Bridgeport, a residential area near Frankfort, Kentucky, was once a thriving town with covered bridges, taverns, and a bustling general store. Today, only a few remnants remain of its vibrant past, as modern life blends with the historic structures. Founded in the 18th century by James Harrod, Bridgeport’s rich history encompasses land acquisitions, stagecoach lines, and the establishment of a post office. Though the town has transformed, it still carries echoes of its bygone era, offering a glimpse into Kentucky’s captivating past.
The community of Bridgeport is located about five miles from downtown Frankfort. Its name was derived from the two cover bridges which once spanned Armstrong’s Branch and South Benson Creek. The covered bridges are now gone and the taverns that have endured the test of time are now private residences. The general store and post office, once the local gathering place to met and reminisce of old times, has long been closed. Travel between Frankfort and Louisville on the “Big Road”, once so vital to the economy in Bridgeport is no more. Today, this once thriving little town is now a residential area where modern life intertwines among the few remaining structures of days gone by.
In the early summer of 1774, a party of hunters and explorers, led by James Harrod traveled into the wilderness of Kentucky. James Harrod was on his way to establish a settlement on the waters of the Salt River, which would later become known as Harrod’s Fort. In canoes the party left the Ohio and worked their way down the Kentucky River to the mouth of a large creek. Harrod, interested in learning of the surrounding countryside, sent Richard Benson, one of his best men to explore the creek. A few miles up the creek, Benson found a bottom land of thick forest. Following a natural route he located a smaller stream which fed back into the river. The next day, at the mouth of this stream, he met Harrod and his party who had continued up river. This large creek was immediately given the name Big Benson Creek and the smaller, Benson called Little Benson. Harrod’s party continued up stream, then overland to join in the building of the first settlement in Kentucky. Harrod returned to Little Benson Creek in the early spring of 1775; built a cabin and planted a crop of corn.
In 1780 Harrod was granted a preemption of 1400 acres for settlement. The beginning of land acquisitions in the Bridgeport area was first acquired by William Armstrong, who made an entry for 300 acres on the Kentucky River, March 6, 1781. Governor Benjamin Harrison of Virginia approved this grant on the Little Benson and the stream became known as Armstrong’s Branch. The second grant was issued to Sherman Nunnery on August 9, 1785 for 773 acres. The northern section of the Nunnery grant was to become the future village of Bridgeport. In the years to come additional grants were issued to: Thomas Paxton, which he later transferred to James McCoun, John Robinson, Lawrence Flournoy, George Slaughter and Benjamin Bennett. Many years later, the McCoun heirs sold to Abraham Bailey.
In 1810 the Franklin County Court passed a motion to build a bridge over the south fork of Benson Creek, just west of Richard Smart’s property. With a good bridge over the creek and a more substantial road, good transportation was needed. In 1817, James Johnson established the first stagecoach line in the community, known as the Old Line and the Opposition Line.
Bridgeport, because of its’ location, had become a rest stop for people on their way to Shelbyville and Louisville. In 1826, Frederick Robb, came from Maryland and settled in the area. Being somewhat of a land speculator, he sold tavern sites near the intersection to Morris Fox, John Jenkins and Shelah Bailey. A post office was established in 1837 and in 1848 an act incorporating Bridgeport as a town, not to exceed more than fifty acres. John Jenkins, Frederick Robb and H. Edwards were appointed trustees. Some of the leading citizens where chosen as magistrates and constables.
Burial Grounds in the Bridgeport Area
- North Benson Baptist Church Cemetery is located on highway 1005, about four miles past Choatville. The cemetery is on the church grounds to the front and left of the church. As of 1976, there were approximately 100 marked graves.
- Anderson Cemetery is a family burying ground with approximately 15 marked graves. The cemetery is located off Old U.S. 60 on Sheep Pen Road, one mile northwest of Benson Creek.
- The Armstrong Cemetery is located on the west side of Bridgeport about one-half mile north of U.S. 60. This oldest grave in this cemetery is that of John W. Armstrong, born 1822. There are approximately 10 marked graves in this cemetery.
- BAILEY GRAVEYARD, the final resting place of the Shelah Bailey family, one of Bridgeport’s first residents. It is located at Bridgeport .3 miles off U.S. 60 on Browns Lane. Six graves are marked and legible.
- Conner Cemetery is located at Little Benson Creek. Three graves are marked, one of whom is Thomas Paxton.
- Gorman- Duke Graveyard is located near Evergreen Baptist Church, where six marked graves were legible in 1976.
- Located one mile north of Devil’s Hollow Road on Highway 1005, four miles from Frankfort is the Grennan Cemetery, where members of the Moore and Hulette family are buried.
- Hale Graveyard, off Bryant-Benson Road, has one marked grave and others marked with fieldstones.
- Herndon Cemetery is on Sheep Pen Road just north of the Taylor Branch junction. Approximately 10 graves are marked.
- The JENKINS GRAVEYARD is the burial place of of members of one of the first families of the area. Located near the intersection of Bridgeport and Evergreen intersection.
- Kirk Cemetery is located on Old Sheep Pen Road with 10 graves marked.
- Lower Benson Burying Ground is on the Julian farm off U.S. 60. A large cemetery with 100 or more marked graves.
- The Mayhall family burying ground, one of Bridgeport’s pioneer families, is located on Browns Lane. Only two stones remain. Some inscriptions were recorded years ago.
- Located on Bryant-Benson Road is the Moore Graveyard. Only 5 graves are marked; however, other members of the Moore family are believed to be buried there.
- Another of Bridgeport’s pioneers’ families, the Parrent’s lie at rest in a small burying ground across from the Bridgeport Christian Church.
- In a field at the first bridge on Taylor Branch Road is located the Power-Hieatt Cemetery.
- The Redding Cemetery is located at the intersection of Botkin Road on Highway 1009. Graves of the Redding family are marked.
- Another cemetery located at the intersection is that of the Riddle family. Members of the Cardwell and Powers family are buried here.
- Riner Graveyard located near the intersection of Sheep Pen and Taylor Branch. The family of John Riner, who migrated to Franklin County from Virginia. About twenty-five graves are illegible.
- Roberts Graveyard back of Roberts Schoolhouse on Roberts Road is the final resting place of the Hulker and Truell families.
- Along the tracks, at the Benson Depot on Highway 1665 is the Robinson Graveyard. The Sargent Graveyard is located in the back of Broadview Manor Subdivision. Graves marked with fieldstones.
- Charles Smith, is buried in the Smith Cemetery north of Benson Creek on Sheep Pen Road.
- The Taylor Burying Ground is the burial place of the Revolutionary War soldier James Taylor and members of his family. It is located on Taylor Branch, near Bryant-Benson Road.
- Jeremiah Tracy, one of Franklin County pioneer families graveyard is located on Bridgeport-Benson Road north of U.S.60. Some graves not marked, although records have been kept.
- Tracy-Stockton Graveyard is located at Sheep Pen and Roberts Road. The Stockton family was another pioneer family of the Benson-Bridgeport area.
- The Wright Burying Ground is another burial site located at the southeast corner of the Julian farm at the junction of U.S. 60.
In May of 1860 fired destroyed the Old Fellows Hall and several homes in Bridgeport. The population was greatly depleted. Many of the citizens moved to Frankfort to re-establish their lives.
By September 1797 there were only 183 white men above the age of 21 south of the Kentucky River in Franklin County. This reflects the following land owners in the Benson Valley. John Adams, John Armstrong, Robert Armstrong, James Arnold, John Arnold, Benjamin Bennett, William Bennett, William Boyd, Peter Carr, Henry Gibson, William Hickman, William Lane, Thomas Logan, James McBrayer, John McBrayer, William McBrayer, Lapsley McBride, William McBride, John McCampbell, John Magill, John Major, Timothy Mayhall, John Reading, John Robinson, William Robinson, Thomas Smith, John Veness and Thomas Wilson.
Property Owners in Bridgeport-Benson Area – 1870
|Name||Place of Birth||Occupation||Date of Settlement||Acreage|
|Angraves, J.||Leiester, England||Butcher||1850||15|
|Armstrong, E.||Franklin County, KY||Farmer||1827||185|
|Bradley, T. B.||Franklin County, KY||Farmer||1839||60|
|Branch, A. B.||Shelby County, KY||Dairyman||1864||101|
|Brown, R.||Franklin County, KY||Farmer||1822||770|
|Crockett, Rebecca C.||Virginia||Farmer||1848||100|
|Crutcher, W. L.||Franklin County, KY||Farmer||1844||40|
|Hamilton, J. B.||Clark County, KY||Farmer||1851||213|
|Hawkins, J. R.||Spottsylvania County, VA||Physician||1851||200|
|Hulette, J. M.||Clark County, KY||Farmer||1842||118|
|Jenkins, J. W.||Franklin County, KY||Farmer||1837|
|Julian, Alex.||Franklin County, KY||Farmer||1000|
|Julian, Alex., Jr.||Franklin County, KY||Deputy Sheriff||1854|
|Julian, C. H.||Franklin County, KY||Cattle trader||1856||305|
|Jenkins, J. W.||Franklin County, KY||Farmer||1837||150|
|Moore, J. D.||Franklin County, KY||Farmer||1844||200|
|Moore, J. P.||Franklin County, KY||Farmer||1835||76|
|O’Connell, J. J.||Franklin County, KY||Machinist||1851|
|Parrent, C. H.||Franklin County, KY||Teacher||1842|
|Parrent, Joseph, Sr.||Franklin County, KY||Farmer||1818||160|
|Parrent, T.||Franklin County, KY||Merchant||1848||Lot|
|Pattie, P. R.||Franklin County, KY||Farmer||1821||250|
|Pryor, J. P.||Lauderdale County, AL||Journalist||1871||311|
|Roberts, P. H.||Franklin County, KY||Farmer||1844||80|
|Robinson, J. O.||Palestine, Texas||Student||1871|
|Rodgers, B. F.||Scott County, KY||Farmer||1850|
|Riner, M. A.||Franklin County, KY||Farmer||1837||105|
|Samuels, R. M.||Mercer County, KY||Farmer||1860||10|
|Shoush, J. H.||Montgomery County, KY||Carpenter||1852||92|
|Staten, Joe T.||Trimble County, KY||Dairyman||1876||103|
|Stockton, J. P.||Franklin County, KY||Carpenter||1821||280|
|Sudduth, Geo.||Franklin County, KY||Farmer||1827||152|
|Suttles, J. U.||Oldham County, KY||Farmer||1864||21|
|Taylor, W. F.||Franklin County, KY||Farmer||1834||33|
|Terry, Jos.||Madison County, KY||Farmer||1853||116|
Bridgeport Christian Church
The Bridgeport Christian Church was established in the late autumn of 1846 by a group of men and women living in the village of Bridgeport and vicinity. For many years they had been members of the South Benson Baptist Church; however, had become disrupted by the Calvinistic denouncements preached by the Reverend Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone and others during the decade 1825 – 1835. The original church record states the following “We whose names are hereunto subscribed being Disciples of Jesus Christ, do this day form and constitute ourselves into a church to be known by the name of The Church of God at Bridgeport, given under our hand this 7th day of November 1846”. Soon after the organization of the new church, Mary Bailey Jenkins, one of the charter members gave a tract of land south of the Frankfort-Shelbyville road. And, the first Christian Church of Bridgeport was built.
Lower Benson Church
Lower Benson Church was established in 1802 and was the first Presbyterian church in close proximity to Bridgeport. Robert Armstrong and William Boyd were elected elders and Reverend Samuel Shannon preached the first sermon. In 1803, Robert Armstrong presented a plot of land located on Arnold’s Ferry Road to build their first meeting house. The small, one-story log building was located about a mile east of Bridgeport and one mile southwest of the Big Road on Cardwell Lane. After the Civil War, membership had fallen, and the church could no longer function. Many left to join the First Presbyterian Church in Frankfort. The remaining members ask for admittance to the Southern Presbyterian assembly. A lot was purchased on Steele Street and the Southern Presbyterian Church was built.
South Benson Church
On February 28, 1810 members of the Forks of Elkhorn Church living in the South Benson Valley, ask for dismissal to organize a new church closer to their homes. John Major, William Hickman, the Christian’s and Nancy Berryman were accepted as charter members of the South Benson Church. Located in southwestern Franklin County the membership quickly grew making South Benson one of the largest congregations in the Bluegrass. A building was erected on the Farmdale road one and a half miles south of Bridgeport. Throughout the years, the early minuet book of the South Benson Church has been lost. It is impossible to ascertain the names of the ministers and members of the church. In 1883, on the same location as the original building, the Baptist constructed a new brick church and gave the old building to the Christians. They removed the materials to Bridgeport where a new church was built. Misunderstandings concerning the building of a new brick church caused the South Benson Church to divide again. The contributing group withdrew from the church and organized the EVERGREEN BAPTIST CHURCH located about one mile east on the Farmdale Road at the intersection of Cardwell Lane.
Upper Benson Church
The Presbyterians in the area need a church. They contributed materials and labor to erect their first meeting house in 1795. The Upper Benson Church was located on Little Benson Creek some miles southeast of Bridgeport and about fives miles south of Frankfort. Reverend Samuel Shannon was instrumental in its’ organization as well as that of the Lower Benson Church in 1806. He served both churches until 1812. The Elders of the Upper Benson Church now desired to move to town. In 1816, former elder Thomas Paxton, along with a congregation of fifty-nine moved to Frankfort and formed the First Presbyterian Church.
Belle Collins “Beautiful Hill”
The finishing school for girls was founded sometime before 1840 by Reverend James Braddock. The school was located about one mile from Bridgeport on the Bridgeport-Farmdale Pike. Braddock and his wife was in charge of the school until it was destroyed be fire in the 1850’s. Advertisements indicate the school was still in operation in 1855; however, like many private schools its’ days were numbered. Trustees were: Dandridge S. Crockett, J. Russell Hawkins, John W. Russell and ALEXANDER JULIAN.
Bridgeport Female Institute
Feeling the loss Belle Collins a group of residents purchased a lot from William and Elizabeth Hodges, which was located on the north side of Main Street. The Bridgeport Female Institute was established in 1858. Mr. and Mrs. C. M. Moore of New York were administrators. The school building was a two-story frame building; first floor for classes and second floor was a dormitory. Like Belle Collins, its’ income would not meet expenses and at the end of Spring term of 1860 the doors closed.
In the summer of 1851 the first school was constructed in Bridgeport. It was a one room frame building located on Evergreen Road. Due to over crowding a two room school was built. A larger building was built on the present site; however, it burned. The next school building was completed in 1942. High school students occupied the second floor while elementary classes were on the first floor. About ten years later high school students were given a new county high school. The Bridgeport School continued as an elementary for the next fifty years or so. It’s doors closed and a new school was completed in 2005 on King’s Daughters Drive.
Shortly after the Civil War, in the fall of 1865, another private school established for grown girls. The old Bridgeport Female Institute, was sold by the Hodges, to Dr. John B. Stout on October 24, 1865. The building was remodeled and became the Lattice School. It was a two-story building with a double latticed porch, from which it derived its’ name. In latter years small girls were admitted for studies beginning in the grades. The school received some financial aid from Franklin County until it was abandoned in 1875. Dr. Stout turned the building into a residence. It burned to the ground in the fire of 1880.