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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 at the confluence of the Ohio and Licking Rivers, known as The Point. It was just east of General Sandford’s original land holdings. Kennedy 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. It was on this land that 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 L. 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, Cincinnati's population 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 L. Ludlow, the son of Israel Ludlow who was one of the founders of Cincinnati in 1788. 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, Israel L. 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 flatboats would be taken apart and the lumber sold when they reached New Orleans, or another earlier destination, which could provide funds for settlers to 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 were 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 steamboat 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 the 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.