Owen Historical Society News: Family tree has deep roots in Owen

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By Bonnie Strassell

When schools closed that bad winter, a young boy spent his days in the stripping room on the farm.
Amid the pungent odor of tobacco, the lad listened to his granddad’s stories.
Those narratives, along with a love of farming, created an intense yearning in the young man; and he followed a life-long dream which included his supportive wife, his family and his beloved Southdown sheep. 
Kentucky has embraced the Forsee family for eight generations.  Owen countian Brian Forsee, who is a seventh generation Forsee, was the special guest speaker at the historical society meeting last week.
Lean, rugged and jean-clad, Brian humbly attributed his success to the Lord. “It has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the Lord.”
The Southdown is generally credited as one of the oldest breeds of sheep and are the earliest of the Down breeds. They originated in the South Downs of Sussex county, England and were brought to America by the early settlers.
From the 1920s to the middle 1950s, most families in Owen County owned sheep and the impressive gentle faced Southdowns were a favorite.
Today, Brian is only one of a handful of farmers in the area who have continued to raise, breed, sell and show these gentle creatures.
On their website forseesouthdowns.com, Brian relates how his great-grandfather, W.T. (William Thomas) Forsee bought three ewe lambs and a ram lamb in 1925 for a 4-H project.
According to W.T., those Southdowns were instrumental in getting the Forsee family through the Depression. Today the Forsee Southdowns are the oldest flock in the United States living on the same premises on which they originated.
Brian Forsee’s ancestors fought in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
After the war for independence, William Buck Forsee moved his family to Kentucky, and eventually William’s son, George Smith Forsee settled in Owen County.
When the United States declared war on Great Britain in 1812, 27-year-old George enlisted as a Kentucky volunteer. He served as a private in Captain Jacob Elliston’s Co., Third Regiment Kentucky Mounted Militia, commanded by Col. Richard M. Johnson.
After the war, George returned to his home and on April 28, 1816, he married Matilda Samuel. George and Matilda became the parents of nine children.
Another Forsee ancestor, James, raised mules in Franklin County which were used to transport freight out west.
The first home of George S. Forsee was a log cabin built on the land still owned by Brian.
Some of the posts of this cabin were used to build the first Forsee sheep pen.
Near that first log cabin stands the home of Brian and Margaret Forsee which was built by G.W. (George William) Forsee. Brian and Margaret have diligently sought to preserve the character of this impressive house which sits atop a knoll facing Highway 127.
Brian bought the family farm from his grandfather, making monthly payments until it was his. Margaret is supportive of her husband’s endeavors and works alongside him; and their two children, Morgan and Preston, have raised and shown their own Southdowns.
Today, Brian Forsee farms about 1,000 acres of land and leases another 1,000 acres.
His father, known to most Owen countians as “Bud” went into business and built Meadow View and his brother, Rod, helps in the day to day operation of the grocery.
Though tobacco and cattle are also part of his success, Brian seems to take his greatest pleasure from his flock of Southdowns. 
Brian’s love of the Lord, and that of his family, his farm and his sheep is reflected in his voice as he talks of his life and his confidence that a Forsee will always continue to produce some of the finest Southdown sheep in the country.
If Brian Forsee has anything to do with it, this legacy will remain a vital part of Owen County history and a lasting tradition in the Forsee family.
Our list of special guests and  surprises for our History/Kentucky River Day continues to grow. Please join us June 21 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and celebrate Owen County history.
For more information, visit our website at www.owencohistory.com.