Owen Historical Society News: Music, food and stories of past highlight picnic

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By Bonnie Strassell

The names were familiar: Arnold, Craigmyle, Baldwin, Baker, Dunavent, Duvall, Gibson, Harris, King, Judy, McCord, Threlkeld, Ransdell, Riley, Shelton, Swigert, Thornton, Thomas, Vallandingham, Yancey and others. Names of Owen County families whose descendants attended the Owen County Historical Society annual picnic last Thursday at the museum. We were joined by historical society members Sally Ward Rice and her daughter, Christina,  who live in Franklin County but have ties in Owen through the Hardins, Haydens, and Clarks. Generations who gathered to feast, fellowship, and reminisce. We were also honored by the attendance of Owenton Mayor Doug West and his wife, Betty. The mayor declared the food some of the best in the county and no one disagreed with his assessment.
After the meal, Faye Shelton settled herself at our calliope, which was waiting in anticipation of Faye’s talented fingers gliding along its keys. Melodies of America’s past, hymns and a selection of Stephen Foster songs filled the air and a few brave voices joined in. Larry Dale Perry settled himself on the grassy bank beside the deck and accompanied Faye on his harmonica. The weather was perfect and so were the decorations, which were the result of president Jeannie Baker’s talented hands.
Stories of the past flitted from one picnic table to another, most fitting for a historical society event.
Bobby Gibson grew up on Cull Road and recalled when he and his brother worked in the Owenton Cemetery. “My brother worked there for 25 years and knew exactly where everyone was buried. He didn’t need to look up the information in a book,” Bobby declared. “Give my brother a name and he could walk to the exact spot where that person was buried.”
Bud Dunavent reminisced about building a racecar in his Granny (Jennie) Dunavent’s hen house. “She didn’t have any chickens at the time,” Bud said. “So I built my race car there. Problem was I couldn’t get it out the door when it was finished and had to end up taking the side off the building.”
Bud’s wife, Liz, told of the time Bud owned an angora goat, which his Granny was not fond of. One day as granny was hanging wash, she bent over to retrieve a piece of clothing from the laundry basket. The goat could not resist such a tempting target and you probably can guess the rest of the story.
Gene Allen Thomas is a third generation Owen County pharmacist. She told of her great uncle, Eusibius Ransdell who was the first pharmacist in the family. He and “Pud” Vallandingham operated the Ransdell and Vallandingham Drug Store. Gene’s father, W.E. “Spike” Thomas was a pharmacist and joined with John Morgan to establish the Morgan & Thomas Drug Store which was a vital part of Owen County until 2008.
Faye Shelton described the years she and her husband were tenants on the Hardin Farm along the Kentucky River Bottom in Monterey. “Steve’s family had a dairy on Claxon Ridge but we also worked on the Hardin Farm. Everyday we would pack our dinner to take along with us to the fields. It was hard work but also was a special time to spend together as a family.”
A birthday cake was enjoyed by all as we celebrated the birthday of historical society board member, Jarl Lee Harris.
Ethel Kincaid asked about her old corn grinder, which has found a new home in my house. Ethel bought it years ago because it reminded her of the times she had to grind corn for chicken feed. With a little oil and a new coat of paint the ole’ grinder is now providing my chickens with a weekly supply of fresh corn.
Darrel and Jeannie Baker are very grateful for all of you who stayed after the picnic and helped clean up. Joy Arnold had been out of the county and had spent 12 hours on a plane – yet chose to remain with others to give her gracious assistance. Thank you.
Reunions, picnics, and even going to mama’s for supper create memories to be shared and cherished. Don’t miss out on any opportunity to preserve your history whether through stories, songs, or genealogy. Your input is a piece of history to be passed on to your children, grandchildren and future generations.
We are looking forward to our first cemetery walking tour Sept. 29 at the Owenton I.O.O.F. Cemetery. Flyers will be posted throughout Owenton. Tours are in the afternoon at 2:00, 2:30, 3:00 and 3:30 p.m. Ron Devore will be on hand to play his dulcimer for this special event. Bring your umbrellas in case of rain. Tour guides Christina Rice and Peggy Trinkle will relate the history of the cemetery and expound on symbolism on the gravestones. They will be pleased to travel with you to visit the personages of several Owen countians who will relate stories of their life in the early days of Owen County. President Jeannie Baker and Ruth Ann Hazlett will be conducting tours in the museum for those who may want to stop in and visit.
A big thank you to Liz Dunavent, who completed our afternoon tea display with a sugar and creamer set. We also want to extend our thanks to everyone who loaned us items for our display windows in the I.O.O.F. hall. One window honors all our veterans and the other is dedicated to Owen County hunting and fishing. President Jeannie Baker, Darrel Baker, and Liz Dunavent have worked tirelessly to offer all of you a bit of visual Owen County history.
Concreting the driveway was made possible through the expertise and hard work of Greg Estes and his assistant. We are very grateful for them as the museum continues to receive much-needed repairs.
Thanks also to those whose kind donations help the Owen County Historical Society accomplish its mission of preserving the history of the county.