The Bullitt County History Museum

Museum Newsletter - 12 July 2007

Friends of the Bullitt County History Museum E-Newsletter
July 12, 2007 , (Volume 3, Number 8)


>> Civil War Encampment August 4.

August 4 will mark the third annual Civil War encampment at First Street Park in Shepherdsville. Don Elden and his son Gregg do a fine job setting this up. The park, located between the old Shepherdsville Pioneer Graveyard that was restored last year, and the Salt River, is developing into a very nice park in its own right, with a new riverside walkway that lets you go right down to the river edge. In fact the battle scenes might be enacted down near the river this year, allowing a great location for the audience to watch and film the show without modern interruptions such as automobiles in the background.

I'll be there this year doing my first-ever attempt at portraying a salt maker.

>> Monthly Genealogical Society meeting July 19.

The regular meeting of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society will meet at 6:30 p.m. at the Ridgway Public Library in Shepherdsville June 21.

Election of officers for the coming 12 months will be discussed. Everyone is welcome!.

Museum Activity.

>> 1917 Train Wreck display coming closer to completion.

It will be a while yet before the display is entirely ready because we are adding some new details, but we are making great progress! And it is going to be even better than originally planned! Betty Hartley has completed restoration of the ten foot model originally made by Lloyd Mattingly. The once badly-damaged model is not only repaired but enhanced with several nice details including trees, brush, and snow. Broken pieces have been repaired and I think the entire model has been repainted. It looks fantastic!

The model, depicting that horrific Shepherdsville Christmastime train wreck that so dramatically claimed the lives of fifty-one people, is now installed in the specially-made display case made possible by the grand generosity of Mary Lou Hackett, with the support of donations by Gary Kempf and others. I will give more detail on the supporters of this project when we have an official unveiling later this year.

Though we will probably have an earlier unveiling, I am beginning to plan a special remembrance ceremony in December, on the ninetieth anniversary of the tragedy.

For now, I am working through some lighting issues. The sun shines so brightly through the window that its' glare makes it more difficult to see in the case than I expected. I am working with Fiscal Court to tent the windows. We have decided to go with a background scene painted behind the model. Carole Jackson-Powell, who recently completed a mural for our salt making display, met with me today about painting the background, which would help depict the cold, misty day of the wreck.

Charles Hartley is writing for us the most comprehensive history of the wreck that I know of. He has been spending countless hours researching and compiling information, with exciting results! It has been a joy over the past few weeks comparing notes with him and learning from him. I look forward to his completed work.

And I have picked up some personal artifacts from The Filson Historical Society for a personal touch to the display.

I should not over dramatize this display. Many museums offer presentations far better than we can do. But for our little fledgling museum, it represents a large step forward from anything we have done up to now.

>> Cemetery Seminar a Great Success!!

For those of you who attended, I think you'll agree. The recent Cemetery Seminar sponsored by our Bullitt County Genealogical Society was a success by any measure. This event brought Kentucky Historical Society expert Ann Johnson to Shepherdsville to teach about cemetery preservation law and about tombstone restoration. When starting to plan for the event, which had been sought by several museum visitors, I would have been happy to have ten or twelve really interested registrants. A couple of days before the seminar, we had 25 registrants, but I confess that I figured probably several would be no-shows.

Well, THIRTY-FIVE showed up! A really great crowd, and they stayed the entire time, asking good questions and sharing information.

After the morning cemetery-law session, we met at the Shepherdsville Pioneer Cemetery for a little hands-on tombstone restoration practice. As a bonus, several of us then went from there to the Trunnell Family Cemetery a few miles down the road, which is in the process of being restored by the residents of the subdivision that now surrounds it. While there, the current owner of the nearby ancestral family home invited us in for a tour of the house. And after THAT, several folks went on to yet another cemetery, the old estate's slave cemetery.

Ms. Johnson seemed as pleased with the day as we were and I was personally very proud that we had been able to offer such a worthwhile session.

We'll have to do something like that again sometime!

I will try to include bits of what we learned in the newsletter from time to time.

>> Many more visitors.

The new Judicial Center building is finally complete next to our museum, and with that comes a LOT more people to the area. The courts as well as the circuit clerk's office had been in temporary quarters outside of town for several years while the new building was being constructed. With its opening, hundreds of jury pool people, attorneys, police, and office workers return to our little area and the increase in traffic is obvious. Life has returned to our courthouse, and a lot of it flows into our museum. There is now most always someone exploring the restored Old Stone Jail, and many of them come on in to our display rooms. The guest book is getting many complementary comments.

>>Booth at July 4th Bullitt Blast

The museum hosted an information booth at the county's annual Fourth of July event. I am happy to report that not only did we meet many new friends, we are now seeing mostly old ones! By that I mean we seem to have finally succeeded in getting the word out about us. For nearly three years now (since we first opened) most of our time at festivals was devoted to telling people that the museum exists. More and more often now, instead of being told, "I didn't know we had any history", we are now greeted with, "Oh yes! I've been to the museum! It's great!". The response I personally like best is when parents tell me, "Oh yes! My child went there with his school (or other youth) group and insisted that I go back with him!".

>>Bench Donation Report

Though its going slower that hoped, we are making progress on fundraising to buy iron setting benches for around the outside of our courthouse. So far we have received $3015 from twelve donors. Donors include Friend Burlyn Pike, County Attorney Walt Sholar, Betty Howell, Donna Dangerfield, School Superintendent Keith Davis, Attorney Nick Raley, motel owner Bill Barnes, Magistrate David Walker, businessman Tom Kelly, The Shepherdsville Lions Club, and Sharon Satterly, as well as a generous commitment from the county attorney bar association. I like the variety in these good community supporters. We just need more of them. We are so far only halfway to the minimum goal of $6000 required before we can order the benches. But we are getting there!

For Your Information...

>> Salary/Salarium.

We often write about the importance of salt making in pioneer-era Bullitt County. It was (and really still is) a critically important element to survival. With that in mind, some pioneer workers in the 1700's and into the 1800's in Kentucky asked for their wages, their salary, to be paid in salt.

It turns out that was nothing new. The word "Salary" actually comes from the Latin word "Salarium", meaning "salt money".

>> Saving Graves.

Ann Johnson, who taught our class on cemetery preservation is an excellent source of information. She can be reached at


Its been an odd summer here in Kentucky. At least it seems so to me. The Spring had a late freeze that destroyed most fruit crops, and then an early dry spell threatened a drought. But then unusual Summer rains saved us and even turned everything green again... in mid July when things usually turn brown.

At least it seems so.

It has been unusually hot and windy, it seems to me, for Kentucky. It reminds me of my childhood visits to relatives in Satellite Beach in Florida. That hot, dry air blowing on the face. The occasional refreshing rain that would quickly dry and be replaced again by the hot breeze. It was noticeably different than what I am used to.

I was standing outside the museum the other day thinking about that and about Florida, and then, in a wonderful coincidental experience, some visitors from Florida happened by to do some research. We are in the summer visitor season at the museum, when people from around the country visit us to explore their Bullitt County roots. I have written about that before, so won't dwell on it again here, but one of the joys of working at the museum is meeting new friends from other states.

But the weather really is not so terribly different this year, or other years. Just a bit unusual. And I am thinking about Florida.

Memory can be a faulty thing sometimes.

For about thirty years I had a habit of keeping notes on the weather each day before I went to work.

It became an interesting resource, and surprisingly constant, varying only slightly year to year, except for an occasional freak storm..

Often, when I or others would comment about the weather being unusual, I would look back at the records and discover that, actually, things were very much the same as before, remarkably within days of previous years. It was actually quite surprising to me, looking back over the records, how consistent things were from year to much so that I wonder if that is all there is to making an almanac.

But unrecorded memory plays tricks on us, and each year we talk about how unusually hot it is or cold it is or rainy it is. Yet perhaps it is not so unusual after all.

Such is sometimes the case with our history as well. We at the museum have to be very careful to not let memory incorrectly color fact. Good people can often let a slightly erroneous memory get in the way of discovering, and recording, the truth. Our minds can play tricks on us over the years, causing us to insist on something that actually never was. I sometimes mischievously say that people sometimes refuse to let facts get in the way of what they want to think.


It sure does seem hot and windy here in Kentucky...

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: