On August 21, 1992, Jack Ruth (East Kentucky Paving) purchased 991.113 acres for $871,150 from Citizens Fidelity Bank & Trust Company and began planning Victoria Estates. Citizens Fidelity had taken possession of the property the previous December from Homes by Heritage, Inc., in lieu of a foreclosure.
Much earlier, Richard M. Johnson, vice president of the United States under President Martin Van Buren (1837-1841), owned all of this property and a good deal more. (His parents, Robert and Jemima Johnson, founded the first permanent settlement in Scott County--Johnson's Station, a fort around a spring located at Great Crossing.) He was elected to the Kentucky Legislature in 1804, to the U.S. House of Representatives (1807-1819, and 1829-1837) and to the U.S. Senate (1819-1829). During the War of 1812, he was a colonel in the Kentucky Mounted Riflemen and was hailed as a hero for his role in the Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813.
According to Scott County historian Ann Bevins, Johnson developed a school for Choctaw and other Indian youths on his Blue Spring Farm sometime between 1818 and 1825 where attendance grew to 300 students. In 1825, he hosted the Marquis de Lafayette at the Blue Spring property. He then moved the Choctaw Indian Academy to his property at White Sulphur Springs in either 1830 or 1831. The school closed in 1845.
He also operated a resort and tavern at White Sulphur Springs on what is now Victoria Estates, which had stagecoach service to it. As one of Kentucky’s most popular watering holes, according to Bevins, people came for the healing powers of the spring and to imbibe at the tavern. Johnson tried unsuccessfully to get rail service to White Sulphur Springs in the 1850s.
He is the subject of two historical markers, one near Paintsville in Johnson County, which was named for him in 1843, and one in Great Crossings Park. Additionally, there is one for the Choctaw Indian Academy located along U.S. 460.
Additionally, his sister, Betsey Johnson, married John Payne and lived in the house that has been restored and expanded into the current Wilshire’s restaurant.
The property that Ruth bought from the bank came from three tracts of land—812.704 acres from the Spencer family, 101.188 acres from the Mackes and 5.221 acres from the Hales.
The purchases were recorded in the Scott County Clerk’s
Office in January of 1988 for $1,595,161.
In May of 1988, the zoning classification was changed
from A-1 to R-1A for the Lake Elkhorn Development
proposed by Homes by Heritage. The zone change was
amended in March of 1990, increasing the number of
houses from the originally proposed 183 to 444.
Homes by Heritage built the dam, which created the
lake and it is fed by White Sulphur Springs.
After East Kentucky Paving bought the property, the
development was renamed for Ruth’s daughter, Victoria.
At the time of the property transfer, the land was completely overgrown and there were no roads on the property, though the horse barn and tobacco barn near U.S.460 were in place, according to Burton Runyon, who was brought in as project manager in the summer of 1993. An open house was held in 1994 for realtors and bankers. Runyon said that it was Ruth’s plan to locate the horse operation in the front of the property, run by his nephew Bennie Sargent, with the houses to be built toward the back on lots at least .6 or .75 of an acre in size. Ancil and Bonnie Conley became the first couple to make a down payment on a lot on April 15, 1995. Three houses were under construction at the same time and the Lyon family was the first to move in (122 Man o’ War) and the Conleys were second (123 Man o’ War) in February 1996. The Johnsons, who subsequently moved, were third and moved into 113 Man o’ War.
The three initial families and one additional lot owner formed the lake committee in 1996, well before the board was created. The first Board of Directors was elected in 2000 and included current residents Ancil Conley, Dave Parrish, Scott Hackney, Bill Creech, and Ivonne Davila-Beegle.
Jack Ruth had previously owned more than 300 acres in what is now Cherry Blossom and had also considered developing Bradford Place. Since his death, the un-deeded property is still controlled by East Kentucky Paving, which is owned by the Ruth family.