Category Archives: Town Branch History

UKy Geography students make website for TBT

During the spring 2017 semester at the University of Kentucky, a group of 18 students in GEO 409 (Advanced Topics in GIS) created a website of maps for Town Branch Trail. The students focused on a completed alignment for the trail, which has funded and partially completed during class. Students participated a full spectrum of map-making and publishing; they GPS mapped and photographed points of interest, created topographic maps of the trail corridor, and made detailed, interactive maps using 3d data for building structures. They used GitHub to share their and publish a

Students participated a full spectrum of map-making and publishing; they GPS mapped and photographed points of interest, created topographic maps of the trail corridor, and made detailed, interactive maps using 3d data for building structures. They used GitHub to share their and published a website for their research. Furthermore, they used mostly free and open source software and data.

Please check out their website here: https://reece2ke.github.io/geo409_site

Town Branch Water Walk

The Town Branch Water Walk is a self-guided audio tour of downtown Lexington’s hidden waterway. Walk, Ride, and Explore on September 20, October 11, November 08, from 2 – 5 pm.

The Town Branch Water Walk is a collaboration between designers, educators, nonprofit and corporate sponsors, and was developed through the LFUCG Stormwater Incentive Grant Program. Maps and podcasts were developed by landscape architecture students at the University of Kentucky in collaboration with SCAPE Landscape Architecture and MTWTF graphic design studio.

http://www.townbranch.org/tbww/

The Town Branch Water Walk was created by: SCAPE Landscape Architecture PLLC, MTWTF, the Lexington Downtown Development Authority, Peach Technology, and the University of Kentucky’s Landscape Architecture Program in collaboration with Bluegrass Greensource, the Fayette Alliance, Town Branch Trail, Lord Aeck Sargent, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, Fayette County Cooperative Extension, Downtown Lexington Corporation, University of Kentucky’s College of Design, and the YMCA.

A Brief History of DISTILLERIES along Town Branch

Distilling was a significant Lexington industry in the 19th century and continued to impact Lexington into the 20th century. In the Old Frankfort Pike area, distilleries operated at three different sites. The Pepper Distillery may be the one to focus on because one of its owners, James E. Pepper, was an important business and social figure in Lexington. He was the third generation of his family engaged in distilling in Kentucky. James E. Pepper managed a successful stable of thoroughbreds and he owned the land where the Meadowthorpe subdivision is located. The drink called the “Old Fashioned” was supposedly created for him in Louisville.

His grandfather, Elijah Culpepper, came from Culpepper County, Virginia to Kentucky when it was still a county of Virginia. Legend has it that some time around 1776, Elijah Culpepper settled at what came to be known as the “Old Pepper Spring” near Lexington on the Frankfort Pike. There he supposedly built a log cabin distillery about 1780. The story goes that Elijah Culpepper, finding his name “too long and too troublesome to write,” dropped the “Cul” and became Elijah Pepper.

Elijah Pepper’s son, Oscar Pepper, operated several distilleries in Kentucky including the current Labrot and Graham’s Old Oscar Pepper Distillery and another in Versailles. He hired James C. Crow as his master distiller. James Crow is known for using his knowledge of biochemistry to introduce scientific principles into the distilling process. Together the two men brought fame to the Old Crow and Old Pepper brands. Their whiskey became a big hit with men such as Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, John Calhoun, Ulysess S. Grant, William Henry Harrison, and Daniel Webster. Labrot and Graham’s Old Oscar Pepper Distillery is named for Oscar Pepper.

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Early Model Steamboat Tested on the Town Fork of Elkhorn Creek, Lexington, Kentucky

In 1793, Edward West, a craftsman and inventor, successfully demonstrated a model steamboat on Town Fork before a large crowd. The Town Fork was dammed up near the Lexington and Frankfort freight depot to allow for the demonstration. It was reported that the boat swiftly moved through the water.

In an April 29, 1816, editorial in the Kentucky Gazette, a steamboat based on a plan by Edward West, successfully travelled against the current of the Kentucky River. The article mentions that after this trial the steamboat will travel down the Mississippi to New Orleans. The editor who wrote that article claims that because of West’s invention, “a hundred years from now, the little stream called the ‘Town Fork of Elkhorn’ will have become classic.

West received a patent in July 1802 for his steamboat invention. Robert Fulton’s better-known work with a larger model was done in 1803. West’s model for the steamboat was destroyed when the British burned Washington D.C. in 1814. Another model of the steamboat was kept in the museum at the lunatic asylum.

Kleber, John E. (ed.). The Kentucky Encyclopedia. 1992.
Ranck, George, W. History of Lexington, Kentucky. 1872

Founding of Lexington along the Elkhorn Creek

Lexington, Kentucky was founded in the summer of1775 at the dawn of the American Revolution. A small band of frontiersmen gathered around a fire received word that a rabble of colonists had defeated British troops in a skirmish at Lexington, Massachusetts. To commemorate this exciting news, they decided to name the lush spring-fed wilderness in which they camped in the battle’s honor. Pioneers traveling south from the Ohio River or west through the Cumberland Gap traced their way to Lexington along buffalo trails over rolling savannah and by way of meandering forested waterways.

John Filson, biographer of Daniel Boone, shows us in a map from 1784 what pioneer Kentucky looked like.

In “Song of Myself” Walt Whitman imagines one of these early frontiersmen,

“A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in deer-skin leggings”

These pioneers chose to set down roots in Lexington along the banks of the Town Branch of Elkhorn Creek because of the rich fertile soil and multitude of artesian springs running the year round. Within a few short years a collection of log cabins clustered around a stockade gave way to a burgeoning town laid out along a generous creek-side commons. The valuable exports of bourbon, tobacco, and pedigreed cattle soon made Lexington the hub of a prosperous Bluegrass Region, and the capital of America’s first frontier. Within two generations of its founding Lexington had become a town of great wealth, sophistication, and refinement. By the time the Marquis de Lafayette came to visit his namesake county in 1825, Lexington had become known as the “Athens of the West” for its free public library, a university which boasted schools of medicine and law, and for architecture as refined as any in Philadelphia or Boston. And a young Lexington lawyer by the name of Henry Clay held our nation’s Congress in his thrall.

By 1830 Lexington had one of the first railroad charters in the nation.

Lexington also became fertile ground for religion, forming many of the first congregations west of the Appalachians. A pair of vibrant African-American congregations trace their common history back to 1790. The place names of Mt. Tabor, Mt. Horeb, Pisgah, and Zion hark back to this era of great awakening.

Other place names around Lexington honor the revolution and early republic. Fayette County was named in 1780 in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette and downtown streets bear names like Madison, Jefferson, and Constitution in honor of our nation’s founding.

By the time of the Civil War, despite Lexington’s wealth, its national ascendancy had long been eclipsed by more westward river cities along the Ohio and the Mississippi and its lack of navigable waters consigned it to a more modest agrarian splendor. But to this day Lexington has carefully protected its precious farmland with an urban growth boundary and with a nationally acclaimed program for farmland protection.

Lexington is even rediscovering its roots along the Town Branch of the Elkhorn Creek, setting up a public greenway that will follow this historic waterway from the city out to pioneers houses, springs, and Bluegrass countryside.