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Seven descendants from the Smoot family and one from the Walkers were among the crowd that gathered at the I.O.O.F. Hall Thursday to hear the story of the Walker-Smoot feud. The scheduled speakers, Beth Raisor Jones and Susan Raisor Benton, had to cancel their presentation because of the recent death of their father. But Robert Walker and Lisa Smoot graciously agreed to tell the story according to what had passed down through their respective families.
Robert Walker displayed a pistol which was reportedly used by Colonel William Smoot to shoot down James Walker in the middle of Owenton. According to the book compiled by Beth and Susan and written by Dr. Robert Raisor, Bill Smoot declared the “Walkers had persecuted and hunted him down,” and that he “had been forced, in self-defense, to take the life of James Walker.” Robert Walker said the stories are varied as to the original cause of the feud, but stated that it only lasted about six months.
Lisa Smoot, who had brought her aunts, one of whom is 99 years old, had read the book written by Dr. Robert Raisor and shared a few excerpts from it. In conclusion she read, “ Any future attempts to counteract this version of the Smoot-Walker feud will have to meet the same standards of proof and integrity as utilized in this account. Fiction, second-hand versions, and even dreams, will no longer suffice.”
Several in the audience talked of the times of turmoil and danger in Owen and Henry counties during and after the Civil War. Historical society members Alva and Ella Robinson have compiled copious research material on gangs and roving vigilantes during these years. They talked of Quantrill and Jesse James, whose parents are buried in Stamping Ground. John Hunt Morgan, scourge to the Union Army, but a hero in the eyes of most Owen countians, found a safe haven at several homes in the area.
Doris Riley described a race track in New Liberty that was used to race sturdy well-bred horses. When John Hunt Morgan and his men stopped at a local home to rest, farmers would take several of these horses to Morgan and exchange them for his worn out mounts. It was during these times that some left the county to live elsewhere, but thankfully, many stayed and worked diligently to bring law and order to our county. In doing so, they succeeded in offering to others a safe, scenic, and special place to call home.
The evening, richly fraught with Owen County history, was brought to an end by historical society member Norman Smith, who kindly offered to present a program on the American Indian in lieu of the scheduled presentation. Norman is a honorary member of an Indian tribe in West Virginia, and has spent many years studying the Indian culture. He brought many of the walking sticks that he has carved, each one carrying a special significance. Because of time restraints, Norman agreed to present a more indepth program at a future historical society meeting.
The society is busy preparing our Kentucky River Room, and thanks to the endless hours spent by President Jeannie Baker, the room promises to be a splendid addition to our museum. Our thanks to society members Darrel Baker and Jim Acton, who with the special assistance of Arthur Kinman, applied their carpenter skills to create a splendid porch on the back of the museum. This solves safety issues presented by the previous steps, and adds character to the Hartsough House.
Please feel free to stop by, pay us a visit, and enjoy the new sights at the Owen County Historical Society Museum.