The following article was transcribed from the Henderson Gleaner and Journal, Sunday, 2 August 1925.
By Spalding Trafton
Mrs. Mary Jane Hicks Overby, who will celebrate her 98th birthday next Tuesday, August 4th, is probably the oldest resident of Henderson County.
“I never whiled away my time foolishly, and always kept busy,” was the answer of this successful wife and mother to the question of what she attributed her long life. And she still keeps busy. Mrs. Overby brought a beautiful quilt that she had pieced four years ago at the age of 94.
She is the last of seven brothers and sisters, three of whom lived to be 80, 81, and 82 years old, and four of her aunts on her father’s side lived to be 98, so that it may be readily seen that she comes from a family noted for their longevity.
“I was born, “ says the good woman, “just beyond Zion on August 4th 1827 and my father’s name was Archibald Jordan Hicks. I rode horseback to school at Zion where there were a few houses. There were dense woods and no roads to amount to anything, mostly paths. I have seen many changes since then, the country has been cleared up, roads have been built, and Henderson has grown from the village of Red Banks.”
Mr. Overby told of her first visit to “Red Banks” with her mother and there were only about three or four stores, one kept by Mr. Ingram, and other by Mr. S[illegible]. I had set my heart on a … reticule made by the Indians, which was on sale, and the storekeeper told mother that it was too costly for a child to have.”
“The seasons have changed,” said she, “as the winters when I was a girl were very, very cold and we kept warm with log fires. Shortly after I was married in 1849, my father brought home the first cooking stove I ever saw, and Ely Cheatham drove the first carriage I ever saw into Zion.”
After telling of her school days, Mrs. Overby said that she was married in 1849 at the home of her father to William H. Overby, who in 1836 rode all the way from Petersburg, Virginia to Kentucky on horseback. In the Old Dominion, he followed the trade of a hatter, but after coming to Kentucky he took up farming, he having purchased a farm near Zion. He died in this city April 23rd 1895.”
I was married by the Rev. William Wayne, a Baptist minister, and I had two bridesmaids, Fannie Hicks and Ann McFarland. We had quite an “infair,” as it was called, and I rode horseback to the new log home already furnished by my husband.”
Mrs. Overby explained that in those days it was the custom for the bridegroom to present the bride at the wedding with a horse and side-saddle, but that this was not done on this occasion as “my father had given me a horse and saddle.”
“My new home was a two-story log house all furnished with everything necessary that could be procured in those days.”
“I never saw any Indians, said Mrs. Overby, “although I was told that there were quite a number of them around. There was plenty of wild game, wild turkeys, wild geese and ducks, and deer.”
“I remember one Sunday morning my father and all of us had just started to church at Zion, when he saw a wild turkey in a tree, and he went back to the house and got his gun and killed that turkey on Sunday morning.”
“Quilting parties were the principal social functions in those days, and the young women would meet at our house, where we would serve supper and have dancing to the music of a French harp, and sometimes a fiddle.”
She remembers about the war with Mexico, although she says that none of the men in her immediate neighborhood went and the Civil War with her was modern history. She lived in the days of “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” campaign, and when Charles Dickens made his visit to Henderson in 1842. Also she remembers very distinctly the cold winter of 1851 and 1852, in which the thermometer went to 30 degrees below zero, and the Ohio River was, for the first time, frozen over within civilized memory.
Mrs. Overby has during her 98 years witnessed the progress in methods of locomotion and travel, from the ox cart to the automobile. Also she has passed through and is now in the age of invention. During her time, the telegraph, the telephone, wireless radio and aeorplanes have put into use and commission, to say nothing of the hoop skirt period …
Nine children were born to her, three of whom are now living, namely William H. Overby, cashier of the Peoples Savings Bank; J. Lacy Overby, who is a clerk in the postal service at the local office and W.S. Overby of Harrisburg, Illinois.
Mrs. Overby makes her home with her son, J. Lacy Overby, North Main Street, who, with his most estimable wife, takes great pleasure and pride in looking after the comfort and welfare of “Grandmammy,” who bids fair to attain the century mark. Mrs. Overby takes great pride in her 10 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. Especially does she mention Dr. Otis Lewis, her grandchild, who is famous as a specialist in Philadelphia.