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The fine, elegant hands glided effortlessly across the piano keys as music filled the church and embedded itself in my soul. The straight back of Margaret Alice Murphy never once lost its composure as I watched in amazement this almost 91-year-old Owen County historian and genealogist play straight through 17 songs, several of which were difficult to perform. As I listened and recorded this memorable moment, I wondered how many of us here in Owen County, and the whole country for that matter, have relegated our elderly to the back pages of our lives, only to bring them in view when necessity demands. Do we realize the contributions many of these people have made and continue to make in the preservation of our history, and in general, in the enrichment of our lives?
When was the last time you sat down to hear stories from your mother or father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or neighbors who lived through the early years of Owen County history? Maybe you’ve heard about the times when steamboats ruled the Kentucky river, stopping for passengers, freight, and livestock at Monterey, Gratz, and Perry Park; times when tobacco and hemp were king; and stories of the early days when politicians were called statesmen, and a handshake was a man’s word of honor.
Perhaps there are some who remember hearing of John Sayle who became the Owenton cream buyer back in 1930 and headquartered his cream station in the front office of the News-Herald. As he ran his presses, the printer could assuredly smell the pungent odor of several day’s supply of cream wafting through the building. Have you heard the story of Bill Marston of Greenup who was disgusted with the Democratic administration at that time? When asked by his nephew why he didn’t vote Republican, Bill answered, “John, when I get up to the pearly gates and St. Peter begins to read off my list of sins, voting the Republican ticket will not be one of them.”
Why not ask an Owen countian who remembers County Court Days about the excitement it offered? Horse traders, gypsies, and medicine men would arrive early and stay late. There was an abundance of knife and gun trading, selling of homemade articles, and catching up on the latest news from friends.
Other Owen County stories abound, from those told of one-room schoolhouses and church socials to family stories of growing up on a farm.
However, if these are not shared with others, they can be lost within one generation. It’s time to reclaim those stories, which today are overshadowed by America’s fixation of sports, video and computer games, and television. It’s time to bring our elderly back to the forefront of our lives; realizing that they are the ones who, like Margaret Alice Murphy, hold keys to our past that surely unlock the music to our souls and bring our heritage alive.
The historical society will hold its annual Christmas party for members and their families at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 10 at the museum. Come join the fun, and don’t forget to bring your favorite finger food and a $5 ornament for a game.