Some of my greatest genealogical finds have been in old newspapers. News items put flesh on the bone of our ancestors and fill in the gaps in our history. Small town newspapers are preferred as they never seem to lack for space in reporting the ordinary as well as the extraordinary. Here are some of the items I've found recently.
"Mr. Peter H. Conant, of Smithland, Ky., is now in his eighty-second year, and is well-preserved and as hale and hearty as if only in the fifties. He built and owned several steamers before the war, and is well known to the Cumberland river fraternity."
Another Smithland citizen was mentioned here: "Capt. James W. Drury, aged about 75, died at Smithland last Monday, after a few days' illness of pneumonia. It was said that he was the first male born in that ancient city. He commenced his steamboat career as carpenter and was on many of the boats in the early times that ran up the Cumberland. He rose to be a pilot, mate and captain, and was with Capt. Josh V. Throop on several of his boats as mate and pilot. Among them were the Magyar, Countess and Helen Marr. The last boat Capt. Drury had charge of was the I.L. Hyatt, during the war. His wife, two daughters and a son survive him."
From Crittenden County, we find this: "Martin Gahagan, of Weston, is one of the interesting characters of the county. He was a pleasant caller at the Press office Monday and informed us that he was in his eighty-third year and enjoying fine health. He came from Pennsylvania to this county sixty years ago, and is of Dutch extraction. He lost his wife several years ago, and lives alone on a fine farm near the Ohio River, and does his own housework and cooking. He seems as bright and happy as a boy and looks twenty-five years younger than he is. He has taken the Press over a quarter of a century."
Flooding is not new to western Kentucky. "Smithland in Ruins. Our news yesterday from Smithland, Ky., is of the most distressing character. Almost the entire town is inundated, and up the main street the current is said to run so swift that it is impossible to row a canoe against it. Some of the houses are already washed away, and many more, it is expected, will fall or be washed away soon. The people are doing the best they can in the way of providing homes for themselves. The court-house is full of families driven from their homes and taking refuge wherever they can find it. This is sad news from our neighbors of Smithland."