Historical society still going strong

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By Christopher Brooke


The Henry County Historical Society continue a steady stream of community outreach, even as it undergoes a reorganization at the history center in New Castle, officers said. 

“We’re in a transition and reorganizing,” said Connie Snowden, the secretary on the board of directors. “We’re looking for volunteers. We lost our full-time volunteer.”

President Bill Shannon now opens the history center one day a week, usually Thursdays, takes the historical society’s calls, answers e-mails and sets up research appointments, after Hammer Smith resigned from the organization.

“He pretty much manned the history center,” Snowden said. “We have other volunteers — he was the one who was here most of the time.”

But many other volunteers continue their work on behalf of the historical society uninterrupted.

“The historical society is a lot more than just the history center and genealogy,” she explained. “The history center has not been closed. We’ve been setting up appointments to help people out.”

Members and volunteers go over to the county clerk’s office to scan court order books into digital copies, Snowden said, for example. This creates a backup of the original documents and allows members to find out more about Henry County’s past.

Those court order books date back to around 1798-99 and volunteers have scanned them up to the Civil War era.

One find that stuck out involved plans for a jail in the 1832 records.

“Pretty much anything that went through the courts, they recorded it — it was line item after line item,” Snowden said. “If you assaulted your wife and she ran and told the court, it would be in there.”

The society has also put funds toward the professional archiving of some of the more important books and documents from Henry County.

Henry County Historical Society has also contributed to keep a recently discovered black school house from decaying more.

“No one even knew it existed,” Snowden said. “We gave money to help repair the roof to prevent further deterioration of the building.”

Volunteers always look for interesting aspects of history to have presentations on at the Henry County Extension Office. Recent ones have included talks on how clothing and textiles were made a few generations ago and on the history of Lake Jericho.

The historical society also participates in many community events, such as by holding an open house during the recent New Castle Patriotic Day and having a booth at the Harvest Showcase.

Members have recently re-arranged the history center to make it more user friendly — namely, setting up a library on the first floor and moving the research center from the second floor.

The historical society maintains a roomful of originally county documents that had been bound for the state archives in Frankfort. That makes the wills, estate settlements, deeds, marriage bonds, constable bonds, mortgages and more available locally.

But for some the second floor would make those records difficult to access.

“We had several members say it’s just impossible to go up these steps,” Snowden said.

The historical society recently bought a new copier, which Snowden said doesn’t sound like a big deal, but the old one could only copy one page at a time.

Joyce Meyer helps keep the historical society’s website fresh by looking for new features. She’s now working with the Kentucky Historical Society to obtain oral histories in mp3 format, which could be shared online.

To get more members involved in society decisions, Snowden and attorney Joe Yates have been examining the bylaws. One idea springs from having an application to serve on the board of directors and having more of the members vote for board members, whether by mail or e-mail.

“We will make sure everybody is involved in the election and has the opportunity to participate, because we have members throughout the United States,” Snowden said.

New exhibits and expanded hours are also goals that historical society members have.

In  terms of being open, though, Snowden noted that even the Kentucky Historical Society opens four days a week in summer and has no winter hours.

“We’ve got a lot of things going on,” she said. “I think all organizations have an ebb and flow, but we have a lot of things going on.”

For more on the Henry County Historical Society and its mission, go to http://history.henrycountyky.com/