Return to Oddville

Reminiscences of Oddville in 1860 and later Part 1

My first view of Cynthiana was by early candle light one evening in the fall of ‘60. With his Lares and Penates in carriage and wagon, our preacher-father started from Sharpsburg for his new field of labor, the Falmouth circuit, early that morning. Oddville was the objective point. Failing to make it by daylight, night coming on found us out on the Millersburg pike near the Mack Kimbrough home. A darky, questioned as to a stopping place, replied: “Yes, sah, Marse Mack Kimbro, he done keep a tabern for trabalers.” The hog-driving season was on and Kimbrough’s hospitality was already overtaxed. Immense droves of hogs were gathered up in Bath, Nicholas and other counties every fall and driven to Cynthiana for shipment via R.R. to Cincinnati. Kimbrough’s was the last stopping place for entertainment and the final feed and resting up of the droves before embarking on the last leg of the trip to market. Fine, fat swine, they were[,] too, big fellows, many of them mast-fattened and the mountains and corn finished in the Blue Grass. Coming on to town we stopped at the famous hostelry, kept by T.R. Rankin and wife, two of the biggest hearted and most popular hosts that ever conducted a hotel in Cynthiana. Cynthiana, then had 700 or 800 inhabitants, but that’s another story. Resuming the journey, next morning found us at Oddville. H. Mack Whiteker, kind hearted and genial Uncle Mack, was the first man met. David W. Batson, the first boy. In addition to his large farm, Whiteker was running a large saw mill in the village. Formerly he had engaged in merchandise on quite a large scale. The one store then running was kept by J.M. Hodson and wife–in after years, Aunt Betsy. E.J. Morgan and James Owsley, each had a blacksmith shop, with all the work they could attend to. Blacksmithing then paid. Tom J. Whiteker was the wagon and coffin maker for the northern and eastern part of the county. He was a superior workman at the trade and had a fine business. Tapley A. Taylor, Sr., was his assistant. Leonard Hoffman, who died in Cynthiana not long since, coming from Cincinnati, erected a warehouse and put in a stock of coffins and caskets.

The business proving slow, he engaged in buying and driving sheep to the city market. Jimmie P. Hodson, astride of the good, roanhorse and a pillow, assisted in the driving on one or two trips. Cold cream hadn’t yet been introduced, but mutton tallow made a good and soothing substitute. Dr. John D. Batson was the village practitioner, and had a large practice and a fine record. Then and until the infirmities of advancing age overtook him, Dr. Batson was a leader in the community. The same may be said of his estimable wife, one of the best women and devoted christians Harrison county has ever known. Her parents, Rev. Jas. C. and Nancy Whiteker Crow, two of the older people of the community, were devout christians and greatly respected. Thomas G. Hays, farmer and shoemaker, had all the work he could attend in the latter line. His make of boots and shoes stood the test of wear and popular demand. Asa F. Whiteker was the postmaster then and at intervals for years thereafter. His good wife, Aunt Lizzie, ably assisted him. Mail came in twice a week– Havilandsville, Claysville and Oddville to Cynthiana and return comprised the route. Breckinridge, the carrier, was a wild and woolly chap in some respects. He was afterwards succeeded by the Pollards–John and Henry, Will Light, and the Mattox boys–George, Ed and Oscar, and numerous others. James F. Smith ran a cooper shop, making barrels for the Megibben, Wash Taylor and other distilleries, according to demand. Monroe D. Whiteker operated a straight copper distillery of several barrels per day capacity, and also had a well stocked store, a mile or so from Oddville. Half way between Oddville and Claysville Dock McClain operated a water-power saw mill and further down was located the McClain distillery, also a straight copper producer of limited capacity. Then came the Durbin Mills, Col. N.M. Durbin, proprietor, where an extensive business was done. With water power mainly, custom grinding of wheat and corn into flour and meal. Col. Pole Durbin, as he was generally called, was one of the best known men in the county. He was a large land owner, owned slaves and was, perhaps, the wealthiest citizen of northern Harrison. Having had militia experience in his younger days, like Gen. Lucius Desha, his erect, military figure, especially as he sat on his horse, would have attracted attention in any crowd. In that respect he and Desha ranked with Gen. William Preston, Gen. Jno. B. Castleman and Gen. John Hunt Morgan. More superb figures I never saw on horseback. Daniel Durbin’s erect figure and dignified movement is a natural inheritance from his father, Col. N.M. Out on what is now the Avena pike the Sons of Temperance possessed a small hall, near Mt. Pleasant church in which a small division or lodge of that order met weekly. In Oddville they owned a larger hall and had a thriving division with a large membership and its weekly gatherings were quite an interesting event. The school was taught by Lewis Lebus, who had been the teacher for several years. As a disciplinarian, he was strict and wielded his good stout hickory switch pretty frequently. But his pupils learned rapidly, especially in Mathematics and English Grammar. The school room was inadequate and out of date–no desks nor comfortable seats.

Some of the teachers who followed were Miss Annie Poynter, Miss Lou Riggin, Capt. A.F. Tyler, W.H. Myers, M.J. Brough, Peter Wyles, Miss Bessie Brough and Miss Nannie Lee, now Mrs. F.N. Jones.

Around two sides of the wall a plan had been fixed, slanting downward sufficiently for book and slate rests and writing purposes, with a couple of slabs, smooth side up, resting on long wooden pegs for seats for the large pupils, who sat facing the wall with backs to the teacher. Crinoline was then in vogue and it required practice for the girls to make the seating effort in due form. Girls, and women[,] too, were then modest and might careful as to exposure of even a very limited view of ankle or a little more. Ever and anon, the teacher would make his round, overlooking the work in progress on slate or copy book, and woe unto the delinquent whose ciphering or writing was incorrect and below the required standard.Finding, trading and speculating profitable, Mr. Lebus soon gave up the vocation of teaching and was succeeded by his brother, Joe F. Lebus, also a fine teacher, but of different methods and less strict discipline. But few of those who attended school then now survive—John W. Mattox, Lucius and Joseph Hays, William Henry Garnett, Dr. J.R. Batson, a recent beginner, and Mrs. Fannie Whiteker Brannock, are the only ones I can now recall. David W. Batson, deceased, was also one of the younger pupils. He made rapid advancement and in a few years gained a reputation as the youngest and one of the best teachers in the county. He and Garnett, after teaching a while, entered Kentucky Wesleyan College, graduated and became members of the faculty. Batson also served as President for some years. Prof. Batson after resigning the presidency had charge of the Central Methodist as editor and manager for a number of years. In that capacity he was also a success. Prof. Garnett, except for one year’s intermission, served the Wesleyan as faculty member, secretary and Dean, continuously until a year or so ago, he ill health caused his withdrawal temporarily. He went to California to recuperate, but late reports are that he is bedfast and beyond recovery. Both he and Batson were expert mathematicians and superior educators. Some of the teachers who followed were Miss Annie Poynter, Miss Lou Riggin, Capt. A.F. Tyler, W.H. Myers, M.J. Brough, Peter Wyles, Miss Bessie Brough and Miss Nannie Lee, now Mrs. F.N. Jones. Lucius and Will F. Hays, J.J. Whiteker and J.W. Mattox, former Lebus pupils, also were successful teachers. In another article, I’ll mention some things, incidents and persons perhaps of sufficient interest to justify the granting of space and publication.
E.B.L.

The Cynthiana Democrat, Thursday, June 2, 1919, Page 12, Cols. 3-6:

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