A beautiful old building near the “bend of Broadway,” once a Black Brothers Bus Station, is now home to a great selection of Estill County history.
The Estill County Historical and Genealogical Society was founded in 1981 by Eva Dean Edwards and Sandra Rose. The group met at the Estill County Public Library until they received a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Historical Grant to buy the building on Broadway in 1999 that is now their museum. Their membership has grown to more than 450.
“We still have our meetings at the library except for special events,” member Wayne Horn said.
The society has amassed a large collection of records and put them in book form that are available for purchase at the museum.
They include Estill County Vital Statistics from 1911 to 1950, fiscal court orders and minutes, obituaries, deeds, census and much more. There are also records from surrounding counties that have been purchased by the society and are readily available to the public.
People come from all over the country to research their family genealogy in the society’s research center which was started in 2000. Wayne serves as the director.
Wayne said the public library did away with their genealogy section in 2002 and donated all their books and information to the society. This was a great addition to their already well-stocked research information.
“We average between 1,000 and 1,200 people a year coming here to do research,” Wayne said.
On the last weekend in July each year the society hosts the “Backporch Homecoming” in which people come to the museum for the express purpose of doing research on their genealogy.
“We had people from 33 states last year and from as far away as California and Washington state,” Wayne said.
“We get letters all the time asking us for help in locating family members, “ Member Geral Denn Puckett explained.
Puckett is the one who enters information into their computer.
“She takes the newspapers each week and enters the deaths from the obituaries,” Wayne said.
The society is completely self-supporting and exists on donations and the sell of books. The members have spent years gathering information for beautifully bound books including “Memorial to World War II Veterans” and the “History of Estill County in Pictures.”
They also have the “History and Photos of the Estill County Schools” which contains more than 600 pages of information and pictures. This book will be featured at the Estill County Reading Celebration at Estill Middle School on Saturday.
One can spend hours just sitting and talking to the members and officers of the society because each one of them is passionate about safeguarding Estill County’s history for future generations. The officers are Diana Arthur, president, Ruth Horn, vice president, Floretta Thorpe, secretary and Florine Arthur, treasurer . Board members are Eugene Bush, Sonja Estes, Billy Cooper and Norwood Thorpe.
“We’ve come a long way from when we just had our books on a board between two concrete blocks,” Wayne said.
The society meets on the first Tuesday of each month at the library at 7 p.m. The museum is open on Saturday mornings and there are always member there willing to show off their exhibits of old tools, quilts, photos and artifacts of all kinds. And to help visitors with research.
Anyone who wishes to join may come to a meeting to join. It only costs $15 per year to be a member and is worth every penny of it.