Once Prosperous, thriving is now ghost town of only seven families
January 13, 1957
By Rebecca P. Miller
“This is it,” said the mail carrier—otherwise this traveler would not have recognized Havilandsville.
Here in the so-called “Richlands” of Harrison County lie the ruins of a community which a century ago was home for about 650 persons. Only seven families remain.
Within 11 miles of the point where Richland Creek pours in to Main Licking River there are 31 vacant houses, ghost-like among the ivy, creepers, weeds[,] and trees. Vines climb to the very peaks of some roofs.
No longer are there dozens of small farms in the area. Two large ones owned by the Whitaker brothers and Clarence Doan spread over much of the valley. No longer is there need for hundreds of tenants and slaves.
Such was not the case in the early 1800’s.
One house here is owned by Mrs. J.T. Harper and her daughter, Mrs. Ruth H. King, of Castlewood Drive, Lexington, and is sued as a recreational “hideout” on alternate weekends. It was in Mrs. King’s jeep that we bounced into the heart of the abandoned country hereabouts.
We found Allen Whalen, a keen-witted 87-year-old, topping his patch of chewing tobacco which was goring in the vegetable garden. He had many memories of Havilandsville in the earlier days.
His father, Squire Whalen, built his own log cabin in the woods here about 1835. He built his own flatboats, too, and shipped the produce of his farm downriver to Cincinnati. Once when he received three cents a pound for his tobacco crop he considered it an excellent price.
One of the best-remembered things he told his son was how, as a young man he once went to the creek to haul water. Glancing behind him, he saw following his cow, horse, dog and cat—all his earthly possessions—and was the proudest man in the world.
Just above Mr. Whalen’s garden patch is an old log barn built by John Pollard in 1835. It still stands, with another framework constructed around it.
Pollard, it is said, once described the building of the barn. At each corner, he said, was a man chopping saddles for the logs – an all of them were drunk. But, he added, whisky in those days was not as harmful as that of later years.
Squire Whalen died in 1931 at the age of 96. he had told his son many anecdotes about Havilandsville and the northeastern corner of Harrison County it served.
About 82 years ago, David Hickman owned and operated a general store here, and he also had a tobacco prizing house which still stands along the bank of Richland Creek. Here he employed two nephews, and they became interested in the tobacco industry. Later they were to become well-known both as tobacco growers and leaders in the burley industry. The nephews were Orie and Clarence LeBus.
The prized tobacco was floated down the creek to Main Licking, and on to Cincinnati where it was sold.
Leaving Mr. Whalen’s home we jeeped across Richland Creek and up the long hill to the old Richland Baptist Cemetery.
The cemetery was carpeted with Crepe Myrtle and shaded by big elms and cedars. About 100 monuments could be seen, among them the 8½ ft. shaft marking the grave of Robert S. Haviland, founder of Havilandsville.
Fallen But Unbroken
The shaft, fallen but unbroken, is inscribed: “Robert S. Haviland, born in the City of New York, Nov. 11, 1796, and died in Harrison County, Ky., Aug. 8, 1858, at the age of 61 years, 8 mos.[, &] 3 days.”
On the reverse side is the inscription: “Sacred to the memory of our dead Mother, wife of R.S. Haviland, who died Nov. 14, 1870, at the age of 72 years.”
Wanderlust beckoned to young Robert S. Haviland and despite his father’s objections he left his home in New York and headed for New Orleans. Below Pittsburgh, floating down the Ohio on a barge, he changed his course. He met Mary C. Stewart, a beautiful Kentucky girl, married her and remained in her home state.
When Havilandsville became a prosperous town he owned perhaps 50 slaves, many of whom worked at his three mills. One mill ground corn and wheat in Havilandsville; another half mile below the town ground corn and barley, and there was the Poston sawmill at the mouth of Richland Creek.
Reared Three Sons
Robert Haviland reared three sons and four daughters in this town, but James Haviland was the only one of the children who ever married.
The Haviland home was large and hospitable. The story is told that once in the early days while a big dinner was in progress there, the dogs began chasing a pet deer outside. The frightened animal ran through the house and literally leaped across the laden table in his flight. It created a sensation but didn’t halt the meal.
William, the eldest of the Haviland children, was a learned man and carried on quite a correspondence with a succession of Presidents, often giving them his views on the way the country should be run.
He mad a fine Siberian crabapple cider, quantities of which he sent with several prime turkeys to the President each Thanksgiving Day.
Ham Casey and the “Widow Browning” also owned slaves during this golden period at Havilandsville, and numberous [sic] among them was a family named McGee. Indeed, the Negro burying place was named the McGee Cemetery.
The rundown cemetery still is there, with several barely legible McGee markers. But the most readable is that of “Hannah, wife of Joseph Clark, born in 1810 and died in 1892. Ever faithful.” The “ever faithful” was noted on several monuments.
In its time Havilandsville was an important town in Harrison County. It furnished a count judge, Henry Haviland; an assessor, Henry Cleveland; two sheriffs, Thomas and Can Casey, and one of the earliest of his kind, John Hobday, who carried mail from Cynthiana to Covington before the L. and N. Railroad was built. It boasted two physicians, Drs. Rainey and Baltzelle.
As late as 1877 so much life remained here that Havilandsville’s “Famous Brass Band” was organized.
That was long ago, however. Now only the stone chimney of Robert Haviland’s home still stands. The building was razed in 1952.
Slowly, all the landmarks of Havilandsville are fading away. Havilandsville is a northern Harrison county community on Richland Creek near the Licking River on the border with Pendleton county. In the nineteenth century it was an active center for agricultural processing and trade. A Travellers Rest post office opened on the north side of Richland Creek in 1833. It moved to the Harrison county side in 1842 and was renamed Havilandsville for the postmaster, Robert S. Havilands. It closed in 1926.
?? (??). Havilandsville Entry. Retrieved
February 20, 2006, from Kentucky Atlas and Gazetteer
Web site: http://www.uky.edu/KentuckyAtlas/ky-havilandsville.html