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What's In A Name? Colonel William Casey Elementary School

'Let's embrace our history and let the new school be a new Colonel William Casey Elementary School!' Ken Hill writes. It should be a foregone conclusion, but the Adair County School Board hasn't yet designated a new name. Ken Hill bases his recommendation on Col. Casey's place in history. Reason enough. But he'll likely find support from even more to continue the name based simply on the grit shown by Colonel William Casey Elementary's teachers, principals and staff to overcome extreme adversity and continue their dedication to the children despite the handicap of antiquated facilities. Continuing the name would be tremendous validation of their exemplary perserverance and character, as well as a reason enough: The historical significance of the great icon of Adair County History, Col. Wm Casey, the man

By Ken Hill
Editorial commentary

Having not grown up in the Adair County area, I often wondered who Colonel William Casey was. I knew it was the name of a great school, but I didn't know the origin. With the area's rich Civil War history, I assumed Casey was of that era. I asked a couple of folks over the years, and learned nothing.

Only after becoming involved in living history, and being asked to portray Casey for the Adair County Genealogical Society, did I learn anything about this great man.

Casey first came into the area as an Ensign in George Rogers Clark's legendary Illinois Regiment of the Virginia Militia. Remember, Kentucky was merely a single county of Virginia during this time period. Clark had hoped to raise 1000 men to finally rid the "West" of British Influence, but only garnered the support of about 200. Casey was one of those brave men. Even after the Revolution the British held much of modern-day Michigan and the surrounding areas, and continued to cause trouble for the new country by stirring trouble and pitting the natives against westward settlers. "Hairbuyers" at these British Forts paid premium prices for settlers' scalps brought in by the Indians as trade items. Though I had seen it a million times in old movies, it had never occurred to me that the scalps were sold or traded. The hair from the scalps was used to make wigs, which were in high-fashion in Europe. Clark marched his rag-tagged group, which included Ensign William Casey, against the forts of Cahokia, Kaskaskia, and Vincennes; helping to end this menace and further secure the safe westward movement from the original Colonies.

After seeing the bountiful beauty of Kentucky during his journeys with Clark, Casey returned later, settled in the Logan's Fort area and married William Montgomery's daughter, Jane in 1782. Unable to soothe his wanderlust Casey was not satisfied living the "good life" near the Fort, and seven years later, set out to make his fortune in the interior of Kentucky. As many adventurers of the day, Casey and his group followed water routes; eventually crossing the Green River at a place called Plum Point. Captivated by the beauty of this land, which with his help would become Adair County, he and Captain John Butler erected fortified blockhouses near the modern-day Holmes Bend Area.

And then, he did something astounding, something wonderful, something that would make him worthy of having a school named in his honor nearly two centuries later; he hired the first schoolteacher! Recognizing the importance of education, even in this vast wilderness, he brought regular classroom studies to children of the area.

Casey went on to do many great things including: being commissioned as a Colonel in the Kentucky Militia, serving in the Kentucky Legislature, facilitating the formation of Adair County from the larger Green County, and killing the last hostile Indian in Adair County. But, his dedication to the principles of education may be his most lasting achievement.

Adair County has changed much since Casey first erected his little settlement, and even now we progress with the building of new schools; continuing his proud tradition. One is now in the early stages, which will replace Casey's namesake. It is this point, which causes me much concern. Even with all the history associated with Col. William Casey, I understand there is a movement afoot to re-name the new school!

I realize we have had controversy aplenty lately in our fair County, and I don't mean to stir another, but a school by any other name would not be the same! Not having a school named for the first Adair Countian to recognize the importance of education just doesn't seem right.

In another of my living history travels, I recently attended the unveiling of a new Daniel Boone Statue in Barbourville, Kentucky. Afterward, in an interview with a local television reporter, I was asked why this was important enough for me to drive two hours to attend. I replied simply, "At a time when many communities are abandoning their history, it is refreshing to see a town like this embracing theirs". To me, this is the same issue.

When the new Adair County Justice Center was being built, to at least partially replace the old Adair Courthouse , I'll bet no one even wondered if they would name it anything other than that. I feel similarly about the new school, and I am surely not the only Adair Countian who feels this way!

I never attended Colonel William Casey Elementary School, and by the time the new school is built my son will have completed his tenure there, but, there is still much in a name for future generations.

Let's embrace our history and let the new school be a new Colonel William Casey Elementary School! - KEN HILL

This story was posted on 2012-09-13 05:04:24
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Terry Loy, Branscum Construction, new school progress

2012-09-13 - Adair County, KY, School District Campus - Photo from Supt. Alan W. Reed. The official name of the new school to replace Colonel Wm. Casey Elementary School, hasn't been adopted, but it is literally rising out of the ground, as this Wednesday, September 11, 2012 progress photo by Branscum Contruction's Terry Loy shows.
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