By Elizabeth Morrow Cooley
Written in 1946
Written in 1946
This condensed history is reprinted here with the permission of the director of the Family History Center in Norwood, Ohio, Alma Ryan. It is intended for the free use of researchers and not to be sold.
Among the early settlers of the region where Alexandria now stands were the Spilmans, who came from Fairfax and King George Counties in Virginia via the Ohio River; the Morins from Culpepper County, Virginia who came down the Ohio landing at Limestone (Maysville) in the fall of 1790; the Bakers of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania; the Reileys of Cecil County, Maryland and Washington County Pennsylvania; the Whites of Orange County, Virginia; the Thatchers; the Shaws from Virginia and the Bealls. Heads of these pioneer families were Frank and James Spilman, Conyers and Jacob White, Benjamin Beall, Daniel Thatcher, Edward Morin, John Reiley, John Baker, and John, James, David, and Robert Shaw.
Frank Spilman is said to have given this settlement the name of Alexandria as early as 1793 having come with his family from Alexandria, Virginia. The first written record found referring to the town, is in the old records of the Alexandria Baptist Church bearing the date of 1820. In 1828 Frank Spilman left in his will "twelve acres to be reserved as a site for the town of Alexandria". On February 22, 1834 the State Legislature incorporated the town of Alexandria.
The first log cabin built by Frank Spilman stood in front of the old cemetery adjacent to the First Baptist Church on the Alexandria Pike in the heart of town. Another log cabin built by members of the Spilman family was on the old state road about a half mile west of the town. This old home last owned by members of the family of Marshall Keiser and is wife Mary Spilman, was destroyed by fire about 1940.
The old Christian Church, brick in structure, stood on the lot next door to the present Evangelical and Reformed Church on West Main Street. The old Lutheran Church, on property given by Benjamin D Beall, stood at the southeast end of Jefferson Street. The Methodist Episcopal Church North was erected in 1867 on Alexandria Pike on property that had belonged to the Spilman and White families. It was razed in 1935. The Griffey Hotel with its long veranda facing across the valley, stood on West Main Street west of Jefferson. It was a very popular place in the early days of Alexandria as the county seat. It was run by William Griffey and his wife, Dorinda Brown. On court days a crowd would assemble there to feast on the wonderful home cooking of Dorinda Griffey whose "cornbread was better than cake".
The oldest place still standing near the heart of the town, is the old log cabin built by Daniel Thatcher. It is now covered with clapboards and is opposite the Campbell County High School. It was owned by members of his family until 1934 when William Thatcher died. Later Daniel built another log cabin across the road from his first one and slightly to the north. At this farm which he called "High View Farm", he had a distillery, the mash of which he fed to his cattle and pigs. Here Daniel lived until his death in 1813. He gave his first cabin to his son, Daniel Allen Thatcher and his wife, Eliza Reiley. Today this farm, part of the original purchased by Daniel in 1806, is owned by Jack Thatcher.
In the early days of the life of town there were three churches; the Baptist, the Methodist, and the Christian. On April 17, 1820, a number of persons met at the home of William DeCoursey to form a Baptist Church. The first minister was Rev. Absalom Graves. The first Methodist Church was built of logs and on William Reiley’s property. The minister of the Christian Church challenged the minister of the Methodist Church to a debate on the correct method of baptism. The debate went on for three weeks and proved to be a draw. During this time, however, all the chickens and turkeys in the county were eaten, so they finally decided to go home and each baptize in his own way.
The second oldest road established in Kentucky was the Old State Road from Newport to Winchester through Alexandria, Falmouth, Cynthiana, and Paris. It was established by an act of the Legislature in 1836. In 1846 commissioners for this road were named; Henry E Spilman, William Griffey, Benjamin D Beall, Fred Brown, and John Thomas. It was over this Old State Road to Lexington that the stagecoaches made their colorful and adventuresome trips for years. Toll gates were setup on the Alexandria Pike, the Licking Pike, and Persimmon Grove Pike. The last of these closed down in 1922.
The first courts met at Wilmington, on the Licking, 22 miles from Newport, but in 1827 a law was passed fixing it at Visalia. In 1840 it was moved to Newport as it was the center of the county. That same year Kenton County was formed out of part of Campbell County, and the "center" idea prevailed and Alexandria became the county seat. The construction of the county courthouse began in 1840, made out of red brick which was burned at the brick kiln owned by the Spilman family. The Rev. James Jolly, minister of the Alexandria Baptist Church is said to have done most of the work himself, having been a mason and brick layer by trade. The first term of the County Court was held in the old brick Baptist Church starting Monday, May 25, 1840. The first court held in the courthouse was on December 26, 1842. On November 14, 1845, the heirs of Frank and Rebecca Spilman deeded the courthouse property to the town of Alexandria.
The Alexandria Fair is an old institution. The Agricultural Society of Campbell County was organized in 1856 for the benefit of the farmer. Once a year the farmer was able to display his stock and farm produce at the Fair. Many sales and exchanges were made, premiums were given for the best animals, and all handiwork made by the housewives. From the Fair, the band went to the homes of some of the officials of the Fair and serenaded them. Luncheon parties and dances were held. The first Alexandria Fair was held at the fair grounds October 14, 15, 16, and 17, 1856. Among the first officers of the Agricultural Society were, George W Reiley, Richard Tarvin Baker, Edward Morin, Alexander Caldwell, Edward Spilman, James Shaw, Charles Muran, and H K Rachfo