Days Gone By

In the History of Ludlow


Interesting Reminiscences of Men and Events


Stirring scenes During the War of Succession


There is a well-known citizen of Ludlow, Daniel Miller, who once stole watermelons under great difficulties.

In 1845 a Yankee by the name of Groves had a fine orchard and watermelon patch on 30 acres, occupying the present city of Ludlow, east of George Street.  The boys of the neighborhood, including Miller, were mischievous and frequently raided the melon patch.  Finally, old man Groves got shooting mad, and determined to trap the depredators.  He accordingly stretched a number of strings among his melon vines, and connected them with a small bell in his house in such a manner as to ring an alarm when anybody’s foot hit against the strings.  Then he loaded his shotgun and waited.

Dan and his brigade on the following night leaped the fence, but tumbled to the strange device of the strings, and carefully cut each one.  Then they loaded up with watermelons and departed, leaving Groves impatiently waiting for his bell to ring.  Several times the strings were fixed, but each time the boys cut them, and Groves finally gave up his scheme.

The historic old plantation house in Ludlow now owned and occupied by A. B. Closson, Esq., was built by a southern planter, Butler Kenner, in 1845.  It was used by him solely as a summer house.  He remained in New Orleans during the winter.  His style of living was luxurious, and it is said when he came North every summer to Ludlow, he brought quite a retinue of slaves.  His lawn extended to the river front, and a long graveled walk, banked on both sides by flowers, led down from the front door to the banks of the Ohio.  A country road, which was subsequently washed away by the encroachments of the river, ran along the front of the yard.

A brother of Butler Kenner, named George, occupied for a while the “Old Webster Place,” and used what is now known as the “Latta House” for his billiard room.  George was quite a sporting man, and many are the stories told concerning his love for cards and horses.  He was a secessionist, and during the war went to England, and never returned.  His estate was mortgaged and subsequently sold.

“The old Ludlow Place,” as it is usually called, adjoined the Southern Railroad bridge, and was burned some years ago.  The building was erected for an overseer of Carneal’s, named Thornton, in 1823.  It was subsequently occupied by Israel Ludlow.

Among the earliest settlers in the town were the late James Downey and William B. Hay, also Patrick Dillon and John Wesner and Matthew Bentley.

The Christian Church was built in 1849, and in the same year Mr. Charles Scott erected the Baptist house of worship on Carneal Street.  The Methodist people at first held services in Mr. Latta’s house, and then began to build what was afterwards the Oddfellows’ Hall.  The structure was not completed, for lack of funds, but was finished by the Oddfellows.

Along in the sixties the Presbyterians erected a frame church on the site of the present edifice. It burned down on Sunday morning when service was in progress.  The Trustees had allowed the insurance to expire on the previous night.

The German Catholics erected a large brick church at about the same time.

Amos Winters, the first Mayor of Ludlow, was a wood-chopper, and was elected at a time when Ludlow boasted but 25 voters.  Following him as Mayors came James Blinn, A. Bates, John Wesner, B. F. DeBulls, Elisha Williams, W. D. Dalton, Elisha Williams, R. H. Flemming, T. J. McNeil and the present incumbent, Mayor O’Sullivan.

Back in the [eighteen] forties, before a ferry boat was used to transport Ludlow people to Cincinnati, a novel horse ferry was operated by James Downey.  On a flatboat capable of transporting two teams and wagons was arranged a set of twin paddle wheels of clumsy construction which were made to revolve through the united efforts of five blind horses, which were harnessed to revolving levers that were in turn cogged to the water wheels.  The price for each team ferried was 25 cents.

As the steam ferry made its advent and passed into the possession of George W. McCoy, there were a couple of indignation meetings held in the Ludlow school house to denounce the ferry owner for charging excessive toll.  McCoy snapped his fingers and thus ended the matter.

During the war time of 1860-5 there were stirring scenes in Ludlow.

One day in 1861 a company of 100 men from Cincinnati, led by Wash Burnet and others, appeared suddenly in the town all under arms, and raised a large liberty pole, on Berkenkamp’s corner.  It was suspected that the citizens were of Southern sympathies, and the invading company expected to have a sharp fight on its hands.  It turned out, however, that most of the people were loyal, and no trouble resulted.

In 1863, when Kirby Smith was marching upon Cincinnati from the South, many entrenchments were thrown up in back of Ludlow and Covington to bet off the enemy.  One strong redoubt, located in the outskirts of Ludlow, was only demolished three years ago by the Southern Railroad Company, which was excavating sand at that point.  Ft. Mitchell, however, is still standing, in a good state of preservation, near the first trestle on the Southern.  Some of the citizens of Ludlow were in the companies of Union troops occupying these works, but the majority of men were organized into a home guard, and remained in town to protect their property.

In 1870 the census showed that Ludlow had less than 800 population.  In 1880 the number of inhabitants exceeded 2000, while in 1890 over 3000 were reported.

It may be truthfully said that Ludlow has had but a few bloody tragedies in it history.

The first murder occurred in 1848, when Captain Bill Keyes, of the Ludlow ferry boat Industry, slew Jack Henderson on the deck.  The trial of Keyes resulted in his acquittal.

In 1869, on a Sunday morning, the cottage now standing at the corner of Elm and Davies Streets was a frightful affray.  A German from Cincinnati, coming over to Ludlow in search of his wife, found her in the cottage mentioned, with a horse doctor named Whitehead.  The infuriated husband thereupon drew a revolver, shot the erring wife, and then blew out his own brains upon the floor.  The woman recovered.

In 1876 occurred the famous “Ochner riot,” in which Saloonist Nick Ochner was killed after a sharp engagement at his Elm and Kemper place.  The attacking posse was composed of the City Marshall and the City Council.  No one to this day will say who fired the first shot in the darkness.  The Grand Jury did not bring in an indictment.  Ochner’s defense was selling liquor without a license and defying arrest.

On December 15, 1880, a sneaking negro, Major Hicks, killed Henry Williams on the river road near the ferry, using a bar of railroad iron.  After Hicks’ incarceration in the Covington Jail a mob of Ludlow citizens attempted to take him out and lynch him, but were dispersed by the Sheriff.

On a New Years’ Day, not long afterward, Saloonist Joe Holland, located on Oak Street, blew off Tom Crofton’s head in his bar room, using a shot gun at three feet distance.  Holland died of despondency before a decisive trail could be held.

The last affair was in 1889, when, at the corner of Kenner and Elm Streets, George Grimmerson was shot and killed by George Plummer, who subsequently served three months in the Penitentiary.

It will be seen from this complete record that but a few fatal affrays have occurred in Ludlow since it was incorporated many years ago.  The best of order usually prevailed, and life and property has been more secure than on the other side of the river.

In closing these reminiscences it may be well to recall the days of 20 years ago when the town was the theater of operations of two fire rival fire companies, one dubbed the “Silk Stockings” and composed of “exclusive people,” and the other, a democratic organization organized by Al and Bill Ludlow, and nicknamed the “Riff-raff” or the “Walpus.”

The Silk Stockings had organized first and had refused Al Ludlow admission to membership.  Accordingly, he and Bill fomented the rival company, and placed it on a pedestal of superior power by equipping it with a hand engine.  The Silk Stockings had only leather buckets.

Both companies glared at each other when they chanced to meet in public, and waited with bated breaths for a fire to happen.  It was a long time in coming, but finally a German grocer’s property mysteriously took fire on a frosty night, and the Silk Stockings completely knocked out the Wampus by getting to the scene first and taking possession of the grounds.  The fire was triumphantly extinguished, and the Walpus sneaked off and finally disorganized itself. 


from the Kentucky Post, January 28, 1893  (author uncredited)