The First 200 Years of Pendleton County


Written By: Mildred Bowen Belew

Contributed, with permission, By: Kristin Stoner


Wool Festival

The Kentucky Wool Festival saw the first light of day while the winter winds whistled throughout the hills of Pendleton County. A small group of interested citizens who saw the untapped potential of the area met in January of 1983 desirous of creating a unique festival. With the guidance of a University of Kentucky Extension Specialist, it was decided to look to the past for a source of a “theme.” Thus the Kentucky Wool Festival was conceived and in the first week end of October 1983, this group’s baby was born.

Kentucky was at one time a leading state in wool production with Pendleton County among her leaders. Woolen factories, many family run operations, soon sprang up across the state. The Woodhead family, English immigrants who had settled first in the “textile areas” of New England, came to Falmouth and very soon after the Civil War opened a woolen mill. Their business “The Pendleton Woolen Mills”, flourished for many years. To pay homage to important aspect of early Pendleton County economy and heritage, the theme of “Wool Festival” was chosen. The Kentucky State Legislative recognized the sincere efforts of the festival committees by sanctioning the Kentucky Wool Festival as the state’s official wool festival in the spring of 1986.

Old time demonstrations recapturing the harsh realities of pioneer life are demonstrated, foods for everyone’s taste, crafts, and music are enjoyed by all from near and far.

In just a few short years the Wool Festival has become so widely know that thousands of people attend each year.


The first church in the county was the Baptist denomination formed in part by people who had been dismissed from Bryan’s Station in Fayette County. This construction was effected on the forth Saturday in June 1795 and had eighteen members. It was known as the “Forks of Licking Church” and probably gathered and pastured by Alexander Monroe. It struggled and declined until about 1825, when Mr. Monroe was succeeded by Mr. L.C. Abernathy, who left with the Campbellites and carried a large portion of the membership with him.

In 1830 a new church was built on Main Street. It was known as the “Middle Fork Baptist Church” or “Grassy Creak Baptist Church” nicknamed “The Ark”. In the first minutes book, now in the hands of Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church, dated March 1986, speaks of their last meeting, so evidentially they never kept records before. A committee of William Caldwell, William D. Belew and Henry Thornton helped the clerk transfer the constitution and riles of decorum from an old book to a new one. Moderator was Elder Martin Lummis. It is not known what became of the old book.

Some of the members of this church were; Caldwells, Belews, Thorntons, Manns, Twentys, Schlueters, Eglestons, Mullins, Blackburns, Beighlies, Dulaneys, Duckworths, Daughtertys, Clevelands, Smiths, O’neals, Reeds and others. The first pastor mentioned was brother Martin Lummis. Others pastors were Rev. William H. McMillian, Rev. Asa Tomlin and Rev. Charles Bagby. Gardnersville Baptist Church was a branch of this church as were others in the community. The Ark was about two miles down the creek from where the Knoxville and Gardnersville Roads cross the Middle Fork of Grassy Creek. There was a dirt road from about the Smith Cemetery, across the middle ford to Caldwell Ridge, at Bill Caldwell’s place. The church was just below where that dirt road crossed the creek. It was located on an island in the creek, thus the name of Baptist Island used today for that small piece of land. A large grove of beech trees surrounded it, a beautiful location.

When the creek was up the water was all around the church. The island was on the lower part of John (Slick) Dougherty’s place. Asa Tomlin and John (Slick) Dougherty had a disagreement about something and at one time Dougherty had cut a tree, falling it into the baptizing hole, just before the set time for a baptizing. After that when Asa Tomlin was preaching at the Middle Fork Church he referred to the incident of falling trees into the baptizing hole. Asa described the beauties of heaven and the joys of the blessed redeemer and said there would be no John (Slick) Doughertys there to fall trees into the baptizing hole.

People came from miles around to see the old church. It was two stories high, built of logs. The floor of the upper story was not laid all the way over the pulpit, to enable those in the second story to see the preacher and hear the sermon. It was sort of a balcony. The upper floor was supported by hews 2 x 2 feet beams. The floor joist rested upon these beams running the length of the building and these beams were supported by 2 x 2 feet hewed post and walls. Along each side wall was a row of cut spike nails for hanging hats and wraps on. These ran nearly the full length of the building.

The next Christian denomination that held regular meeting in the county were the Methodist. Perhaps the first preacher being Robert Graves, who was soon replaced by the circuit rider, who preached private homes and school housed. The first Methodist Circuit of which Falmouth was a part, commenced at Newport and extended to the territory lying between the Ohio River and Licking River at Falmouth. Today there is the Falmouth United Methodist Church at Shelby and Maple Streets, Falmouth Wesleyan Methodist Church at Beech Street, Carters Chapel Methodist Church in Gardnersville, Concord Methodist Church at Concord, Butler Methodist Church and Pine Grove Methodist at Caddo.

There was Presbyterian denomination at Concord that shared the Methodist Church building and a Presbyterian Church in Falmouth.

A Lutheran Protestant Church was at the corner of Second and Chapel Streets.

In a few years all the other Protestant denominations established themselves in the county until it may be said that out county is as thoroughly furnished with public worship of God as almost any other county in the state of Kentucky.

History of Bethel Church

According to the division of the estate of William J. Bradford, who owned land five miles north of Falmouth, Pendleton County Kentucky, on Falmouth and Grassy Creek Turnpike (now Hwy. 17), who’s will was probated by his son, Thomas K. Bradford, 16 March 1876, stating the farm be surveyed and divided to his wife and children, with the exception of 1 1/2 acres on the west side of the turnpike. This 1 ˝ acres was for the community to use for a church and a graveyard.

To build the church, two Baptist and two Methodist were to supervise the building. The two Methodist were T.J. Campbell and Arthur Purdy and the two Baptist were J.K. Bradford, and Bryan Parsons. T.J. Campbell, being a carpenter, he and his son, Frank James Campbell built the church with donated help, both men and women.

The first sermon was preached by Rev. Spillman, a Baptist minister. The first regular minister was Rev. Gaberial Mullins. The first Methodist minister was Rev. S.A. Day. Both denominations used the church for several years.

The cemetery section was given one acre in the will of William J. Bradford. No one paid for grave sites at first. In 1895, Alex Emerich fenced of one acre, more or less on the west side. Graves were then sold for $ 5.00 each and everyone was to keep the cemetery in good shape.

When the new Christian Church (Mt. Moriah) was built in 1911, many members moved to the new church. There is now listing of the charter members of Bethel Church. The church and cemetery papers were all destroyed in a fire some years ago.

By the late 1940 the Bethel Cemetery was in thick brushes and vines. In 1950, several people who had loved ones buried there cleaned the cemetery and built a new fence. On September 15, 1952, Bethel Cemetery was incorporated, officers appointed and permanent care for the graves begun.

The Bethel Church building is now being used for Bethel Cemetery, Inc. meetings. Very little has been done to keep the building in repair, therefore it is in need of painting both inside and out, new widows and doors. The original pews are still in the building.


More to Come....


Artwork: Sweet Solitude
by Edmund Blair  Leighton