Sunday, April 22, 2001

What's in a name? History

Here's the story behind local towns

By Gene Franzen
Enquirer Contributor

        Was there ever a military fort at our state capital, Frankfort? Why a Dry Ridge, a Bellevue, or a Falmouth? There is a story behind the origin of most town names.

        Frankfort was not a fort. Before it was a town, this was a natural place to ford the Kentucky River. A party of men searching for salt deposits was attacked by Indians while camped at the ford. Their leader, Stephen Frank, was killed — and the area then came to be known as Frank's Ford.

[photo] Hubbard Helm planned and laid out the town of Melbourne, Ky., then named it for the city in Australia.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        Bellevue was so named because of its location just below the mansion of Newport's co-founder, Gen. James Taylor. His mansion was named Belleview. “Bellevue” means “beautiful sight” in French.

        In early days, a lack of water north of Williamstown forced travelers heading to Cincinnati from Lexington to stop at roadside inns before reaching the “Dry Ridge” area.

        Kentucky was part of the commonwealth of Virginia before it became a separate commonwealth. Just as many Virginia settlers from England chose town names from England, Kentucky settlers from Virginia chose such Virginia town names as Alexandria, Falmouth and Augusta for their communities.

        Northern Kentucky town names are rather typical (excluding Rabbit Hash), compared with other Kentucky communities such as Monkey's Eyebrow, Pinchem, Buzzard's Roost, and Chicken Run.

        A summer resort noted for a grove of silver maple trees gave its name to Silver Grove. And when Robert Harrison donated the land for Cynthiana, the town was named for his two daughters, Cynthia and Anna.

        The winner of the “long-distance town name” award goes to a Mr. Hubbard Helm. He planned and laid out the town of Melbourne, then named it for the city in Australia whence he came.

       Now and Then, a look at historic places in Northern Kentucky, runs on Sundays in The Kentucky Enquirer. If there is a place you would like to see featured, call 578-5555.

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- What's in a name? History
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