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Owen Historical Society News: Replica reflects important part of Owen history

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By Bonnie Strassell

She was a familiar sight in Owen County during the early part of the 20th Century.
Upon hearing news of her arrival, Owen countians turned out to greet her. She would stop to visit at Monterey, Gratz, Balls Landing, Eagle Valley, Moxley, Carter’s, Minor’s, Mussel Shoals, Lead Mines, River Fruit Farms, Hog Thief, Buffalo Crossing, Tywhaperty, Savern, Big Eddy, Pond Branch, Sparks’ Horse Mill, Tom Moore’s, Hudson’s, John Bondurant’s No. 1, Lawrence’s, Cox’s, Ballard’s and Hardin’s for a total distance of 33 river miles. The size of her silhouette (148 feet) reflecting upon the water impressed even those who piloted these impressive giants churning up the waters of the Kentucky River.
According to Melissa Jurgensen in her book, “River Towns of Central Kentucky”  both the Falls City I and the Falls City II which replaced it, were owned by William David Hardin of the Louisville and Kentucky River Packet Company. William Hardin was a businessman from Monterey and the Hardin family has lived in that area of Owen since the 1700s.
From 1898-1908, the Falls City II  ran from Louisville to Valley View in Madison County. She was a packet boat and not only delivered freight and mail but carried passengers to various destinations. She also made weekly trips to High Bridge, located in the beautiful Palisades region of Kentucky.
Stories abound of the Kentucky River and the people who lived along its banks or worked on the boats traveling its legendary waters. To relieve the boredom of unchanging miles of river travel, crews on steamboats challenged one another to race. According to William Ellis in his book, “The Kentucky River” some of these boat races were not just for sport. “On one occasion when “Rescue” beat its rival through the locks at Monterey, the enterprising captain of the Falls City II dispatched his deck hands overland to tobacco warehouses at Gratz.
When the Rescue arrived at Gratz, the Falls City II’s workmen had commandeered the town and were already emptying the warehouse in anticipation of their boat’s arrival.”
The Falls City II and its story has left an indelible mark on Owen County and to celebrate its history the Owen County Historical Society is setting aside Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. for the dedication of a model of the Falls City II.
This model was built by master craftsman Charlie Moorman, who has 10 ship models on display at the Cincinnati Museum Center. To compliment this day of celebration we will also welcome the ghost of Stephen Foster who will entertain us on his accordion with songs from the era. Many may remember these tunes which include “O Susannah,” “My Old Kentucky Home,” “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Old Folks at Home.” Mark your calendars and join us for a Sunday afternoon of steamboat history and musical reminisces.
Owen County’s venerable Judge-executive Carolyn Keith, will be our honored guest at the next historical society meeting, October 11 at the I.O.O. F. hall. There will be a business meeting at 6:30 p.m. and the program begins at 7 p.m. Plan on attending this fun and informative evening.
Just a reminder to those who would like to receive a gift. The museum is displaying pictures of Owen countians whose names are unknown to us. If you can identify any of these mysterious figures you will be rewarded with a gift certificate.