by white men than by red and became known as Lord Dunmore’s War, a name given to it in commemoration of its chief provoker.

After Dunmore’s War, the whole country was “ringing from one end to the other of the beautiful Kentucky and the banks of the pleasant Ohio”. According to historians, “Those who have been there gave the most enticing accounts of its beauty, fertility, and abundance of game. The Buffalo, Elk, and Bear were said to be rolling fat, and weary for the rifle shot.”

Support the USPS

In support of the United States Postal Service, here are two awesome photographs from Harrodsburg's past. 
Photo from the Armstrong Archives

This 1951 photograph shows employees of the Harrodsburg Post Office who had more than 25 years of service with the postal system.  Pictured from left to right in the backrow are J. P. Williams, Lucien Brewer, B. G. Alderson, James Graham, and M. S. Claunch.  In the front row, from the left are: I. Ransdell, L. M. Reed, and W. R. Penny. The bottom picture shows J. P. Williams sorting mail by hand.

Photo from the Armstrong Archives

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Two Harrodsburg Baptist Churches

 Photo from the Armstrong Archives

This photograph shows one whole Main Street block of churches.  On the left is the United Presbyterian Church next is the old Baptist Church, and on the right is the new Baptist Church under construction in 1961.  When the new building was partially completed, the dismantling of the old one was begun.  The present church was built at a cost of $554,262. 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Harrodsburg/Mercer County Pages, Groups, websites, blogs

Below is a list of pages, groups, websites, and blogs that pertain to the history of Harrodsburg or Mercer County, Kentucky. If your site is not listed below, please send a private message and it will be added.

Harrodsburg Sestercentennial (250 years) – 2024

You Know You Are From Harrodsburg, KY

You Know You're From Harrodsburg, KY When....

Harrodsburg African American Community History

James Harrod Trust

If Kentucky Is A Part Of You...

Dutch Cousins in Kentucky

Harrodsburg Historical Society

Harrodsburg Cemeteries

Harrodsburg 250th Celebration

The Harrodsburg Herald

Mercer County Chamber of Commerce

Curtsinger Auto Parts


Who remembers?

I'm looking for ANY memories or information about Curtsinger Auto Parts. The parts store used to be where McGlone Construction Company is presently located on N. College Street. Although this is for Harrodsburg history, I have a personal connection with this store because I practically lived there until I was six years old. I grew up right across the highway from the store and my Dad worked for Mr. Curtsinger, who always called me "little spark plug" .

Friday, August 21, 2020

Hidden Harrodsburg: Saratoga of the South


The Graham Springs Hotel
Photo from the Armstrong Archives

My newest book, Hidden Harrodsburg: Saratoga of the South, was just accepted for publication by The History Press! Manuscript is due next spring and publication will be next fall. I will keep you updated.

More Collectible Plates


Beaumont Inn
Photo by Elaine Dedman

Burgin Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in black & white

Photo by Ann V. Morris

Burgin High School

Photo by Ann V. Morris

Sportleigh Hall or Cricketeer

Photo from the Armstrong Archives

This 1951 photograph shows Sportleigh Hall, a manufacturer of women’s clothing and Harrodsburg’s largest employer of local labor at that time, with close to 450 workers.  It was formerly owned by Fred Weissman from 1940 to 1950, who made a success of the factory was himself an asset to the community by making a donation for furnishings to the new Mercer General Hospital.  He left Harrodsburg in 1950 after a dispute over whether a new and similar industry should be encouraged to locate here.  The Mercer Chamber of Commerce was formed out of this dispute.  A long row of presses for shirts and coats is shown in the photograph at the bottom.

Photo from the Armstrong Archives

Fred P. Weisman Company bought the factory in July 1950 and they decided to keep the Sportleigh name. By June 1953, there was a major workers' strike at the plant - the workers finally returned to work almost two weeks later. In November 1956, Sportleigh Hall announced a closing and 300 jobs would be lost. However, by May 1957, Sportleigh Hall was saved when Cricketeer, Inc. bought the plant and stated they would hire 350 to 400 people, mostly locals.

Advertisement from the Courier-Journal, January 1952
Captured from Newspapers+

Advertisement from the Courier-Journal, October 1952
Captured from Newspapers+

May 1, 1977
Captured from Newspapers+

Cricketeer Savings Bond winners, Advocate Messenger, September 30, 1973
Captured from Newspapers+

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Harrodsburg Commemorative Plates

Here are some AMAZING plates from Harrodsburg Churches. I will add more photographs as they become available. (They are listed alphabetically.)

Burgin Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Photo by Ann V. Morris

Cornishville School
Photo by Kandie Adkinson

Grapevine Christian Church

Photo from Carol Cummins-Rogers

Harrodsburg Christian Church
Photo by Lou B. Noel

Harrodsburg Methodist Church

Old Fort Harrod State Park
Photo by Lou B. Noel

Saint Peter A.M.E. Church
Photo by Ruth Bryant

Harrodsburg Cudahy Plant


Photo from the Armstrong Archives

The Harrodsburg Cudahy Plant, which opened in 1942, was one of 25 Cudahy’s in the United States.  Its products were shipped to sales centers all over the country.  The local plant made cheese, butter, ice cream, and ice and bought milk and eggs from local farmers.  You could buy 25 or 50 pound blocks of ice to take home and store.

In 1958 a fire swept though the Cudahy and destroyed approximately half the plant. A skeleton crew produced cheese while the damage was repaired and rebuilt. In 1977, a 50,000 gallon capacity silo which doubled the factory's production. At the time of this addition, Cudahy was the oldest industry in Harrodsburg. Cudahy purchased milk from 18 surrounding counties, with a large supply from Mercer County. In 1981, Cudahy was sold to Dairy Incorporated of Louisville

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Mooreland House Continued

 Photo by Janie-Rice Brother of Gardens To Gables

Here are more photographs of Mooreland House taken by Janie-Rice Brother for her awesome historical blog, Gardens to Gables. It would be worth your while to check out her blog of Kentucky

 Photo by Janie-Rice Brother of Gardens To Gables

 Photo by Janie-Rice Brother of Gardens To Gables

 Photo by Janie-Rice Brother of Gardens To Gables

 Photo by Janie-Rice Brother of Gardens To Gables

Harrodsburg Opera House

  This is a photo we had never seen and Belinda S Kurtz shared this from another group. “Wasn’t Bob Martin that used to run the radio statio...