Historical Society News By Bonnie Strassell

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Until early 1970s, Owen was Democratic stronghold

By The Staff

A young college student asked his father the definition of a traitor in politics. The father answered, “Any person who leaves our party and goes over to the other party is a traitor.”


The son then asked, “Well, what about a man who leaves the other party and comes over to ours?”


“He’d be a convert, son,” replied the father, “a real and very smart convert.”


Even before Owen County was formed, people of the area were serious about their politics.


By the 1820s, the county  was marked as a rock-ribbed stronghold for the Democratic Party, and for 152 years afterward, the majority of Owen County voters were loyal to the Democratic ranks.


In the 1850s, John C. Breckenridge was the favorite of Owen County and defeated several well-known figures in Congressional races.


When Breckenridge was running against former Kentucky Gov. Robert Letcher, Owen countians outdid themselves, giving him 875 votes, 123 more than the number of adult male freemen on the county assessor’s books.


There still may be some in Owen County who remember the story about candidates Bill Swope and Bob Walker, both setting their sights on the office of circuit clerk in the early 20th century.


A slick salesman convinced Swope to buy a wagonload of soap with the slogan, “Vote for Swope,” engraved on the surface.


Walker supporters started a campaign declaring that Swope thought all the voters of Owen County were so dirty they needed a bath, and asked if votes could be bought for a cake of soap. Swope lost the election, but it was never established that the reason for the defeat was due to the soap; and perhaps many Owen countians who didn’t support Swope had no qualms about bathing with a “Vote for Swope” bar of soap.


It wasn’t until 1972 that Owen County broke their tradition of supporting the Democratic Party and helped give a Republican candidate, Richard Nixon, a majority of votes to win the presidential election. Today Owen countians continue to cherish their right to vote, at times crossing party affiliations to elect those who are honest and dedicated to the growth of the county and its people.


 Many out of state visitors, including one from New York and Jay Johnson and his wife from Alaska, have recently visited the museum and complimented the historical society not only on our historic exhibits and pictures, but also on the lovely decor of the Hartsough Home.


 President Jeannie Baker and her husband, Darrel, will hand out treats at the historical society museum Oct. 30.


All are invited to stop in for sweets and to register for a special prize, with the winner’s name listed the following week.