News Column

'Echoes of Elmwood' will bring history to life

May 26, 2014

By Stephanie Salmons, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.

May 26--Voices of the past will soon echo through a historic Owensboro cemetery.

Owensboro Museum of Science and History presents Echoes of Elmwood at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Elmwood Cemetery, 1300 Old Hartford Road.

Echoes retells the stories shared in previous years as part of the museum's popular "Voices of Elmwood" series. This year's series will feature the 2009 Elmwood stories.

Tickets are $12 a person and can be purchased by calling the Museum of Science and History at 270-687-2732 or at the museum, 122 E. Second St., Owensboro.

Museum CEO Kathy Olson said the "Voices of Elmwood," which began in 2008, always sells out.

Between sold-out shows and people perhaps not aware of the program when it began, and knowing new residents have moved into the community, the museum decided to start "Echoes," she said. This is its second year.

They're stories you wouldn't be able to hear anywhere else, researched meticulously and told in a compelling manner, Olson said.

As a history museum, their mission is to tell the story of the area, she said.

"There's nothing better than a personal story to help you understand the history," said Olson. "You can cover a lot of events within the context of a person's life. It becomes much more meaningful, much more real. These scripts cover various parts of history you or I may not have ever thought about ... (It) gives us a better feel for the history of our community."

Museum programming coordinator Todd Reynolds says the research process for "Voices of Elmwood" begins early. A group meets in January to nominate candidates for inclusion. Group members give a thumbnail sketch as to why they would make a good candidate, he said. That total, sometimes between 50 and 60 names, is whittled down to 15 or 20, and writers make their selections.

Researcher Leslie McCarty says after the selections are made, more in-depth research, "probably a month or two," is done before the research is handed off to the writers.

McCarty, manager of the Daviess County Public Library's Kentucky Room, uses the library's online resources, like the Owensboro Area Obituary index, and other histories available in the Kentucky Room for research purposes.

"What we try to do is paint a well-rounded picture of that person," she said. "We try different angles to get all the information (that) is needed."

Sometimes it's difficult to find information on some people, she said. But they try to present a variety of people.

"We try to do the ordinary person and the extraordinary," she said.

McCarty says she tends to focus on folks who were more well-known while others on the research committee do the not-so-well-known. And sometimes, she said, the researches try to look at different angles, like if a person is connected with an event in history.

Since the library and the museum are educational facilities, McCarty said all parties "try to make this as factual as possible.

"We don't want to disrespect the memories of those who have gone before us."

It's important for people to know their pasts and why things are the way they are, McCarty said, addressing the importance of programs like "Echoes of Elmwood."

"Just to know where the they come from and know how important Owensboro was and why it's important now," she said.

Those who attend "Echoes of Elmwood" can expect to learn about these figures from Owensboro's history:

--State Sen. Thomas McCreery: A state senator who was known as a champion for doing what was right and just.

-- Uncle Joe Richardson: After losing an arm at the Battle of Shiloh, Richardson served in state and county government.

--Julia Hunter: A widow who ran the most popular millinery shop in Owensboro, right across from the courthouse.

--Julia McKenzie: Served as a missionary to China during the dangerous upheaval known as The Boxer Rebellion.

--William Conway: This Naval veteran survived a harrowing experience at sea, leading to changes up and down the coast.

--Jerome Helm: Tells the story of his father, a former slave who became a successful barber and the first man of color to run for public office in Owensboro.

--Uncle George Allen: A vagabond spirit, Allen led a colorful life in a search for something he could hold onto.

--Frederic Ames: His carriage works became one of the most prestigious buggy companies in America.

--Mary Jewell Shipp: A farmer's wife who took over the running of the plantation following her husband's death.

--Dr. John Kimbley and Dr. Charles Todd: Two local physicians who took opposing sides in the Civil War.

Stephanie Salmons, 270-691-7302,

Twitter: @StephReports


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Source: Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, KY)

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