Fern Creek History

Fern Creek History

The area of southeastern Jefferson County known as Fern Creek was named for the local stream along which wild ferns once grew in abundance.

Fern Creek had it’s beginning in the 1780’s at the convergence of the Guthrie, Shepherd, and Schaeffer land grants.  It expands from Watterson Trail on the north, south to the Bullitt County line, east to the Jeffersontown city limits, and west to the Highview Fire Protection District line. It encompasses the communities of Fairmount, Ashville, Hays Springs and contains fifty-five square miles. This area is approximately twelve miles from the Jefferson County Courthouse in Louisville.

The log home at 7602 Bardstown Rd. was built in 1789 and is the oldest home still in existence in Fern Creek. It was originally a one room log house situated on land granted to Colonel William Fleming. By 1816 the home was owned by William Johnson. 

The earliest thoroughfare in the area was the Stage Road that connected Bardstown and Louisville. In 1831, the Kentucky Legislature chartered the Bardstown-Louisville Turnpike Co. to build a toll road that was completed July 1, 1838, at a cost of $203,598. One of the toll gates was placed at Fern Creek. This 29-mile turnpike later became part of Highway 31E, also known as the Jackson Highway. The community was initially known as Stringtown, because of its strung-out appearance along the main road. Residents changed it to Fern Creek in the 1870’s after being inspired by a fern-lined stream located beside the original post office. 

In June 1908, the interurban railway line to Fern creek was opened, with the loop located at the junction of Bardstown and Fern Creek Roads. It was discontinued in December 1933 and replaced by the Blue Motor Coach bus line.

Pioneer families who settled in the Fern Creek area cleared the land, which became well known for its orchards, strawberries and vegetables. This agricultural area’s proximity to Louisville provided good markets for these products. Residents were victims of both armies who passed through during the Civil War. The Jefferson County Fair Co. was organized and incorporated in 1900. The Fairground was located 0ne-fourth mile from the Bardstown Pike on Fairground Road. It contained a track for horse and dog racing, exhibitions of livestock, agricultural products, home economics, arts and crafts display, and other things typical of a county fair. The fairground closed in 1928. 

Some of the well-known places in Fern Creek include Hayes Springs, a watering station for travelers from points south to Louisville, and the Nicholson hotel originally known as Fruitland farm. This residence was built the Civil War veteran Colonel Noah Cartwright near the intersection of Bardstown in Ferndale Roads.  Later, fine home cooked meals were served in Oman overnight accommodations provided there until it’s closing in 1962 it was frequented by many celebrities who visited Louisville and specially at Kentucky Derby time. 

The first record of a school is a log cabin built in 1792 and another early school was located at a stage coach stop on property now owned by Dr. Robert Seybold. It was an operation from 1858 to 1897. The Morrison Academy was a private school located at Bardstown in Seatonville Road’s in the home of William Morrison. In 1923, land was donated by S.A. Stivers as a site for a new two-year Fern Creek School, and in 1925, it became a four-year high school. The community raised funds for the four-room building, which became the consolidated elementary and high school. A new high school building was completed in 1941.

Since the completion of the Gene Snyder Freeway in 1987, Fern Creek has experienced rapid growth, with thriving businesses, new shopping centers, and many new homes in the area where the freeway crosses Bardstown Road. Even though several attempts have been made for incorporation, Fern Creek remains an unincorporated town.

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This article was taken from The Encyclopedia of Louisville, Copyright 2001 by The University Press of Kentucky, edited by John Kleber, p. cm. It was written by members of The Fern Creek Woman’s Club listed below.

Rosetta Stasel Melton, Iris Biggs Peers, Doris Medcalf Thompson, Mary Rush McCaulley, Phyllis Glover Bunnell

Historical Photos