Except for the eight weeks I spent at Fort Knox for basic training when I first joined the Army, way back in 1971, and several visits during our RVing days, I have never lived in Kentucky. Yet I feel a strong affinity for the Bluegrass State for some reason. Maybe it’s because I read so many stories about Daniel Boone when I was growing up.
My family has had a connection to Kentucky going back several generations. My great-grandfather, John Sanders Stephens, lived in Ludlow, Kentucky and raised his family there. Ludlow sits on the bank of the Ohio River, just a stone’s throw away from Cincinnati, Ohio. Like many of the old river towns it has seen better days, but there is a movement underway to revitalize things. Most of the old buildings along the main street are home to small stores and shops, and all over town beautiful old brick homes are being restored.
On a previous trip through the area we had driven by my great-grandfather’s old house, which was occupied at the time, but we managed to take some pictures from the street.
Even finding the house was quite an accomplishment for us because the street address listed in my great-grandfather’s obituary doesn’t exist anymore. It was in the middle of an intersection. But on a visit to the Kenton County Library in Covington a few years ago, Miss Terry discovered the original plat maps for Ludlow and we learned that after a massive flood in the early 1900s the streets were realigned and new house numbers were assigned to many of the homes there. Working from those plat maps, we were able to find the old family home.
Things had changed when we went to Ludlow on our recent trip. We found the house sitting empty with a For Sale sign out front. Figuring that anybody who saw us prowling around would think we were potential buyers, we parked the van and did some exploring.
Looking in the windows I was able to get a couple of photographs. When great grandpa Stephens died, way back in 1919, his funeral service was held there in the living room, which was the custom in those days.
I remember my father talking about going to visit his grandparents when he was a child and a tornado coming through Ludlow. He said they all went outside in the pouring rain and down some stairs into the basement of the house for shelter until the storm passed. Here is the entrance to the basement they all went down.
The old house has been neglected and definitely needs to be refurbished. Just for the heck of it, I called the real estate agent listed on the sign, and she told me the house was under contract. I hope whoever buys it restores it.
Great-grandfather Stephens had four children, three sons and a daughter, Emma, who was my grandmother. Two of his sons became railroad men. Henry was an Engineer on the Southern Railroad, and another son, John, was a car repairman for the B&O Railroad. James, the youngest son, became a mover and shaker in the small riverfront community. He was the president of the First National Bank of Ludlow, he operated a real estate and insurance company, and was also the City Treasurer from 1909 to 1931. The building in the top picture is a flower shop now, but it was the bank during the time James was president, and the building in the bottom picture, which is right next door, housed his real estate and insurance agency.
Ludlow has a small historical museum but every time we came through town in the past, it was closed. As it turns out, due to a lack of volunteer staffing, it’s only open for a few hours on Saturdays. We made it a point to go back on a Saturday so we could check it out. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about that and some very interesting things I found out about my grandparents when they were young. Some of it really blew my mind, as folks used to say.
Today is your last chance to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Ken Rossignol’s The Chesapeake: A Man Born to Hang Can Never Drown. It’s a collection of adventures in prose from around the Chesapeake tidewater region told by an erstwhile and eclectic collection of bards, poets, and tale-tellers. Fans of short stories will enjoy this fourth book in the Chesapeake series and the valuable history shared about the Chesapeake region. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.
Thought For The Day – I’m still finding out who I am, but I know I’m not who I was.