Elsie Ennslin

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.



October 6, 1978

Mr. Reed: This is an unrehearsed interview of Ms. Elsie Ennslin of Ottenheim, Kentucky.  I’m Michael Reed, a sophomore student at Somerset Community College, for the Kentucky Bicentennial Oral History Project.  The interview was conducted in Ms. Ennslin’s home on October 6, 1978 at approximately eight p.m. 

Tape goes off, then back on 

Mr. Reed: How was the community of Ottenheim first settled and who were the first settlers and what time did it take place. 

Ms. Ennslin: It was settled by immigrants from Germany, Switzerland, France, Austria and Poland.  And, it was advertised (too much noise to transcribe) in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France and Poland, and it first was named Lutherheim, and after a while, they changed it to Ottenheimer, in honor of Ottenheimer {   }…immigrants from Germany, Switzerland, France, Austria and Poland.  There were lavish advertisements run in this country and Europe by Jacob Ottenheimer who was agent and manager of the land called {  } by the Lincoln (sic) Land Company for $1 an acre and sold from three dollars up.  And, most of it was bought unseen and risked disappointment by many of the first settlers, in the early 1880’s. 

Tape goes off, then back on 

Mr. Reed: What kind of religion or denominations did they have? 

Ms. Ennslin: There were three religious denominations; Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed (sic). 

Mr. Reed: What was the largest, probably? 

Ms. Ennslin: Huh? 

Mr. Reed: What was the largest? 

Ms. Ennslin: The Lutheran Church was the largest. 

Mr. Reed: But, it’s not anymore. 

Ms. Ennslin: No, I’ve got that down further about the Lutheran Church and the Catholic Church.  As far as education…there was one room school houses built.  In the summer for a few months…there were the public schools, and then a few months later, for the Catholic and Lutheran schools, which were all in German.  Industry…. 

Mr. Reed: What kind of industry did they have? 

Ms. Ennslin: Well, they started several sawmills.  They built a cheese factory.  They made cheese to get rid of the surplus milk they had.  They had two blacksmiths.  My grandfather came with his family from Switzerland and used…and his tools were the metric system, and they were absolutely {  }  when they got here.  Later a flour mill was put into operation and they sold White Lilly flour.  The Post Office was run by Mr. Charles Ennslin.  Mail was carried by horseback from Crab Orchard by Mr. William Link (sic).  Twice a week it was delivered.  The first settlers used navy beans to make flour because they had no plant to grow wheat. 

Mr. Reed: What other kinds of crops did they grow? 

Ms. Ennslin: Mostly corn, because they had to clear the land before they could raise anything else. 

Mr. Reed: Did they raise any wheat? 

Ms. Ennslin: After they…. 

Mr. Reed: After the…. 

Ms. Ennslin: After the land got cleared and they could raise wheat.  All they had was stumps.  You couldn’t raise wheat in stumps.  It was corn.  They just made…eat cornbread and navy beans. 

Mr. Reed: Did we get onto industry…what kind of industry we had? 

Ms. Ennslin: They had three distilleries put into operation.   

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Ms. Ennslin: ….cabinet maker, and there was a shoe maker and a cheese maker from Switzerland, two blacksmiths, and several sawmills, and three distilleries, which they got rid of their apples and peaches to make Apple Jack and Peach Brandy with. 

Mr. Reed: They made peach brandy? 

Ms. Ennslin: Yeah, they made peach brandy and apple jack. 

Mr. Reed: And, this was all government? 

Ms. Ennslin: That was all government; yeah, the man stayed there while they made it and then put his stamp on it.  Yeah, that was all…. 

Tape goes off, then back on 

Ms. Ennslin: A hotel was built so the immigrants had a place to stay until they got settled in their cabins.  There was no… 

Mr. Reed: Was that place…do you know where it was located? 

Ms. Ennslin: Yeah, right there in Ottenheim.  Right in the middle of Ottenheim.  Right where Adams store is…. 

Mr. Reed: Right where the store is. 

Ms. Ennslin: Right. 

Mr. Reed: Where were the distilleries located at? 

Ms. Ennslin: One of them was here on Chestnut Ridge.  One of them was in  

O.K. (sic) and one of them was {    }.  That was that same community, wasn’t it. 

Mr. Reed: What about the cheese factory? 

Ms. Ennslin: The cheese factory was located between here and Crab Orchard.  About a mile {   }…. 

Mr. Reed: They made all the cheese? 

Ms. Ennslin: They made cheese, kept it in a cellar to keep it.  They had no refrigeration.  They kept it in a cellar.  They made cheese there for years.  They were down there by that creek.  There’s a spring down there. 

Mr. Reed: That’s where they got the water from? 

Ms. Ennslin: That’s where they got their water supply from.  And, the mills, the flour mill and saw mills, they run them by steam too. 

Mr. Reed: Uh huh (yes). 

Tape goes off, then back on 

Ms. Ennslin: ….society; the German-Swiss (sic) Society…they met twice a month, had music and beer and refreshments were served.  New Years was quite a special celebration.  Also Shrove Tuesday and 4th of July…. 

Mr. Reed: Shrove Tuesday, can you explain that? 

Ms. Ennslin: That’s the day before Lent. 

Mr. Reed: Huh? 

Ms. Ennslin: That’s the day before Lent.  Because, during Lent, they didn’t have no celebration, no dancing…. 

Mr. Reed: Uh huh (yes)…. 

Ms. Ennslin: No nothing. 

Mr. Reed: Uh huh (yes); that was the Catholic…. 

Ms. Ennslin: Yeah. 

Mr. Reed: Did the Lutherans’ celebrate that too? 

Ms. Ennslin: I don’t know.  They all come. 

Mr. Reed: They all had their party. 

Ms. Ennslin: They all come. 

Mr. Reed: Okay; that was the most festive time of the year? 

Ms. Ennslin: Well, that was their recreation twice a month, on Sunday…on two Sundays a month, they met, and everybody had their lunch and they…. 

Mr. Reed: What was Christmas like back then? 

Ms. Ennslin: Oh, they…. 

Mr. Reed: When you were a child. 

Ms. Ennslin: Christmas…they had big doings at the Lutheran Church, at Christmastime.  They had a huge tree there, they all said their speeches and had candy and oranges and an apple, they got, and…all by candlelight.  How they kept from burning up, I don’t know.  That tree was as high as the church was…. 

Mr. Reed: And, they had all candles on the tree? 

Ms. Ennslin: All candles.  They had a big long pole with a {  } on it and they kept putting the fire out. 

Mr. Reed: It looks like it would burn it completely up. 

Ms. Ennslin: It looks like it would {  }….. 

Mr. Reed: In your whole lifetime, what do you think is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to you?  Or most exciting…. 

Ms. Ennslin: The most exciting…when I was a kid, when they had the first circus come to Ottenheim, and the first car that come through Ottenheim, and the family that used to come to the store with them.  We’d hang on the school fence and watch them and wait until they’d come by again. 

Mr. Reed: About what year was that? 

Ms. Ennslin: 1906, I guess.  And, the first photograph…phonograph they had was something.  That was something. 

Mr. Reed: Who had it? 

Ms. Ennslin: Ben Bookie (sic) had it, and he’d go from these clubs we had, the societies, he’d always bring his gramophone and play for us, and we’d have music. 

Mr. Reed: Do any of his relatives live around here now? 

Ms. Ennslin: Nobody but…yes, John Clausen and Joe Clausen, he was their uncle.  And, the first cream separator here in the county, was here too.  That was…everybody came to look at that cream separator to see how it worked.  That was really something now.  You had to skim it by hand, and put it in crocks and wait for the cream to come up.  So, it had been a great stride. 

Mr. Reed: Can you tell me about the Catholic Church in Ottenheim and how it’s progressed. 

Tape goes off, then back on. 

Ms. Ennslin: Before the Catholic Church was built, the step…the stump on a {  } farm…. 

Mr. Reed: Down the road here. 

Ms. Ennslin: Down the road…on down the road here.  The oldest building is the Lutheran Church.  The Catholic Church was demolished a few years ago and put up with a modern church.  The Reformed church was still standing, but it’s not used for services anymore.  And, there’s a few…or a log barn still up here and one house that I know of and it’s a log house, but it has weatherboards on it, so you don’t know it’s a log house.  And, it’s right down here where Larry Brown lives. 

Mr. Reed: Yeah. 

Ms. Ennslin: My grandfather lived in it when they came from Switzerland. 

Tape goes off, then back on 

Ms. Ennslin: Crock (sic) pies; we used to make crock pies and Charlie Bevins (sic) would shoot (sic) them out and take them to Waynesburg to auction….got stuck in the mud. 

Tape goes off, then back on 

Ms. Ennslin: My grandfather sold a bunch of cattle and he got a couple hundred dollars for it and that night somebody came and murdered him.  They didn’t find him for a couple of days. 

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Ms. Ennslin: ….with a pair of oxen, and he got ten cents apiece for them and mostly had to take it out in trade, because he couldn’t get cash no way or how.  Do you want that, too?  And, my grandfather sold several cattle, and he got a couple hundred dollars for them and somebody murdered him that night.  They found…. 

Tape goes off, then back on 

Ms. Ennslin: My grandmother {  } died in 1888.  She was the first person buried in the Catholic cemetery. 

Mr. Reed: The same cemetery that’s down here? 

Ms. Ennslin: Uh huh (yes); in 1888. 

Tape goes off, then back on 

Ms. Ennslin: Next to (sic) the Lutheran Church his dad had a building there, and he made shoes…he made shoes, and he was the postmaster. 

Mr. Reed: That’s where the Post Office was. 

Ms. Ennslin: The Post Office…they had a Post Office at O.K (sic) when I was born, down there at Schneider’s (sic). 

Mr. Reed: Oh, there was one down there? 

Ms. Ennslin: Uh huh (yes). 

Mr. Reed: That’s where they call O.K. 

Ms. Ennslin: Yeah, that’s where O.K. is. 

Mr. Reed: Okay. 

Ms. Ennslin: Down there between Schneider’s…we used to have to go there to get our mail.  That was back when they {  } to this Post Office, later on, a few years later, but then we {  }…. 

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Ms. Ennslin: There was a huckster used to come through here and they’d buy chickens and you’d get your…they’d buy chickens and eggs and you’d trade ‘em in for produce, sugar and coffee and coal oil and candy.  You always got a gumdrop on a coal oil can for the kids. 

Mr. Reed: What did you trade the most of. 

Ms. Ennslin: Huh? 

Mr. Reed: What did you trade for, for his items? 

Ms. Ennslin: We always lived next to the store.  We didn’t have to do much trading with the hucksters. 

Mr. Reed: What about most people here? 

Ms. Ennslin: Chickens; they raised chickens.  You got a dollar for any old hen them days.  You don’t get ten cents for one now. 

Mr. Reed: Yeah? 

Ms. Ennslin: Yeah; you could always get a dollar for a chicken.  You could get quite a few groceries for a dollar then. 

Mr. Reed: A lot of people raise tobacco around here now.  Did they raise tobacco back then? 

Ms. Ennslin: No, they didn’t raise no tobacco.  They just raised enough for their own use.  Because you had no market, never had no…not until later years. 

Mr. Reed: They grew their own and smoked and chewed what they grew? 

Ms. Ennslin: Yeah, there wasn’t no market for tobacco then.  Not when they first came here.  Now, later on…my dad didn’t raise no tobacco to sell until he got about 75 years old.  There was very few people raised tobacco in the 1800’s. 

Mr. Reed.Did they raise any hemp? 

Ms. Ennslin: Not here.  They raised hemp in the bluegrass.  They didn’t raise it here.  They had marijuana then and nobody knew what it was.  

Mr. Reed: Nobody knew what it was. 

Ms. Ennslin: The darkies got high as a kite when they worked in it, but shoot, we used to see acres and acres of it and didn’t think of smoking it or anything like that. 

Mr. Reed: Did they raise wheat for their own flour? 

Ms. Ennslin: Yeah, after they got the land cleared, they raised wheat.  But, you couldn’t raise wheat in new ground.  There wasn’t no cleared land.  My grandpa came over here and found the woods, and you had to cut the woods down and burn it up to get to a place to grow something. 

Mr. Reed: Do you remember when the road was built through here? 

Ms. Ennslin: Oh, yes, they had roads down here…do you mean a gravel road? 

Mr. Reed: Yeah; how long ago has that been? 

Ms. Ennslin: Oh, gosh, that was…they graveled this road 35 years ago.  That was 1943, when we got a gravel road.  Then, they blacktopped it.  I had blacktop here long before they had it out the other way.  Before that, it was mud.  Wintertime, you couldn’t get through.  You had to do your shopping before winter set in.  It was rough. 

Mr. Reed: What was probably the center of the community, down here around the store? 

Ms. Ennslin: Yeah, the store is always the center of the community.  They have two stores; one on this side and one on that side.  You could buy anything from a mowing machine to needles in that store.  Rubber boots, lanterns, anything your heart desires. 

Mr. Reed: They had two stores back then? 

Ms. Ennslin: Yeah, they always had two stores there.  They sold rubber boots, farm machinery and hay rakes and combs and goods and lace– just a general store, and crackers in a barrel and fish in a barrel…. 

Mr. Reed: Pickles? 

Ms. Ennslin: `Pickles in a barrel; can you imagine crackers in a barrel? 

Mr. Reed: Yeah. 

Ms. Ennslin: You’ve got to wrap each one up separate now. 

Tape goes off, then back on 

Ms. Ennslin: ….well, there was just no work…there was no work for anybody.  People lived in the country had a garden and they faired pretty good. 

Mr. Reed: You all did pretty good? 

Ms. Ennslin: There wasn’t no relief then either; no welfare.  Some of the people got grapefruit and they didn’t know what to do with them.  Some guy went down to get his and he said he didn’t want any, because he couldn’t eat the first ones he got.  He cooked them but then he couldn’t eat them.  He couldn’t eat the first ones.  He cooked them and he couldn’t eat them.  So, he didn’t want any more grapefruit.  So, he just throwed them on the side of the road.  There just wasn’t any work. 

Tape goes off, then back on 

Ms. Ennslin: Oh, yeah, you want to know what I’ve got from Germany.  I’ve got a…brought my…I’ve had my grandfather’s belt from Switzerland and somebody snitched it last winter.  And, I have a chest from Germany, and I have a chest from France.  And, I have my boys have my grandfather’s tools he brought from Switzerland and a tool chest. 

Mr. Reed: What was the bell? You said it was real…. 

Ms. Ennslin: That was made in 1878.  It had the date of 1878 on it. 

Mr. Reed: What did they use it for? 

Ms. Ennslin: They use it for their cow herd over there. 

Mr. Reed: Cow bell? 

Ms. Ennslin: Cow herd; everyone had their own…own chime for their cow bell.  It was one hundred years old. 




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