Wises Landing


Wises Landing received its name from Jerry Wise, as tradition goes, after he purchased one and a quarter acres of land from Henry Phillip Fix, the father of Dr. Carroll C. Fix, a deed dated November 25, 1876.  Prior to that, the big boat landing had apparently been known as “Fix’s Landing.”  It is identified as the parcel of land on the south side of the road running east from the Ohio River between Fix and Dr. John Totten properly bordering the Ohio River.  In recent years the site of the old store has once again been joined to the Fix property. In the past people have asked how Wises Landing got its name, knowing that Fix and Totten were the adjacent extensive land owners from the middle of the 1800’s.  Now that the old stores are gone, questions are asked bout the actual site of the old boat landing that gave its name to the community of Wises Landing. 

Perrin’s History of Kentucky records that Henry P. Fix purchased 385 acres of land in 1845.  The 1860 United States census of Trimble County shows that John Black, aged 22, was a clerk in a store, residing at the home of Henry Fix (age 35), household #155.  In household #156, Jacob S. Fix (age 39) was shown as a “trader.” It is obvious that the Fix family had established the site known as the “Fix Landing” to steamboats plying the Ohio River for at least 20 years before Jesse Wise purchased the track in 1876.  This was the site where Roy Barrickman’s store was located before the 1937 flood. 

Jesse Wise owned the store right at the landing for only two years.  He sold it on October 7, 1878 to Richard Ogden.  It has been assumed that Jesse Wise built the store at the edge of the Ohio River, which could clearly be seen from the steamboats, but it does seem odd that the community of Wises Landing would assume his name when he had been a proprietor for such a short length of time. A relative of Jesse Wise understood that Jesse Wise had been a storekeeper on the north side of the road instead of the south side. It is not known whether Jess Wise had ever operated the store on the north side of the road, but Ona Wilson Molen, Columbus, Ohio, said her mother told her that her mother’s Uncle Jesse Wise did operate a store on the north side of the road.  It may be that she had the points of the compass confused. 

In the early days of our history the stores or taverns became the gathering places for people to communicate and very often the local store owners became postmasters. Steamboats had deposited mail pouches at Wises Landing for many years when the mail was taken to Bedford from the time it was established in 1818.  Then the mail was brought back to Wises Landing and distributed at the local stores as there were no regular rural mail carriers.  The large steamboats that had carried the mail were called “mail” boats long after that customer has been discontinued. 

It is likely that Jesse Wise might have applied for a post office during the time he kept store as it was authorized by the United States Post Office Department on June 21, 1878, but a postmaster was not appointed until about three months after he sold the store on October 7, 1878. 

The first postmaster was a lady, Gertrude Ogden, after Richard Ogden had purchased the store from Wise, and it was named the “Corn Creek Post Office.”  When Richard Ogden sold the store to Frank Joyce and Edward Jackson, they were both appointed postmasters. 

The next postmaster was a physician, Dr. William A. Wright, who was appointed postmaster, but as he was an active practicing physician, it is understood that his wife, Mrs. Rebecca A. Wright, actually operated the post office in a log house which later became part of the old Roy Barrickman home, still owned by the Barrickman daughter, Mrs. Greta Barrickman Maturo.  Perhaps this was the start of a clustering of mail boxes located just before the turn in the road in the center of Wises Landing.  There was also in later years about a dozen mail boxes clustered near the store on the lower level of town, which made a good meeting place to exchange greetings as well as get the mail. 

One may wonder why the name Corn Creek was given to the post office located at Wises Landing when there was also a landing at Corn Creek, but it is assumed that the large steamboats found cleared areas where the houses were clustered, and the stores were located a more appropriate place to land, and even if the post office was named “Corn Creek,” the boats had the landing chartered as “Wises Landing” and so it remained.  If people wanted to get off the boat at this point, they used the term “Wises Landing.” 

An amusing incident occurred on the boat when a shy lady thought it unladylike to say she wanted off at a landing named “Bull Creek,” so she asked to be let off at “Cow Creek.”  The purser on the boat, not knowing such a place, took her on to Madison, which was some distance up river from her home. 

About two years after Jesse Wise sold the store at Wises Landing his brother, Greenup Wise, purchased a store at Houstons Landing, which is located about three miles south of Wises Landing, just north of where Middle Creek flows into the Ohio River.  It is not known whether the Houstons ever kept store or were just early landowners.  Tradition has it that Evan M. Garriott purchased over a thousand acres beginning at Pattons Creek and extended north.  At one time the Garriott family owned bout all of the Ohio River frontage from Pattons Creek to Barebone Creek just south of Wises Landing. The fact that the old landing names such as “Houstons” and “Wises” remained the same may be attributed to respect for tradition, or the fact that once the Ohio River charts are marked, they remain identified navigation points. 

Sociologists may ponder why people migrate to different locations, but they would have no difficulty here.  IT was flood, fire, and World War I that brought about many changes.  It is known that there was a flood of this area in [1883 and 1884]. Information from Mr. Shirley Craig was to the effect that George Seavers built the first store on the low river bank but it washed down the river bank and it took months to move it back into place.  During the rebuilding, the store was anchored.  This is most logical as the only two buildings left on their foundations located on the lower level of Wises Landing during the big flood of 1937 were the store belonging to Roy Barrickman and the Scott home, which had been anchored by the builder, Ben Vest.  However, both buildings were weakened, and shells from interior damage. 

Tradition has it that the flood brought an old store down the Ohio River that was caught and placed almost intact across the road on the north side opposite the old Wise Store, more widely known as the Roy Barrickman store now.  This store was unique in that it had a large storage area on the ground level where wagons could be accommodated in loading and unloading.  The general merchandise store was located in the wide expanse of the second floor.  Some of the rear rooms were used for a short while as living quarters.  This could have been the store salvaged by George Seavers as Jesse Wise is supposed to have built the other one.  Retelling stories sometimes confuses the facts. 

Mr. James Yager was the storekeeper of the store with the wide steps leading to the second floor general merchandise area.  It is not known when this store came into operation but Mr. Yager was keeping store there in 1899 before the death of his wife, Ann Yager, in that year. 

Several merchants who kept store there included Mr. Oscar Ogden, but all of their names are not known.  Probably, the one best remembered was Mr. J. I. Williams, who was very well known and apparently very successful.  Mr. Andrew Rowlett was a storekeeper at one of the stores but the order and list of all storekeepers is vague as some history has been lost to faulty memory. 

The last known storekeeper of the big old two story store was Mr. Farmer Forsee, who at that time occupied the residence next door, which in the years past had been occupied by various store owners, including the Yager, Ogden and William families. 

Mr. James Yager, who was apparently an ambitious entrepreneur, moved to the higher level of Wises Landing and began building a new store that was said to be the most modern in Trimble County.  A unique feature was an elevator built so as to take freight to the basement for storage and up to the second floor for household furnishings and clothing. The first floor generally carried dry goods, shoes, candy, groceries, harness and hardware.  According to best estimates, the new store was completed about 1910.  However, within about two years the store burned to the ground on August 14, 1911. 

The burning of the Yager store is recorded for history by the date on a pipe found among the ashes and a lovely glass bowl, misshapen by the heat of the fire, now in the possession of Miss Christine Mullikin, niece of Mr. James Yager.  Undaunted by the fire, Mr. Yager, who had suffered a great financial loss, rebuilt the store on the ashes of the first one, but on a smaller scale.  From the record of Trimble County deeds, James C. Yager sold the store in 1917 to Jesse C. Davis, who operated the store for some time. 

Mr. Yager had owned other property at Wises Landing, which included the property sold in 1910 to the Burley Tobacco organization, which established the “Equity Barn,” an asset to the community.

There were several other merchants who followed Yager and David, but other than McClure and Garriott their names are not known.  Mr. William F. McClure purchased the Emily A. Bare property and residence for his home in 1912.  He kept store on the lower bank until he moved to the upper level and then later also sold that store to Mr. Roy Barrickman.  This was where Mr. Barrickman operated the store until January, 1937, the Big Flood of the Ohio River Valley.  It inundated most of the City of Louisville and cities along the Ohio River valley from Pittsburg to New Orleans.  To hear people telling of their devastating circumstances makes one think of the Flood in the time of Noah and his Ark. 

Earlier floods had caused some people to move to higher ground temporarily, but the big flood of 1937 washed away so many homes and damaged others that significant life styles changed.  The United States Engineers started building more effective flood control.  World War I had brought changes, not only in the loss of young manpower, but there came a gradual change in transportation from the slow and casual steamboat passenger and freight traffic to hauling by the trucking industry and buses. 

The Big Flood came when the small rural towns were still reeling from the effects of the Great Depression of the 1930s’ and few people had the price of a car or gasoline.  Mr. Roy Barrickman, as storekeeper, had weathered the effects of the flood to his store with great financial loss in supplies and the destruction of a sawmill, which had provided cheap lumber to the community.  All outbuildings, and storage sheds, the old livery stable, and at least two houses were washed away in the swift current with the water reaching to within about six feet of the higher level of the bank. 

The big old store which had come down the Ohio River and was hauled into its site for, perhaps, fifty years, took another trip down the river during the flood for about three miles where it lodged in a field.  The old store had been a gathering place for shopping, where the ladies took their cream for testing and sale and there was an ice cream parlor where one could enjoy an ice cream sundae. 

Mr. Ed Mullikin had acquired an interest in the old store property and adjacent area in conjunction with a coal yard which he operated.  He found little to salvage from the old store, but he continued with an active coal business.  Hundreds of tons of coal were hauled by horse and wagon to homes throughout the county and especially to homes in the nearby communities. 

Mr. Ed Mullikin’s coal yard brought about some of the most enjoyable times for the young people of the community.  While in the fall and winter Mr. Mullikin would take his boat, the Willie-B and haul coal in barges from West Virginia to the Wises Landing docking area, in summers the coal yard would be empty.  The young people made a makeshift diving board by placing a long heavy board at the end of the coal track to extend out over the water and used it for a diving board.  This became the most popular place for young people and children to enjoy a refreshing swim in the Ohio River or wading along the shore, which was clear of debris, unlike that of today. 

Early homes at Wises Landing were built in the pioneer fashion of logs, with one large room downstairs where the family prepared meals, ate, and entertained with one large room of the same size upstairs where they slept.  As the family increased, sometimes shed-type rooms were added on, or a porch, which eventually became another room.  It is estimated that about six homes that started out as a one room log cabin have been modernized so that their early appearance would be difficult to determine.  The Fix home which burned in recent years, had a log portion that was more or less surrounded or expanded until it was a typical showplace facing the Ohio River. 

The old Richardson home, recently demolished foe the building of the Louisville Gas and Electric plant at Wises Landing, was built of huge logs and covered with weatherboarding.  The logs were recovered and used for building at another location.  As a memorial to the Richardson family, LG&E has preserved a small burial ground of the Richardson family, which contains the graves of John James Richardson and his wife, Rebecca A. Richardson. 

The people of Wises Landing were not backwoodsmen like people in the Eastern Kentucky mountains.  They had a type of culture that was popular all up and down the Ohio and Mississippi River systems.  Their main travel was parallel to the river but it included visiting those on the opposite shores.  During the height of the steamboat river travel, people would get up early in their morning before daybreak and hail a boat with a lantern.  They could go down to Louisville to sell livestock, produce, or shopping and visiting and then return by the upriver boat, arriving home at midnight.  Or they could catch a boat going up the river to Madison, Indiana, do their shopping and visiting and return home that afternoon.  If they ventured further, they could go to Cincinnati, spend the night there and return by boat downstream the next day.  Sometimes folks took excursions up the river on one boat and met another boat for the return trip home just to enjoy the cool ride in the summer. 

The river was not only the source of transportation, but of communication.  The men gathered for talk of politics, religion, business and farming.  With the local economy based on the farming industry, the national economic ups and downs were quickly felt.  The people at Wises Landing, like most of Trimble County’s early residents, generally had their roots in Virginia and Maryland. They valued friendship of their neighbors.  They traded work with neighbors and called upon one another in times of emergencies.  During the depression years of the 1930’s people mostly stayed home or visited their near neighbors and relatives.  Most folks had at least one cow for milk, raised vegetables and chickens to supply their tables. The extras were sold at local stores and cream stations for cash.  At one time, men were glad to work for a dollar a day to have a little cash.  They generally kept their dignity and were respected buy their neighbors. 

Many students in the old one-room Totten School became professionals, such as school teachers, lawyers, bankers and productive farmers. 

There were two churches sitting side-by-side and sometimes they had alternating services so that one Sunday, services would be held at the Macedonia Christian Church and the next at the Pleasant View Baptist church.  Macedonia was torn down and most members joined the Bedford Christian Church. Pleasant View Baptist Church was organized in 1904 and is still active in 1987.  This valley has been described as one of the most beautiful scenes in the world, but the entrance of industry is bringing about a change.  We change things for our own convenience, just as we have left the apostrophe off the Wise. 

It has now been forty years since the 1937 flood that destroyed the homes and businesses on the low bank of the Ohio River. 

There were three doctors who called Wises Landing “home.” Dr. John Totten practiced medicine in the community from 1852 until his death in 1898.  Then came Dr. William A. Wright, who practiced medicine until his death in 1927.  Dr. Carroll Fix, son of Henry Phillip Fix, graduated from the University Of Louisville School Of Medicine and began practicing at Wises Landing in about 1907. 

While memories of Wises Landing families go only back to the Fix family, the Richardsons and Dr. John Totten, there was a great deal of activity in land transactions that occurred around the time that Trimble became a county in 1837.  The Fixes purchased their first land here through the bank of Washington, D. C.; Dr. John Totten purchased his farm from Dr. Stephen Cook of Louisville; and the Richardsons purchased their property from H. W. Gaar.  There were others who purchased large acreage along the Ohio River, which included Frank Lee, whose property was eventually sold by the Davis family after many years to LG&E. 

There were at one time three stores actively engaged in the general merchandise business, an implement dealer who sold modern farm tools, coal dealer, tobacco warehouse, ice cream parlor, barbershop, blacksmith shop and some dealers in horses and cattle.  Later, after the flood, a small store was started y the Craigs, which was last operated by the Barrys.  Now the only store remaining is the one that was built by James Yager and purchased by Roy Barrickman from William McClure in 1937.  He kept the store there until shortly before his death in 1966. 

The Barrickman Store is still well preserved after having been closed for twenty years, but its historic past is cherished by its owner, Mrs. Greta Barrickman Maturo.  During the 1966 election, the store was open to accommodate the big election machines and the even brought out a photographer and news reporter from The Courier-Journal and Louisville Times to record the event for posterity. 

When people driving through Wises Landing stop and wonder how a small village developed about five miles off the Federal highway, they are reminded that this was once the most important “front door” to this area.  The Ohio River was the “front door” and any plce away from the river was remote.  Most homes in Wises Landing are owned by their occupants who take pride in their appearance.  There was a time when there were houses at every nook and hollow and along the valley opposite the river, but many have been lost to flood, fire, and age.

A census taken around the turn of the century would have included names like Andrew, Barrickman, Brooks, Carson, David, Dean, Abbott, Brown, Garriott, Jones, Morgan, Mullikin, Perkinson, Yager, McClure, Ogden, Craig, Rowlett, Wise, Powell, Drake, Dunlap, Fix, Goode, Totten, Williams, Scott and others who have come and gone, but it is likely that if one were taken in this year of 1987, these names would be included as kin.


Wises Landing is by Clara Scott, and was printed in the Trimble County Banner’s Sesquicentennial edition in 1987.