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The carolers, dressed in early 20th-Century attire, cluster together and silently mouth the words of timeless Christmas carols. This scene is reminiscent of early Owen County years when carolers would gather under the dim gas lights in Owenton to offer songs and hymns of the Christmas season.
Jim Jump was the town lamplighter at that time, and every evening at dusk Jim would take his long pole and light the lamps along Owenton streets, illuminating the town.
At dawn, Jim would return to extinguish the lights and welcome another Owen county day.
Settled next to the carolers are three wisemen, a shepherd shouldering his lamb, and various animals, all silently approaching a babe in a manger. They are told he is the savior of the world and have come to worship and offer the gifts they have brought to honor him.
In the background the branches of an old-fashioned Christmas tree hover above gifts one might have seen under the trees in Owen County homes in the early 1900’s. A wooden train sits, awaiting little hands to conduct it on a journey to faraway places. A xylophone is anticipating the moment when a child will take up its mallet and tap on its musical bars to entertain family and friends. A chemistry set sits prepared to instruct the next future chemist in a discovery of the ages; and the doll in a wooden high chair longs for a little mommy to gather her up and rock her to sleep. In a corner stands a desk on which to compose Christmas cards, the messages illuminated by the oil lamp resting on the desk’s wooden surface. Pictures depicting winter scenes grace the walls and bring memories of Owen County Christmases of long ago.
In contrast, another tree stands nearby, but this one is stark white trimmed in purple and gold. The gifts under this tree are more modern and a cheerful, floppy stuffed bear perched in a rocker, stands guard over the tree and presents beneath.
These are the scenes of Christmas past and Christmas present and they can be viewed in the windows of the I.O.O.F. Hall on Seminary Street.
Owen County Historical Society members Jeannie and Darrel Baker, Liz Dunavent, Christina Rice, and myself have spent countless hours to bring these memories to Owen countians. Memories which include the weeks before Christmas when children would wander up and down the isles of the Blue Front Department Store in Owenton. Here they would mentally make a list of the most-desired toys to be discovered beneath paper wrappings on Christmas Day. Mothers, fathers, and grandparents, realizing that money was scarce, would be busy sewing, knitting, and whittling, determined their homemade gifts would outshine the store-bought items. Several days before Christmas, Owen County cedar trees would find themselves as the centers of attention in homes in the area. Not only offering their beauty, the trees would release pungent cedar aroma, giving pleasure to any nose finding its way into an Owen County household.
With Christmas just around the corner, please stop and visit us at the museum to share your Christmas memories; and if you’re in the area of Seminary Street, take a minute to enjoy the Christmas scenes in the I.O.O.F. Hall windows. If you feel the urge to press your nose against the windows and make a Christmas wish, feel free to do so.
Wishes are dreams, and dreams can be the foundation for accomplishments. The history of Christmas past, complete with our holiday traditions, is inevitably linked to our Christmas of the present. Both remain a vital part of our Owen County heritage.
Our thanks to all who loaned us toys and wrapped presents, and to Debbie Whobrey of Petals on the Square who kindly made our decorative bows. Special thanks goes to Owen County Historical Society President Jeannie Baker, who spent hours far above the call of duty to give Owen countians this special Christmas gift.
A reminder for anyone wishing to purchase Margaret Murphy’s book “History of The Monterey Baptist Church and Community of Old Monterey 1819-2011.” A $20 deposit, due by Friday, is required to reserve a copy. Please contact Teresa Fisher 502-545-0544 or Margaret Murphy 502-484-3932 to place your order.
Don’t forget to mark your calendars for Dec. 8 at 6:30 P.M. The historical society will celebrate our annual Christmas party at the I.O.O.F. Hall. Bring an unwrapped $3 ornament, an unwrapped $1 gift, and a finger food to share.