The following article by Charles Hartley originally appeared in The Pioneer News on 9 Oct 2023.
It is archived here for your reading enjoyment.
In the early days Pond Creek rose from the Wetwoods that once lay just north of Fairdale. Today it serves to empty the Northern and Southern Ditches that drain a great part of southern Jefferson County.
It flows southwestwardly until it reaches Salt River just a short distance above that stream's entrance into the Ohio River. Along the way it also serves as part of the boundary between the two counties while also collecting the waters of Knob Creek that drain much of northwestern Bullitt County.
In that stretch that serves as a boundary, two roads cross the stream, requiring bridges. The more familiar is Highway 44W; the other is a small road located just south of the Ohio Valley Dragway today, and known as the Kathryn Station Road which leads to the Brewer Family Farm.
Kathryn Station was a small station on what was then the Louisville, Henderson and St Louis railroad line. A 1925 map identifies this small railroad station, and shows that the roadway extended a considerable distance, finally connecting via other roadways to both Pitt's Point and Shepherdsville.
During World War I, Camp Knox had been established, largely in Hardin County, but in 1931 a small force of "mechanized cavalry" was assigned there, and this marked the beginning of a rapid expansion of what was to become Fort Knox, including significant parts of Bullitt County.
A 1937 county map shows that the expanded military installation had turned the Kathryn Station Road into a dead-end road close by the station itself. By this time the road's bridge was 30 years old, having been built by both counties in 1907, and was beginning to need repairs.
A decade later the bridge was all but impassable, leaving the half dozen families who lived on the Bullitt County side without a safe way across the creek. The Bullitt County Court called on Jefferson County to pay for most of the construction of a new bridge under a law that provided that such a bridge was to be paid for in proportion to property values of the two counties. Jefferson County rejected this proposal on the grounds that the road ended a half mile from the bridge.
A suit was filed in Jefferson Circuit Court which sided with that county's position. However, the Court of Appeals ruled in 1949 that each county should pay half of the costs.
It appears that Bullitt County either couldn't or wouldn't come up with half the costs, and the matter was still not resolved by 1957 when the bridge was in danger of collapsing. At that time Jefferson County offered to pay half the $30,000 cost of replacing the bridge, but Bullitt once again rejected the offer, and instead appointed special commissioners, Frank Carpenter of Bardstown Junction and Billy Cornell of Mt. Washington, under the provisions of a law that said that the Fiscal Courts of each county would appoint commissioners who along with their road engineers and a representative of the State Highway Department would make a binding decision.
Finally, after years of negotiations, bids were finally let in 1958 by the State Highway Department to make the necessary repairs. After that was to be done, both counties would be obligated to maintain it.
Anticipating future flooding, the local residents requested that the bridge be raised six feet, and they offered to supply the needed dirt to fill in the approaches to the bridge. At last this bridge would be safe to cross.
But this wasn't the only Pond Creek bridge that the two counties disputed over.
The first bridge near where Highway 44 now crosses Pond Creek appears to have been built, likely by Jefferson County as early as 1829. This is suggested by an entry on page 218 of the Bullitt County Court Order Book E, dated 15 Jun 1829, that states, "On the motion of Isaac Smith who wishes a road opened and established a public road commencing near John Harshfield and from thence towards to Pond Creek to the bridge now building by the Jefferson County Court in the nearest and best way."
We are uncertain as to exactly where this early bridge was located, or how long it lasted. Indeed, there may have been more than one such bridge over the years.
However, by 1877, we learn from another Order Book entry (Book K, page 309) that Bullitt County appointed James W. Ridgway as a commissioner to view Pond Creek and select a site "for the erection of a bridge across said creek." He was to meet and confer with a Jefferson County commissioner and view a proposed site at Steele's ford as well as other potential sites and select the best option.
Two residents of the area, Stacy Applegate and Alvorado P. Steele had already appeared before the court and relinquished their rights to a right-of-way for such a bridge. Each owned land on both sides of Pond Creek with Applegate's land lying to the north of Steele.
On 18 Jun 1877, Ridgway filed his report, and offered that the most available site for a bridge was the "Brawner foundation site where the abutments are now situated."
Two brothers, John and Thomas Brawner are each listed in the 1850 Jefferson County census as stone masons, and we feel it is likely that one or both of them were involved in the construction of an earlier bridge at this site, and that its foundation was referred to in Ridgway's report.
The next month, with Judge Carpenter present along with Justices W. H. Ellaby, John N. Crenshaw, C. C. Weller, James M. Carpenter, R. J. Mumford, and James Caswell, The court ordered that $600 be appropriated "for the purpose of erecting a bridge across Pond Creek at the Brawner foundation site."
Carpenter was authorized to receive construction bids and to accept or reject them as he saw fit, "looking to the interest of Bullitt and Jefferson Counties in the matter."
At the same meeting, A. P. Steele appeared again, and "relinquished the right of way over his land for the public road running to the bridge proposed to be built across Pond Creek at the Brawner foundation site."
It appears there was already a bridge in place over the creek, for in September Ridgway moved that the court appoint John T. Bridges, Charles Lee and Felix Harris to examine it to determine if it was safe for crossing. They reported back in October that it was unsafe, and that they had posted notices to that effect at the bridge. The court then ordered that the bridge was condemned and anyone crossing it did so at their own risk.
In November, James W. Ridgway was again appointed a commissioner to contract for building a new bridge at the Brawner foundation site. The process slowly moved forward, and in January 1878 the court ordered that Bullitt County Surveyor Casper Herps meet with Ridgway to "locate and survey the site for the erection of a bridge across Pond Creek at the Brawner foundation site."
Then in February, the court added Thomas J. Ramsey and James Horine as commissioners along with Ridgway to meet with the Jefferson County appointed commissioners.
Jefferson County finally appointed commissioners for the task in April, and in May the Bullitt commissioners filed a report indicating that the Brawner site had been accepted. Then in June, Casper Herps filed his report, and the Jefferson commissioners filed their report to that court.
You might think that they would then get busy building a bridge, but this was not the case.
At the Bullitt November court session, "a tax of 5% upon each one hundred dollars worth of taxable property in Bullitt County be levied for the purpose of paying for the erection of a bridge across Pond Creek," which was to be collected in 1879.
And in December the court held a special term in which it ordered that James Horine be appointed Bullitt County commissioner who was "to meet at the site on the Applegate route, a like commissioner of Jefferson County and agree on a plan for erecting same and contract for the erection thereof."
It is not clear why, but it seems that the Brawner site on Steele's land was no longer acceptable, and a site further upstream on Applegate's land was now chosen.
Two days later, Bullitt County Attorney F. P. Straus appeared before the Jefferson Court and presented the Bullitt proposal appointing Horine a commissioner for the task. According to the Jefferson minutes, they were asked to appoint a commissioner to meet with Horine to agree on a place for the bridge on Applegate land. However, the proposal was also for Jefferson County to contract with Bullitt to pay the costs of building the bridge. Their County Attorney was consulted and he objected to this motion without there being additional discussion of the matter. That court then set December 30 for the time to hear more. However, if they discussed it further, there is no mention in their minutes for that day.
In January 1879, at a court of claims held at Shepherdsville, with Judge Carpenter, and Justices W. H. Ellaby, J. C. Dent, James M. Carpenter, C. C. Weller, R. J. Mumford, J. N. Crenshaw and James Caswell present, the court again attempted to get Jefferson County involved in building the bridge, but without success. After that, the court's minutes are essentially silent about the bridge until November.
However, it appears that a contract to build the bridge was made with William T. Washer in July, and he began work on the bridge that summer. Then in November the court appointed C. B. Davis, J. M. Carpenter and James Y. Pope as a committee to "examine the stone work done on the Pond Creek bridge and to report at the January Term of this court as to the kind and nature of the stone used in said work, and the character of the work."
We know from later documents that at some point Judge Carpenter sent a letter to Washer ordering him to cease work on the bridge, and that the County refused to pay for the work done. The reasons for these actions are still unclear, but on the last day of December Washer and his associates commenced a federal circuit court action to recover damages for breach of that contract.
At first the circuit court ruled in favor of Bullitt County, but was reversed on appeal. the case finally reached the United States Supreme Court which ruled in 1884 in favor of Washer and his associates. Attempting to claim errors on the earlier ruling, Bullitt County again appealed, and the Supreme Court in 1889 confirmed their earlier ruling.
Meanwhile, a bridge was still needed, and by July 1882, it having been determined that the Brawner site on Steele's land was just not suitable, F. P. Straus as commissioner signed a contract with Henry J. Barnes, a local carpenter, for a bridge over the creek on Stacy Applegate's land.
By October, Straus reported to the court that the bridge had been finished, and Barnes was paid $100 for his work.
While we will finish our tale of the bridges here, this was not the final bridge, but one of perhaps several attempts to span this creek leading up to the current bridge that carries Highway 44 traffic.
We have transcribed entries regarding the bridges of Pond Creek taken from Bullitt County Order Books on another page.
Copyright 2023 by Charles Hartley, 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.