Kentucky by Heart
For a casual observer seeing the itinerary for a trip around Kentucky, they might think it has both a national and international flavor to the journey. And after recently perusing a list of the names of the state’s cities, towns, and smaller communities and their counterpart names outside our borders, I thought it might be fun to share, though don’t expect what I note to be exhaustive.
Here goes, and I’ll note their Kentucky counties in case you are unfamiliar with them. I admit that most of my research on this subject was from Wikipedia, but it should be, at least, a place to begin.
Let’s start with my town, Versailles (Woodford). Isn’t there a French connection? Pas vraiment (“not really” in English). I’d say we like our bourbon better than our wine.
Stockholm, Sweden, also has its name on a community in Edmonson County. Rome, Kentucky, (Daviess) is so small that I’m not sure if they have a mayor… let alone a pope.
Whether it’s pronounced “Ah-thens” or “Aaa-thens,” Athens (Fayette) is spelled the same as that large city in Greece. For another Greek factoid about another place, Corinth (Grant) was never “ancient,” being established in the 1820s, and as far as I know, was never destroyed.
I’m not sure what the tallest structure is in the Bluegrass city of Paris (Bourbon), but whatever it is, it’s no match for the height of the Eiffel Tower. That said, downtown Paris, Kentucky, has its own version of the iconic tower, though only twenty feet high but built to scale. Perhaps you might want to make a point to see it. It’s cutesy! And speaking of towers, what about the one in Kentucky that greets people driving though on I-75 with a “Florence Y’all” painting on a water tower? Just wondering if Florence, Italy, folks would use such colloquialisms as the way our people in Florence (Boone) do.
On the Ohio River in Gallatin County, the town of Warsaw might tease a visit from our friends in Poland, and Alexandria (Campbell), where I went to high school, has a Seven Wonders of the World counterpart in Egypt. Scotland has its Glasgow and in Kentucky, Barren County’s principal town was named after it and has its own annual Scottish Highlands games to pay tribute.
Down south in the Commonwealth, London (Laurel) may not have a Big Ben clock to see, but it has an acclaimed Chicken Festival to attend. And Bagdad, in Shelby County, is a ‘fer’ piece from Iraq’s capital.
And while we’re at it, Kentucky has lots of towns that match the names of well-known cities around the good ol’ U.S. Take Anchorage, in Jefferson County, for example. It’s much warmer than the one in Alaska! Last week, I went through tiny Boston, in Pendleton County, though if I blinked, I would likely have missed it. There’s also a Boston in Nelson County. Both these Bluegrass communities are way smaller than the big one in Massachusetts, but that might not be a bad thing.
While Mt. Vernon (Rockcastle) is not the homeland of George Washington, in Virginia, it’s a nice place to visit in the southern part of Kentucky.
Jamestown (Russell) Is not the first permanent English settlement in America, as is the one in Virginia, but it gets you right in the heartland of the Lake Cumberland area, and that’s a pretty special place to enjoy a vacation.
Hey, let’s salute the small town of West Point on the Ohio River in Hardin County. While America’s vaunted military academy is at West Point, New York, Kentucky’s own W.P. is located not far from the Ft. Knox Army installation—near to a whole bunch of stored gold.
Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of seven books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and six in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #5,” was released in 2019. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly NKyTribune columnist and a former member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at [email protected] or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Ernie Stamper)
Oakland, California, has a wee little name counterpart in western Kentucky’s Warren County. It’s website on Ky.gov says that many of its current residents chose to live there “for its quiet charm and quaint village atmosphere.” Note also that the nearby waters are fresh, not salt water!
Washington County’s Springfield is a name that matches many around the United States. According to matadornetwork.com, there are 36 Springfield townships across 25 states. I like the one in Kentucky, which nearby had a beautiful covered bridge until sadly, a fire started by an arsonist in March, 2023, destroyed it.
Towns named Independence in America number 26, according to geotarget.com. Kentucky’s is in Kenton County, and the town has nearly doubled in population since the year 2000.
In the western part of the state, Caldwell County has a nice historical community called Princeton. I wonder if any citizen there is a graduate of that famous college in New Jersey? Not far from Kentucky’s Princeton is Murray State University; it’s a pretty good school, too.
Oh, little town of Bethlehem, in Henry County! It sees lots of traffic coming to the post office at Christmas time to have cards postmarked with the iconic town’s name—the same as the place near Jerusalem where Christians believe Christ was born.
Here are some more places to start YOUR world tour of the Bluegrass state. Hope you’ll research further from this additional illuminating list of Kentucky communities (some have names of countries or states): Egypt, Korea, Canada, California, New York, Delaware, Madrid, Brooklyn, Cairo, Moscow, Austin, Petersburg, Verona, Little Rock, Melbourne, Ghent, Heidelberg, Buffalo, Sacramento, Waco, Dover, Helena, Denver, Saint Paul, Little Texas, Charleston, and likely there are ones I’ve missed.
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After reading last week’s Kentucky by Heart column that profiled long-time Courier-Journal columnist Joe Creason, Boone County Public Library’s local historian Tracey Howerton contacted me to share a tidbit about Creason.
“In my work here at BCPL, I helped a local woman research her East Kentucky great grandmother’s life,” Tracey wrote in an email, “and we uncovered Joe Creason’s important role in it.”
Creason wrote an article in the April 8, 1964, Courier Journal about Celia Benge Marcum, an artist from Clay County, and referred to her as a “Kentucky Grandma Moses.”
I’ve included a picture of Marcum. For more information this woman’s life and work, email Tracey at [email protected].