A friend of mine who works at a business on Frederica Street was commiserating the other day about all the ways he hears people misprounonce the word “Frederica.”
Frederica is Owensboro’s version of that T-shirt with all the different ways to say “Louisville.”
There’s the 4-syllable version: “Fred-er-reek-uh,” which is what most people from out of town say.
Then there’s the 3-syllable version: “Fred-rick-uh,” which is what most of us who live here say.
Or the hybrid of both of those: “Fred-reek-uh,” which is what GPS says.
Some of us slur it and leave out the second “r,” which sounds like “Fred-ick-uh.”
My friend, Drew, said he was sitting at a stoplight and found himself saying all the different pronunciations out loud to himself in the car. Eventually they each started sounding strange, yet perfectly normal, all at the same time. (Go ahead, try it…)
It got me to thinking about Frederica Street, which made me realize that although I’ve lived in Owensboro since I was two, I still don’t know much about it.
I do remember reading once that Frederica was originally a game trail, probably formed from bison and other animals on their way to get a drink from the river. Which is also why the bison statues have been placed along Frederica to commemorate the “buffalo trail.” The History of Owensboro Facebook group has a map from back in Bill Smeather’s days showing the buffalo trail following what is presently Frederica to a salt lick on Panther Creek, near what is presently the campus of Owensboro Community and Technical College.
But who was it named after?
And when was it paved?
Some quick research lead me to a history blog by the Daviess County Public Library that said when Daviess County became an official county in 1815 (Happy Bicentennial, by the way!), the county seat was called Rossborough in honor of David Ross, a local landowner. The major street was then named Frederica after Ross’s son.
As for the paving question, that’s a little more complicated. The city doesn’t have clear records of it. Neither does the state. But according to the administrators of the History of Owensboro Facebook group, an ordinance was passed in 1900 to sell bonds to pay for the paving of Frederica Street, so it was somewhere near the turn of the century.
The state did tell me that Frederica has changed highway names several times. First it was 231, then it was changed to 431.
This generation of kids growing up today will only remember the “batwing” at the river’s edge of Frederica Street. They will not remember the old boat ramp. Or the old flags and fountains.
Or when they straightened the slight “S” curvature at the intersection of Parrish.
Or the medians along the majority of Frederica (shown in photo above) that eventually became turning lanes. The medians still exist south of Tamarack.
If you think about it, Frederica Street has had a front row seat to a lot of major changes in town, including the booming expansion of South Frederica and the downtown revitalization, all under the shade of the largest Sassafras tree in the world.
Sometimes I wonder what it thinks about the attention 54 has been getting lately, especially with Gateway Commons coming. Regardless, it always has been, and will continue to be the lifeline of Owensboro.