McLean County History & Genealogy News

On August 16th the Courier Journal the front page article titled “Finding Rosenwald Schools” by Chris Poynter told of Louisvillian Sharon Cantrell’s purchase of an abandoned one-room schoolhouse that she plans to restore.  Sharon attended the West Point Colored School in the 1950s and said of the school, “It is my history.  It makes me smile, just the fact that it is still here.”

The West Point school was built in 1925-26 for three thousand dollars.  The estimated cost of renovation is $300,000.
Poynter wrote “The Hardin County school was one of nearly 5,000 that Julius Rosenwald, the president of Sears, Roebuck and Company built in the early 1900s to educate African American children.

There were 155 Rosenwald schools in Kentucky that the Kentucky Heritage Society and the Kentucky African American Heritage Commission are attempting to locate.

Rosenwald became wealthy through Sears, Roebuck’s huge mail order business.  In 1911 he and African American educator Booker T. Washington worked together in placing schools for black children throughout the South and Southwest.

Rosenwald had architects design the schools with tall windows and natural light.  Some were divided with sliding doors making more that one room.  The doors were opened for meetings and programs that involved the entire school or community.

Sixty-three of Kentucky’s 120 counties had Rosenwald Clored Shools.  Henderson, Webster, Hopkins, Muhlenberg, Ohio and Daviess counties had them, only McLean in this area did not have one of the now, very historic schools.
McLean County had three schools for black children, Livermore, Calhoun and Sacramento. Janey Johnston in her first book “Down Memory Lane in Sacramento, Kentucky” wrote, ”The black school was located behind the Sacramento Methodist church.  It is not known when it was built but was operating before Clariece Short and America Helm started there in 1924.”  The  Livermore Colored School was located was located on Myers Street and it is still standing.  By 1945 all black children from Sacramento and Livermore were attending the Calhoun Colored School that was located on West Fifth Street in  Calhoun.

Those that graduated from eighth grade were transported to Owensboro to attend Western, an all black high school.  Ellis Rust who taught at the Owensboro Vocational School had a contact with the county to transport seven county students to Western High School.

The museum is seeking information on the black schools; pictures of the schools, pictures of classes and articles about the students would be of great historic value to the museum.  Please send any information to the McLean County History & Genealogy Museum, P. O. 34, Calhoun, KY 42327

The Treasure House will be open today and Friday 27th.

posted by Euleen Rickard in Uncategorized and have Comments Off

McLean County History & Genealogy News

At the turn of the twentieth century country schools all over the country were the center of activities for parents and children.  McLean educator, Harvey W. Riggs wrote, “Country schools provided community atmosphere, largely shaping community character and guiding its activities.”

The schools provided social and entertainment activities with programs at Christmas and other times and fund-raising events like cakewalks and box or pie suppers that supported the schools. The teachers had an active part in all events, most times planning and directing them. Without the support of the fund-raising most teachers did not have equipment that she or he needed.

The school was a place for farmers meetings, for lodges and other activities, even marriages were performed at the schools.  According to their marriage certificate Mahala Riley was married to Jesse Arnold at the one-room Adams school on the 26th of October, 1913.

Active one-room country schools no longer exist in McLean County and most of the buildings are gone but interest in the history of the schools remains alive.

Interest in the Lickbranch one-room school mentioned in last week’s article brought much information.  Mary Ann Stevenson called to tell us that her father P. H. Smith often spoke of the school as they passed the spot where it once stood.  She said it was at the corner of Highways 815 and 554, across from Little Flock church.  Patty Nalley’s sent information on the school.  Her mother Edwina Robertson Nalley attended there.

Listed below are the rural teachers of the 1924-25 school year.

Boston school,teacher Lockie Dillehay, Beech Grove; Shady Grove, teacher Opal Cline, St. Joseph;  Back Creek, teacher Ona Hill, Beech Grove; Congleton, teacher Fonda Cox, Beech Grove; Elba, teacher Marguret Hayden, St. Joseph;  Hardin, teacher Naomi Denhardt, Calhoun; Brick, teacher Lorene Brown, Calhoun; Glover, teacher Priscilla Lytle, Calhoun; Wolfpen, teacher Mary Porter Moseley, Calhoun; Guffie, teacher Ethel Smith, Calhoun; Eureka, Principal, Inez Porter and Assistant Carrie Porter, both of Calhoun; Sunshine Valley, teacher Malinda Leachman, Calhoun; Brooks, teacher Mrs. Wilfred Ashby, Livia; Leachman, teacher Nina Dodson, Calhoun;  Glenville, Principal J. D. Bailey, Calhoun, Assistant Clairene Kerrick, Livia and Substitute, Myra Johnson, Calhoun; Oak Grove, teacher Mabel Dixon, Calhoun; Little Grove, teacher Mrs, Myrtle L. Fulkerson, Calhoun; Fairview, teacher Thelma Graham, Livermore; Buck Creek, teacher Hazel Herndon, Livermore; Nally, teacher Eva Mae Taylor, Livermore; Reeves, teacher Herbert Niceley, Livia; Liberty, teacher Loreen Lee, Livermore; Briarfield, teacher J..O. Cook, Livia; Hillside, teacher Mrs. Herbert Niceley, Livermore; Basin, teacher Mrs. Walter Ellis, Rumsey; Knob, teacher Reta Coin, Livermore; Harrison, teacher Lorene Garst, Sacramento; Island, Principal Maggie Banfield, Calhoun, Assistant Martelle Willis, Island, Jennie Ree Stroud, and Christine Stiles, both of Calhoun;  Dughill, teacher Thelma Howell, Island; Ridge, teacher Pauline Fentress, Island; Drake, teacher Urith Nall, Island; Bennett, teacher Otis Wiggins, Sebree; Station, teacher Lestie Brown, Rumsey; Coffman, teacher Evelyn Shaver, Livermore; Semiway, teacher David Montgomery, Evansville, Indiana; Rumsey, Principal Lena Scott,  Assistant Londa Scott and Mrs Lavelle Scott Jones, all of Calhoun; Shutt, Principal Horace Bates, Livermore Assistant Mrs. J. C. Landrum, Dunmor and teacher Louise Brown, Island;  Pack,  Principal, Bradie Worthington and Assistant, Thelma Moore, Sacramento; Branch, Mrs. Alena Meeks, Mammoth Cave; Ellis, teacher Bessie Ross, Rumsey; Adam, teacher Minerva Heal, Livia; Stringtown, teacher. Mrs Clyde Nicholls, Sacramento; West, teacher Mary Miller, Sacramento; Miller, teacher Grace Anthony, Sacramento.

At the time there were four schools for black children in the county; one in Calhoun where Frank A Smit of Owensboro taught, two in Sacramento with teachers Martrine V. Taylor and Mrs. Mary Fields of Owensboro and one called Porter where the teacher was Mrs. Mary Moorman of Utica.

If you have pictures, histories or other information on any of these schools or teachers, please send it to McLean County History & Genealogy Museum, P.O. Box 34, Calhoun, KY 42327.

posted by Euleen Rickard in Uncategorized and have Comments Off

McLean County History & Genealogy News

The back to school advertisements, mothers and children shopping for clothes and back to school supplies and school buses on the streets and roads remind us that the school year 2004-2005 is beginning.  Today very few students walk to school, most are bussed or taken in cars by their parents.  Even in the cities bus service is provided, unlike the children of the one-room schools of long ago who walked the dusty roads from home to school.

Norma Borneman wrote of the one-room school “School began by nine o’clock, We were on our way by eight, We must hurry right along or else we would be late.  Two miles from home to school down a country road, Dust puffing with each step as along we strode.  Through the warm fall days, we met September in her glory, then reveled to the fullest in October’s bright blue weather…. The lore we accumulated as to school we made our way, added to our education, priceless treasures every day.”

For many, old pictures and histories of the old one-room schools give insight into lives of ancestors.  Last Tuesday Linda Rawlins of Evansville, Indiana came to the museum with a picture of a one-room school that her grandmother had attended.  She thought it was in McLean County.  The name of the school was Lickbranch and it was not on our list of one-room schools. McLean County had a school in the Poplar Grove community named Branch but none named Lickbranch.

Some of the old one-room schools had name changes.  Back Creek, later became Riverdale; Reeves, Laton; Poverty, Eureka; Buck Creek, Briar Field; Tanner, Underwood; Cedar Hill, Harrison; Swamp Valley, Sunshine.  There were various reasons for name changes, some we do not know.  Cedar Hill burned and afterward was held in the home of a family named Harrison, thus the change to Harrison.  Complaining that Swamp was a depressing name for a school brought about the change to Sunshine, a much better name for the mental health of the students and teachers.

The name Lickbranch did “ring a bell” so a search began for information on the school.  In our files we found a teacher’s application for Zilpah Robertson that gave the following:  Elementary school attended, Lichbranch, Daviess County-1917. High school, Calhoun, Kentucky, 1917-1921. Further information: Schools taught: Lickbranch, Daviess County, Grades, 1-8, 7 months, salary $85.00 monthly.  So Lickbranch did exist!

We now are looking for the location of the school. If you have knowledge of it please send it to the McLean County History & Genealogy Museum, P. O. Box 34, Calhoun, Kentucky 42327.

Gifts to the museum include items for display from Hugh and Shirley Moore, Sacramento, Jill Boyken, Beech Grove, Grace Carter Ford of Utica and history from Linda Rawlins.

We welcome to new members Linda Rawlins, Evansville, Indiana, Norman Holland, Kansas City, Missouri, Hugh and Grace Ballantine and  Jerry and Earlene Abney, Calhoun.  Also, thanks to all that renewed their memberships in July.
TheTrash and Treasure building will be open Thursday and Friday the 12th and13th of August. Stop by and shop.

posted by Euleen Rickard in Uncategorized and have Comments Off

McLean County History & Genealogy News

Members of the museum were saddened this week by the passing of our benefactor, Mr. P. H. (Prentice) Smith.  Mr. Smith died peacefully in his sleep on July 25, 2004, just one month before of his 97th birthday.

In July 2002 Mr. Smith donated the home where he and his wife, Hugh Bell, had lived since 1933 to the museum.  His daughter, Mary Ann and her husband, along with members of the museum gave a party in the house honoring his 95th birthday on August 25th of that year.  The house was filled with guests celebrating his birthday and expressing appreciation for his generous gift.

McLean County News reporter Clint Hadden wrote, “The future seems to be looking up for the museum.  Since its formation it has been a transient organization, with the few documents and artifacts they’ve managed to collect stored in various locations.”

Mr. Hadden further wrote, “Mr. Smith’s life reflects much of the history of McLean County that his home now will preserve.  Smith spent his early days hauling coal in an Owensboro wagon. He learned to drive with a car given to him by his father when he was in the eighth grade.  He took his wife to Colorado for their honeymoon on the back of an Indian motorcycle in 1933.  Much of his working life, he spent as an electrical inspector for the Rural Electric Association; the rest he spent selling Hotpoint appliances from a shop next door to the house.”

Mr. Smith, an avid airplane pilot, farmed in Guffie and had an airstrip on the farm that he called “Guffie International.” Sometimes he just flew around over the farm to see how things were but often he and Hugh Bell made longer trips to Michigan to visit daughter Mary Ann and her family and to other locations. He got his pilot’s license in 1955 when he was forty-eight years old and made his last flight the day before his eighty-fifth birthday.

Hugh Bell Smith was a well-known and especially liked schoolteacher.  Many recall her as “the best teacher I ever had.”  Her son-in-law, Dwight Stevenson, said, ”Miss Hugh would be delighted that her house will be maintained and preserved.” Several have visited the museum and recalled happy times visiting with the Smiths in the house, others have told of special favors in purchasing a radio or appliance from Mr. Smith’s shop.  So many memories of times working and playing in the old house and shop.

July 2002 was the beginning of the future for the museum. Today the house and the shop are again filled with activity. Thanks to Mr. Smith the museum has a home and every day there progress.  Visitors come from near and far. Recent visitors were: William and Laura Tanner, Richmond, Virginia; Norma Holland, Kansas City Missouri; Betty Johnson, Newark, Ohio; Nancy Hughes, Valparaiso, Indiana; Betty McKissick, Ft. Wayne, Indiana; Thomas and Jane Brown, Evansville, Indiana; Mr. & Mrs. Truman Jennings, Petersburg, Kentucky; Weldon and Jane Hunt, Lexington, Kentucky; Joan Cheryl Huff, Louisville, Kentucky; Clara Huntz, Patti Nalley Rhodes, Kristal and Hannah Sosh, Terry Smith and the Neals, Owensboro, Kentucky; Sallie Nalley Crowe, Utica, Kentucky, Floyd and Betty Ashby and Edna Bates, Sacramento, Jill Boyken, Beech Grove, Joan and Tammy Singleton and Hugh and Grace Ballantine, Calhoun.
Beside the front door of the house there is a bronze plaque with the inscription, “This house that was the home of Prentice and Hugh Bell Smith from 1930 to 2002 was donated to the McLean County History & Genealogy Museum in July 2002.”  The historic house was a great gift from a very special man.  His life and that of his beloved wife will live on in the life of the museum.

posted by Euleen Rickard in Uncategorized and have Comments Off

McLean County History & Genealogy News

Coal mining and miners did not bring pleasant pictures to the minds of most McLean Countians in the early days of the twentieth century; the farming and timber industry was interrupted with the new industry of coal mining bringing hundreds of outsiders to the area. The newcomers were a hard-working bunch with skills that most had gained through their ancestors.

Coal mining began in this country in the state of Virginia around 1700 by people who knew how coal was mined in England and with workmen who had worked there as miners.

According to an article in the Times-Argus, Central City, Kentucky newspaper dated June 4, 1959 Thomas Hardy Blades, age 22, and his sister Mary Jane came with William King from Durham, England to Mud River in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky in 1864; there Thomas Hardy worked in the Mud River mine.

After the death of their parents Thomas Hardy and Mary Jane had lived in the home of Mr. King.  At the age of twelve Thomas Hardy learned mining while working with Mr. King in a mine in Durham.

In Mud River Thomas Hardy married Elizabeth Foster and they had four children, Robert, William, Mary Jane and Thomas Edward.   The boys grew up and like their dad, became miners.

At that time the method of mining had changed little from the time it began. Men blasted, dug the coal and shoveled it by hand into coal cars down in the mine. The cars were pulled from the mines by mules. Coal cars each held one ton and the men were paid by the number of cars they loaded.

Thomas Edward Blades met E. S. Randle in Mud River and moved to Island where they formed the Green River Coal Company.  The articles of Incorporation for the company were filed on April 25, 1902 by E. S. Randle and John W. Love of Nashville, Tennessee and Thomas Edward Blades of Island, Kentucky.

The miners in Island working for the Green River Coal Company in 1915 were  Robert Newton, Ed. Hughes, Dan Gilliam, A. Wilkes, Charles Divens, C. W. Weightman, Mike Weightman, James Cox, Green Ball, R. D. Simon, George Weightman, Alf Bolton, R. H. Redfern, Ed. Harvey, Aaron Gardner, R. H. Hiley, John Harrison, Louis Weightman, and Ed Lynch. According to an old company ledger in March of 1915 those men loaded 553 tons of coal and received a total of $340.74.

Those working in 1916 were Thomas Blades, superintendent, Robert Stanley, Ed. Howard, John Staton, Will Blades, Clark Taylor, Edgar Lloyd, John Harrison, Henry Taylor, Charles Wright, W. T. Howell, Ed Wood, Virgil Lott, Pete Stevens, William Pollack and Bill Blades who began mining in March of 1916 when he was fifteen years old.  Claude Brown worked for the company hauling powder and coal.

If you have pictures or newspaper articles of any of the coal companies, the company stores or any of the men of McLean County who worked as miners the museum would be glad to have them.  The museum will be open Thursday and Friday July 23rd and 23rd from 11AM until 4PM.   Stop by and see the exhibit “Businesses of Yore.”  There is a small exhibit of mine artifacts.

posted by Euleen Rickard in Uncategorized and have Comments Off

McLean County History & Genealogy News

The ‘Coal Trail’ devised by Judge Executive and others holds interest for the museum and its part in McLean County.  Like the Duncan Center in Greenville, the museum will house some artifacts of mining.  Already in the upcoming display on “Memorabilia of Old Businesses in McLean County”  we have the steam “whistle and oiler” from one of the Blade and Rector mines of Island.  Coal mining had a bearing on McLean County history so it is fitting that McLean County is a part of the ‘Coal Trail.’

According to Rothert,s History of Muhlenberg County written in 1913 Alney McLean, for whom our county was named, or his son William, accidentally discovered that the “black rock” on their farm near Green River would burn.  More than thirty years before the founding of McLean County, around 1820, William D. McLean “opened what was known as the McLean drift bank below Paradise. He was one of the first men to report the existence of coal in Western Kentucky.  He recognized coal as “a desirable fuel but with wood plentiful and more convenient his discovery was at that time regarded as a matter of little consequence.”

McLean found blacksmiths who had been using charcoal, acceptable to the use of coal, first selling to them. But by 1830 he was mining and shipping coal down the Green River and on the Ohio to Owensboro and Evansville, Indiana.  The McLeans operated the mine for twenty years.

Through the years, other mines sprang up along or near the Green River.  The Williams Shaft,  Vanlandingham Ledge, Pain’s Mine, Kincheloe’s Bluff Bank, Rothrock Mine and Throckmorton Mine and the Mud River mine on the Mud River were some of Muhlenberg’s first commercial mines.

Records in the Muhlenberg County courthouse show the following: “Articles of Incorporation, Mud River Mining Company at Mud River, Ky; To commence mining August 1, 1900. Purpose; to mine coal, fire clay and other minerals and to sell same.  Highest indebtedness to be $250,00.  Stockholders; John Hill Eakin, Edgar James, Claude Christopher, E. S. Randle, Alex G. Hunter and Thomas F. Hart, all of Nashville, Tennessee.”   This corporation fell on hard times after the death of J. H. Eakin and it was sold at the courthouse door in Nashville, Tennessee.  Later, E. S. Randle came to Island Kentucky and opened the E. S. Randle mine.

Virginia Davis in her history of Island wrote,  “ The turn of the century saw the beginning of a new industry.  The sale of coal and mineral rights was increasing and larger and more modern mines were being opened and coal shipped by rail.  E. H. Flanagan operated the Slope Mines, with the exception of a few non-working periods, from 1901 to 1935.  Other mines opened were the Big 4, Memphis Coal Company, Pittsburg and Kentucky Coal Company, West Virginia Coal Company, E. M.T. owned by Edwards, McHargue and Thompson which was sold in 1929 to Clarence S. Rose becoming the Island Coal and Mining Company.”

According to an article written by Addie Bell Freels, for the 1976 bicentennial issue of the McLean County News the “boom era” of coal mining in Island came around 1912.  Miners from Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia flocked to Island raising its population to its highest with the number of people near 1,100.

Having grown up in Island, the daughter of a small coal mine owner, and experiencing some of the things that come with the industry, being on the “Coal Trail” holds great interest for me personally.  Also, it is something that should make every person proud of the heritage of “Coal Mining in McLean County.”

posted by Euleen Rickard in Uncategorized and have Comments Off

McLean County History & Genealogy News

The spring meeting of the membership was held at Smith house on Monday..  Virginia Davis and her daughter Beverly presented four books of the Adjutants General Reports of the WBS to the museum.  Also Virginia gave a history of Calhoun and a history of Rumsey that she had written and compiled.

The last day for the exhibit “Military of all Wars” will be Monday, Jun 28th.  The museum will be open from 1-3PM.
While working on the display we found a paper and some notes on Robert Nall’s journey home from the Pacific after World War II ended.  The following is taken from his notes and the paper.

At 5:01 PM on November 1, 1945 the SS William H. Jackson with Captain Anson in charge left the dock at Naples, Italy, passed the Isle of Capri and sailed out onto the blue Mediterranean.  The men were excited, they would be home in ten or twelve days.

They had not thought of events that could slow their progress.

First, it was necessary to stop on the Coast of North Africa to pick up ballast.  Two stops were made, the first at Oran and then at Beni Saf.  They stayed a day and a half at anchor in Oran where the only thing that happened were ladies with extended hands begging cigarettes.  Finally on November 6 at 7AM they were allowed to leave for Beni Saf where they were to pick up ballast.  Arriving there in the evening they found they could not load until the following morning.  This stop brought a run on the PX as children willing to drive into the water for candy bars took most of the candy on board.

The delays were adding time to the homeward trip.

The loading at Beni Saf was accomplished by one o’clock the following afternoon November 7th and once again they were on their way, the 3800-mile trip home to the USA.  They passed the Rock of Gibraltar, one week to the day, after leaving Naples.

Though the weather on the whole was not too bad many men became members of what was called the “Rail Huggers Club.”  For many the atmospheric disturbances were too much.

As they neared the end Captain Anson spoke to the men:  “The trip has been long, especially for you men who have been away from home for many months, but now the end it in sight. We extend best wishes, and hope that your future will be filled with success and happiness.  Before you disembark and go to face your respective futures, perhaps it might be a good idea if we gave you a general idea of what to expect in the States.

You will encounter, on your first sally into the civilian world, a bewildering number of things that are unobtainable due either to rationing or to shortages brought on by the war that have not yet been overcome.  Food in restaurants, while better than in foreign countries will not be as good as when you left.  Some of your favorite foodstuffs will still be rationed, but you will be able to get the ration points to get them when available.  Tires for automobiles will still be on the ration list but gasoline will not.  Transportation will be exceedingly poor, especially on railroads.

The most important things to remember on being discharged is to be sure that you know all of your rights as a veteran.  All rights to hospitalization and other benefits.  Be especially sure that you have noted all service connected disabilities and illnesses.  While it may mean nothing now, it may be very important some day in the future.”

The men arrived at Newport News, Virginia at 1PM, November 22 and disembarked at 7AM on the morning of November 24,1945, twenty-four days after boarding ship in Naples, ending their long journey home from war.
The military display at the museum has remembrances of all the wars in which men of the county have participated.  Our thanks to all that gave or loaned things for the display.

posted by Euleen Rickard in Uncategorized and have Comments Off

McLean County History & Genealogy News

The program A D-Day tragedy: “Love you dearly” presented by Hugh Ridenour and his wife Carolyn on Thursday evening at the Senior Citizen Building was well attended.  The program funded in part by the Kentucky Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities was a story about Calhoun natives Alma and Gene Wheeler. The Wheeler’s son Jim, affectionately called Jimbo by Calhoun family and friends, and his wife Leta came from Hardinsburg and Gene’s brother, Bubbie Wheeler, came from Owensboro.

It was an evening honoring Gene Wheeler and all McLean County men who gave their lives in World War II.
Historian Ridenour, a former resident of Livermore now lives in Hanson, Kentucky.  He has been published in the Filson Club Quarterly and the Kentucky Historical Society Register.  He was the recipient of the Kentucky Historical Society’s Richard H. Collins award for his article about a Confederate Civil War surgeon.  His book “The Greens of Falls of Rough: A Kentucky Family Biography 1795-1965” was selected as one of the top ten best books published on Kentucky history in the previous four years.  Mildred Iglehart has given a copy of the book to the museum.

A program commemorating the 150th anniversary of the founding of McLean County was given by members of the museum for West Central Kentucky Family Research Association in Owensboro on Thursday night.  The main speaker was our friend Ann Vincent a great-great-great-great niece of Alney McLean for whom our county was named.  Ann spoke of McLean’s life as a surveyor, soldier, lawyer and judge.  She displayed the tool that McLean used to survey the Muhlenberg/McLean line.  This tool is on display at the Duncan Center in Greenville where Ann is employed.

In April Mildred Iglehart introduced Ann to members of our museum.  At that time she gave us a book “McLean , the family of Judge Alney and Tabitha McLean” for our collection.  We thank Ann for the book, for her very informative talk on Alney McLean and her continued interest in our museum.

The West Central Kentucky Family Research Association is located in Commonwealth Court, just off Highway 54 in Owensboro.  It is a very fine facility housing much genealogy and history.  Edith Bennett is president and Dorothy Smithson and Linda Shown contribute much time to that effort.  We thank them for the opportunity to spread the news of our museum and its purpose.

Visitors to the museum last week were Elveda Beal from Evansville and Mr. and Mrs. Donald Deen from Searcy, Arkansas. The Deens and Lois Smith Jones of Sacramento are new members.

A correction to the article of June 3rd…one of the first families to come to the settlement of Rhoadsville was the William Rowan family, not the John Rowan family. Thanks to Virginia Davis for calling this to our attention.

posted by Euleen Rickard in Uncategorized and have Comments Off

McLean County History & Genealogy News

After the Civil War the commercial use of Green River involved entrepreneurs seeking to peddle their wares or services.  Tinsmiths, photographers and loggers, to name a few, took advantage of its flowing waters.

Some of the first to use the river as a conveyance were loggers.  Evansville, Indiana was a large hardwood center and loggers would float their logs down the Green to the Ohio and into Evansville.  The upper Green River with large virgin trees provided Evansville with almost a million feet of lumber in 1895.

Loggers began work in early spring, loading their tents, saws, hooks, chains, provisions and cooking outfits into enormous wagons.  They made camp and cut and sawed logs until around November, stacking the logs along the riverbank waiting for the rise in the river in the spring to float them to market in Evansville.

Logging was hard work and exposure to the elements caused much illness.  Some developed malaria, pneumonia and the much dreaded disease tuberculosis. Ralph Dillas Rickard, a logger of the Stringtown area many times told of a trip he made to Evansville when almost all the crew were sick.  He described the illness as one acquired when they sought to get immunity from smallpox.  One of the men had been vaccinated for smallpox and when the vaccination area on his arm began “to take” and filled with pus, the men scratched their arms with their knives and applied a little of the pus to their scratched spots.  In a few days the whole crew was sick with arms badly infected.  All survived but had huge scars.  This was a common practice in those days.

Logging to Evansville declined when Livermore began making staves, chairs and much needed railroad ties for the fast growing railroads.

In “Green River of Kentucky” Helen Bartter Crocker wrote, “one of the most colorful characters on the river was a successful photographer named H. O. Schroeter.  He was called the Artist of the Emerald Wave.  He and his family lived on his floating studio which had a parlor, sitting room, dining room, bedrooms, kitchen and artist’s studio.”  Schroeter claimed the reason his prints did not fade was that he washed them in the mineral-rich Green River.  He placed them in a fish box alongside the studio.  He and his sons, Emory and Clifford, did most of the photography on the boat but occasionally went ashore to a customer’s home.

Another tradesman of the river was George Ankerman who owned a “floating tin shop.”  His specialty was roofs and gutters.  Some of his roofs may still be seen around the county.

George, his parents and two sisters came to Calhoun from Evansville, Indiana.  They lived on their boat until the 1913 flood floated the boat up across the street from the county jail where they continued business.  Later it was moved just north of the McLean County Motor Company where they added on to it and lived until they died. George was the last to die, leaving a collection of old things that took three days for Auctioneer E. W. Richmond to sell.

The services along the river have changed, the merchants of the towns have changed but evidence of those long ago times can be seen in the artifacts of the museum.  Some Schroeter pictures, a few of George Ankerman’s old things and pictures of loggers of that era may be displayed one day soon.

posted by Euleen Rickard in Uncategorized and have Comments Off

McLean County History & Genealogy News

The history of Calhoun and other towns of McLean County have been greatly influenced by the Green River.  Through the years its waters have been used for commerce, travel and pleasure.

When the Rhoads brothers, Henry and Solomon, came to the Green River Valley to claim grants of land earned for their Revolutionary War service they found a crossing in the shallow rapids of Green River that the Indians used, called Long Falls.  Some historians have written that Green River at a point just above the shallow rapids would sometimes be a dry bed.

Soon the Rhoads brothers helped found a settlement on the north side of the river that became known as Rhoadsville.
One of the first families to come to the settlement was the John Rowan family.  He and five other families came from Louisville in May of 1784. Willard R. Jillson in his “Tales of the Dark and Bloody Grounds” tells of the Rowans leaving the Falls of the Ohio River at Louisville coming down the Ohio and up the Green River to a place called “Long Falls.”  They planned to settle at Long Falls of the Green River on land they had bought before leaving Pennsylvania.
In confusion over land grants the Rhoads brothers left Rhoadsville and later the John Rowan family moved on to Bardstown where he build Federal Hill better known as “My Old Kentucky Home.”

Hubert Mattingly in his ‘Early History of McLean County, Old Fort Vienna and Calhoun’ wrote “The opening up of the Green River country brought about an important population movement that affected the early development of McLean County.  The Green River flowing through fertile lands on either side left marked effects upon the history of the county that it divides.”  It provided the principle way of transportation but divided the county.

The early settlers had great interest in river navigation and wanted to improve the river.  They wanted a way for boats to get over the shallows.  In 1810 the Kentucky legislation passed an act making counties contiguous to the Green River responsible for clearing and keeping its waters navigable.  They were to remove fish pots, logs and any obstruction from the river.  In the state’s action Colonel Alonza Livermore was sent to build a lock and dam on the river.  He located in Rumsey, built the beautiful home that is now the Gatton home and completed the locks and dam in 1837.  The shallows were gone and the river was navigable.

From 1838 until 1888 steamboats plied the waters of the Green River with navigation companies fighting for toll-free rights on the water.  In 1888 the federal government took control of the river.  Federal control and the coming of the railroad changed river traffic but a few packet-boats continued to operate through the 1920s.

An article from the McLean County News dated January 14, 1954 tells of the effort of many to get a new dam at Calhoun/Rumsey.  The writer stated that “Senators Earle C. Clements and John S. Cooper and Representative William H. Natcher are    cooperating to get funds for the Green River job and the Corps of Engineers estimate that the cost will be approximately fourteen and one half million dollars.”.  Senator Clements said, “The Green River project will not only pay for itself within fifteen years but will have multiplying benefits to Kentucky and the Nation for many years to come.

The appropriation of funds for the dam were approved and construction began in July 1954.  The new locks and dam were dedicated on July 14, 1956.  At the same time a flood control water storage program was initiated.

In searching online through the Western Kentucky University library  I found the following description of Green River locks and dams # 1 and #2 …. “these small, old locks and dams provide a usable channel for recreational and commercial traffic on Green River.”   So the river with its old dams continues to play an important role in development of the county, with commerce and recreation and its bridges give rapid travel from one side of the river to the other, bringing the towns and the people ever closer together.

posted by Euleen Rickard in Uncategorized and have Comments Off