Image of Charles Colvin Cabin Found on 1997 Google Earth Satellite Image: An Update

© 2017-2020, Alex Colvin

This revision included new genealogical data regarding the relationship between the cabin’s last known occupant and the current land owner.

Charles Colvin log cabin GE satellite image 1997

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

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 believed to be perhaps the progenitor of a line of  Pendletonian Colvins who were among the county’s earliest settlers during its formative years in the late 1790s. He died in Pendleton in 1810 after homesteading nearly 400 acres in 1799 on which was located his log cabin.[i]

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.[ii] 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.” [iii]  Records show Charles Karl Ritter, was a lifelong Pendletonian and a first- generation German-American whose father,  Joshua Ritter, (1850-1910) immigrated to the U.S. in 1869.[iv] Pendleton County, property records for the parcel on which the cabin sat is listed  as Ideal Drive, Falmouth, Pendleton County, Kentucky,  with the owner listed as Mildred Showalter. [v]  Additional research was able to determine that Mildred was actually Charles’s niece. Mildred L. Ritter,  (a widow from her 1st marriage to Harry Samuel Sydnor [1920-1940] according to marriage records, ) married 2nd to  Howard Showalter in 1942 in Indiana; she was the daughter of Charlie’s brother, William Jacob “Willie” Ritter, Sr. (1892-1967) [vi]

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.[vii]  It was believed his log cabin was located on this acreage.  It’s location was alluded to in  Nell Bradford Woolery,’s 1940s self-published narrative, “Some Old Homes of Pendleton County,” [viii]  but with little elaboration. Moreover, the log cabin was not within the same area where the  Four Oaks enclave was established which can be clearly discerned from an 1884 atlas which lists several of Charles’ relatives by name.[ix]  In addition, many of those same relatives, such as Birkett Lewis Colvin,  (1827-1905) can be found depicted in several photographs taken in 1886, wherein Birkett and his family can be seen posing inside and outside their home in the Four Oaks community.[x] 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.[xi]

Though the image is less than ideal, the structure can be seen on the satellite imagery. Finding the cabin’s location involved using a combination of  period United Stated Geological Survey (USGS) satellite imagery, and Pendleton County Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping data. Though demolished sometime post-1997, why it was demolished 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 data 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. When the cabin and the lands it sat on left the Colvin family remains under investigation.


[i] 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.
[ii] “Charlie Ritter” listing, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, See also digitized original, 1910 U.S.. federal census, Joshua Ritter hh, Falmouth district, Pendleton County, Kentucky sons include Charles Ritter (13) and his brother, William (18) hh 232, line 51,
[iii] Carr to Colvin email May 14, 2015 wherein James Carr related memories of “Charlie Ritter”.
[iv] Joshua Ritter household,  digitized original 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Falmouth District, Pendleton County, Kentucky, line 90, hh 172.
[v]  Pendleton County Property Records, GIS interface,  showing parcel: 051-00-00-020.00, 145 Ideal Dr. Falmouth,  Kentucky.
[vi] Digitized original, William J. Ritter, Jr., hh, April 1, 1940 U.S. federal census, 31 U.S. Hywy 27, Falmouth District, Pendleton County, Kentucky, hh 400, line 41; Mildred is listed in her father’s home as Mildred L. Sydnor with her husband “Harry” Sydnor. Harry Samuel Sydnor, according to his death certificate,  died that same year in December. See also, digitized original, Mildred L. Sydnor, widow, marriage record to Howard Showalter, Wayne County, Indiana, September 19, 1942. Father listed as: Will J. Ritter.
[vii] Pendleton County, Kentucky, Deed Book A: 38. The Howell Lewis survey, as it is known, consisted of some 10,000 acres in Kentucky devised to him by his father, Fielding Lewis,  upon his death in 1782.  Howell Lewis was a nephew of George Washington, his father, Fielding, having married Washington’s sister, Elizabeth “Betty” Washington   in  May 7, 1750. See also: “Fielding Lewis’ Will” transcription, George Washington Foundation website,  See also, Howell Lewis thumbnail bio, George Washington Foundation website,
[viii]  Nell Bradford  Woolery, “Some Old Homes of Pendleton County,”  unpublished manuscript,  March 7, 1940, Pendleton County Library Collection.
[ix] ” McKennysburg Precinct 2  Pendleton County ” Atlas of Bracken and Pendleton Counties, KY 1884  , J.D. Lake & Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, plate 41.  digital collection.  
[x] Colvin Family at Four Oaks,” 1896,  Carol Kirkwood Collection to author. In this image is a small gathering of Colvins and Wiggins among whom are  Birket Landrum Colvin (1827-1905) and his wife, Sarah “Sallie” E. Beckett (1840-1918) and their children.
[xi] Pendleton County, Kentucky Deed Book A: 74.

About Alex Colvin

Alex Colvin is a senior undergraduate at the University of Houston where he is completing his BA in History and minoring in Anthropology. His academic work has been published in the 2017 annual volume of the Journal of the American Revolution, (JAR,) Houston History Magazine (Summer, 2016,) and is also published at and He is a retired investigative reporter as well as an experienced genealogist. His overall research interest is in Southern Studies. A new website project, Narratives in Black and White was begun last year, which is exploring the historiography and narratives of historically ignored mixed-race marriages in the U.S. from the Antebellum period to present day. At UH, he was the Charter President, Walter Prescott Webb Historical Society, (Webb UH Main 2014-2015) Additional credentials can be found in the CV / Services tab.
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