Owen Historical Society News: Small communities had a big impact

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By Bonnie Strassell

Most Owen countians are familiar with the names of Claxon Ridge, Pink Ridge, Stewart Ridge, Buffalo Ridge, Riddle’s Ridge, Divided Ridge, Fortner Ridge, Ball Ridge, Harris Ridge, Bethel Ridge and Long Ridge. Some of these hilltops took on the names of the families who first settled along their crests, while the origin of the names of others may have been lost over the years.
Perhaps  Pink Ridge received its name due to the pink apple blossoms in the spring which graced its sweeping expanse; or maybe the setting sun cast a rosy glow over its landscape producing variegated shades of pink.  
Buffalo Ridge may have been a favorite path of the great shaggy bison as the ancient beasts lumbered through the tall grasses of what is today Owen County.
The Riddles were one of the first families to settle in Owen and the area of their homeplace was known as Riddle’s Ridge. The  Stewarts and Fortners both lived on hilltops named for their families while Long Ridge was presumably designated as such because of the many number of miles it traversed the county.
In 1822, Celestiness Claxon married Rebecca Roberts and they settled near Monterey on what was to become known as Claxon Ridge. It was here they raised a large family, many of whom remained to live out their lives and be laid to rest in the Claxon cemetery.
In a 2002 News-Herald article, Edgar L. Morgan wrote of his reminisces of Fortner Ridge, the community that surrounded it, and the people who left a lasting impression upon his life.

“An important community lay a few miles east of Lusby’s Mill, called Fortner Ridge.
The communities belonged together, though because of the roads of that day, some parts were rather separated.
Around were families of Fortners, Simpsons, Ingrams, Howards, Alexanders and Links.
The school children were many, for the families were populous. At a later time, the east end was cut off and formed the Link School.
Among the early settlers were John and Elizabeth Fortner, perhaps from Virginia. From this family came wives for two Cobbs. I recall an old house down the road to the north which was called the Ingram home. Isaac (Ingram) married  Lile Robinson. It is said she died suddenly at the age of 35.
At the end of the road were the Link and Alexander families. Alma and Alvin were near my age, Charlie and Hade were older. When I was sick in Louisville with an abscess under my arm, Charlie was a medical student, and he came and dressed my arm. He called me his first patient.
Down toward Three Forks were the Fortner families including brothers - Stal, Polk and Wesley.
Edgar goes on to write about his cousins, the Howards and an uncle, Simon Williams, whose household included a maiden sister who “walked with a crutch and smoked with calmness and satisfaction a long stemmed clay pipe.”
Recalling a conversation by some men in the area, Edgar was puzzled by the declaration of one fellow who claimed he could cure the “bots” in horses. “I remembered the word, but have not heard it used in many years.
Have veterinarians eradicated the disease?”
“An interesting part of the ridge was the junction of the road with the Beech Branch and Lusby-Corinth Road. We called it the Lish Smith shop. A venerable whiskered man, Lish’s father, George Smith, scarcely missed going to Owenton County court. Near that shop on the highest hill was a home of the Taylors, from which on a clear day it was said the cupalo of the Owenton courthouse could be seen.
That Fortner community was the object of many visits and preaching by Uncle Tim. He felt responsible for their souls.
Near the schoolhouse in a brush arbor I held my first protracted meeting, along with Cousin Henry Holbrook.”
Edgar Morgan’s record of his life on Fortner Ridge  has been preserved to share with others. Whether atop ridges, along the Kentucky river, beside the creeks, or in the valleys, Owen County history was created in the stories of those, who despite life’s challenges, cherished their past as they continued to climb toward the future.
The Owen County Historical Society would like to thank all of you who continue to support us with your donations.
Our thanks also to all our members who serve on the board, help with our fund raisers and volunteer at the museum to greet visitors. If you would like to join the society and help in our efforts to preserve Owen County’s rich traditions the yearly dues are $25.
Please send your check or money order to: Owen County Historical Society/Museum, Inc.  206 North Main St., Owenton, Ky 40359.
If anyone would like to include a genealogical research question in our next newsletter please send your inquiry to the above address.

James Alexander Thom and his wife Dark Rain will be our special guests Thursday, April 10. Join us for dinner at 5 pm.
The program begins at 6:30 p.m.