Place Names of Pendleton County

The Licking 

The most conspicuous natural object in Pendleton County is the Licking River; and it was along this stream that the first land grants were located.  The Licking was known before any permanent settlement in Kentucky; but who gave it the name or why, is not know to the writer.  The early land grants made by Virginia called it “Licking Creek,” and the name appears to have been applied to all its branches.  The South Fork was differentiated from the main stream, at an early date, and often called, by the people of central Kentucky, Hinkston Fork, that being the name of the stream in part of Bourbon County.  In the meantime the main stream, south from the present site of Falmouth, was alternately called the North Fork and the Blue Lick Fork, but finally the name of Main Licking came to be applied to the main stream from its mouth at the Ohio to its source in Magoffin County.  The North Fork, in Bracken and Mason Counties, was a later differentiation. 

The next best known name was Byrd’s Road, made in June 1780.  This chopped out and blazed road was used for reference data for a number of land grants adjoining it or within a few miles.  This road was a visible, artificial object for many years after 1780.  [Colonel Henry Byrd was an English Officer who led Indians south in a campaign to rid Kentucky of the upstart settlers from Virginia.] 

The Encampments 

The next best known object having a name of considerable notoriety, was the road and several encampments of Generals Benjamin Logan and Daniel Boone, with their army of about 700 men, on their way from Bryant’s Station to the mouth of the Licking, where they joined General Pope, with his men from the Falls of the Ohio, and from there, marched under the command of General George Rogers Clark against the Chillicothe Indians on the Miama.  This was in the early fall of 1782. 

One of the encampments was at or near the present site of Falmouth, in the Forks of the Licking, on Burns Branch.  Mr. J. W. Shonert and this writer have been looking for some clue as to the location of this branch, but nothing definite had yet been learned.  The branch is described as emptying into the South Fork. 

The next encampment of this military expedition was on Harris Creek, near Boston Station, on the farm lately owned by Mr. John c. Kirby.  The camp was on the south fork of that creek near Mr. Kirby’s dwelling house, and at the point where the creek makes an abrupt bend from an easterly course to a northerly course to join the main creek.  This encampment was the main reference point for John Crittenden’s survey of 30,000 acres, extending from a point near the encampment into Grant and Kenton Counties, including Gardnersville, Bethel, and most of the lands on the waters of all three forks of Grassy Creek.  Several other land grants were located to adjoin the Crittenden survey; hence the encampment on Harris Creek was the reference point for more than 100,000 acres of land in Pendleton, Grant, Kenton and Boone Counties.  Many resurveys were made of these land grants, and depositions taken of men who were with Colonel Boone and Logan in 1782, and some of the men who were captured by Co. Byrd in 1780, and who returned to Kentucky a few years later by way of the encampment on Harris Creek, and described seeing the charcoals from the camp fires and the stumps of trees cut for firewood. 

The Creeks 

The next most conspicuous objects to receive names were the larger creeks, and for the most part, the names were given by the early surveyors.  The largest of these creeks is Fork Lick, with its source in Grant County, and emptying into South Licking at Morgan.  The word “lick” was used to designate a place where there was salt available for wild game, either from impregnated water of from salty water.  Several miles up Fork Lick from its mouth there is such a lick, not far from the forks of that stream.  From these circumstances it would be easy to infer how the stream got its name.  In an early day, Tyree Oldham, father of Thos. J. Oldham, leased or purchased the right to bore a well to make salt at the “lick” mentioned.  With a horse-drawn auger he bored a well of some depth but abandoned the enterprise on account of some disagreement with his partner.  Robert Taylor of Virginia came along and purchased the well from Tyree Oldham and also a considerable body of land adjoining, and established a health and summer resort, called Gum Lick Spring.  He farmed the land with the Negros he brought from Virginia, and operated the Springs with success for a number of years.  One of the attractions was a large dance hall, the music for which was furnished by his Negroes.  At the Spring, a large hollow gum log was sunk and the water rose to the top and overflowed.  It was the use of this log that the word “Gum” was attached to the place.  A number of land grants are described as bounding on Fork Lick or on some of its branches.  Recorded deeds show that the stream was called Fork Lick as early as 1794. 

There are three Willow Creeks in the county, one emptying into the Main Licking opposite Butler; Little Willow, emptying into Main Licking on the East Side, about five miles south of Falmouth; and Big Willow, about half a mile further south. Grassy Creek, emptying into the Licking at DeMossville, drains the northwest and western parts of the county, and consists of the East Fork, Middle Fork, and North Fork.  The latter fork drains a considerable area in the southwest part of Kenton County.  Flower Creek empties into Main Licking about a mile south from Butler, on the east side.  These last mentioned creeks were apparently named for the conspicuous character of the vegetation growing along their courses, and most likely the names were given by the early surveyors, to furnish some reference data for the lands which were being surveyed. 

Big Stepstone Creek was named by a party of surveyors in the year 1793 while making a survey of a land grant in that locality.  One of the surveying party stated in his deposition that they gave the name to the creek because the creek bed had the appearance of a series of stone steps.  Little Stepstone, a short distance to the north of Big Stepstone, apparently was not discovered by the surveying party in 1793, but was given its name for similar reasons. 

Among other creeks of the county, which will only be mentioned, are: Big, Little, and North Kincaid, Holts Creek, Short Creek, Crooked Creek, Snake Lick, Brandywine (where Flourney and the Goodwins located), Gibson, Steer and Lick Creeks, Sellers Run, Lightfoots Fork, Middle Creek, Johnson Creek and Fishing Creek. 

A large number of branches in the county have been named, many of which perpetuate the family names of the early settlers along these water courses.  There is also a series of names, some of which represent more or less undefined sections of the county, such as: Pea Ridge, Dividing Ridge, Pleasant Ridge, Pleasant Hill, Oakland, Roanoke, Wyatt’s Bend, Concord, Blind Buck, Sines Crossing, Antioch (on the Lenoxburg road), Tail Point, Pine Grove (now Caddo), Pribbles Cross Roads, Hog Ridge, Short Creek (referring to a part of the west central section of the county), Sandsuck, Rocky Ramus, Redbush, and Modoc. 


The name was selected by Col. John Waller, who obtained the charter of the town from the legislature by an act approved by the governor on December 10, 1793.  Just why Col. Waller chose that name we do not know.  He was one of the proprietors of the Falmouth town site, and collaborated with Gen. James Taylor of Newport in obtaining first a charter for Newport, and then one for Falmouth.  In recognition of mutual assistance of one to the other, Gen. Taylor made a gift of a lot in Newport to Col. Waller, and the latter presented a deed to Gen. Taylor for a lot in Falmouth.  As Falmouth was then in Campbell County, General Taylor recorded his deed in Alexandria.  This incident about the exchange of lots and the reasons for it was given by Gen. Taylor in a deposition a few years afterwards.  Falmouth is an old English town name which was carried over to the new world and applied to settlements in Massachusetts, Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. 

Before the enactment of the charter of Falmouth, the site of the town was called “Forks of the Licking,” and known by that name throughout the settlements of Kentucky, and by the land office of Virginia.  The name “Forks of Licking” appears in several old land grants, the beginning corners of which were located a specified number of miles below, or up the Main or South fork from the Forks of Licking.  It was a common practice then to name a place from the most conspicuous object in the locality, and similar descriptive names are found in most states. 

Some of the original names of streets have been retained in Falmouth, but many have been changed.  Among the place names in and about Falmouth may be mentioned:  The Beech Woods; Best’s Mills; Mountjoy’s Branch, flowing under the little iron bridge; Lick Branch, at the east end of Falmouth; Happy hollow; Murphy’s Island; Mullin’s Pond, the skating rink for Falmouth; Balser’s Corner, being the northeast corner of Main and Shelby Streets, and the favorite congregating place of the colored youths of the town; the Jockey Ring, between Main Street and the Main Licking Bridge in the days of horse trading.  The name of “Egypt” has been applied to the extreme eastern section of the town because of the residences there of most of the town’s Colored population, but that can hardly be called a place name, for most every town in Kentucky has a similar section called “Egypt.” 

According to legend, there was a settlement at the Forks of Licking as early as 1780, when Col. Byrd passed through on his way to Central Kentucky.  One source of this legend is through Dr. J. H. Barbour, who studied medicine in Falmouth in 1847.  He stated at that time there live din Falmouth some old men who were among the first settlers of the town, and that they related to him the story of Col. Byrd’s arrival, about as follows: 

“The settlers had built a stockade at the present site of Riverside Cemetery, and there were two sentinels stationed on the hills overlooking the Forks of Licking and the area within the forks of the two rivers.  When Col. Byrd’s military force arrived, the sentinels gave warning and the settlers fled to the stockade.  Col. Byrd demanded them to surrender, and upon their refusal one of his canon was trained on the stockade.  But two of the men within the stockade had extra long barrel rifles with a range longer than Col. Byrd’s little canon, and the skilled riflemen compelled the men with the canon to retire until they were out of reach of the stockade.  It was related that Col. Byrd raised the siege and did not again molest the settlers there.” 

This is a very pretty legend, and well disposed to grip the interest of anyone with an inquiring turn of mind, but later information throws serious doubt upon the story.  In connection with litigation over early land grants, depositions were taken of men who marched past the Forks of Licking with Colonels Logan and Boone in 1782, who camped in the forks on their first trip and returned the same way in the fall.  Depositions were also taken from men who went through as captives of Colonel Byrd in 17980, and who returned from their captivity by the same route several years later.  None of these witnesses mention a settlement at this place then, and several testified that at those times, the nearest settlement to Forks of Licking was in central Kentucky.  John Kiser came down the Ohio River and up the licking to the mouth of Fork Lick on the South Fork, and camped with his family there during the winter of 1783-84.  In his deposition a few years later, he testified that during that winter, the nearest settlement to his camp was in central Kentucky. 

US Post Offices 

We will next take up the early post offices of the county, and in that connection give some account of other early settlements in addition to that at the Forks of Licking.  It is by the courtesy of the First Assistant Postmaster General that much of the information about our post offices can be included here. 

Falmouth:  At first the office was called Falmouth Court house.  James Lanier rendered his first quarterly account April 1, 1801, indicating the establishment of the office about January 1, 1801. 

Grassy Creek: Established Dec. 30, 1820, with Boswell K. Uridge as postmaster.  The name of the office was changed to Demossville August 29, 1854 and moved from the Three Forks to the new railroad which was built through there in 1853. 

Johnson: Established September 7, 1830, with Robert S. Fugate as postmaster.  This post office was in the vicinity of Morgan. 

Flower Creek:  Established February 16, 1832, with Walter Fryer as postmaster, and the office discontinued March 23, 1874.  This office at one time serviced a large area, including Butler, Boston station, and as far out as Bethel; north to the territory of the Grassy Creek office, and south to the Falmouth territory.  It should be noted that the original and proper name of the place is F-L-O-W-E-R Creek, but for a long while the place was called Flower Town.  The site of Flower Town is on the east bank of the Main Licking, near the present Flower Creek Church.  There is an old village cemetery within, we may say, the city limits, where many of the first settlers are buried. 

Travellers Rest: Established February 9, 1833, with Robert Rawlings as postmaster.  On April 8, 1842, the office was moved to Havilandsville in Harrison County and given that name.  It is believed that this office was originally named Richland. 

Motier:  Established July 5, 1839 with Robert Chalfant as postmaster.  The name was changed to Carntown on May 27, 1891.  Earlier names for the locality wereStepstone, and Barker’s Landing. 

Licking Grove: Established March 12, 1840, with Alexander L. Pepper [sic?] as postmaster.  The office was changed to Ash Run on March 13, 1844, with George J. Hitch as postmaster, and again changed July 21, 1887 to Penhurst, with Perry G. Ingram as postmaster.  These several offices were in the vicinity of Concord Church.  Mr. Peper [sic?] was from Bracken County, and married on of the Hitch family from Concord.

Knoxville: Established July 19, 1949, with Wm. R. Fisk as postmaster. 

Doudsville: Established March 15, 1851 with Greenberry Sharp as postmaster; hanged to Doudton in 1883 with Robert M. Crist as postmaster. 

With the completion of the railroad through Pendleton County about the year 1855, there grew several towns along its line, as follows: 

Butler: This locality was first called Fourth Lock, after the lock and dam of that number, the construction of which began in 1837, under a state project to make the Licking River navigable.  The locality was serviced by the Flower Town post office, until March 10, 1857 when an office was established at the present site of Butler by the name of Clayton, with Richard M. J. Wheeler as postmaster.  On July 31, 1860, the name was changed to Butler, and it is said the name was in honor of Hon. Wm. O. Butler of Carroll County, who was congressman from this district. 

Morgan: This locality was known at an early time as Fork Lick after the large creek there.  It is believed that the first post office in that locality was namedJohnson, and was established in 1830.  The settlement was on the west side of the South Licking at the mouth of Fork Lick.  Here a thriving business was carried on with several stores, saw and grist mills, and a tavern where drovers and other travelers were entertained.  A large tannery was operated under the ownership of several proprietors, but mainly by Thomas L. Garrard and Jonathan Callen.  In addition to the local supply of hides, the proprietors of the tannery obtained deer skins from Indiana by the wagon load.  There is a record of this tannery supplying one local shoemaker with $300 worth of leather in a single order. 

A good race track was maintained there where local breeders of Kentucky thoroughbreds were raised and trained, and taken to the Eastern cities and raced on the tracks there by their owners. 

About the year 1840, there seems to have been no post office at this place for a while, and we find the locality referred to as Callens, and Stower’s Store.  On September 12, 1847, a post office was established under the name of Callensville, with Jonathan Callen as postmaster.  This office was discontinued February 8, 1860, after a post office at Morgan was established January 3, 1856, with Benjamin F. (“Doc” Hume as postmaster. 

Some have suggested that the post office last named was after Gen. John Hunt Morgan, of Confederate fame, but that seems improbable.  Gen. Morgan was born in Alabama, raised on a farm near Lexington, and was a lieutenant in the Mexican War.  In the Civil War he served in Tennessee until 1862 when he became a Colonel and entered Kentucky, about eight years after Morgan Station was named.  Before 1862 he was probably unknown in that locality. 

Meridian:  Established February 14, 1855, with Heber Shoemaker as postmaster.  This station was about one mile south of Butler, and at the heel of the “Horse shoe Bend” of the Main Licking River.  On March 24, 1860, the name was changed toBoston Station, and the office was moved about one mile further south, to the present site of the village of Boston Station, on Harris Creek and the Main Licking.  It’s also the location of one of Pendleton County’s largest manufacturing industries, the Licking River Lumber and mining Company, owned by residents of Boston, Massachusetts. 

Wright’s Station: Established September 18, 1855, with David Hardman as postmaster.  It is likely that the post office was named after Matthew Wright, a resident and large land owner who lived in that vicinity; being the same place known also as Irvine’s Station, and Mensies Station. 

Catawba:  Established September 22, 1858, with Richard Pettit as postmaster.  About the same year, a townsite company was organized which laid out a large tract of land into town lots, with a public square and a college campus.  A lot sale was held in 1859, and many residents of Falmouth, as well as of all part so the county purchased lots.  Several of the Falmouth residents moved to Catawba and made their homes there.  The President of the Covington and Lexington Railroad Company, and Thomas L. Garrard, and Charles Iliff, county Surveyor, were among the owners of the town site.  Catawba had numerous stores, a saw mill and a large cooper shop.  Among the most active business men of Catawba was the firm of Peoples and Hobbs, and Isaac Newton Walker.  The bookkeeper of Mr. Walker testified in a deposition that in one season, Mr. Walker purchased and shipped from Catawba three and a half million pounds of tobacco. 

Levengood:  Established July 3, 1866, with Wm. H. Scott as postmaster.  The office was conducted for many years afterwards by Christopher Cockerill.  At the north end of the river bottom tract of land at Levengood, there was a water powered grist mill from the early days of the county.  At one time, this mill was operated by Buckley Blasingame, who went blind, and the mill site was afterwards called “Blind Buck.”  The residents of that locality state that one of the old mill stones may yet be seen in the river there, at low water. 

After the advent of the railroad in the county, a number of post offices were established in the outlying sections and serviced by the “Star Route” mail carriers, until Rural Free Delivery was established.  The county post offices were usually in connection with a store.  Some of the names of these offices were: 

Aspen Grove: 1856, Nicholas Pettit, postmaster.  This was the locality of the Aspen Grove Seminary, conducted by Mr. Pettit. 

Gardnersville: 1858, Stephen T. Price, postmaster. 

Elizabethville: 1862, Willis Lovelace, postmaster.  This locality is now better known as Turner Ridge, and has also been called Modoc.

Dividing Ridge: 1862, Jesse Stith, postmaster 

Bachelor’s Rest: 1870, Robert A. Stanley, postmaster. 

Peach Grove: 1875, John E. Jones, postmaster. 

Greenwood Hill: 1878, Jaspar N. Yelton.  The place is now called Greenwood. 

Mount Auburn: 1878, Col. John B. Pribble, postmaster.  This locality had been known for many years by the name of Pribble’s Crossroads, after the settlement of the Pribbles there. 

Goforth:  Charles E. Quick, postmaster.  Goforth may be called the metropolis of the “Short Creek” section of the county, where a large general store has been conducted for many years, and where one or two physicians have maintained office.  A blacksmith shop, public school, and an active, vigorous local church have added to the importance of the locality. 

Kincaid: 1882, Charles E. Daugherty, postmaster.  This locality is also known asDouble Beech, or, as Squire John Cahill called it, the Forked Beech. 

Portland: 1884, Dr. Alexander Orr, postmaster. 

Caddo: 1887, Henry B. Bonar, postmaster. 

Hightower: 1890, with our late townsman, J. B. Henry, postmaster. 

Ossippe: 1890, Robert W. Owens, postmaster.  In 1902, the name was changed toPindell, with the same postmaster.  This place is at Pleasant Hill. 

Also, McKenneysburg, 1890; Four Oaks, 1891; Marcus, 1891; Wampum, 1891; Schuler, 1891; Ivor, 1893; Emery, 1894; Tur, 1895; Ernest, 1897; Ezra, 1901; and then came Rural Free Delivery. 

As this paper is growing rather long, it is suggested the subject of place names be taken up again at some later time.  Among the topics which may be developed further, are the names of country churches, early school houses, and the names of the many smaller streams, called branches or runs, the names of many of which are associated with the pioneer families of the county.  Another topic might be the river landings of the county, not only on the Ohio, but on the Licking as well.  From the early settlement of the county, there was considerable traffic on the Licking.  Every year, many flat boat cargoes of corn, flour, meal, grain, bacon, and whiskey were floated down to New Orleans, Natchez, and other points.  After Cincinnati, Covington and Newport developed into thriving cities, the traffic on the Licking increased, and products of trade also included tan bark, fire wood, barrel staves, hooppoles, fence posts, and sawed lumber.  The first cargoes were shipped by the owners in their own flatboats, but a freight service developed later, in which the boats made periodic calls at established landings, from Claysville and beyond the Blue Licks, to the mouth of the Licking.  This river traffic continued after the advent of the railroad, and until about 1870.  The names of some these old landings are preserved in the deed books of the county. 


The author is listed as “E. E. Barton by Mary Louise Barton.”  It’s a typescript on which someone has written “1941.”