I con­fess to a weak­ness, bor­der­ing on obses­sion, for place names.  I search for them, col­lect them and spend hours try­ing to locate them.  Even a small area such as Clark County offers a near­ly inex­haustible sup­ply.  The east­ern edge of the coun­ty has these gems: Rabbit Town, Right Angle, Trapp, Log Lick, Lulbegrud, Indian Old Fields, Red Bridge, Cotton Branch, Crowe Ridge, Pharis Hill, Sewell’s Shop, Pilot View, Thomson Station, Oil Springs, and Kiddville.  You can find each of these on a 1926 coun­ty map.  (The library and muse­um have copies.)

Maps con­ve­nient­ly pro­vide the loca­tion of named places.  However, many of the place names I encounter pop up in old doc­u­ments that offer few clues to their loca­tion.  These often require lengthy inves­ti­ga­tion to pin down.  Here are a few of the places I’m still try­ing to find:

Logan’s Lick.  Presumably so called after some­one named Logan, prob­a­bly in the area of today’s Logan’s Lick Road.  Hugh and William were ear­ly res­i­dents in Clark County, but there is no evi­dence tying them to this lick.

The Cane Brake.  Although large areas of the coun­ty were once cov­ered in cane­brakes, this par­tic­u­lar one was sit­u­at­ed not far from Winchester on Cane Brake Road (now Irvine Road).

Jones Race Paths.  Horse races were held here from 1798 to 1800.  Located some­where near Becknerville; prob­a­bly named for one Richard Jones.

Big Stamp.  A place where buf­fa­lo gath­ered and stomped the ground.  Probably a salt lick.  Located some­where on Four Mile Road (now Muddy Creek Road).

Log Meetinghouse.  This old log church, men­tioned in an 1818 road order, was locat­ed in the Log Lick-Vienna area.  Refers to the Baptist con­gre­ga­tion that formed there in 1804 with Rev. James Quisenberry pre­sid­ing.  It may have been very near the present Log Lick Christian Church; the Baptists and Christians shared a church build­ing in the 1800s.

The Ponds.  Mentioned in a court order alter­ing the road from “the Ponds to Germantown.”  This appears to refer to present-day Jones Nursery Road.  Germantown was near its inter­sec­tion with Athens-Boonesboro Road.  The Ponds—also called Hockaday’s pond(s)—would have been on Combs Ferry Road near Becknerville. 

Free Frank’s place.  Frank was one of the enslaved per­sons owned by Robert Lewis, who died in 1799.  His will pro­vid­ed for the eman­ci­pa­tion of his slaves and their use of 66 acres of land he owned in Clark County.  In 1801 the coun­ty court eman­ci­pat­ed Frank, Chloe, and Phillis.  “Frank’s place” was in the Lower Howard’s Creek area, a bit above or below the reser­voir.  He was list­ed as a free black man in the 1810 and 1820 censuses.

The Wolf Pen.  In 1795 the coun­ty court appoint­ed William Cotton over­seer of a road from the Kentucky River “to one Mile below the wolf pen.”  Although “wolf pen” sounds like a place to keep your pet wolf, it was actu­al­ly a type of wolf trap.

Before the arrival of Europeans, American Indians coex­ist­ed peace­ful­ly with wolves.  But farm­ers with live­stock, then as now, could not abide a wolf in the neigh­bor­hood, and they were relent­less­ly destroyed.  Kentucky offered a boun­ty for killing wolves.  In order to claim the reward, a per­son had to present the wolf’s head to a coun­ty mag­is­trate and swear an oath that they had killed it.  For obvi­ous rea­sons, the mag­is­trate was required to have the wolf’s head destroyed in his presence.

Wolves were dif­fi­cult to take in steel traps, so wolf pens were com­mon­ly used.  These resem­bled small, roof­less log cab­ins with four walls lean­ing in.  A par­tial­ly devoured sheep car­cass placed inside attract­ed the wolf who could clam­ber up the side and enter through the open top but could not get out.

These pens must have been very com­mon in ear­ly times.  Examination of cur­rent Kentucky place names reveals 36 Wolfpen Branches, 4 Wolfpen Creeks, and 1 Wolfpen Run.  There are 5 Wolfpen Hollows and 1 Wolfpen School. 

James Still, one of Kentucky’s most beloved writ­ers, lived in a log house between Wolfpen Creek and Dead Mare Branch in Knott County.  He pub­lished The Wolfpen Poems in 1986 and The Wolfpen Notebooks in 1991.

The well-known Wolf Pen Mill is locat­ed on Wolf Pen Branch in Jefferson County.  The stream was the site of a grist­mill in the ear­ly 1800s.  The present mill there was erect­ed in 1875.  Twenty years ago, Louisville native and phil­an­thropist, Sallie Bingham, pur­chased the mill prop­er­ty and donat­ed it to the con­ser­va­tion non-prof­it, River Fields.  Ms. Bingham had the pic­turesque mill restored to work­ing order by mas­ter mill­wright, Ben Hassett.

Wolf Pen Mill (Photo by Dr. Fred E. Coy Jr.)
Wolf Pen Mill (Photo by Dr. Fred E. Coy Jr.)

Although hunt­ed to the brink of extinc­tion, today the wolf is mak­ing a come­back.  But as its pop­u­la­tion increas­es, so do the con­flicts with humans.  The emo­tion­al debate over wolf con­trol will like­ly con­tin­ue for a long time to come.

I have been writ­ing about local place names since 2005.  This work is pub­lished in a series of books called Where In The World? Historic Places in Clark County, Kentucky.

  • Harry is a Mt. Sterling native who has lived in Clark County since1999. He has a pas­sion for the past and has researched and writ­ten exten­sive­ly about the his­to­ry of this area.