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Adair County, KY, has rich literary history

Getting ready for the Saturday, June 1, 2013: 2nd Annual Adair Co. Genealogy/History Book Fair, 10am-3pmCT/11am-4pmET at Historic Adair County Courthouse, 500 Public Square, Columbia, KY
Click on headline for complete essay with photo(s)

By Mike Watson

Adair County, Kentucky has a rich literary history. From the earliest days of the county's history, there were various efforts to promote education. There were several private schools in operation prior to the Civil War and many noted individuals came here to further their "rural" educations.

Several noted writers descend from Adair Countians, and at least one internationally known poet, native Kentuckian, visited and may have penned part of famous verse in Columbia.


THEODORE O'HARA

Adair County's claim to Theodore O'Hara, famed poet, is slight, at best. However, we must admit some points. First, he was a personal friend and one-time law partner of Edgar Gaither, son of Dr. Nathan Gaither. They had served together in the Mexican War and O'Hara visited in Columbia in 1847.

Tradition has it that he was not able to stay with the Gaithers due to an outbreak of measles, so took a room upstairs in what is now known as the Winfrey Hotel building. Again, tradition states that while entertaining in the rented room, he stood, leaning on the fireplace mantle, and recited or read one or two of the beginning stanzas of the now internationally famous "Bivouac of the Dead."

Local supporters have always maintained he was not finished with the poem, therefore, must have composed and perhaps wrote the final stanzas while in Columbia. He did not leave any proof of this fact, but we wonder...


SAMUEL LANGHORNE CLEMENS

Samuel Langhorne Clemens is truly a product of Adair County. He was the son of John Marshall Clemens, the attorney, and Jane Lampton, granddaughter of pioneer William Casey.

He made little or no reference to this part of his heritage in his writings, but certainly his parents played a great part in molding his mind and spirit and the fire that seemed to consume him as a writer was a direct result of his Casey heritage! He came to Adair County with his widowed mother and younger siblings when she came to marry her one-time suitor Simon Hancock. Clemens read law here and began his practice before the Adair County bar. When times were hard for the once prominent businessman John Field, Clemens was able to rent rooms in the spacious Field House for living quarters and an office.

Mrs. Field would allow him to take his clients up the front stairs. John Marshall and Jane were married in Columbia and the newlyweds honeymooned here. In later years, when they lived in Missouri,

Mrs. Clemens would visit her old Columbia home, but "Mark Twain" was never in Adair County. However, we did honor him with the Mark Twain Band Festival, beginning in the mid-1970s and there was a Mark Twain Shopping Center for a time, located where the new post office is located on Burkesville Street.



RACHEL McBRAYER VARBLE

Rachel McBrayer Varble was a granddaughter of famed Adair County jurist Parker Calhoun Hardin.

She was born and reared at Harrodsburg, Mercer County, but spent many days in Columbia with her close relatives.

Mrs. Varble was a writer of note in the first part of the twentieth century, turning out several historical novels for young readers, and one biography. The biography, Jane Clemens, was the story of Mark Twain's mother and her life here and after she left Columbia. Her books: 1928; Beatrice the Brave, 1934; A Time Will Come, 1940; Romance for Rosa, 1946; Pepys' Boy, 1955; Beth and Seth, 1959; Three Against London, 1962; and perhaps her best known contribution, Jane Clemens: The Story of Mark Twain's Mother, 1964.

Hope to see everyone at the 2nd Annual Book Fair, Saturday, June 1, 2013!
2nd Annual Adair Co. Genealogy/History Book Fair, 10am-3pmCT/11am-4pmET
at Historic Adair County Courthouse, 500 Public Square, Columbia, KY
Click on headline for complete essay with photo(s)
- MIKE WATSON


This story was posted on 2013-05-12 09:02:40
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Markers to Theodore O'Hara, Frankfort Cemetery - I



2013-05-12 - Frankfort, KY - Photo by Mike Watson. Theodore O'Hara may have penned stanzas of "Bivouac of the Dead" in Columbia, KY. There's no proof, Adair County Historian Mike Watson says, but adds, "We wonder. . . " The photo above is of a marker in Frankfort Cemetery, where the famed poet is interred. Paired Photo See also Markers to Theodore O'Hara, Frankfort Cemetery - II
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Theodore O'Hara Markers, Frankfort Cemetery - I



2013-05-12 - Frankfort, KY - Photo by Mike Watson. Theodore O'Hara may have penned stanzas of "Bivouac of the Dead" in Columbia, KY. There's no proof, Adair County Historian Mike Watson says, but adds, "We wonder. . . " The photo above is of a marker in Frankfort Cemetery, where the famed poet is interred. Paired Photo See also Markers to Theodore O'Hara, Frankfort Cemetery - I
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Rachel Varble, a major part of Adair's rich literary history



2013-05-12 - Columbia, KY - Photo from collection of Mike Watson. Mike Watson, Adair County, historian prizes the artifact in the center panel most of his extensive Rachel Varble collection, because of the inscription, from the Harrodsburg, KY author to Nancy Berley, who aided Varble so much in research for Varble's historical fiction novel, Jane Clemens a biographical account of the life of the mother of Samuel Langhorne Clemens - the mother of Mark Twain. Nancy Montgomery Berley lived in the house on Greensburg Street now occupied by Robert & Mikki Flowers. Berley wrote, with historian Ruth Paull Burdette, "The Longhunters of Skinhouse Branch." at right is a photo of the dusk jacke to Varble's Pepys' Boy, also from the collection of Mike Watson. Mr. Watson will be among the vendors at the 10am-3pmCT/11am-4pmET, Saturday, June 1, 2013, 2nd Annual Book Fair at the Historic Adair County Courthouse, 500 Public Square, Columbia, KY.
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