A Look Back at Wolf Creek

The longest Whipple Murphy Truss Bridge in Kentucky at one time was in Wolf Creek.

Part 1

Recently, I re-read a short memoir by a cousin, Belva Allen, who was born and raised in Wolf Creek, Kentucky and I remembered the stories I’ve been told about Wolf Creek over the years. So, I thought I might share some of Belva’s and my stories, many of which coincide, and some of my own experiences.But first, here is a little history. Wolf Creek, Kentucky was the first permanent settlement in Meade County, the 67th county to be formed by the Kentucky legislature. The one-time Ohio River port and manufacturing town is located some 13 miles northwest of the county seat of Brandenburg and was first settled by Euro-Americans in the last quarter of the 18th century. The creek was christened, according to tradition, because wolves would gather there in the spring to feed on young buffalo along a trace to the Ohio River, a common occurrence, therefore giving the town the name of Wolf Creek. Water was, and is, a defining feature in Wolf Creek. It was once a major shipping port in the county. The Old Southland Boat Transportation Company shipped cattle and hogs to Louisville. Passengers also rode the boat and sometimes people were taken to the hospitals in Louisville by the boat.

 A post office was established in Wolf Creek in 1862 and continued in service until 1967. Post offices played a pivotal role in rural Kentucky communities, acting as the hub of a place. A post office, school, churches and residential homes gave structure to a town. John H. Trent was the first postmaster at Wolf Creek, a position he held for 20 years. The Trent family arrived in Meade County during the late 18th century and settled in the rich bottom land along the Ohio River. Mr. Trent was a justice of the peace and a merchant, in addition to postmaster. He and his wife, Louisa raised eight children in Wolf Creek, Mr. Trent’s tenure as a postmaster went unmatched until 1921 when Joe R. Bennett, a salesman, took on the role of postmaster, continuing in that role until 1949. Wolf Creek had a noteworthy structure at one point as well, the longest Whipple Murphy Truss Bridge in Kentucky. Built in 1885 by the Smith Bridge Company of Toledo, Ohio, the distinctive bridge was only six of the type constructed statewide. In 1985, an overloaded truck collapsed while crossing the bridge, tearing out the timber decking and stringers, as well as three floor beams. That sounded the death knell of this bridge. Although the bridge was replaced, it was never the same. The closure of many rural post offices in Kentucky coincided with school consolidations and the loss of these cornerstones hastened the decline of many communities. There was a one room school at Beechland which was about a mile out of town.

Wolf Creek once consisted of two general stores, a Methodist Church, a Baptist Church, and about 20 homes. The post office was located in the general store belonging to Joe Bennett.

All of my father’s family, the Singletons and the Allens, were from Wolf Creek and they all lived there until 1961 when my grandparents, my father, my mother and I moved to Brandenburg. I was only four months old at the time. My grandmother, Hazel Singleton, married at 14, had a baby at 15, and started her teaching career in the one-room school at Beechland near Wolf Creek. While juggling a family and teaching, she managed to attend classes on weekends and in the summer and obtained a degree in teaching from Nazareth College in Louisville, Kentucky. My grandmother began teaching first grade at Brandenburg Central Elementary, so she wanted to move to Brandenburg. From the things she told me, I am pretty positive she couldn’t wait to get off the farm and live in town! My great-grandfather, Charles Stanford “Tamo” Allen and my great-grandmother, Aurora Nell “Babe” Kendall Allen, owned two farms in Wolf Creek at the time of my birth. Babe’s brother, Roscoe, and her father, John Kendall, both died of tuberculosis. Roscoe was only 17 years old. Babe was never tested for tuberculosis but over 80 years later died of it at age 95. Babe’s grandfather, Elijah Chism, was a doctor and Babe inherited the farms through her mother, Celestia Ann Chism Kendall Goldman. Although it was during the depression years and everyone was poor, my grandmother told me that Stanford and Babe were the first people in Wolf Creek to own a car. In 1962, my great-grandfather, Stanford, died and by 1963, Babe had built a house next door to us in Brandenburg and moved off the farm. She rented her farms out for many years before she finally sold them. I think Babe missed living in Wolf Creek for a long time, but she eventually settled into life in Brandenburg. My Singleton great-grandmother, Mary Agnes Turner Singleton, left her home in Wolf Creek in the 1960’s (my great-grandfather, Doc Singleton, had died years before), and lived most of the time with her daughter, Bea Harpool and family in Sonora, Kentucky but also spent a lot of time staying with us. I know she stayed with us a lot of the time until I was able to go to school. Mammaw Singleton never indicated to me that she missed living in Wolf Creek. Belva Lee Allen was born on January 10, 1917. She was one of 12 children born to Robert Luther Allen and Essie Lee Bullock Allen. All of her siblings are now deceased. Their farm sat on the creek which flowed into the Ohio River. All of them worked hard on the farm. Belva said that the first time she worked in the fields, she thought it was great but then when she had to work in them all the time, she no longer thought so. But they always had plenty to eat and were more fortunate than some people.

In addition to farming crops to sell, her father took care of livestock and cut timber into logs to go to the sawmill. He did carpentry work on their home and for other people. From 1935 to 1936, he had a truck route from Wolf Creek to Louisville. He owned his own truck and hauled chickens, milk and whatever anyone wanted to ship or pick up to include furniture, sugar, beans, flour and medicine from the drugstore. Her mother had a large garden from which she canned everything. In those days, farmers’ wives cooked food and fed everyone, their families, the farmhands and pretty much anyone who showed up to eat! They also made sorghum, blackberry jam, peach and pear preserves, and apple butter. They made their own soap from using crackling from lard, a can of lye and water boiled in a big kettle. Her mother made all their clothes, bonnets, and also made beautiful quilts. It seems to me a farmer’s wife’s work was never done. I am positive I would not have been cut out to be a farmer’s wife! They ate chicken, squirrel and rabbit regularly and beef and pork occasionally. I can remember my grandfather, my sister and brother-in-law going squirrel hunting and my sister shot more squirrels than they did. Belva’s mother liked to fish so she would catch fish to cook for breakfast. She would fish at the hole at the head of the creek which was reported to be bottomless. My grandfather took me fishing many times there as a child. He told me nobody knew how deep the hole really was because nobody had ever been able to touch the bottom and that he had always heard there were cars and possibly bodies in there! I was in charge of catching the crayfish for bait. He was a wonderful man, but I guess he took a little delight in letting me get pinched a few times before he showed me how to pick them up behind their heads! Spring Cleaning was a major event. In addition to regular cleaning, it consisted of hanging the feather beds on the laundry lines to air. The corn shucks were emptied out of the mattresses and the muslin coverings washed and then replaced. All the wallpaper was torn off in the house and replaced with new wallpaper ordered from a catalog. I actually remember my grandmother and great-grandmother wallpapering both the houses on the farms belonging to my great-grandmother. I can still see them dragging those long strips of wallpaper through big buckets of glue and pasting them on the wall. It took a long time to get each strip just right on the wall. It looked like a total hassle to me and something I never wanted to do.

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