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Old paper not kind to Bourbon Trail

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By BEN CARLSON

Column as I see ’em …

Did you know Lawrenceburg used to have two newspapers?

Neither did I until I stumbled across the digital archive of a publication that existed around the turn of the last century oddly titled “It.”

And let me tell you, “It” was a veritable hoot not only for it’s name but for some of the content “It” included.

From openly rooting for a tip on a local man’s death to be true to a rather harsh reference to what we today call the Bourbon Trail, the paper was long on opinion and advertising and somewhat loose with what today would be considered facts.

An issue from Dec. 18, 1902, featured a news article headlined “Tom Allen Gets Properly Dehorned.” In it, the paper receives a tip that Allen was killed in what appeared to be a drunken brawl, only to find out later that he survived.

“Were it true that the good die young, we would only remember Tom as an infant, for, if there ever was a good for nothing [N word] on earth, it was Tom Allen,” the paper wrote.

“It” went on to describe the brawl, which featured a couple of local fellows tooling up on Tom with beer bottles outside of a saloon.

“Harry and Clarence Miller, who, with beer bottles as racquets and Tom’s head as a ball, gave a very fine exhibition of ping-pong,” the story says.

For their efforts, the Miller boys were each fined $25 by Judge Walker, along with costs.

With Christmas just around the corner, “It” was lousy with ads by local merchants, along with admonitions from the paper’s editor about how to properly celebrate the holiday.

Beneath a half page ad for J.B. Black in Van Buren that promoted everything from groceries, harnesses, wagons and cloaks appeared a remarkably cutting diatribe about how some Kentuckians celebrated “Xmas,” the paper’s obvious attempt to take Christ out of the holiday … I guess.

“In the Western States, Xmas day is the day of all days for the suspension of all business,” the paper said. “The pulpit of every church is occupied upon that day to the most able ministers.

“In Kentucky, we build bonfires, fire cannons, fire anvils, have fireworks and fire-water, which bring on fire-arms that bring about a decrease in the population of the state.”

Well! And some folks think I’m a little heavy-handed in my columns.

Interestingly enough, in a snippet about Baptist Sunday school on another page, Christ was back in Christmas in a short piece about the church’s Christmas tree.

Hmm.

There was some good news printed, too. On another page we learn about John B. Willis Jr., a child from Tyrone (more on our river-dwelling friends in a moment) bitten by what the paper described as a “mad cat.”

Not to fear. The boy was taken immediately to the home of Mr. S.O. Hackley, who applied the “mad stone” he owned to the injury. Following several applications of the “mad stone,” the boy was thought to be out of danger.

Then there was news out of Ninevah, where three people participated in a banana-eating contest. The winner, Mr. Wood, was said to have “put away” 36 bananas in just 40 minutes.

An ad by Blue Grass Grocery said bananas back then sold for 15 cents a dozen, meaning Mr. Wood spent 45 cents to gorge himself.

There was also a poem about Tyrone, at that time a bustling marketplace that rivaled Lawrenceburg in size and offerings.

Given that the poem speaks very poorly about what one might find in Tyrone, my guess is that the unnamed author was likely a business owner in the city.

Here’s how it goes:

We’ve often heard ’em say

In a jesting kind o’ way

That ‘Irishmen’ neath the turnpikes are entombed.

If such the case be true,

We’d have given a dollar or two

To have seen the monster buried near Tyrone.

Should you wish to Tyrone drive,

And reach the place alive,

A good guide you’d better take along.

Else you’ll strike that awful mound,

Get thrown out on the ground,

Then a prayer will be accompanied by a song.

Most entertaining (to me, at least) was a remarkably early and hypocritical reference to our beloved Bourbon Trail in an advertisement for what appeared to be for a local passenger train.

Headlined “The Road to Hell,” the ad included a message from S.R. Howser, general passenger agent.

“More young men purchase mileage over THE BOOZE ROUTE than all other lines combined,” the ad says. “We don’t use it ourselves, and advise you not to, but, if you will have it, then we will furnish you the best made, namely: Old Joe, Old Taylor, Old Prentice, Cedar Brook, J.P. Ripy, McKenna, Etc.”