My Quest for “The Forgotten Story” in Scottsville, KY
Through the years, my quest for “the forgotten story” has taken me on many intriguing and inspiring journeys through America, especially the mid-west river towns.
These lovely places and towns that have deep roots in early American history have touched my soul and given me the inspiration for many of my creations.
Whether my creations, such as a new painting, a photographic capture of an abandoned place in time, a new writing of “the old ways and lost stories” for my books “The Abandoned Story” or exploring the forests and countryside for wild plants and roots, I have been deeply moved by the strength and resilience of the people, old towns and countryside in the mid-west towns.
Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky have always been to me, an intriguing and rich source for old stories and ways, abandoned places, history and landscape so lovely and diverse, teeming with a natural energy and abundance of life.
It is no wonder that Native Americans professed that Kentucky was a sacred place with its diverse life, large trees and water sources.
The journey that follows will be from the countryside and quaint town called Scottsville, in Allen County KY. Allen County, KY was named for Colonel John Allen, a soldier and state senator. He was killed leading the 1ST regiment of Kentucky Riflemen at the Battle of Frenchtown, Michigan during the infamous war of 1812.
Scottsville, a very proud American town, is and always has been the government and commercial center of Allen County, KY. The place that resides by Bays Fork was settled in 1797 as a stagecoach station and the town was created and established by 1817. Kentucky’s 4TH governor, Charles Scott inspired the town’s namesake.
Scottsville boasted a grand courthouse that was “prominently positioned” to interrupt the traffic flowing in the turnpike that lead from Louisville to Nashville.
Before the turn of the century there were many small established businesses and small industry. The new technology that would come at the turn of the century, the Dixie Highway, oil boom, telephone, electricity, automobile and such would help the growth expansion of Scottsville.
I have written in the past, a more concise story about Scottsville and its large Noah Hoover Mennonite community, a branch of the Old Order Mennonites. Scottsville is the home of their main settlement; coming from Snyder Counter Pennsylvania they chose Scottsville in 1978 to create a new settlement in Kentucky.
The following is an excerpt from a past writing of my encounters with some of the Mennonite men, women and children in Scottsville, when I met with knife maker and metal forger of the old ways, Sam Stoner.
“I travel a dusty and buggy worn path with the overhanging boughs of locust, oak and maple above me…the scent of a deep and wild damp raises cool from the spring creek. The wind sends a soft honeysuckle fragrance as my eye catches a sturdy Mennonite man. He is walking with solemn purpose in a tall field along a fencerow…he bends down to pull on something from the earth. He looks at the approaching storm that is foreseen…”
I was helped much and given a few hand drawn maps by two kind young Mennonite men that worked a fine organic vegetable and strawberry market. They both were very inquiring of my name and book and of course helped me pick out the firmest squash and tomatoes to take back home. The one man was busy drawing for me a fine map that had a few turns and T’s in the road but he left out the names of the roads and lanes. His friend kindly smiled and turned to the other joking to him that “maybe he should put some names to those markings” he was making.
I laughed and thought that was probably wise considering my experience and knowledge of the twisting country lanes out here in Kentucky. Well, unfortunately the map took me to a general store run by a man named Matthew who was very solemn but kind and quick. He listened to my story about my quest to find Sam Stoner, the blacksmith who makes fine knives and tomahawks. He then neatly took to drawing a map with two small bridges on it that would finally lead to Sam. It did and I was thankful to be here for the day was getting late.
I slowly walk up the lovely country drive to the scent of coal fire burning. I was excited for I knew he must be working on forging something special.
Sam was talking knife business with another local man and he smiled and seemed like he didn’t have a care in the world. I thought that here was a man who is very content and joyful at his craft.
When my turn came to speak I was eager to see and learn as much as I could. I explained my reason for coming to see him and about my book. Sam was more than happy to show me around and answer my questions. He even made a knife out of a railroad spike for me to see. I was thrilled to watch his process. Sam, unbeknownst to me, had just been interviewed for KET. He said I could capture some photographs as I watched him stoke and wind up the coal fire. The incredible show began…I was amazed and listened to him describe the bone and woods he liked to use, such as tiger maple, burled walnut, rosewood, ash and other hardwoods from the area. He would often use deer and elk antler. He would speak about the interesting and beautiful craft of jewelling the blade. His work was as beautiful to watch as his fine craftsmanship and artistic ability was displayed by each unique knife that was finished.
He had two Belgian horses running on a track to move the pulley system that operated the automated hammer machine for flattening the hot metal to be made into the knife blade. This was the “Old Way”. I really enjoyed my journey into Sam Stoner’s blacksmith workshop and can only extend a gracious wish for his extended art, prosperity and joy of life.
I hope that this journey has taken you to a time and place where “old stories and dreams” still live brightly.
Always search for the hidden gems, the lost stories, in your existence. They hold the truest power, the brightest light-
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