History Tours at the Oldham County History Center
Oldham County, located on the southern border of the Ohio River, was once on the edge of the Western frontier as the United States began expansion. After the Revolutionary War, English families brought with them their slaves and settled in the fertile river bottom areas and bluegrass ridgelines. Germans started vineyards and vegetable farms, and in 1854 the railroad began competing with the steamboats for shipping produce, livestock and tobacco.
Counties along the river, like Oldham County, had easy access for trading, selling and shipping slaves, replenishing the slave markets in the Deep South. As the need for enslaved labor grew with the demand of cotton production, the Underground Railroad became an organized force to help people escape to the northern states seeking asylum.
Oldham County and the surrounding region became the crossing point at the Ohio River critical for freedom seekers and the stories of sacrifice and challenges of resistance become more aggressive and widespread leading up to the Civil War.
Another unique feature of Oldham County was the establishment of the Kentucky Masonic College in LaGrange prior to the Civil War. This college, established through Freemasonry, was the only College in Kentucky supported by the Masons, attracting girls and boys to its campus from mainly southern states. The college attracted well-known Masonic professors, one of which was Dr. Rob Morris. Morris penned the degrees of the Order of the Eastern Star, the first international organization for women. In addition Morris became the Poet Laureate of Freemasonry for the 19th Century.
After the Civil War Oldham County relied on its rich agricultural resources to support the community, including the thoroughbred race horse industry. The proximity to Louisville and Churchill Downs attracted some well known trainers and breeders including Warner Jones. Jones's Hermitage Farm produced a Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Breeder's cup winner. In addition, Jones broke the Keeneland yearling sales in 1985 with the $13.1 million sale for Seattle Dancer.
We offer a variety of tours that examine various aspects of American history. Walking tours, cemetery tours, Ohio River cruises and special bus tours are part of our programs. Our newly renovated museum explores these various aspects of our community history as well so give us at call for more information and reservations. 502-222-0826