History of Elizaville

From the Fleming Gazette, 7 Feb 1952

by Lutie Allen Vansant Crucher 

The little village of Elizaville, nestled between two hills about five miles from Flemingsburg on U.S. 32, has been compared, in the quality and excellence of its natives to a “city that sitteth on a hill, its light shinest out for all to see.”  It was the cradle of many fine old pioneer names, and several of its citizens have become quite renowned and famous.

This bustling community, located in one of the best sections of Fleming County, is first mentioned in the court records on April 2, 1819, at the time of its incorporation.  The town was named for Eliza Cochran, the strikingly beautiful daughter of John Cochran, who built the first cabin there.

At the time it was incorporated, the trustees were James Cochran, James Johnson, William Nickelson, James Alexander and Joseph Reed.

Early Homes

The aforementioned Cochran cabin later became part of a hotel owned by George Peck, which later burned, where the handsome Stewart House, occupied by the gracious Stewart sisters and their only living brother, Mr. William Stewart now lives.  The former H. C. Berry home, which is the last house on the right toward Hilltop, was built in 1824.  This residence is now occupied by Mr. Wagoner.  In 1832, Dr. Tilton built the house where Mrs. Lide Smith now resides.  The houses of W. Y. Williams and Ben Arnold are extremely old, but have been completely remodeled.  In 1900, John Howe, grandfather of John and Noble Crain lived in Mr. Arnold’s house prior to his tenancy.

Early Business

The first merchants were men by the name of Green and Wesley Parker.  It is generally conceded that Greene erected the building which houses Raymond McIntyre’s store.  Henry Warrick, another early merchant, was extremely prominent both socially and financially.  In 1835, the town got a big boost when Henry and R. M. Bishop settled there.  They opened a tanyard, traded hogs and horses, and built a large stable behind the Throckmorton filling station.  They packed pork for the New Orleans market.  The Hon. R. M. Bishop was born at Bishop’s Old Tanyard, about two miles southwest of Elizaville, in the early part of the century.  After his tenure in Elizaville, he moved to Flemingsburg, thence to Cincinnati, where he became one of that city’s leading businessmen.  He was elected Mayor of Cincinnati;  afterward, a member of the Ohio Constitutional Convention, and then his party nominated him for the Governorship.  He was elected to that position with a large majority.  John Aikman was an early blacksmith and lived in what is now the Ed Mitchell home.  He made a turning plow, which was known as the Aikman plow, and which brought him a considerable reputation.  “Uncle Johnny” was known as a “character.”  His wife was a devout Presbyterian and quite deaf.  Oliver Hazard Perry Dewey, a shoemaker, came to Elizaville in October, 1831.  His shop was on the corner in the vacant building now owned by Rube Roberson.  This building has been moved across the street from where it was.  This Oliver Dewey was the father of Miss Sarah and Elizabeth Dewey and a half-uncle of Admiral Dewey.

A gifted music-master, Dwight Baldwin, appeared on the Elizaville scene in the 1840s.  This young man made quite a success in singing.  He subsequently met and courted a Miss Summers, who was an aunt of the late Mrs. W. E. Price, Mrs. T. Ribelin and Mr. Charlie Summers, and a great aunt of Mrs. Taylor Williams and Mrs. Lucy R. Dorsey of Flemingsburg.  In 1849, he started a sallaratus factory in the Bishop stables, which he rented, turned into a factory, and made a complete failure.  But that was the only business he ever failed in.  He afterwards started the Baldwin Piano Company in Cincinnati and died immensely wealthy.  He was one of the greatest Sunday School workers in the West.

Captain G. W. Jackson, of the “Battle of Elizaville” fame, lived where James Price now resides.  He was an undertaker there and Will Price succeeded him in the late 1890s.  Jacob Jockey, a Dutchman, was a shoemaker, and had his shop next to Raymond McIntyre’s store, and when the building burned, they placed ropes about his establishment and pulled it away intact.

Early Doctors

Dr. Lucien Abney, grandfather of Mrs. Reuben Roberson and Mrs. Sam Burns, emigrated with his mother and stepfather from South Carolina when he was a child.  He first practiced medicine in Pleasant Valley.  He was married to Jane Stewart, and his stepfather was killed when the steamship “Magnolia” blew up.  He settled in Elizaville in 1862 and stayed there until his death.  He was also postmaster there, appointed by William McKinley, and remained in that position until Woodrow Wilson began his first term.

Dr. J. N. Proctor lived on the corner in the house opposite Gene Wood’s store.  A very early physician was Dr. James L. Baltzell, who died in 1849 with the cholera and is buried in a little cemetery behind the McIntyre home.  Probably the earliest doctor was Robert Tilton, who also died with the cholera in 1883, and is buried in the same place.  Dr. Fleming lived where Whit Williams now resides, and he later moved to Nepton.  Dr. O’Bannon practiced where Mrs. Clara McIntyre now lives, although it was a different house.  Dr. Thompson Ribelin was the last to practice there.  He came to Elizaville from Pleasant Valley.  His wife was Alice Summers, sister to Lettie Summers, who married the late Will Price.

William Berry settled in Elizaville 130 years ago, and opened a sadler’s shop.  He soon owned a good farm and lived, for many years, where W. Y. Williams now lives.  Claiborne Jackson was reared in the residence where Clarence Bishop lives.  Later in life, he became Governor of Missouri, but died before his term expired.

No name shines brighter upon the pages of history than that of Bruce.  A branch of this illustrious family pioneered the settling of the surrounding territory of Elizaville.  Available research shows that the Bruce family has a record that goes back to the dawn of history, and has been a large part of all that is great and glorious in the achievements of its own, native Scotland, and has contributed in no small measure to the ennobling activities of other countries, especially the United States.

Henry Bruce, oldest son of George and Mary Stubblefield Bruce and ancestor of Mrs. Iolene Hawkins, Mrs. J. Kidwell Grannis, Joe Pumphry and Mrs. Clark Overton, was born in Stafford County, Virginia on October 30, 1777.  At the age of seven, he was bound out to a neighbor to learn the shoe-making trade, and stayed with his master for eight years.  But, at the age of fifteen, he took one of his mother’s horses and slipped away with the Benjamin Threlkeld family and came with to Mason County, Kentucky.  Upon his arrival, he had three crowns in money, and started to work by the day or month as he found it.

In the meantime, he purchased 50 acres of land in Fleming County, one mile and a half from the village of Elizaville.  He and a negro man built a one-room log cabin and made furniture from timber on the farm.  Later, on January 11, 1798, he married Eleanor Threlkeld.

In 1808, Henry Bruce began to drive hogs and horses south.  This enabled him to buy more land, and when his family began to arrive, another room was added to the cabin and floors were laid.  They had heretofore lived on a dirt floor.

In 1813, a beautiful spot up the hill was selected for a house and work was begun.  Two years later, in November, they moved into their then considered palatial home of ten rooms, three halls and porches.  This was the second brick house built in Fleming County outside of Flemingsburg, and the first one to have a shingled roof.  Jennings Day lives there now.

Another distinguished personage was the honorable E. M. Bruce, born near Elizaville in the 1820s.  He became wealthy in his early life, and, when the Civil War broke out went with the South and was a friend of Jefferson Davis.  Later, he became a distinguished philanthropist.

James Morgan, the youngest child of William and Ann Bruce Morgan, was born where Andrew Allen now lives.  Very early in his young life, his father emigrated to Illinois, where he entered newspaper work.  His first position was with the Boston Globe-Democrat and later became City Editor for that journal.

George Adams was born in or near Elizaville in 1845.  A naturally gifted speaker from boyhood, he continually amazed his teachers and classmates with his oratorical prowess.  Later, he entered the College of the Bible at Lexington, then went to Illinois to begin his work.  However, he shortly thereafter killed himself in a hunting accident.

Andrew J. Planck, the son of Isaac Planck, was born near Elizaville in 1847.  He had the twin virtues of being a religious man, also one who was greatly interested in education.  He attended Centre College, and became a well-known minister, whose length of service lasted 23 years.

The aforementioned Dr. Lucien B. Abney lived where Mrs. Reuben Roberson now resides.  He came from South Carolina when a child with his mother and stepfather.  This stepfather was Colonel David Patton who drove hogs to South Carolina, and there met the widow Abney.  This estimable lady had five children by her first husband, who was killed in the Seminole War.  Mary Abney was the first body to be interred in the Elizaville Cemetery, and she had previously been removed from Johnson’s Fork Presbyterian Burying Ground.

Earliest Schools

One of the earliest schools (private) was conducted in the middle front section of the Reuben Roberson home.  Among others who attended was Charles Knight, father of Mrs. Downing Williams.  A teacher by the name of “Meadows” taught a splendid school in Elizaville in the 1850s.  Among the subjects offered were mathematics, trigonometry, surveying, etc.  In the 1860s a basement school was organized by Miss Julia May, who had the distinction of being a graduate of Mt. Holyoke Seminary in Massachusetts.  Major William H. Darnall of this county persuaded Miss May to come to Elizaville to teach in a building which he had erected in his yard.  This is where Ernest Hillis now lives.  However, the project was begun in the basement of the Elizaville Presbyterian Church.  So successful was this venture that she was in need of help and called for her sister, Miss Sarah May to aid her in her duties.

A High School curriculum was inaugurated and courses in Latin, French, high mathematics and physics were given.  After several successful years the May sisters left to return to their New England home.  But they had made an outstanding record during their tenure.  Students from all over the county came and boarded in Elizaville for the purpose of attending their classes.

In 1866-67, an associate Reformed Presbyterian Minister began his duties as teacher here, but, due to his lax discipline and slipshod methods, the entire project began to disintegrate.

On the first Monday in September, 1867, John J. Dickey began teaching with 18 pupils.  His sister, Eva Dickey, was soon called to assist, and, at the end of the school year, they had 80 students.  At the beginning of the second year, the enrollment was 81 but, since the Willow Dell Academy was soon organized, the basement school was shortly closed.

Prior to the opening of the Willow Dell Academy, there had been another old school in Elizaville, situated on the same lot, back toward Johnson.

This Willow Dell Academy, located where the present school now stands, was started as a two-room affair, one room on the ground and the other directly over it.  True to the previous scholastic tradition, this academy was excellent, and the students were taught by many fine teachers, some of them from the North.  In the 1860s, a Yankee woman by the name of Miss Mary Perkins taught there.  Afterwards, N. B. Price, another scholar, instructed there.

In 1875, Willow Dell had about seventy pupils in attendance, with Professor Clarence P. Caywood as Principal.  Other early teachers in the school were Annie Rossell, Sallie Mahon from Glasgow, Ky., Kate Pryor of Carrollton, Lillie Wade, Hanson Peterson (who later became a lawyer in Cynthiana), Charles Marshall, who afterwards became a Bank President, Lizzie McClintock and Sallie McIntyre from Millersburg and Miss Lyle Hutchison.

This same Willow Dell was organized into a High school and Mrs. J. A. Carriker, formerly Miss Elizabeth Dorsey was the first person to graduate from here in 1920.  It ceased to be a High School in 1935.

Early Churches

The Presbyterian Church first stood where Mrs. Allie Selby now owns, and Dr. Henry M. Scudder, the regular Minister, was preaching a funeral one Sunday afternoon when a windstorm blew the entire church down.  Fortunately, the services were being conducted in a home, and no one was injured.  Dr. Scudder came to Elizaville from Centre College at Danville, and preached there for 43 years.  On February 2, 1859, he was married to Martha Darnall, eldest daughter of John S. Darnall, sister of John H. Darnall, and aunt of R. W. Darnall, prominent businessman and landowner of Ewing, Route 2, who recently moved to Flemingsburg.  Dr. Scudder ranked among the first preachers of his church in Kentucky, and both he and his wife are buried in the Elizaville cemetery.

Some of the first members of this church were John A. Darnall, and wife, Stuart Hood and wife, Wesley Knight and wife, Moses Glenn and wife, John Cowan and wife, Robert Harper and wife (ancestors of R. W. and Thomas Darnall), David Howe and wife, Robert Ewing and wife, William Kincaid and wife, Bennett Van Sant and wife, Resin Kirk and wife, William Ewing and wife, Mary and Sallie Kirk, Solomon Hilligos and wife, Nancy Scott, Sarah and Mary Scott, Mrs. Jack Stewart, Robert Stewart and wife, Margaret Stewart, Mrs. Elizabeth Purdum (ancestor of Charlie, Sam and Lucien Burns), Mary Finley and family, Mrs. O. H. Dewey and Mrs. Betsy Gallagher.  Rev. James Lapsley was the first pastor of this church.

In 1847, a house was built where the present Christian church now stands.  This signified the split of the Bethel church in 1846.  This church was located just out of the city limits of Elizaville, and was split “wide open” because of Alexander Campell’s [sic] preaching.

Members who remained with this church were Henry Bruce, Nellie Bruce, Harriet Dudley, Josie Planck, Benjamin and William Threlkeld, Elijah Johnson, Mrs. Ware and her sons Hazel and Nathan, Lewis Summers and son George Summers and others.  It was in this Baptist church that Gov. R. M. Bishop was married to Miss Mary Threlkeld by Rev. Walter Warder, ancestor of Miss Caroline Phillips of Flemingsburg.

Among those who attended the new church were John Wells and wife, W. H. Darnall and wife, Simeon Allen and wife, Dow Williams, John J. Rogers, Rolly Porter and wife, Ben Wells and wife and others.  Immediately after the above mentioned split, Campbell’s followers worshipped in the Willow Dell schoolhouse until their own meeting place was constructed.  The lot on which that church was built in 1847 was given by Mrs. Ware, mother-in-law of William H. Darnall.  Their first minister was John I. Rogers, and Simeon Allen and Rolly Porter were the first elders.  John Wells and William H. Darnall were the chosen deacons.  Charles and William Prater, brickmasons, constructed this church.

In those days, long, loud sermons were delivered by William Warder, Walter Scott, “Racoon” [sic] John Smith, John Helm, John and Samuel Rogers and William Vaughn.  This church was a large brick building, and stood where the Bethel schoolhouse stood on the Convict pike.

This new Elizaville Christian church soon became a power in the community.  After John I. Rogers served as pastor for seven consecutive years, he was succeeded by Stephen Meng, Mr. Grubbs, W. S. Irvine, Mr. Long, Mr. Willoughby, Reuben McCormick, Dick Ricketts, P. B. Wiles, and M. W. Harkins.

Two great meetings were held while P. B. Wiles was the minister.  One was held by W. T. Moore in 1859, and the other, in 1862, by John Allen Gano.  Each meeting resulted in over 60 additions to the church.  I. B. Grubbs, who later became a Professor in the Bible College at Lexington was perhaps the most scholarly and intellectual man who ever served the church as pastor.  In later years, Professor W. A. Fite, now teacher of Bible and Archaeology at Ky. Christian College in Grayson, preached there four years.

Alexander Campbell visited this church in the 1850s, and Professor Pendleton was with him.  In addition to the aforementioned elders, the following have capably served the congregations:  John Wells, William H. Darnall, Harrison Sousley, James P. Allen, Jerome Napoleon Price, ancestor of Frank P. Boone, County Court Clerk, and also of James N. Price, beloved resident of Elizaville and owner of Price Bros. Funeral Home.

Old Graveyards

An interesting little family burying ground is found back of Mrs. Reuben Roberson’s home.  Some of Elizaville’s most illustrious citizens are found there – among them:  Dr. Robert Tilton and Dr. James M. Baltzell, Lucy P. Rogers, wife of Elder John Rogers was buried in that cemetery.  Three weeks after her burial, her infant daughter was also interred there.  About 17 years later, when the bodies were taken up to be moved to Flemingsburg, the body of the mother was only decaying bones;  but that of the infant was as natural looking as at death.  The color of her eyes could be distinguished and her face had a bright, fleshy color, with no hint of death.  Her clothes resembled wax work.

Approximately two miles north of Elizaville is the old Johnson’s Fork Presbyterian Burying-Ground.  The land for this church and grave-yard was given by Hugh Fulton around 1800 or earlier.  This was one of the earliest churches in Fleming County, and one of the earliest graves, that of Hugh Fulton’s wife (buried in 1791) can be found there.  This church was later moved to Helena in Mason County.

About four miles west of Elizaville stood the old Poplar Run Methodist church, the land for which was given by Peter Johnson.  Among the citizens buried here are the Prices, Taylors, Caywoods, Biddles and others.

Concerning the Elizaville cemetery, there were four men, called Commissioners, who laid off the place and received four center lots for themselves and their families.  These four men were Proctor, Dorsey, Summers and William Henry Prater.

The Battle of Elizaville

Many people are unaware of the fact that there was a clash of arms near the village of Elizaville.

During the Civil War, the Confederates had invaded and spread over most of the state.  Kentucky’s volunteers were flocking in large numbers to both armies.  The Union forces and home guards had arrested many Southern sympathizers and treated them shabbily, and the Union sympathizers were fleeing before the invading Southerners expecting the same sort of treatment.

Several Confederate men had gathered in a body at Maysville, awaiting the turn of events.  In the meantime, Captain G. W. Jackson, a native of Elizaville, was recruiting a company for the Confederate Army.  He had already enlisted several men, who would lodge with friends at night and would scour the county for recruits during the day.

On Saturday afternoon, September 17, 1862, several Confederate recruits with Captain Jackson rode into Elizaville, halted there for a short time, and started in the direction of Maysville.  In the meantime, however, about forty Union men were approaching the town by that route having advance knowledge of Captain Jackson’s movements.

The latter company was composed of refugees and home guards, and were under the command of John Blair, who later became very prominent in politics and county affairs in Nicholas County.

Jackson’s group was composed of Rolla Porter, James T. Alexander, George D. and William Sousley, John E. Sousley, Jack Payne, John Ferguson, Felix Lowry, Jack, Joe and John Noe, John Aikman, Thomas Henry, Alfred Prather, Alfred Kirk, William Bowen, Lewis and Harrison Planck, John T. Cochran, Daniel Eckman, William Davis, Zaddock Spencer, William Allen and one whose name is unknown.

Two members of Jackson’s advance guard had halted at the summit of the gentle slope after crossing Mud Lick, opposite the present residence of Lucien Early.  The Union forces opened fire and Jackson gave the command, “Dismount, hitch your horses, fall into line and we’ll fight them right here.”

All but five or six of the men obeyed, and there was intermittent firing for about ten minutes.  Then Capt. Jackson gave the order to retreat, but his men did, anyway and he and James Alexander were the last to leave the scene of the action.  The casualities [sic] were light, and an interesting incident occurred.  James Cochran, then a small boy whose father, James Cochran, Sr. lived where Lucien Early now resides, was returning home from Elizaville when the battle began.  He hid under the Mud Lick bridge and remained there until it was all over.

Interesting Tid Bits

In 1875 the Oddfellows lodge had a total membership of 75.  Willow Dell Academy was named by Miss Amelia O’Bannon, mother of Senator Allie W. Young.  She was a lady of unusually bright mind…  In May of 1831 a severe hurricane passed through Elizaville and blew down the house of H. C. Berry…  E. S. Wells had a General Merchandise store in Elizaville in 1875…  In 1876 a cyclone passed over the town and blew the cupalp [sic] and shingles off the Elizaville Christian Church…  Mary Jockey was the first person who died and was immediately buried in the Elizaville cemetery…  Ed Wells and Ed Cochran had a store where Gene Wood’s is now…  James Cochran ran a hotel opposite Raymond McIntyre’s Grocery…  There are only two negroes buried in the Elizaville cemetery, and they were the servants of the Darnall family…  The uniform of valiant Captain G. W. Jackson reposes in the Blue Lick’s Museum…

Submitted by L. D. Jackson