Image of Charles Colvin Cabin Found on 1997 Google Earth Satellite Image.

Though the resolution is less than ideal, the Charles Colvin cabin can be clearly discerned in this 1997 Satellite image. Elevation approx. 700 feet.  Source: Google Earth

Though the resolution is less than ideal, the Charles Colvin cabin can be clearly discerned in this 1997 Satellite image. Elevation approx. 700 feet. Click to enlarge. Source: Google Earth

Thanks to a research collaboration between James Carr, longtime Pendleton County, Kentucky resident, and The Colvin Study, the image of Charles Colvin’s cabin built in the late 1790s has been positively identified in older satellite images of land in Pendleton County, situated just a few miles south of Falmouth. Charles is belived to be the progenitor of a line of Colvins which today number several thousands and whose present-day descendants can be found in numerous states including Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio, to name a few. Originally from Culpeper County, Virginia, Charles died in Pendleton County in 1810.[1]

Carr was a critical contributor to this latest development as he was able to provide not only a positive eyewitness account of the cabin’s location but was also personally acquainted with its last occupant, Charles “Charlie” Karl Ritter, who died in Harrison County, Kentucky in 1996. Explaining his friendship with “Charlie,” Carr recalled, “I can see it now with the smoke from the chimney curling up through the morning air as Charlie made his own breakfast and prepared to meet the day.” [2]   Records show Charles Karl Ritter, was a lifelong Pendletonian and a first- generation American whose father,  Joshua Ritter, (1850-1910) immigrated to the U.S. in 1869.[3]

Charles Colvin was among some of the first Colvin members of his line to venture into Kentucky. Records show, on August 13,  1799,  Charles purchased over 390 acres of what was considered the Howell Lewis survey paying fifteen shillings an acre or £300.[4]  It was belived his log cabin was located on this acreage.  However, it’s location was mistaken in the 1940s for that of  Henry Colvin by earlier researchers whose dwelling is much further east.[5] Moreover, the log cabin was not within the same area where the  Four Oaks settlement  was established which can be clearly discerned from an 1884 atlas which lists several of Charles’ relatives by name.[6] In addition, many of those same relatives, such as Birkett Landrum Colvin,  (1827-1905) can be found depicted in several photographs taken in 1886, where Birkett and his family can be seen posing inside and outside their home at  Four Oaks.[7]

Charles’ land  was a few miles north, as the crow flies, in an area whose borders began less than a mile outside Falmouth proper. In the days of horseback travel, at a trot, he could have been in Falmouth within twenty minutes.  He also purchased three  one-quarter-acre town lots from the city of Falmouth the same year.[8]

Current Pendleton County land records show the vicinity of  the cabin  within a 200-acre parcel belonging to a Mildred Showalter.[9] Thus, using a combination of  period United Stated Geological Survey (USGS) satellite imagery,  Pendleton County Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping data, and period Google earth satellite images, the cabin’s location was eventually located and an image obtained. Though demolished sometime after 1997, why it was razed is unknown.  It had apparently managed to survive the Great Falmouth Flood of 1996 because, according to Carr, its location  was above the area flood plain. Nevertheless, the cabin is absent in 2003 satellite imagery, which is the next year of available digitized records for the area.  Images post-2003 show a small structure built a hundred yards or so directly in front of the area where the log cabin was located. The address given for the new structure in current land records is 145 Ideal Drive, Falmouth , Pendleton County, Kentucky. Additional research is needed to determine when the land left the Colvin family and why the cabin was eventually demolished post-1997.


[1] Charles Colvin Last Will and Testament, March 15, 1810. Recorded  May 24, 1810, Pendleton County, Kentucky Deed Book B[1803-1815]:287. See also,  Pendleton County, Kentucky Court Order Book B:243.

[2] Carr to Colvin email May 14, 2015 wherein James Carr related memories of “Charlie Ritter”.

[3] Joshua Ritter household,  digitized original 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Falmouth District, Pendleton County, Kentucky, line 90, hh 172.

[4] Pendleton County, Kentucky, Deed Book A: 38

[5]  Nell Bradford  Woolery, “Some Old Homes of Pendleton County,”  unpublished manuscript,  March 7, 1940, Pendleton County Library Collection. In her narrative of the area’s history Woolery writes, “South of town about 5 miles we find the old Colvin house, which until recently had remained in the possession of that family.  It was this land–part of the Bennett Bartlett patent–that Charles Colvin purchased in 1799 and about 1805 built his house of logs using wooden pegs in place of nails in its construction.” In actuality, what she was describing was the home of  Henry “Harry” Colvin, (1762-1839) who was somewhat distantly related to Charles, but of the same Colvin line. The “Henry Colvin House” as it is known today,  remains intact, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, on Colvin Bend Road, in Pendleton County,  rather east of  Charles Colvin’s original cabin location. See: NRHP website File No. 87000145 which provides images and architectural details.

[6]  “McKinneysburg Precinct 2  Pendleton County ” digitized original, Atlas of Bracken and Pendleton Counties, KY 1884  , J.D. Lake & Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, pp 41.  digital collection.  

[7] Digitized original photograph, “Colvin Family at Four Oaks,” 1896,  Carol Kirkwood to author. In this image is a small gathering of  members of Colvin and Wiggins families among whom are:  Birket Landrum Colvin (1827-1905) , his wife, Sarah “Sallie” E. Beckett (1840-1918) and their children.

[8] Pendleton County, Kentucky Deed Book A: 74.

[9]  Pendleton County Property Records, GIS interface,  showing parcel: 051-00-00-020.00, 145 Ideal Drive Falmouth,  Kentucky.


About Alex Colvin

Senior, History, minoring in Anthropology, University of Houston. Charter President, Walter Prescott Webb Historical Society, (Webb UH Main 2014-2015) University of Houston. Additional credentials can be found in the CV / Services tab.
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