Westport

Historical Marker #909 tells the history of the tiny town of Westport, Kentucky, which has a history that dates far back to when it was first known as Liberty. Native Americans once inhabited the area before the town began as a land grant bestowed upon Elijah Craig for a Treasury Warrant on May 22, 1780. At the time, before Kentucky became a state, the area was part of the County of Virginia, and the Revolutionary War was still being fought. Some years later, on April 25, 1796, Craig sold the land to Joseph Dupuy and Harman Bowman for four hundred fifty pounds. It was a solid investment that would produce a flourishing river town on the banks of the Ohio River.

With the surge of settlers pouring into the newly opened Louisiana Territory in 1804, it was thought that Westport would grow considerably due to river traffic along the Ohio River. There was a steady stream of immigrants and products being shipped in and out of the docks in Westport. River travel and a constant influx of settlers made the small river town swell with commerce. A ferry was operated by Levi Bowyer as early as 1800, connecting Westport to the Indiana territory. The later invention of the steamboat also aided the growth of Westport. By 1818, Westport was considered a commercial center. Steamboats and showboats stopped here regularly. It became the county seat for a short time in 1826.

Many grand homes were built by prominent wealthy men. “Hurricane Hall” was built by Captain Jack Taylor on a bluff of the Ohio River one mile north of Westport. The home contained 18 rooms, a self-supporting staircase, and a soapstone bathtub. Thomas Barbour built “Clifton” one mile south of Westport near the mouth of 18 Mile Creek.

Over time the town began to suffer an economic lapse. The railroad by-passed the community, river traffic declined, and a terrible flood in 1884 destroyed 27 buildings. Many residents moved to more prosperous locations. In the 1930s, a Mr. and Mrs. George Theodore Johnston bought property that had once been owned by Levi Bowyer. On it they built a home that resembled a lighthouse, but it was heavily damaged in the 1937 flood.

Images

Westport Packet Boat

Westport Packet Boat

Courtesy of the Oldham County Historical Society View File Details Page

Westport Lighthouse

Westport Lighthouse

Courtesy of the Oldham County Historical Society View File Details Page

Taylor Home

Taylor Home

Courtesy of the Oldham County Historical Society View File Details Page

Steamer "America"- no stop at Westport

Steamer "America"- no stop at Westport

Courtesy of the Oldham County Historical Society View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Helen McKinney, “Westport,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed July 24, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/700.

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