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Mike Watson. Adair County Authors III

Adair County has a rich literary history. In this column, historian Mike Watson gives brief bios of several, including Charles Garnett Young, Jr.; Hudson "Beanpole" Willis; Judge Herschel Clay Baker, Judge Rollin T. Hurt, Ruth Paull Burdette, N.M. (Nancy) Berley, Chester Raymond Young, Welcome Hamon, Margie Burris Coffey, Nancy Randolph Hood "Randy" Flowers, and Minnie Rubarts. Click on headline for complete column with photo(s)
Adair County Book Fair, 2013, Second Annual sale and show, on June 1, 2013, 10am-3pmCT/11am-4pmETat the Historic Courthouse, 500 Public Square, Columbia, KY.

By Mike Watson
Adair County Historian

Writing is an art, a talent. A gifted writer will continue to cultivate throughout their lifetime. Some fine writers have emerged from Adair County, though some are not so well known, perhaps they produced but a single work. The following names may be better known to some than others, but all were our own.



Hudson "Beanpole" Willis

Beanpole, as he was best known to most, was a natural humorist and, thankfully, turned his hand to writing. His columns, published in the Adair County New, Statesman, Find, and other Waggener-Walker papers, exemplified his brand of down-home humor that made his readers sit back and laugh at themselves and their foibles. His Best of Beanpole is highly sought after today by Adair bibliophiles.

Charles Garnett Young, Sr.

Mr. Garnett Young, pharmacist, of Columbia, authored one book, a book for his grandchild. It was a story of his life and that of his kin. Beyond the Brier Domain is a beautifully written story of Mr. Young’s ancestors, how they came to be a family and how they survived one incident after the next.

Judge Herschel Clay Baker

Judge H.C. Baker was a native of Cumberland County, but came to live with his uncle, T.T. Alexander, in Columbia at an early age. He was a natural historian and preserved along with Judge Hurt, much of the early history of Adair for this and future generations. Baker was licensed to practice law and was elected to several local offices, including judge of the Circuit Court, and to the General Assembly. Judge Baker's history of the county was published by the Adair County News and was and is widely studied. This same history was transcribed from the original news copies by Jim and is still in print. Judge Baker was a prolific writer and spoke regularly at meetings and traveled widely. Another of his published works, quite rare, is A Brief History of Education in Adair County, only six pages, printed in Columbia.

Judge Rollin T. Hurt

Rollin Hurt was involved in so many aspects of the development of Adair County that he could well be considered one of the most valuable men in our history. A son of Young Elisha Hurt and grandson of Revolutionary War veteran William Hurt, Judge Hurt was a true student of history, both local and state. He earned a degree in law, was elected to several local positions and sat on the State Court of Appeals, as well as owing and operating The Columbia Spectator. He wrote Sketches on Adair County, published in the Adair County News in 1919, under the name John Avroe Steele, as a supplement to the historical writings of Judge Baker. We are indebted to him not only for this history of the early days of Adair's history, but also for his History of the Hurt Family which shed light on many other families as well. He was the father of noted attorney Ralph Hurt and grandfather of Pam Faust, teacher of music in the Adair County schools.

Ruth Paull Burdette

Mrs. Ruth Paull Burdette is one of the best-known local historians and genealogists to hail from Adair County. Mrs. Burdette spent the majority of her adult life studying the people and events of this county. She probably knew more about most Adair Countians and their ancestors than did most of us do today, or ever hope to know. She corresponded with many researcher this nation and abroad. She provided so much for so many and her influence is still felt in research circles today. Randolph Smith, Burkesville pharmacist and researcher, acquired Mrs. Burdette's files, but donated them back to the Adair Public Library a few years ago, and combined with those collected by the library and the Adair County Genealogical Society, are the central core of research materials on, by and for Adair Countians. Mrs. Burdette produced an excellent book, Early Columbia: The Beginnings of a Small Kentucky Town, and collaborated with Nancy Berley on Long Hunters of Skin House Branch. Early Columbia is still in print.

Nancy Montgomery Berley

Nancy Berley is another of the great historian-genealogists of Adair County. She spent much of her adult life pursuing the ancestors of modern Adair Countians, their successes and follies. Nancy and Mrs. Burdette worked closely together for many years and collaborated on what should have been the first book on the history of the county, but it never came to pass. Like any learned guru, an expert on her subject, Mrs. Berley could recite long, complicated genealogies from memory with just a mere scrap of data offered up by an anxious student of family history. She is well known for her articles in the local papers, for Long Hunters of Skin House Branch, on which she collaborated with Mrs. Burdette, and for the Adair County Fair book, covering a century of the local even, on which she collaborated with Helen Conover Willis.

Chester Raymond Young

Chester Young, native of Adair County, son of Joe B. Young, attended Lindsey Wilson Junior College, was graduated from Vanderbilt University, served as a Baptist missionary in Hawaii for several years, and then made a career of teaching history at Cumberland College, Williamsburg, KY. Not only will he be well remembered for his work in and for the Baptist Church, but also for many writings, including Westward Into Kentucky: The Narrative of Daniel Trabue, of which he was editor, printed by University Press of KY in 1981, and since reprinted. Also, Mr. Young produced a manuscript in 1942, titled The Public Records of Adair County Kentucky, a two volume typescript completed when he was a student at American University in Washington, DC, and the only known copy is housed in the National Archives Reading Room.

Welcome Hamon

Welcome Hamon, of Glensfork, a teacher and natural historian, had a particular interest in his community and the people therein. He studied and wrote about the Glensfork community, and was awarded his Kentucky Colonelcy for his History of Glensfork. Mr. Hamon was one of the first in the county to begin canvassing Adair cemeteries and recording the data contained. His original notes were the seeds that germinated the Adair County Cemetery Project in which Margie Coffey and Mike Watson eventually produced seven volumes of cemetery records for the county; an eighth volume nas been created by the Adair Genealogical Society and a new volume is planned.

Margie Burris Coffey

Mrs. Coffey, retired teacher, still spends many hours of each week working with the existing records of this and surrounding counties to preserve for other researchers any data she can find. She and I worked with many others for several years to produce the first seven cemetery volumes. With that project, she began her genealogical odyssey that shall have no end! Mrs. Coffey continues to collect data and creates binders, housed at the Adair Public Library.

Nancy Randolph Hood “Randy” Flowers

Mrs. Flowers, long-time librarian, historian and genealogist, was an inspiration for several generations of researchers. She certainly made some of us work harder, if not faster, on projects that have expanded the scope of the local organization, the Adair Genealogical Society. She was co-compiler of the the 1850 Census of Adair County.

Minnie Corbin Rubarts

Mrs. Rubarts, long-time educator in the Adair County public schools, genealogist and historian, is to be commended for her efforts to produce her Adair County: Historical Overview, County and Schools. One of the closest examinations of education and general history of the county, this work has inspired many of us to continue in our quest for knowledge of the past. Unfortunately, this volume is now out of print. - Mike Watson


This story was posted on 2013-05-26 08:15:27
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