Monthly Archives: July 2013

“A creation has been wrought out of chaos”

Franklin Female College

Franklin Female College

In May 1868, the trustees of Franklin Female College in Simpson County, Kentucky held their first meeting.  The opening agenda item–where to locate the college–would be only one of many bones of contention; even their decision to put the question to a public vote produced no clear resolution.  Eventually, they acquired suitable land and erected a $20,000 building to house classrooms and boarders.  The following year, male students, admitted up to that time, were officially banished from the premises.

In an arrangement common to 19th-century private schools, the trustees hired a president to oversee every aspect of the college.  He would lease the property, “maintain a good first class Female School,” and admit all worthy students who applied.  From the tuition he collected, he was to pay his teachers, feed his boarders, and remit an annual rent to the trustees.

What followed were decades of headaches for the trustees, as successive presidents (the first being quickly dismissed for drinking) wrestled with too many expenses and not enough income.  Early in the 1880s, President H. H. Epse was scolded for not paying his teachers; after he mortgaged his belongings to secure his debt, the trustees reduced his rent owing to the severe winter that had cost him dearly in fuel and required him to refund tuition to his many sick students.

The financial burdens soon proved too much for Epse, but in 1884 the trustees were pleased with the progress of a new president.  “A creation has been wrought out of chaos,” they noted upon review of the school year.  Their good fortune didn’t last, but they soldiered on even after the president quit due to exhaustion and a fire destroyed the building in 1887.  Only in 1917, when the Franklin Graded and High School took over the property, did the college close its doors for good.

Meanwhile, the students’ world seemed far removed from this turmoil.  Maud Blair, who attended in the mid-1880s, kept an autograph book that documented the affection she and others had for the school.  “The time is drawing near when our relationship as classmates must be severed,” wrote her friend Sallie regretfully; they had spent “many pleasant moments together and gained many a hard-won victory.  And now, we must part; we may never meet again as pupils within the walls of the dear old College.”  Another wished Maud “just clouds enough in your life to make a glorious sunset”–a blessing, perhaps, that the trustees would have felt fortunate to realize for the Franklin Female College.

Maud McCutchen's certificate of proficiency, 1874

Maud McCutchen’s certificate of proficiency, 1874

Click on the links to access finding aids for collections relating to the Franklin Female College held in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Special Collections Library.  For more collections relating to schools, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Oh, Baby!

Like the one they’re awaiting in Britain, it was another highly anticipated royal birth.  In 1830, Atkinson Hill Rowan wrote from Spain to his mother in Bardstown, Kentucky that Queen Maria Christina was about to “give birth to a prince and all Madrid indeed all Spain will present a scene of rejoicing and merry making, cannon are already placed in every square and open place of the city.”  He explained that it was customary to place the baby on a silver base, then carry it to an antechamber where assembled foreign ministers could attest to the birth.  If the baby was female, then the ministers’ wives joined in the ritual.

Jonnie Brown's baby book, 1919

Jonnie Brown’s baby book, 1919

As shown in the collections of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Special Collections Library, a birth is big news, even if most newborns don’t receive a 21-gun salute.  “We have just received intelligence that you are the happy father of a fine son,” wrote the brother of Bowling Green lawyer Robert Rodes in 1849, remembering his own fatherhood a few months earlier when “my feelings were racked in those few moments of suspense that seemed like so many years.”  A century later, cake mix king Duncan Hines sent a check from Bowling Green to a new mother with instructions that her daughter was to spend the gift from “Uncle Dunk” on anything from a teething ring to a “bucket of lemonade, or what, I wouldn’t know!”

Birth announcements like the one to which Hines was responding have evolved in style and content over the years.  Compare, for example, the gaily colored announcement from the parents of Jeffrey Daniel Ashworth in 1947 with the engraved notice of Enid Stuart Jagoe’s birth in 1918, where her first “calling card” was tied to that of her parents with a tiny silk ribbon.

Birth announcements, 1918 and 1947 (Coombs and Ferguson Collections)

Birth announcements, 1918 and 1947 (Coombs and Ferguson Collections)

Once a newborn arrived, of course, it was time to start a baby book to record the milestones that arrived in regular succession: first laugh, first tooth, first word, first shoes, favorite toy.  Whether it was little Jonnie Brown in Rosetta, Kentucky in 1919, or Kathryn Ann Duncan in Bowling Green in 1931, these small steps in their journey were lovingly noted.

Click on the links to download finding aids for these collections.  For more collections that feature babies and children, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Climbing the Family Tree

Lloyd Monroe Raymer

Lloyd Monroe Raymer

Lloyd Monroe Raymer (1943-2012) was one of the chief users of WKU’s Special Collections Library.  As a professional genealogist, he used most of the Library’s resources:  books, microfilm, vertical files, family files, and manuscripts.  He was generous with his time–often assisting patrons after he overheard their queries–and resources, many times donating microfilm and books after he had completed his research projects.  His smiling face and pleasant demeanor will be missed, but he left behind a rich collection of genealogical reports that he created for clients.  They are now available for patron use.

Lloyd earned his professional certification in genealogy in the early-1980s.  He was able to turn his intense interest in history and genealogy into a part-time job, working for clients from around the country who were searching for ancestors in Warren County, Kentucky, particularly the northwestern section of the county.  Showing his support of local genealogical research, he eagerly joined the Southern Kentucky Genealogical Society when it was formed in 1976.

Most of the family files in the collection represent genealogical research conducted by Raymer between the late-1970s until his death in 2012, although the bulk of the work was done from the mid-1980s through 2010.  The families studied are not exclusively from Warren County, but that was Raymer’s specialty thus those surnames dominate the collection.  Butler County surnames would come in second, followed by Logan, Simpson and Allen counties in Kentucky.

The files are arranged alphabetically by surname.  Associated families have been indexed in the Subject Analytics at the end of the finding aid.  When processing the collection, Raymer’s report (generally typed) to his clients were kept, as well as his correspondence and some photocopies of original documents.  There are no original documents in the collection, so early dates on folders will indicate photocopies.

Raymer’s report nearly always include a title page that includes the major surname(s) researched and the date; it was generally accompanied by a cover letter explaining the research conducted and often raising new questions or avenues of research.  The report itself shows the research path Raymer typically covered:  census records, court records, military records, cemetery records, etc.  He meticulously recorded his sources, so the reports remain valuable to researchers even today.  His reports did not include genealogy charts, although the folders may occasionally contain such.  Correspondence with his clients, within the folders, also contains clues about the families.

To see a finding aid to the Raymer Collection, click here.  To search TopSCHOLAR for other genealogical collections housed in Manuscripts & Folklife Archives, click here.

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