May 2019 | Kentucky Monthly Magazine

Page 8


Oddities Oldham County History Center 106 North Second Street, La Grange 502.222.0826 |


To Wm. S. Bennett: To trouble, expense aside on taking runaway negro soldier to Louisville from LaGrange, collecting money for $15.70. Rec. Nov. 21, 1864 of A.R. Mount adv of Jas Mount due the amount in full, under my hand. W.S. Bennett

Oldham County History Center BY DEBORAH KOHL KREMER


uildings on the National Register of Historic Places, paired with a community of history lovers in a county with unique ties to the past, are the makings for a successful historical society. That is what La Grange has in the Oldham County History Center. This storybook-pretty town is where freight trains still clank down the middle of Main Street several times a day, just as they did 160 years ago. The Oldham County History Center is made up of several buildings housing precious items from the past. The well-preserved, historic structures date back at least 140 years, each with an interesting story. The main building, housing the Peyton Samuel Head Family Museum, is a beautiful, pale blue Victorian home. Peyton Samuel Head was a prominent, wealthy citizen in the late 1800s. His daughter, Louise Head Dodge Duncan, bequeathed the home to the historical society upon her death in 1990. Today, the museum features artifacts related to local history. The collection includes unique contraband from the nearby Kentucky State Reformatory; a blanket woven by a slave from the area;

and memorabilia from legendary director, writer and producer D.W. Griffith, who was born in Crestwood. There are links to the Underground Railroad and the Civil War, and from World War II, a Heart Shield Bible— the New Testament covered with metal plates commonly carried in a soldier’s shirt pocket over his heart. Also on campus is the Rob Morris Educational Center, housed in a former Presbyterian Church dating back to 1880. It was the home church of Dr. Rob Morris, who founded the Order of the Eastern Star, a women’s auxiliary of the Masons. The white frame house on the campus is home to the J.C. Barnett Library and Archives. In 2016, the National Park Service Network to Freedom granted the library and archives Underground Railroad designation because of its collection of family papers and 19th Century Oldham County Court Document Collection. It also has genealogical records, historical photos and a vast collection of local history. The home originally was owned by James Mount, who served as the jailer for Oldham County. According to Nancy Stearns Theiss, executive director of the Oldham County Historical Society, in

Photo courtesy of the Oldham County Historical Society. 6

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addition to owning slaves, Mount would seek and receive runaway slaves and hold them for a certain period. If no one claimed them, they would be auctioned at the courthouse. This month’s Oddity, a handwritten receipt to a slave catcher, is a somewhat ironic twist, showing how one family was connected with both sides of the Civil War. The History Center’s collection contains more than 30 handwritten letters to Mount and his wife, Amanda, from their nephew, depicting his Civil War experiences as a soldier for the Union Army. There also are handwritten papers and receipts from Amanda Mount that exhibit her effort to have her runaway slaves returned. The receipt is dated 1864, and President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, marking the end of slavery (in areas in rebellion). In 1864, Lincoln offered freedom to any slave that enlisted to fight for the Union Army. Camp Nelson in Nicholasville was flooded with slaves ready to sign up. Since Kentucky never seceded, Amanda Mount apparently did not think the law applied to her and paid to have the former slaves returned.

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