Louisville: The People’s Line Packet “Wild Wagoner” Arriving at the Levee in 1868


It was in 1778, following the Revolutionary War, that Louisville was founded by General George Rogers Clark. Consumed by the spectacular beauty of the Falls of the Ohio, he had returned there with a small group of families to set out the town which would eventually become a major city and bustling riverport. His initial settlement constituted a stockade with blockhouses and log cabins on Corn Island (off the right-hand edge of this painting) at a point where the river becomes over a mile in width. General Clark’s plan was soon to take shape and by 1782 the small town, stretching north from Beargrass Creek (to the left in this painting) along some ten blocks of riverfront, was already evident. The first brick house was built in 1789 with bricks shipped down the river by flatboat from Pittsburgh.

In 1794 the foundation of the tobacco industry was to be secured by the building of a substantial warehouse near the mouth of Beargrass Creek, and with the wealth of surrounding wheat fields Louisville’s claim to fame as a “liquor emporium” was established following the construction of the Hope Distillery in 1816. The arriving Cincinnati and Louisville packet “Wild Wagoner” edges towards the People’s Line wharfboat in mid-morning as people along Water Street go about their daily business.

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