Friends of the Bullitt County History Museum
January 28, 2012 (Volume 8, Number 1)
>>Genealogical Society meeting Feb. 18. Society President Daniel Buxton will make a presentation on the history of African American education in Bullitt County. The meeting is at its usual place, in the meeting room of the Ridgway Memorial Library in Shepherdsville, at 10:00 a.m. Refreshments will be served.
>>Mt. Washington Historical Society Valentine's luncheon. The Mt. Washington Historical Society is hosting a Valentine's fundraiser luncheon for the Lloyd House museum on Sunday, February 12, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Kettle Creek Restaurant, 1150 N. Bardstown Road. Dinner includes an entré, choice of 2 sides, a drink and dessert. Prices are $12 for adults and $8 for children under 12. Bring the whole family! Bring your sweetie! Enjoy the sharing of stories and photos from days gone by!
>>Old Stone Jail roofing and tuck pointing complete! Thanks to Bullitt County Fiscal Court (Bullitt County's governing body), and especially Magistrate John Bradshaw, The Old Stone Jail now has a new roof. Tuck pointing (replacing the mortar between the stones) was completed a couple of months ago. There might still be some leaks to take care of, but hopefully this will help preserve the historic little jail for quite while longer into the future.
>>Museum Volunteer Hours for 2011. Volunteers are the heart of any organization like ours. And here's some impressive numbers: For the year 2011, our museum logged 4,452 hours of recorded staff time. And that is just the official "signed in" hours. No doubt there was twice that time if one could count all the hours spent outside the museum doing research and helping others. This time, by the way, is a thousand more hours than last year. Another impressive fact: Since the museum opened in October 2004, we have logged 21,596 hours of staff time at the museum. Wow!
Two new regular Volunteers joined us in 2011. Mark Milliner started with us early in the year, logging 232 hours; and Beverly Owens started in September and is currently organizing our "scrapbooks" of news-clippings about the museum.
Such a fantastic crew of Volunteers. Thank you every one!
>>New Bullitt County book by Charles Hartley. Murder or Not? Charles Hartley, author of the well received history book about the deadly 1917 Shepherdsville Train Wreck, has produced another book about a moment of Bullitt County history. Murder or Not? is about a feud between the Hagan and Barbour families in northern Bullitt County, and a resulting shooting in 1904. The book is available at the museum for $8, or can be ordered through Amazon.com, or electronically for Kindle readers. Go to this page for more information.
>>1927 Edith Blissett book. I just reported last month that Edith Blissett had completed a book transcribing the 1926 Pioneer News. Now she has completed the year 1927 as well as completing a book documenting the Phelps Cemetery. A truly awesome amount of work and a great research tool for everyone. Edith gave copies of both books to our museum.
>>Yet another new book, Bullitt County Court Order Book J, 1867-1873. Abstracted by Museum Volunteer Ed Lee, and indexed by Betty Darnell, this book will be yet another great addition to our research library and is available for sale at the museum for $6.
>>Several older books donated to the museum. Some older books recently donated to the museum include: Kentucky Courthouses, by John Carpenter, and History of Spencer County, by Mary Frances Brown.
>>Web Site Additions.
Additions to our web site have grown since last time. To see what is new, visit our Latest Additions page.
For Your Information...
>>West Point, Kentucky web page and museum. West Point is a historic town on the Ohio River just west of Bullitt County. Historian Monie Mathews pointed me to a fine "virtual museum" web site about West Point that includes a lot of great photos and information, including info and photos of Ft. Duffield. Check out http://www.westpointvirtualmuseum.com/index.html.
West Point also is developing a town museum. Located at 6th and Elm Street, it is open on Fridays and Saturdays, 2-5 p.m. The town is providing the building and facilities. Thank you West Point!
>>History Markers locations. Ever wonder what history markers might be in Bullitt County, or where they are located? Check out this page.
>>Notable Kentucky African Americans Database. Bullitt County Genealogical Society President Daniel Buxton recently got a nice comment and request to use his research by Reinette F. Jones on his research on Bullitt African American education. She said in part, "...thank you so very much for the research and the sharing of that research. I felt that I had found gold when I came upon your article, and so will other researchers". A link to our museum web page on the subject has been added to her University of Kentucky database. Ms. Jones says that this NKAA Database gets well over 100,000 hits each year from patrons mostly in the U.S. and to a lesser degree from international patrons. The NKAA database can be found at http://www.uky.edu/Libraries/NKAA/record.php?note_id=2725 .
>>Virus Warning, never open an unknown link. Here's a simple, but hard to follow, lesson to protect your e-mail from viruses: NEVER click on an unknown link. Even if the message seems to be from a friend, that link might well just hack your e-mail and use it to send out more of the virus to others. This virus gets you by sending you a seemingly harmless e-mail from a friend that has a link in the message and telling you to click on it. DON'T do it! One message that I have seen had a subject line saying "From the Heart", but I have seen others as well. The bottom line is to stay vigilant and avoid clicking on a link that you are not expecting to get. If such a message seems to come from a friend, always check with the friend to make sure it is legitimate. Yielding to the temptation of a simple click can cause you and your e-mail friends a lot of problems.
Finally.... "The '37 Flood"
Most people never notice it when they walk through the main entrance doors of the Bullitt County Courthouse.
A tiny brass marker on the inside door-frame, about six feet up.
That little brass marker is set at the high water mark of the 1937 flood; by far the worst known flood ever to inundate the multi-state Ohio Valley region.
January 18, 2012, marked the 75th anniversary of that terrible time in our local history. On that cold January day, the Ohio River passed over its 28 foot flood stage and kept going.
In Bullitt County, as in many areas, the result was devastating. According to the state Health Department report at the time, in Bullitt County alone several thousand dairy cattle and sheep drowned. Financial loss, even in such a rural county, amounted to millions of dollars in today's money. Flooding in Shepherdsville reached fifteen feet. Two fifths of Lebanon Junction was under water. In Bardstown Junction, the water was twelve feet deep. Flood waters swept furiously across the road south of Mt. Washington at Smithville.
Entire houses were washed downstream, crashing into bridges along the way.
In western Bullitt County, I am told the old Nichols School house was flooded half way up the windows.
Set your sight on that little brass marker in the county courthouse, look out past the door, and imagine a level mark across the town at that height, and you can begin to get an idea of the shock of that flood.
Yet, just the summer before, in 1936, was one of the hottest and most drought-plagued in North American history. In one bit of dark-humor, it has been said that perhaps the flood of '37 was caused by too-earnest prayers to end the drought of '36.
And end it did. The rain started on January 9 and kept coming harder and harder. By the end of January, the Ohio River was overflowing fast and backing up the Salt River and Rolling Fork River. People kept expecting it to stop but it kept coming, faster and faster.
Suddenly farmers couldn't get livestock to high ground in time. In fact, many people barely made it to safety themselves. Some twenty-five percent of Bullitt Countians were directly affected by the flood; many moving in with friends and family and with good-Samaritan strangers. Four people drowned.
On January 21, in one story told by Minnie Maraman, she tells of going out to milk cows for what turned out to be the last time. Over the night, flood waters rose and her cows, horse, and a hog all drowned in the barn.
Many people were caught in their homes, surrounded by the rising waters. Bob Moser tells of his father going over to their barn, stripping off some of the boards, and constructing a rough boat from the material. After letting the new boat soak in the water overnight so the wood would swell and seal any leaks, the little boat worked pretty good and the family soon set to work going house-to-house rescuing neighbors. The long hours were hard work and the cold, rainy weather was miserable. People could get a little testy, but in hindsight some humorous memories were created.
On one rescue trip with the little boat, Bill (Bob Moser's brother) rescued two rather large young ladies. After they entered the boat, they would not sit still. Every time they moved, the boat took on water and Bill had to stop and bail. After the third time, Bill took one of the oars, turned around, and said, "The next time one of you moves and makes the boat dip water, I will take this oar and knock you out of my boat! Do you understand me?!"
Bill said later that he didn't think the girls breathed after that.
Hundreds of people took refuge wherever they could. The two-story Masonic Hall, then located on the southeast corner of Buckman Street and Highway 44 in Shepherdsville, was itself surrounded by water. Yet one writer from the time said that some two hundred people stayed there. Homes that were on higher ground, sometimes isolated themselves, often housed twenty and thirty people.
This created a food problem and people foraged wherever they could in order to survive.
Bob Moser tells about when the people at the Cruise family home on Chapeze Lane had used up all the food stored at the house, some of the men went down to a local distillery and got the corn meal mash that was there, using it to make "fried mush for lunch and boiled mush for dinner." One day, unnoticed by anyone, the family geese ate some of the slop that was left over from the whiskey-making process. Eventually, someone looked out and saw the geese, all dead, lying around the yard. Probably thinking it was some malady from the flood, the family put the geese in a pile until the men could return. But sometime later in the day, they heard the geese honking and saw them wobbling around the yard. The geese had just passed out from all the liquor in the slop!
And so, there was humor to be had, even in the darkest of times.
By the first Saturday in February 1937, the waters were beginning to recede much as in the days of Noah, and families made their way back to what was left of their homes and farms, and began the long recovery in a world still reeling from the Great Depression. Time moved on. Sadly, boatman/rescuer Bill Moser died just a few years later in World War Two (in Belgium), as did so many others.
Oh what a terrible time, yet what a time to remember.
To only slightly change a phrase from the Charles Dickens book A Tale of Two Cities, "It was the worst of times. It was the best of times."
Many stories, information, and photos about the Great Flood of 1937 can be found at the Bullitt County History Museum web site at this page and in our collections at the museum.
Thank you for being a Friend of the Bullitt County History Museum.
Bullitt County History Museum
Museum Phone: 502-921-0161
E-Mail address: David.Strange@BullittCountyHistory.org