On March 3, the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center opened “Treasured Towns Lost in Time” provided by guest curator, Christy Hoots. Christy went to Lindsey Wilson College where she took a history class that covered the Maysville Road and the area’s history. She graduated in 2010 with a history degree and a new appreciation for the town she grew up in. She decided to uproot her husband and move back in 2012 to begin work at The Ledger Independent. Luckily for KYGMC, Christy’s love of history prompted an interest of our area’s past so lost in time that few even knew the treasures she sought existed.
History is filled with cities that emerged and then were abandoned or forgotten. Treasures like Charles Town can be found in the Wormald Gallery of the museum. It was the second town in Mason County founded in 1787 by Ignatius Mitchell who petitioned the Virginia General Assembly. That was a year before Mason County became the eighth county of Kentucky - and before Kentucky became a state in 1792! Charles Town was located at the mouth of Lawrence Creek on the Ohio River six miles below Limestone and even had its own one room school. It was listed as Charleston Land on an atlas in 1876. We know it today as Charleston Bottoms.
Other towns completely ceased to exist in any form such as the town of Gath in Fleming County. Other than Fleming County Court records, you probably wouldn’t even know that there was a Gath. In fact there seems to be no record of how long it existed or why it went out of existence. Two years after Flemingsburg was founded, the county court of Fleming established Gath on the lands of Byram Routt, a large landowner. It was situated on the eastern bank of Locust Creek where it emptied into the Licking River. It was “opposite Bath County, but at the time of its founding, Montgomery County.” Early records show numerous mills authorized at that time. Licking River and Fleming Creek were lined with them. Tributaries of these streams were used for this purpose. Locust, Wilson Run, Poplar Run, Stocktons Run, Salt Lick all had mills on them. Beside the water mills, horse mills existed in various parts of the county. “Large amounts of the products of Fleming County farmers found their way to market in flat boats on the Licking and Ohio rivers. These boats went as far a New Orleans, where a majority of these products found a market. Locust empties into Licking and these warehouses at that point were established to accommodate shippers.” Besides serving as a shipping point for material going down river to the Ohio, it was on a direct route between Flemingsburg and Mount Sterling.
According to the plat of the town in the old court order book, Gath contained one hundred three in-lots and ten out-lots – all together one hundred acres. The streets were named East, North, Cross, Main, Lower Water, and Upper Water. There was a warehouse for the inspection of flour and hemp and a Ferry that ran across Main Licking at the town. There was a school and a Baptist church called “Licking Locust”. There were accomplishments and lives making differences in Gath.
The last you can find of Gath is in the court records of July 1811. What happened to Gath has long been debated. One theory was that the original trustees and interested citizens died quite soon after the town was established and others who took their places may not have been as enthusiastic. Byram Routt was one of the primary leaders of the move to establish the town and he died shortly after it was established. To settle his debts, the sheriffs of Mason and Fleming Counties sold the remaining lots in the town as well as the rest of his estate at public auction. Many of the men who bought his land were not interested in the town, but wanted to farm. Another reason Gath withered away could be that Sherburne, which was further down the river, began to grow with a number of mills and other establishments and it was on a more direct route between Mt. Sterling and Maysville. The Licking River also flooded badly in spring and people may have found the site unsuitable.
Christy's “Lost in Time” exhibit explores towns across the Northern Kentucky/Southern Ohio region that are no longer in existence, are still around but are no longer a hub of businesses and people, and some that never existed at all. Some have been rediscovered and some are still out there waiting to be found.
Readers may email questions to Hixson@kygmc.org @Kentucky Gateway Museum Center, Maysville, Ky.