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BRECKINRIDGE COUNTY, KENTUCKY
AREA COMMUNTIES OF THE PAST AND PRESENT

 

IRVINGTON

 

          George Bandy came to Breckinridge County in the early 1800’s, and settled on his land grant, a few miles
west of the present site of Irvington.  This land grant lay from about where Highway 86 intersects with U. S. 60 Highway
almost to the city limits of Irvington.  Mr. Bandy was one of the earliest residents of the Irvington vicinity.  It
could well have been he with whom James Audibon spent the night when on his trip from Henderson to Louisville.  He told
in one of his books of spending the night in this immediate vicinity near Sinking Creek, where he saw the greatest concentrated
migration of passenger pidgeons that he had seen anywhere.  This was in the fall of the year and these birds were
literally rolling over each other like a giant tidal wave.  It was frightening to see them coming as they gleaned the beech
mass from the floor of the virgin beech forest.  It was at this place where he recorded having seen them roost in the trees
in such numbers that the limbs were broken from the trunks.  Possibly never in the history of mankind has species of
God’s creatures been so wantonly ravaged and destroyed to the point of complete annihilation and extinction as was the
passenger pidgeons of America.  Sometimes I am made to think that, “If God doesn’t punish America for its sins, He
will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

          At this period in Breckinridge County history, homes were few and far between.  The Bandy settlement
was sandwiched between Bewleyville and Webster.  The old homestead was on the east side of Sinking Creek about
one mile, where the old house still stands, and a portion of the original land of George Bandy is still in the family.  At
present Ginger Wilson owns the old home place.  He is the son of Nancy Bandy Wilson, grandson of Ginger Bandy,
great-grandson of Thomas Bandy, great-great-grandson of Richard Bandy II and a great-great-great-grandson of George,
who first settled there.  It is Ginger in whom is coagulated all the traits of the Bandy Clan.  He is one of our county’s
best farmers at age 32.  He is a graduate of the University of Kentucky, teaches school in Breckinridge County High
School, sells insurance, coaches basketball, sings at funerals, weddings and other special occasions, and can whip any two ordinary
men in a fair fight.  He is a composite; and will probably dip his oar in politics; and I think Kentucky could not do better.

          Soon after the trains had begun to make regular runs, a Mr. Blanford from the Bewleyville area had heard so
many wild tales concerning this Iron Horse, he decided to make the trip over to Irvington to see one.  Mr. Blanford was
in his late eighties and eye sight was not too good.  When he arrived at the depot the train was there.  He rushed
feebly out on the platform to look her over.  Mr. McCracken got the old gentleman a chair and set it on the platform where
Mr. Blanford sat.  Several men were standing on the flat car when the train pulled out.  Somehow Mr. Blanford got
the impression that he was on the train and when the train began to go he yelled excitedly, “Let ‘er rip, son.  I’ll ride ‘er to
Henderson, come hell or high water!”  This story shows something of the excitement the railroad created.

          The Louisville, Hardinsburg, and Western Railroad known in this area as the Branch Line, ran from Fordsville to
Askins, to Vanzant, to Rockvale, to Falls of Rough, Glen Dean, McQuady, Kirk, Hardinsburg, Harned, Garfield, and connected
with the main line at Irvington.  This added to the business and growth of the community.  This track was not built
to carry heavy loads so was never a paying proposition.  It was granted permission to discontinue services and on June
15, 1941, the last train wobbled over the Branch Line into Irvington.

          One of the first essentials of any up-to-date town, was a good mill.  Recognizing this need, and the lucrative
opportunity it afforded, Jessie and David Boyd, from another part of the state began to locate a building lot for this purpose.
  They purchased the lot and the mill was built.  They operated it for a few years then sold out to J. W. Piggott and
R. M. Jolly.  These two men operated the mill for years and served the country for miles around.  After Mr. Jolly died,
Mr. Piggott continued in the business for several years, then sold out to Mr. John Cook.  Mr. Cook operated the mill for a
few years, until it was destroyed by fire.  Later on the present building was erected.  Mr. Trent and Simmons own
and operate a lumber business there at the present.  These country mills played an important part in the development of our
county.  Before the days of modern transportation, it was almost necessary that there be a mill of some sort within donkey
range, and we had them.  Sinking Creek, North Fork, Clover Creek, and Rough River, each aided by the ingenuity of our
early settlers, provided the power for manufacturing the staff of life right in the community where it was produced and consumed.

          This is an identifying feature which characterizes the American people.  Since the settlement at Jamestown
in 1607, when the American people had to have something—somebody made it.  And to the millers and blacksmiths—we
owe much to the inventive ingenuity of our nation.  These were men who did not exploit their neighbors, but took pride in
their work, and offered a service to their communities.

          Prior to the coming of the railroad and before Irvington was in existence, the mail service was one of the major
problems.  For years the mail was hauled by stage coach from Hardinsburg to Muldrough through the old covered “Dent’s
Bridge” and by way of Bewleyville.  There was another mail route that went by horse back, from Stephensport through
Webster and Hayesville, to Garrett.  The trip could be made in two days unless the creek got up too high.  There
were other routes at times but the post office at Bewleyville, Webster, and Hayesville served the public.

          In the eastern end of Breckinridge County, about half way between the two much older communities of Bewleyville and
Webster, lies one of the most fertile and beautiful valleys to be found anywhere in the Commonwealth.  The valley and hills
surrounding it were sparsely populated, with farm dwellings located at intervals where sometimes the nearest neighbor was more
than a mile away.  The Jollys, Jordans, Bennetts, Bandys, Adkissons, McCoys, Robertsons, and Washingtons were
some of the early settlers of this section.  These were good and prosperous farmers, but from 1800, up until the steam
boats began plying the waters of the Ohio River near the middle of the eighteen hundreds, there was never, in any county, a more
energetic, patriotic, or less tidy people to be found.  Isolation, was the most under statement since Noah said, “It looks like
rain.”  There were no railroads, no highways, and no river travel except one way, and civilization lay 2000 miles down stream.
  The only clothes or other comforts of civilization to be had, must come over the mountains by oxcart.  It was not until
the coming of the steam boat that manufactured items penetrated the wilderness to this section of Kentucky.  The spinning
wheel and loom, at the hands of the women folk who labored endless hours was the source of wearing apparel.  It was from
this period the statement “A man’s work was from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done,” originated.  A truer statement
was never made.  The husband could wear out his clothes about as fast as his wife could make them.  The chore of rearing
the children, often eight or ten, and cooking without Corning Ware, or doing the laundry on a scrub board with water heated in iron
kettles in the back yard, using lye soap, which they made themselves, made the women folk a pretty busy schedule.  Bridge
parties or Homemakers and other women’s clubs are modern inventions.

          By the late eighteen hundreds, this community was a great wheat producing region.  Nearly every farmer
grew wheat for both home consumption and money crop.  This wheat had to be transported to the river for shipment to market
and the portion kept for home consumption was taken to the water mills to be ground into flour.  Several of these water mills
were located near this community on Sinking Creek.  Tobacco was also taken to Brandenburg in hogsheads to be shipped to
market.  About this time, in the eighteen eighties, talk of a railroad through the community brought to the farmers great hope for
the future.  Two men of the community saw the necessity of having a modern town located where it could serve the local needs.
  These were R. M. Jolly and Ed Bennett.  They purchased two tracts of land, one from Thomas McCoy, Sept. 20,
1887.  Consisting of 144 acres for $2,837 and one from James B. Robertson of 171 acres for $4, 013, these two tracts
constituted the land where Irvington lies.

          It is difficult for us, in 1966, to visualize the importance of a railroad to the people of this inland community in 1888.
  The hilarity of the farmers over the coming of the “Iron Horse” was a universal jubilee, lost in history, save to one who might
have been hopelessly trapped; and saved by a miracle.

          When the Louisville, St. Louis, and Texas Railroad finally became a reality, the town plot of Irvington was lain out
and recorded in the Clerk’s Office in Hardinsburg, Kentucky in January, 1889.  The streets were named running south to north;
First, Second, Third, and Fourth.  The streets running east to wet beginning at the south were: Grand, Maple, Walnut and Arch
Avenues.  The town north of the railroad was almost altogether settled with Negroes.

          The railroad was built in 1887 and 1888.  The first train ran through the valley in 1888.  This road was
a pet project of the McCracken brothers of New York.  W. V. McCracken was president; A. M. McCracken the superintendent;
J. K. McCracken was general freight agent; H. M. McCracken was road master, and C. W. McCracken was chief engineer—making it
largely a family affair.

          The new school had an inside gymnasium and Irvington has always been one hard team to beat.  One of the
healthiest rivalries to be found anywhere existed between Irvington and Hardinsburg.  When these two teams met on the hardwood
during the season you could expect 32 minutes of excitement equal to the “Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat”; but when an invader from
some other part of the state came around they were in each others corner.

          In 1965, the academic pressure was so great and because of poor facilities in both Hardinsburg and Irvington, the two
schools were disbanded and a new million dollar high school was built at Harned and the two former high schools consolidated into one.
  A better or more modern school may not be found anywhere in Kentucky and no longer will we have to send our children to college
unprepared.

          The religious life is one of the first thoughts and a dire necessity to any community.  Before the town of Irvington
sprang up, these country people worshiped in near-by communities.  There was a Baptist Church at Sandy Hill; a Methodist Church
at Webster; both Baptist and Methodist at Bewleyville, and a Catholic Church at Mount Merino.

          The Baptists built a church in town in 1892, and replaced it with the present one in 1918.  The Methodist Church
was built in town in 1898, and was dedicated July 2nd, of the same year by the Rev. Sam Jones.  The present Methodist Church was
built in 1938.  The Catholic Church at Mount Merino was first built in 1854.  This was replaced by a new building in 1899,
in the same place.  In 1933, the old Mt. Merino church was discontinued and the congregation moved to the new church which was
built in Irvington.  Prior to the church at Mt. Merino, a boy’s school was in operation from 1840-1846.  The Negro population
of Irvington have maintained through the years, both a Baptist and a Methodist Church.

          The town, in general, has always maintained a high religious and social standard.

          In 1902, the Spotsville Iron and Gravel Co. opened up a rock quarry near Webster.  This Company was composed,
mainly, of men from Cloverport.  All work was done by hand labor which required the employ of a lot of men, usually around 50 to 75.

          In 1910, the Webster Stone Co. was opened up nearer to Irvington.  This was by the same company as the other.
  After a few years several business men of Irvington bought and ran the quarry.  Later the business was sold to the Kentucky
Stone Company which has continued to operate until the present time.  Most of the roads in our county were built, and the L and N
Railroad bed has been maintained, from this quarry.  Throughout the years this business has had a large payroll and contributed much
to the town and surrounding community.

          Until 1917, the old kerosene lamps could be seen flickering in the windows.  To those of us who remember cleaning
the chimneys and trimming the wicks in such a fashion as to give the desired shape and amount of light, there is a sentimental sort of sadness
about their having to go.  A wick trimmed to give a rounded, oval-shaped flame created more light if one wished to read or study his
lessons; but, the young lady expecting a suitor trimmed the wick in a sort of V shape so that there was a long spire of a soft, flickering, dim light
that left the room largely in shadows.  Ever since Delilah took Sampson to the barber shop, the fairer sex of every generation have
invented ways of trapping their victims.  In 1917, C. L. Winn secured a franchise to install a lighting system.  When the demand
became greater for more electricity other than lights, a Utility Company bought the Winn franchise in 1927, and installed larger power units to
meet the needs of the town.  In 1939, the R. E. A. took over the control of all electricity in the county and power was made available to
both town and country people alike.

          Prior to 1887, livestock had to be driven to Brandenburg or Stephensport to be shipped to market.  During this period
there were stock traders or buyers who visited the farms and bought the livestock and made these drives to market their business.  Some
of these men were Dan Brooks and Alex and Dick Hardaway.  Later these men became associated with the Bourbon Stock Yard in
Louisville, Kentucky.  One of the last of these men who traveled through the country to buy cattle was Felix Carden.  The coming
of good roads and the trucks, that could go right to the barn and pick up the livestock, and the radio as a means of keeping in constant touch
with the stock market in Louisville, put these men out of business.

          Immediately after the town lots were sold, businesses began to spring up.  Within a few years there were stores, shops
of different kids, a drug store, and even the saloon with the proverbial swinging doors.

          The town’s business, as well as the farmers, now needed a place to take care of their finances.  In 1898, Mr. E. H.
Shellman organized a bank.  He and Miss Mary Cromwell, who was his “Board of Directors” operated the bank and served the people
well for over fifty years.  Sound business practices and good management helped him to ride out the great Depression of the thirties without
suffering the fate of thousands of similar institutions all over the United States.  This, too, is a tribute to the Irvington community, because
sound business on the part of the banker is to a greater or lesser degree, dependent upon the quality of people with whom he does business.

          In 1903, the First State Bank was organized with W. J. Piggott as president and John R. Wimp vice-president.  This
bank, like Mr. Shellman’s, has been reliable throughout the years, and has made satisfactory growth.  The First State Bank is now
well over a million dollar institution.

          On August 15, 1906, the first R. F. D. Mail Route out of Irvington was established.  Mr. Oscar Dowell was carrier on
this route; and in 1913, it became ultra modern when Mr. Dowell started carrying the U. S. Mail in a Model T Ford.  When the children
and grown ups alike, who lived along Mr. Dowell’s route heard his Model T coming they would drop their hoes or whatever tools with which
they might be working, and run like rabbits to the road to see him whiz by, leaving a cloud of dust behind.  He was a dare devil, and often
traveled at break-neck speed, up to 20 and sometimes 25 miles per hour.

          One of the earliest schools in the community was located on the ridge north of Highway 60 near Sinking Creek.  It was
known as the Bandy School and was constructed of logs.  The first school house in Irvington was a one-room affair which was soon
outgrown and a more adequate, three-room one was erected on the east end of town.  There was no high school, as we know them now;
but a Normal School was held where they offered preparatory courses for prospective teachers.  The community saw the need for a better
educational opportunity for its children and a drive was made for funds to help build a high school.  It was erected on the present school
ground, but burned down in 1937.  The present school was built in 1938 and the Agricultural Building was added in 1941.

          Since 1917, the Irvington Herald has been serving the people of Breckinridge County.  This paper made its first
publication Feb. 8, 1917.  It was started by Paul McNull, who after two months sold out to Mr. J. W. Willis.  The paper was
under his management for twenty-eight years.  In 1945, it was sold to its present owner, Mr. George M. Wilson.

          For a little town that came into being at a late date, Irvington has had its part of the politicians.  Mr. R. M. Jolly was
elected to the state senate from this district; and our legislature has been represented by E. H. Shellman, Dr. S. P. Parks, C. A. Van Lahr, and
J. W. Simmons.  Breckinridge County and the state at large may well be proud of these men.

          A few years ago Highway U. S. 60 was straightened out from Irvington to Grey Hampton, leaving Brandenburg several
miles to the north.  This brought Irvington much closer to Louisville and Fort Knox.  Since the new road was built several new
businesses have been built on the south side of town to be on the new road.  The Green Valley Restaurant and Motel are as nice as
may be found.  Across the highway to the south is a new housing section.  All of these homes are either brick or Bedford stone
and are in the class that would categorize the upper middle class of society.

          Mr. Trent is largely responsible for this beautiful subdivision which is of the type that would catch the eye or any tourist and
cause him to remember and comment on it after his vacation is ended.  The large lighted cross which one cannot help seeing as he passes
through town after dark, is a monument to Mr. Trent.  It was built by his sons and is lighted and maintained by the city of Irvington.

          At present, other than the Rough River area, Irvington is the fastest growing section of our county.

 

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