A Look At The Early Years
Of Bromley In Kenton Co., Ky.
This Ohio River Town Built And Prospered, But Today
It Is Mostly Residential And The People Like It Like That
By John Bird - 2006
Along the Ohio River there are many sleepy little towns, each with their own story. Many are very exciting, as through the years they built and prospered, declined and built again, while others followed a more steady existence.
The town of Bromley, Kenton County, Kentucky, is such a town. Pettyman Merry settled there in 1765. He petitioned for a land grant on May 9, 1780, which was granted on March 10, 1784, for 2,000 acres in the Kentucky area of Virginia. He built a stone house between 1767 and 1785 near the "Pleasant Run Creek" which is still there today in Bromley, at the end of Shelby Street known as the "Landmark." His land extended from Willow Run Creek (the western boundary of the Kennedy Estate, and now I-75 and the Brent Spence Bridge) to Dry Run Creek (near Constance, Kentucky). On July 17, 1815, a deed was recorded in Fincastle County, Virginia, transferring title of this land to John Merry. Again on November 27, 1817, title was transferred from John Merry to William Moore. William Moore, native of the area, obtained a marriage bond in Boone County, Kentucky, with Nancy Bates. William and Nancy Moore lived in that same stone house and farmed the land until William died in 1825. William and Nancy Moore are buried in a small, unmaintained graveyard on Moore Street named in their honor. I know of this graveyard, as I lived only a few yards from it from 1962 until 1979.
The terms of the will of William Moore provided that his wife, Nancy Moore, was to receive income from the property until 1838, when their children became of age. At that time the remaining property was to be divided between Nancy and the children equally. One daughter was Lucinda, who married David Harris (Harris Street, Bromley).
The Pettyman Merry home near Pleasant Run Creek in Bromley, Kentucky, was built between 1767 and 1785. The building, located next door, once known as the slave quarters for the builders of the home is still being used today. (Photo courtesy of John Bird.)
Their children were: Sarah, born 1835; John, born 1838; James, born 1848; and Zachary, born 1851. Another son, David, died in infancy. In 1848 Nancy Moore sold 41 acres of land to Charles Collins, born in Bromley, England, on March 1, 1812. Charles was a druggist with a store in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the corner of Market Street and Sycamore Street. After buying the property he subdivided it into lots and named Bromley for the town in England where he was born, stating "I was born in Bromley, and I want to die in Bromley." The original plat of the town shows streets running east and west as Front, Dry Run Pike (now Pike Street), Shelby, Boone, Kenton, and Moore. Streets running north and south were Pleasant, Main, and Harris (now Steve Tanner Street). Charles Collins never saw the future growth of the town, as he died in Bromley of pneumonia on December 18, 1859. Six weeks later on January 31, 1860, his daughter, Charlesanna, was born to his wife. At the time of his death Charles Collins was building a brick home on the Dry Run Pike between Pleasant and Main Street. After his death David Harris finished the building, and it became rental property providing income for Sarah and her new daughter. This home was destroyed in the tornado of 1915 which devastated the town of Bromley and also the nearby "Lagoon Park" Ludlow. James Brown who had married Charlesanna Collins used the brick to build a double-house at No. 9 and No. 11 Pike Street. This became rental property and until September 8, 1988, was owned by Myrtle (Brown) Reinhart, a daughter of James and Charlesanna Brown. This was my wife's great-aunt, married to Gustav A. Reinhart of Low Water Road or Crescent Springs Road.
This home, located on Pike Street, was built from the brick of a home that was destroyed during a tornado in 1915 that devastated Bromley. (Photo courtesy of John Bird.)
The center of social and religious life in Bromley were the Bromley Christian Church built in 1892 at 216 Kenton Street and the First German Reformed Church of Bromley, later known as the Immanuel United Church of Christ. The church was formed on March 11, 1894, by a group of 30 German Protestants from the Bromley area; 18 of which were relatives of my wife, Elaine (Schroer) Bird, built at the corner of Boone and Harris Street. A toll bridge was constructed between Ludlow and Bromley in the late 1880s, before this the town was isolated from Ludlow, only accessible by boat. Street car service was extended to the First German Church for the dedication service in 1894. The newspaper reported there were more people in town for the dedication than for any previous occasion. The German language was used in this church until July 7, 1918, but changed to English due to feelings toward Germany in WWI. The streets were paved in the early 1900s. At that time Main and Harris streets were graded to eliminate a steep grade, some of the homes on these streets where they meet Boone and Kenton streets, sit several feet above street level. After the death of David Harris on November 3, 1880, the property deeded to John and James Harris, brothers of Sarah (Harris) Collins was subdivided, the east to west streets were extended and Rohman and Short Shelby were added to the town.
The town had a population boom between 1890 and 1920. In 1894 the dam was built between Ludlow and Bromley, resulting in a beautiful lake. This brought about the construction of the "Ludlow Lagoon Park," consisting of the amusement park, huge beer garden, dance pavilion, amusement rides, boating, and a bathing beach. The main building dance hall and operations offices were housed in a large building on the east side of the lake. This building is all that is left of the "Lagoon Park" and is owned today in by Jerry Allender and his wife who operate it as an apartment building.
Families bought lots and began building homes in the small town of Bromley. This was encouraged by the new accessibility, jobs available at and in support of the Lagoon Park, the repair and refurbishing of Pullman Sleeping Cars in Ludlow, and the Southern Railroad, also in Ludlow. Bromley remained a residential town. The Pullman operation was also destroyed in the 1915 tornado and was never replaced. With the street car service in Bromley many people were able to work in Covington, Kentucky; and Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Moore Family Cemetery located on Moore Street at Harris (Steve Tanner Street) was used by the Moore, Harris, and Collins families, but others were permitted burial there. William and Nancy Moore are buried there, but their graves are unmarked. David and Lucinda (Moore) Harris, Charles and Lucinda (Moore) Harris, and Charles and Sarah (Harris) Collins are also there. The graveyard is usually in need of care, and I have searched many times for names on the stones. Most are unreadable or not inscribed.
Many descendants of the original families still live there today: Reinhart (a very prominent family), James and Charlesanna Brown; Glen Baker and his daughter, Paula Workman; William and Nancy Moore; and the Harold Gardner family (Harold took care of the graveyard for many years).
The disaster of the spring floods was almost always the major problem in the town. Theodore B. Rammler, a great man who lived on Kenton Street, would tell stories of the floods and how access to the town was only by boat. The drugstore was moved into the basement of the United Church of Christ. The personal property of families who were flooded out were moved to the sanctuary of the church and in with Theodore and others who lived above water.
I remember many years during the flood when I lived in Bromley and having to climb Highwater Road to Crescent Springs, as this was the only access to Bromley. The 1937 flood, known as granddaddy of all known floods, went only to the basements of some homes on Boone Street. The Pettyman Merry home was under water at this time. The cleanup was terrible, some homes completely disappeared and others were dropped by the receding waters. The roads and bridges were washed away. This was the worst disaster Bromley had ever suffered.
Many businesses located in Bromley. Most are gone due to the limited access to the town and the yearly floods. They could not rebuild and start over every year. Even a large sewer and sanitation plant for Kenton County, which later was transformed into a catfish farm and high class restaurant which is now leveled, has become a playground. Kinnard Truck Body Works built beverage delivery truck bodies in Bromley. Mr. Kenneth Kinnard invented the heated delivery truck bodies used on delivery trucks all over the world. He held the patents for these and became very prosperous. Fries & Fries Jail Cell Company took over his factory and once thrived then faded away. Another company built dumpsters in this factory.
Mrs. Bernice Kennard, after her husband died, donated the new addition to the Immanuel United Church of Christ on Boone Street. She was most generous to anyone in need.
Fuel tank farms and barge loading docks are now located on the western edge of town, with this and the other problems mentioned, the town of Bromley has little chance of expansion and will probably remain just a sleepy little town on the Ohio River being mostly residential, and the people who live there like it that way.
Author's Note: After 35 years of working part-time I have traced my family back to 935 A. D. to a small Viking village on the coast of what is now Normandy, France. The French King at that time was still paying tribute (gold) to the Vikings after they conquered France. My ancestor of that time was Hugh who kept trained falcons (his was the start of the "Bird" family name) to capture small game for the village. The game along with their main staple of fish and the vegetables they grew sustained the village. Hugh was the leader of the village and had agreed not to raid the French monasteries and towns as long as tribute was paid.
John Bird, 189 N. Main Street, Walton, KY 41094, shares this article with our readers.