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HISTORIC PATHWAYS: Call them facts, because they likely are

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By Tom Watson

This week, a reiteration of facts about local history for you to chew on. They concern people and events not questioned over the years because research has shown them most likely to be based on absolute truth.
Historical stories, articles and books are only as accurate as the research that was used to produce them. If the research was faulty, the product of the research is also likely to be porous.
So, here we go:
• The “Old Taylorsville Cemetery,” in the past few decades called “The Pioneer Cemetery,” is within the city limits of Taylorsville. The Taylorsville City Commission bears the responsibility for seeing that the cemetery is maintained. African Americans are buried on both the side facing Salt River and the side overlooking town., while European Americans and other early settlers are nearly all on the side facing town. This is noted because of confusion heard in comments about the cemetery.
There is a deeded pass way to the Pioneer Cemetery and anyone wishing to use the pass way may do so by law. KRS 525.140 says “Obstructing a highway or other public passage is a Class B misdemeanor.”
• The Kentucky Historical Highway marker in front of the Spencer County Courthouse is wrong. It says that the guerrillas who were responsible were hunted and killed a few days later. That wasn’t true.
• The school hill in the center of Taylorsville that is also known as the “knoll,” is a natural formation. It is not a mound constructed by Native Americans.
Here are some not quite ready for prime time facts, as in some of the nails are a little loose, but could be tightened down someday:
• Hood Jones was beaten to death and robbed on Main Street in Taylorsville across the street from the Courthouse May 11, 1927. Lynn Cheatham, son of Spencer County Attorney Thad Cheatham, was arrested in the case along with another man, but allowed to go free on bond. Cheatham was convicted of manslaughter in the Jones killing and the State Court of Appeals upheld his conviction March 1, 1929.
On May 21, 1930, Gov. Flam Sampson paroled 60 prisoners, including Cheatham.
• The murder of Joe Strack of Louisville Dec. 9, 1928, was never solved. Strack was found on Withrow Hill outside Taylorsville with an insulated wire around his neck indicating he’d been lynched. It was determined he was strangled elsewhere, not excluding downtown Taylorsville, where he was seen earlier.
• Spier (SPEAR) Spencer, for whom Spencer County is named, was killed Nov. 11, 1811 in the Battle of Tippecanoe. He made his home in Corydon, Ind.
Back to the absolute, no loose nails facts:
• Taylorsville had a tobacco company called “Chas. P. Polk & Bro.” The brother was M.C. Polk. They advertised chewing and smoking tobacco.
• The worst flood to occur in Taylorsville was in 1937. A major flood had struck the community in 1909 and caused extensive damage.
• In 1978, archaeologists found 13 humans buried near the right of way of the new Kentucky 55-155 (across the road from the Taylorsville historical highway marker). The native Americans had been in Spencer County (now part of Taylorsville) during the Paleo-Indian period that dated from 8,000 to 12,000 b.c. The nomadics were among the first, if not the first, humans in Taylorsville. The average height of the adults in the group was 5-foot-5.
• The oldest animal remains found in Spencer County were discovered by Ollie Bentley and Buck Dotson. Ollie found his on the upper reaches of Ashes Creek and Buck found several after bulldozing had taken place for the impoundment of Taylorsville Lake. The items were horse teeth found to be millions of years old. A U of L scientist said they were from the Pleistocene era.
• A Union spy from Taylorsville, Felix Stidger (STID’-GER), did such important work he became known as “The spy who saved the Union.” The house where he was born on Garrard Street in Taylorsville is in desperate need of restoration.
• Taylorsville’s Isaac Taylor Tichenor was the first president of a school in Alabama that was the forerunner of Auburn University. He was both a soldier and chaplain during the Civil War for the Confederacy and became a leader of the Baptists after the war.
• The Civil War’s most notorious Confederate guerrilla leader, William Quantrill, was mortally wounded and captured in Spencer County on the James Wakefield farm May 10, 1865. He died in Louisville nearly a month later.
• James Morrison Heady was the blind and deaf musician, author, poet and inventor from the Elk Creek-Normandy area. He invented a typewriter for the blind he called the “Diplograph” and constructed a model of a steam-powered embossing press. Heady toured with the press and raised money for the American Printing House for the Blind. The money was used to buy a large embossing press.
In 1872, Heady received a letter in which the author wrote that he was in awe of Heady’s intellectual abilities. The letter was from John Greenleaf Whittier. Heady and Whittier became good friends.
• Jerome McKinley of Taylorsville, a former Union army drummer boy, invented a 12 horsepower, steam propelled wagon that could do 12 miles per hour. It had one big wheel in the front and a steering mechanism. Two wheels in the rear supported the steam engine.
• Banner Norman of Spencer County panned for gold in the Oklahoma territory and his campsite became known as “Norman’s Place,” and later Norman, Oklahoma. The Normans were also responsible for the community called “Normandy” in Spencer County.
• Former soldier of the American Revolution Jacob Yoder built his house called Beechland just outside Taylorsville in 1806. It is now called “Vaucluse,” and a Kentucky Historical Highway Marker at Yoder-Tipton and Kentucky 55-155 tells the Yoder story. He was the first pioneer to take a flatboat load of goods down the Mississippi to New Orleans. The house is now in critical need of restoration.