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Kentucky's Frontier Highway

Historical Landscapes along the Maysville Road

Karl Raitz and Nancy O'Malley

Publication Year: 2012

Eighteenth-century Kentucky beckoned to hunters, surveyors, and settlers from the mid-Atlantic coast colonies as a source of game, land, and new trade opportunities. Unfortunately, the Appalachian Mountains formed a daunting barrier that left only two primary roads to this fertile Eden. The steep grades and dense forests of the Cumberland Gap rendered the Wilderness Road impassable to wagons, and the northern route extending from southeastern Pennsylvania became the first main thoroughfare to the rugged West, winding along the Ohio River and linking Maysville to Lexington in the heart of the Bluegrass.

Kentucky's Frontier Highway reveals the astounding history of the Maysville Road, a route that served as a theater of local settlement, an engine of economic development, a symbol of the national political process, and an essential part of the Underground Railroad. Authors Karl Raitz and Nancy O'Malley chart its transformation from an ancient footpath used by Native Americans and early settlers to a central highway, examining the effect that its development had on the evolution of transportation technology as well as the usage and abandonment of other thoroughfares, and illustrating how this historic road shaped the wider American landscape.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky


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p. 1-1

Map, Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-6


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pp. 7-8

Maps and Illustrations

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pp. xii-xx

I. Introduction

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pp. 1-2

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1. Reading America’s Roads

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pp. 3-16

The twenty-first-century road, whether in Kentucky or elsewhere in America, is sufficiently ubiquitous that its commonness may lull drivers into assuming its presence and passable condition. We tend to speed along, ignoring the road’s distinctive qualities, until a construction detour...

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2. Traveling the Road

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pp. 17-32

Purposeful travelers have a common goal: to depart a starting point and reach safely a destination. But what of the experience that links a journey’s beginning and end? Travel is a multidimensional...

II. Overland Roads and the Epic of Kentucky’s Settlement

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pp. 33-34

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3. Coming to Kentucky

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pp. 35-42

For more than three decades before Kentucky separated from Virginia in 1792 to become a state, explorers, hunters, surveyors, and settlers moved west across the Appalachian Plateau and associated mountain ranges in search of open land and social betterment. Their laudatory observations...

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4. Regional Context

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pp. 43-46

Kentucky’s territory is neatly demarcated into sharply contrasting regions by emphatic changes in bedrock, surface topography, and concomitant variation in soils and natural vegetation. Though scientists would eventually explain the rationale for these regional divisions, and their implications...

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5. Road Evolution

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pp. 47-50

America’s modern roads conform to many technical and operational standards—bed and surface material, grade, sight lines, curve radii, banking or super elevation, signage, driving rules and regulations, and surveillance. Adherence to such standards yields roads that permit...

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6. Indian Paths and Buffalo Traces

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pp. 51-54

The establishment of early paths and “roads” across central Kentucky cannot be attributed solely to buffalo, elk, or deer, though this is a common assumption that oversimplifies the process of road creation...

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7. Pioneer Road

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pp. 55-60

A Virginia planter, David Meade, moved his family to Kentucky in 1796, leaving behind his plantation in Prince George County on the James River in eastern Virginia. Meade’s objective was to reach the three-hundred-...

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8. Turnpike Road

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pp. 61-76

In November 1796 Andrew Ellicott, a surveyor, landed at Limestone on his way down the Ohio River. His journal entry about the site is not flattering: “arrived at Limestone about ten o’clock in the forenoon...

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9. State and Federal Highway

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pp. 77-86

In 1912 the Kentucky legislature authorized the creation of the Department of Public Roads, which was initially responsible for advising the counties in road and bridge construction and maintenance...

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10. From Turnpike to Parkway

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pp. 87-90

From its inception, the most heavily traveled portion of the Maysville Road was the eighteen-mile section that connected Lexington and Paris—long known as the Paris Pike. Beginning at Main Street in central Lexington, the original track followed North Limestone Street to Bryan Station...

III. The Maysville Road:A Landscape Biography

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pp. 91-92

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11. The Road as a Corridor of Complexity

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pp. 93-96

America’s roads are enigmatic. Roads are linked together in local, regional, and national networks to the extent that they are essentially ubiquitous. Our modern dayto- day mobility is vested in roads that are so common that we tend to take them for granted until they are in need...

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12. Lexington

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pp. 97-118

Mile 0.0 Lexington at Limestone and Main Street. On July 9, 1796, the general merchandise store operated by Abijah and John Wesley Hunt at the corner of Mill and Main streets, two blocks northwest of the Limestone and Main intersection, stood open for business. John Moylan...

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13. The Original Limestone Trace—A Side Trip on Bryan Station Road

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pp. 119-132

To follow the original Limestone Trace to its termination at Hutchison Road, turn right at the Loudon Avenue intersection and proceed for one block before turning left onto Bryan Avenue, which intersects Loudon on the left near the point where the raised median in Loudon Avenue...

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14. The City-to-Country Transition

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pp. 133-138

Mile 1.5 North of Loudon Avenue, from Devonia north to Carlisle Street and beyond, 1920s single-family residential housing predominates. The next intersecting street on the left beyond Devonia is Fairlawn Avenue. By the mid-1930s North Broadway Avenue, one long block...

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15. Gentleman Farms and the Inner Bluegrass Landscape

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pp. 139-170

Mile 4.8 The roadside from this point to near Paris hosts a congregation of modern gentleman farms that produce horses, especially Thoroughbreds, and blooded cattle. This is one of the world’s most extraordinary landscapes. A gentleman farm is often an avocation for the owner...

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16. Siting Paris

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pp. 171-184

North, beyond Houston Creek, auto-oriented roadside businesses and subdivisions announce the entry into Paris; in 2010 the city was the third largest urban place on the road, with a population of 8,553...

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17. Side Trip

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pp. 185-186

Beginning at the Bourbon County Courthouse, one may circle back on U.S. 68 by way of southbound High Street. High parallels Main Street and is now a one-way street that is connected to Lexington in the southwest. Mile 0.0 St. Peter’s Episcopal Church stands near the head of High Street across from the back door of the courthouse...

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18. Nineteenth-Century Paris

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pp. 187-190

Since Bourbon County’s inception, Paris has served as its political center. As county seat, the settlement was predisposed to become the county’s largest town, an advantage that was unremittingly reinforced...

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19. Paris toward Blue Licks

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pp. 191-202

Mile 0.0 From the Bourbon County Courthouse Square, the road leads northeast toward Maysville. The Elks/Masonic Lodge/Bourbon Hotel building, built circa 1901–5, stands on the left at the corner of Main and Bank Row. The four-story structure is of brick construction with stone trim in a Romanesque...

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20. Millersburg

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pp. 203-216

Mile 8.0 U.S. 68 crosses Hinkston Creek entering Millersburg from the southwest. In 1950 the highway followed the old track that crossed the river upstream of the dam spillway and stands left, or west, of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad bridge. Upon crossing the creek, the road followed...

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21. The Eden Shale Hills

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pp. 217-226

Mile 12.1 At the junction of U.S. 68 and the SR 36 connector to Carlisle, the old Maysville Road turned nearly 90 degrees to the left, or northeast, to follow the Brushy Creek valley. The creek flows south toward Hinkston Creek, the trunk stream in this section, so the road was heading up gradient...

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22. Blue Licks

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pp. 227-234

Mile 21.0 The old turnpike road, the Blue Licks cutoff, ran to the left here on its southern approach to the Licking River crossing. To follow the old route, turn left and cross Stony Creek on the concrete bridge. At the junction with SR 1244 stands a small frame building at the corner; a Freemason...

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23. Commemoration, Heritage, and a Battlefield Park

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pp. 235-238

Mile 21.7 The entrance to Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park is on the left. The Kentucky General Assembly established Lower Blue Licks State Park on March 27, 1926, to commemorate the settlers who fought and died in the Battle of Blue Licks in 1782. The Blue Licks Battlefield Commission...

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24. Blue Licks toward Maysville

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pp. 239-242

Mile 22.1 The back road into Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park intersects on the left. The old Maysville Turnpike alignment, now renamed Redbud Road, departs from the modern road here and for about a mile and one-quarter loops east and north before rejoining U.S. 68. Most of the abandoned segments form short loops that now function as farm and residence driveways...

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25. Fairview and Ewing

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pp. 243-250

Mile 26.1 The intersection of U.S. 68 and SR 165 marks the drainage divide between the Licking River to the south and Johnson Creek to the north and the center of the small roadside community of Fairview (also known as Oakwood). In the 1950s Bill’s Snack Shop and Gas Station replaced a wood-frame grocery store that stood at the corner. The concrete-block building...

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26. Fairview toward Mason County

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pp. 251-254

Mile 0.0 Fairview marks the point where the Maysville Road traverses the center of Fleming County’s western “panhandle,” which stretches from Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park to the south to the vicinity of Johnson Creek to the north. In 1947 the road at Fairview was bituminous packed macadam, a road surface of sufficient quality to be rated...

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27. The Outer Bluegrass

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pp. 255-260

Mile 5.2 The old road alignment is to the right here. A Maysville Turnpike tollhouse may have stood near this point in the nineteenth century. A burley tobacco–curing barn stands near the entrance of the old road. Burley tobacco, one of the primary constituents used in blending tobaccos for cigarette manufacture, has been grown in central Kentucky since the 1860s...

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28. Mayslick—“The Asparagus Bedof Mason County”

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pp. 261-276

One enters Mayslick (also spelled May’s Lick) from the south on Pike Street (as in Turnpike Street), at the point where the new road begins a sweeping curve to the right, bypassing the village on the east. The ruins of a brick house stand in the field to the left, or west, at the turn, marking...

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29. Old Washington

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pp. 277-294

Washington, now called Old Washington, was a prosperous place in the early decades of this area’s frontier development. Nineteenth-century affluence, however, gave way to economic decline; recently the town has been revitalized through its reinvention as a popular tourist destination. Early settlers entering Kentucky by the Ohio River route disembarked at the Limestone landing...

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30. Slavery, the Underground Railroad, and Hemp Production

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pp. 295-300

Before the Civil War Kentucky’s enslaved population was concentrated in the prime agricultural counties—the limestone lands of the Bluegrass and central and western Pennyroyal, and the alluvial river plains along the Ohio River near Owensboro.1 In 1790 Kentucky counted 11,830 slaves...

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31. Intersections and Commercial Roadside Development

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pp. 301-304

Mile 15.2 U.S. 68 enters the south edge of the Maysville suburban commercial strip. Mile 15.5 Kentucky SR 9, also popularly known as the AA Highway because it links Alexandria in Campbell County to Ashland in Boyd County, intersects U.S. 68. A Maysville-Lexington Turnpike tollhouse stood along the old road in this vicinity. Though this intersection is relatively new...

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32. Maysville

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pp. 305-324

The Maysville town site had special qualities that made it an attractive place to establish a settlement. The Ohio River, in its present engineered configuration, lies at an elevation of about 460 feet at Maysville. South of the river, Limestone Creek rises at an origin point near the 900-foot elevation...

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33. Living with the River

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pp. 325-328

Maysville’s riverfront continues to be its most dynamic landscape. The historic river landing area that extended from the mouth of Limestone Creek west to Wall Street has been transformed by the razing of buildings, the installation of railroad tracks, and, most recently, the wholesale...

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34. East Maysville

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pp. 329-332

Before engineers redirected the Maysville Road (termed the Lexington Road in Maysville) in the 1950s from its steep and winding historic entrance into Maysville’s west side to the bypass that led into the lower Limestone Creek valley, traffic and travelers focused on the city’s western side...

IV. Reflecting on Roads and American Culture

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pp. 333-334

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35. The Changing Landscape of Mobility

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pp. 335-340

Engineers completed reconstruction on the twelve-mile segment of the Maysville Road between Lexington and Paris in 2003. Reconfigured as the four-lane Paris Pike parkway, the new road was acclaimed as an aesthetic triumph and a splendid example of collaborative design work by professional engineers...

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pp. 341-342

We wish to recognize the contributions of William Marshall, Terry Birdwhistell, and Gordon Hogg of the Margaret King Library Special Collections Department; Faith Harders of the College of Design Library; and Gwen Curtis of the Geological Sciences Library and Map Collection for their suggestions and access to important documents. We also convey our gratitude...


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pp. 343-370


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pp. 371-388


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pp. 389-411

E-ISBN-13: 9780813136660
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813136646

Page Count: 424
Publication Year: 2012