Owen Historical Society News: The past lives on in our cemeteries

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By Bonnie Strassell

When a pen meets history, the past bursts into life. This explosion is created by an author who draws from a multitude of sources. I would like to thank all those whose knowledge of Owen County history and its families make possible my weekly column in the News-Herald. Their contributions serve to keep our heritage alive, and history is recorded once again.
Books on the history of Owen County written by Mariam Sidebottom Houchens, John Forsee, and Margaret Murphy hold a place of honor in my home. Though the pages of some of these editions are a bit worn (bit worn is an understatement), the information contained within their covers is vital to my research.
Recently I have been in touch with Mariam’s son, David Houchens. He and his sister are compiling diary entries of their mother and binding them into books. They have just mailed the sixth volume to the historical society, and all of these can be reviewed at the museum.
Mariam began writing her memoirs before she was married, and in 1936 she made daily entries, continuing this practice for about 20 years. David retains the copyright on the hardbound editions but has donated the handwritten diaries to the Filson Historical Society. Filson holds the copyright on these originals.
David explained that it takes about a year to compile these diary entries into a book and this fact demonstrates the dedication of David Houchens and his sister to the preservation of Owen County history.
I have gleaned much information from early editions of The News-Herald and The Owen News. Don’t discredit the news of today for in it lays the history of tomorrow. If given the chance please thank the hard working staff at the The News-Herald, for by supplying us with weekly news they provide us with history for the future. Bound copies of The News-Herald, dated from the early 1900s, can be found at the Owen County Historical Society Museum. Please visit us and read them at your leisure.
Articles written by the colorful Charlie Johnson are included in my research, as well as stories from our recently published “Owen County, Kentucky Family History Book.” Thanks to all of you who have so kindly contributed to that publication.
Most of all I am deeply grateful to Margaret Murphy, Lela Maude Hawkins, Doris Riley, Gary Duvall, members of the historical society and all those other Owen countians whose stories, sayings and wonderful bantering have played such an important part in my writings. Your memories give life to my words.
Join us Sept. 29 at the Owenton I.O.O.F. Cemetery as history comes alive. Does that sound like an oxymoron to imply that history is alive in a cemetery? Come see for yourself as tour guides Christina Rice and Peggy Trinkle take you on an unforgettable journey to meet Congressman Evan Settle, Jennie Dunavent, the Rev. J.A. Lee, Brian Forsee (descendant of Owen County settler George Forsee) and teacher Nell Lucas Scott. Listen as they tell stories of Owen in earlier years. Tours begin at 2 p.m. and continue every half hour with the last tour beginning at 3:30 p.m. Plan on stopping by the museum also as president Jeannie Baker and Ruth Ann Hazlett will be on hand to show you our new displays and pictures.
Owen County has hundreds of cemeteries. Most were originally family plots, which over time developed into community graveyards. Some cannot be detected because of the overgrowth of weeds and vines. Records from many of these cemeteries cannot be found. For instance, the cemetery at New Columbus lost records of the sale of lots and records of burials. Those documents were destroyed by fire in 1920 when Lewis True’s house burned. The New Columbus Cemetery was opened in 1882 by Squire Elizah Arnold and others and was the final resting place of many from the area. I am told that the New Columbus Cemetery was also called Fairview Cemetery. At times, cemeteries took on names of families who were buried there. It has been said that the dead are gone and should be left alone, that no purpose is served in keeping cemeteries cleaned up. Truly the dead are gone, but the record of their birth and death serve as a link for their descendants. This information bridges generations and brings to life the memories of the past.
Speaking of passing on, the historical society computer has given up and died off.  It has limped along for several years, but finally a new one had to be purchased to take its place. We are grateful to Ed Seale who has helped us with computer glitches in the past and has agreed to assist us in hooking up the new one.
A board meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening at 6:30 at the I.O.O.F. hall. It is imperative that all board members attend as important business needs to be discussed. Committee chairpersons are also encouraged to join us.