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Owen Historical Society News: Reelin’ in the years

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By Bonnie Strassell

When asked why he spent so much time fishing, a Kentucky old-timer answered, “Three-fourths of the Earth’s surface is water, and one-fourth is land. It is quite clear that the good Lord intended us to spend triple the amount of time fishing as mowing grass.”
There is no doubt that most Owen countians agree with this statement; and to emphasize their dedication to fishing poles, tackle, worms and lures, avid fishermen and women devote many hours during the spring and summer months along the creeks and lakes in the county. Certainly they’re fishing for that big catch about which to spin stories for years to come. Many may have a favorite fishing hat, rod, or reel; and superstitions abound as to the best time to fish, how to guarantee a catch, and where the most desirable fishing holes are located.
Until the 1800s, the fishing reel was not much more than a storage place for excess line. The British made very simple fishing reels and when immigrants came to this country they brought them along. However, the finest reel makers who greatly improved upon English reels were jewelers, watchmakers and silversmiths of Kentucky.
One of these fine reel makers lived in Owen County and we at the historical society were introduced to him last week when Doug Carpenter from Lexington visited the museum.
Doug is a member of Old Reel Collectors Association (O.R.C.A.). He presented us with a copy of a patent obtained by Owenton jeweler Frank Fullilove in 1905 on an early reel. Called the “Crown” reel these are extremely rare today and are coveted by reel collectors across the country. Several are appraised between $4,000 to $5,000. 
The 2013 O.R.C.A. convention is scheduled to be held in Frankfort at the Capital Plaza Hotel Ballroom and is opened to the public Sept.6 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The convention will feature Kentucky reels and is titled “Kentucky Reels Come Home.”
Two famous reel makers in Frankfort were B.F. Meek and B.C.Milam, but Owen countian Frank Fullilove’s “Crown” reel was a handmade German silver bait casting reel which had jeweled bearings.
Though none of the early Kentucky reel makers patented their reels, Frank must have wanted to protect his design.
He received his patent March 14,1905, and Owen countians can not only see a copy of his patent in the museum, but Doug Carpenter is displaying antique Kentucky reels, including one made by Frank Fullilove at our Kentucky River Day Aug. 17.
Frank Fullilove’s name is also recorded in Mariam Houchens book “History of Owen County, Kentucky.” It seems that in the early 1900s, the cook at the Star Hotel in  Perry Park found a gold nugget in the craw of a turkey she was preparing.
The owner of the hotel, Gardner Thomas, took the nugget to Frank Fullilove to examine and when Frank verified its worth, Gardner had him make a watch fob out of it.
Frank Fullilove is buried in the I.O.O.F. Cemetery in Owenton.
If you get a chance you might stop by his grave and pay your respects to this little known Owen County jeweler whose name will be remembered for his exquisite handmade German silver fishing reels which he sold out of his store.

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The Owen County Historical Society is planning a community potluck dinner before the monthly meeting Thursday  evening at the I.O.O.F. Hall.
Everyone is invited and asked to bring a covered dish to share with friends. Dinner is at 5:30 p.m.  and our special guest Thad Stearn will present a program at 7 p.m. Thad is a member of the Second Regiment of Kentucky Volunteer Militia, a re-enacting group that brings to life the sights, sounds, sorrows and unmatched determination of the  Kentuckians who fought in the War of 1812. 
More than 25,000 men of the commonwealth, many from the Owen County area, fought from 1812-1815 and 64 percent of the causalities of that war were Kentuckians. Join us for dinner and then help us welcome Thad Stearn, a man committed to history and its vital place in our country.

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Save the date of Aug. 17 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and join the historical society as we partner with the Kentucky American Water in presenting Kentucky River Day in the backyard of the museum. Special speakers Bill Grier and Bill Ellis will be available for a book signing. Amalie Preston will entertain us with stories of the Kentucky river and a representative from the Kentucky River Authority will update the public on the progress of the lock and dam system. Doug Carpenter will display antique Kentucky reels and the Department of Kentucky fish and wildlife will have a display.
Activities for the kids will be available as well as a fine repast of delicious mouth watering  food prepared by the notable Big Tricky’s Catering. Musical entertainment on the calliope will be offered by Owen countians Ann Bush and David Stowe.
For those who grew up along the Kentucky, have a love for its rich history, or just want to join in a fun filled day don’t miss this opportunity.