Southern Jefferson County
Growing up, I never once felt aligned with The City of Louisville. I lived in the southwest part of the county. My friends and I all had horses. Cows grazed close to home, and acres separated lots of the houses. We lived in the country, not the city.
We had County Police, and County Schools. Valley High School was the second (Medora was first) high school built in this part of the county. It was originally named Jefferson County High.
Despite all that, on 6 January 2003 the City of Louisville decided that ALL of Jefferson County Kentucky was really now…Metro Louisville.
Although we did get some pretty nice trash cans, it didn’t change the truth. Louisville is city, and we are country. Several expensive studies done by the government for MSD, roads, and economic planning refer to this area as having a ‘rural culture’. Call it what you want, we are different.
Louisville has always treated us like an ugly cousin that they only talked to when they needed something. [Like the sand, cement, and power that built the city. You’re Welcome Louisville.] So some are slow to trust…
The Upper and Lower Pond Creek settlements were hugely responsible for the development of Louisville into the city it is today. The Wilderness Road cut right down the middle of Okolona, headed for the salt licks. Those licks, South of Louisville supplied the salt that early settlers depended on.
Later, the Iron Furnaces that fed the Louisville factories creating Louisville’s beautiful Ironfronts dotted the countryside.
The area MUST have played heavily in the staging of the The Lewis and Clark Expedition. All the major players lived South of Louisville. The Merriwethers, the Clarks, and the Lewises. Six of the Nine Young Men From Kentucky came from South of Louisville. So it’s a really a no-brainer that no one talks about.
Pleasure Ridge Park is a little burg, about 8 miles south of Louisville. It’s home to Kentucky’s First Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It’s also home to Waverly Hills, one of the most haunted places in the world.
It has been called Salina, Laconia, Painesville, and finally Pleasure Ridge Park. There was a large hotel, a distillery that gave away free samples at noon, and one of Jefferson County’s first elementary schools. It was also one of early Louisville’s favorite picnic grounds.
Everyone knows the old Stizel-Weller Distillery in Shively was the birthplace of the elusive Pappy. But not everyone knows that the first bottlings of the Old Rip Van Winkle expression contained some aged whiskey bought from the Old Boone Distillery in Meadowlawn. The Old Boone Distillery also bottled those early Rip Van Winkle decanters for Stizel-Weller.
In the movie “Seabiscuit“, Chris McCarron was the jockey riding War Admiral. His character was Charley Kurtsinger. Kurtsinger won two Derbies, and The Triple Crown, and he was from South of Louisville.
And there’s Churchill Downs. The track was the dream and the passion of Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. Clark’s Mother passed away when he was 6 years old, and his Father sent him to live with his Mother’s family, South Of Louisville. His Mother had been a Churchill before she married. The rest is history.
Mr. Clark patterned his new track after William Whitley’s Sportsmans Hill, Mr. Whitley was avidly anti-english. So he ran his races counter-clockwise. He didn’t want to imitate the English Derby. Today, all American races are run counter-clockwise.
And speaking of Bourbon, one of the most popular brands on the market is named after a Doctor from Valley Station. Valley Station was also home to The Louisville Motor Speedway, Kentucky’s first auto speedway. And there’s more…
The area was home to Revolutionary War heros, Senators, Doctors, Lawyers, and one of the most influential newspaper editors in the country. These were the men that shaped early Louisville, and they chose to live HERE.
Each small community South of Louisville grew for a reason. Some made it, and some didn’t. But the history of this entire area is sadly ignored, and woefully under-researched. Many of our most historic structures, oldest family homes, and too many of the beautiful estates overlooking the river have fallen to the blade of the dozer in the name of commerce, power, and war.
I refuse to believe that the area South of Louisville has so little history. If you check this map of Historic Properties in Jefferson County, you might think all the history happened in the east. That is simply not true. Many of our remaining historic properties sit unrecognized, and unappreciated for the tales they could tell.
So in the interest of knowing, and acknowledging those that came before us, I want to collect what remains of our history. I want to shine a light on what few pieces of our past we have left. I would welcome any info that might contribute to my obsession.