Of Covington and Cincinnati

The Bavarian Brewery was established on a road that was once an ancient buffalo trail and used by Native Americans. It was also known as General (George Rogers) Clark’s War Path Road in the late 1700s and used by early pioneers and militia to settle the region. Clark achieved important victories in the Revolutionary War against the British and led militia in the opening engagements of the first Indian Wars in the newly formed United States. (His younger brother William was a leader in the Lewis and Clark Expedition.) A few decades after Kentucky separated from Virginia and was granted statehood in 1792 becoming the 15th state, this road became known as the Covington and Lexington Turnpike. It was operated as a toll road and maintained by a company bearing its name. This road provided access between the cities it was named after, as well as those towns between them, such as Georgetown and Williamstown. In the late 1800s, this road simply became known as Pike Street.

General Thomas Sandford

The land where the brewery was built was originally owned by General Thomas Sandford, a native Virginian. He was granted a land tract of 1,200 acres from the new federal government in about 1790 as retribution for his role in the Revolutionary War. Purportedly, Sandford had a tall and distinctive stature, especially for his time, standing 6 foot 3 inches high, and in excellent physical condition. Besides being one of the largest land owners in the area, Sandford was well educated and interested in the future of Kentucky. He became both a state representative and senator, and was elected to Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District for 1803 - 1807, serving as the district’s first Congressman. As the settlers to Northern Kentucky gradually increased, Sandford desired land that was less populated and traded most if not all of his land to Thomas Carneal for wilderness acreage that was in the vicinity of the present day Fort Mitchel, KY. Thomas Sandford had two sons from his first wife, Alfred and Alexander, and a third son from his second wife, Cassius. Thomas Sandford died from drowning in the Ohio River near Covington at the age of 46 in 1808. He is buried in Highland Cemetery in Fort Mitchel, KY. In the War of 1812, Thomas Sandford’s son Alfred was a Major serving as Adjutant of the First Regiment of (Lt. Col. Scott’s) Kentucky Volunteers.


Establishing Covington, KY

Another earlier settler around 1790 was Thomas Kennedy who acquired a land tract for $750, located just east of General Sandford’s original land holdings. Kennedy’s property was known the Point, because of its location at the confluence of the Ohio and Licking Rivers. He built a stone tavern and operated a ferry with skiffs and flatboats across the Ohio River to Cincinnati, near the present day Roebling Suspension Bridge. In 1814, he sold a couple hundred acres for $50,000 to Thomas Carneal, John Gano and Richard Gano. These men established a settlement known as Covington, in honor of General Leonard Covington, who was killed at the Battle of Crysler’s Farm in the War of 1812. Five trustees laid out the city between the Ohio River and 8th Street, and from the Licking River and Russel Street; one of them was Alfed Sandford, the son of General Sandford. The Kentucky State Legislature approved of the town in 1815.

In the same year Covington became a town, Thomas Carneal began building a house located next to the Licking River (now 405 East Second Street), which become known as the Carneal House.  However, it was apparently completed by the son of John Gano, Aaron Gano. It became the finest home in the city, and still stands today. In 1818, after selling some of his lots in Covington, Thomas Carnel built Elmwood Hall, on land he obtained from General Stanford. This home was in the center of a large tract and had river views to both the north and west.

Past owners of land that were settlers and founders of Covington that became the Bavarian Brewery built the earliest brick homes in the area. These included the Carneal House on the far left, and Elmwood Hall (in Ludlow) on the near left. The Sandford House, shown below, was built by the son of General Sandford and is a few blocks from the former Bavarian Brewery. 

Around 1820, Carneal sold 540 acres to Alfred Sandford. It may have been a portion of the property that belonged to his father General Sandford, including the block that would eventually contain the Bavarian Brewery. About that same time, Alfred built a home that became known as the Sandford House on Russell Street, situated on the western edge of Covington at that time, and a few blocks from what became brewery site. In 1828, Carneal sold Elmwood Hall and 968.5 acres to an Englishman, William Bullock, who planned to develop the property into a utopian city called “Hygeia” – the Greek word for health. This land was sold to Israel Ludlow in the 1830s and became a town named after him.

Covington's Growth and the Western Baptist Theological Institute

The success of Covington was dubious at first. By 1830 the town’s population was only 715. After its first fifteen years, there had been a lack of demand for the town’s subdivided lots, which resulted in a decrease in their value by more than half. In contrast, the population of Cincinnati had grown from 9,642 in 1820 to 24,831 by 1830, due to increasing steamboat traffic on the Ohio River. Around 1830, Bullock abandoned his quest for a utopia city and sold Elmwood Hall and its surrounding acreage to Israel Ludlow, who would later lay out a town that bears his name. In 1835, a year after Covington was incorporated, the Alfred Sandford family sold 28.75 acres to the Western Baptist Theological Institute. However, the land was not formally conveyed to the Trustees of the Institute until May of 1840. This sale included the Sandford House, which was used by the Institute’s President. This conveyance occurred just a couple months before the establishment of Kenton County, which had previously been the western part of Campbell County. A theology school and ancillary buildings were promptly constructed around the Sanford House, and the area was known as Seminary Square.

An Early Comparison of Covington to Cincinnati

By 1840, the population of Covington had grown to 2,026. However, the population in Cincinnati was much more significant, growing from 24,831 in 1830 to 46,338 by 1840. In 1846, Ludlow subdivided his land into a settlement known as Ludlow, but it was not incorporated until two decades later. During the mid-nineteenth century, there was a sharp contrast between Covington and Cincinnati. Covington was rather rural with little industry, whereas, Cincinnati was much more industrialized and was the beneficiary of a westward expansion that enabled it to become the 6th largest city in the country by 1840.  Further, African Americans were free on the Ohio side of the river, while slavery existed in Kentucky.

This difference between the two cities is depicted in a painting by Sanford Duncanson made c. 1850, one of the first African American painters to be known internationally. It was from a sketch or possibly a Daguerreotype photo he obtained that was made a few years earlier. It can be seen that Covington area was a rural residential area, compared to the much more congested and developed city of Cincinnati. The photo also confronts the issue of slavery, showing two white children meeting with an African American slave.  Source: The Taft Museum, Cincinnati, OH.

Riverboats (Flatboats, Keelboats & Steamboats)

The Ohio River was the super highway for settlers to enter the Ohio Valley on flatboats in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The difficulty with these boats is that they basically were limited to traveling downstream. The boats would be taken apart and the lumber sold when they reached New Orleans, or another earlier destination, which could provide funds for settlers to h homestead. Keelboats allowed the ability to travel upstream, but it could take several months to do so. Such boats measured about 15 wide, from 50 to 80 feet long and the bottom of the boat, or keel, had was curved in front and back. It usually required four men on each corner with oars or setting poles, which wer used to push off against the bottom of the river. Hence, it was occasionally called a poleboat. Its direction was controlled by another man with a large pivoted oar that acted as a rudder, often on top of a cabin on the boat. The invention of steamboats, by Robert Fulton in 1807, dramatically changed river transportation and trade. It allowed these boats to travel upstream in much better accommodations against strong currents and cut the time to travel between Cincinnati and New Orleans in less than a month. The first steamboat built by Fulton that traveled on the Ohio River was the New Orleans in 1812. The development of steamboats was rapid afterwards. By the 1820s Cincinnati became a major boat builder and ultimately built about one-third of all such boats. Most of this boat construction was just east of Cincinnati in the towns of Fulton and Columbia. Riverboats allowed settlers to descend upon the Ohio Valley, dramatically increasing Cincinnati's population from 46,338 in 1840, to 115,435 by 1850. In contrast, the population of Covington was only 2,026 in 1840, but jumped to 9,498 by 1850. Since Cincinnati's riverfront allowed for a public landing and its water was deeper than river frontage on the Kentucky side, this largely explains why it grew much faster than Covington or Newport. Another attribute that helped spur settlement in Cincinnati is that its riverfront and hillside had a southern exposure across the unobstructed river. This provided more warmth from sunlight for Cincinnati, which was beneficial during the colder weather that lasted several months each year, than for the cities across the river in Kentucky.

Below is a series of important panoramic photos taken on September 24, 1848, by Charles H. Fontayne and William Southgate Porter from a rooftop in Newport, KY. They utilized the first photographic process known as daguerreotype using a highly polished slivered copper plate and mercury. It is a series of eight 8x10-inch panels taken some 1,500 feet across the Ohio River showing approximately 2-miles of shoreline and about 40 steamboats. It created the first  photos of: the Cincinnati waterfront, steamboats, a railroad terminal and of freed slaves. It is also the earliest surviving panorama of any American city. These photographs had deteriorated, but were restored by an elaborate and extensive process undertaken by Eastman Kodak in the late 1900s. Daguerreotype photos could feature incredible detail, as can be seen by enlarging any of the three images under the framed panorama. Fontayne and Porter began with a studio in Baltimore around 1845 and then moved to Cincinnati in 1848. The two men dissolved their partnership in the mid-1850s, with Fontayne moving to different cities thereafter. On the other hand, Porter remained in the Cincinnati area and established a studio in Covington from 1873 to as late a 1887. 

1848. Above, a Daguerreotype View of Cincinnati by Fontayne and Porter from Newport, KY. Below are enlargements of the first four panels on the first row and the last four panels on the second row. Source: Courtesy of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

The Forty-Eighters

Like several other American cities, Cincinnati, as well as Covington, received a major boost in their populations when the revolutions of 1848 were sweeping across Europe. In the German states, the “Forty-Eighters” favored unification of the German people, a more democratic government, and guarantees for human rights. Many Forty-Eighters were socially respected, politically active, wealthy, and well-educated.  After the 1848 revolution failed, Forty-Eighters in fear for their lives fled to other countries. Approximately 30,000 emigrants from various German states settled in the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area. In doing so, they established a German community that attracted many tens of thousands of other Germans to the Cincinnati area in the coming decades.

Railroads Extend Westward

The completion of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad line to Cincinnati in the mid-1850s facilitated a westward movement of Americans living in the east as well as for foreign born immigrants, including many Germans. The advent of the railroads did not cause the immediate end of steamboat traffic. The use of these boats declined, but continued through the 1800s. However, all across the country, the expansion of U.S. railroads beginning in the later half of the nineteenth century, made it easier for Americans to relocate, and for immigrants landing at ports on the East Coast to settle in places further west. Trains also greatly increased trade and commerce, and allowed a burgeoning city like Cincinnati and an area like Northern Kentucky to experience rapid growth.

Dissolving The Western Baptist Theological Institute

In 1855, the trustees of the Western Baptist Theological (WBT) Institute were unable to resolve disagreements over slavery and dissolved the Institute.  The property that had belonged to the Institute was subdivided. One of the buildings was used as a hospital during the Civil War and another building was sold to what became St. Elizabeth Hospital for many years. Some of the land was also used for the Linden Grove Cemetery and other parts of it were created into subdivisions and divided into lots. More specifically, the parcel that became used by the brewery was part of what was known as the WBT Institute’s Third Subdivision.

Area Breweries Before the Civil War

Due to the large influx in Germans in Cincinnati during the middle of the nineteenth century,  there was a significant growth in the city's brewing industry. The number of breweries in Cincinnati grew from seven in 1850 to 25 by 1855, and by 1860 there were 36. The population of Covington was only about one tenth in size to Cincinnati, but it had several breweries by 1861, and there was one brewery in the adjoining city of Newport, KY. Specific Northern Kentucky (NKY) breweries and their ownerships are mentioned in Section 1A. They are also identified by numbers on a map located in Time Period 1 - The Brewery Beginnings.

At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, there was a concern that brewery operations in Covington would be threatened by a possible Confederate invasion. As a result, most brewery operations in Covington and Newport were suspended around 1862, even though the number of breweries operating on the other side of the Ohio River in Cincinnati were not affected. The curtailment of most brewing operations in Covington for a few years was perceived an an opportunity for at least a couple other breweries to open after the war between the states ended.


The Civil War In  Northern Kentucky

Before and in the early years of the Civil War, Northern Kentucky became an important part of the Underground Railroad, which provided assistance to slaves escaping to freedom into Ohio and other northern states. Even though the City of Cincinnati allowed bounty hunters to return slaves to their owners, once the slaves were above the city limits and north of what became known as Liberty Street, they obtained their freedom and liberty. Some 400 freed slaves settled above Liberty Street. An important abolitionist, Harriet Beecher Stowe, had moved to Cincinnati by 1832, and her experiences and observations involving unconscionable conditions involving African Americans motivated her to write Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1850. This book helped motivate sentiment in the North against slavery. The number of slaves in Kentucky varied a great deal from county to county, but there were comparatively fewer slaves in Kenton County than in other counties. In 1863 the "Underground" railroad ceased, as operations became "above-ground" as part of Union efforts against the Confederacy.


At the onset of the Civil War when the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, Kentucky was a neutral state. The Confederate States Army (CSA) began activities in the early years of the war in Kentucky with hopes that it would attract more men and support for their cause, and turn Kentucky into a Confederate state. However, the CSA had military setbacks in Kentucky in the beginning of the war. This was due to the success of an Indiana German Regiment at Rowlett's Station, comprised of two companies of German speaking infantry from Cincinnati. Additionally, the German Ohio 9th Ohio Regiment at the Battle Mill Springs provided a Union victory in early 1862.


However, in July of 1862, Colonel John Hunt Morgan began raids into Kentucky with a force of 900 men that were successful in capturing 1,200 Union forces, and created considerable fear and concern, especially in Northern Kentucky and Ohio. In August 1862, General Kirby Smith invaded Kentucky from Tennessee with a Confederate force of 15,000 men and captured Frankfort, Lexington and Marysville. General Henry Heth was then sent north with 8,000 men threatening Cincinnati.


To protect against a possible invasion from the Confederacy through Cincinnati, fortifications were made. The area around Covington and Newport included a 10-mile semi-circle of defense including artillery units and the areas in front of the batteries were cleared. This "ring" is shown in the map below. Union General Lew Wallace was placed in charge of defending this aggression with 25,000 Federal Troops. In addition, three militia regiments from Cincinnati joined his troops. Two of these, the Ohio 6th and 8th infantry, consisted of Germans from the Over-the-Rhine area. By September 10, 1862, there were 45,000 Militia and 15,000 "squirrel hunters" / volunteers added to the Union forces, creating a total force of 85,000 protecting Cincinnati. In addition, there were Union gunboats on the Ohio River and a flotilla of armed vessels on the river in front of Cincinnati - a city of 160,000 at that time. Without a completed bridge over the river, creating a pontoon bridge to cross the river would have further complicated any invasion into Cincinnati by Confederate troops. Heth advanced as far as Fort Mitchell on September 10, 1862. After after surveying the situation he realized he was heavily outnumbered (by 10 to 1). Consequently, he prudently decided to withdraw on September 12th. This  was as close as the Cincinnati area ever came to a Civil War battle. And, it was the furthest north major forces of the CSA ever ventured, even though there were some more minor skirmishes. For instance,  John Hunt, who had become a General in late 1862, carried out raids near Northern Kentucky and even crossed the river into Ohio for a couple of years afterwards. Even so, his raids were not actually authorized by his superiors, never involved any major victories and his group was considered by some as bandits.

Nearly all German born American men supported the Union, and some 20,000 served from Ohio. Due to their strong conviction for human equality, some 200,000 natural-born Germans and 250,000 first generation Germans fought for the Union Army during the Civil War. This comprised about 10% of the entire army. In contrast, there were only a few hundred Confederate soldiers with German ancestry - mostly 3rd and 4th generations. A majority of Covington residents, and particularly those with German ancestry, also supported the Union. However, there were men from Kentucky region that were sympathetic to the Confederacy and that served in the CSA. One of them was Colonel John Leather Sandford, the son of Cassisus Sandford and the grandson of General Thomas Sandford.

1848. Lithograph of Cincinnati from Covington, by E. Whitefield, center section. Please note that in addition to the steamboats, flatboats were still common. For the complete lithograph click here.

The Suspension Bridge

In 1856, work began on a bridge between Cincinnati and Covington. It was not the first effort to build such a bridge, as an unsuccessful attempt to do so was made as early as 1830.  The need for a bridge was due to river congestion caused by steamboat traffic making it difficult for barges and ferries to cross the river between Cincinnati and Covington, as shown by the image on the right. The growth of these cities, particularly Covington, was stymied by the obviously pressing need to have a bridge and direct connection across the Ohio River between the noted cities.

Besides the noted lithograph, please also refer to the daguerreotype photo of steamboats along the Cincinnati waterfront above.  In 1852, Cincinnati reported 8,000 riverboat landings for the year, amounting to an average of 22 boats per day. Cincinnati became a major shipyard, becoming the second largest inland port in America. The name for the bridge used both city names, and the city name that was used first usually depended upon what side of the river someone lived. However, the structure was only partly built when the Civil War began in 1861. The war delayed the completion of the bridge, but it was ultimately finished in December, 1866. It was the largest "Suspension Bridge" in the world at that time, spanning 1,057 feet, and was the first bridge to cross the Ohio River. It was designed by John A. Roebling, a German-born civil engineer who also spearheaded the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge now carries his name.


Formerly Cincinnati-Covington Suspension Bridge

& the Ohio Bridge.

Renamed the John A. Roebling Bridge. 

Roebling Suspension Bridge: View From Covington, KY towards Cincinnati, OH.

There was much anticipation that the completion of the bridge would help spur economic growth in Covington...and it did. Important national transformations were taking place in the aftermath of The Civil War, as the country entered into the Reconstruction Era. Cincinnati named itself as the “gateway to the south,” a title also bestowed upon Covington. Both cities were poised to benefit and grow economically during this era. Given the economic impact of increased trade between the South and the Cincinnati-Covington area, it may not have been a coincidence that Julius Deglow established a brewery in 1866, which became the Bavarian Brewery a few years later, around the same time as the completion of the Suspension Bridge. The spark for the Brewery’s creation may have been at least in part due to the anticipation over the future benefits of this new bridge. Overall, 1866 was a symbolic year for the Cincinnati area’s newfound growth and potential: it was the year that the Cincinnati Red Stockings baseball team was organized. The Red Stockings became the country’s first professional baseball team in 1869. Later, the team was renamed the Redlegs and is now simply known as the Cincinnati Reds.  By 1870, the populations of Covington and Cincinnati were 24,505 and 216,239, respectively. Even though Cincinnati area was still growing, America’s westward expansion caused even stronger growth in other cities, such as Chicago and St. Louis, resulting in a drop in Cincinnati’s size to the 8th most populist city by 1880.

The background photo is an enlargement of a portion of the lithograph referenced above by E. Whitefield in 1848. 

Trademark from Tray B in B.png

The Historic and Former
Bavarian Brewery

In Covington, Kentucky