OTTER CREEK BAPTIST CHURCH
And The Bygone Town of Garnettsville in Meade County, Kentucky
by G. Kempf
Going west, off Dixie Highway (31W), just north of Muldraugh, on Highway 1638, the now extinct town of Garnettsville would have been just east of the bridge that crosses Otter Creek. The present highway now passes over part of what once was this prosperous town that boasted a waterwheel mill, churches, stores, numerous residences, a “college”, and numerous businesses associated with an agricultural community. The town exists no more. It was consumed by the expansion of Fort Knox in 1942. Nothing remains of the town but memories within just a few.
Garnettsville, located in the hills along the banks of Otter Creek, was one of the early settlements in Meade County. It was founded by James Garnett in 1792. By the early 1800's Garnettsville was a thriving village. There was a three-story water-powered mill, kept busy grinding grain brought by the prosperous farmers in the area. In 1939, the Otter Creek Mill had been in continuous operation since 1808. Frank Wilkerson had a small mill powered by a gasoline engine at a later time.There was a town saloon, churches, and Salem College. A one-room elementary school building was erected on a hill overlooking the town; and the drinking water came from a spring in the "hollow". Seventy pupils were in the 1898 census, and forth-six were enrolled in 1934.
The village was a stagecoach stop on the road from Hardinsburg to Louisville. "The mail came to Garnettsville before the railroad came through Muldraugh", stated Mr. C.L. Withers whose proof comes from letters in his possession written to his great-grandmother, who lived nearby.In 1813 Otter Creek Baptist Church was gathered, and requested to be in the Salem Association. Some early members from the Otter Creek Baptist Church were: Henry Johns, Thomas McCarty, Thompson Kendall, and Shadrack Brown.
Eliza Boone, Enoch's daughter, and Benjamin Lewis Withers were married on July 18, 1820 by Reverend Shadrack Brown, who was pastor of the Otter Creek Baptist Church of Garnettsville.Some of the early families that lived in Garnettsville were: George Howard, who served as a magistrate, C.H. Lane, George Hutchens, John A. Lewis, and Nancy Lusk, a widow, and her family. Benjamin Walker was the doctor in Garnettsville. Harrison Randall and Ed Muenier were carpenters, and Charles Patton was the blacksmith.
Reverend James Nall taught school on Otter Creek before his marriage to Enoch Boone's daughter in 1822. Education remained important to the residents of Garnettsville. One of the teachers was Miss Beulah Board, daughter of Shell Board of Ekron, who said he would "take her from the farm to the school by horse and buggy". At times when it was so cold, they would wrap hot bricks to place at their feet to help keep from freezing. Other teachers were: Elizabeth Lewis, daughter of Alma and Harry Lewis; Mr. Hickerson, Mary Knott Brown, and Mrs. Edith Withers Dugan, mother of C.L. Withers of Garrett.In 1942, the Government expanded Fort Knox to include the town properties of Garnettsville. At this time, the town had 300 residents. Garnettsville was a voting precinct until 1940. Some of the families who were forced to leave their homes were: Mrs. Pink Aikin, Sam Aikin, Tom and Ed Watts, Frank Hunt, the Harry Lewis family, Frank Wilkerson, the Wright's, Higbee's, Hunt's, and the Bertlekamp family, Richard Beeler, John Harper, Joe Seelye, Orvil Marcum, the Nelson's, and the Umensitters. On October 7, 1941, the school building and lot were sold to the Government for $1,065.
Richard Baxter Beeler married Ella Mae Wilkerson in 1885 and moved to Garnettsville in 1919 after the Government purchased their land at Stithton in 1919 for the establishment of the military training installation called Camp Knox that would be renamed Fort Knox in the latter 1930's. Fort Knox would expand in 1942 and many who were displaced in 1918-19 were displaced a second time. Dr. Pusey Beeler, brother of Richard, was a dentist and his office was adjacent to the Garnettsville Elementary School.
In the summer of 1952 former residents, relatives, and friends gathered at the Garnettsville Cemetery to exchange reminiscences of their former hometown. The cemetery was not taken for the expansion of Fort Knox. They organized the Garnettsville Cemetery Association and have been holding "homecomings" annually within this still active cemetery.
Nothing remains of this once prosperous town but the cemetery that is sit still active and has within the remains of many one-time residents of the town and some of the earliest settlers in the area.
It can be seen that the front of the church has two doors. At one time in the past most Baptist Churches had two doors as women would enter through one door and men through the other. Men and women would sit on opposite sides of the church. At the time this photograph was taken this custom had become outdated, but the two separate doors remained. Some newer churches, built after the custom became outdated, maintained the two doors just to keep the architectural tradition.The History of Fort Knox, by G. Kempf – 1991 has an entire chapter on Garnettsville with numerous maps and photographs. The book is available in the Ancestral Trails Historical Society bookstore. The book addresses all the towns consumed by the establishment of Fort Knox and its later expansion.