A perfume of France in Louisville

The Ohio Falls (photo Weebly)

The city of Louisville in Kentucky State is situated on the southern bank of the Ohio River, at the Falls of the Ohio which is a series of cascades on an outcrop ridge of fossil rock over a distance of almost two miles (three kilometers).

On the opposite riverbank in Indiana State is the city of New Albany, where the Buffalo Trace, also called the Vincennes Trace (see capsule), begins in a northerly direction. It crosses the southern part of Indiana running northwest toward the city of Vincennes.  Indications are that in the first half of the 18th century, the French controlled both ends of the Buffalo Trace. It is even reported that they had built an outpost at the Falls of the Ohio, which they named “La Belle” after the Ohio River which was then called “La belle rivière” (the beautiful river). Long after the fall of New-France in 1763, this “perfume of France” was nevertheless to be reborn in the emergence of Louisville, as an American community. Here’s how it happened.

A Perfume of France

The Ohio River (photo Annie Reisewitz)

The first anglophone settlers, led by American colonel George Rogers Clark, arrived in the Louisville area in May 1778 during the American Revolution. They settled on granted lands that had been previously surveyed by Captain Thomas Bullitt, a descendant of French Huguenot migrants. In 1780, the new settlement took the name of Louisville to honor King Louis XVI of France, an allied of the American cause, and the numerous French soldiers who aided the American colonists in their war of independence. Subsequently, a wide range of migrants, from the aristocracy to the catholic church, fleeing the French Revolution came to the United States of America and joined the newly born American community of Louisville, giving it in the process a perfume of France.

Although the French brought with them elegance, friendliness and cheerfulness, they also showed a strong sense of entrepreneurial business within their newly acquired “American Dream”. For instance, French trader Barthélémi Tardiveau was credited in 1782 with attempting the first commercial flatboat downriver trip from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. It must be said that in the early years of Louisville the Falls of the Ohio were a serious natural obstacle to navigating the entire course of the beautiful river.