Bloomfield's history well preserved

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Bloomfield's history well preserved

By Tom Watson, historian
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Pound for pound, population for population, there may not be a town in Kentucky with more interesting history than Bloomfield. That said, there also may not be a town in Kentucky, by similar criteria, with more interesting people than Taylorsville.

photo submitted by TOM WATSON This picture of the "Taylorsville Garage" makes me think of the old Taylorsville Transfer headquarters just south of the alley, which is south of the Sheriff's office and Planning and Zoning offices. Could that be what many of us knew as "Lerman's" (now the Red Scooter) under construction to the left rear? Does anyone have an idea who the people in front of the garage might be? The young man wearing a tie could be my father Orville Lee "Tape" Watson. He occasionally dressed up as a young man, but looking at the photo closely with my computer Photoshop, it doesn't look a great deal like him. The big fellow was probably the proprietor. I don't know who the black man is to his left, the little boy in the rear or the older man to the left are also unknown to me. I know this wasn't the service station my dad operated near Brashears Creek on west Main street during WW2. Does anyone know where the Taylorsville Garage was or who the people are?
It would be a close race to determine if one of the two stood out as more historically important than the other. Bloomfield was fortunate in years gone by to have stories about its history appear in the Kentucky Standard, Bardstown's newspaper. Taylorsville's history hasn't been slightly, however, and this column attempts to keep a steady flow of the community's past available for the populous. This week, Bloomfield takes center stage through one of those Kentucky Standard articles of long ago. Some explanatory comments appear as notes by the late Robert Moore. a brilliant historian and good friend. Robert left much of his historical collection to the Nelson County Genealogical Society, according to a spokeswoman for the organization.

Obviously, Dr. A. H. Merrifield's writings are public domain, so if the Genealogical Society has any claims on Robert Moore's interpretations, we extend thanks for the use of them. Robert sent me his writings on floppy discs many years ago and authorized the publication of any portion. The "RPM" is for Robert P. Moore.

INTERESTING REMINISCENCES by Dr. A.H. Merrifield, 18 March 1909

[Note by RPM: I think it possible that Dr. Merrifield was already having some problems with his terminal illness. (This is one of his last articles.) He has stated a few times that his handwriting might not have ever been the best, and it could be deteriorating even more, to the point that the typesetter was having difficulties reading his writing. Spelling is not quite standard, and sentence construction and punctuation are somewhat unorthodox. When the latter occurs, I have made some adjustments in punctuation and sentence structure in order to aid the reader.

The typesetter, however, can not be blamed for Dr. Merrifield's tendency to wander away from the main subject sometimes. Perhaps his sensing of his fate was making him wish to include all his feelings, memories, reminiscences.

While Robert Rennick says that the Middleburg post office was established in 1803, the first mention of Gandertown that I have so far found is in Nelson Co. Deed Book 7, page 804, dated 22 July 1813. This records the sale by William and Frances Coomes to Greenbury Gaither of 10 acres on the Middleburg Road, leading from Gandertown or Middleburg to Bardstown.

This deed also confirms that Gandertown and Middleburg were the same community, all combined with Dr. Bemiss's Bloomfield to form Bloomfield as we know it today. It is, by the way, an interesting coincidence that there is a very small Loudoun Co. village named Bloomfield near Leven Powell's Middleburg, Va.

Despite "west" Bloomfield very probably being named for Middleburg, Va., it does seem likely that the town as a whole got its name from Dr. Bemiss rather than from Bloomfield, Va.]

Ancient Gandertown, like unto ancient Rome, has lost its primitive glory, and the old Ceasers [Caesars] that once made its destiny and gave it a name that will go down through the ages, sing its praises no longer, they have hung their harps high on Gibbon's cliffs and the music that once thrilled old Gander town is hushed forever. That old historian (tradition) that never lies tells of many exciting events and happenings that once crowned this old town with glory with youth and gave it a name that was soon destined to pass through the moving events of time. I don't propose to write up early Bloomfield any more for the Standard. As I have written it up several times, all doubtless are familiar with its early history. I have been requested by a friend in Louisville to write a history of early Bloomfield, also the history of few families that once gave provinence [prominence?] to the place in its early organization. My friend writes for the Sundays' Courier Journal. At present we will say nothing of early Bloomfield excepting that it was founded in 1817 by that distinguished doctor of divinity and medicine Dr. John Bemiss of New York; also Dr. Bemiss built the first house in Bloomfield, which is still standing on Perry street, used now as a stable. He lived in this house one year. This house was built in the fall 1897[date evidently copied incorrectly]; after he vacated this house his son-in-law Dr. Merrifield moved into it and lived there until he built the large brick on the corner of Main and Perry street now occupied by the Hall family. [Note by RPM: I am not sure which corner he refers to, but in my childhood there were two brick houses on the corners at this intersection, both since torn down. Since the Halls were known to have conducted a girls' school, I think it was the one on the west side that stood where the post office is now located.] Dr. Bemiss also built the second house in Bloomfield. It was situated on the lot known as the Neugent [Nugent] lot, now owned by The Citizens Bank. This house stood back from where Main street was laid off about thirty yards. It was a most singularly built house; one story and a half high made of undressed lumber sawed by a ripsaw; the west end [of] the house extended almost into the creek, supported by a high stone so as to bring it on a level with the other end. There was a long porch running full length of the house on the south side. It had a common log cornice every square foot of which had a hold [hole?] in it, in which pigeons would lay and raise their young. When Dr. Bemiss vacated their house and moved to his farm, then a man by the name of Calbert [Calvert] ran a hotel there; that was the first hotel Bloomfield ever had.

When I was about eight years of age my mother sent me to Bloomfield to get something at the store. W.Y. Davis was a merchant at the time. I rode up to the store; the clerk who was the late William Lewis came to the front and said, "what does the tumble bug want?" I was riding a very large horse my father called Davy Crockett. I looked so small on that large horse they compare me to a tumble bug. I am small yet (but have big ways). There was a great flock of pigeons on this old house I have been describing. I said to the clerk please catch me one of those pigeons. I will have one for you when you come back; we'll have to throw some salt on its tail so I can catch it. You can bet your bottom dollar that I never got the pigeon.

I am done with early Bloomfield, only in connetion with Gandertown. Dr. Bemiss never had the honor of founding Gandertown. There was a combination of circumstances that worked together to give it its name and started it on its high road to prosperity, honor and glory. There are very few persons in Nelson county or at the present time in Bloomfield who know where Gandertown was located or how it got its name.

At an early period that plateau of ground west of the creek was covered with a dense forest. There was a common dirt road cut through the tangled undergrowth leading from the creek to where the turnpikes now fork; here the road forked, the right hand path leading down where Fairfield now stands, whilst the left hand fork went in the direction of Bardstown [Highways 48 and 162]. There was nothing in sight except a vast wilderness save one building and that was the primitive Baptist church, which stood where the brick church now stands [on the other side of the creek]. This log church was an offshoot from the Cox's Creek church, which is the oldest Baptist church in Nelson county. It was in this old log church that Jeremiah Bardanoum [Vardeman] thundered forth his eloquence. It was from this old church the light of which illuminated Bloomfield in after years. Here is where the seed was sown that ripened into a full harvest under the leadership of the immortal Vaugn [Vaughan].

(Continued next week)

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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