Owen Historical Society News: Shopping was an adventure

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By Bonnie Strassell

Somehow the conversation always seemed to revert back to history.
Though the occasion was a birthday party for historical society member Margaret Alice Murphy, the ghosts of Owen countians took center stage.
Stories of hucksters and Owen County general stores brought the phantoms to life and created a lively atmosphere in which to reminisce.
Shirley Hardin recalled the time when she was a little girl and would ride on a spring wagon with her grandfather or uncle to pay a visit to Tink Barker’s general store in Truesville. For the benefit of us city folk (namely me), Shirley explained that a spring wagon which, of course was equipped with springs, gave passengers a better albeit a bit bouncier ride.
According to Shirely, Tink’s store offered a cornucopia of items, including jowl bacon suspended from a wire. This Owen County favorite would be sliced off in a chunk for those craving a bit of jowl to fry or to add as seasoning to a pot of beans. The seemingly limitless supplies in the general store wonderland never failed to produce a delightful grin on the face of many an Owen County youngster.
Tink was a small, wizened man whose head usually sported a hat and whose general store was typical of many groceries in the Owen area in the early to mid 1900s.
The W.H.Lowdenback general store in Pleasant Home was another well-known place of business. Walmart has nothing about which to boast when the list of available products at Lowdenback’s are revealed. It seems endless, and according to the 1883 Atlas, the offerings included, “Medicines and chemicals, perfumery, soaps, combs, bushes, trusses, supporters, shoulder braces, fancy and toilet articles, books and stationery, lamps and chimneys, grass and garden seeds, glass, putty, paints, oils, dry stuffs, pure wines and liquors for medicinal use, physician’s prescriptions carefully compounded at all hours, goods selected with care and warranted as represented.”  Lowdenback’s was a veritable one-stop shopping experience.
Some of the hucksters who made their rounds in Owen County resided just across the county line.
One such likely fellow was Flop Smith whose general store was located in Swallowfield, near the Franklin-Owen County line.
Flop’s son, Len, recalls hearing stories  of the many times his father would leave with a full truck and return home with a full truck. Instead of money, Flop would accept other items in barter, resulting in pockets lined with very little cash and a truck full of Owen County paraphernalia.
It seems certain that Flop Smith and those like him concerned themselves with more than just delivering staples to Owen County communities. With kind and generous hearts, these dedicated Owen countians served as an inspiration, extending a helping hand to their fellow man.
Magaret Alice Murphy has just turned 94. She, Doris Riley, and Verna Catherine Payne are charter members of the Owen County Historical Society.
Over the years, they have all worked diligently to assure the success of the society, and in doing so, we owe them a debt of gratitude.
The current historical society board and general membership continue this commitment.
The work ahead of us may at times present challenges, but with the help of Owen countians and the organizations which serve our communities, The Owen County Historical Society will remain a viable resource of the past.
We are sincerely grateful to the Owenton City Council, the Owen County Fiscal Court, the Owen County Chamber of Commerce, the Owenton Rotary Club, the Owen County Clothing Center, Col. Perry Lusby and all other donors who make possible our continued presence in Owen County.
We also received grants from the Durr Foundation, which provided us with money needed for major repairs both inside and outside the museum and an anonymous grant for electronic equipment.
The Zembrodt Foundation, which kindly donates money each year to the historical society, has designated that the donation they made in December be used exclusively for a rock flower garden to be established in the yard at the museum and dedicated to former historical society president  Jeannie Baker and former board member Darrel Baker for their years of service to the historical society.
A reminder that January is the month to renew dues for the historical society. The $25 a year helps with the cost of operating and maintaining the historical society museum. More importantly, it affords everyone the opportunity of joining together in a common goal of preserving our rich history and traditions.
It was one of the earliest fortifications in the lands that would become Kentucky. Established by Daniel Boone in 1775, it was located along the Kentucky River near the route of the Wilderness Trail from the Cumberland Gap into central Kentucky. This large rectangular fortification, designated Fort Boonesborough, became a sanctuary for many families who found protection within its sturdy walls from British and Indian attacks during the Revolutionary War.
Owen County resident, curator of Fort Boonesborough, historic re-enactor and Civil War enthusiast Jerry Raisor is currently working with archaeologist Nancy O’Malley excavating the original site of the fort.
Jerry will be our guest Thursday at 7 p.m. at the I.O.O.F. hall. His program will include a description of the artifacts that have been uncovered thus far and the future of the project.
The Fort Boonesborough Foundation is raffling an 18th Century style flintlock rifle to help with needed funds for this important endeavor which will shed light on a vital piece of Kentucky history. The rifle will be available for viewing after the program, and the $5 raffle tickets can be purchased from Jerry Raisor or online at