The following article by David Strange originally appeared in The Courier-Journal on 27 Jun 2012. It is archived here with additional information for your reading enjoyment.
In Jefferson County there is a road named "Old Shepherdsville Road."
Most people know it. Those who do often just call it "Old Shep."
It is a heavily-traveled connector road that starts way up in Buechel, near Bardstown Road and Hikes Lane, travels south past General Electric Appliance Park, across Outer Loop, and eventually takes a sudden sharp turn, ending at Manslick Road as it connects to Preston Highway in Okolona.
And that's the end of it.
But why does a road called "Old Shepherdsville Road" not go anywhere near Shepherdsville? And if that is the "Old" Shepherdsville Road, where is the "New" Shepherdsville Road?
The answer was almost beyond memory. But only almost.
The answer lies, as you might guess, in that sharp turn at the south end of the road. And the answer tells us a lot about the area.
You see, according to an 1858 map of Jefferson County, the road originally did not turn. It went straight as an arrow south to intersect Preston Highway very near Cooper Memorial Methodist Church. Just take a modern map and extend Old Shepherdsville Road in a line to Preston Highway and you'll see pretty much where the original road lay. From that point, south, what we know today as Preston Highway (or Highway 61) was marked as the "Louisville-Shepherdsville Road."
In fact, both Preston and Old Shep are much older than even that. Both began as branches of the Wilderness Road, basically a path that had been created by migrating buffalo long, long before Man treaded the land. The herds used the path where Preston lies today in dry weather; Old Shep when the other path became too boggy.
In the early 1800's, at a time when most roads were still dirt or at best roads with logs for a bed, much of the Okolona area was dominated by swampy areas known as "The Wetwoods," that were prone to flood. Courier-Journal writer Howard Hardaway wrote in a 1941 article about those earlier times, "In the early days even Preston Street Road couldn't afford safe passage to Shepherdsville. Huge logs laid crosswise in an attempt to build a corduroy road sank from sight by entire sections during the wet season. The only way to travel that direction without risk of bogging down or getting lost was to go out Bardstown Road to Buechel and then turn south along the Old Shepherdsville Road that barely skirted the eastern margin of the bog lands."
And there we have the answer to that old wide-sweeping path to Shepherdsville.
By 1865, Old Shepherdsville Road was partially diverted, taking a sharper turn toward Preston, using an improved Manslick Road, probably to avoid building a new bridge and improvements across a branch of Fish Pool Creek.
Eventually, more roads were improved and new roads built. Swamps were gradually filled in and drained, making some fine farmland, which was later developed for housing and for industrial developments such as the Fern Valley Ford factory.
Preston itself was gradually raised and improved, taking on more of the dominant street status that it has today.
In the 1930's, "Old Shep" was rebuilt to look much as it is now, losing some of its former significance.
And "Preston Highway" became the new best route to Shepherdsville.
Today, tens of thousands of cars travel these roads every day. Thousands "cut through" a road called "Old Shepherdsville Road" on their way to somewhere, with little thought or memory of just why it has that name.
But now you know the story of "Old Shep."
And now you remember.
Copyright 2012 by David Strange, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.