Bracken Town Names

March 09, 2012 10:00 pm  •  MARLA TONCRAY

BROOKSVILLE | Once again, as the state of Kentucky celebrates it's 220th year, today we look back at Bracken County and some of its towns and history.

The county was formed from Mason and Campbell counties in 1796 and chartered in 1797.  The county's southern boundary is at the North Fork of the Licking River; the northern boundary is the Ohio River.  The county seat is Brooksville, but Augusta is considered the county's principal town due to its proximity to the railroad and the Ohio River, and was the first county seat.

The county was 23rd in order of formation in Kentucky and currently covers an area of 203 square miles.  Its name comes from two creeks, Big Bracken and Little Bracken, which may have been named after explorer William Bracken.  Information on Bracken's life is limited, but it is believed he was one of the area's early explorers and was killed by Indians in 1773.  Bracken helped charter the Kentucky territory and in 1773 he accompanied a party headed by the McAfee brothers, George, James and Robert, when they canoed down the Kentucky River surveying what became Frankfort and Harrodsburg.  The party met with Capt. Thomas Bullitt's group of surveyors at the Falls of the Ohio - Louisville -  and plotted sections of town lots in the vicinity of Limestone Creek, now Maysville.

As the group traveled down the Ohio River, they discovered two creeks and named them after Bracken. After Bracken left the surveying party, he settled near the two creeks named for him at what is now Augusta. 
Stonemasons settled in the area and three stone homes remain standing today after more than two centuries: the Chalfont house on Kentucky 8, the Boothe family's home on Kentucky 435, and the Stroube house on Kentucky 2370.

Brooksville was selected as the county seat on Feb. 16, 1839 by the Kentucky legislature, which also approved a bill that changed the name of the town from Woodward's Cross Road to Brooksville in honor of David Brooks, a state legislator from Woodward's Cross Road who steered the county seat bill through to passage.  Woodward's Cross Road was named for the Woodward brothers who settled the town.

The county has several small towns which survived over the years; several others have disappeared due to flooding or didn't thrive due to a lack of major transportation routes. Some of those towns are Santa Fe, Rock Springs, South Higginsport, Stoney Point, Tietzville, Wellsburg, Willow Grove, Bladeston, Bridgeville, Browningsville, Cumminsville, Gertrude, Mount Hor and Stonewall.

The following is a brief history of the towns that have survived.
Berlin is located in west-central Bracken County and was settled in 1844 as Pleasant Ridge, it later became Hagensville before being named Berlin in 1869.  The village was a stopover between Mason County and Falmouth.

Bradford, just west of Augusta once had a prosperous river landing called Metcalf's Landing.  In 1866 the name was changed in honor of Laban J. Bradford, a merchant, tobacco dealer and land owner.  Bradford was president of the Kentucky State Agricultural Society in 1862-1863 and participated in discussions that led to the Feb. 22, 1865 establishment of the Agricultural and Mechanical (A&M) college in Lexington.  The college became Kentucky State College in 1878 and Bradford served as a member of its Board of Trustees. Bradford died in 1891.  In 1908, Kentucky State College became Kentucky State University and in 1916, the school became the University of Kentucky.
Chatham is located in the northeast area of the county and plantation farms and mansions remain from earlier years. The county infirmary for the ill and destitute was located at Chatham: it was the town's largest employer until it burned in the 1980s.

Foster is located at the western end of the county and was once a thriving river town.  The town was named for Israel Foster. In 1793 American Indians ambushed Simon Kenton just west of the city and the site is designated by a Kentucky Historical Marker.

Germantown was laid out by Whitfield Craig in 1794 and is the second-oldest settlement in the county.  Buckhanan Station was located at the junction of Kentucky 10 and Kentucky 875.  The town was known for its tannery on Tanyard Hill.

Johnsville, also known as Fairview, was named for two men named John who operated the store where the post office was located.
Lenoxburg was named for Samuel B. Lenox, who owned the general store and served as the town's postmaster. The economy of the town depended on the transportation of tobacco to larger markets and the E.C. Gosney broom factor operated there in 1887.

Milford is situated on the North Fork of the Licking River and was established in 1831 by John Ogdon who established the name because of the mill located near the ford in the river.  Fires and floods have struck Milford throughout its existence.  In 1889 a fire destroyed the town and in 1956 fire struck again, destroying a part of the town.  In 1997, the area sustained extensive damage when the Licking River flooded.

Neave is located in the southern portion of the county and was originally named Holton's Corner for one of its earliest settlers.  Most of the town's commercial buildings were destroyed by tornadoes in the 1920s.

Needmore is located at the intersection of Dutch Ridge Road and Augusta-Minerva Road.  The town was the original location of a tollhouse for the upkeep of the road. The Frolicher windmill supplied well water to the area, which boasted several large Victorian-style homes.  A massive stone winery built by Abraham Baker still stands to the west end of Needmore.

Oakland, located in the southern portion of the county, was rural farmland and possibly named for the massive oak trees that grew there.  There is an old Indian burial ground on Marshall Road.
Petra was name by Abner Haley, who settled on Willow Creek along Bull Skin Road.  A descendant of Haley was the founder of the Porter Haley Distillery, located on the Haley family's farm.

Powersville was named after its first postmaster, John F. Power in 1833.  The town's hotel became known as a stopover between Cynthiana and Augusta.

Walcott was named by the town's first postmaster, who spelled the name differently because another Walcot already existed.  Located on Locust Creek, the remains of Murry Mill are still visible and the town's famous "White" covered bridge was assembled in 1824 and reconstructed in 1881.

To learn more about Bracken County's history, visit the Bracken County Historical Society located next to the Bracken County Courthouse in Brooksville.

Information for this story was gathered from The Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky, edited by Paul A. Tenkotte and James C. Claypool.


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