Pactolus Was The Site Of Eastern Kentucky's First Iron Furnace
Sandy Valley Enquirer
Thursday, December 10, 1942
By H. Rupert Wilhoit
Pactolus is situated about two miles north of Grayson on the West bank
of the Little Sandy River. Like many other communities of Carter County,
the village had its beginning with an iron furnace, established perhaps
one hundred and fifty years ago by people from the East whose name was
Deering. It was, perhaps, the founder of the old furnace who gave to the
village its classic name of "Pactolus." This was the name of a small
river which flowed through the ancient city of Sardis, the rich, industrial
capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, which kingdom flourished and
attained great power in Asia Minor several centuries before the birth of
Christ. It was claimed by the citizens of ancient Sardis that the small
stream Pactolus, ran over a bed of sands of pure gold. Evidently, the
older founder of the Pactolus Furnace, with perhaps exaggerated faith in
the enterprise he was setting on foot, decided to name it after this
ancient stream so closely associated with great wealth in the tradition
of those days.
It is believed that this was the first iron furnace established in Carter
County, and perhaps one of the very first in this entire section of the
State. it was abandoned more than one hundred years ago. No even the
oldest citizen has any recollection whatever of it being in operation. A
large cinder dump is about the only thing now left to evidence its
Pactolus, during the latter part of the 19th century, became a flourishing
little community. The Eastern Kentucky Railway came through in 1874, and
furnished rail service until the late twenties. In the earlier days of
the railroad, much tan-bark, lumber, etc., were shipped from this point.
At one time there were three general stores serving the town and surrounding
Prior to 1899, it was necessary for people living on the East side of
Little Sandy River to ford in order to reach the town and railroad. But
in that year, a bridge was constructed by the county. The people in and
around Pactolus were virtually interested in securing this bridge. The
members of the Fiscal court tied in their voting on the proposition of
whether or not to construct it. The County Judge, J. G. Morris, case
the deciding vote in favor of constructing the bridge, stating, as he
did so, that perhaps a majority of the people of the entire county would
be against it but that he believed the people of this community should
have their bridge--and they did. The bridge was completed in 1899 by
the Lafayette Bridge Company, of Lafayette, Indiana. The bridge stands
today, serving hundreds of people.
More than one hundred years ago, a dam was erected across the river for
the purpose of operating a water mill. It was, originally constructed
of logs. About twenty-five years ago a concrete dam was built, and it
now stands, operating the water mill at the same old spot. This mill is
one of a very few of its type let in this country. it operated regularly,
furnishing the fine meal which cannot be matched by any other type of
Since the abandonment of the old railroad, the village has been served
by Kentucky Rural Highway No. 1, which is covered with crushed limestone
and affords year-round transportation.
As has been the case with all the old rural villages, changing conditions
have not been generous with Pactolus. The railroad is gone; only one
store remains and the old mill is the only other business of any type
remaining. Those living in the village are all farmers, owning land in
the surrounding fertile valley of the Little Sandy.
Children of the community attend school at the old Buckeye School. The
site for the school was granted by James Osenton, more than fifty years
ago, from a portion of his farm. This farm, upon which still stands a
few remnants of an old orchard planted by slaves before the Civil War,
was sold by Osenton to H. S. Rupert, late of Pactolus and Grayson, and is
now owned by C. B. Wilhoit. Mr. Rupert lived in the house on the hill
overlooking Little Sandy and Pactolus for many years, moving in 1920 to
Grayson to assume the duties of president to The First National Bank,
which was then known as The Citizens Bank.
One of the early merchants of Pactolus, Joseph Rupert, went to Frankfort
in 1900, and, in conjunction with his uncle, H. C. Rupert, organized the
Rupert Grocery Co., which was for many years the only wholesale grocery
store between Lexington and Louisville, and continued as such until Joseph
Rupert's recent death.
The first school of the community was known as the Virgin School, named
for Lamack Virgin, the father of Mrs. H. C. Rupert, who donated the land
for the school site. This preceded, by many years, the old Buckeye.
Rev. F. E. Lambert, formerly pastor of the Methodist Church of Grayson,
was largely instrumental in establishing the Methodist Church of Pactolus.
In 1920 he held a revival in one of Mr. Rupert's tobacco barns at Pactolus,
during which he converted a great number of people and aroused such
interest that a new church was built and dedicated in 1922.
Moses Kibbey, born in Connecticut in 1776, was an army officer in the
War of 1812. At the close of the war he came to Little Sandy from
Cincinnati, Ohio, near where Pactolus was later established. He married
Sarah Everman. He died in 1832.
Most of the old families who settled the community are still represented
by their descendants in this community. Among them are the Womacks',
Hannahs', Gills', Ruperts', Kibbeys', Martins', Thomasons', Barnhills',
Locks', Callihans' and Brammells'.
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