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Museums of Historic Hopkinsville-Christian County Share Artifacts and Stories for Local Paper's History Archives

This pair of snowshoes from 1916 was Alissa Keller's featured artifact for the month of January.
Museums of Hopkinsville-Historic Christian County
Hoptown Chronicle
This pair of snowshoes from 1916 was Alissa Keller's featured artifact for the month of January.

The Museums of Historic Hopkinsville-Christian County have partnered with the Hoptown Chronicle to present a history series featuring museum artifacts curated by executive director Alissa Keller. Austin Carter speaks to Keller about January's featured artifact and what's ahead for February.

January's featured museum artifact was a pair of over-100-year-old snowshoes that have always fascinated Keller. The intricately woven shoes measure about five feet long, almost all of Keller's 5'3" height. "I've always been curious as to how they got to us, where they came from. We have so many things in the museum collection that don't necessarily tell a greater story of Hopkinsville-Christian County in a big way, but they tell a fascinating story of a glimpse in time into one specific issue, topic, or era."

"The snowshoes let us do that," she continues. "They were from 1916, and, based on some real basic research online, they seem to be in the same style that folks would have used in Alaska. So, we had Alaskan-style snowshoes in Christian County in 1916. There's a huge, terrible winter between December 1917 and January 1918. It snowed more than 45 inches, and it didn't really warm up, so all of that was on the ground at one time. Huge snowdrifts all throughout the county."

"A man in town, he was an attorney, had those snowshoes. We figured out where he lived, where he worked, and we can only imagine that he used them to traverse back and forth during the brutal, brutal winter." Keller says that in addition to the previous owner's information, the museum was able to learn more about the artifact and the period it came from through local journals that documented daily life in Hopkinsville.

"There's mentions of trains coming through Hopkinsville and a train going off the tracks because of the ice between the ties of the train. Essentially, the snow isolated the community for two months. The diaries are interesting because it also brings to light what was going on on the farm, what was happening with the crops, and how quickly things melted and thawed. It's been really fun being able to pull different sources from the collection to tell a bigger story."

The museum's partnership with the Hoptown Chronicle will continue throughout the year, and Keller says she's still deciding on February's featured artifact. "I'm picking what seems to be a fairly mundane set of items. They're archeological remnants—pieces from our former courthouse in Christian County. It was the third courthouse constructed here [and] constructed between 1826 and 1838."

"It stood during the Civil War, and it was burned by confederate forces in 1864. We have a photograph of that. The shell of the building was knocked in, and the original courthouse, built in 1869, was built right on top of it. In recent years, some work that was done at the courthouse unearthed some of the pieces of that bygone courthouse, and some of those made their way to the museum."

"There's some stonework, some plasterwork, and there's a piece of ironwork from a fence outside that shows evidence of the fire. I'm going to pick something from there. I can't wait to see where this story leads," Keller concludes.

You can read Keller's featured stories on museum artifacts in the Hoptown Chronicle. For more information, visit its website.

Austin Carter is a Murray State grad and has been involved with WKMS since he was in high school. Over the years he has been a producer for WKMS and has hosted several music shows, but now calls Morning Edition his home each weekday morning.
Melanie Davis-McAfee graduated from Murray State University in 2018 with a BA in Music Business. She has been working for WKMS as a Music and Operations Assistant since 2017. Melanie hosts the late-night alternative show Alien Lanes, Fridays at 11 pm with co-host Tim Peyton. She also produces Rick Nance's Kitchen Sink and Datebook and writes Sounds Good stories for the web.
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