Henderson County Historical Society Founded in 1922  

The Henderson County Historical Society, founded  21 April, 1922 by a small group gathered about a ten table, had for its charter members and first officers, Miss Susan Towles, President;  Mrs. Harry E. Thixton, Vice President; Miss Mary Stuart Bunch, Secretary-Treasurer, the other active members being Mrs. David Clark, Miss Virginia Lockett, Mrs. Paul Banks, Mrs. Claude Morton, Miss Lida Williams and Mrs. H. E. Von Tobel.

The society has grown to have one hundred members.  Among the honorary members are Young E. Allison, Dr. Archibald Henderson, N. C.; Judge Robert Bingham; Nancy Houston Banks; Ewing Galloway; E. A. Jonas; George Priest; Cale Young Rice; Otto Rothert, and Mrs. Robert Tunstall.

During the six years of its existence, the society has accomplished something of its plans.  It has placed (through Mann Bros.) a tablet to locate the general merchandise store of Audubon, and has marked the birthplace of Cale Young Rice at Dixon; has made a handsome collection of original Audubon prints — one hundred in number — a fine Indian collection, given by William H. Soaper, W. A. Towles and J. W. Young of Henshaw.  They own an original manuscript of Audubon, entitled “A Raccoon Hunt in Kentucky” and an original painting, both given by his granddaughters, Miss Marie and Miss Florence Audubon of Salem, New York.  Many manuscripts, papers, old books, swords and gun, are in their cases.  Besides a miscellaneous collection, they have the rare “Duckbill Platypus and the Laughing Jackass” from Australia, given by the Misses Burbank and brought by them from Australia at considerable trouble and expense; a Snowy Owl, shot over fifty years ago, and a Great Horned Owl, given by the Rev. Dr. Douglas.  They have placed portraits of Governors Dixon and Brown in the “Governors’ Room” at the Library.

At the request of this society, the Kentucky Legislature made the Kentucky Cardinal the bird of Kentucky, and at the next session they presented to the Governor for the Sate, a handsome copy of Audubon’s Cardinal — a very rare print.  It was framed in wood from the old beech inscribed “J. J. Audubon, 1814.”

Realizing that their valuable collection would be finally scattered or possibly lost by fire if a suitable, fireproof place is not provided for it, the Henderson County Historical Society, now the strongest local one in the state, resolved to cooperate with the Audubon Society in working for a memorial “Hall of History,” to be erected, in all probability, in the Audubon Mill Park.  A fund for this purpose has been begun.  Contributions are received at the Chamber of Commerce or the Public Library.

Other objects of the society are to gather the history and traditions of pioneer times, to collect Henderson family histories, to induce each civic organization to place at least one memorial or to plant a memorial tree, for those they wish to be remembered.  They wish to mark off with arrows along the paved streets, the “old town” laid off by the Transylvania company and still constituting the main part of the city, from Twelfth street to “Sandy Row” and from Water street to  Green or “Back street.”  Old songs, games, life stories, anecdotes, and the deeds of our Henderson soldiers — and in this respect Henderson has been rich — should be preserved.  It has been found that a Henderson, Major Spotts fired the first shot at the Battle of New Orleans; that another, Col. Phillip Barbour, was the first to fall in the Mexican War, while James Bethel Gresham was the first American to fall in the World War.  Though enlisting from Evansville, he belonged to Henderson County, his family still owning the farm they had held here since 1798. 

From Henderson went Channing Moore Williams to open Japan to the Christian Missionaries shortly after Perry forced that country to receive him.       

Three governors and one lieutenant governor went from our town to govern Kentucky.    Here was the first municipal park west of the Alleghenies — a gift from the Transylvania company, as were the original streets and the river front, in memory of which gifts and of the founding of our town, it is hoped the name of “Transylvania Avenue” will finally be given to one of these streets. 

It is planned to mark the site of the old Union Church in Central Park and to make the city’s birthday, August 9th, known familiarly. 

Mother’s Day having originated in Henderson, it is declared to honor Mary Sasseen, the mothers and Henderson with some form of memorial of her.

These are a few of the objects of the Henderson County Historical Society and if, as they think, our people and especially the civic bodies of Henderson truly believe in the cooperation taught by our state motto, “United We Stand,” then all of these things may be done before many years have passed.

                                                                                        By:  Susan B. Towles, 1928