Oldham County, Kentucky
Oldham County was established by an Act of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky on Dec. 15, 1823 which took effect on Feb. 1, 1824. Formed from parts of Henry, Jefferson and Shelby Counties, Oldham County was the 74th Kentucky County. It was named for Colonel William Oldham (1753-1791), a distinguished Revolutionary War officer from Jefferson County. The county’s first sheriff was appointed that year, James Stapleton Crutchfield, who served for eight years. Some of the original Justices’ of the Peace for Oldham County included Richard Barbour, Thomas T. Barbour and Edward M. Taylor.
The county seat was first established along the Ohio River in Westport, which became a bustling river city in the early 1800s. Elijah Craig received the area as a land grant on May 22, 1780. He sold the 300 acre grant on April 25, 1796 to Joseph Dupuy and Harman Bowman. As the town continued to grow, warehouses were built along the Ohio River to accommodate hemp, flour, tobacco and pork, items that were shipped to New Orleans. The town was chosen as the county seat in 1823 and a courthouse established in what is now the Westport Methodist Church. The first Fiscal Court met at George Varble’s home in 1824. Westport was known at one time as Liberty.
Choosing a permanent courthouse location in La Grange
Known at first as “the Cross Roads”, a point in which the Louisville-New Castle and Westport-Shelbyville roads crossed, this location would become the spot where a permanent county courthouse was built and La Grange was formed. Major William Berry Taylor (1765-1836), who came to the area in December 1796 with his parents, is credited with donating 50 acres for the establishment of La Grange and a county courthouse in 1827. An election was held in April 1827 to select a “permanent seat of justice” and a majority of voters chose “the Cross Roads near Edward M. Taylor’s on the lands of William Taylor.” Many felt this spot afforded a more centralized location to conduct county business.
La Grange became an incorporated city in 1840. The town’s name was originally chosen to honor the French estate of Revolutionary War hero, General Marquis de LaFayette. General LaFayette had visited America in 1824 as a guest of the nation and was entertained by his friends, Major William Berry Taylor and Taylor’s uncle, Commodore Richard Taylor.
Known as one of the wealthiest counties in the state today, Oldham County began as a mainly rural county. Areas such as Anchorage and Pewee Valley developed into bedroom communities of Louisville. This was during the turn of the century when Annie Fellows Johnston immortalized Pewee Valley in her Little Colonel books. She captured the feel of the Old South which remains along the quaint streets of Pewee Valley today. Many other communities retain their historic feel such as Floydsburg and Brownsboro. Westport, now a much quieter town than the rowdy center of things in the early 1800s, still lies along the Ohio River, a witness to centuries of change.
The Louisville and Frankfort Railroad Company may have brought about the biggest change when it introduced rail lines in the area in the 1850s. This forced many new towns and communities to spring up. Eventually the railroad ceased operating as a form of public transportation, but trains still rumble along Main Street through the downtown area daily. The interurban railway played a major part in transportation and the growth of the county as well as the railroad. A working model of the interurban exists in the museum for visitors to enjoy.
Communities &Their Name Origins:
Anchorage: was part of Isaac Hite’s 1773 land grant; origin of name thought to be The Anchorage, the home of riverboat captain James W. Goslee and chosen to honor him when the city was incorporated in 1878
Ballardsville: named for the many members of the Ballard family in the area; the community developed because of wagon traffic traveling from Shelbyville to Westport, and New Castle to Floydsburg
Brownsboro: known as Brownsville, prior to 1837 Brownsboro began along the old wagon trail road known as the Jefferson & Brownsboro Turnpike. An early fort, Ft. Kuyendall was the early beginning of this village community.
Buckner: first known as La Fayetteville, an agricultural settlement; when railroad went into operation around 1850, area known as Buckner Station and by 1880, known as Buckner
Centerfield (known as Worth until around 1850): name may have been derived from the fact that it
was four miles to Ballardsville, four miles to Buckner and four miles to Crestwood, thus the community was in the ‘center of the field’
Crestwood: originally called Beards Station
Floydsburg: named for Col. John Floyd who built his third and final fort at a big spring one mile east of this area
Goshen: named by Rev. John Todd, Jr. of Louisa Co., Virginia; was a huge promoter of education
La Grange: named in honor of Marquis de Lafayette’s home in France
Pewee Valley: known as Smith’s Depot until late 1860’s; named for a native bird, the Eastern Wood
Pewee, which resided in the area
Prospect: originally called Sand Hill
Skylight: originally named Tippecanoe, in honor of William Henry Harrison and the campaign of 1840; also called Oldhamburg for a while
Westport: once known as Liberty; known as town of Westport by 1797; town was a logical stopping point for settlers heading northwest