Saturday, August 17, 2019

Fords Ferry Road was a dangerous route

From the History of Crittenden County Series comes another interesting story about the Fords Ferry area. First printed in August 1954. Written by Mr. Hollis C. Franklin, one of Crittenden County's best writers.

The Road Led Out From Fords Ferry.

If I had possessed wits enough, in the days of the long ago, while my grandmother Larue still lived, to have jotted down at least the outline of some of the old Fords Ferry-Jim Ford stories which she knew so well and which she so delightfully told, time after time, upon the joyous insistence of her grandchildren, I would have had ample resources from which I might draw to put down in word still other all but forgotten incidents in the life of Crittenden County and Kentucky when they were in their infant days.
Such is life; we think of things when it is too late.

 Fords Ferry as it looks in the early 1900's.

There was a time when Fords Ferry was one of the many thriving and prosperous towns along the Ohio. It had a good wharf with good wharf facilities, a good hotel, a drug store, a post office, two or three good stores which sold everything from talcum powder to plow points, a blacksmith shop, a fish market and a school. It even, at least for those days, had a good road to it, but, like many other small river towns, the time eventually came when the road led out of town and not into it; and when such conditions came about, the inevitable happens- the town vanishes- to where, we have never been able to find out. 

Fords Ferry, Kentucky, now is only a name and a memory, but what a name it had one hundred years ago and what memories cluster, even now, around that name!

The one who writes these 800 or so words, was born and raised in that section of the county which, some fifty years before his birth, had been the home of the most notorious river pirate who ever infested an American commonwealth and who lived at Fords Ferry. It wasn't exactly by chance that this notorious character was also, according to the legends handed down by my forefathers and by other of old Fords neighbors, a good neighbor, a gracious host and often a friend in time of trouble.

In those days, the little river town Fords Ferry, Kentucky, happened to be on the wagon trail from Tennessee to Illinois along which during the late summer and early fall seasons and even in the winter time and in spring time, too, covered wagons by the hundreds rolled along the rough and rugged road.

Some of the owners of these covered wagons crossed the river. Others did not. Some of them, the stories relate, crossed the river, returning from Illinois en route to Tennessee and to other points South, but many, many times the owners of these covered wagons, together with their possessions, were never heard of again after they were miles South of Fords Ferry. 

As to what happened to them – well, that has been through the years, left largely to surmise and conjecture. The writer of these few paragraphs recalls how that when he was a boy he and other boys of the community and, often, boys who were visiting in home of that community, never tired of going to the old bluff which is located on the farm owned by Miss Atrel Vaughan (now owned by the Flanary family) and by the Jerry Belt heirs, where, underneath the cave in the sand, the depth of which we were never able to determine, we often amused ourselves by digging out human bones, including human skulls, which we took to be Indian skulls, and trying to piece them together as we would a skeleton in Physiology class. Today such a practice might appear gruesome. Possibly it was gruesome then but it never occurred to us boys who tried to fit "toe-bones, ankle-bones, knee-bones, thigh-bones" as the song says together was anything out of the ordinary. 

I recall how Clyde and Walter Green, playmates in the days of the long ago, on one occasion brought a human skull to Marion and that same skull, for many, many years reposed in a Marion physician's office.

As to whether there was any connection between those bones and the river pirate whose home was at Fords Ferry – Oh, well, that's just another one of the riddles of the past which has never been and likely never will be solved.

In the old days there was a story which went the rounds, even into distant states that wherever old Ford buried a body, within fifty feet of said body he always buried sums of money which was left there until the body had been in repose in that particular resting place for a certain period of years. As to the authenticity of that statement, we do not know. That is just one of the many, many legends which cluster around the Fords Ferry that was and is no more.

(Mr. Hollis Charles Franklin's obituary, Dec. 4, 1958.  Hollis C. Franklin was born Ooct 15, 1899.  His parents were Elijah T. Franklin and Mattie Love.  He was married to the former Nina Jane Paris.  Two daughters, Miss Martha Elizabeth Franklin and Mrs. Helen James.  He was widely known as a speaker, often filling pulpits in churches, at banquets and meetings.  His dry, humorous style of delivery was a distinguishing feature of his talks. He also wrote poems and stories about Crittenden County.  He was born and raised in the Fords Ferry community on the Ohio River.)

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Early Presbyterian and Baptist Church History

The Presbyterians and Baptists were the first denominations of Christians to occupy the present territory of Crittenden County. 

The Presbyterians preceded the Baptists by a few years.  The first Baptist church organized in Crittenden County was Old Union, organized about 1805.    (was the location of the Union Baptist church today at Levias/Midway community about 5 miles south of Marion)

They were soon followed by the Methodists.

In the closing  years of the eighteenth century and the early part of the nineteenth century, the Presbyterians made a great crusade again sin throughout Western Kentucky.

Revivals were held, resulting in many conversions.  In 1797 the Rev. Terah Templin, the first Presbyterian preacher in Western Kentucky, organized a church on Livingston Creek at a place known to the old settlers as Old Centerville.  It was at that time the county seat of Livingston County.  This doubtless was the first Presbyterian Church in Western Kentucky.  

In 1803, Bethany church, Presbyterian, commonly called the "Old Log Church," was organized on Crooked Creek, one and one-half miles North of Marion.  This church seems to have been organized by the Rev. Wm. Dickey.   (Location of the Crooked Creek Baptist church of today).

In 1807, John Travis, an elder in the Bethany Church, was censured for attending services among the "dissenting Cumberland Brethren," the mater terminating in his withdrawal from the church.   The new organizations, that of the Cumberland  Presbyterian Church, was not completed until 1810, but for some time previously camp-meetings were held by the "Cumberlands" throughout this section.  One of their preaching places was at the residence of John Wheeler, the great grand-father of James A. Wheeler, who for years was an elder in the Piney Fork church.  

John Wheeler seems to have become identified with the revival from the very first and his house was a regular preaching place for the early revival ministers.

The old log home of John Wheeler, where the early revival Cumberland Presbyterian preachers used to meet.  Was located about 5 miles from Marion on Hwy 506 on the Ralph Paris farm. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Re-Building Of Marion After Fire

After the great fire of March 28, 1905, hardly before the smoke had died down, the Marion business men were already planning on rebuilding the town business section.

In July, only 4 months later a report was given on the progress.

There are 21 buildings under way and completed in the burned district.  There are two warehouses, one bakery, and one machine shop completed.  

The balance are all business houses and when completed, Marion will put on quite a different appearance, as they are all very modern buildings.

The Masonic Temple is a three story with unfinished stone trimming and front of cream pressed brick.

The Marion Bank building will be a beauty.  It has finished stone trimmings and is all cream pressed brick.

The post office is also cream pressed brick.  Nearly all the balance of the buildings are red pressed brick.

September 1, 1905 - Big Dinner and Fireworks
The citizens have set on foot a movement to have a general reopening, day of business houses destroyed by the first of March 28, and September 28 has been suggested as the day for such a reopening of New Marion.

The date is very appropriate, marking as it does, an epoch of just six months after the fire.

It is expected to have a big barbecue dinner and ice cream and lemonade feast to be served free during the afternoon and to have a display of fire works at night.

All building now under course of construction will be completed and occupied by the time set for opening day, and most, if not all firms now occupying tents or other temporary quarters, will have found permanent locations and be ready to receive their friends and customers, and make the day one of great rejoicing.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Devastating Fire of March 28, 1905 left Marion in Ruins

Fire wiped out the business section of Marion on March 28, 1905.  Not a business house of any importance is left in the town.  The loss is estimated at $200,000.  

The fire broke out shortly after 5  o'clock in the stable in the rear of the business of J. H. Orme.  Owing to the high wind prevailing, the fire caught and spread rapidly.  It is believed the fire was started by a smoker dropping a match in the stable. 

The east side of the public square where most of the stores were located was first to go and every building beginning at the old brick hotel and extending to Koltinsky's grocery two blocks away was destroyed. 

The section burned covered about four blocks and included a number of residences as well as business building.

All the dry goods, grocery, drug, hardware and other stores of the town, the saloons, the postoffice, the Crittenden Press plant and the Marion bank were reduced to smouldering ruins.

It was soon seen the blaze was beyond the control of the local fire fighters and aid was requested from Evansville, but the apparatus sent on a special rain over the I. C. railway did not reach Marion until 7:30 that afternoon, after the fire had burned itself out.

The loss is the most severe the town has ever suffered and some of those who were burned out have not yet recovered from the blow sufficiently to decide upon what steps they will take for the future.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Restaurants and Eating Places Of The Past

Some places we remember for the atmosphere, other places it was for the food, and perhaps a good memory of sitting around the table eating and enjoying good company with friends, such as one of mine. It was at the Coffee Shop on Main Street, when Bill and Kory Wheeler were owners. Two regulars at our table were Orman Hunt and Ozella Bailey, they are both gone now, but the good times around the Coffee Shop round table remain with me always. 

The 88 Dip is the only eating place that is still operating today under the same name it started with back in 1952, most locations are even gone, but they are still part of our past collective culinary memory.

The Sunrise Cafe' was located on N. Main Street behind where the Western Auto Store was and now the Marion Fire Department is there.

This restaurant had several owners and from what people have told me each had their own eating place personality. Guy and Edith Drennan owned it and their blue plate specials were very popular with the community. Mr. Drennan like to hire local girls to work in the restaurant so they would have a job. 

Another owner of the cafe' was the Baker family, I was told they turned the eating place into cafeteria style. Still remembered and talked about today as a popular place to eat and gather. 
Lots of people have memories of the tiny eating place known all these years as the "Hole In The Wall." It was located in a small room behind the Farmers Bank, close to where the steps are on W. Carlisle St..  The area now is part of the expanded Farmers Bank. It had only one small booth and a few stools at a counter, but was big on its reputation for good hamburgers and short orders. Owned by Dewey and Sylvia McDowell. Mr. McDowell ran a taxi cab that was located across the street from the restaurant. Besides her regular customers, Sylvia would fix box lunches for some of the local miners. 
Another place around the court house square that is talked about was Gene Beard's grocery store located in the area of the former Alan Stout office. His lunch counter food is still talked about today. A lot of county people that came to town on Saturday's to do their weekly shopping always loved to eat there. When Gene moved his store to the later location on 641 South where state offices are located now, his lunch counter was still a popular place to eat. It seems two of his lady cooks couldn't get along so he just stopped that by closing the eating area and turned it into the produce department. The good food in the small area was missed daily by faithful patrons. 

One cannot think of eating places in Marion without the Marion Cafe and Cap and Edith Cline being at the top of the list. The Clines first entered the business in September of 1945 as partners with Boyce Belt. At that time, the menu consisted mainly of ice cream and sandwiches.

Through the years they worked with several partners in the business, not taking sole ownership until 1957. As the years pasted the menu was expanded and the business grew until it became known throughout western Kentucky as one of the area’s outstanding eating establishments.
The day’s work for Cap began about 4 a.m. each morning as he prepared a portion of the food for the day along with donuts for the hungry breakfast group which began arriving at the 5:45 opening hours.

At about 11 a.m. Mrs. Cline would arrive to assist with the plate lunches for the noon crowd. She would remain until around 9 p.m. that evening, serving everything from charbroiled steaks to deep fried oysters. So many memories surround the name of the Marion Cafe' and have carried down through several generations. The Botanical Flower and Gift Shop is located in this building today.

Rohrer and Johnson's Drive-In on Gum Street was another well remembered and popular place to eat. The menu was well-rounded with plate orders and short orders and fountain service. Rohrer & Johnson first opened the Drive-In restaurant in 1950. 

Later this was a favorite place for the high school crowd to gather in the 1960's and find out who was dating who. 

 They had car hop service, where several local high school girls would find work. Lots of good memories here. 

 The popular place was last a coin operated laundry and a few weeks ago (June 2019) this old building was torn down.  Nothing there now to remind us of those good times spent there all those years ago.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Local Travel Has Certainly Changed

In the early 1900's the automobile age was beginning to appear in Marion. The first sighting of one of these new contraptions made it's appearance in Marion in August of 1904. 

August 11, 1904, a party of tourists, four in number, passed through the city in an automobile, en route from Nashville to the World's Fair at St. Louis. This was the first horseless carriage ever seen in Marion and the sudden appearance of the horseless carriage coming up Main Street created a stir among our population. 

Several years later in May of 1911, the Press tells us that motoring in Crittenden is getting more popular each day, and all that stands in the way of universal use of automobiles is the desperate roads, and not the cost as many would think, for compared with horseflesh and the expense of keeping same, automobiles are not high and are certainly a most delightful mode of transportation. With the advent of better roads the use of the automobile will grow into popular favor all over Crittenden County.

With the appearance of more and more automobiles in Marion and around the country side, made cause for some laws and rules of courtesy. 

July 14, 1921 Gist of Some Laws Governing Motor Vehicles
It is a great wonder to us when we think of how few accidents to individuals have occurred in this county and especially in the town of Marion since the automobiles had come into use. Our county court show very few damage suits while the police courts show not a great many prosecutions for cut outs, tail lights, speeding, etc.

Since this record is commendable and speaks well as to the law abiding spirit and general good fellowship that the citizens of Crittenden County bear toward each other and to the rest of the world. Yet, there are some who will grow careless of the other fellows welfare and drive recklessly around a short turn in the road, and dash without warning upon a team of horses and buggy or a horseback rider and frighten said horse or team beyond control of its rider or driver.
 If it does not end in accident or injury it leaves a “bad taste” in the mouth of the rider or driver and maybe a bad feeling that he cannot overcome for an hour or two.

Now, the laws governing the operation of automobiles an other motor vehicles are many and varied, far too much so for this article, but I want to give the gist of the most common passages.
* Thous shalt not run with the cutout open.
* Thou shalt not run without a tail light and two head lights.
*On coming up behind a pedestrian or horseback rider or occupant of a slower vehicle thou shalt sound the horn or other warning device.
*Thou shalt not drive rapidly a round the corners of these Crittenden County crooked roads without sounding your horn and staying close to the right hand side of the road. (This may sound corny, but I remember when people actually did honk their horns when they came upon a curve on the rural gravel roads of years ago, many years ago. Now they are driven on as if they were on a freeway.)
* Thou shalt always keep thy brake in good repair.

To The Drivers Of Buggies, Wagons, Etc.
* When a faster driven vehicle overtakes you and gives a signal to be allowed to pass thou shalt pull to the right side of the road immediately and permit it to pass. Don't stay in the middle of the road too long.
* Treat your neighbor as you would have him treat you and we will all love another better. There have been complaints recently of the automobile drivers having not given fair warning on short turns in the roads or driving up behind a buggy and attempting to pass without giving a warning and being too careless and reckless in passing, skittish horses.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Henry & Henry Monument, Second Oldest Business In Marion

The family business of Henry and Henry Monuments started their business here in Marion in 1881 (according to Diana Newcom in a 1999 article).   The picture above is where the business is located today on Hwy. 60 East (Sturgis Road) just outside of town.

The Henry brothers, Rev. John Henry and his brother Sam, started carving stones in the backyard of a home on West Bellville Street in Marion 1881. 

 An advertisement that was in The Crittenden Press soon after they moved to their new location on East Carlisle Street.  (1906)

In 1906 they moved to a commercial site on Carlisle Street where today Barbara Wheeler's antique shop is located.  It was called the concrete building as then there were no street numbers.

This vintage picture was made in the Concrete Building on Carlisle Street.  Monument work used to be done entirely by hand.  Marble was used for the stones then because it was easier to carve, and most of the lettering and art work was done freehand.  Stones carried more wording with family histories and epitaphs.  Much of the lettering was raised, with the stone around the letters being chipped away to give that effect.

Here is an interesting article that appeared in The Crittenden Press in June 12, 1931.
Possibly few people in Crittenden County know that one of the oldest business establishments in Marion is the Henry and Henry  Monument Works now owned by Howard and A. M. Henry.  According to all available records this establishment is, with the exception of the Crittenden Press the oldest business here.

The monument works were first established by the late Rev. J. S. Henry, a Baptist minister, and the father of the present owners.  After the retirement of Rev. Henry the business was conducted for a time by his two brothers, the late A. M. Henry and Sam Henry.  Next came the present proprietors, A. M. and Howard Henry.  Three generations have worked at this trade in the same establishment.  They are Rev. Henry, his sons and grandsons, Searcy Henry, son of Howard Henry, is now employed by the firm.

The monument Works was established before the coming of the railroad to Crittenden County and the rough material for use by the firm was hauled overland from Weston. (shipped down on the Ohio River).  For all these years road signs throughout Western Kentucky and Southern Illinois have kept the public reminded of this long established monument works.

Most of the shipments of rough stone received by the Henry brothers came from the famous granite and marble quarries in the New England states, while other shipments come from Italy, Finland, Scotland and Canada.

At the present time this firm is working on some beautiful memorials which will soon be delivered to customers in Kuttawa, Clay, Livingston County, Webster County, and Southern Illinois towns.
Today in 2019, the firm is being run by 5th generation of Henry descendants, Billy Fox and his sister, Diana  Newcom.