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During the early years, drinking, gambling, and even dancing were infractions that resulted in exclusion from fellowship at the Poplar Grove Baptist Church; though many of the congregants were reinstated after repenting from their “wayward ways.”
Brother Tom Hall, pastor of Poplar Grove Baptist Church, presented a program on the history of the community and church at the Thursday meeting of the historical society. Situated in the heart of Poplar Grove, the Poplar Grove Baptist church was constituted in 1827, and along with Little Hope Baptist Church, it provided the community with a religious foundation.
Poplar Grove was settled by the late 1790s or early 1800s as attested by the dates etched on gravestones in the Poplar Grove cemetery. The overgrowth of poplar trees gave the community its name and the materials needed for building homes, businesses, schools, and churches. Today, the once abundant poplars no longer grace the hillsides of Poplar Grove as a blight ravaged the trees, decimating the supply and leaving a void in the community.
At one time the village boasted two doctors, an undertaker, four stores, two one-room schoolhouses (Poplar Grove and Little Hope), three blacksmiths, a hardware store, a mill, an IOOF lodge, and, believe it or not, a bowling alley. It also had four receiving barns where tobacco was bought, weighed, priced, and shipped to Louisville. The section of Hwy. 127 that runs through Poplar Grove was once a toll road with two tollhouses manned by residents who collected fees from travelers making their way through the community.
Society member Doris Riley, added some historical information about the cemetery which has more bronze monuments than most cemeteries in the United States; and Carol Ann McDanell, originally from Poplar Grove, provided several interesting stories of the community. Carol Ann wrote an article about the area when she was an eighth-grade student and sent it to the News-Herald. She emphasized the closeness of the people who made their homes in Poplar Grove and one could sense her love and pride as she spoke of the community as not being wealthy materially, “but it is prosperous in hard-working, honest, free, ‘God fearing,’ and law abiding people. This is the kind of wealth which will last through all eternity.”
Almost eight years ago, my family and I moved to Owen County and built a house in Poplar Grove. Though not natives of the area, we have a deep love for the county and its people, whose dedication to the preservation of their history is admirable. My husband, Tom, and I have an old-fashioned print shop in our basement with four hand presses dating from 1840-1920 and one wooden press made from plans dated circa 1585. We hand set type and print historic documents, books, posters, and wedding invitations. Before the meeting at Poplar Grove Church, several historical society members – including Jeannie and Darrel Baker, Ruth Ann Hazlett, Margaret Alice Murphy, Doris Riley, and JoAnn Threet – visited our shop and listened as we took them on a journey of printing history from the time of Gutenberg – inventor of the printing press and type metal – to the present day. As a family we are committed to history and desire to assist Owen County in its endeavors to preserve its heritage. So whether you live in Poplar Grove or any of the other communities of Owen County, it’s imperative that you make a difference by preserving your family history and passing it down to your children and grandchildren, thus strengthening the foundation upon which our country was built.