The following article by Charles Hartley originally appeared in The Courier-Journal on 25 Apr 2012. It is archived here with additional information for your reading enjoyment.
An exhibit case in the Bullitt County History Museum in Shepherdsville contains a display of World War I items including a bronze plaque that lists the names of 18 Bullitt County men who lost their lives while in service to their country during that war.
The plaque's story begins in 1924, but our story starts a bit before that with the construction in 1905 of a new red brick school building in Shepherdsville that contained four classrooms. Then in 1912 Professor J. H. "Jack" Sanders of Campbellsville came here and became the school's principal. Soon after his arrival, the school was remodeled and expanded to include eight classrooms with electric lights and a modern heating plant.
Under Sander's leadership, the school population continued to grow to the point where additional classroom space was needed. During this time, the nation went through the difficult years of World War I and the Spanish Influenza outbreak, and many Bullitt Countians lost their lives due to one or the other.
Then in September, 1923, a rally was held in Shepherdsville to help raise money to build the needed classrooms. Before the meeting had concluded, Professor Sanders convinced those present that a better idea would be to build a new gymnasium and use the current gym space for additional classrooms.
One of the deciding factors was the determination to identify it as the Bullitt County Memorial Hall and Shepherdsville High School Auditorium, and to place a memorial plaque within the building to honor those who lost their lives in the war. The list of 18 names included Julian Bell, the first Bullitt Countian to die while serving, when a tragic accident aboard his ship took his life. Eight others were either killed in action or died of their wounds. The remaining nine were victims of disease, almost certainly from the epidemic of Spanish Influenza that swept the world.
Construction on the new building proceeded quickly. In July, 1924 the local newspaper reported that it "is going up fast and when completed will be a credit to any community. The hall has a stage larger than McCauley's Theatre and the playing space of the basketball court is larger than any hall in Louisville." This was perhaps an exaggeration, but the community was clearly proud of what it was accomplishing.
The new auditorium was dedicated in a special ceremony on October 11, 1924. The festivities began with a parade led by a brass band and several hundred school children. The crowd for the dedication was so large that hundreds were unable to get inside.
Following speeches by Professor Sanders, and H. H. Cherry of Bowling Green, Senator J. R. Zimmerman paid tribute to the memory of the "18 fine young men whose names are inscribed on a beautiful bronze slab that hangs on the wall south of the rostrum."
The plaque continued to hang inside the building as the years passed. When an entry hall and restrooms were added to the south end of the building, the plaque was moved there, perhaps saving it from being severely damaged in 1966 when the gymnasium was destroyed by fire.
Many Bullitt Countians today, including your writer, can remember that Saturday in April. By the time the fire was discovered, the blaze was too intense for firemen to enter the building. Firemen from Shepherdsville, Lebanon Junction, Mt. Washington, and Zoneton fought the fire. Although they were not able to save the gym, they did save the Junior High School building only feet away.
But the plaque was saved. The next year it was hung on a wall in the courthouse, and continued there until the courthouse was torn down and replaced with a new structure in 2004.
At this same time the front four rooms of the earlier courthouse, which had been saved, were turned into the history museum now operated by the Bullitt County Genealogical Society. More information about the plaque and the men named on it can be found here.
Once again the memorial plaque has found a new home, one that we hope will endure for a long time to come.
Copyright 2012 by Charles Hartley, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.