Welcome to the blog of the Henderson, Ky., Depot Community Room. The Community Room strives to promote a better understanding of Henderson, Ky., history and culture through special programs and exhibits. Our exhibit hall features the collections of the Henderson County Historical and Genealogical Society. The Community Room is funded by the City of Henderson, Ky., through the Henderson County Tourist Commission.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

150 Years Ago Hendersonians Heard the Battle 100 Miles Away

On February 14 and 15, 1862, the desperate battle of Fort Donelson was fought.

Starling wrote in his "History of Henderson County, Kentucky":

"...on Thursday afternoon, when the great guns of the Confederate water batteries and the mortars on board of the Federal gunboats were engaging each other in a frightful artillery duel, the thundering roar was distinctly heard in this county, though perhaps 100 miles away."

He went on to say: "...many men from Henderson had enlisted in both armies... and in this battle were many from Henderson. There was a full company of Confederates, and perhaps, as many Federals, from Henderson engaged in that conflict.

"There were two brothers...one serving in the ranks of the Confederacy and one in the ranks of the Union, again there were three brothers in the same battle, one in the Confederate and two in the Union army. There were classmates, and former bosom friends arrayed against each other, and this made those wicked days more sad and terrible to contemplate."

Maralea Arnett wrote in her book, "The Annals and Scandals of Henderson County, Kentucky:"

"During the battle of Ft. Donelson, Confederate Captain O.B. Steele saw his brother, Cyrus, a Union soldier, lying mortally wounded."

While Henderson's government was loyal to the Union, its citizenry was divided, with sympathies to each side tearing families apart.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Henderson native Admiral Husband Kimmel was commander of the Pacific Fleet on December 7, 1941

Husband Edward Kimmel, born in Henderson, Kentucky on February 26, 1882, had just been promoted to Admiral, commanding the Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor in February 1941. This promotion followed a long, honorable service record in the United States Navy. Throughout reports from his superiors ran the theme of integrity, leadership, diligence and independence of mind.
Following the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor 70 years ago today, Kimmel was relieved of his command, and his rank reverted to Rear Admiral. The Defense Department cited his "dereliction of duty" as the reason. It was suggested that Kimmel ignored intelligence that could have prevented the attack. Kimmel denied that he ever received such intelligence and insisted that he was being used as a scapegoat.
"The success of the attack on Pearl Harbor ... was caused by the deliberate failure of Washington to give the Commanders in Hawaii the information available in Washington to which they were entitled," wrote Kimmel in a letter to Missouri Congressman Clarence Cannon on June 3, 1958.
It has been claimed that Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and President Franklin D. Roosevelt were anxious to placate the American people who wondered how the attack on the great battleships and air installations at Pearl Harbor could have come as such a surprise. They relieved Kimmel of his command as well as the Army's top command in Hawaii, General Walter Short. Instead of being reassigned, after 37 years of active duty Kimmel was forced into retirement, in March 1942.
To reassure the American people that the war effort was being managed well, and to protect those above Kimmel and Short from harsh criticism, an investigation was ordered. Wartime security measures made it impossible for the Roberts Commission to probe deeply into circumstances leading up to the attack, so questions as to American knowledge of Japanese plans, and as to whether his superiors had kept Kimmel adequately informed of the likelihood of war were never answered.
Four later inquiries reached more balanced conclusions, finding that Kimmel could not have prevented the attack, that others shared responsibility for the ineffective American response, and that the most anyone in his position could have done was to order more extensive reconnaissance measures. And even with that, the attack was imaginative and well-executed, and might still have come as a surprise.
All his friends, classmates and former shipmates remained loyal to Kimmel, and Admiral William Halsey remained adamant that Kimmel had exercised his command with care and skill.
"In all my experience," wrote Halsey in his memoirs, "I have never known a commander-in-chief of any United States Fleet who worked harder, and under more adverse circumstances, to increase its efficiency and to prepare it for war; further, I know of no officer who might have been in command at that time who could have done more than Kimmel did."
Some believe that given a chance Kimmel would have made a splendid wartime leader. Others feel that regardless of his merit, his position has been undermined; that without the complete confidence of all above him -- and below as well -- he could not have led as effectively as his equally qualified replacement, Charles Nimitz.
Kimmel was exonerated in the eyes of the American public, but his ranking was never restored. Since his death in 1968, Kimmel's son and grandson have worked to have his status as a four-star Admiral restored, and while much evidence exists to legitimize this request, the Defense Department has yet to honor it.

Sources: Graybar, Lloyd J. "Pearl Harbor 'Scapegoat'' Louisville Courier-Journal December 3, 1978; Kimmel, Husband E. "Facts About Pearl Harbor"

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Celebrate Roy Rogers' 100th Birthday with the Depot Community Room's "Happy Trails: A 1950's Cowboy Christmas"

Do you remember waiting eagerly every Saturday for the” Roy Rogers Show”? Were you unable to sleep on Christmas Eve, hoping Santa would bring you the cap gun and holster on your wish list? Then the Community Room’s new exhibit “Happy Trails: a 1950’s Cowboy Christmas” will take you on a trip down memory lane!

Now through the end of December, the Community Room will have on display items that would have been on the wish list of any girl and boy in 1950s Henderson. The display focuses specifically on the height of the singing Cowboy craze, when every little boy wanted his own six-shooter and every girl wanted an outfit just like Dale Evans.

View the Cowboy Christmas tree as you listen to Gene Autry sing your favorite Christmas songs. We will also air radio shows and the popular television series starring Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

The Community Room is located inside the Depot on the Henderson, Ky., riverfront and is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. The Community Room is funded by the City of Henderson through the Henderson Tourist Commission.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Discover the Hidden Stories of Henderson at our "Spooks and Legends of Old Henderson" Walking Tour Oct. 22

Did you know there's a Henderson home that has a secret room accessible only by a trap door in a bedroom closet ceiling? Do you know the story behind Henderson's grotesque -- but true -- "Dog Supper?"

 On the Community Room's "Spooks and Legends of Old Henderson Walking Tour" you'll learn more!

The Depot Community Room's mission is to preserve and promote Henderson's history, and this tour highlights the more nefarious side of Henderson's history -- pointing out the sites of historic executions, murders and deaths. The tour also explores the folklore of Old Henderson. These stories of hauntings and unusual events, though they may not be entirely accurate -- have become a part of Henderson's culture merely through their retelling from one generation to the next.

The Spooks and Legends Tour is unlike any other historical tour of the city, and you can only be a part of it once a year! This year the event is on Saturday, October 22. Tours will leave from the Depot at 101 N. Water St. every half hour starting at 2 p.m. and ending at 5 p.m.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Just who resides at Fernwood Cemetery?

Join us on Saturday, Sept. 24 to find out!

The Depot Community Room is hosting a tour of Fernwood Cemetery, Henderson's oldest and most fascinating cemetery!

Its residents include former governors, pioneers in health and horticulture and even the founder of Mother's Day. The not-so-famous residents of the cemetery also have interesting tales of untimely deaths and odd eccentricities  that have been dug up, so to speak, for this special tour! 

The tour will be led by local historian Frank Nally, who will share some of his extensive research into the lives of those buried at the cemetery. The tour begins at 9 a.m. at the Parks and Recreation office at 920 Madison St. and will last approximately 1 1/2 hours. Walking shoes are recommended. The tour is free.

For more information or to make reservations contact the Depot Community Room at 270-930-9707 or leighann@hendersondepot.org.

Monday, August 15, 2011

An Evening With Jim Owen

Jim Owen is no stranger to the stage, having performed in the famous  Las Vegas Legends Concert and as a headlining act in Branson for more than two decades. He’ll return home to Henderson on Friday, August 19, at 7 p.m. for an intimate homecoming event at the Depot Community Room.

Owen will bring along his guitar and play a few tunes as he talks about Henderson’s musical heritage and his own successful career as a performer and songwriter.  He wrote a string of hits for several country western greats, but his most recognizable was the Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn duet “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man.” 

Owen’s performance officially kicks off the unveiling of a new exhibit at the Depot Community Room highlighting Henderson’s country western performers. The exhibit features photographs and memorabilia recalling the county’s rich musical heritage and highlighting such notable performers as Louis Marshall "Grandpa" Jones, Les Smithhart and his band, the Doug Oldham Band and James "Spider" Rich, who co-wrote the famous hit "Yakity Sax" with saxopohonist Boots Randolph, which was also recorded by Chet Atkins and became the most recognizable tune from the Benny Hill show.

Show Information

Jim Owen will be speaking and performing a few songs on Friday, August 19  at 7 p.m. in Henderson, Ky. To reserve a seat, you must contact the Depot Community Room at 830-9707 or  email events coordinator Leigh Ann Tipton at leighann@hendersondepot.org by August 18. Please include your name, phone number and number of people in your party. The event is free to the public and is scheduled to take place inside the Depot Community Room at 101 N. Water St. on the Henderson riverfront. The venue is subject to change, in which case we will do our best to notify everyone who has registered to attend.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Folklife Celebration set for August 13

In celebration of Bill Monroe’s 100th Birthday this year’s Bluegrass In The Park folklife celebration will offer a unique look at the musical traditions of bluegrass. Luthiers will share their craft of constructing and repairing the various  musical instruments used to create the one of a kind sounds of bluegrass. Children will also be able to explore other folklife traditions with hands-on crafts.

Musical Traditions
Hatfield Banjos – Arthur Hatfield has been playing bluegrass music since he was a boy and has been building banjos for 30 years. The first band Arthur Hatfield played in was called the "New Sounds of Bluegrass" that he and friends Larry Lawrence and Jimmy Dickerson had formed. Arthur soon caught the attention of Carl Story and traveled and performed all over the U.S. and Canada as one of Carl Story's Rambling Mountaineers. Arthur now once again resides at his old homeplace where he builds Hatfield Banjos, necks, and does banjo repairs. He started building Hatfield Banjos fulltime in 2001.
The Makings of a Violin - Rebecca Wetzel of Wetzel Violins in Evansville, is a trained luthier with a degree in String Instrument Technology and in General Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. Prior to opening her own violin shop in Evansville in 1993, Wetzel trained under Severin Schurger in Miama, Fla, and at the Bass Viol Shop in Cincinannti, Ohio. She has extensive training to work on the most complicated instrument through minor repairs and set-ups as well as cello bow making and is a member of the Violin Society of America.
All About Dobro – Ron Tipton of Owensboro, Ky., didn’t like the way most bars for playing dobro fit in his hand – so he created his own. The bars soon became a favorite of top dobro players around the world, including Jerry Douglas of Allison Kraus and Union Station fame. Tipton will help visitors explore the dobro, including its history, its sound and answer the question … what exactly is it?
Dulcimers and Then Some – The Shade Tree Players will be performing on stage during the bluegrass festival, but will also be on-hand at the folklife festival to talk about the array of instruments they use to create their unique sound. The dulcimer is their core instrument, but they also play guitar, ukulele, wash-tub bass, mandolin, and autoharp.

Fried Apple Pies – children can make and then eat their very own fried apple pies! Presented by Reva Mitchell and the Henderson County Cooperative Extension Office.
All Things Herbs – Need an acne remedy? Want to soften your hair? No need to make a run to the store – just look in the cupboards! Master gardener and beekeeper Debbie Lowrence will share home beauty remedies using honey and herbs!
Making Beeswax Candles –Bees are good for much more than just making honey. Their wax (beeswax) has been used for a variety of purposes since ancient times, including the production of light. Children will get to learn about the wax that bees produce and make their very own beeswax candle to take home!
Potter’s Hands – Acclaimed artist Julie Byczynski will share her potter’s wheel with local children, teaching them how to turn clay from the earth into their very own, artistic keepsake!
Blacksmith – William White is a renowned knifemaker and blacksmith who lives in Morgantown, Ky. One day, as he hammered out a serpent-shaped candlestick his daughter noted “dad, that looks like a silly snake.” The name stuck. White will spend the day hammering out a “silly snake” as he demonstrates the age-old craft of blacksmithing.
Soap-MakingLucia Felty remembers her grandmother always having homemade lye soap by her kitchen and bathroom sinks. The odd-shaped chunk of soap with the unusual smell fascinated her. So in 2003 when a friend asked for her help in making soap Lucia happily agreed.  Lucia began studying soap making and by 2007 Lucia's hobby became a business.  Lucia is a member of Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild, a Certified Advanced Soapmaker, and a Juried Participant in Kentucky Crafter Arts Program. Demonstrations will begin at 11 a.m., 12 p.m. and 1 p.m.
Made by Hand – Peter Chevalier will demonstrate making homemade tools such as a pitch fork.
Child’s Play – Before Playstation and Wii, children entertained themselves with old-time games like checkers, chess and washer boards. Explore the ever-evolving games of childhood as presented by Mark Simmons and the City of Henderson Parks and Recreation Department.