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April 10, 2014

Traces of Laurel: Dora Faris/Farris

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — In my research on Laurel County surnames over the years I have noticed that the Faris/Farris name is spelled with one R in some places and with two R’s in others, even though these families were clearly related.  The distinction seems to have been whether the family lived in the country or in town.

Dora Faris, the subject of this week’s column, is a prime example.  I first find her in the census of 1860 in the home of her parents, James and Marian (or Miriam) Farris, in the Raccoon precinct of Laurel County.  She is listed as Belvadora and is two years old.  (According to her tombstone in Faris Cemetery, she was born March 31, 1858).  Her name is soon shortened to Dora and that is how it appears in the census of 1870 when she is twelve.

By the time we meet her as the only woman Star Route mail contractor in Laurel County she is living in town and her name is spelled with one R.  I say all that to stress that both these Doras were the same person.

Both Logan Ewell and Russell Dyche wrote about Dora Faris and lauded her for her business sense and her success in a man’s world.  Ewell wrote:  “It was rare indeed to encounter a woman who dared to leave the shelter of her own home to brave the uncertainty of a world of business largely dominated by the men of the time.”

Dora’s sister had married Vincent Boreing, a London businessman and later congressman, and it was in Boreing’s store that Dora first worked when she moved to town, and where she learned how to be a business woman.  She took it and ran with it, becoming one of the most successful Star Route mail contractors.

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