Owen Historical Society News: Churches made it easy to attend

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By Bonnie Strassell

The smooth wood of the newly constructed structure stood forlornly beneath the trees near the church. Its surface displayed  no evidence of use. No worn away areas suggested years of diligent watch over those under its care.
But the hitching post erected at Long Ridge Baptist Church several weeks ago served as a reminder to many Owen countians of years ago when horses throughout the county spent their Sunday mornings in front of community churches.
Lead ropes were tied to the stout wood of the hitching posts, and with flanks touching, the varied breeds grazed a bit and patiently waited for their owners who were assembling together in the house of God.
In celebration of special speaker jockey Pat Day, one of the winners of the Kentucky Derby, Long Ridge Baptist constructed a hitching post in front of the church May 25 and invited the community to ride their horses to the service.
Whether the highway was considered too dangerous for horse travel or whether riding horses to church just wasn’t feasible for most folks, the outcome was a rousing service in the sanctuary but an empty hitching post outside.
Sunday is considered a day of worship and fellowship and even before Owen County was formed places of worship were built in the area. New Liberty, Mountain Island and Mussel Shoals Baptist churches were the first three; and they along with all those which followed were vital to the growth and stabilization of communities.
Churches swelled with people from all walks of life. Businessmen, blacksmiths, and farmers, all with their families, gathered for worship. Housewives looked forward to this day of rest and fellowship and their work-hardened hands kept a firm grip on the most rambunctious of their offspring.
Historical society board member Bobby Gibson recalls that most farmers came to church straight from milking the cows and tending the other livestock. These caretakers of the earth would scrape the manure from their boots at the church entrance then join the rest of their family.
According to Bobby, some would have a chaw of tobacco in their cheek but kept it there safely tucked away  during the whole service.
Several Owen County churches have recorded their history. Margaret Murphy of Monterey has written a two-volume set on the History of Monterey Baptist Church and Community. These are available to read from the Owen County Historical Society and the Owen County Public Library or can be purchased directly from Margaret for your own personal library.
In 1952, The History of The Beech Grove Baptist Church was published and gives a poignant insight into this early community church. The history was written by O.V. Jones and he sets the stage for the formation of Beech Grove Baptist by describing historic events surrounding its inception:

1852- Milliard Fillmore is serving as President of the United States, while Lazarus Powell is Governor of Kentucky. There are only thirty-one states in the Union and one hundred counties comprise the state of Kentucky.
It is twenty-four years before the telephone was in operation; twenty-seven years before Edison invented the electric light bulb; fifty-one years before the Wright brothers made their first successful airplane flight and fifty-seven years before the Model T Ford made its appearance.
It is just four years after the Mexican War; eight years before the Civil War, when brother fought brother ...
Our forefathers, who lived in the vicinity of what is known as Beech Grove community are beginning to accept the challenge of organizing a church..so they can better serve and worship God.

Included in one section of Beech Grove’s history titled “Notes of Interest” Mr. Jones writes that some of the early families who resided in Beech Grove, the Fosters, Youngs, Garrisons, Baxters, and Whites, traveled West and organized churches in Kansas. In 1902 the pastor at Beech Grove Baptist earned $56 a year but fifty years later was earning $2,028.
A description of several congregants was also included: “Cryus W. Cobb, one of the earliest members of the church, was a devoted and regular attendant. It is recalled that he came to church many times without any shoes and his pants rolled up to his knees. Walter Estes is our oldest member, and sixteen boys who were members of this church served their country during World War II. One of the boys, H.T. Keith, was killed in action Dec. 30, 1944.”
Families, churches, horses and hitching posts all serve to create memories of the past for those who cherish traditions and endeavor to preserve its vital effect upon the future.
The Historical Society’s History/Kentucky River Day promises to be an event of exciting activities and entertainment.
Our celebration begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 21.
After opening ceremonies Owen County High School students John Randall Towles, Clay Beverly, Aaron Kline, and Wyatt Hill will entertain the crowd with an eclectic blend of folk, country, and Bluegrass. This foursome is awesome and we want to thank them for their kindness in taking time from their busy schedule to make an appearance at our special event.
At noon, Travis Vasconcelos who plays the calliope on the Belle of Louisville will be on hand to entertain the crowd on our own calliope, and Jake Book, re-enactor and an accomplished musician on several instruments including the banjo and guitar will delight young and old alike.
Jerry Graves from the Kentucky River Authority will give an update on the locks on the Kentucky River at 10:30 a.m. and a special program will be held at 1 p.m. when the audience will be asked what memories they had while growing up in Owen County and on the Kentucky River.
A watermelon seed-spitting contest will be held throughout the day with the watermelon compliments of Meadow View.
One of the highlights of the occasion will be at 2 p.m. when an Owen County Pie Eating contest will be featured. Several authors will be on hand to sell and sign books and there are definitely surprises in store for everyone.
Don’t miss our monthly meeting at the IOOF lodge, 6:30, June 12 when special guest and much admired Owen countian Brian Forsee will be our speaker.