Daily Archives: September 6, 2012

WKU Libraries Joined Celebration of UK Libraries’ Grant Completion


The WKU group was in the overflow room next to the crowded auditorium.

At the invitation of the University of Kentucky Libraries, a group of WKU Libraries’ faculty and staff attended the UK Libraries’ special program: Works Progress Administration on September, 5, 2012 at the William T. Young Library on the UK campus in Lexington, KY.

The University of Kentucky Libraries was celebrating the completion of a three-year leadership grant awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL). This grant had assisted the UK Libraries in acquiring, preserving, and providing access to historical records and publications produced by the U. S. Works Progress Administration (WPA). Because of these efforts, the UK library is now recognized as a Center of Excellence among southeastern research libraries for its WPA collection.

The celebratory event, “Putting America Back to Work during the Great Depression: Preserving and Improving Access to the Works Progress Administration Records for the Future,” was held in the William T. Young Library. Keynote speaker was David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States. A panel discussion and reception followed.

Photo Album

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Congratulations to Crystal Bowling for Her Enrollment in SLI!

The WKU Staff Council, Human Resources and Continuing Education announced the 2012-2013 class of the Staff Leadership Institute, which included one of our own: Senior Catalog Assistant Crystal Bowling. Congratulations!

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The Lucy Walker

Woodcut of the Lucy Walker explosion

Woodcut of the Lucy Walker explosion

Twice a year, Dr. Charles Henry Webb of Princeton, Kentucky visited his mother in Lexington.  In October, 1844 his wife was ill and unable to accompany him, so he departed with only their four daughters and a few servants.  After leaving the two older daughters at boarding school in Lexington, Dr. Webb and his younger daughters, 11-year-old Nancy (“Nannie”) and 9-year-old Cassandra (“Cannie”) boarded the steamboat Lucy Walker for the journey home.

Near New Albany, Indiana, disaster struck.  The Lucy Walker‘s boilers exploded, and she burst into flames and began to sink.  Hurled into the air by the blast, Dr. Webb landed on a piece of floating wreckage.  He was taken on board another boat with burns and a gruesome wound to the throat.  A rescuer pulled Nannie out of the water when he noticed her hair floating on the surface, but Cannie drowned.  No one knew what became of the servants.

Dr. Webb’s brother-in-law, George Washington Williams, rushed to New Albany to find him in the care of two doctors and some kind local citizens, but unfortunately, Webb soon died.  In two letters to his wife Winifred, Williams mournfully described what he had learned about the accident, the sufferings of the victims, and the arrangements he made to preserve the bodies of his dead family members pending burial back in Princeton.

As it turned out, Dr. Webb’s wife had been ill because she was in the early stages of pregnancy.  The following spring, she bore a daughter and named her Cassandra after the child’s dead sister.

George Williams’ letters, and the reminiscences of a descendant, are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Special Collections Library.  Together, they give a vivid account of the effect on a Kentucky family of the Lucy Walker disaster, one of the deadliest in U. S. history.  Click here to download a finding aid.  For more collections on steamboating, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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