Stringtown Filled With Memories
The tourist thru the little Boone-co. town of Florence sees today what he could have seen 50 years ago—the same buildings, few in number, grace the single street community. A possible few new structures, built back in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, alone mar reminiscences of the old-timer, who goes back to boyhood scenes and looks for what his youthful eye saw.
The blacksmith shop is there, unchanged. The general store, with a department devoted to Government business, and the dwellings—all abutting Banklick-st., as John Uri Lloyd branded the thorofare—greet the home-comer. The Methodist Church, where fathers of many of Covington merchants attended, occupies a conspicuous spot in the corporate limits as in days gone.
But there is a stove in the edifice now. Thomas Rouse, father of Congressman Arthur B. Rouse, of Covington, sat thru many a sermon with near-frozen feet, while the minister was obliged to exercise to facilitate speech. Too, sermons in 1860 were of greater duration than at present, the oldest resident says.
Then the old Herndon House, the pride of a country of wide radius, is commencing to become a matter of history—it is being razed. Here, battles of the Civil War have been won and lost many times since the end of the strife, in September, 1865. Later (about 1870) the structure was devoted to the dry goods business of Crigler & Swetnam, and today stands on “half a leg,” changing the memorable caste of a noteworthy, yet little known, town.
George Washington commissioned John Filson to draw a map of Kentucky, which was then a county of Virginia. A few years later Filson was asked to establish and lay out a town opposite the mouth of the Licking River. This commission was given by the John Cleves Simms Land Syndicate, owners of practically the entirety of Northern Kentucky and Southern Ohio during the late eighteenth century.
Filson, with a marvelous drawing of the “county,” and a concise chart of a city where Cincinnati now stands, settled and almost immediately settlers started coming to the center of things. For Losantiville, as the spot was named, became an attraction to residents of the Cumberland Gap region and along the upper Ohio River.
Those coming from the Tennessee line were unlike those who trudged the plains and the hills from Virginia toward the Mecca; they followed the crest of the mountain, which tapers down and down until the foothills are but within eyesight south of Covington. These very backhills, John Uri Lloyd says, are really the low descent of the Cumberland Mountains.
So these people who followed the crest route came upon the present site of Florence and there settled.
History points to the conclusion that these first settlers did not perpetuate their families at this location, since the oldest resident does not link his relationship with any of the little band who came from the southern part of the “county” and Tennessee.
From best knowledge it cannot be learned that any but temporary dwellings were erected by the pioneers, although some of the buildings now standing there are ringed with an age of three-quarters of a century.
A Single Street
Homes of sturdy construction on a single street or “way” took their places until several graced “Banklick-st.,” as called by Lloyd in his immortalizing “Stringtown-on-the-Pike.”
Why “Florence?” This was a question uppermost in the mind of Lloyd during the writing of his novel and a matter he discarded as unanswerable. Might the town have been named for some fair one—a daughter or perhaps a mother, or a sweetheart of a first settler?
And today Florence continues with her handful of people, knowing not why she is so named, but forever to exist in a state of immortalization because an author chose to find his boyhood home worthy of characterization and called the loved spot “Stringtown.”
Kentucky Post, July 6, 1916