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Local heroes come in all shapes and sizes

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By Bonnie Strassell

They come in all shapes and sizes. Some receive national attention while others just exhibit an inner strength that makes a difference in someone’s life. They are known as heroes, and their actions inspire others and make an indelible imprint upon the pages of history.
Some heroes are everyday folks who overcome a tragedy or survive a calamity, and whose determination leads them to triumph over tribulation.
There are many stories of heroes during wartime who ignore their safety to save the life of others. Such was the case in 1792 when Jarrett Demint took his family to the safety of a fort in Carroll County. Indian attacks had forced many settlers in the area to seek refuge in widely scattered fortified frontier stations. After delivering his family to the protection of the fort, Demint left to bring in a woman and her two young children who were alone on the frontier of Owen County.
Jarrett reached the family and placed all three upon his horse, instructing the woman to head for the fort while he set off on foot across cornfields. It wasn’t long before Demint was captured by an Indian war party which was headed to their village across the Ohio.  Several nights later as the Indians slept Demint gnawed on the leather thong place around his neck until it had softened enough to slip over his head.
Without food or water, a determined Jarrett Demint made his way back home and lived to the ripe old age of 90. However, for the rest of his life, he carried a scar around his neck where the leather thong had worn away the skin.
Family stories of Demint’s heroic deed have been passed down through generations of his Owen County descendants and are recorded in the 1964-65 Owen County Historical Society Almanac  (available from the historical society for $3).
Another unsung hero was Owen countian Levi Doty who served in the Confederacy during the Civil War. Losing a battle against the Union at Buffington’s Island, Doty’s regiment was in full retreat when he came upon a mortally wounded Union officer. Not willing to leave the dying man on the battlefield, Levi carried him to a nearby fence, laid him in the corner of the fencing and placed a bundle of wheat under his head. Considering his act of kindness no more than what anyone would have done, Doty recalled the incident: “I could not see a man die even though he was a Yankee without doing what I could for him.”
To many, early Owen County doctors were heroes. They treated their patients with untiring devotion, most times accepting eggs, chickens or vegetables in payment for their services.
Herbert Gibson of Pleasant Home recalled a time when he was 5 years old and had pneumonia. Dr. Alexander wrapped him in silk and several days later bundled him up and took him to his own home to recover.
A story of the flooded Kentucky River and a dedicated doctor is included in the Owen County Family History Book. The fact that his skiff almost capsized in the raging river did not deter Dr. Chrisman from attending to a patient in Gest. Like many other Owen County doctors, John H. Chrisman carried with him his knowledge, his bag of remedies and a large dose of grit, all of which combine to develop the character of these sacrificial servants of the people.
Penelope and John Sullivan and Mary and Leonard Riddle may be unknown to anyone outside of Owen County, but to many children both families were heroes.
Penelope was the 12th child of Cyrus and Emily Wingate. She became so well versed in the mechanics of farming and agriculture that a community was named Ep in her honor (shortened from Penelope). She and her husband had two daughters but also opened their home to seven orphans.
Though they had three children of their own, Mary and Leonard Riddle (Mammy and Pappy) were foster parents to more than 60 children during their lifetime.
These seven orphans and 60 foster children had no doubts that the Sullivans and the Riddles made a difference in their lives and were indeed heroes of the very best sort.
Many heroes have emerged over the past centuries, and some have become famous; but sometimes we need look no further than next door or down the street to find examples of a hero whose simple act of kindness motivates, encourages and inspires.
The historical society will not hold a monthly meeting in January or February, but our board will meet in January.
Our thanks to all of you who have sent donations for our new roofs and to everyone who continues to support us in preserving the history of Owen County. If you have not sent in your yearly dues, please do so. Our membership dues are devoted to the expenses involved in keeping the museum open.