© 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.
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.