By Jan Sparkman
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — What I’m trying to do with this column, at least in the beginning, is to comment on the events and personalities that made up the first 100 years of Laurel County’s history, and to do it in a more or less chronological order.
We are fortunate that, in our county, official records have not been lost to fire or other disasters (as has happened in many places) so that we still have access to old marriage, land, and court records at the county courthouse. However, the lack of a newspaper during the first forty- plus years of our history means that information on events and institutions of that period is sketchy. If not for historians like John J. Dickey and Russell Dyche, we would know even less.
Dyche has left a good history of Laurel Seminary, the first institution of higher education in the county, in a small booklet on the subject written in 1943. In it he quotes another chronicler of the past, C. B. Faris, who was on the Board of Trustees for Laurel Seminary from the time it began.
Remember that a few weeks ago I wrote about the state’s making provision for establishment of schools to individual counties by giving them unused land in other parts of the state which they could sell to fund school buildings and equipment. And remember that Laurel’s county court was woefully negligent in taking advantage of this provision and so the land, and the money it could have brought in, lay dormant for years and years.
In the mid 1850s, C.B. Faris and other citizens finally became impatient enough to take action and petitioned the legislature to pass a law giving control of these funds to a Board of Trustees. This act was passed on March 10, 1856, and Faris, George P. Brown, and John Pitman were appointed trustees and made a corporation with full power to sell the lands the county had been given way back in the 1830s, collect the money, erect and furnish a building to house a seminary of learning, and to run this establishment as they saw fit.
Land was soon purchased and construction begun. Laurel Seminary was completed in August of 1858, a proper dedication with appropriate speakers was held, and classes began in September of that year.
I can see that this subject needs more than one column, so stay tuned.
You can read Dyche’s booklet and see photos of the Seminary at the Laurel County Historical Society’s library.
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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. Visit the historical society’s website: http://www.laurelcountykyhistoricalsociety.org. Email the society at email@example.com or Jan Sparkman at firstname.lastname@example.org.