June 13, 2013

Traces of Laurel: Exploring local history

By Jan Sparkman

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Welcome to the resurrection of Traces of Laurel.  This column, which appeared weekly for several years in the 1980s and 1990s, is produced by the Laurel County Historical Society with the hope that local readers will take new interest in the history of our county and its people.  

The historical society in its present form was established in the 1960s by Logan and Barbara Ewell, London lawyer Fredora P. Lay, and others.  Thanks to these residents and to those who joined them in the years that followed, the organization has grown from a small collection of books and papers kept in boxes under the bed of this or that member to a full-sized library with thousands of books, pictures, family records and memorabilia.

In the weeks ahead, this column will introduce you to the vast treasure of information available to all Laurel Countians through the historical society. From commentary on the county’s early days, its founders and inhabitants, to lists of materials and upcoming special events, natives will be able to see where they fit into the Laurel County mosaic, and those who have moved into the area from somewhere else will discover new and interesting things about their adopted home.

One of the projects set to take off in the near future is an oral history of the county as told by its people.  So much of our past is lost because we do not take advantage of the wisdom and knowledge of those who lived it.  Members of the society will arrange and conduct interviews with residents over the age of 80, inviting them to tell about their lives on video tape.  

“Who were your parents? Where did you live? What school did you attend?  What church?  What was your occupation?  What did you do for entertainment? What do you remember about your childhood?”  These and other simple questions will be asked and the answers will paint a picture of how it used to be.    The completed video tapes will be on file at the historical society’s library for viewing.  Watch this column in the weeks ahead for more about when this will begin and how you can participate.

Officers of the Laurel County Historical Society include:  Anglee Smith, Shirley McCowan, Ann Patton, JoAnn Roberts, and Beuna Bishop; Directors are: Renee Beets, Cordell Huff , Jan Sparkman and Doris Grant. Membership is not required to use the library but is helpful to the society as a funding resource. Dues are $15 per year and are payable on January 1. A quarterly newsletter of about 30 pages is sent to all members.

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The Laurel County Historical Society is located at 310 W. 3rd St., London, (formerly the Laurel County Health Department).  The library is open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 12 noon.  For further information, contact 606-864-0607 during library hours, or 606-224-3767 at other times. Email the society at or Jan Sparkman at