For the Derringer
By Leslie McCarty
One was an aviation pioneer.
She led others, yet she was blind.
No mob was going to lynch his prisoner.
This Civil War hero made a fatal decision.
Why the Colonel went into the lion’s den, day after day.
Each of us has a story to tell; so do they. Come and here these voices speak for themselves at Echoes of Elmwood.
Have you missed some stories from years past of Voices of Elmwood? If you have, then this is your chance get caught up. Echoes of Elmwood is revisiting ten stories from Year One.
Performances will be under a tent at Elmwood Cemetery May 17 & 18 at 7 & 9 p.m.
This event is proudly hosted by Rosehill-Elmwood Cemetery
By Leslie McCarty
While looking at the current issue of the Kentucky Explorer Magazine, there was listed a newspaper clipping about a stray balloon that had flew over Daviess County and mysteriously crashed. The only date given for this was December 1887. I checked our archives of the Owensboro Messenger and found three articles that cover this strange incident. The first article was listed on Sunday December 11, 1887.
According to the article, “the citizens of the eastern portion of the city yesterday discovered a balloon to the northward, passing slowly from east to west. It was an immense affair and was sailing at a great height. After being in sight for some time it began wavering in the wind and finally began to descend, falling slowly at first and at last taking a desperate plunge earthward and passing out of sight. Nothing has been heard of a balloon ascension, and it is not known where it came from, or whether or not an aeronaut was in charge of it. It will probably be heard from within a day or two.”
According to two follow-up articles in the Owensboro Messenger on Tuesday December 13, 1887, “late Saturday evening an immense balloon was seen on the opposite side of the river and some distance back in Kentucky. It was sailing slowly at an immense height from west to east and after being in sight for some time, it began wavering in the wind, and finally commenced falling. It plunged toward the earth below the timber tops. This morning a search party went out from Hawesville to look for the balloon, and after a search of several hours they found, and to their horror, also the remains of a man a few feet away from the basket, which was partially torn from the balloon. No papers or evidence were found to indicate the identity of the unfortunate aeronaut. No balloon ascension has been heard of and the affair is a mystery. The general accepted theory is that he was dead before the balloon hit the earth and that he died in the upper regions of the atmosphere.”
Who was the man and where did he come from? Was he flying for pleasure or other purposes? Does ownership of the balloon indicate that he may have been wealthy? Our questions to this mystery may never be answered.
By Leslie Byrne
If you aren’t aware, Owensboro is home to many interesting people, including but not limited to celebrities, athletes, aviation pioneers and soldiers. Profile, a soon-to-be regular Derringer segment, shows how these not-so-ordinary folks left their legacy imprinted on Owensboro history. One of these folks is Rosa Burwell Todd.
Rosa Burwell Todd was born January 14, 1849 and was the daughter of Colonel William M. Burwell and granddaughter of William A. Burwell, who was a private secretary to Thomas Jefferson. She married Dr. Charles Henry Todd on February 15, 1865. He was born in Shelby County on Nov. 6, 1838 and was the son of Colonel Charles S. Todd. At the beginning of the Civil War, he resigned his position as assistant physician of the insane asylum at Bayou Sara, Louisiana and went to Virginia and as assistant surgeon of the 6th Louisiana Regiment. In 1862 he was later promoted to regimental surgeon of Stonewall Jackson’s division of General Lee’s army, and remained with them until final surrender at Appomattox Court House. Mrs. Todd was a writer for several well-known magazines, including a series in the Taylor-Trotwood Magazine of Louisville, which include reminiscences of distinguished guests that been in her girlhood home. Her daughter, Rosa Shelby, organized the Daughters of the Daviess County Confederate Association in 1893, which later became the John C. Breckinridge Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. On October 26, 1897, Mrs. Todd became the organizing regent for the Owensboro Gen. Evan Shelby Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the chapter was organized in her home. Mrs. Todd also became the Kentucky State Regent to the NSDAR. Rosa Burwell Todd died November 9, 1911, in Owensboro, KY and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery. She was survived by her husband, Charles H. Todd, a son, Charles Stewart Todd, and a daughter Rosa S. & Frances S. Todd.
A History of the John C. Breckinridge Chapter 306 United Daughters of the Confederacy, Owensboro, Kentucky by Edna Shrewcraft Macon, July 2012
1883 History of Daviess County, Kentucky
by Alicia Harrington, Web Services Librarian
My daughter and her new husband purchased their first home at an estate auction. The children had cleaned out everything they wanted by closing. They found boxes months after they had moved into their new home. They found some hair and a newspaper clipping, hidden in the far back corner of the attic in a box. Clothing, shoes and a baby book were among the items carefully tucked away with a mother’s love. The newspaper gave way to the death of the child, Maryland Upchurch. She had been gone since 1947.
Questions arise. Why the hair? Why leave the items that were so lovingly preserved? Did someone want the family heirlooms? How does one find those people? Start with the Library.
A quick conversation with people from the Kentucky Room got us started. Hair and locks of hair have been kept in baby books, lockets, given as tokens of affection and kept for mourning. According to the website, Curious Expeditions, mourning jewelry was a symbol of dignity and social status. Today the practice of making hair jewelry is almost nonexistent. But I did locate several websites with history and photos.
Now that the hair mystery is solved we needed to find the rightful owners of the items. We had the name of the estate from purchase of the home. The library has the Owensboro Area Obituary Index. Through that we were able to search the name on the estate. Mrs. Dorothy Martin Upchurch had passed away in 2010. She was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery and her sons no longer lived in Daviess County.
The Kentucky Room staff helped through searching of death certificates. The death certificate revealed Marilyn (second spelling) had died as a result of an accident. She was buried in Elmwood Cemetery. This cemetery is located across from where her mother was laid to rest. Other leads came from the obituaries. The death certificate leads to other clues about the family. Martin Funeral Home of Whitesville was in charge of the service. This was Mrs. Upchurch’s maiden name. Whitesville, being small and a close knit community, the funeral home was as much a staple to that area as the churches. It was also where my grandmother had attended church.
The search was really getting close to home. After sharing the story with family members, my mother declared that she had known Mrs. Upchurch and had attended the funeral. My grandmother, Mrs. Bernice Hood, had lived down the road from the Martins. My mom offered to contact Mr. Byron Martin as he was a family friend. It became known that the owner of the house was actually a good friend of Mrs. Hood, my grandmother and my daughter’s great-grandmother.
Through Mr. Martin and ReferenceUSA (an online telephone directory) the names and residences of the sons were gathered. The goal in contacting the descendants was to be respectful to family and Mrs. Upchurch’s treasures. The lost items have been taken care of with respect and love. Something I am sure Mrs. Upchurch wanted as a grieving mother.
Many obstacles were in the way to locate family. The child’s name was spelled differently on documents. Direct descendants of Mrs. Upchurch no longer lived in Daviess County. These obstacles were overcome by old fashioned ingenuity, hard work and sharing of the story.
Connections with families need to be made while everyone is living. Talk to your grandparents. Family history is becoming a big hobby and it is much easier talking to people. But when the people you need to talk with are gone, you can come to our KY Room and they will help you with the research.
Welcome to “The Derringer”–a little blog with a big punch! This blog is not confined to one subject, but will inform and entertain you on a variety of topics. Let the blogging begin!
by Leslie McCarty
History of Owensboro
Owensboro is the county seat of Daviess County, located on the south bank of the Ohio River. The community was known as “Yellow Banks” because of the deep yellow color of the riverbanks of yellow clay content. By 1799 the first permanent settlers had been established. William Smeathers with his wife and sister built a cabin on Yellow Banks. He raised corn and potatoes and hunted for meat. In 1809, a keelboat man, Andrew Norris, who was spending an evening at the Smeathers’, insulted his sister Polly and the leader was fatally knifed. Smeathers was later acquitted and moved to Texas.
Joseph Hamilton Daveiss, who defended Smeathers’ at his trial, was awarded extensive land tracts in Daviess County in a Supreme Court case and moved with his wife to Yellow Banks in 1805. Daveiss became famous for the prosecution of Aaron Burr. Daveiss was killed two years later at the battle of Tippecanoe.
In June 1815 Daviess County became an official county. The county seat in December 1816 was called Rossborough, in honor of David Ross, a local landowner. A major street was named after his son, Frederica. Frederica Street was a buffalo trail from a salt lick near Panther Creek to the banks of the Ohio River when Bill Smeathers settled here. Thirty-five days later the town’s name was changed to Owensboro, in memory of Col. Abraham Owen, who was killed at Tippecanoe. An interesting fact about Abraham Owen is that he never lived in Owensboro. He was from Shelby County.
Once described as a “city of churches”, Owensboro, prior to 1815, had two established churches and two established distilleries. Owensboro’s first house of worship was a log cabin where slaves met for worship in about 1830. The cabin belonged to Phillip Thompson, who is best known for a duel he fought with Robert Triplett across the river. Five years later the First Baptist Church would be organized. The cabin had also been used for the first school in 1816. Susan Tarleton, known to her students as “Aunt Sukey,” came to Owensboro that year to start the school.
In 1835 Phillip Thompson fitted a room in a building at First and St. Ann streets that was known as the “Old Warehouse” for what became Owensboro’s first theater. A community theater of sorts operated until 1846 in the building which had been designed for a grocery and freight shipping business. The city’s first newspaper, The Bulletin, began on the second floor of the building on Oct. 8, 1842.
The population growth of Owensboro was slow. By 1850 the population had increased to only 1,250. Owensboro’s first post office was located in the parking lot of the state office building. In 1840 the mail came on the stage from Louisville to Shawneetown, Ill. Twice a week residents of the settlement would hear the stage trumpet blow out on the Hardinsburg Road (now US 60) and started running toward the tavern owned by Postmaster William Bristow.
The courthouse was built in 1859. When news of the Fort Sumter reached Owensboro in April 1861 the sympathies of the people were divided. A home guard was organized to protect local property against marauders. When secessionists moved into Owensboro in September of that year, President Lincoln dispatched two gunboats, the “Lexington” and the Conestoga” to protect Owensboro. A year later the confederates raided Owensboro in a skirmish across from Lee School. A Union officer, Lt. Col. Netter, was killed but the Confederates were turned back. On Jan. 4, 1865 Confederate guerillas burned the courthouse but, city officials were allowed to remove the records.
During the next few decades the community began to blossom. By 1880 there were 17 stores and commercial establishments and 23 tobacco factories. Other leading industries included wagon or buggy plants.
Owensboro’s first cemetery was on Fourth Street, extending from St. Ann to St. Elizabeth streets. The first elevator in Owensboro was in the Rudd House, a hotel built on St. Ann Street in the late 1880’s. There was a glass dome on top and you could see for miles up and down the river.
In 1886 across from the courthouse Kelly G. Wethington operated one of the city’s first bowling alley’s at 215 W. Second Street. On February 16, 1887, four mules were hitched to a streetcar decked with flags, banners and bunting at the stables at Second and Triplett Owensboro’s first public transportation system began. In 1906, John P. Walker opened the first moving picture show—the Nickelodeon—at 219 W. Second Street. “The Rahjah’s Casket” was said to be the first film.
In the early years of the nineteenth century Mulberry Street was Owensboro’s “red light” district. From about 1896 to 1939 it thrived as a free zone for prostitution and Sunday beer. Originally there five houses, and later came a sixth. According to old timers, 105 Mulberry was “the” house in town. It was a large, yellow brick structure with seven or eight rooms. On Sundays, male patrons of the houses and the women would stroll down to the river to watch the boats go by. The district hit its peak in the years around World War I and by World War II it was gone. More than 1,000 women are estimated to have worked in these houses.
All sources for this article came from the Kentucky Room at the Daviess County Public Library.
Lawrence, Keith, Applegate, Tom, “An Invisible History.” Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer. Sunday, 18 November 1990, pg. 1G-3G
Chamber of Commerce, Welcome to Owensboro.
Swift, Shelia, “A History of Daviess County.” Kentucky Heritage Magazine of the Young Historians’ Association of the Kentucky Historical Society, Spring 1968