Historical Society Gets Vivid Imaginary Tour Of Cloverport
October 23, 1985 by David W. Hayes
Mrs. Grace Behen Bandy of Cloverport hosted the monthly meeting of the Breckinridge County Historical Society at her home on Tuesday. October 8. She gave the members and visitors present a vivid and imaginative walk through the city of Cloverport.
Her presentation began by showing the group a topographic map which illustrated the fact that Cloverport is ideally located on a bend of the Ohio River with hills protecting the south side of the community. This provided a safe mooring location for boats on the Ohio River and led to the establishment of Cloverport.
She commented that she has heard many stories about the first settlers of Cloverport, but there are actual records that Joe Huston began a shipping port in 1798. The first settlement was called Joesville and was located on the east side of Clover Creek. The lower side or west side of the creek was settled later and was known as Cloverport. Later the two communities merged into one.
Mrs. Bandy stated that the name for the community resulted from the abundance of wild clover growing in the area and she remembers that as a young girl going out to play, she was always in danger of being stung by the many bees who were attracted by the clover blossoms.
Cloverport, according to Mrs. Bandy, has been a community with many gracious and capable people. She told the group that two natives of the city have been recognized nationally and one was listed in the publication, “Who’s Who in America,” at the time of his retirement. Two local women were recognized nationally by the American Red Cross and another gentleman has been recognized in the field of ceramics.
In her presentation before the society, she commented that three areas of work are peculiar to Cloverport because of its location. One was that many residents had jobs related to the Ohio River such as captains, pilots, dockhands and fishermen. There was a local mussel industry which resulted in the establishment of a button factory in the community.
The second peculiarity was the soil, which is clay in nature, and resulted in the making of bricks and tile in the community. The third was the fact that Cloverport was the site of the shops for the Louisville, Henderson and St. Louis Railroad because its location was halfway between Louisville and Evansville, Ind., both of which were the terminal points for the railroad.
She began her description of various buildings and locations in the community by beginning at her home which is located at 903 West Huston Street. She mentioned the home of Ed and Ella Watkins Oglesby who had a farm on the west side of the community and that the family was famous for their hospitality. She told the group about the family cemetery, which not only contained family graves, but graves of people who had died on the river or while traveling through the community.
Just to the south of Cloverport was the famous resort of Tar Springs which was located on a narrow gauge railroad built to haul cannel coal. The resort was famous as a health spa because of its sulphur water, but in the area petroglyphs or imprints of animals and plants in rock were found as well as Indian paintings in caves. The spa had a hotel, skating rink, dance hall and cottages for rent.
She told the assembled group that Supreme Court Justice Wiley B. Rutledge (1943-1949) was born at Tar Springs. He was the son of the Baptist minister in Cloverport and Mrs. Bandy made the observation that his mother either went to the resort for peace and tranquility in the final months of her pregnancy or she simply stayed too long at the resort.
At the end of Huston Street, the railroad shops of the L.H. and St. L. Railroad were located. Today only two buildings remain of this important employer in the community, a trailer court and ball park now occupy the site. The first commercial kerosene or coal oil was produced in Cloverport only two blocks from her home. She mentioned the cut or dip before reaching her home which was the roadbed of the Breckinridge Coal Railroad which transported the cannel coal from the mines to the processing plant and loading pier.
Up the street from her home was the loose-leaf building which is the last of many tobacco warehouses which Cloverport could boast of having. At the end of the block on her street was the location of the electric light plant and ice plant for the community. She made mention of the fact that the community is blessed with an excellent layer of groundwater under it. At the end of Huston Street on Chestnut Street is the St. Rose Catholic Church which she regards as the most impressive structure in her community.
The church was established through the efforts of the local parishioners and the Irish immigrants who settled in Cloverport who were employed in the mining of the cannel coal.
She took her audience next through her descriptive narrative to the curve which is known as Whitehead’s corner and where a service station is now located. It was the home and birthplace of Frederick Fraize. The local high school is named in his honor as his family left an endowment to the school with the stipulation the school’s name be changed to honor him.
Mrs. Bandy explained that she was quite upset when this home was demolished, as they not only destroyed his birthplace but hers as well, since she was born in the same home on May 11, 1914.
The street through the business district of the community is known today as First Street but depending on the age of the individual you might hear the names River Street or Front Street used as well. She spoke about the old Cloverport Hotel and the Pate House.
She then proceeded down Oak Street to the home of her paternal grandfather, Marion Behen, who maintained a blacksmith shop and in the vicinity was one of the two community wells which had pumps for the common use of everyone. On down Oak Street was the home of a black woman who helped raise her, Aunt Martha Bridwell, and today Mrs. Bandy has this woman’s photograph above her sink and two of her irons rest on her sewing machine.
Her grandfather would dig wells and one time he hit a pocket of natural gas, capped it and piped the gas into his home and had the first gas lighting in the community. She mentioned the home of Jess Bohler who as a barber and fire chief for Cloverport and whose son, Ernest, became tire chief at Pleasure Ridge Park in Jefferson County and began the tradition of fire departments collecting money for the Crusade for Children.
She reminisced about the home of Mrs. R.L. Oelze whose home caught on tire as a result of natural gas being left on and the fire which resulted coupled with winds caused the center of Cloverport to burn down.
She took her listeners across the longest single span bridge in Kentucky and spoke of the home of David Phelps who managed the button factory, the home of Harry Newsom who worked in the paint shop at the railroad and was very artistic. She mentioned Edward Gregory who was the historian of the community and his tradition is still maintained by his daughter, Mrs. Margarete Smith. She talked about the home of R.N. Hudson, who was president of the L.H. and St. L. Railroad and the fact that his home was under construction for a long period of time due to the fact that Mr. Hudson was very particular about the lumber being used and only chose the best the railroad had for its construction.
Finally, she reached the eastern end of the community and the two cemeteries at the top of the hill, Calvary Cemetery on the left and the Cloverport Cemetery on the right of the old Cloverport-Hardinsburg road. She said, “I don’t know how you feel about it, but I will be up there one of these days, but 1 am going to fight and scratch till I get there”.
She showed the group some artifacts she had collected which included mussel shells, hand made splints, a rail from the Breckinridge Coal Railroad and a lantern off the Hammond Funeral Home Hearse. Mrs. Bandy then served her guests refreshments to end a delightful evening.