Published monthly by Harrison County Historical Society. PO Box 411, Cynthiana, KY 41031
|In this issue:
Scenes from Black Life in Cynthiana (Cromwell)
Milt Barlow - Minstrel
William A. Penn, Editor
On August 18, 2003, I received this email: “I have attached a photo of an unopened bottle of Van Hook whiskey from the F. S. Ashbrook Distillery. I am curious to know if there is any historical value to it. I have more photos if they are of interest . I found the bottle around 1980 in a house that I used to own in Berkley, California. It was built in 1925. Based on the label on the bottle, the bottle was from around 1920. Thanks for any information you may be able to provide. Regards, Lyle Bell.”
I replied, giving Mr. Bell all the information that I had about the distillery and that several members of our family had worked there. Ending the message, I mentioned that this bottle of whiskey would be a great item for our museum.
On August 19, 2003, I received this email: “My son has the bottle now, and we agree that we would like to give it to the museum. Please let me know where to send it and I will make arrangements. Regards, Lyle. “ I had sort of forgotten about it when on September 24, this message showed up on my email: “George, the Van Hook Whiskey bottle is on its way. My son, Eric, shipped it today. The UPS tracking number is below. I will keep my fingers crossed that it arrives in good condition. Let me know when it gets there. Thanks, Lyle Bell.”
The bottle arrived October 1 at 2:30 p.m. in great condition, considering that it had traveled a considerable distance during over eighty years of existence. I immediately emailed Lyle of its safe arrival. The bottle of whiskey is now on display at our Museum.
Description of the Labels on the Bottle
Front label: “VAN HOOK OLD-FASHIONED Fire Copper WHISKEY F.S ASHBROOK DISTILLERY CO. Distillers, Cynthiana, Ky.” Also, on the front label is a picture of a copper still, similar to the one in the front window of the Museum. Above the label is a stamp that reads, “State of Illinois, one pint series G, tax paid at the rate of $1.00 per gallon.” The cork stopper is flush with the top of the bottle, and would require a corkscrew to remove it. The green “Bottled in Bond U. S. Government 100 Proof” stamp covering the stopper at this point has not been broken.
Historical Society Minutes
Mr. Wesley Newkirk treated the Historical Society to a special event January 15th when he opened his restored 1812 house on the Oddville Pike as a meeting place. Members were given a tour of the house along with interesting commentary on the Desha and Duffy families who lived here from for so many years. See the column on this page by Martha Barnes for further comments on the meeting.
The Harrison County Historical Society is grateful for Mr. Newkirk’s generosity in letting us meet at his house, but I am sure the membership - and the Harrison County community - is even more grateful that the Newkirks have invested their time, energy, love, and finances into restoring this fine example of an early Kentucky brick home making it one of the finest restored historic homes in Kentucky. We hope this restoration, and others, like the present work being done to the Silver Lake Griffith house at Broadwell, and the brick row-house of Bobby Lake’s on North Main Street, will be an inspiration to other owners of previously neglected historic properties in Cynthiana.
Harrison County, Ky., History
Battle of Cynthiana - www.battleofcynthiana.org
Hinkson and Ruddle Station Historical Society:
Cynthiana - Harrison County Museum
Visit the Historic Coleman-Desha House
of us who deeply appreciate history and diligently work to preserve it
often are disturbed when our community destroys or loses some aspect of
our history. How
refreshing it was for the fifty interested persons who participated in the
historical society meeting and tour of Mr. Wesley Newkirk's home on
January 15, 2004. What a way to start the new year!
Following a brief meeting aptly conducted by President Larry Moss in the huge upstairs meeting room, our gracious host, Mr. Newkirk told of the history of the house and the restoration process. He then invited the group to tour his beautiful home - from the attic to the basement. Most Harrison Countians call the place "the Oaks" or the Duffy Place. The house and farm located on US Highway 62 East were purchased by Governor Joseph Desha in 1828 for his son Lucius. A daughter of Lucius, Frances married H. C. Duffy and inherited the place. From that time until the late 1980's when it was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Newkirk, the house was occupied by Duffy descendants. Miss Katherine Wilson in her wonderful book, This Old House, includes much information about the Desha and Duffy families. In 2001, the late Mrs. Elizabeth Newkirk completed historic research regarding the house and its builder/owner James Coleman. Mrs. Newkirk's interesting document tells of the architecture of the house and its restoration including work done by stencilers/painters, conservationists, other professionals, and family members. Mr. Newkirk explained that his wife carefully chose furniture, art, and trimmings to match the period of the house.
The Newkirk home is an outstanding example of restoration - truly a dedicated labor of perfection and love. How blessed we are to have Mr. Newkirk in our community! Several copies of Mrs. Newkirk's "Historic Research and Comments concerning James Coleman: 1773-1828 and The Coleman-Desha House" are available at the Cynthiana-Harrison County Museum ($2.00 each to cover copy costs). The museum also has for sale reprints of Katherine Wilson's This Old House including index ($15 each).
Black History Month at the Museum
The Cynthiana-Harrison County Museum encourages those with photographs, artwork, or items related to our black community to loan them to our expanding black history collection:
- copies of church histories; congregation photos.
- black family genealogy files.
- black-owned businesses - history and photos.
- black education histories; copies of newsletters, photos.
- old period photos of black families in Cynthiana.
- race relations - newspaper articles, interviews.
- black cemetery documentation and preservation.
Observations of John M. Cromwell, Former Mayor and Newspaper Columnist
Introduction: While editing, along with George Slade, the newspaper columns of John M. Cromwell for the Cynthiana history book Cromwell’s Comments (Cynthiana Democrat 2003), I made a point of indexing any mention of black citizens in Cynthiana. There were quite a few, some just in passing, others in more depth, such as church histories. Since February is Black History Month, I thought it would be of interest to copy all of the references made to Cynthiana’s African-American community, quoting directly from that book. As you will see, some blacks were stereotyped by Mr. Cromwell, and “darkey” is sometimes used, but in many cases his observations are all we have, and so remain a valuable source. Reading between the lines, it is apparent that blacks were an integral part of the fabric of the community (forty percent of the Cynthiana population in 1882, for example), and were farmers and assistants to professionals such as physicians and newspaper publishers; others were barbers, laundry workers, school teachers, ministers, worked at livery stables and as cooks. A challenge for Cynthiana historians will be to locate and document black history. (For page number references to the excerpts below, see the index to “African-Americans” in Cromwell’s Comments). William A. Penn.
Dover Addams – There is another stone in the old cemetery which may have some interest for our readers. Here is the inscription to be read on it: “Dover Addams/Born in Delaware 1784/Emancipated in 1837/Died of Smallpox 1856/He lived and died an honest man”. The life story of Dover Addams is brief, and really expressed by the lines on his tombstone. He was a slave, just how and when he came to Cynthiana is not stated. He is said to have belonged to Major John R. Curry; and we are to presume that his master caused the stone to be erected over his remains. If so, it would seem to indicate the bond which existed between the master and his slave. The Dover Addams tablet stands just a few feet from the fence in the south east corner, where Walnut street enters Pearl. [This monument is still standing].
Advertisement for Slave in Jail – “Taken Up” by William Smith, a negro boy. Has been placed in jail, where he will be held for six months, when if not called for he will be sold to pay charges – signed J. W. Dills, jailer. (Cynthiana News, August 27, 1857).
Blacks at Circus – Speaking of the [1930 Harrison County] fair again, reminds me, we have often heard of the small boy earning a pass to the circus by carrying water to the elephant. But did you ever hear of him earning a pass to a fair by carrying it to the monkeys? Well, it happened during the fair. We behold three [black children] appear at the gate each carrying a bunch of mint. On inquiry we learned that it was for the monkeys, and passed them in.
Black Methodist Churches – In 1853 the Colored Methodists built a comfortable frame building on the north side of Pleasant street,east of Main. Here they worshipped for twenty-five years, when they sold this building to the U. B. F. Society [United Brothers of Friendship], by whom it was used as a lodge for many years; it is still standing, having been converted into a flat dwelling. In 1878 the congregation purchased from Mr. W. L. Northcutt a lot on West Pleasant street, and soon had erected a brick church and parsonage, where they are still worshiping. The Ebenezer Episcopal Methodist Church, established in Cynthiana in 1892, under the administration of the Rev. J. H. Ross, who served it as pastor for two years, this little congregation of 65 members is in a flourishing condition . The building was erected in 1892 by the late A. T. Rees. It is of frame, very commodious and stands on Locust street about midway between Penn and Mill. ….We were also informed…there is a body of Christians of the same persuasion located at Leesburg, who have a house of worship [St. John Methodist Church].
(Continued on page 4)
(Cromwell’s Comments on African-American Life in Cynthiana - Continued from page 3)
Black Baptist Churches - In 1857, the Colored Baptists bought of J. J. Parish a lot on the bank of the river, a few hundred yards south of the railroad depot, and built thereon a small brick church. The building is also still standing, but of late years has been abandoned. During this same year, 1880, the trustees purchased of Henry Palmer for $300 a lot on the corner of Bridge and Church. In 1881 their new brick church [Macedonian] was erected on this lot by E. Clark, a colored contractor from Lexington. Many of us will remember “Elder” Jno. J. Johnson, the long-time pastor of the church, which he served faithfully for a quarter of a century. He was proud of the number of converts which he had baptized in the Licking, prided himself on keeping an accurate count, and was ready at all times to draw a little memorandum book from his pocket and give one the exact figures, and they ran into the thousands.
Black Barber Shop – James McKinley conducted a shop for colored people on Bridge street in the same place that there resides today [Just to rear of the building which stood on the corner, know a s Daly Corner.] James settled here sixty years ago; and is now by way of being one of the patriarchs of his race in Cynthiana.
Tax List 1794 – On the tax list for Harrison County in 1794, the first tax assessment, were “Blacks – 3.”
Black Cemetery – The rear of the [old] cemetery [on North Main Street] was used for the colored people until they purchased the plat they now use on the Leesburg pike, Cherry Grove, which at one time belonged to [Capitola VanHook’s] parents. I remember one stone in the colored portion of the old cemetery was erected to the memory of Dover Addams, who was once a slave of Major Curry. [from Capitola VanHook’s 1928 letter to Mr. Cromwell].
Coon Hunting – [When John Cromwell was a child on a farm south of Cynthiana, near the present airport, after the Civil War]…we had as general utility man about the place a Negro boy a few years older than myself, and “Dud”, like all of his race, was devoted to hunting the coon. Mr. [Henry Clay] Magee [whose farm was near the present 3M factory and Parkland Heights] usually started out with the dogs about the time we were at supper, and Dad on hearing the dogs would slip the word in to me via the cook, when I would in turn slip away from the supper table and join him. We would then, guided by the cry of the dogs, make a bee line for the hunters and on more than one occasion when the hunt happened to lie on the opposite side of the river did we wade across to join it.
Doc Edwards in Parade - [In 1884, after the Democratic candidate was elected president, a torch light parade] took place on the second Saturday night after the election, a never to be forgotten sight for those who witnessed it. Long before sundown the crowds began to gather on the Court House square, and by the time the parade was ready to start there were literally thousands assembled. Dr. Johnson, popular dentist, carried a live rooster, of the game cock variety, under his arm. And lastly [ in the parade] the only, then, Negro democratic voter in the county, “Doc Edwards,” was Major Morey’s man Friday, diked out by the boys and mounted on a white mule.
Doc Edwards -Typesetter – For a long time [Major A. J. Morey, editor of the Cynthiana News] had, as his chief factotum, one Doc Edwards, of color, also quite a character in this way. “Doc,” who will be remembered by some of our older citizens, had a fair education and could set type with the best of them. He was loyal to the old Major and his devoted imitator in many things. In his dress, for state occasions, he affected a silk hat, frock coat and walking stick. The coat and hat were of ancient vintage, donated by the Major, of course; he was even loyal in politics, always voting the Democratic ticket.
1878 Abdallah Park “Colored” Fair – I wonder how many who read this will remember when our colored citizens gave a fair at Abdallah Park? Along about 1878, I put it, and I was there. My father allowed his stable boy to show some stock, and sent me along to act as kind of fiduciary agent. I recall that uncle Henry Johnson, the old colored barber, was paymaster, and going to him to collect a premium he paid me off in silver dollars. Uncle Henry’s shop was located for many years in the basement of an old building which formerly occupied the site of the Citizens Bank building, just beneath my feet as I write this. [East o present-day Platters Restaurant (26 E. Pike) on north side, renumbered 122 E. Pike recently. First Federal was there at one time, known as the Montgomery Building.] He dated back to ante-bellum days and was tonsorial artist [barber] to the boys of my father’s generation, and lived to work on some of their sons.
1882 Census – Cynthiana had whites, 1,213; Negroes, 793; white males over 21, 307; colored males over 21, 163.
1929 Harrison County Fair – Another little incident and we close: Saturday evening, during a lull at the ticket window, a quarter [apparently the fee for children] came sliding thru, and the box office man looked up to encounter the bland gaze of Chuck Judy. He looked back at the quarter and then again at Chuck. Chuck never cracked a smile, and, not to be outdone in sangfroid, neither did the box office man, but gravely handed out a child’s ticket. We have wondered since whether or not Chuck was trying to put something over on the box office man. [Mr. Judy, an African-American, was a town character who was never known to wear shoes in the summer. He met all the trains as they arrived at the depot. He had a big toe missing which he claimed was run over by a train – George Slade].
(Continued on page 5)
(Cromwell’s Comments on African-American Life in Cynthiana - Continued from page 4)
Harrison County Slave Owners – 1849-1853 – The nine largest slave owners, east of the [Licking] River: Esq. John Williams, 39 slaves, valuation, $11,700; General Lucius Desha, 27 slaves, valuation, $11,000; William A. Withers, 26 slaves, valuation, $8,300; Maj. Henry Nichols, (John M. Cromwell’s grandfather), 25 slaves, valuation, $9,750; Archy Duncan, 24 slaves, valuation, $7,000; William B. Glave, 24 slaves, valuation, $7,200; Charlie Redmon, 17 slaves, valuation, $5,950; Larkin Garnett, 17 slaves, valuation, $5,400; Dr. Joel Frazer, 16 slaves, valuation, $6,400.
Colemansville Black Settlement – [In 1884 a cyclone hit Colemansville]. The colored settlement in sight of Mt. Nebo is now a thing of the past. All of the inmates of this settlement escaped, among them a Negro woman 108 years old.
Poor Row – After the Emancipation Proclamation, [more after the Civil War ended] when the freedmen were flocking to town, the effected a settlement between the river and the railroad just below the depot, the first purely Negro settlement in Cynthiana. As time went on many of them on special days such as hog-killings, harvest, etc., would come back a few days to work for their ex-masters. On such occasions, when interrogated as to their place of residence, they would reply – down on “ Po – Ro”, and the funny part of it, the name was entirely of their own making.
Total Eclipse of 1869 - As a lad between seven and eight years of age, on a certain Saturday afternoon in the month of Aug.  1869, I came into town with my father and was taken to the home of his cousin, Mrs. Luther VanHook….Standing out in front, on the same stone steps, somewhat time worn today, I witnessed the “total eclipse.” On my return home the [blacks] had much to relate on the subject, such as how the fowls all went to roost, etc. I think they paced the hour at 4. P.M. [the time of the eclipse].
Schools – We find that the first colored school was opened about the year 1868, and our historian [Perrin] says: “It is pleasantly situated on the so-called ‘Common,’ in a comfortable building near the river.” This would be the old brick structure on Water street, recently converted into a steam laundry  – the school having been removed some years previously to the old hospital site, where it continues to flourish under the management of Prof. Newsom. [This was the first site of Banneker School and was on the west side of Water street, now a park. There were eight grades offered. A newer school was built in 1937 on the corner of Penn and Locust Streets. The school was named for Benjamin Banneker.]
Slave Curfew – Going thru an old city record book recently I came across an ordinance relating to slaves – passed Nov. 3, 1859: “Be it ordained by the Trustees of the Town of Cynthiana that it shall not be lawful for any slave residing in the Town of Cynthiana to be upon the streets of said town after the ringing of the Court House bell.” Upon the ringing of the Court House bell, at nine o’clock p.m., all slaves were required to be at home. It soon seemed in the understood that a half hour of grace was allowed, this being granted by the good nature of the “patrol”, so much so, that it soon became a regular game between him and the “darkies” as the hour of nine-thirty approached, hence, a common saying of theirs – “Half past nine is Krammer’s time.” [Krammer was apparently the name of the night watchman or patroler.] In this same connection we might mention an old song, which as a child the writer remembers to have heard often the “old time” darkies sing, they would string it out ad infinitum. Beginning something like this: ‘Run, nigger, run, the pat-a-role ketch you, Run, nigger, run, can’t ketch me. Oh, Mr. Pat-a-role, don’t ketch me, Ketch dat nigger behind dat tree.’
W.W.I Soldiers – Since on a September morning in 1917 we saw the first batch of drafted men come from the courthouse and march south on Main street to entrain for camp. Harrison County furnished 405 men, 1916 to 1918. [Mr. Cromwell listed eighteen soldiers who died of disease including] “…Orie C. Givens, Frazier Smith, the two last named colored.”
(Continued on page 6)
(Cromwell’s Comments on African-American Life in Cynthiana - Continued from page
Wyatt - Slave of Dr. Joel C. Frazer – Dr. Frazer [whose farm is now known as the Handy farm, recently purchased by the local government as a park] had a slave called Wyatt, who acted as his personal attendant, and to Wyatt fell all the odd jobs to be done around the place. Wyatt had a high opinion of the doctor, accepting every statement that he made without question. It so happened that an old horse on the place was sick, and had been turned into a pasture near the home. One morning as the doctor started to town he noticed the horse was down, and riding up a little closer he concluded that “old Tom” had at last gone to his reward. Turning around he called to Wyatt, who was still standing at the gate which he had opened for the doctor, and told him that the horse was dead, and to get the oxen and haul him away. With Wyatt, to hear was to obey. So Wyatt yoked up the oxen, secured a log chain, which he attached to the horse’s neck, and started off. It so happened that a neighbor came along about that time and called to Wyatt to know what he was about. Wyatt informed him that he was dragging old Tom to the boneyard. “But,” said the man, “the horse is not dead.” Wyatt, who had stopped the oxen when the man spoke to him, called to his oxen, cracked his whip, and replied, “Marse Joel say him dead.” [End]
Harrison County, Kentucky, Historical Publications
available from Cynthiana-Harrison County Museum, 112 South Walnut Street, P.O. Box 411, Cynthiana, KY 41031
(859-234-7179); open Friday and Saturday 10 AM - 5 PM:
- Boyd, Lucinda, Chronicles of Cynthiana. Hardback. $20.00.
- June 1896 Cynthiana Democrat reprint. Oversize newspaper format. $5.00
- Cynthiana Since 1790. Virgil Peddicord (1986). Paperback; List all lot owners in Cynthiana by street. $20.00
- Index - Cynthiana Since 1790 (William A. Penn). 30 pp. Paperback. $3.00
- Writings of Colonel William M. Moore,(1837-1927) compiled by Andrew B. “Andy” Peak (2002). $10.00/ $3.00 shipping. Limited supply.
- This Old House by Katherine Wilson. $15.00 Paper:- Photos and family history of owners of old Cynthiana homes.
Shipping/handling for above books: Please include a handling and shipping fee of $4.00 for first book (unless otherwise noted above), $2.50 for each additional book; you will be notified if special shipping fees apply. No shipping fee on Index - Cynthiana Since 1790, if ordered with the book. Make checks/money orders payable to “Cynthiana-Harrison County Museum.” No credit cards. Prices/fees subject to change.