Throughout history there have been many people that have influenced the formation of Scott County. Many events have happened in our community since it was founded. One event that had a major influence on life in Kentucky and the world would be when religious persecution brought some Virginians to Scott County. The prominent Virginian leader that had a gigantic influence on the formation of Scott County would be Baptist minister Elijah Craig.
Elijah Craig is a well known name in Scott County for a few reasons. The most well known reason is that Mr. Craig is given credit for finding out how to create bourbon whiskey. It is said he charred out barrels to get more whiskey in but instead it gave it more flavor. He made whiskey because in the eighteenth century most people tithed to the church in grain because they had little or no money. The name bourbon whiskey is named that because it was first produced in Bourbon County but Royal Springs today is in Scott County. There is a continuing debate about who really invented bourbon whiskey. Many people believe it was Jacob Spears from Bourbon County. Jacob Spears is given credit for calling this type of whiskey bourbon whiskey even though Elijah Craig was believed by many people to produce the first true batch of bourbon whiskey.
Rev. Elijah Craig also preached at local churches. One of the churches that Rev. Craig preached at was Great Crossings Baptist Church. Later he left with thirty members to form McConnell’s Run Baptist Church. McConnell’s Run Baptist Church was built on Duvall road where McConnell’s run crosses the road. Later in life he moved his membership to Silas Church.
Craig also started a school during 1788 near the intersection of Broadway and College Street, which today is downtown Georgetown. This school taught Latin, Greek, and Sciences. This school was later transformed into Rittenhouse Academy. Several years later the academy was taken over by Georgetown College which is still currently educating students today in liberal arts. There is a legend that bourbon whiskey made by Elijah Craig is under all six columns of the Giddings Hall at Georgetown College.
Several industries in Georgetown were started by Elijah Craig. His industries are now defunct but without them Scott County may not have existed. He started a ropewalk where hemp was made into rope in 1789. Hemp became a very crucial part of Kentucky’s economy. For many years hemp was Kentucky’s largest cash crop. At the time, Elijah Craig built one of the earliest ropewalks of its kind. Also, Mr. Craig started a fulling mill in the year of 1793. Industries like these made supplies such as cordage and rigging that were critical to building boats that were active on the Kentucky and Ohio Rivers. It is also rumored that he had the first grist mill and saw mill in Georgetown, Kentucky.
Scott County was not always known as Scott County. It has had many name changes throughout the years. The Georgetown area was known as Fincastle, Virginia. It was during 1774 that Col. John Floyd changed Big Spring to Floyds Spring. In the year 1775 Floyd’s spring became known as Royal Spring. This is the name we know today that supplies our community with water just like it did in the 1700’s. Then in April 1775 there was a fort built by John McClellan. This fort was named McClellan’s Fort. Later McClellan’s Fort became known as McClellan’s Station in 1780-1784. Then the name was changed again into Lebanon Station in 1784. Then in 1790 the area was named George Town by Elijah Craig. He named the town George Town to honor the first President of the United States, George Washington. Later the name was changed into Georgetown in 1794.
Elijah Craig had an influence on the community of Georgetown at its earliest stages. These stages were crucial to how our community is today. The name of our community was formed by a Baptist minister who made a process to create bourbon whiskey. Even though Mr. Craig’s industries are no longer functioning today in Scott County, his influence and foresight are part of what makes our Central Kentucky county the unique place it is today. Elijah Craig could be considered to be one of Scott County’s most colorful and controversial residents in the history of our community.