Neighborhood History

PENDLETON COUNTY.

Pendleton County, the twenty-eighth county in order of formation, is located in north-central Kentucky in the Outer Bluegrass region. The 281-square-mile county is bordered by Grant, Kenton, Campbell, Bracken, and Harrison counties. The Ohio River borders Pendleton County for five miles along its northeastern border, and the South Fork and the main stream of the Licking River join at Falmouth and flow northward out of the county. The terrain consists of fertile river valleys surrounded by undulating hills.

The county was created on December 13, 1798, from portions of Campbell and Bracken counties and was named after Edmund Pendleton (17211803), a longtime member of the Virginia House of Burgesses (1752-74) and the Continental Congress. FALMOUTH is the county seat. The other incorporated city in the county is Butler, located on the Licking River seven miles north of Falmouth. In 1820, 250 square miles of the county were taken to establish Grant County.

The Licking River was an important avenue for the early exploration of Kentucky. Along with an overland route through the county, English Capt. Henry Bird took the river in leading six hundred Indians and Canadians in the June 1780 attack on Ruddell's and Martin's stations in central Kentucky. The first settlement in the county is believed to have been the one at the fork of the Licking at some time around 1780. The settlement, which became Falmouth, was established by James Cordy, Gabriel Mullins, James Tilton, Peter DeMoss, and Samuel Jones of Virginia.

With the exception of the county seat, Pendleton County remained rural during the nineteenth century. The farm economy was based on tobacco, and legend has it that the first crop was raised in the southwestern part of the county with seed brought from Virginia. In the 1830s Oliver Browning floated one-hundred-pound hoop-pole packages of the crop from McKinneysburg on flatboats down the Licking River to Cincinnati and points beyond. The coming of the Kentucky Central Railroad (later part of the Louisville & Nashville) through the county in 1852 gave sellers a connection to markets at Cincinnati and Louisville.

By the 1890s, intensive tobacco production had depleted much of the soil in Pendleton County. Sweet clover brought from Alabama in 1895 was planted in worn-out tobacco fields, restoring profitability to tobacco cultivation, as well as to apiary and dairy industries. Pendleton, 'the county that came back,' nevertheless lost one-third of its residents at the height of the economic crisis. Another forage crop that succeeded in the county was alfalfa, probably introduced between 1900 and 1910 by traveling Mormon preachers. By 1925 local farmers produced hundreds of tons and were exporting alfalfa to other areas.

In the late 1850s, a company of Pendleton County soldiers was organized to perform peacekeeping duties among the Mormons in Utah. During the Civil War, the county sent men to both armies. A Union recruiting camp was established in Falmouth in September 1861. Two Confederate recruiters were captured and executed in the Peach Grove area of northern Pendleton County. In July 1862 a number of county citizens were rounded up by Union troops during a crackdown against suspected Confederate sympathizers. In June 1863 a number of women were arrested at Demossville because they were believed to be potential spies 'dangerous to the federal government.' Falmouth was the site of a small skirmish on September 18, 1862, between twenty-eight Confederates and eleven Home Guardsmen.

The city of Butler was established around 1852 when the Kentucky Central Railroad was built through the area. Originally called Clayton, for reasons unknown, the city was named for William O. Butler, U.S. congressman from the area (1839-43), when it was incorporated on February 1, 1868. Like Falmouth, Butler in the 1870s and 1880s was a major tobacco market and its other businesses included lumber and sawmills, flour and gristmills, churches, schools, railroad depot, blacksmith shop, and various stores. In 1871 what was billed as the largest covered bridge in the world was built across the Licking River at Butler. The bridge was used until the 1937 flood weakened its supports. The structure was later torn down and replaced with a steel bridge.

Major floods of the Licking River in 1937, 1948, 1964 and 1997 made flood control a major concern of residents.
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