Where Are the Women? In the “Blue Book!”

I was watching the Antiques Roadshow program on KET last week—the week before the Olympics began. It was an old show from August 11, 2001 titled “Vintage New Orleans.”

If you’re not familiar with the Antiques Roadshow, it is “part adventure, part history lesson and part treasure hunt,” according to the website’s description. Basically, the television crew visits cities across the United States and residents bring items to have experts provide information about them and have the items appraised for both historic and monetary value.

As always, there were many interesting items brought in for appraisal during that particular program, but the one which caught my attention and imagination was a “Blue Book.”

Now this “Blue Book” wasn’t the kind that tells you how much your car is worth. It wasn’t the kind with blank sheets of paper you use to take written tests in college. It wasn’t a guide of government officials or a directory of a city’s upper class citizens.

No, this “Blue Book” was a 1915 printed guide to brothels, prostitutes, sporting houses and other “vice services” in New Orleans.

The appraisal for this little guide book was $5,000 at auction, which may have been a bit optimistic because I found another “Blue Book” from around 1905 that recently sold at auction for a mere $1,200. Still, considering the “Blue Book” originally sold for twenty-five cents, I’d say that was a pretty good return-on-investment!

The auction house, Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers of Boston, New York, Miami, and Marlborough (MA), provided an auction estimate of between $800 and $1,000, but the book sold for a bit more.

md-blue-book-1386Their description of the item follows:

“Blue Book, [Directory and Guide to Prostitutes in the Sporting District of New Orleans]. [New Orleans: no printer, no date, c. 1905], Tenth edition. Small octavo, original tan wrappers printed in blue, text pages printed on coated stock in red and black, stapled; paper wraps breaking along joints, old tape repairs, 5 1/2 x 4 1/4 in.”
The description also included the introduction from the book:

“Why New Orleans should have this directory: First- Because it is the only district of its kind in the States set aside for the fast women by law. Second- Because it puts the stranger on a proper and safe path as to where he may go and be free from ‘Hold Ups,’ and any other game usually practiced upon the stranger. Third- It regulates the women so that they may live in one district to themselves instead of being scattered over the city.”

“Blue Books” were known to be published in New Orleans as early as the 1880s, and possibly earlier.

In 1897, the New Orleans City Council confined prostitution to the sixteen square blocks north of the French Quarter, an area that became known as Storyville—so named for the city councilman (Mr. Story) who wanted to contain prostitution in one area of the city.

I’m not sure Mr. Story was thrilled to have the city’s red light district named for him, but who knows? He may have relished it as his “fifteen minutes of fame.”

Other cities in the United States also had Blue Books. One known example was San Antonio, Texas.

At least one surviving Blue Book from San Antonio, which dates from 1911-1912, includes on page one a Preface, which states: “This directory of the Sporting District is intended as an accurate guide to those who are seeking a good time. To the stranger and visitor while in San Antonio, this book will be welcome, because it puts him on a proper and safe path as to where he may go and feel secure from ‘Hold Ups’ and any other game usually practiced on the stranger. Anyone perusing this booklet expecting to be regaled with lewd and obscene reading matter will be sadly disappointed, as outside of some harmless wit or toasts it contains only what necessary information is required to make it a directory. This Blue Book is at this writing the second one of its kind in the United States, (there being one in New Orleans, La.) and is issued strictly for information purposes, nothing more. – The Publisher.”

So, what does all this have to do with Kentucky history? Or, more precisely, Kentucky women in history? Well, nothing, directly. But the little “Blue Book” on the Antiques Roadshow brought to mind two rather famous—or should I say, infamous—Kentucky woman.

If you know much about Kentucky history and women in Kentucky history, you’ve probably at least heard of a Lexington woman named Belle Brezing (June 16, 1860 – August 11, 1940), who was a nationally-known “madam” said by some to have been the model for Margaret Mitchell’s character, Belle Watling, in Gone With the Wind.

Then there was Pauline Tabor (April 11, 1905 – June 8, 1992), a famous madam (though not a prostitute herself) whose house on Clay Street in Bowling Green was reported to be one of the longest-running brothels in the United States, from the 1930s to the 1960s.

And although no “Blue Book” of Lexington or Bowling Green has ever been discovered (as far as I know), both Belle Brezing and Pauline Tabor’s brick house would have been listed in its pages if there had been one published in either city.

Even a cursory search of the Internet will provide tons of information about both Belle Brezing and Pauline Tabor, so I won’t go any deeper into their lives and times in this blog.

But I did find one unique item which I thought my readers might be interested to see: an 1882 pardon from Kentucky Governor Luke P. Blackburn for Belle Breezing’s indictment by the Fayette County Grand Jury for “keeping a bawdy house.” (See image below.)

The little “Blue Book” appraised on the Antiques Roadshow reminded me that Kentucky women—and all women, in fact—from all walks of life need to be remembered and the stories of their lives need to be preserved for future generations to study and learn from.

Danna Estridge, Guest Blogger


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Where Are the Women? “Grandma” Pennington

Known and loved by many residents of Laurel County as “Grandma Pennington,” Elizabeth Katherine “Kitsy” Graham Pennington was born on Oct. 16, 1837 in Lee County, Virginia, a daughter of Henry Graham and Mary Russell Graham.

She lived the last several years of her adult life in Laurel County, and was very well known in the area. She died here on June 19, 1921, and is buried in the A.R. Dyche Memorial Park in London.Grandma Pennington headstone

Like many women of her era, “Grandma” Pennington’s life was defined in great part by the men around her.

In fact, her greatest claim to fame was that she was the mother of five sons, all of whom were doctors. But we’ll come back to that in a minute.

Her husband, Edward Mitchell Pennington, was a Civil War veteran who enlisted with the Confederate Army on Sept. 16, 1861 and served with Company A, 21st Virginia Infantry and Company A, 64th Virginia Infantry during the war.

Edward was a son of Elijah B. Pennington and Sarah Elizabeth Jones Pennington. He was born on February 24, 1832 in Lee County, Virginia. He and Kitsy were married on Oct. 1, 1858 in Lee County.

The couple had five sons (all of whom were doctors, as mentioned above) and two daughters (one of whom died in infancy).

The family was living in Union County, Tennessee, at the time the U.S. Census was taken in 1900, but had relocated here in Laurel County some time before Edward’s death on Dec. 28, 1905.

One of their sons, Dr. Henry Vincent Pennington (Dec. 29, 1869 – Oct. 15, 1944), had already moved to London in May of 1891 after earning his medical degree from the University of Tennessee. It is probable that he encouraged his parents to move to Laurel County a few years later because their children had all left home and the aging couple had no one to care for them.

Edward, in fact, was ill for several months before his death, and his obituary said he died at the home of his son, Dr. Henry Vincent Pennington.

Henry was noted as a “pioneer surgeon in Southeastern Kentucky.” He also founded Pennington Hospital in London in 1907, the only hospital between Knoxville, Tennessee and Lexington, Kentucky at the time. The hospital was purchased in 1946 by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and renamed Marymount (Our Lady of the Mountain).

“Grandma” Pennington’s four other sons also made names for themselves as men of medicine.

Dr. Evan B. Pennington (Nov. 17, 1859 – March 11, 1954) became a dentist and set up his practice in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dr. James Reece Pennington (Jan. 18, 1865 – Feb. 4, 1940) was also a dentist. He practices mostly in Nicholasville and Richmond, Kentucky.

Dr. Patton Abraham Pennington (Feb. 16, 1867 – March 24, 1961) of Louisville, held degrees in both dentistry and medicine.

Dr. Madison K. Pennington (May 12, 1875 – April 8, 1921), of London, was a dentist and business man. He died young, only 46 years old, and “had spent half his life fighting for his health,” according to his obituary.

“Grandma” Pennington outlived her husband, her youngest son and both of her daughters: Emiretha (Emma) Pennington Campbell (Nov. 5, 1861 – May 30, 1916) and Hattie B. Pennington (1879 – March 2, 1882).

According to her obituary, she was “a life-long and devoted member of the M. E. Church, South, and up to the last insisted on being taken to church and filled her place in the services, hers being a beautiful Christian character.”

She died “after a long illness” at the home of her son, Dr. Henry Vincent Pennington, on June 19, 1921, and now rests next to her beloved husband, four of her sons and many other family members in the A.R. Dyche Memorial Park in London.


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Blogging About History

Yes, I am once again behind schedule for posting my blog. But I’m not going to apologize this time. Instead, I’m going to explain what it’s like to write a blog about history.

Blogging about history is different from many other types of blogging.

It’s fascinating, but difficult. It’s difficult because it’s time consuming to do the research involved in writing a factual, interesting story about real people who lived in a real world and did real things and had real families and dealt with real difficulties and had real experiences and lead real lives.

If I was writing about my own feelings or my own experiences or my own family or my own life, I could write a blog every day. Twice a day. Maybe even three times a day.

But the type of blog I have chosen to write is based in research.

And because I am such a meticulous researcher—which in most cases is a good thing—I feel the need to find out all I possibly can about a subject before I sit down and begin to write about it.

And once I do sit down and begin to write, I inevitably find holes that need to be filled before I feel like I have covered the subject thoroughly, even for a blog post. It’s just how I am.

What this means is that I might need to research a subject for several days or even several weeks before I feel like I have enough information to write an informative, factual, entertaining, enlightening blog about the subject.

Which is why I don’t always post a blog every week.

For instance, I am currently on a quest to research and write about the lives of Laurel County women who have been largely ignored by the historians who have written about Laurel County history.

I have discovered and written about some remarkable women who lived in Laurel County at least part of their lives and who went on to achieve some degree of fame in the wider world.

I am currently researching several women who had ties to Laurel County and who were well known in the rest of the country and even in the rest of the world, but few people in Laurel County today recognize their names or know they have ties to our county.

I think that’s a shame, and I am trying to do something about it.

But it takes time.

It takes more time to research women than men because I am unable to rely on the “normal” historical sources for information about the people in Laurel County, namely Dr. Thomas Clark’s excellent book, A History of Laurel County (although his book is where I discovered Florence Campbell, which led me to other sources for more information about this fascinating woman—see my blog post on March 27, 2016 for her story), or Russell Dyche’s In the Middle of the Wilderness, another history of Laurel County.

Why? Because like most historians, mostly men, Clark and Dyche mostly wrote about the men who created Laurel County history—a.k.a. “his story”—get it?

Even the word that describes humanity’s past is exclusive of the women—the women who stood right beside the men, who aided the men, who in some cases outdid the men—but because men have written most of the books about the past, they have largely ignored the women.

I’m happy to say that is changing, although slowly.

For example, the University of Georgia Press published a wonderful book in 2015 titled Kentucky Women: Their Lives and Times.

(Notice that it was the University of Georgia press, not the University of Kentucky press. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from that tidbit of information.)

Anyway, the book includes biographies of 17 notable Kentucky women—some of them unfamiliar even to me.

I read the book with delight, and when the Laurel County Public Library held a series of discussions on the book, led by one of the editors, Thomas H. Appleton, Jr., I attended and had a wonderful time learning more about some of the women written about in the book.

So, women are becoming more recognized for their achievements, but as I said earlier, it is happening slowly.

And I can understand why.

The reason women’s achievements are being recognized and written about slowly is because it takes so much time to find the information, which has not been widely recorded and must be discovered bit by bit and piece by piece diligently searching through a number of different sources.

And even then there is usually a lot of information that is never discovered because it was never recorded by anyone in any tangible form that has been passed down through the years.

So, yes, my blog posts are somewhat less than regular. But hopefully, you now understand why, and I hope you will continue to check back frequently to read what I’ve written.

Because, in the words of George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (The Life of Reason, Volume 1: Reason in Common Sense, 1905-1906)

See you soon!

Danna C. Estridge

Guest Blogger

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Memorial Day: A Time to Remember, a Time to Honor

I watched the Memorial Day Concert last night on KET. As always, I was very moved by the true stories of sacrifice, hardship and heartbreak suffered by military men and women and their families and friends.

It reminded me that we must not forget the brave American souls who faced the difficulties of war to keep America—and other nations—free and independent.

The history of Memorial Day is important to remember, also, because it was born out of the worst conflict ever to take place on American soil—the American Civil War.

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day and was a time set aside to honor the 620,000 soldiers and sailors who died in America’s Civil War by decorating their graves.

May 30, 1868 was designated as the first official Decoration Day by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former Union sailors and soldiers.

On May 5, 1868, Logan declared in General Orders Number 11:

The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

During that first celebration of Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery.

After his speech, 5,000 volunteers helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.

By the late 1800s, many communities across the country celebrated Decoration Day.

After World War I, observances also began to honor those who had died in all wars in which Americans participated.

Those celebrations were held on May 30, continuing to observe the date specified in Logan’s 1868 orders.

In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday and designated the last Monday in May as the official date of the celebration.

Today, Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave.

Also, it is customary for the president or vice-president to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

About 5,000 people attend the ceremony annually, approximately the same number who attended the May 30, 1868 ceremony.

In many places around the country organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, scout troops, and others, make sure that every person who served in the military has a small flag placed on their graves.

Although it’s probably no longer “politically correct,”several Southern states continue to set aside a special day for honoring the Confederate dead, which is usually called Confederate Memorial Day:

  • Mississippi: Last Monday in April
  • Alabama: Fourth Monday in April
  • Georgia: April 26
  • North Carolina: May 10
  • South Carolina: May 10
  • Louisiana: June 3
  • Tennessee (Confederate Decoration Day): June 3
  • Texas (Confederate Heroes Day): January 19
  • Virginia (Confederate Memorial Day): Last Monday in May

So as we go to the beach, or to the park, or to visit relatives in another city, or to cook out on the grill today, let’s remember why we have the freedom to do such activities. And let’s set aside a few minutes to remember those who served—some of whom died—so that we might live in a free country.

Thank you, U.S. Military members, wherever you are and whenever you served. You deserve our our thanks, our honor, and our respect.

You deserve far more then we can ever give back to you for the great gift you have given to us.


Danna C. Estridge, Guest Blogger

Following is a list of casualties from wars in which Americans fought since 1861:

Civil War: Approximately 620,000 Americans died. The Union lost almost 365,000 troops and the Confederacy about 260,000. More than half of these deaths were caused by disease.

World War I: 116,516 Americans died, more than half from disease.

World War II: 405,399 Americans died.

Korean War: 36,574 Americans died.

Vietnam Conflict: 58,220 Americans died. More than 47,000 Americans were killed in action and nearly 11,000 died of other causes.

Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm (Gulf War/Saudi Arabia): 383 U.S. service members died.

Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq): 4,424 U.S. service members have died.

Operation New Dawn (Iraq and Afghanistan): 73 U.S. service members have died.

Operation Enduring Freedom (the Global War on Terrorism in Afghanistan, Philippines, Somalia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Sahara ): 2,349 U.S. service members have died.

Freedom’s Sentinel (successor to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, beginning in 2015): 22 U.S. service members have died as of May 27, 2016.

(Source for casualties: USA Today)


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Where Are the Women? Sarah Ruble Boreing

Sarah Boreing, nee Ruble, was born in 1810 in Tennessee. She married Murray S. Boreing in Washington County, Tennessee, and the couple had eight children.

The family moved to Kentucky in 1847, eventually settling down in Laurel County.

One of Sarah’s sons, Vincent Boreing (1839-1903), served with the Union Army during the Civil War, possibly taking a cue from his mother, who had strong anti-slavery sentiments.

After the war, Vincent was the Department Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic in Kentucky, and he became a prominent leader in Laurel County.

He was County Superintendent of Public Schools from 1868 to 1872; served as county judge in 1886; was president of the First National Bank of London in 1888; and was elected as a Republican to the 56th, 57th and 58th U.S. Congresses.

Another of Sarah’s sons, Amon (or Ammon) Boreing (1842-1925) was an ordained minister and Doctor of Divinity with the Kentucky Conference Methodist Episcopal Church and was well known in Laurel County.

Sarah was a devoted Christian and a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church from an early age.

When the church split in 1844 due to differences over the slavery issue, Sarah was forced to go with the Methodist Episcopal Church South because of where she lived, but always maintained a fervent hope to one day reunite with the church in which she had grown up.

Sarah’s husband, Murray, died on January 29, 1887, and was buried in the A. R. Dyche Memorial Park in London, where sons Vincent and Amon are also buried. She remained a widow until her death eight years later.

Sarah Ruble Boreing died Feb. 2, 1895, Nacona, Texas, where she was living with her Sarah Boreing stonedaughter. She is buried there in the Nacona Cemetery in Montague County.

Her obituary in the Mountain Echo stated that she was “a woman of great fortitude and decision of character, entertaining pronounced views on religion and morals, much of which she impressed upon her children.”

Sarah sounds like a woman I would have liked to have known. Sorry I missed meeting her.

Danna C. Estridge, Guest Blogger

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Where Are the Women? Jones, Morano, Okawa

No, the names in the title of this week’s blog are not Laurel County women. Nor are they Kentucky women.

They are women from New York, Italy and Japan, respectively.

Why are they in my blog?

Because I just found out that they all lived to be more than 116 years old!

My last blog was about a 100-year-old Laurel County woman, so I thought it might be appropriate to put her in perspective with other women who lived more than a century, even though they weren’t from Laurel County or even from Kentucky.

Susannah Mushatt Jones, currently the world’s oldest living person according to the Guinness Book of World Records, died in New York just a few days ago at 116 years of age.

Susannah was born in 1899 in Alabama, one of 11 siblings. She attended a special school for African American girls, graduating from high school in 1922.

She made her way north to New Jersey and eventually to New York, where she worked for many years as a nanny. Although she was married for five years, between 1928 and 1933, she never had any children of her own.

According to family members, Susannah credited her longevity to living on her own for so many years, and to love of family and generosity to others.

Susannah inherited the title of world’s oldest living person when Misao Okawa died in Japan last year. She was born in Osaka, Japan, on March 5, 1898, and died just a few days after her 117th birthday.

Misao was the daughter of a kimono maker. She married in 1919 and the couple had two daughters and a son. Her husband died in 1931 and she never remarried.

Misao said at her 117th birthday party that her life seemed “rather short.”

When asked about her secret for such a long life, she replied, “I wonder about that, too.”

Interestingly, Japan has the most people in the world who have lived to the age of 100 years or more, a reported 58,000–of whom 87 percent are women.

With the death of Susannah Jones, the oldest living person in the world is another woman: Emma Morano of Italy.

Emma is just a few months younger than Susannah, and is the last person alive who is verified to have been born in the 1800s.

Emma credits her long life to eating three eggs every day–two of them raw–which she has been doing since she was 20 years old, when she was diagnosed with anemia and advised to consume the eggs to combat her condition.

She also says her longevity is due in part to leaving a violent husband in 1938, shortly after her only child died at 7 months old.

I am amazed that these women lived so long, and salute them for their courage to face the world as single women for so many years, especially at a time when being married was the normal and expected status for women.

I just had to share my discovery of these remarkable women with my readers (both of you are still out there, aren’t you?). I hope you found them as interesting as I did.

My recent research has revealed other Laurel County women who have lived long lives, also, and I will be featuring some of them in upcoming weeks, so stay tuned for more thrilling tales of Laurel County women!

See you next time.

Danna C. Estridge
Guest Blogger

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Where are the Women? Mina Hauselman

I apologize for my long absence from writing for this blog, but I intend to dive back in this week and be less erratic in my posts in the future.

Mina HauselmanThis week I want to write about an “ordinary” Laurel County woman whose only claim to fame–as far as I can tell– is the fact that she lived to the age of 100 years, 7 months and 13 days, which is an extraordinary achievement in itself and I thought it should be recognized.

The woman’s name was Mina Ott Jones Hauselman, but was known to most people as “Aunt Minnie.”

She was born on March 29, 1895 in Bernstadt, Laurel County, Kentucky, a daughter of Reinhardt and Elyza (Elsie) Geiser Ott.

Her parents were born in Switzerland and came to Laurel County to settle in the Swiss Colony at Bernstadt.

Mina attended school and completed the fifth grade.

She first married Calvin Uthank “Thank” Jones in 1910 and the couple had two sons and a daughter: Rexford G. Jones, Walter Leander Jones (who died in infancy), and Daisy Jones.

Thank Jones died in 1928, and Mina was left to raise two young children on her own, so she went to work to support her family.

The 1930 census lists Mina’s occupation as a general merchant working in the retail industry. Under the heading “class of worker” is listed “working on own account.”

Did that mean she was a door-to-door salesperson? That she owned her own retail business? Her parents owned a store in Bernstadt, so perhaps she worked for them on commission. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find out specifically what she did for a living during my brief research into her life.

Paul Hauselman and Mina "Aunt Minnie" Ott Jones on their wedding day.

Paul Hauselman and Mina “Aunt Minnie” Ott Jones on their wedding day.

By 1940, Mina was married to Paul Hauselman. Her obituary did not list any children for this marriage, and her obituary says she was preceded in death by three children and both her husbands, so I presume she and Paul never had children of their own.

Paul had children from a previous marriage, though, two of whom survived Mina. She was also survived by five nieces and one nephew.

Mina was a member of the Swiss Colony Baptist Church and the Swiss Descendants Club.

Some items from her life are at the Laurel County History Museum and Genealogy Center, Inc. if you’d like to stop by and see them. The photos in this blog are courtesy of the Museum, also.

After a long life, Mina died on November 11, 1995 and was buried in the Swiss Colony Cemetery.

Although “Aunt Minnie” never achieved fame for deeds like running for public office or being an architectural genius, in her 100-plus years in Laurel County she must have touched many, many lives and made an impact on the people who knew and loved her.

What more could be said of any human being?

Rest in peace, Aunt Minnie. I know you are missed.

Danna C. Estridge,

Guest Blogger

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Where Are The Women? Florence M. Campbell

I have found another Laurel County woman I believe is worthy of adding to this blog. Her name was Florence M. Campbell, and her link to Laurel County was as Music Director for Sue Bennett Memorial School from 1898 to 1918.

Florence Campbell in 1898. Note the "US" belt buckle she is wearing. It appears to be a military belt buckle.

Florence Campbell in 1898 at Sue Bennett Memorial School. Note the “US” belt buckle she is proudly wearing. It appears to be a military belt buckle.

Born on Aug. 21, 1866 in Liverpool, England, Florence M. Campbell was a daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth (Passant) Campbell, both of whom were born in Ireland.

Some time after Florence celebrated her 14th birthday, Samuel, Elizabeth, Florence and her four siblings (two brothers and two sisters) immigrated to the United States.

Florence began her teaching career in Suffolk, Virginia, where she was in charge of musical instruction at a college there for seven years. After she came to Sue Bennett, she continued her education during the summer months studying under master musicians in Europe.

Miss Campbell, who never married, was very popular with the students at Sue Bennett. She often held parties for students at her home or at the school. Music recitals by her department were well attended and praised by members of the community.

Indeed, she seemed to be loved by many people in London. According to The Sentinel-Echo, “she endeared herself in the hearts of everyone in London.”

Florence Campbell was also a devout Methodist who took her duties as a Christian very seriously. She not only helped conduct revival services and other worship services in churches within the community, she also regularly visited the prisoners confined in the Laurel County Jail, where she helped conduct worship and prayer services for the inmates.

It was her involvement with the jail that first caught my attention. She wrote a series of impassioned letters to the editor of The Mountain Echo newspaper in 1904 advocating the construction of a new jail due to the deplorable conditions in the existing jail.

In her first letter, Miss Campbell described the conditions inside the jail:

“Very few of the citizens of Laurel county [sic] have ever seen the inside of this jail. As to the sanitary arrangements and condition, I know that the place is unfit for human beings. I wish that more of the people would go and see for themselves the state of that place of confinement. In the visits we make there, to hold religious services, we have opportunities to know the unwholesomeness of the place.”

“Most of the time it is so dark that it is almost impossible to read when we go in there out of the light. It is really a dungeon, and is endangering the health and even lives of those kept there.”

The old Laurel County Jail which Florence M. Campbell advocated replacing in 1904.

The old Laurel County Jail which Florence M. Campbell advocated replacing in 1904.

“The floor is so damp that often the feet are wet after being in there, and it is cold and chilly. Even in the hottest part of the summer we need wraps while in there. That might not be so bad, but when there is such an unwholesome odor, as there always is, it is not at all pleasant. It is unclean, unhealthy, dark, damp and cold.”

Subsequent letters contained graphic illustrations of life in the jail building, including the death of one inmate which she attributed to the unhealthy conditions within the jail.

[Transcripts of these letters in their entirety can be read here.]

A new jail was eventually built, though how much Miss Campbell’s advocacy influenced the decision is unknown. However, both Laurel County historian Russell Dyche and Kentucky historian Dr. Thomas D. Clark found her letter-writing campaign important enough to mention it in their books about Laurel County history.

Florence Campbell left Sue Bennett in 1918 to become the Director of Music at Union College Conservatory in Barbourville, Ky. Sadly, she died from cancer two years later, on Dec. 18, 1920. She was 54 years old.

Florence Campbell is buried in A. R. Dyche Memorial Park beside her beloved mother, Elizabeth, and younger brother, Samuel E. Campbell.

Danna Estridge
Guest Blogger

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Where Are The Women? Julia E. Randall Ramsey Brown

Continuing my theme of finding out more about some of the women in Laurel County’s history, the subject of this week’s blog is Julia E. Randall Ramsey Brown, who was the first woman postmaster of the London Post Office.

As Mrs. Julia E. Ramsey, she served as postmaster from March 28, 1866 through Nov. 6, 1866, when Hiram G. Litton was appointed to the position. Litton had also served from June 7, 1864 to March 28, 1866, when Julia was appointed.

Born in 1840, Julia was the eldest daughter of William H. Randall and Martha Jane Slaughter Randall. Julia had three brothers and one sister.

If the name William H. Randall sounds familiar to you, it is probably because he was a prominent Laurel County resident in the 1800s.

Among other things, William Randall was a lawyer, circuit court clerk, county court clerk, circiut court judge, and was elected as congressman for the Eighth Congressional District of Kentucky in 1863 and 1865.

He is also one of the subjects on a Kentucky Historical Highway Marker that stands near the south entrance of the A. R. Dyche Memorial Park on South Main Street in London.

But back to Julia.

She married her first husband, merchant William Russell Ramsey, in Laurel County on Aug. 25, 1855 when she was just 15 years old. William was 23.

The couple had three sons: William Russell Ramsey, Jr., born 1856, died 1937 (age 81); Elmer Mark Ramsey, born 1860, died 1879 (age 19); Russell Thompson Ramsey, born 1862, died 1954 (age 92).

By 1867, Julia was a widow with three young sons to raise by herself. She was appointed as administrator of her husband’s estate on Dec. 4, 1867. William died intestate (without a will).

Since married women had no property rights in Kentucky in 1867, and since serving as administrator for an estate without a last will & testament was then, as now, a monumental task, Julia must have been a remarkably competent woman to be appointed administrator of William’s estate. That role was usually reserved for men.

Of course, having a father who was a Congressman probably didn’t hurt.

Julia remarried in 1874 to dry goods merchant John Tilford Brown in Laurel County. He was a widower. Julia and John did not have any children together, but both had children from their previous marriages.

Although Julia’s middle son, Elmer Mark, died young, her other two sons went on to lead long and successful lives, due in part, no doubt, to her influence.

William Russell Ramsey, Jr. became a lawyer, serving at one time as prosecuting attorney for the district. He was also a delegate to the Constitutional Convention when the new Constitution for Kentucky was drafted in the 1890s. William, who was an expert penman, was commissioned to inscribe the new Constitution onto parchment made from sheepskin. His handwriting, it seems, was unequaled in all of Kentucky for its beauty and legibility.

Julia’s youngest son, Russell Thompson Ramsey, became a physician.

Julia E. Randall Ramsey Brown (sorry, I never did find out what her middle initial “E” stood for) died on Oct. 12, 1880 of flux (dysentery), from which she had suffered for two weeks. She was only 40 years old.

Although her greatest claim to fame may have been her relationship to the men in her life, she was also a competent woman who was intelligent enough to serve as postmaster of the London Post Office, serve as administrator for her husband’s intestate estate, and raise three young sons on her own–none of which would have been easy for anyone in the mid-1800s.

Danna Estridge
Guest Blogger

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Laura R. White: Teacher, Scholar, Architect

This week’s blog continues the “where are the women in Laurel County’s history?” theme I started a few weeks ago.

My subject this week is Miss Laura Rogers White, who first caught my attention when she was mentioned in the Dec. 2, 1881 issue of The Mountain Echo newspaper: “Laura R. White has opened an office in Washington City for the practice of her profession— architecture.”Laura-White

Hmmm. A woman architect in 1881? A Laurel County woman opening an office in Washington, D.C., as a professional architect in 1881?

I had to know more.

So I began researching Laura Rogers White, and found that she was quite a remarkable woman for her time.

Laura taught school in Laurel County and also did land surveying here for quitclaim deeds. She was a Clay County native, born near Manchester on Dec. 11, 1852, a daughter of Daugherty and Sarah White.

She was one of the first eight women to graduate from the University of Michigan (1874), and studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) in Boston and the Sorbonne in Paris, France.

Laura worked as draughtsman in the Office of the Supervisory Architect of the Treasury Department in Washington, D.C., for two years, and served as a Kentucky delegate at the first session of the first annual meeting of the Women’s Peace Party Convention in Washington, D.C., in January 1916.

Probably her greatest architectural achievement was designing the First Christian Church of Ashland, Kentucky, which was completed in 1890.

According to the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for the First Christian Church of Ashland, “the designer of Ashland’s old First Christian Church provided the community with a tasteful house of worship that represented an affluent and fashionable neighborhood near the heart of the downtown, and that now serves as an 1890 landmark near the center of the central business district.”

Ashland’s pastor, W. H. Hull, said at the church’s dedication in 1891, that “the success which has attended my work here is largely due to the substantial aid of Miss White, our architect.”

To put into perspective just how rare Laura White’s profession was in the late 1800s, there were only 118 architects in Kentucky in 1900. Of those, only two were women (A History of the Profession of Architecture in Kentucky, p. 20).

Although Laura R. White apparently did not design any other buildings—at least none that were built—she did design a circular staircase for the ante-bellum house at 1844 Griffith Avenue in Owensboro, Kentucky.

She traveled widely throughout Europe and the United States, but eventually returned to her native Clay County to manage the White family’s salt-making business. She never married or had any children.

Laura Rogers White died of a heart condition on Jan. 25, 1929 at the home of her sister, Elizabeth White Hager, in Owensboro, Kentucky. She is buried in the White family cemetery at Goose Rock in Clay County, Kentucky.

Danna C. Estridge, Guest Blogger

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