The Bullitt County History Museum

Museum Newsletter - 6 Apr 2007

Friends of the Bullitt County History Museum E-Newsletter
April 6, 2007 , (Volume 3, Number 5)

Dear Friends,


>> Seminar on Cemetery/Tombstone preservation coming in May.

Anne Johnson, of The Kentucky History Museum, is setting up a seminar on cemetery and tombstone preservation at Bardstown for around the last of May. The one-day course features discussion of laws related to cemeteries. After lunch the class goes to a cemetery and does some hands-on training on cleaning tombstones.

Once the details are set, I'll let you know more. I detect a strong local interest in cemetery and tombstone preservation and restoration, so we might also host a similar event in the near future in Shepherdsville.

>>Ancestral Trails Book Fair April 21.

Ancestral Trails Historical Society, in neighboring Hardin County, will be hosting its annual History/Genealogy Book Fair and Sale on Saturday, April 21, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This great event has numerous booths from various neighboring groups. It offers a lot of unique writings on local and state genealogy and history. It's also just a nice event to network with other people of similar interests.

The Bullitt County History Museum and its parent Bullitt County Genealogical Society will have a booth. If you are in the area, we hope to see you there! The fair will be at the Pritchard Community Center in Elizabethtown. Parking and admission is free. E-Mail Gary Kempf at for more information.

Museum Activity.

>> Speaking of Gary Kempf...

Friend and Historian Gary Kempf is particularly renowned for his writings on the Ft. Knox area. Our museum has been blessed with Gary's encouragement and his occasional visits to the museum and to Genealogical Society meetings. Recently I had the great pleasure of a surprise visit by Gary at the museum office. At the same time, longtime local historian Burlyn Pike and West Point, Kentucky historian Richard Briggs came by.

The result was an enjoyable, spontaneous round-table discussion of local history with some of the most prestigious, dedicated historians of our region. Museum Volunteer Bob Cline happened by and proclaimed this as something that should be done in front of an audience. He's right! We'll have to set up such a thing sometime.

I am very happy to say that similar things are happening more and more often at the museum. I believe we are quickly becoming an active hub of historical/genealogical information exchange for our area.

>>Local Schools getting involved in History.

I am just as ecstatic to see our local schools getting more involved in local history.

At their invitation, I recently spoke to a combination of classes at Bullitt Lick Middle School.

Last week, some 65 students from Shepherdsville Elementary School, led by Teacher Tammy Spratt, toured the Museum. I was impressed by the students, and pleased that they were asking real questions, which told me that they were truly learning. It was a nice, sunny day, so, after the tour, we all walked over to the nearby Shepherdsville Pioneer Graveyard that was restored last year. Ms. Spratt was prepared with materials for the students to do "rubbings" of some of the tombstones. After a brief talk about the cemetery and respecting the people buried there, the students scattered excitedly about the cemetery, each doing rubbings and asking about the dates, symbols, and people on the stones. I did not notice a single student not getting involved. It was a great learning experience for the students and a real pleasure for me.

And then another school, Cedar Grove Elementary called me to say they had a group of students who had won a grant to make a video, and that some of the students had seen our Old Stone Jail, and wanted to make their video on that. Their teacher was clearly surprised and impressed, and so am I. The museum will be working with them on the project as needed.

Great work Students! And fantastic work Teachers! One of our main goals at the museum is to get young students learning more about their local history.

>> Rip Ronay painting donated to museum.

Louis Torak, known by many by his artist name of Rip Ronay, was a well known artistic painter in Bullitt County in the 1970's and 80's until his death. Friend Margaret Hettinger called the museum a few weeks ago looking for a good home for a large 1984 Rip Ronay painting of Shepherdsville that her family had in their possession for some time. We happily suggested the museum and we now proudly display the painting above the fireplace in one of our display rooms. I have included a couple of photos in this newsletter.

Thank you Maggie!! And by the way, I am still hoping to get more biographical information on Mr. Torak. When I get it, I'll publish it in the newsletter. As I recall, he had quite a history himself.

>> Jim McClure article in March Kentucky Pioneer.

Jim McClure was a key figure in the restoration last year of the Shepherdsville Pioneer Cemetery. An article about the restoration, written by Jim, was published in the March edition of The Kentucky Pioneer magazine.

>> The Early Life and Career of Leland Buxton.

Daniel Buxton has been spending a lot of research time with us at the museum lately. We are always happy to see him and others intently using our resources. Daniel recently published a book and gave the museum a copy. The book is mostly focused on the Buxton family around and about Scott County, Indiana, but if you have any Buxtons in your family line, you might want to take a look at it. We have a copy at the museum, or you can purchase a copy through Daniel Buxton for $10 plus $2 shipping. Call Daniel at 502-543-9875 to order, or e-mail him at

>>Hardy-Close Funeral Home Records 1931-94

Doris Owen recently gave the museum her copy of books of records on the Hardy-Close Funeral Home in Shepherdsville. I should know this before I write it, but I believe Barbara and Ken Bailey did a lot of work transcribing the original papers for the books.

>>"The Wilson Legacy, The VanSwearingin Family" book.

We were also recently given a new booklet that has a lot of information on the VanSwearingin (today usually cut to Swearingin) family. It can be found in the Swearingin folder of family history at the museum Research Room..

>>1917 train wreck display progress report.

I think it was just in our previous newsletter that I asked for donations to pay for a $2500 custom display case that will sit in the courthouse hallway, memorializing the 1917 train wreck, the most deadly train wreck in L&N Railroad history. Well, it looks like the case will actually cost $2800, after some changes to the design, but I am very happy to say that we have already received the donations to pay for it, thanks to some generous descendents of some of the victims of the tragedy. I'll give more details on that when the display is complete, but I expect to place the order Monday morning. The glass & oak display case will feature a ten-foot long Lloyd Mattingly model of the tragedy, a collection of protected photos and documents that can be leafed through, and a section to display artifacts and other related items. It will set in a window overlooking the site of the tragedy.

If we can someday raise another $900 for the cause, I hope to place a historic marker outside at the actual site of the wreck, just a block from our museum.

>>Looking for Sheriff photos

The Bullitt County Sheriff's office would like to display photos of all of the past county sheriffs, so it is asking for photos. That's quite a list! Betty Darnell recently published a list in the "Wilderness Road", the quarterly mailing of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society. If you might have access to photos of some of our past sheriffs, please look them up for us. We have a few but only a few. I will try in the next newsletter to publish a list of the sheriffs and who we have photos of.

>>Looking for Info on Judge's Bench.

In another month or two the museum will be the proud recipient of a the bench (desk) that has been used in Bullitt County Court for generations. When the new court building opens (hopefully the first part of June ) there will be all new furniture, and the old bench is to be displayed at the museum. It will be tough to find the space to properly display such a fine piece of memorabilia, but I think I have that worked out.

I need help, though, in rediscovering the actual history of the bench. I remember as a young man hearing that the bench was made long ago by state penitentiary inmates, but that is about all I can find out so far. "Long time ago", by inmates. No one seems to have passed down the facts.

I need to find out more. Like specifically HOW long ago, and what penitentiary.

I would really like to do "justice" to this old bench, so if you can find out anything, please let me know.

For Your Information...

>> Unclaimed Pensions and Benefits

Want to check to see if you, or someone you know has a pension owed to them but has not received it? Sounds implausible, at first, but many people forget that some company that they worked at years ago might owe them some pension or benefit money. Go to and check the article titled "Unclaimed Pension Benefits Total $133 Million". It will take you to a list that you can check.

Finally..."Once in Print, Always in Print"

I am once again reminded of the old writers' adage, "Once in print, always in print".

When you put something in print, it is impossible to call it back. That is especially true in this day of e-mail and web sites.

A past newsletter of mine wrote about the St. Claire Movie House in Lebanon Junction. Unfortunately, for some reason I wrote "Mt. Washington" instead of LJ. I try to take care to write things accurately, (and corrected this one in later editions) but sometimes something slips by. In my own twisted thinking, I even took some pleasure, in this case, that several readers quickly caught the error and let me know about it (My twisted thinking says that is good news in a way, because it shows that people are really reading my stuff.) "No big problem" I thought, and I quickly sent out a correction to everyone.

Well, I was recently reading a print publication and to my consternation, there it was again in print, my story about a movie house in Mt. Washington. "NO!!" I fussed to myself. It's NOT in Mt. Washington, it was in Lebanon Junction".

The publication didn't do anything wrong. I had given permission to print my stuff anytime they wanted to. It just showed how quickly and permanently errors can spread.

I have a friend who many years ago published a rather extensive genealogy book of families from the Mammoth Cave area. It was a good book by a very good writer, but he had a pretty major mistake that incorrectly recorded two different lines of my family. If anyone followed what he printed, it completely misled the reader on a large body of family lines.

It is wrong but to this day the book is quoted like a bible of irrefutable facts. It is nearly impossible to straighten out, with any different publication discounted as incorrect because it doesn't agree with the previous recognized book..

Ah well. We all know that if we wait until we know everything is perfect, we would never get to publishing anything. Such is the sad case with many genealogy and history books that need to get done.

Yet..."Once in Print, Always in Print" is an important phrase to remember. I just know thirty years from now some new young local historian will drive himself crazy trying to find out where a movie house was in Mt. Washington.

Thank you for being a Friend of Bullitt County History.

David Strange
Bullitt County History Museum
Executive Director
Museum Phone: 502-921-0161
E-Mail address:

The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 12 Sep 2020 . Page URL: