Suprise twists reveal county history

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By Brad Bowman

In my profession, you never know where the thread of a story will take you.

I recently wrote stories on the lead mine in Lockport and the history of Defoe each with a fascinating legacy. In this week’s issue, I looked into the origins of a sign that has been on a barn for more than 30 years.

 I naively expected less of a story and more of a, “Oh, so that’s what that is,” lukewarm tale to satisfy curiosity. I didn’t expect to find a history beginning in Austria during World War II, a man’s life long affection for his wife nor a family memorial both requested on the property he loved and farmed.

These stories honor not just the history of an individual or town but of the county. History should not be dulled down to just dates on a timeline, but honor the colorful threads of the county’s past and provide a foundation of identity for its future.

It almost seems unimaginable that Defoe once had four stores, a trucking company and two blacksmith shops. More unlikely that Lockport once had land set aside for a hospital and was one the busiest port towns in the state less than 200 years ago. Most residents don’t know of the vacant property in Pendleton, which could easily rival any upscale horse farm’s showroom in Lexington.

History, especially the county’s history, speaks to me of what is possible not for just commerce, but for the individual.

This kind of history isn’t taught in local schools. The modern lifestyle almost demands a family to run a race to financial stability without a sense of place or purpose. Our trades and occupations continuously spread families across several counties and states. It isn’t uncommon for grandparents and parents to see each other more or less than once a year now.

The stories I know of my family were passed down from my grandparents and parents. It has given me a sense of myself and who I am.

With the geographical dispersion of families and the modern marketplace, the family history isn’t passed on just as the history of a place isn’t passed on. What is left of that history is sold at estate sales to buyers who have no connection to the place or person. How many people can we not identify in pictures from a former relative’s family album?

Family history and the history of the county are intertwined— just as a sign on a barn in Port Royal speaks of people and place. It is my endeavor to seek out this history in the county and record it.

I am not arrogant enough to think I can teach it, but I can at least honor it.