Owen Historical Society News: Grandmas, nanas and mamaws made history

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By Bonnie Strassell

Mamaw, Granny, Ma, Nana, and Grandma.
These endearing names have been spoken by Owen countians throughout the years to designate that special grandmother who captured the hearts of families.
There are many examples in Owen County where mamaws and papaws moved into the home of their children and grandchildren. Other grandparents lived and died in the same house in which they were born. 
The Owen County, Kentucky Family History Book is replete with inspiring stories of fine, upstanding grandfathers and loving, nurturing, hard working grandmothers. The following excerpts illustrate the love and high regard Owen countians have for their grandmothers; and demonstrate the rich heritage left behind by mamaws, grannies, and nanas.
William Arand, Jr. tells of his grandmother Hattie Wright, who lived on a farm in Jonesville. Every summer William rode the train from Cincinnati, Ohio to Glencoe where his grandparents picked him up. He stayed with them all summer and William memorialized Grandmother Hattie with these words: my grandmother, Hattie was one great woman, every morning biscuits, bacon, ham, sausage, eggs and gravy. She was known for her chocolate pies and blackberry jam cake. She baked for years on a wood stove ... My grandfather would build a fire around a large black kettle out back and then she would do the wash with homemade lye soap.
Ma Maggie (Margaret Ann Clark Karsner), grandmother to Lela Maude Hawkins and Margaret Murphy of Monterey, was a loving grandmother who took great joy in her family. Her jam cake was famous and her homemade candies a delight. When Lela Maude’s glass doll fell from a swing and broke, it was Ma Maggie who painstakingly put her together again. She loved to sing gospel songs and as she went about her work it wasn’t unusual to hear Ma Maggie’s clear, sweet voice singing ‘There’s Nothing Between My Soul and the Savior.’ Ma Maggie’s unselfish dedication to her family and community was poignantly demonstrated when she once willingly weaned her own baby to nurse a baby whose mother had died.
Berta Gayle of New Liberty tells of her Grannie, Carrie Garnett:  
“Grannie canned vegetables and fruit from the orchard. She dried peaches and apple on a sheet spread over the kitchen porch roof. She made butter, cottage cheese, jams and jellies. Spending money came from eggs and cream sold at Varber’s General Store in Sparta ... Grannie kept a pot of coffee on the back range all the time. She wore a white bonnet to church. In the evening, you could find her on the porch smoking her corn cob pipe. Nobody could beat her white coconut cake.”
 Teresa Swigert remembers her grandmother, Mom-Kate, being blessed: with an ability to be content with the simple things of life; loving (her) family, cooking and sewing, and making new acquaintances, as well as visiting with old friends.  
Mom-Kate was the daughter of William and Elizabeth (Ligon) Smoot Davis. She married twice and operated a diner in Erlanger before she moved back to Owen County. Mom-Kate and her daughter, Kathryn owned a little restaurant just outside of Wheatley and Mom-Kate became known for her pies, especially her fried ones. Her grandmother loved moving to different neighborhoods and houses, and although this might have been frustrating for her children, Teresa declares it offered Mom-Kate’s grandchildren many new places of adventure  to explore.
According to Frieda May Hughes Broomhall her grandmother, Nellie May Davis Hughes, was called Mom Hughes by her grandchildren. Frieda recalls spending the summer with her grandparents and going to vacation Bible school at Lusby Mill Baptist Church. Mom Hughes would get up at the crack of dawn and fire up the wood stove so she could start breakfast. Then she would start to whistling. Frieda wrote: All the while she was cooking, cleaning house, and washing clothes, she would whistle a tune. I mean the whole song. Mom Hughes wouldn’t stop whistling until all her work was done .... Mom Hughes also taught Frieda and her brother how to weave baskets and when she grew tired of seeing her granddaughters in pants, she made them dresses out of feed sacks with which the girls were delighted.
Grandmothers are an integral part of a family unit. We all hold precious memories of our own grandmothers; and the stories of their lives told over and over again serve as a foundation of our rich heritage.
The Owen County, Kentucky Family History Book is still available for $60 plus tax and postage. If you have not purchased one, you are missing a great deal of Owen County history. Please stop by the museum for your copy or call us at 502-484-2529.
 The historical society board meeting is scheduled for Thursday 6:30 p.m. at the I.O.O.F. Hall. It is imperative that all board members attend. Committee chairpersons are also encouraged to attend. Many exciting plans for the upcoming year are on the agenda and we need everyone’s support.