Kentucky Places: Piqua, Robertson County, Kentucky

Roads are curious thing – and in Kentucky, they are big business. A new road delivers up promises of jobs and economic development; sometimes the premise for a project seems to be nothing more than “if you build it, they will come.” A road also takes away – a new road bypasses a community (this can happen with the best of intentions) and that community, an organism of that transportation route, withers away quietly. I thought of this recently when I performed a sharp U-turn in Robertson County, Kentucky, backtracking to catch the sights of Piqua.

This suspension bridge crosses Johnson Creek in Piqua.

This suspension bridge crosses Johnson Creek in Piqua.

Located four miles south of the county seat of Mt. Olivet, the community received its name from Isaac Chamberlain, a teacher from Piqua, Ohio. Tecumseh was born in that Piqua, which was the site of a village of the Piqua subtribe of the Shawnee Nation. I’ve been told that the colloquial pronunciation is “Pick-way,” but I’m a Mt. Sterling girl, so I could be wrong.

A small, lonely house in Piqua.

A small, lonely house in Piqua.

Mitchell’s General Store, built in 1896, still stands in Piqua, which has been bypassed by a new and improved road. The store has already seen one restoration, about 15 years ago, but though maintained, now appears closed.

The facade of Mitchell's Store.

The facade of Mitchell’s Store.

Robertson County is Kentucky’s smallest county by population size and second smallest in land area. Piqua, according to one source I found, claims around 200 residents scattered across the surrounding farmland. This small frame building, with the canted display windows and transom, fulfilled many roles historically: store, post office, barbershop, creamery, and blacksmith shop.


The former one-room school in Piqua was recently serving as a community center.

The store, I am sure, was a lifeline for this very rural area during a slower and less mobile time period. The most recent owners, Wendy and Rooster Mitchell, were profiled in a May 2000 article in the Lexington Herald-Leader. Rooster Mitchell, a native of Robertson County, recalled buying candy in the little store as a child.

Another relic in Piqua: This tobacco barn with round ridgetop ventilators and attached stripping room.

Another relic in Piqua: This tobacco barn with round ridgetop ventilators and attached stripping room.

Several original items remained in store, including the front counter and display cases – but even before road improvements, Piqua was isolated. I can’t imagine what a leap of faith it must have been for the Mitchells to fix up the store and open it again.  And I can’t help but wonder whether this weathered – but sturdy – little building will experience another rebirth down the road.

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  1. Patrick Kennedy says:

    Those are hanging bridges in our neck of the Kentucky woods. Getting rare.

  2. Patrick Kennedy says:

    Or swinging bridges

    1. Janie-Rice Brother says:

      Swinging bridge is what I have used before – I’m not sure why I described it as a suspension bridge…

      1. Linda Mcvey says:

        The swing bridge in this picture I used to walk it a lot my sister Deanna Collins Wheeler used to live in the house across the creek.

  3. Monica Goodrich says:

    Back in the mid 80’s I lived in La Grange KY for about 3 months and toward the end of my stay, I took great pleasure driving small country roads. Many of your pics remind me of those great drives I took. I love seeing your images and the great stories you share about the people and history of the area. Thanks for all the research you do to preserve the heritage of this lovely state!

    1. Janie-Rice Brother says:

      Monica – thank you so much for your kind words! I am so glad you enjoy the site, and I hope you will keep reading – I love Kentucky, and sharing the stories I find.

      1. muskatantonopolis says:

        not my real name…nom de plume…I am now 75 yrs old…born on the
        big sandy river….raised in Breathitt co…..WHAT I remember from those
        days? (need am exclamation mark or two here)….fueding….beautiful
        dogwoods covering the mountains and hollars….strip mining… fork
        of the ky river and muskies…..crooked politicians……moonshining……
        my daddy was on a possie to raid a still..they did..brought back several
        gallon jugs of shine (good shine too the beads was a rising)as evidence…circuit judge come to town to hold court..had to let the defendant go…no evidence…..well,,,,winter snow covering everything
        beautiful, white and clean like forgiveness of sin……rabbit tracks in the
        snow…..snow crème (clean snow with vanilla flavoring)… dogs
        barking all night during a FULL moon…..beautiful clear cold water
        coming out of a spring head…..fall leaves……wild fires……fried rabbit
        or squirrel with gravy….spooky stories told around a camp fire when camping out……GOSH…I wish the kids of today could have all the fun I and my
        buddies had when we were kids…..

  4. Nancy Hoover Graves says:

    i went to the two room schoolhouse for a short time in the third grade. I remember walking to the store to get items we wanted during lunch. I remember the store very well also. The school had a bucket in the back that had a dipper. We all had our own cup to pour the dipped water into. Each row of children was a grade. The teacher, Mrs. Mitchel, would stand in front of each row and teach each grade while the previous row would be doing the assignment given to them. It was difficult to not listen to the teacher instructing the lower and upper grades. I suppose we learned more that way.

    1. Janie-Rice Brother says:

      Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful memories!

  5. Joan Hoover Fralix says:

    Piqua school had 2 classrooms: the front room was for 1st, 2nd 3rd grades and the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades were in the rear. I have many fond memories of my elementary school days in that little school house.

    1. Janie-Rice Brother says:

      Thank you for clarifying the size! Was there a partition wall between the two rooms?

      1. Nancy Hoover Graves says:

        There was a wall between the two rooms.

  6. Vicki Barney says:

    Robertson Co is not the smallest county in the state ..

    1. Janie-Rice Brother says:

      It is second smallest in land area and smallest in population.

  7. Antone know who owns the Mitchell General Store? I’d love to do a couple of photography shoots on the front porch & would like to get permission to do so. Or do you think anyone would care? I’ll leave it just as I found it.

    1. Janie-Rice Brother says:

      Jonathan, I don’t know who the current owners are, but you could try tracking down Wendy and Rooster Mitchell, who owned it 16 years ago. I would contact the owners if you plan on doing anything other than taking photographs from the public right-of-way. You could go to the county clerk’s office in Mt. Olivet and find out pretty easily.

      1. Wendy Mitchell says:

        Nice story, glad I found it. I’m Wendy Mitchell, the store is remaining in the family at this time. There are plans for another resurrection as early as next year. Follow the path on out Facebook page RB Wendy Mitchell .

        1. Janie-Rice Brother says:

          Wendy, that’s great news! I will check out the FB page, and best of luck!

          1. Katelyn Mitchell says:

            Hi! My name is Katelyn Mitchell! My husband and I purchased the store from his dad and Wendy This past Month! we are working on restoring the place but any pictures taken there are very welcome! and you can share them with us as well! if you have any questions you can find us on facebook at DustinKatelyn Mitchell

  8. Annd Robinson Hughes says:

    I was born and raised in Piqua and I know a lot of the history and events of that community. My Robinson great- grandparents were the owners of that store in the early 1900’s. My grandfather was a blacksmith in the shop nearby. Many of my relatives still live in Robertson County. I went to Thomas Grade School and graduated from Deming High School. There are many more pictures of the town and area on the school pages.

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