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She claimed she was not a historian but a memoirist; yet the words of Georgia Green Stamper, guest speaker at the Owen County Historical Society meeting Thursday, skillfully took on the cadence of the color, life, and movement of Owen County history.
When introduced as a seventh-generation Kentuckian, Georgia always adds that she’s a seventh-generation “Owen countian.” This emphasis is prevalent throughout the county as people identify themselves by the county or the community in which they grew up or now live. Georgia was born and lived in New Columbus, in the most southwestern part of the county, and her family was one of the early settlers from Virginia, whose sights were set on the untamed wilderness of Kentucky. At one time New Columbus was a busy community with a drugstore as well as two general stores; and until he established his grocery and dry good store, “Black” John Jones would sound his huxter horn along Stevenson’s Chapel Road every Tuesday, stopping at houses along the way to sell his groceries or barter items in return for eggs or chickens.
Standing tall and stately in front of a crowded I.O.O.F. hall, Georgia told stories from her book “You Can Go Anywhere From the Crossroads of the World.” Though the book lay open before her, Georgia hardly glanced at the words, for as she recited, her stories seemed to flow from her heart. Stories of the little country schoolhouse, where “Halloween Soup,” cooked in a huge black kettle in the school yard, was the highlight of the fall — as families, friends, and neighbors gathered in costume to fellowship and partake of the kettle’s rich contents.
With the elections drawing near, Georgia reminisced about her Papaw and Mamaw, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, who battled on the turf of the 1940 presidential election. Papaw ended up sleeping in the stripping barn for a few nights, but a truce was agreed upon; and as disagreements gave way to the difficult task of making a living, Papaw and Mamaw went on to raise their family of seven children.
Georgia recalled Coach Smith, her physical education teacher at Owenton High School, whose responsibility included coaching the first integrated basketball team in Owen County; and her memories as a young lady were vivid as she remembered the tragic news of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. At times her strong voice became hoarse with emotion, and the audience ( many of whom grew up with Georgia) was captivated as they shared some of the same memories.
For one very special evening columnist, commentator, and author, Georgia Green Stamper, came back home to Owen County; and as she closed, she reminded everyone that we all have stories to tell — stories that are vitally important, not only to our generation, but as a legacy to our children and grandchildren.
The historical society would like to thank those people who sent in corrections for our “Owen County, Kentucky Family History Book.” There are only a few corrections to be made, and if anyone else has mistakes in their family history, please give us a call or send in correct copy by Oct. 31.