This collection began with the Kentucky Oral History Commission’s effort to establish oral history programs in each of the state’s 120 counties. County libraries worked with local volunteers to collect interviews. Since 1987, county oral histories have been generated primarily by recipients of technical assistance grants from the commission that provide training and equipment to volunteer interviewers. Interviews donated by independent researchers are also included. Original collection held at Kentucky Oral History Commission/Kentucky Historical Society. Access copies available at Lincoln County Public Library. Authorization must by granted by KHS to use or publish by any means the archival material to which the Society holds copyright.
LINCOLN COUNTY ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEWS
MRS. M.H. (SHIRLEY) DUNN INTERVIEWED BY TAMMY ELLIOTT
December 16, 1978
TAPE ONE, SIDE ONE
Ms. Elliott:…history, and she’s going to tell us about Lincoln County’s museum. Mrs. Dunn, when was the museum established?
Mrs. Dunn: We started the museum in 1971. To give you a little background on this, this was the former Lincoln County Library, and it was given to us by Mrs. Harvey Helm, through her Will for a use…for the use of a library, but we outgrew it and had to build another library. But, in the Will, it had to remain a library, or it would go back to the family. And, so, we decided that we needed to keep it and wanted to keep it, so we thought of the idea of making it a branch library, which is historic and genealogical, and then, as an afterthought, we would add a museum to it. And, so, that, really, is the way the museum became a part of the Lincoln County Library program.
Ms. Elliott: Where is the museum located in Stanford?
Mrs. Dunn: Well, it is located on Main Street, across the road from the Morgan and Fox Funeral Home, and it was originally the home of Mary Logan, who was the sister of Benjamin Logan. And Benjamin Logan is one of the very early settlers that built the fort and established the town of Stanford and gave materially for the establishment of the town. The owners name was Mary Logan Briggs, and she gave this to the people of Lincoln County for a church. Originally there were two rooms, one main room and the hall, which were made of logs. And, at the time it was used for the church, there was a balcony where the slaves went and worshipped. Later, the church outgrew the building, and Benjamin Logan, himself, gave the land to build a big church. And it was up on the hill, and today, it is our Buffalo Springs Cemetery. The cemetery was started around the church, and has been used all these years as a cemetery, and is the main cemetery of Stanford today.
Ms. Elliott: There are very many interesting things in the museum. Would you mind telling us about some of the items in the museum?
Mrs. Dunn: Well, first I would like to say that although the library is tax supported, we do not use any tax money to purchase items for the museum. When we started it, we felt like there was enough antiques and old things in the county to fill more, even, than this building, and we had hoped that the residents would feel the same interests that we do and would give things for the museum. But that didn’t work out as we had expected. But we do have a fund…a memorial fund. Harry Farmer, who was associated for many years with the veterans administration, lived in Lexington, and when he died, the family requested that friends send donations to the Harvey Helm Museum in place of flowers. And it is from this fund that we have purchased many of the items that you see today. Some of those items from that fund is an old Victrola, that is not electric. We have a Kentucky long rifle, a Seth Thomas clock, we have several churns. We have a dentist chair that the museum in Richmond would love to have. We have a yoke for oxen. And this being a dairy county…at one time, you know, we had quite a cheese factory here, and we have some of the old cheese molds from that cheese factory. We have a gypsy kettle and a lard press that I don’t expect you would even know what I’m talking about, and a lot of other items. But those are the main ones that were purchased with that fund. I think I made a mistake when I said that it hadn’t worked out that people would give us items, but that certainly is a mistake. We’ve had many people that are really interested, and have given us many things, but we haven’t had as many things that we have hoped for. Some of those things are two sewing machines, and they were both donated by interested people. We have the scales from the old Crab Orchard junkyard that operated there for many years. And we have a stone cart wheel that was given to us by Smith T. Powell. He thinks it was from a cart…that it was a cart wheel. He found the two buried, and he plowed them up when he was tilling the soil. And one of them was broken, and he didn’t save those pieces. The reason he thinks it was a cart wheel is because the mill wheels were flat on both sides so…to better grind the grain, but one side of this wheel is rounded. And it has the date of September the 30th, 1789 carved in the wheel. And, we feel certain that it carried a family over Cumberland Gap to Lincoln County. It was found on a farm in the Peyton Wells section. In fact, on the farm that was owned by the revolutionary soldier Peyton Wells. Then we have a concrete wheel that is about two and a half feet in diameter, about the size of the other wheel, and it came from the building that was the Odd Fellows Lodge home down on Main Street. That building now has been incorporated into the bank. This wheel has the sign of the Odd Fellows Lodge, and it was at the top, just under the roof, on the front of the building. We also have an old spinning wheel, an icebox, and a melodeon and a Phoebe lamp, which is unusual. It’s made of iron. It is a double lamp. It was used with oil in the lamp and just a little wick in it. It’s a valuable antique, and it was given to me by a friend from Berea. We have a very small collection of arrowheads. There are many wonderful collections in the county and as much as I have been over the county hunting old cemeteries and so forth, I have never found one. I hint to these people who have these fine collections about sharing some with us, but I think it’s understandable that they do want to keep them in their own collections. But if anybody has some that they could possibly part with, we certainly would be glad to make use of them.
Ms. Elliott: One of the items that you mentioned was the lard press. Would you mind telling me what that is?
Mrs. Dunn: Well, in the early days, and I’m old enough that I have used one many times; when you would butcher the pork in the fall and process your meat for curing, the fat from around the hams and the shoulders would be cut in small pieces and cooked. You would cook the grease out of those pieces of fat; then you would put it into this lard press and squeeze every bit of the fat out of those pieces of meat. And when you’ve gotten all the grease out, what you’ve got left is what we call cracklings. And it makes awfully good cornbread. One of the items that we have here, that probably is one of the oldest things…one of the oldest things we have, is a newspaper. It’s the Pennsylvania Journal. It’s published in Philadelphia, and it’s dated 1787. And one reason that we are especially interested in it is because it has an article by Benjamin Logan, written to the Indians of this part of the country. It was given to us by a man who grew up in this county, John Fisher. He now lives in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. And I had done some genealogical work for him, and his wife wrote and told me they had this newspaper. And I complimented them on that fact. Then later she wrote and told me that they had decided that this museum should have the paper. And I wrote immediately and told her that we would be so glad to have it. And a few weeks later I had another letter from her, and she said, “We’ve decided that it is too valuable to send through the mail, and we’re going to bring it to you.” And they did. Mr. and Mrs. Fisher and their two teenage sons brought it and spent the day in the museum.
Ms. Elliott: There’s an oil painting upstairs in one of the rooms. Would you mind telling us the story about this painting?
Mrs. Dunn: Well, the painting was in the little room that Mrs. Helm called her attic when we moved in here. In the very beginning, it was a very dark picture, and, of course, it was
( ), and you could hardly tell that it was the face of a person. But, recently I had heard that oil paintings could be restored, and so we have restored the painting and hung it in the room. We are reasonably sure that it is some of the family of Mrs. Helm, but I haven’t found anybody yet that actually knows who the lady is. I’m hoping now that we have it hanging, that someone will come in and identify it. One other specimen that we have here that I feel like is of interest, is the…it’s a small specimen of millerite, and it’s found imbedded in the rock in Hall’s Gap. Most anytime you drive by there, you will see someone out digging under the cliff. And I have found out that it’s an ore that’s called millerite, and I think they told me it’s a lead sulfate. And there’s only two places in the world where this specimen has been found. One is in Indiana, but the specimens here are a better quality than those in Indiana. They are tiny geodes. The one I have is not much larger than an inch. And those geodes grow within the limestone rock and have to be dug out. A man who has a little rock shop in Cincinnati was digging here, and I talked with him, and he told me what it was that they were digging for and showed me specimens. And I later went to Cincinnati and told him I needed one of those specimens, and he was kind enough to give me the specimen I have here now. I don’t know if you remember, Tammy, or not, but the first time I saw you, was right here in this room, and you were working for the library, and was getting firsthand knowledge of a beginner’s idea of genealogy.
Mrs. Dunn: We are real proud of the genealogical records and books that we have here, and, also, our history. The library, in itself, is small. The people who do come here to do a research, are very complimentary on the type of materials that we have here, and even the amount that we have. We…in the library part, we, of course, deal mostly with history and…naturally history, and we have about forty copies of Kentucky histories in this little room. The pictures that we have over here are of special interest to us, because when we think of the early history of Lincoln County, we think of Benjamin Logan, William Whitley and Isaac Shelby as being the giants in their field of work. They were all instrumental in helping to form this county. We think of Benjamin Logan as the statesmen, William Whitley as a warrior and Isaac Shelby as a diplomat. And we felt like we wanted their pictures in a group in this part of the library, and so we have them on the wall.
Ms. Elliott: Well, Mrs. Dunn, it’s been a great pleasure talking with you about Lincoln County history, and I think you’ve done a fine job of putting all this stuff together, and I think that Lincoln County has a fine museum. So, thank you for talking to me.
Mrs. Dunn: Well, thank you, Tammy, it’s been a pleasure. And we’re always glad to help any of our library girls or any young person that’s interested in library work or, in this instance, our museum.
Ms. Elliott: Thank you.
Mrs. Dunn: Thank you for asking me.
END OF INTERVIEW