Monthly Archives: July 2012

July 20th, 2012 Storm Damage


The massive rains of July 20th caused leaking on the 8th and 9th floors of Cravens Library. A portion of science and health books were damaged.

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A Woman With a Mission

Nora Young Ferguson, 1882-1969

Nora Young Ferguson, 1882-1969

It was 1957, and the Warren County, Kentucky courthouse was about to undergo a major interior renovation.  As the offices were being emptied for temporary relocation, someone was intently watching.  A terrorist?  A communist?  A disgruntled defendant?  No, even more intense–a genealogist.  Ever since finding out about stacks of old, neglected county records–deeds and land certificates, marriage bonds, wills, estate documents, guardianship reports, petitions and lawsuits–gathering dust in the courthouse basement, Richardsville native and retired teacher Nora Young Ferguson had been determined to rescue them.  Where some of the local attorneys, she claimed, saw only a fire hazard and “were going to have them thrown in the river,” she saw a rich trove of history dating back to the earliest days of the county.

When a path to the records opened up after the old ballot boxes and other obstacles were cleared away, Nora pounced.  She gathered up the loose papers, took them home (with the permission of the Warren Fiscal Court), and began to clean and sort them.  Of particular interest to her were thousands of 18th- and 19th-century marriage bonds, valuable to genealogists because they often named parents or other relatives as well as spouses.

Nora also spearheaded an effort to preserve the records permanently through microfilming.  She worked with technicians from the Genealogical Society Library of the Mormon Church to photograph the documents, and even called for the expansion of the project to other records in the county and beyond.  She gathered data on her own family history, and helped to found the Warren County Historical Society.  One of her pet projects was fundraising to repair and preserve the Green River Union Meeting House, an early multi-denominational church near her birthplace in Richardsville.

The papers of Nora Young Ferguson, including her family correspondence, genealogy files and many of the original records that she saved, are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives holdings at WKU’s Special Collections Library.  Click here to download a finding aid.  For marriage records, wills, court records and other collections on family history, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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“I tried to preach”

A circuit rider, 1867

A circuit rider, 1867

Born in 1827, Jacob Tol Miller became a member of Rolling Fork United Baptist Church in Nelson County.  He started a journal in 1856, the same year he was ordained as a Baptist minister and began riding the circuit to churches throughout Kentucky.  With few interruptions, his journal documents some 25 years of life as a clergyman, especially during the era of camp meeting revivals that preceded the Civil War.

At first, Miller may have felt inadequate to the task of spreading God’s word.  In the months following his ordination, at meeting after meeting and sometimes several times a day, “I tried to preach,” he recorded.  He gratefully accepted whatever remuneration was offered: over five days at a Taylor County church at which he “tried to preach 8 times,” he received two dollars.  He performed baptisms and solemnized marriages, and was heartened when he arrived at a meeting and “saw many anxiously enquiring for Jesus.”

Miller also noted personal milestones in his journal, some joyful and others heartbreaking.  In November, 1857 he wed 20-year-old Martha Jeffries, upon whom, he confessed, his thoughts on the subject of marriage had long been focused.  In October, 1858 his son Henry was born, but a month later, on the couple’s first wedding anniversary, a stunned Miller wrote that “disappointment has come.”  After battling typhoid following her child’s birth, Martha had died.  “It was the happy part of my life,” Miller reflected on their short time together.  Struggling with “indescribable feelings,” he looked to God for strength.

Perhaps his faith was rewarded.  Miller was married again in 1860, to his late wife’s sister.  His travels on the circuit continued, to meetings large and small, both in churches and outside “in the woods.”  And he preached.  The phrase “tried to” disappeared from his journal.

Click here to download a finding aid for Jacob Tol Miller’s journal, a copy of which is housed in WKU’s Special Collections Library.  Click here for an associated collection, the records of Rolling Fork United Baptist Church of Christ.  For other collections relating to churches and clergymen, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Summer Volunteer Reflects On Her Experience

My name is Marisa Knight, and I am a senior at Bethel University in McKenzie, TN. For the past three weeks I have had the invaluable opportunity to volunteer with the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives at the Kentucky Library & Museum. My grandmother is a former University Archivist here, so being able to work in the same place she did has been especially meaningful.

During my time here I was given the opportunity to create finding aids for collections of all sizes. The best part was getting to read the collections and learn the people’s stories. Being able to help share their stories with other people even in just the small ways that I did was incredibly rewarding. It has been satisfying helping to make such important pieces of history accessible to the world.

Marisa Knight

Marisa Knight

Learning how and where to do certain types of research was also a part of the experience I really enjoyed and appreciated. This is a necessary skill that takes time to develop, and I am glad to say my time here has helped me greatly in this regard. You don’t always find what you’re looking for, which can be frustrating at times, but when you do, the thrill of finding something you’ve been searching for makes it all worthwhile. I loved waking up in the morning and wondering what I was going to find out that day. And the best part is it never stops. There are always unanswered questions in history, and there’s always a search for the answers.

As someone who plans to pursue a Master’s degree in Public History and eventually a career as an archivist, there has truly been nothing more advantageous to my future career goals than working here and gaining the firsthand experience that is so important in this field.

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A Capitol Idea

Facade of Capitol Arts Center

Stephen Ruemmele’s rendering of the restored Capitol Theater with its attractive marquee.

The Capitol Theater has a storied past in Bowling Green’s entertainment history.  An earlier theater at 416 East Main Avenue was called the Columbia.  It went through extensive renovation in 1920 and was renamed the Capitol.  That building was razed and a modern structure erected; it opened in March 1939.  The architect designed the Streamline Moderne structure using local limestone and Carrara glass and crowned the cornice with an appropriate belt course of stars.  The building was in constant operation until 1977.  A few years later local citizens and government officials decided to renovate the theater and use is as a community arts center.  Volunteers helped raise the $1.2 million necessary to restore the building in 1981.

Recently the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center (SKYPAC) assumed management of the Capitol.  During the transfer, six architectural renderings of the theater’s exterior and interior from 1979 were donated to the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives in WKUs Special Collections Library.  Each drawing has two components:  a mylar sheet with a line drawing of the facility and a colored back sheet that gave depth and visual interest to the otherwise staid renderings.

Stephen Ruemmele executed the Capitol renovation drawings in 1979.  To find the drawings in KenCat click here.  Manuscripts & Folklilfe Archives houses over 2,000 architectural drawings sets, some consisting of only one drawing, while larger projects contain twenty or thirty drawings.  The renderings chiefly date from 1920 to 1990 and document the built environment in southcentral Kentucky with an emphasis on Bowling Green.  The collection includes drawings of residences, schools, churches and governmental structures.  Click here to search KenCat for cataloged architectural drawings.

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Collections and Connections now available online

Catch up on the latest news of the WKU Libraries with Collections and Connections our semi-annual report.  The Libraries’ newsletter for spring/summer 2012 that highlights research awards for undergraduates, the SOKY Book Fest, and other key events for the term.

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