Bloomfield history well documented

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Bloomfield history well documented

By Tom Watson, historian
Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Editor's note: Last week we offered the first installment of of one of Dr. A.H. Merrifield's writings that appeared in the Kentucky Standard in 1909. It was republished by Robert P. Moore in his excellent book on northeast Nelson County.

Here is the rest of that article:

After Bloomfield was founded and the tower [town?] began to grow and the country began to settle up around, there was a spot of ground cleared up west of the creek forming a kind of amphitheater. It was at first designated as the play ground, for it was there that all kinds of games were played; chicken fighting, dancing, horse racing. There on this spot the pioneers from every part of the country would meet to try their manhood. Many a bloody tussle has been fought out on this ground. It was called for a while the "battleground." Many a moonlight dance has taken place on this sacred spot. There once lived a short distance below Bloomfield a man by the name of Ben Money. He was crippled; could not walk a step; was a noted fiddler. They built a rostrum in Gandertown and called it money throne. They would haul Money up there and seat him on his throne, get him drunk, and keep him playing the fiddle all night, while a dance went on. Whiskey then flowed like water. Everybody could afford to drink it then, for it was only worth from ten cents to twenty-five cents per gallon. Now they have gotten it up so high that no one can afford to drink it except the Republicans.

The most exciting as well as captivating game indulged in by the early settlers was gander pulling. I will tell you how it was done. At first a post was set in the ground. At the top of this post was nailed a beam forming a cross. At the end of the cross was suspended a gander, its neck having been made slick with oil or greece [grease]; then the fun would begin. Some fifteen or twenty mounted on fast horses in single file at full speed would ride under the gander and make a grab at the gander's neck, and whoever succeeded in pulling off its head was considered the best man and entitled to a gallon of whiskey.

Now you understand how Gandertown got its name. It got its name from no Alexander, from no Ceaser [Caesar], and from no Napoleon, but from a humble old gander that had perhaps led many an army of its kindred to victory and then at last had to be sacrificed on the altar of cruelty in order to give a town a name, though that name was of short duration, yet it went down in a blaze of glory.

We will speak now entirely of early [times?] at Gandertown and hasten on to a conclusion. A person in bad health has no business trying to fish up lost history. The first house built in Gandertown was a blacksmith shop which stood where Fuhrman's store now stands [the brick business building still standing and occupied in 2003 by the library, on the north side of the street near the creek]. It was made of bricks.

The second house erected on that side was a small frame which stood where Minor Gore now lives. A man by the name of Mason built it. He was a silversmith.

Third house built on that side was the house now occupied by the Jones family. The fourth house was an overshot water mill that stood back of Elder's blacksmith shop. This mill was built by a millwright by the name of Stacy Pool and owned by Major Russell.

Just beyond this mill stood Major Cummins' oil mill, where he made linseed oil. Every farmer at that time raised flax. The lint was manufactured into cloth, whilst the seed was made into oil. Oftentimes I have stood by when a boy and watched those ponderous stone wheels crush the seed in a circular trough run by horse power. Then the seed was put into a press also run by horse power and the oil extracted and then hauled to Louisville, except what was used at home.

The oil cakes were sold to the farmers for their stock. The house in which Dr. Young now lives was built at an early date. There also stood a frame house on a vacant lot back of where Whittington's business is. [Ludwell] McKay, a merchant, lived in this house a long time. Those houses that I have mentioned were the first houses erected in Gandertown and all were built previous to 1838. All the rest of that part of the town has been built since 1840.

[Note by RPM: I am fairly sure that the house he identifies with Dr. Young is the house in which I grew up. It stood between the Houghlin Funeral Home and the Shell service station approximately where the car wash is now located. It was torn down soon after my father died in 1961. I have traced the ownership of this property, but it is usually impossible to know when a building was built on a piece of land. The funeral home house belonged to Dr. Young's father-in-law, Dr. Thomas Miles.

When my home was being torn down, it was found that it had a sort of insulation of broken pieces of brick between the inside and outside walls. It was built before the time of weights in windows. The windows could be raised to certain fixed heights by pushing a little slide into a notch in the frame. The doors were considerably wider than the present-day standard.

All the rooms on the lower floor of the original part of the house had fireplaces. They had once been large, open fireplaces but had been closed in and coal grates installed. Both the front rooms had enclosed winding stairwells to the attic-like second floor. The original house consisted of two front rooms and a kitchen and the two small upstairs rooms with low ceilings. Fairly recent owners had added a bedroom, bath and dining room. It was a white frame house built with vertical clapboards. The boards in the floors were of irregular lengths and widths. The house was built right on the street, separated from it only by a walk of field stones. There was no concrete sidewalk until we had one laid.

From all that I heard growing up there were no houses on what is now known as Riverside Drive, running along Simpson Creek. These were built sometime around 1900, a fact confirmed by their absence on the map of Bloomfield in the 1882 atlas of the county. Thus there were no residents to be disturbed by the goings-on along the creek that Dr. Merrifield describes.]

Remember, if you have stories, letters, diaries, photos or anything historical you'd like to share, you may reach Historic Pathways at You may also write to: Tom Watson, 5225 Little Union Road, Taylorsville, Ky., 40071. is the website of

©2007 The Spencer Magnet

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