Owen County Historical Society News: Faces reflect rich Owen County history

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By Bonnie Strassell

The Owen County Historical Society Museum is not only a repository of Owen County artifacts, but it is also a photo gallery of the people who lived, worked, and died in Owen communities. Their contributions to Owen County history vary, but their presence serve as a  reminder of the importance and responsibility of each and everyone of us to create a lasting legacy.
Many of you may recognize the faces featured in the pictures gracing the walls in the museum. In early years, a longer developing time was required for images, so smiles were rare. Yet the rugged, stern faces exhibit a sturdy people whose pictures reflect life stories.
Stories like that of Winifred Munson of Owen County who, with some of his friends, joined to fight in the Spanish-American War. Winifred was severely injured on a battlefield in Cuba, and because it appeared he would likely die, he was given chloroform to relieve his pain. Winifred was left on the field of battle and propped back to back with another dying soldier. When the drug took effect, Munson was able to drag himself to a water canteen to relieve his extreme thirst. The next day when the dead were being gathered, it was discovered that Winifred was still alive. He was taken to a hospital where he fully recovered; and several months later he returned to his home in Owen County.
 In the late-19th century, James Hervey Dorman was a well-known Owen countian. He was born in 1831 in an 18-square foot cabin on Eagle Bluff in Gallatin County. After attending primitive schools, James, with $45 in his pocket, managed to attend two Indiana colleges. For four years he taught school in Owen and Gallatin counties, and in 1860 obtained a license to practice law. During the Civil War, James Dorman served in the Fourth Kentucky Confederate Calvary, was in 42 engagements, and never received a scratch. He married Lizzie Gains of Tennessee in 1864, practiced law in Owenton, served four years in the state senate, and then was elected county judge.
Owen countian Mrs. I.L. Arnold kept the county’s history alive with her many stories. One favorite story was told by her grandmother about an incident during the Civil War. Yankee soldiers often came into homes to take food, clothing or anything else they might want. Her grandmother had just rocked her baby girl to sleep, and placing her in the cradle was preparing to make some warm baby clothes from a piece of flannel she was fortunate to possess. Suddenly a tall Yankee rudely entered her home and snatched up the flannel to put it in his pocket.   
“Grandma pleaded with him not to take it. The soldier looked at the baby sleeping in her cradle, folded the flannel across the baby’s feet, and quietly left the room.”
It is the privilege of the Owen County Historical Society to preserve these stories of the past, and when you visit the museum take the time to stop and look at the pictures lining the walls. Each has a story to tell, and maybe if you listen closely, you just might hear echoes of history.
Among donations that have recently come to the museum is an old picture of the Davis and Gaines Ford Dealership in Owenton. It was donated by Phyllis Malcomb whose mother, Florence Ogden, was its original owner. If anyone has a chance to stop by the museum, we’d appreciate identification of the young men in the picture and the approximate date it was taken.
Doris Riley donated a wash board, a 1942 calendar, and a 1927 Montgomery Ward catalog, along with some White’s Industrial Drawing Cards, circa 1890s, which were for first- through sixth-grade students. Doris also donated an old quilt square, which we are going to preserve and display in a frame.
Our sincere thanks to historical society board member Darrel Baker, who has built bookcases, and many shadow boxes to exhibit veterans’ medals and various other artifacts. Remember to mark your calendars for June 25 when the Owen County Historical Society will present “Owen County History Day” at the museum. We’ll conduct tours and offer a free lunch.