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In the past, Owen countians have seen some bad winters when snow drifted over fence posts, the Kentucky River froze, long-standing shade trees in front yards had to be cut down because at times the cold and snow prevented a journey to the woods for fuel.
As February made its exit, folks looked forward to spring, and memories of cold and snow gave way to anticipation of house cleaning (at least for the women), planting crops, incubating chicks, and fishing.
Today, housecleaning involves washing windows and steam cleaning carpets, but early 20th century Owen County housewives took up their rag carpet — made by cutting cast-off clothing into long strips and laboriously sewing them together — and took it to the clothesline to beat the dust from its fibers. The old straw under the carpet was discarded and the floor was cleaned before fresh straw was laid and the dried carpet retacked to the floor. After husbands carried the furniture into the yard, it was thoroughly dusted and re-varnished. Feather beds and pillows were aired and bed springs were cleaned, most often with turkey feathers. Quilts and blankets were washed. And if a coal stove was the main source of heat in the home, blackened walls were scrubbed down or sometimes freshened with a new coat of paint. The woodwork was also freshly painted and the stove was given a coat of stove polish.
Children were never neglected in these spring rituals. Their long underwear was washed and stored for the next winter; and most were given a spring tonic for worms, which often came in the form of a drop of turpentine to a spoonful of sugar.
The promise of spring is perhaps anticipated most by the farmer.
In the 19th and early-20th centuries, Owen County farmers plowed their fields with oxen, horses, or mules. Each morning as he greeted the dawn, the farmer took joy in his daily labor that would guarantee new life springing forth from the ground.
Today, farmers have modern equipment, yet the anticipation of a fruitful harvest remains, giving us pause to contemplate the timeless history of our land and our people.
The Owen County Historical Society also looks forward to warmer days when members will be cleaning the yard at the museum and painting where needed. You can’t tell a book by its cover, but we endeavor to present an appealing museum on the outside as well as offer treasures of Owen County history within.
Last Monday we had 14 visitors at the museum. A couple from Texas inquired about the Clifton family. Owen County Historical Society President Jeannie Baker made a phone call to historian Glenna Clifton, who graciously offered to help the couple with their genealogy.
A couple from Northern Kentucky stopped by, as did Daniel Green and his wife from Frankfort. Daniel joined the historical society and complimented us on our exhibits.
Joe Stewart, Bobby Joe Quickert and his son, along with another friend, stopped in. They’re all from Henry County and Bobby Joe mentioned that his mother ran the mail from Henry County to Gratz.
Old friends and new are what strengthen communities and preserve the history of the people who have made Owen County their home.