Cummins cousins chat at the schoolhouse-turned-residence of Elnora Williams at Conrey (Mrs. Williams was a descendant of one of the survivors of the "Colemansville Cyclone.") The house in the photo was built to replace the storm-damaged Conrey Chapel schoolhouse. It was the residence of Elnora Williams for many years, and the gathering place for the Gardiner family reunions. The home was destroyed by fire a few years ago. Photo, 1995, Phillip Naff.
Chaos at Conrey—The Colemansville “Cyclone” Edited by Phillip Naff Introduction: John Cromwell, former Cynthiana mayor and newspaper columnist, wrote an article in 1933 entitled Our Cyclone, referring to what had become known over the years as the “Colemansville Cyclone.” He wrote that it had been “fifty years ago – minus one – a long time; long enough for two generations to have arrived on the scene; and long enough for those of us who were here, and still remain, to have learned much, and forgotten much.” One of the youngest of his generation on the scene that day, March 25, 1884,
was another, like John Cromwell, who had never forgotten. His name was Juble Early Cummins (18761962), a long-serving county judge in Pendleton County, and in the late 1930s, he gave an accounting of that fateful day to E. E. Barton, the Pendleton County lawyer and genealogist. J. E. Cummins’ story has been edited and presented as follows to tell of the “chaos at Conrey” that occurred that early spring day: (Continued on page 3)
At our February meeting, we returned to the past by having a “show and tell” where each member brought in an interesting item of historical significance. This was an especially rewarding meeting for all participants and brought out some very interesting things along with its history and how the owner came to possess it. This is the true spirit of the Historical Society and we have decided to do it at least twice a year. The next show and tell session will be at the June meeting. Please check your prized historical items and bring some or all to the June meeting. With regard to the Camp Frazer issue, I met with landowner Jeff Burrier and traveled to Northern Kentucky to view a plaque erected to commemorate the location of a Civil War fortification. We then toured his property while he explained his ideas concerning the development of his land. As he explained, in order to maximize the value of the land where the Civil War trenches have been identified, he plans to cut off the top of the hill, about 25 feet. This would destroy the trench area. While I empathize with Mr. (Continued on page 5)
Harrison County Historical Society
Cynthiana-Harrison County Museum 112 S. Walnut St., Cynthiana, Ky. 41031 Hrs: 10-5 Fri-Sat Martha Barnes, President
Bob Owen, President Billy Fowler, Vice President Janie Whitehead, Secretary Dorothy Slade, Treasurer
Villages Represented in Museum Collection The feature article of this month's Harrison Heritage News represents two important facets of our heritage - villages and disasters. At the museum, the significance of our small communities and disasters are obvious - not only through displays and photographs but as well through files, newspaper articles, etc. How many of you when you read the word Colemansville knew the location of this village? Our Harrison County map at one time was dotted with the names of villages - each often school-centered - each usually with a store and/or post office - of course, one or more churches (Do you realize how many churches there are in Harrison County?) - a small community within itself - a part of the greater community truly, a different way of life. Perrin, in his publication History of Bourbon, Scott, Harrison, and Nicholas Counties, Kentucky indicates that in 1882 there were eight Harrison County precincts: Sylvan Dell, Richland, Berry, Rutland, Unity, Leesburg, Claysville, and Cynthiana. Most of us Harrison Countians can list other names of villages - those still in existence perhaps with a new name and those which remain only in memory or record. The 2006 road index of the Harrison County and Cynthiana map does not include the names of many of these communities. We need to be certain this information is recorded. These villages were the early settlements - the beginnings of our county. Have you seen our museum exhibits such as the woodburning sketch of the Claysville covered bridge, the pigeonholes from the Sylvandell Post Office, calendars and items from the Kelat store, display case and merchandise from Fisher's Department Store at Berry, photos and regalia from schools and churches in Sunrise, Buena Vista, Connersville, Renaker, Oddville, etc. etc. etc. Our small communities truly, this is an ongoing project. Could you define the word cyclone before reading the article? It seems that we are certainly not as familiar with that weather term. An aspect of our history to be preserved and shared is that of natural disasters. In my lifetime, I best remember the tornado of 1974 and the flood of 1997. Museum donations of photographs and newspapers help us to remember that "yes, it can happen in our community." Dan Clifford's panoramic views of the flood are remarkable and scary as is the Labore tornado photo. Communities and disasters - they are represented in our museum's displays, but oh, there is so much more to preserve and share. How can you help us as we strive to move ever onward in our preservation efforts?
Minutes of February 16th meeting— A Show and Tell program was a great success, with many interesting historic articles brought by members and guests. President Owen discussed his involvement with Cynthiana Renaissance and asked for ideas to preserve and protect the downtown area. Billy Fowler did an update on the negotians with the Burrier family to possibly preserve or interpret the entrenchments on his farm threatened by development. A plaque honoring George Slade commissioned by the Society should be finished soon and will be placed in the Cynthiana library’s Prentice Kentucky Room. The Handy House has been designated a Kentucky Landmark by the Kentucky Heritage Council (see p. 5). (Submitted by Billy Fowler).
Calendar of Upcoming Events March 16—Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) local chapter will have a presentation by Mary Mac Barnett. April 20—Millersburg Military Institute—come and here about MMI’s interesting history and its current mission. May18—Janie Whitehead, a HCHS officer, will make a presentation on old houses and buildings of Cynthiana. If you remember Janie’s fine program a few years ago on her trip to Ireland, then you can expect this one to be just as interesting. June 15—Show and Tell—brought back by popular demand. Bring something of interest related to our local history—an artifact, photo, or letter, for example—and share its history with everyone.
MEMBERSHIPS NOW DUE 2006 Membership dues per household $12 due now. Bring to next meeting or mail to address on page 1. Include your mailing address. Membership includes this newsletter.
(CHOAS AT CONREY—Continued from page 1)
Conrey In March 1884, Early, as he was commonly known throughout his life, was in school at the old Conrey Chapel, roughly a third of the way to Boyd from Antioch Mills on Snake Lick Road. The “chapel” was a fairly new log building and was originally constructed to serve as a church in the early 1800s. It had been rebuilt ca. 1870, but when a new church was built just across the road at Conrey (Possibly named for the founding minister of that church, T.H. Conrey), the old structure was converted into a school house. The school was located on a ridge, reportedly on the highest ground between Antioch and Boyd. Their teacher that day at Conrey was old Wesley Howard, a resident of nearby Colemansville. Early recalled that “the teacher and pupils had been watching the storm, and after it struck Colemansville, they could see a thick mixture of every kind of articles in the air; the sky seemed to be filled with flying objects.” Early remembered that “they had seen the storm during recess.” “The teacher kept watching the storm, [until] the funnel shape cloud became visible, but at the school house, we hoped it would miss us,” but the “storm struck the school house about 2:15 p.m.” Early reported that “the cloud was black, but when the funnel[-]shaped cloud formed, it was lighter around the stem of the funnel-form.” “The first attack of the storm blew off the roof and all of the structure down to the logs. There was a log partition in the building, furnishing an ante-room for hanging hats and wraps. The gable of one end fell on this log partition and rested there, the other gable end was blown away. The gable that fell across the partition, formed a sort of shelter, and the teacher tried to keep the pupils in the ante-room over which the gable rested. The first blow took away all the windows, and filled the house with dust from the lime mortar of the chinking so that one could not see anything in there.” Four of the pupils escaped from the teacher and went outside, one boy and three girls: Early Cummins, his sister Sallie, Annie Lashbrook, daughter of Preacher Lashbrook, and Lillie Cason. “In the fury of the storm, these children grabbed hold of each other around the waist, and held on to one another as the storm whirlled [sic] there in a circle of about thirty feet in diameter. Three or four times they were lifted up, locked together, about as high as the top logs of the school building, and each time let down again without any severe injury.” 3
“The cyclone took all the children's wraps out of the cloak room. Garments, household articles and pieces of lumber were found later from long distances. Some articles were found in Ohio by citizens there, and identified.” “The wind storm lasted 3 or 4 minutes, and was followed by rain and hail in about 10 minutes. The children all left the school, for their homes after the storm broke. No one was injured at the school.” Early didn't “think any buildings were damaged west of Colemansville” and he remembered that little else was damaged at Conrey, except for that “the house of Geo. Gardner was picked up and turned around, and set back on the foundation, nearly exactly reversed; the front facing back, and the back end in front.” “The storm traveled east, and the last building injured was at Antioch, where a barn was wrecked on the farm owned later by Poke Butcher. A plate of the barn frame fell on the back of Thos. R.S. Cummins (uncle of Early Cummins) who owned the farm then and lived in the log house just at the foot of the Antioch Hill. He was confined about 3 months by the injury, but got over it. His house, only a short distance from the barn, was not injured. The barn plate that fell on Mr. Cummins was 48 feet long.” Colemansville Wesley Howard, the teacher who struggled so bravely to protect his young charges at Conrey, returned home to Colemansville that afternoon to find his own home completely demolished. The reporter from The Cynthiana Democrat reported that “Wesley Howard’s two story dwelling of eight rooms is among the missing, in fact there is not a vestige of it left. His wife, two daughters and granddaughter were uninjured.” The storm had at first crossed the South Licking River at the old Bird Crossing, between Boyd and Berry. Early remembered that “It was said that where the storm crossed it took all the water out of the river a distance of 60 feet up and down the river -- took the water out to the bottom. Fish were found 4 miles from the river. Jno. R. Earles was at Boyd learning telegraphy. The storm completely demolished the house of his father, Jonathan Earles, and was completely taken away, not a thing was left. Also a rock door step blew away and [was] not found. At Earles['] place, the storm sucked the water out of a cistern.” “The storm struck at Colemansville, and went down to the old Ed Lail house, and blew down all buildings (Continued on page 4)
(CHOAS AT CONREY Continued from page 3)
there Lail's place was on the west side of the river. The storm raised after leaving Lail's place, and hit again about 2 mi. at the Eureka school house. A new school building was being erected, and it was blown entirely away. Schools and school teachers seemed to have been particular targets of the storm. Young Miss Jennie Lowther (Later in life she was always affectionately known as “Miss” Jennie Hutton, despite having been married) also saw the dangerous nature of the storm and tried to hurry her students home to safety. She was described as being “hardly bigger than a minute,” but she “put them in a ditch and laid down on them during the storm.” Hutton family descendants recollect that “along the way, the storm became quite intense. She grabbed hold of a small tree and the remaining children grabbed hold of her to keep from being blown away. The wind was so bad, it actually blew one of her laced-up boots off of her foot.” But all got home to safety in “Miss” Jennie’s care. From Eureka, Early recalled, “the storm struck the Earles' house next, and raised again until it got to the Conrey Chapel. After passing Conrey Chapel, it struck along a narrow strip at Antioch where it wrecked the barn of Thos. R.S. Cummins. From there,” Early said he didn’t know “the route it took,
or the effects farther east. The last building injured, that was heard of, was at Antioch.” “People came for miles, to see the wreck. The fences were all down, and they could ride anywhere . . . People volunteered in companies and came and worked 2 or 3 weeks building fences, repairing buildings, &c.” A then fourteen-year-old David W. Beckett remembered picking up articles which had been carried by the winds from Colemansville on the west side of Harrison County all the way to Sunrise, some twelve miles away. “Garments, household articles and pieces of lumber were found later from long distances. Some articles were found in Ohio by citizens there, and identified.” Many hundreds can claim descent from the children who survived the storm that day so long ago. These are some of the pupils attending Conrey Chapel School when the “cyclone” stuck: Four children of Rev. George W. & Matilda Ann (Smith) Gardiner, Sr. Robert William (Willie) Gardiner (1870/71 - 1920) Matilda A. (Mattie) Gardiner (Mrs. Green Million) (1872 - 1968) Daisy D. Gardiner (Mrs. Charles Bell) ) (1877 - 1959) George Gardiner, Jr. (1875 - 1912) Four children of Joseph Fleming & Sarah F. (Whitaker) Cummins Martha J. Cummins (Mrs. John W. Elliott) (1871 - 1910) Sally L. Cummins (Mrs. John W. Elliott) (1872 - 1900) John W. Cummins (1874 - 1906) Juble Early Cummins (1876 - 1962) Other children of local residents reported to have been in attendance that day were: Anna Gardiner (Annie) Lashbrook (Mrs. Edward Lee. Simpson) (1876 - 1939) Willis Milliner, son of Reason Milliner Lillie Cason, daughter of Ed Cason Source: Eyewitness Accounts of the March
1897 map of Harrison County, Ky., from Railroads in Harrison County, Kentucky, by George D. Slade.
25, 1884 “Colemansville Cyclone” as Recollected by Juble Early Cummins & Others.
Harrison County, Kentucky, Historical Publications Books Are Welcomed Christmas Presents available from Cynthiana-Harrison County Museum, 112 South Walnut Street, P.O. Box 411, Cynthiana, KY 41031 (859-234-7179); - Boyd, Lucinda, Chronicles of Cynthiana. This is a reprint of the rare 1894 edition, which includes family histories, the famous account of David Sheely and his ghost, and other historical sketches and scattered accounts of persons and events connected with Cynthiana and Harrison County. 262 pp. Hardbound. $20.00. - June 1896 Cynthiana Democrat reprint. This was a special edition with biographical sketches and photographs of prominent men and women; many photographs of buildings; city/county government, church and school information is included. 24 pp. Paperback, 12”x18”. $5.00 - Cynthiana Since 1790. Virgil Peddicord (1986). Mr. Peddicord attempted to list the owners/businesses located on each lot from the founding of the city through the mid-1980s, including subdivisions added through 1923. 171 pp. (See separate index below). Paperback. $20.00 - Index - Cynthiana Since 1790 (William A. Penn). Mr. Peddicord did not prepare a comprehensive index for his book. This supplemental index contains about 3,500 names and a reference city street map. 30 pp. Paperback. $3.00 - Writings of Colonel William M. Moore,(1837-1927) compiled by Andrew B. “Andy” Peak (2002). Includes 1921 -1922 articles he wrote for the Cynthiana Democrat about his life. 10 family photographs; index; paperback, 71 pp. $10.00/ $3.00 shipping. Limited supply. - This Old House by Katherine Wilson. Now back in print, this book tells the stories of twenty-six early Harrison Co. houses and the families who have occupied them. 70 pp., new index, paperback. $15.00 (An index is available for earlier editions, which had no index). - Cromwell’s Comments, by John M. Cromwell (1862-1951) is a reprint of Cromwell’s 1928-1941 Cynthiana Democrat columns on the history of Cynthiana (Harrison Co., KY). William A. Penn and George D. Slade, editors. Paperback; preface; 2 maps; 21 photos; 4 illus.; annotated; index; 200 pp. (Cynthiana Democrat, 2002), $10 plus $3 shipping. Shipping/handling for above books: Please include a handling and shipping fee of $4.00 for first book (unless otherwise noted above), $2.50 for each additional book; you will be notified if special shipping fees apply. No shipping fee on Index - Cynthiana Since 1790, if ordered with the book. Make checks/money orders payable to “Cynthiana-Harrison County Museum.” No credit cards. Prices/fees subject to change.
(PRESIDENT’S CORNER continued from page 1)
Burrier’s desire to maximize the opportunity for his land, I have written to inform him that the Historical Society can not endorse this approach. The Society, in accordance with its charter, is dedicated to preserving areas of historical significance. I advised Mr. Burrier of this position in a telephone conversation and he advised me that he is coming up with an alternative idea of allowing the purchase of that section of property through a grant. While I informed him that grant money was becoming scarce, we would pursue this idea. We will continue to work with the owner in an attempt to preserve this land. In March, we will have either a presentation by Mary Mac Barnett on the DAR. I am still trying to get a representative from Millersburg Military Institute to make a presentation in April. Thanks to all of you who have paid your 2006 dues. IF YOU HAVE NOT PAID YOUR 2006 DUES, PLEASE PAY THEM AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
“Worthy of Preservation”: Gov. Fletcher Signs Kentucky Landmark Certificate for Handy House. David L. Morgan, Executive Director and State Historic Preservation Officer, sent a letter to Mayor Virgie Wells as follows: "It is indeed a pleasure for the Kentucky Heritage Council to award you the enclosed Kentucky Landmark Certificate. This is the official recognition by the State of Kentucky of the architectural, archaeological, or historical significance of your historic property. It is our hope that you will make every effort to ensure the continued preservation of your landmark property and that you will transfer this certificate and your sense of stewardship to succeeding owners." The certificate was signed by Governor Ernie Fletcher.