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The dictionary tells us that a community is: “ people who reside in the same locality and have common rights, privileges, or interests.” But more importantly, those living together in a community also share common goals, concerns, and love for one another. Owen county has always been comprised of many small communities, some of which today are left with vacant buildings, torn down schools and little trace of groceries, banks, and family homes. However, those Owen countians who continue to live in these communities still exhibit pride in their homeplace and are ever willing to share stories of what it was like in the “heyday” of their particular section of the county.
Over the years some Owen county communities and towns have changed their names. Bethany was formerly known as Walnut Grove, Bromely was Eagle Hill, Monterey was Williamsburg, and Gratz, which once was home to 300 residents, was known as Clay Lick. At the height of its prosperity, Gratz boasted of four churches, two schools, two hotels, a bank, two drug stores, three doctors, a dentist, and an opera house. The lead mine, two miles downstream, was very productive until just after World War I, when it shut down and lead to a decline in Gratz population. The community of Long Ridge was once called Harrisburg, but the name caused much of the mail to be sent to similar sounding towns such as Harrodsburg, so Harrisburg became Long Ridge in 1909.
When pioneers first settled in what was to become Owen County, they formed communities to establish a united force against Indian attacks. The names of some of these settlers still linger throughout the county: Rowlett, Clifton, Cobb, Osborne, Perkins, Sanders. People are the driving force and backbone of communities, and many Owen countians have achieved fame not just locally, but throughout the state of Kentucky and across the country.
As years roll by, we lose some of our residents when they move to other counties in Kentucky or other states; and daily we hear of the passing of some beloved Owen countian. Such was the case when we were informed last week that Historical Society member, Joseph S. Sandford, passed away. Joseph was born in Owenton and was the son of the late John and Mattie (Dawson) Sandford. He was a 1935 graduate of Owenton High School and served in the Navy during World War II. Even up until his death at the age of 93, Mr. Sandford had a sharp memory and would still recall his early days on the farm in Owen County.
The historical society offers our condolences to the Sandford family and we are grateful for the donation made in Joseph’s memory by his son, Robert.
We also want to acknowledge the Owen County Clothing Center who graciously gave us a donation. It is only through the kindness and generosity of people throughout all the communities of Owen County that the Owen County Historical Society will be given the opportunity to continue preserving our history.
A reminder to all historical society members that the deadline to RSVP and pay for the May dinner is May 1. The cost is $10 and must be paid when you RSVP.