Owen Historical Society News: Our history comes alive

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By Bonnie Strassell

Clad in buckskins breeches, a tomahawk belted at his waist, the slim young boy evoked a classic image of a frontier Kentuckian.

His tomahawk rested easy in his hand, and he sent it sailing through the air with seemingly little effort. When the lad smiled his eyes reflected a deep respect for history, woods lore and the fortitude of our frontier forefathers who tamed the wilderness.

Accompanied by his grandmother, whose skilled hands constructed the boy’s clothing, Owen County Middle School student, Guy Cobb, stepped into the past at the Historical Society History Day June 22.

Historical society members Tom and Mary Lou Morrison, who have thrown tomahawks for years, supervised the tomahawk throw. For many, the skill of throwing a “hawk” wasn’t as easy as it seemed, yet several visitors were able to accomplish this feat as they threw the hawk deep into the wood block. Florence resident Isaac Shoultheis and Owen countian Wanda New both exhibited their prowess in this popular frontier skill. Wanda also demonstrated her ability with the bow and arrow. It’s certain that if Wanda New had lived on the Kentucky frontier, she would have been a force with which to reckoned.

Although the grasses grew thick and high on the Kentucky frontier we were grateful that historical society board member Bobby Gibson mowed the grasses that surround the museum, giving the guests a smooth, level walking area.

Along with his son Josh, champion archer Michael Niedwick, graciously instructed the public in the fine art of archery. He displayed several different types of bows and his knowledge and skill was amazing.

The Confederate flag and that of the Orphan Brigade flew from the pavilion. Christina Rice compiled a list of Owen countians who served in the Orphan Brigade and it is now on display in the museum and available to those interested in researching an ancestor.

Music was provided by Ron Devore on his dulcimer and John Harrod on the fiddle. The two enjoyed swapping stories and joining voices as strains of Civil War songs encircled the visitors. Tessa Sestito slipped out of her shoes and danced, and her long yellow skirt swirled about her bare feet.

Participants were treated to a lunch of home-baked bread and Big Jim Acton’s beef stew, while visitors grabbed a bite to eat from the burger stand in the front of the museum. 

Dressed in period clothing Teresa Swigert and Ruth Ann Hazlett added to the atmosphere; and the two, along with Liz Dunavent and Ethel Kincaid, conducted tours and conversed with visitors inside the museum.

Wearing a Confederate cap to show his support for the Southern cause, board member Tom Strassell played his guitar and entertained guests in the foyer.

President Larry Dale Perry displayed his Indian artifacts and related their use as the public gathered around his exhibit.

Over 50 visitors enjoyed the day as they traveled from Georgetown, Florence, Franklin County and Florida for a glimpse into the rich history of Owen County.

Faces of Owen countians who served in the Civil War were depicted in a display of photographs, both inside and outside the museum. Their serious countenances seem to relate the story of this tragic war and the effect it had upon our country. Perhaps, though, if one looks closely, a glimmer of hope can be detected in their eyes. A hope that is nourished by the eager anticipation for an end to war and the opportunity to return to their homes and raise their families in peace.

Our thanks to the historical society members and all our friends who helped make this a memorable history day. In August we will be hosting a Kentucky River Days in the backyard of the museum. The date will be announced in next week’s column.

Keep in mind our many publications for sale. Stop by the museum for a visit and help support our efforts to preserve the traditions of Owen County.