Typed as it appeared in the Clarion by George Lee Gibbs, Sr. For non-profit use
Before and after the turn of the 19th century, Lewisport, Kentucky, then known only as Little Yellow Banks, was hardly more than a stopping-off place on the old Hardinsburg Trail that ran from Breckinridge to Big Yellow Banks (Owensboro), and north into Indiana where it intersected the Vincennes Trail. Attracted by a bountiful stand of timber and the proximity of the Ohio River, many hardy pioneers found their “home in Kentucky” on the flat land that was to become the city of Lewisport.
The Prentices, Lewis, Haywood, Pell, Hayden, Gregory, Hicks, Meyers, Pates-each came with their particular trades, dreams and ideals. In 1837, John and James Prentice had recorded at the Hancock County Clerk’s office a copy of the plat plan for the city of Lewisport. In 1839, the city was granted a charter. She had, by then, become a thriving community centered around various types of lumbering business.
By the early 1880’s Lewisport began to witness the slow but determined effects of the Ohio River to claim the town’s principal business area on Front Street. For reasons known only to the whims of nature and the design of God the river bank along the Front Street shore, began to crumble. Lewisport would survive but she would never be the same.
Beginning around 1850 we can record Lewisport’s history as it relates to its business and homes. The author is grateful for information collected from articles written by Rose Pell Henderson, Mr. William Henderson, and an interview with Mr. George Otis Hicks.
Running east and west on Front Street from its intersection with main (Fourth) Street were most of the businesses and many homes. On the west corner at this intersection was the I.B. Hayden General Merchandise Store, built around 1857. Only a few yards behind the store was the Hayden Home. As the riverbank began to recede, the Haydens moved the store one block south, to face on Market Street. The family operated it from this location until 1942.
Next to the Hayden store on Front Street stood the barbershop owned by Dick Smith, next a saloon and next a home called the “Greenwyn House.” In the same block was the McGill store, Mr. McGill delivered the mail to and from the river packets. On the east corner of Main and Front Streets was a hotel owned by the Blandfords. Mr. and Mrs. B. Blackford later operated the hotel. It was a frame structure, two stories with a porch around three of its two sides.
At the intersection of 5th and Front Streets was the Hall Saloon and a residence directly behind it belonging to a Civil War veteran, Mr. Cox. Other residences on Front Streets were the Harpers, Millers, Roaches and Haywoods. The Haywood house is the only remaining structure still facing the river. Other homes and stores were beginning to move to Main or Market Street before they became consumed by the crumbling riverbank.
Many businesses and homes prominent in the history of Lewisport before and after the turn of the 20th century included the office of Dr. Knox, the Crutchfield home, Henry Gregory home and the residence of the George Prentice Family. Near the Hayden home was a drug store owned and operated at various times by Harvey Myers, Dr. Martin, W.W. Stark and N.B. Hurt. The enterprising Mr. Hurt introduced the first soda fountain in Lewisport about 1906, and also kept a barrel of gasoline to accommodate the few autos that passed. Neither the building nor Mr. Hurt, history seems to indicate, survived an explosion and subsequent fire. Next to the drugstore was a restaurant operated by Joe Nonne.
In 1884, at the height of a flood, the Ab Howe store burned at the northwest corner of Market and Main Street. Another store was built and still stands, which housed the Laundromat. Lou Grant operated a Butcher shop on Front Street in back of which stood the icehouse. The ice was delivered in huge blocks that were stacked and covered with sawdust. Next to the butcher shop, Mrs. Van Lahr and her daughters operated a restaurant; beyond this was Horace Patterson “Live and Let Live” drug store.
At the northwest corner of Main and Pell Streets was the store owned and operated by Joseph C. Pell. This structure burned in 1941 but was partially reconstructed and later housed the Lewisport Post Office. The building is now unoccupied (Gone). Across from this intersection was the Pell home that also burned and was rebuilt. Mr. Pell was the grandfather of former County Judge Joe Pell and Mrs. Rose Henderson of Lewisport.
By 1920 the mighty Ohio had cut its destructive path and appeared content with its new holdings but not before it had all but entirely claimed Front Street. What remains is little more than a footpath.
A few of the old business buildings remain in downtown Lewisport. On the northeast corner of Main and Market Streets was the Old Dulin Store. It sold mostly bulk merchandise, from salt to cement. According to Mrs. Rose Pell Henderson, the cellar of the building was cleaned out, before Dulin owned it, about 1880. The tale is told that a startling discovery was made. An old rusted printing press and plates for printing counterfeit operation in Lewisport is hard to imagine. When the Lewisport Bank was established in 1896, Mr. Dulin carried a split basket full of gold coins to the institution for deposit. Each coin had been marked by the would be depositor. Dulin flatly refused to leave his money with the new bank, because the management would promise to give the original coins back to him. The Dulin building was later occupied by a movie theatre in the 1920’s operated by Horace Emmick; then was the post office until 1933. Atkinson’s Hardware Store was located there for a while, and it is now occupied by the Senior Citizens Center. The Case Grocery and Grill, on the Southeast corner of Main and Market, was originally a smaller building which housed various stores before the Cases acquired it. Those businesses were owned by John Blincoe, then Lee Brewer and in the 1930’s by Homer Remington.
On the East Side of Pell Street (Old highway 60, now 334) and South 657 (Main Street) is the building housing Joe’s Diner, now gone. It was formerly Burger Haven, and South of that, Atwell’s Grocery, (now gone). Two doors South of this location is the building which the Lewisport Bank moved into in 1928.
South of Main, between Market and Pell, are the former Dick Smith’s Barber shop, now the Popcorn shop; and the old Atwell Store.
The first Lewisport Baptist Church was built in 1872 in the East End of town. A few years ago, a part of the congregation established a new church, although membership of the First Baptist Church is still active. In 1966 the new church was constructed on Highway 334, an imposing structure in the expanding western part of the community. The Lewisport United Methodist Church, probably the oldest church in the community, was built in 1858. A new brick structure was completed on Fourth Street in the 1970s. The Pentecostal Church congregation now occupies the old building on Market Street. The St. Columbia Catholic Church was built in 1868. The Church was rebuilt in 1937, and that building was occupied until 1959. In 1959, St. Columbia Church dedicated its new sanctuary on Highway 334. The Lewisport Presbyterian Church was built in 1890, on the corner of Main and Caroline Streets. This building was removed a few years ago, and Atwell’s Used Car lot then used the location for a few years.
Ed Gregory operated one of the three tobacco warehouses on Lewisport in the early 1900’s. The grading, stripping, storage and shipment of tobacco had become a thriving business. A few of the wood product operations were hanging on, although the supply of cheap timber was dwindling. George Cable ran a cooperage shop at 2nd and Pell Streets.
By the end of World War I the complexion of Lewisport had irrevocably changed, both physically and economically. Front Street was gone; many of the stores destroyed along with the town’s hotel. The railroad had replaced the river as a prime means of transportation, and the automobile age, though in infancy, was making its impression. In 1926, U.S. 60 was graded and graveled and in 1930 it was paved.
For Lewisport and Hancock County the next three decades offered little encouragement for its new generation, Its small business and industry, along with its population, were declining.
In July, 1955, The Murray Tile Company built a tile factory in Lewisport. It was a simple beginning, but a new beginning for Lewisport and Hancock County. The company has since expanded; offering much needed local employment.
George F. Holland, Looking to the future he was confident. He began the Holland Subdivision in 1955, and soon the Miller Subdivision began to mushroom. Both projects are located just off Highway 334, west of Lewisport.
The next development was the Homer Young Addition to Lewisport, near the grade school. A few of those lots sold sporadically, for some years, as the addition became populated. A few years ago, Owensboro developer Charles Steel acquired the remaining lots and proceeded to build houses on them. The addition is now almost full.
George Holland established Lincoln Country Estates, a new subdivision across the railroad from Holland Homes, in the mid 1960s. This development is still growing.
Paul and Kenneth Roberts started the Roberts Subdivision, west of the city, off Highway 334, in the early 1960s. This community continues to expand, as Gordon Barnett develops the remaining home-sites.
Wayne Watts began the development of Hancock Park Subdivision, off Highway 657, in the mid 1960s. Watts is still building and the neighborhood is still attracting new residents.
Lewisport’s newest housing development will be the Poplar Grove Apartments complex, located between the railroad and Hancock Park off Highway 657. Nine buildings will go up on a near 6-acre plot of land. Tommy Thompson and his associates are managing the development.