Early Days in Sparta
The first part of Sparta to be settled was that portion located on the south side of Eagle creek, which part has been in Owen County since 1820 [when Owen was formed, from Gallatin, Scott and Franklin Counties]. This area is still spoken of as “old Sparta.”
However, it was first known as “Brock’s Station.” The old gristmill was built by a Mr. Ross, supposedly about 1801 to 1804. Soon there was also a tan yard, distillery, machine shop, cobbler’s shop, and several other coopers and merchants.
The part of Sparta lying on the north side of Eagle Creek, which part has always been in Gallatin County, used to be in heavy timber. About 1830, a man named [Rus?] Edman, cleared it and raised tobacco. He lived in a small log cabin located where the lumberyard was later located.
One of the earliest settlers in the Sparta vicinity was Granville Brock, who came from Scott County and built a log house about 1818 on what was later a part of the Willadean Nursery property. This house burned January 24, 1934. Most of the early buildings were of log, and a few of them still stand.
Shortly after the Civil War the development of Sparta mushroomed when the “Short Line” from Louisville to Cincinnati, now the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, was begun. A depot was built, which also housed a store and a post office, followed by the Kelly Hotel. Other stores and houses were built shortly afterwards.
About 1875 a two-story red frame building was erected, the first floor of which was used as a school, and the second floor of which was used as a Masonic Hall. It was torn down about 1907 or 1908. It was the only public building on Sparta, and was used by all the churches, as well as by traveling shows and all sorts of public meetings.
The bank was organized in 1900. The lumberyard and Willadean Nurseries started about 1908, the stockyards in 1909, the Standard Oil business in 1921, and the Owenton & Sparta Transfer Company (now Jacobs Coal company) in 1928.
The Sparta Christian church was organized in April 1875 and the Sparta Baptist Church in 1881.
Passenger busses [stage coaches], such as we now see on western television shows, ran Sparta to Owenton and Warsaw. Freight wagons were also operated between Sparta and Owenton. Warsaw, of course, got its freight by river. Before the [covered] wooden bridge was first erected in 1873, it was necessary to ford Eagle Creek.
Over the years, Sparta, and particularly “Old Sparta,” has been plagued with high water every few years. Among the highest floods were those of March 19, 1943, and of March 10, 1964. Only a few buildings in “Old Sparta” remained out of the water in those years. Two other disasters to strike Sparta were extensive fires I the business district in 1895, and on July 14, 1942.
Names prominent in the development of Sparta include Brock, Carver, Clark, Grant, Jacobs, Kelly, Kennedy, Moore, Records, Wilson and Winn.
The above comments are based on a letter written by Mrs. Ona Greene, a descendent of Granville Brock, and on information furnished by Mr. C. N. Varble, who has lived in Sparta since 1917, and who has assembled quite an extensive chronicle of the events occurring in the life of this community.