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Kentucky by Heart: Both Alexandria and Falmouth were founded by community-minded war veterans

By Steve Flairty
NKyTribune Columnist

Two Northern Kentucky towns I grew up around, Falmouth and Alexandria, have something in common regarding their establishment.

Both were founded by Revolutionary War veterans who had a strong desire to build community. Each also named their new towns after the ones they left behind in Virginia. The two were also close in age.

John Waller helped establish the town of Falmouth in 1793. Background research reveals that he was born in 1758 in Stafford County, Virginia, one of eight children. He served in the American Revolutionary Army in 1777 and served three years in the 10th Regiment. He reached the rank of captain before he was honorably discharged in 1780 and received a Land Office Military Warrant in Kentucky of 2,300 acres. The land given Waller was 800 acres in Mason County and 1,500 in what is current-day Falmouth.

John Waller roadmarker (Photo from HMdb.org)

Later in 1784, John Waller’s brother, Edward, helped Simon Kenton establish Kenton Station in the northern area of the state and they later parted company, Edward to the Paris area, and John to Falmouth. There, John owned a gristmill and sawmill on the south fork of the Licking River.

According to the Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky, “when the trustees of Falmouth held their first meeting in 1794, Waller was appointed clerk pro tem. The selling of lots in the town of Falmouth began on Monday, July 22, 1794, on order of the trustees, and Waller, as clerk, was instructed to advertise the sale.”

Waller died in 1823 at his two-room log house at Bunker Hill, in southern Pendleton County.

Francis “Frank” Spilman was born in 1756 in King George County, Virginia. Like John Waller, he was a Revolutionary soldier, serving as a sergeant in the Virginia Cavalry. Later, his military resume was expanded when he served under noted Gen. George Rogers Clark.

Spilman came to Campbell County in 1796, two years after it became the 19th county in Kentucky. Family tradition says that a dying war buddy of his asked him to take care of his wife, Rebecca. Spilman married her and had eight children.

Spilman was a shoe and bootmaker by trade. In his new town of Alexandria, he gained much influence, serving as a justice of the peace, county commissioner, and land surveyor. He donated twelve acres of land to construct public buildings and had the lots platted. Already known for his compassionate heart, Frank Spilman raised the two infant sons of Benjamin and Jeannette Beall, who had died. He was a strong advocate for education in the county.

Spilman died in 1828 and was buried in the Spilman Family Cemetery. According to findagrave.com, the cemetery was also called, over the course of history, “Old Baptist Cemetery” and “Alexandria Baptist Cemetery.”

The website also noted that by 1986, “the cemetery had been paved over for a parking lot close to the church, and the stones had been thrown over the hill behind the church. Subsequently, the hill has been bulldozed, and there is no evidence of the tombstones.” However, Elizabeth Morrow Cooley, of Ft. Thomas, recorded the names/inscriptions and are available at peoplelegacy.com.

Jeff Spilman (Photo provided)

I recently talked to Jeff Spilman, a descendent with high appreciation for his heritage.

“As the sixth generation of the Spilmans, beginning with Frank Spilman, I feel a deep connection to the land he settled. Even though I live in Florida, Alexandria is my ‘family home,’” he said. “I go back often. It’s where I’ll be buried someday. My Dad, William (Bill) Spilman, developed several acres in Alexandria. I have owned land there, and my sister still lives in the city. It’s fun knowing the history that, through Frank and his brother James, goes back to at least the Revolutionary War and earlier.”

Modern Falmouth has a population slightly upwards of 2000, with Alexandria recently nearing 10,000. They’re well-established towns; I have relatives in both communities, a part of my heritage. It’s noteworthy — and I’m grateful — that a couple of fine Virginians made a mark in a region that has stood the test of time.

I’m hoping that these few tidbits will spur my readers to do further research on the towns… or another town for which there is personal interest.

Sources: The Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky; WikiTree.com; Kentuckydar.org; usgenwebsites.org; peoplelegacy.com; Pendleton County Historical & Genealogical Society; Campbell County Historical Society

Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of seven books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and six in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #5,” was released in 2019. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly NKyTribune columnist and a former member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

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