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Bonnie Strassell - Owen County Historical Society

  • Severn Creek rife with Owen County history

    Sumac is a native plant of Kentucky. Some varieties grow ten feet in height, and although their berries are poisonous to humans, they are a delectable treat for birds and animals alike.
    In early times there was a prolific growth of sumac along  Severn Creek (spelled Savern in old deeds). Some of the settlers referred to the stream as Sumac Creek, but it was more commonly called Severn. It is thought that the name most likely was to honor Ebenezer Severns who, along with Hancock Taylor and Jacob Drennon, surveyed the area in 1773.

  • Turkeys have a long, rich American history

    In 1782 the bald eagle was chosen as the centerpiece for the great seal of the United States. The following year, Benjamin Franklin declared that the artistic rendition of the eagle looked more like a turkey, which he postulated would have been a better choice as an American symbol.
    In a letter to his daughter, Franklin wrote: “Others object to the bald eagle as looking too much a dindon, or turkey. For my own part, I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country.”

  • Rural America shaped by beloved grandfathers

    In rural America, many of these vital people are perhaps best pictured as dressed in overalls and walking behind a plow or sitting atop a tractor.
    Their eyes crinkle at the corners from years of squinting in the sun, and their strong, calloused hands speak of tireless devotion to the land.

  • Despite havoc of fires, communities worked together to rebuild
  • Judge Cammack a fair and courageous statesman

    American preacher and author James Freeman Clarke once said, “A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation.”
    In early America, elected officials were referred to as statesmen for they were more interested in the good of their country than of furthering their careers. Statesmen such as Patrick Henry, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and others devoted their lives in service to their country.

  • War of 1812 lieutenant became Owen wharfmaster

    He was near six feet tall with broad shoulders and a sandy complexion. There is no doubt that commanding a keelboat on the Kentucky toughened his body and expanded his horizons; and although at times his profanity shocked the naive, no one doubted the skill and sincerity of Owen County riverman and wharfmaster Dennis Byrnes.      

  • Blacksmiths played a variety of roles in community

    In early America, one didn’t pick a fight with the village blacksmith, for everyone knew his trade produced the muscular, sinewy arms of a prized fighter.
    The blacksmith shop was at the heart of most communities in the early 1900s. Inside the dim interior of the building, a powerfully rugged blacksmith would shoe horses and make iron implements. He was often called upon to act as a dentist, doctor, undertaker and horse dealer; and many blacksmiths held the position of magistrate or churchwarden.

  • Butchering hogs and chickens once a part of every day Owen Co. life

    Thomas Jefferson once said, “Agriculture is our wisest pursuit because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.”
    Jefferson’s statement is perhaps best illustrated in the ebb and flow of life on a farm.
    As the passionate heat of summer gives way to crisp autumn days, the farm family makes preparation for winter. In earlier days, apples, potatoes, cushaws, and onions were stored in root cellars, and inventory was taken of the wood supply that guaranteed satisfaction of a ravenous wood stove.

  • The value of a dollar during the 19th and 20th centuries

    Before coins and paper money were used as a means of exchange, bartering for goods was a common practice on the American frontier. This practice continued in rural Kentucky into the 20th century when local hucksters would trade staples for anything from chickens, eggs, freshly caught fish or a fine snapping turtle.
    Bartering dates back to 6,000 BC when tribes introduced it in Mesopotamia. The Babylonians developed an improved bartering system and exchanged goods for food, tea, weapons, and spices. At times, human skulls were bartered as well.

  • Owen County Historical Society | Sept. 21, 2016

    In early America, inns offered overnight places of rest to weary travelers. Many of these stops were built along stagecoach routes and provided for the needs of travelers, including food, lodging, stabling, fodder for the traveler’s horse and fresh mounts for the mail couch.