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JIM: Odd bits of news, December 1905

The hottest conversational topic was "fer and agin" notion of new-fangled furnaces in churches, even at early adopter Columbia Christian Church, then - maybe even yet - in the vanguard of the times. That was front page news 100 years ago in Columbia. Within the weekly paper, there was a revelation of causes of deaths in Gradyville, KY, in the miscellaneous category, was "general prostration," which hardly registered against 145 deaths due to the leading killer of the day, consumption. Huge news was the declaration by Esto, a righteous angle in the sacred triangle of Sano, Ono, and Esto, that the city of Esto was the capitol of Russell County. For these and divers other matters of import, click the headline for one generous read of this great page out of history.


The December 13, 1905 edition of the News carried precious little of the commodity named in its masthead. In Columbia, the warmest item concerned the furnace newly installed in the Christian Church. The paper duly noted that some members of the congregation were still "agin" it but went on to observe,"The hot air proposition will probably extend to other churches in town..."

With leaps of progress made in the recent establishment of an electric plant (already in upgrade mode) in Columbia and the roaring success of the two-year-old Lindsey Wilson Training School, the News fixed it editorial sights on a water works for Columbia, and the opinion piece in this edition burned so hot it reeked of brimstone. At one point it thundered, in a hard-core appeal to business interests,

"[Fire] Insurance rates have almost reached the prohibitive point and in fact quite a number of business houses are not insured, simply because the rate is so high as to be a tremendous tax. The business portion of Columbia may be wiped from the map at any time. A little blaze on a windy day would soon pass beyond the bucket power and leave a heap of ashes only, to show our folly."

(These words proved eerily prophetic a few years later, with the Great Conflagration on the Square in September, 1921.)

However, viewed through the lens of time, the two most interesting pieces appeared in the Esto and Gradyville newsletters. In the former, the correspondent intimated that his (or her) community stood poised to surpass the county seat of Russell on several fronts:

"Our little village is quite a hustling place. Mr. W.A. Helms, our efficient blacksmith, is running a blacksmith shop, machine repair shop, grist mill, hardware store, and saw mill. At present there is quite a number of logs being hauled. We also have a dry goods store, church, schoolhouse and four preachers."

(Without a doubt, the citizenry of Esto would have stood foursquare together, staged a coup d'etat, and declared their village the capitol city of Russell County had not Mr. Helm soon thereafter deserted ranks and taken permanent abode on Jamestown Hill in the suburbs of Columbia.)

From Gradyville came one of the more bizarre bits of information ever carried in that newsletter. William A. Wilmore reported he recently had "called on our efficient undertaker, Mr. Henry C. Walker one day last week and requested him to give a statement of the deaths and the different kinds of diseases that take our people..."

Mr. Walker acquiesced to his friend's request, stating that over the years he had provided four hundred and fifty coffins and caskets, then gave a breakdown of how many in the Gradyville section had died from the various causes. The top ten (and the number who passed from each) were as follows:
- Consumption, 145
- Pneumonia fever, 36
- Typhoid fever, 33
- Dropsey, 23
- Heart disease, 15
- Paralysis, 15
- Stomach trouble, 13
- La grippe 12
- Unknown diseases, 12
- Old age, 11
For the record:

In the summer of 1910, Mr. Walker, then upwards of threescore and ten, briefly returned to his home town, and Mr. William A. Wilmore, long time Gradyville merchant as well as correspondent for the News, wrote of the visit and the visitor thus:

"We take it none of us can call to memory a day that was more pleasantly spent than last Thursday when our old neighbor and friend, H.C. Walker, formerly of this place, but now of Bradfordsville, came to town. Our town people at once gathered around to shake his hand and hear his voce once more. We all lost sight of our business and sat quietly around to hear him tell of by-gone events. There never was a man lived in this town any more popular with his neighbors than Henry Clay Walker and he is the same to-day that he was twenty years ago in appearance."

So highly esteemed was Mr. Walker by his fellow Adair Countians, when he passed in the spring of 1919 in his 76th year and 15 years after his departure from old Adair, the report of his death and funeral occupied a half-column above the fold on the front page of the News.

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