Wednesday, December 2, 2020






          By the mid-1800's, tuberculosis had reached epidemic levels in Europe and the United States, including the rural areas like Ohio County. The disease attacked the lungs and damaged other organs.  Before the advent of antibiotics, its victims slowly wasted away, becoming pale and thin before finally dying of what was then known as "consumption" and sometimes referred to as "flux."

           During that time, consumption was thought to be caused by hereditary susceptibility and miasmas, or “bad airs,” in the environment. Among the upper class, one of the ways people judged a woman’s predisposition to tuberculosis was by her attractiveness.


            In 1869 a French physician demonstrated that the disease was indeed contagious, conducting an experiment in which Tuberculosis matter from human cadavers was injected into laboratory rabbits, which then became infected. On 24 March 1882, Dr. Robert Koch, a Prussian physician, revealed the disease was caused by an infectious agent.  Treatment was guesswork and varied, but rest was prescribed by most doctors.  Sanatoriums were used to isolate patients until the mid-twentieth century.


            We have all been to Mammoth Cave.  But you might not know that in 1842 Dr. John Groghan opened a treatment facility for tuberculosis patients inside the cave, thinking that the cool and pure air would help the patients recover from the disease. The patients lived in 10 wooden cottages about a mile and a half inside the cave.  The cottages measured 12 x 18 feet and canvas roofs.  Two more cottages were built of stone.  About 15 people became patients but the experiment failed after several deaths and the facility was closed within five months.  See the article below for more details.


            Vaccines were developed in Europe as early as 1906 but were not accepted and used widely until after WWII. Some say the true revolution of the war against Tuberculosis started in 1952 with the development of an oral drug and then in the 1980’s a drug called Rifampin hastened recovery time.  It is thought that the decline in mortality from infectious diseases has been caused by an improved standard of living, particularly by better nutrition, and by better hygiene, and less by medical intervention. Tuberculosis still rages throughout the world, including the United States, with about 1.4 million deaths last year.  It is a global pandemic that is transmitted almost exactly like the COVID-19 virus (coughing and sneezing). The difference is that Tuberculosis is bacterial and can be treated with antibiotics. 


            It is not known how many people died in Ohio County (or Kentucky) of tuberculosis in the 1800’s as death records are minimal and physicians did not understand the disease.  Death certificates did not start using death certificates statewide until 1911.  Before that counties recorded deaths in the county courthouse in a manner similar to the way marriages and births were recorded, but only if some one (a family member) reported the event to a county official. has a database of Kentucky deaths from 1852 through 1910.  The county records were microfilmed in the 1980’s by the State government, however some records from Ohio County are missing – probably due to Courthouse fires. Here is the first page from the 1852 microfilm records:

            The next to last column states the cause of death.  On this page the word “Flux” is found four times; the word “Consumption” is found five times; and the word “Fever” is found twenty-three times.  Also, “Cold chills” is used and “Cough” is used.  So you can see that it would be impossible to determine how many of those deaths was actually from Tuberculosis or any other specific disease.

            Age of death is the second column and that is easier to read. Sadly, most were young.  From the top the ages are 1 yr, 13 yrs, 1 year, 4 mos., 23, 35, 18, 15, 18 mos., etc.  On the entire page of fifty-five names there are only nine deaths listed for anyone age 40 or older.

            As you can see below, Tuberculosis remained a big problem during the first half of the 1900’s in Kentucky.

Hidden History: Tuberculosis in Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave National Park in central Kentucky is home to the world’s longest known cave system. The system of chambers and subterranean passageways reflects the park’s extensive and varied history. In 1839, Dr. John Croghan of Louisville, Kentucky, who suffered from tuberculosis, purchased the Mammoth Cave property for $10,000. At a time when minimal medical knowledge of or treatments existed for the “white plague,” a leading cause of death in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Dr. Croghan was interested in the cave in part as a possible sanitarium.

Visitors and miners had reported feeling distinctly well after spending time in the cave and Horace Carter Hovey wrote that “the air is slightly exhilarating, and sustains one in a ramble of five or ten hours, so that at its end he is hardly sensible of fatigue.” Further, having observed that timber and animals did not decay within the cave, Dr. Croghan hoped the environment would be restorative and therapeutic for tuberculosis patients and subsequently established an experimental hospital treatment facility within the cave.

Believing the uniform temperature and humidity held curative properties, Dr. Croghan invited 15 patients under his care to take up residence in the cave in the winter of 1842. Patients resided within a series of buildings constructed by enslaved individuals, including two stone cabins and eight simple wooden structures measuring 12 x 18 feet with tongue and groove flooring and canvas roofs.

Away from the rhythms of natural light, patients synced their watches with the outside world and managed their daily underground routines accordingly. Living within the cave, patients initially seemed to improve and Dr. Croghan enthusiastically began to draw up plans for a hotel to be established within the cave to house the anticipated masses that would flock to the cave for healing.

However, as winter progressed, it became clear that the dank, dark conditions worsened the patients’ symptoms. Smoke and ash from lard oil lanterns and a large fire used to light the cave continuously filled the chambers while the dampness of the air further degraded damaged lungs. Cedar trees and bushes brought in to lighten the atmosphere quickly withered. While some cooking was completed within the cave, other meals were prepared off-site by enslaved individuals and brought into the cave. A server named Alfred noted, “I used to stand on that rock and blow the horn to call them to dinner. There were fifteen of them and they looked more like a company of skeletons than anything else.”

A Public Attraction

Tours of Mammoth Cave had begun in 1816. The tourist infrastructure developed over the next several decades, including the expansion and remodeling of the existing hotel and creation of new roads by Dr. Croghan. These improvements and public tours of the cave system continued during the medical experiment. Unsuspecting visitors would occasionally encounter ghastly patients in hospital gowns shuffling along passageways or hear hollow coughing echoing in the distance.

In a letter, patient H.P. Anderson wrote that “There are many things to be done to render this place entirely pleasant and to give its virtues a fair test; we are pioneers under all the disadvantages of such and after generations will reap benefits of our experiments.” As complaints and requests to leave arose, Anderson was the only individual to return to the surface while Dr. Croghan convinced the remaining patients to stay.

As the weeks wore on, five patients ultimately died inside the cave, their bodies laid out on what is now known as corpse rock. Dr. Croghan despondently returned to the surface with the remaining survivors. The experiment was not repeated and the wood frame huts were dismantled, while the two stone cottages remain along Broadway within the Mammoth Cave Historic District.

The experiment lasted no more than five months, from autumn 1842 to early 1843. While the cool cave setting conformed to the treatment standards of the times, the unventilated, damp environment made the disease worse. Like his patients, Dr. Croghan ultimately passed of tuberculosis in 1849.

“Groping for Health in Mammoth Cave,” Filson Club History Quarterly, 20: 4, 302-307, Louisville, Oct., 1946.

Saturday, November 28, 2020




            I found some data regarding seven people born in Ohio County that died in various counties during the 1850’s and I hope that this information might be helpful to someone out there.  There is no connection among these seven people except that they died in the same decade and that they were born in Ohio County. Of course hundreds of other people from Ohio County died in the same decade, so the following is just random information. 

1. Judith Mary (Phillips) Gabbert, born about 1832, Ohio County, daughter of Solomon Phillips & Judah Cooney; her siblings were Matthew, Elizabeth, Margaret, Silas, Daniel James, Nancy, Solomon, and Charles W. 

Judith married John Wesley Gabbert 3 Dec 1847 (she was age 15) and they had two children: Narcissa Hite b. 1850 & Infant d. 1853. 

Judith died 8 July 1853, at age 21, of typhoid fever; buried Phillips Cemetery, Taffy, Ohio County. 

2. Robert E. Smith, single; born near Fordsville about 1831; son of Thomas Smith (1800-1843) & Jane “Ann” Pate (1802-1838). 

Robert died at age 22 in Daviess County 13 Aug 1853 of scrofulo (tuberculosis). This ancient bacterial disease was also referred to as consumption and usually infected the lungs and lymph nodes. Before a cure was found this disease had killed one in seven people that had ever lived. There was no cure until the 1950s. 

3. Mary H. (Fields) Howard, born 31 Jul 1831, Ohio County, daughter of   Zachariah Fields & Amelia “Milly” Tanner. 

Married John M. Howard 21 Dec 1854 in McLean County. 

Mary died 22 Dec 1858, at age 27, in McLean County, of consumption, buried Downs Family Cemetery, Nuckols, McLean County, KY. 

4. William Jackson, born 8 Jan 1834 Ohio County, son of George Cessna Jackson & Sarah “Sally” W. Landrum. 

William, who was unmarried, died 10 May 1856, at age 21, in McLean County of “Epileptic fits” and he is buried in Tichenor Family Cemetery, McLean County, KY. 

5. John A. Jones, born about 1832 in Ohio County, son of William Jones and Paulina Hall. 

John, who was unmarried, died 4 Feb 1855, at age 23, in McLean County, of Desprehsia (probably Dyspraxia, a disease that affects coordination). 

6. Martin Crow Riley, born 16 Jul 1803, Ohio County, son of Michael Riley and Elizabeth Jackson. 

Martin married Elizabeth Smith 7 May 1838. They had eight children. 

 Martin died 21 or 26 Mar 1858, at age 53, in Buel, McLean County, and is buried in the cemetery at Pleasant Hope General Baptist Church, Livermore, McLean County. 

7. Elizabeth (Moore) Tanner, born about 1823, Ohio County, daughter of P. Tanner & Nancy Moore. 

Elizabeth married Charles A. Tanner 23 Nov 1844 in Ohio County and they had 3 children: Richard P., Frances E., & Sally A. 

Elizabeth died 19 Dec 1859 in Ohio County, at age 39, of consumption.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

John Oldham - Hometown Hero

WKU basketball legend John Oldham dies at 97

On Monday morning, WKU Men’s Basketball legend John Oldham passed away in Bowling Green at the age of 97.

“We are very saddened to learn of the passing of John Oldham,” WKU Director of Athletics Todd Stewart said in a press release.  “Coach Oldham is one of the all-time iconic figures in Western Kentucky University Athletics history who impacted the Hilltoppers as a player, head coach, athletics director and developer of the Red Towel athletics logo.”  

Oldham, a native of Hartford, Kentucky, came to WKU in 1942 to play basketball for Coach E.A. Diddle after earning All-State honors at Hartford High School. After his freshman year at WKU, Oldham served in the U.S. Navy for three years during World War II.

According to the press release from WKU Athletics, in four years as a student athlete — from 1942-43 before the war and 1946-47, then 1947-48 and 1948-49, after the war — he earned a place in WKU's 1,000-point club, scoring 1,006 career points, and helped the Hilltoppers to three appearances in the NIT, four conference championships and 102 wins.  

He was named an All-American by the United Press International and the Associated Press as a senior in 1949, and earned a spot on the first All-Ohio Valley Conference Team that season.

Oldham left his mark on Hilltopper Basketball in each of his roles, earning All-America accolades as a player in 1949 and later coaching some of the greatest teams in WKU history.

Oldham’s impact on WKU was so big that the court in Diddle Arena was named in his honor on Dec. 27, 2012 and was selected to the WKU Basketball All-Century Team in 2018 as a player. 

“It was a special evening on December 27, 2012, when we officially named the court in Diddle Arena ‘John Oldham Court’ with he and his family in attendance, ensuring him the recognition he never sought but certainly deserved,” Stewart said. “It was an honor to have known him, and our thoughts are prayers are with his family.”

After two seasons for the NBA’s Fort Wayne, now Detroit, Pistons, Oldham returned to Bowling Green to coach at Old College High School before moving on to Tennessee Tech as the head coach. He returned to the hill in 1964 to take over the Hilltopper Basketball program from the retiring coach Diddle.

In seven seasons at WKU, from 1964-71, Oldham had a 142-40 record and led the Hilltoppers to five postseason trips, four conference championships, a Sweet 16 berth and a trip to the Final Four in 1971. 

Oldham's .780 winning percentage as a head coach is the best in WKU's men's basketball history, and his number 42 from his days on the court hang in the rafters of Diddle Arena as tribute. He coached two of WKU's three All-Americans, Clem Haskins and Jim McDaniels.

According to the release, In all, Oldham contributed to 244 men's basketball victories, eight postseason appearances and nine conference championships in 11 years as a player and head coach. The overall record of those 11 teams was a remarkable 244-53, or 82.2%.

Oldham was also a pioneer for social change in the sport, putting the Hilltoppers on the forefront of integration in the south in the 1960s.

Oldham served as athletic director from 1971-86 and, in 1971, conceptualized the Red Towel logo, which has turned into one of the most recognizable and historic logos in the country.  

His time as A.D. lined up with the creation of Title IX, the revival of women’s athletics and the football program’s move to Division I-AA, and his coaching hires included some WKU’s best in Paul Sanderford, Joel Murrie, and Curtiss Long.

While he was in charge as director, WKU won six OVC All-Sports Championships and one Sun Belt Conference All-Sports Championship.

“His impactful 15-year tenure as WKU’s Director of Athletics from 1971-86 trails only Ed Diddle for longest service in overseeing WKU Athletics,” Stewart said.  “A soft spoken and enormously kind man, I truly enjoyed knowing him, visiting with him and learning so much about WKU from him.”

Oldham has been inducted into the Lions Club Kentucky High School Hall of Fame (1969), Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame (1986), Ohio Valley Conference Hall of Fame (1989), Kentucky High School Hall of Fame (1990), Tennessee Tech Sports Hall of Fame (1990), WKU Athletic Hall of Fame (1991) and WKU Hall of Distinguished Alumni (2002).

Source: Nov 23, 2020

Saturday, November 21, 2020

John L. Barnett

     John Langdon Barnett was born 8 Jul 1850 in Ohio County, the son of David L. & Sallie A. (Baird) Barnett.  John married Pauline Barnett 12 Nov 1874 and they had six children: Luther Cotrell, Zana Alexandra, Somers Edward, Mary Jane, Junius Lowery, and David Emmet.  Pauline died 28 Jun 1907, a few years after her youngest child, David, died in 1904.

    Apparently John L. remarried to a Mrs. Brown, from Arkansas, a short time before he died.

    John L. died 17 Sep 1913 in Arden, Arkansas and is (apparently) buried in Marvin Cemetery, which is located near his home in Little River County, Arkansas.  His son, David, is also buried in Marvin Cemetery.

    There are monuments for Pauline and for John L. located in Hartford but John L.'s says he is buried near Foreman, Arkansas.  The following is from the Hartford Republican 19 Sep 1913.

The following is from a newspaper in Arkansas, the Foreman Sun:

J. L. Barnett

Foreman Sun 

Wednesday, September 24, 1913 

J. L. Barnett died at his home at Arden Wednesday morning at the age of 63 years, after an illness of several days duration. 

Mr. Barnett formally resided in Foreman and has many friends here who will regret to learn of his death.  He was born in Hartford, Kentucky, but moved to Foreman about nine years ago which place he made his home until a short time ago, moving to Arden after being married to Mrs. Brown of that place. 

He leaves five children to mourn his death, two of whom were at his bedside when death came, S. E. Barnett, of Idabel Oklahoma, and Mrs. R. M. Thornberry, of Owensboro, Kentucky, a daughter.  Three children who reside at Louisville, Kentucky, did not arrive. 

The remains were interred at Marvin cemetery Wednesday afternoon, but will be taken up after and removed to the family burial ground in Kentucky

The Sun extends sympathy to the bereaved. 

Check the bottom words, "Buried near Foreman, Ark."

Note that in the article from the Foreman Sun it mentions that John L. married a Mrs. Brown from Arden, Arkansas.  I found that Sallie E. (Hanson) Brown from Arden became a widow in 1911 (her husband had been C. C. Brown); and I found the marriage info for John L. and Sallie:
Name:Sallie E Brown
Birth Year:abt 1871
Residence:Arden, LIttle River, Arkansas
Spouse's Name:J L Barnett
Spouse's Gender:Male
Spouse's Age:60
Spouse's Residence:Foreman, LIttle River, Arkansas
Marriage Date:20 May 1913
Marriage License Date:20 May 1913
Marriage County:LIttle River
Event Type:Marriage
FHL Film Number:1007918

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Lillian Lulu (Lula) Davis

           Lillian Lulu (Lula) Davis was born in Cromwell in March 1887, the daughter of John Wesley (Wes) Davis and Mary J. Schrader.  Lulu married Amos Ransom about 1903 and they lived in Cromwell on Old Hartford Road.  Amos was from Indiana and was born 14 June 1877.  Their son, Earnest Woodrow Ransom, was born 31 May 1908.  The 1910 census also says they had lost one child and I think that child was named Otto R. Ransom, who was born 28 Feb 1904.  The 1910 census also says Amos was a “tie hack” which means he made cross-ties for the railroad. 

          Their neighbors were John & Mary Combs; John M. & Elizabeth Leach; Richard & Mollie Davis; and Oscar & Annie Davis.  Most of their neighbors were farmers.

          In the spring of 1915 Lulu was pregnant again, and again she lost the baby.  Apparently the loss of the second child was more than she could bear and, at age 26, on 27 June 1915, she committed suicide.  Lulu is buried in Shields cemetery in Cromwell.

          The following is a short article from the Hartford Republican dated 2 July 1915 and a copy of her death certificate. You will see in the article that Lulu took laudanum, which was an alcohol solution containing morphine, prepared from opium and was used as a pain killer.  An article on the internet says that doctors would give laudanum to babies for teething.  It was sold without a prescription and was used in many patent medicines. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The 1890 Census


The 1890 Census

             We have all searched the census records for clues and information about our ancestors, and we have all discovered that the 1890 census is not available, but I have never known why.  Today I discovered the full story about the loss of those precious records.

          The 1890 census was taken as of June 1, 1890 and gathered different information than former census schedules; there was a separate schedule used for each family with new questions about race, home ownership, ability to speak English, immigration, naturalization, number of children born & living, and Civil War service. Enumerators completed their counting by July 1, 1890 and the original forms were sent to Washington.  At that time we did not have a Census Bureau and the Department of the Interior administered the census. 

          An abstract of the census was published in 1894 revealing the population by States, plus information about agriculture, manufacturing, etc. – but these numbers and statistics are totals and contain no individual information.  The population count ascertained from the records was determined to be 62,979,766.  After that information was taken from the records the original records were then stored in the basement of the Commerce Building as we had no National Archives.

          On January 10, 1921 a fire occurred in the basement where these records were stored and some of the records were burned and most were water damaged.  The damaged records were moved to a warehouse and were later purposely destroyed in the 1930’s. Why they were destroyed is a mystery.  The only remaining records are fragments from various states with fewer than 6,160 names. 

          I have found an online article that explains in detail what happened to the 1890 census.  If you are interested in this subject just check on the links below:

Part 1: 

Part 2:

Part 3 (Notes only):

And if this is a subject that you are deeply interested in, you can look at the 1890 Government Pamphlet given to the enumerators: