Friends of the Bullitt County History Museum
August 16, 2006 (Volume 2, Number 11)
>>Genealogical Society Meeting & Guest Speaker August 17.
The Bullitt County Genealogical Society, under whose umbrella the museum operates, will have its regular monthly meeting Thursday night (August 17) at 7 p.m.
The guest speaker is Nancy Hitt. Nancy is a local author active in researching, restoring, preserving, and placing monuments on Confederate graves. She recently placed a new marker on an unmarked relative's grave in the newly restored Shepherdsville Pioneer Graveyard.
Nancy will talk about Elizabeth Wirz, wife of Captain Wirz, who was commander of the infamous Andersonville prison camp during the Civil War.
Bullitt County Genealogical Society meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Shepherdsville City Hall on Frank Simon Avenue.
>>Louisville Genealogical Society Annual Book Fair/Seminar.
The annual LGS Fall Book Fair/Seminar will be August 26 at the usual place, Founder's Union Building, Shelby Campus, 9001 Shelbyville Road in Louisville. Booths, vendors, and classes will be available. The special speaker this year is John Konvalinka, CG, CGL. For more information see the web site at www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~kylgs or contact Betty Darnell at phone 502-422-0150.
Additions to our research library:
As a result of my recent trip to Saltville, Virginia, researching Bullitt County's salt making history, I picked up a few books:
>>Saltville by Jeffrey Weaver.
This 128 page book is a collection of historical photographs of the small town, including photos of its rather extensive salt furnaces circa 1860's.
>>A Sketch of Mrs. Elizabeth Russell, Sister of Patrick Henry by Thomas L. Preston.
Elizabeth Russell was a major part of a prominent salt making family in Saltville. Since so much of Saltville's salt making is so similar to that of Bullitt County, I am expecting to find a genealogical link to there. I think I recall a local connection here with someone related to Patrick Henry, so I bought this book. No luck yet establishing a family link. Any ideas?
>> Salt as a Factor in the Confederacy by Ella Lonn.
I am told that this 324 page book is the definitive work on pioneer salt making. I haven't had time to look at it yet, but I am hopeful to learn a lot.
Also recently added to our collection:
>> Kentucky Abstracts of Pensions for the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Indian Wars for Bullitt County edited by Jana Sloan Broglin
>> Cemetery Re-Dedication.
Well, it was a beautiful, successful day August 5. As we have reported in the past, the museum obtained a grant to aid in the restoration of a nice old pioneer cemetery in Shepherdsville. The cemetery, containing some 300 graves had been abandoned as long ago as the 1930's, but its not anymore! A crowd of 200 to 300 people gathered at the new cemetery gate for a ceremony to officially RE-dedicate the old graveyard.
It was indeed a good day. Mayor Joe Sohm, representing the city, which provided equipment and heavy labor on the project, spoke. Jim McClure, representing the local Scottish Rite Masons, who did countless hours of back-breaking cleanup labor and stone repair, spoke about all the people in years past who had did their best to clean up he cemetery. Don Elden spoke and led a group of Civil War re-enactors in a touching military salute, including rifle volley, to the Civil War veterans buried at the cemetery. And I spoke for the museum, whose grant helped pay for fencing and a historic marker, and whose members (especially Betty Darnell) did much of the related research.
We had ten great volunteers scattered about the cemetery grounds who represented various people buried at the cemetery. The actors, standing by the location where their person was buried, were prepared with biographies of the person they represented and were dressed in period attire. All visitors were invited to tour the graveyard and visit with the actors, who would tell about the cemetery and the real people buried there. The museum had a booth nearby with further details about the cemetery and the people. I thought it went really well. I was very proud to be part of it.
Some of our volunteers who participated as actors in the cemetery were:
Gary Kempf, portraying Jacob Troutman who died in 1854.
Steve and Lisa Lindsey, who portrayed County Judge Lorenzo Hogland (1880) and his last wife Annie (1889). (two more wives are buried nearby).
Bonnia Fouts, portraying Margaret Taylor (1907), a blind woman who lived only a block from the cemetery and is one of many who has no headstone.
Ken Bailey, portraying County Clerk Robert Samuels (1861).
Barbara Bailey, portraying Annie McCormick (1889) who was the mother of C.E. McCormack, an editor of the "Pioneer" newspaper.
Jim Scheppers, portraying Sheriff Thomas Joyce (1879), one of the last salt makers in the county.
Some of Don Elden's Civil War re-enactors also stepped in to portray the two known Union army veterans, Dr. Charles W. McKay and George W. Jackson. Some of the Civil War encampment women "civilians", stood in as a mother and young daughter who died of cholera, and another who portrayed a poor-farm worker who was buried probably with no permanent marker.
Rich and poor, powerful and weak, all rest together now.
Betty Darnell prepared a booklet listing the people known to be buried at the cemetery and a short biography of most of them. It is available for $3 at the museum of $5 by mail.
The museum also ahs a pretty extensive binder of information about the cemetery, its restoration, and its people that was most all prepared by Betty. You are welcome to come by the museum and look through that for free.
Many thanks to all who made this event possible.
>> Civil War Re-enactment
Don Elden had been working all year preparing for his special Civil War encampment that was held on the same weekend as the cemetery dedication. He and I had been working closely throughout the year as he developed his schedule of events for this, his second annual Civil War encampment. It went very well, bigger than last year. Some two dozen Civil War re-enactors showed up and camped, did maneuvers, and put on a "battle"... putting on quite a show. This year's new thing was the Bourbon City Brass Band, which played Civil War era music. That band was far more than I expected and it was really impressive with its 18 or so uniformed members. Everyone also loved the live cannon fire, except the alarm systems on cars. The cannon was so powerful that every time it was fired, alarms on cars hundreds of feet away were triggered! I can only imagine the fear that twenty or so of those things going off in real battle must have been like. They also had night time cannon demonstrations which were awesome.
My thanks go to Don for allowing us to be a part of his event.
Michelle LaRock is working on a video of the cemetery and Civil War event for us. I'll let you know as soon as its done.
Don Elden is already planning next year's event, scheduled again for the 1st Saturday in August, 2007. We are hoping to add a blacksmith and a salt maker next time, if we can find someone to do it.
>> Saltville, Virginia Trip
Well, I am back from my journey to Saltville, Virginia. The town, nestled in the mountains near the western end of Virginia, had much the same salt-making industry as Bullitt County did in pioneer days. Saltville, though, was a much bigger operation. Where Bullitt County had hundreds of 50-75 gallon kettles boiling water at a time, Saltville had thousands. And where our salt making days were ending by the Civil War, theirs was still in full operation and growing. But the general process was very similar. Find salty water and boil away the water. But "the devil is in the details", as they say. There is actually quite a bit more to the process, especially if it is ongoing day in and day out.
Salt was a critical element of survival in pioneer days. Without it meat could not be preserved and animal skins could not be properly cured. Just as importantly, even today, is that without consuming a certain amount of salt, everyone is subject to several illnesses.
I went to Saltville to learn some "tricks of the trade" and was well taken care of by several nice, helpful people. Bullitt County history is replete with writings about the large pioneer-era salt making industry in the county but there are no pictures that I know of and few accurate descriptions of the process. But we do have hints about the work that it took. Hundreds of men digging wells, pumping water, cutting and hauling firewood, providing food, fighting off (and sometimes losing to) Indian attacks. "Blocking". "Chinking". "Wood pipe". "Walking Pumps".
And such stories as workers adding "a drop of blood or a bit of lard" to the mix. I was fortunate that an archaeologist who is also a chemist was working a dig at Saltville when I arrived. He quickly exclaimed "Oh Yes! Definitely!" when I asked him about the reality of blood or lard. Though the blood itself wasn't what he was used to, any fatty thing such as lard might be used to keep foaming down so the salty water could be cooked hotter (and therefore evaporate faster). "Try it yourself", he said. "Get water boiling until you see some froth or foam, then touch the foam with some fat. The bubbles quickly collapse".
I learned a lot and took a lot of video and still photos with the intent of making a video on it sometime.
I am supposed to speak to the Genealogical Society in November on the subject and hope to see a good crowd..
And I expect to tell you more about Saltville and salt making in future newsletters.
For Your Information...
>> Ancestry.com Expands.
Ancestry.com, the huge genealogical database company owned by MyFamily.com, continues to expand . It now boasts a searchable database of 5 Billion names. It has complete census records from 1790 to 1930, among countless other features. The Bullitt County History Museum pays for a full-access license at its research room and anyone is welcome to use our two networked computers free of charge.
This year is steaming ahead and before we know it the year will quickly close.
I ask you to begin thinking about the museum in any year-end giving plans. The museum is very successful, and a large part of that is its ability to provide informative and interesting displays and records at no charge to the public. But beyond just our increasingly popular display-rooms are the museum's rapidly-growing photo and historical archives, field research work, extensive licensed internet access, documentation work, outreach programs, and group tours, just to name a few of our activities.
All at no charge.
So keep us in mind when you consider your donation activity this year. It does, after all, still take money to operate. And of course we are always looking for good display items. Thanks to the Genealogical Society and some very generous past donors, the museum is in good short-term financial health. But we are in this for the long term. With your help we will be. With your help we can do even more.
Thank you for being a Friend of Bullitt County History.
Bullitt County History Museum
Museum Phone: 502-921-0161
E-Mail address: David.Strange@BullittCountyHistory.org