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Bonnie Strassell - Owen County Historical Society

  • ‘Free Frank’ sold gunpowder to free himself, family

    He came to Kentucky as a slave in the 1790s. After his daily work, his master leased him to other farmers and permitted the young man to earn a little of his own money. This young slave, Frank, was also an entrepreneur. He explored local Kentucky caves, collected niter, boiled it down to make salt peter and combined it with sulfur and charcoal to produce gunpowder.
    Frank sold his gunpowder on the streets of Lexington, and was able to make enough cash to not only buy his freedom but that of his wife and a son.

  • Owen Co. remains ‘home’ for those who have traveled far and wide

    Perhaps it’s memories of the lay of the land or reminisces of our childhood that evoke a longing for the place of our birth. Maybe it’s the remembrance of parents and grandparents whose daily lives reflected an era of the hardworking folks that helped create a prosperous and enduring America.
    Whatever the reason for our nostalgia, the stories of our lives give insight into our past and are treasures to share with future generations.

  • Ky. caves aided in gunpowder production during War of 1812

    The War of 1812 saw Kentuckians volunteering by the hundred of thousands. Many would never set their sights on home again; yet the dream of a nation, unfettered by the yoke of the British crown and free from the constant harassment of Indians, compelled them to fight.

  • Former News-Herald editor documented early Owen Co. life

    John Forsee, an early editor of the News-Herald and native Owen countian, wrote a history of the county in 1936 under the Federal Writers’ Project. This project was created in 1935 as part of the United States WPA program to provide employment for historians, teachers, writers, and librarians. Its purpose was not only to help these white collar workers but to focus on the historic and cultural resources of the United States.

  • Community correspondents played important role in history

    They migrated across the Appalachian mountains to Kentucky. Most hailed from Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Families and friends traveled together, and upon their arrival to a new land, they built homes, churches, schools and communities. Groceries, blacksmith shops and other businesses settled in these small towns that dotted the landscape of Kentucky in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; and communities, fueled by the efforts of close-knit and self-reliant people, grew and prospered.

  • Orphan Brigade has storied local history

    He was only 16, but a war was being fought, and in the 1860s his manhood was never questioned. He was born in Owenton, Ky., raised by his grandmother, and eventually was apprenticed as a cabinetmaker in Wheatley.
    When the Civil War touched Owen County, J.C. Hartsough joined the Confederate Army and became a soldier of the Orphan Brigade. Though Kentucky claimed neutrality at the beginning of the war, loyalties were divided throughout the state, and most Owen countians eventually chose to fight for the Southern cause.

  • Owen countians helped build, maintain toll roads

    He was perhaps best known for his stories of riverboat life on the Kentucky, but for decades Charlie Johnson preserved the history of Owen County in countless articles, which today give insight into our past.
    From river life to the Civil War to local lore, Charlie shared his vast knowledge of Owen County, its communities and the folks who settled its land.
    One of Johnson’s early articles, submitted to the News-Herald in the 1960s, described the rise and fall of Owen County toll roads, and the vital role they played in the development of the area.  

  • Owen County home to Purple Heart recipients

    Perhaps it was the letters written by her great-aunt Bea that inspired Marlene Browning-Wainscott to record stories of Owen County veterans. Aunt Bea had lost her husband in the war, and years later, her correspondence with Marlene provided a link to the past and a treasure of cherished memories
    Marlene Browning-Wainscott has devoted much of her life the past few years interviewing Owen countians who served in World War II. She felt an urgency to record the stories of these vital freedom-fighting Americans before they were lost.

  • Proper etiquette grandmother’s wish for young granddaughter

    The letter was tucked inside an old book in the historical society collections, and the book, titled “The Charm of Fine Manners,” illustrates the high regard placed upon proper etiquette in the 1900s.
    The letter, which was penned almost 100 years ago, was dated December 24, 1922, and was signed “Grandmother.”
    “Grandmother” was an Owen counitan who wrote this lovely note to her granddaughter, Helen; and its contents illustrates the significant impact of grandparents upon the lives of their grandchildren.

  • Entertaining tales of Owen County river men abound

    They were passed down through families, and their content ran from exhilarating to tragic, from rousingly humorous to almost unbelievable.
    They were the stories of life on the fire-belching mammoths that ruled the Kentucky River for over 100 years, and they have entertained Kentuckians for generations.