Owen Historical Society News: Even a spoon can carry a lot of history

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By Bonnie Strassell

It seemed to be just another old wooden spoon, yet the tiny cracks that traversed the worn handle added to the spoon’s character and emphasized the wood’s rich hues.
The wooden spoon had served generations of Owen countians, and despite its age, was poised as if ready to stir a pot of simmering soup or scrape out the last remains of fried potatoes from an iron skillet.
Wooden spoons were a necessary part of Kentucky frontier life.
Pioneer women stirred pots of bubbling stew over lively flames dancing in fireplaces. These important additions to a wife’s kitchen were handed down to daughters who were instructed in the fine art of cooking by their mothers.
Women treasured a wooden spoon’s ability to distribute rich juices in a pot of ham and beans or administer discipline on the backside of a wayward child.
While this particular spoon does not hold any significance to most, it is a treasure to the Giles and Minish families of Owen County.
After her husband, Bob, died Joana Minish Johnson often visited his grandmother Helen Dennis Giles.
On one such occasion, Helen presented a wooden spoon to Joana and related its history. The spoon had belonged to Joana’s grandfather, Thadus Minish, who along with his brother, owned a general store in Gratz. This spoon rested in a barrel of mince meat and had the important duty of dishing out the pungent concoction to customers who wanted to fill their mince-meat pies.
Janice Ernst has a daily reminder of her loving grandmother Lydia Giles.
A wooden box proudly stands in her home, a poignant piece of Owen County history. The box was used for goods shipped to George Anthony and Lula Giles’ general store in Hesler.
Their daughter Lydia claimed the box and transformed it into a playhouse.
When she married, Lydia used the box to store her bedding, and then passed it on to her granddaughter Janice.
Perhaps there are times when looking at this family treasure Janice Ernst sees her grandmother as a little girl busily keeping house and happily tucking her dolls into the corner of this old wooden box.
Most have read the account given by Owen countian Jennie Dunavent of the hanging of Richard Shuck.
Jennie was a curious, energetic child at the time and went on to become an industrious hard-working wife. Jennie left a deep impression on her family and friends, and memories of her still reside in the homes of Jennie’s grandson, Bud Dunavent, and her great-granddaughters. Aunt Jennie’s eyeglasses which enlarged the twinkle in her eyes, are carefully tucked away in cases. A favorite shawl Jennie wore to church is lovingly wrapped in tissue, and a family quilt still displaying its vibrant colors  rests on the bed of her great granddaughter. All are important pieces of Jennie Dunavent’s life and imparts a lasting legacy to her family.
Grandparents and great-grandparents have a great impact on our lives.
Nita Randsdell Benson recalls summers spent with her great-grandparents Lindsay and Eva Ransdell of Sweet Owen.
On these hot days, Lindsay would take Nita to the store on the corner of Highway 22 and 845. Each year he would purchase a new straw hat for her.
Perhaps, though, the most cherished treasure from Granddad Lindsay sits in a place of honor in Nita’s home. It is a little wooden wagon that at one time was a prized possession of every child. Though worn with age this little wagon is a reminder of Owen County, its general stores, and the lives and love shared by the people who live here.
All of these stories and more are included in “The Owen County, Kentucky Family History Book” which is on sale at the museum for $60.
If you haven’t already purchased this record of our history, please do so today. Don’t miss out on the family history of your friends in Owen County. Call us at 502-484-2529 or write to us at 206 North Main St., Owenton, Ky., 40359.

Our Owen County History Day is scheduled for June 22 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Join us for a day of celebrating the history of Owen County.
We are also planning a Kentucky River Day in August for all you river and riverboat fans. The date will be announced soon.