Our Beginnings

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  Magoffin County Historical Society 
"Preserving Our Past for the Future"

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Our Beginnings                                                                                                         

Sitting on the banks of the Licking River in present day Salyersville, KY, near the site where Dr. Thomas Walker encamped in 1750 on his journey from the Cumberland Gap on the Warrior's Trail to his residence at Castlewood, VA, lies a small group of reconstructed cabins locally known as the Prater's Fort Log Cabin Pioneer Village Complex.

Dr. Walker provided us with the first description of this area telling that it was a "great sea of cane, teeming with elk." He named the river Frederick's River and wrote that he could see an Indian encampment across its banks. He called the nearby stream that pours into the river "Falling Creek" and this was the stream he crossed to what he called "Paint Creek" and on to what he named the "Louisa River."

The history of these log cabins and the local historical society is so intertwined that it would be impossible to separate the two. The Magoffin County Historical Society was organized in April of 1978. Our first project was participating in the Kentucky Historical Society cemetery mapping project for Magoffin County. As people became aware of our existence we began receiving many requests for information about the area and we began printing the JOURNAL OF THE MAGOFFIN COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY to preserve and disseminate the history and genealogy that we were collecting.

Our projects began to blossom and 1979 found our group sponsoring the first Magoffin County Founder's Day. The central aim of our first Annual Founder's Day was to research the family of William "Uncle Billy" Adams, founder of Adamsville, forerunner of Salyersville. We printed a 117 page Adams book that year and unveiled a large black granite pyramid marker that we dedicated to the early founders of Magoffin County with William Adams' name being the first inscribed.

The following year the Prater family was the subject of Founder's Day as Archibald Prater, a Revolutionary War soldier, was the first known settler in our area identified at that time as Prater's Fort.

The historical society acquired the old Birchfield log home located on the Birch Branch of Burning Fork that year. The original floor of the cabin was utilized during Founder's Days that year as a stage area where various pageants, plays, music, and talent shows were held.

The following year another cabin, the Williams family log home, was acquired from the mouth of Hell's Half Acre on Paint Creek in neighboring Johnson County. This structure was built adjacent to the stage area and a roof was added to the stage that was shingled with boards rived on the spot by the late Arvel Salyer. His handiwork is still visible as both cabins were shingled from the same red oak boards.

The third year the Salyer family was honored, as Samuel Salyer had been the State Representative in 1859-1860 when Magoffin County was formed from Floyd, Morgan, and Johnson counties.

The aforementioned pyramid marker now had all four sides inscribed and books of local family history had been printed each year. In addition, we continued to print our quarterly, a 40-page Journal and also printed various marriage, cemetery, census, and other books, even an "Olde Tyme Cookbook" with family stories added to the recipes of bygone times.

Another log home was reconstructed and an additional stage area was built during our fourth year. This was a two-story structure known as the Kennard home from the Middle Fork section of our county. It had been used as the first school in that area. Ernie Conley rived enough shingles from one huge tree to re-shingle this cabin and stage.

The Patrick families were honored this fourth year and we purchased another large granite marker designed so that early settler inscriptions for a number of years could be inscribed on it. These two markers have become tourist attractions for our county.

Our fifth year, the year of the Arnett family reunion, brought us another log building. This one was formerly known as the Long Fork Church and School House. It had been built by residents of the Long Fork community with each family who had school age children donating two logs per family toward its construction. The side logs were thirty feet long. A large bell was obtained from Mr. Earl May that had been the dinner bell of another early pioneer of our county, Caleb May. Caleb May was the first moderator of the Burning Springs Church that had been established in 1813 by Elder Daniel Williams who had fought with Daniel Boone at Harrodsburg. This bell is installed atop the Long Fork Cabin and its ringing during special occasions and to bring in the new year is a nostalgic reminder of earlier days.

Our historical society bought land adjacent to the Log Cabin Complex on the banks of the Licking River to be able to expand our facilities for the larger crowds that are annually attracted to our Founder's Day Festival. This property is located at 239 South Church Street and the additional log homes reconstructed there are utilized as a county museum.

The property formerly known as the Salyersville Post Office at 191 South Church Street in Salyersville, KY is now the location of our Library and Archives Center. We maintain a large collection of genealogical and historical materials that are used by patrons who travel to our county from all parts of the United States to search out their eastern Kentucky roots. This genealogy library is adjacent to the Lloyd M. Hall Community Center and the Magoffin County Pioneer Village. In addition to being stocked with research materials it is also used as a workshop for our group where our books are printed. The family histories and numerous research books have all been printed with only volunteer labor.

The work our society does brings together people of all ages and all walks of life and we all work towards a common goal, that of researching and recording for posterity all the history and genealogy of the people of Magoffin County, Kentucky, past and present. Our log cabin complex serves as a focal point for our activities and keeps us ever mindful of our history and our goals for the future.

Contact Information

We check our mailbox often, waiting to hear from you with any family information or queries. Write us at the address below or call us at the number listed there.  We are honored when researchers from around the country stop in to visit or ask for help with their genealogy research, so stop by when you're in the neighborhood!

Postal address
191 S. Church St., P.O. Box 222, Salyersville, KY 41465
Open Monday through Friday, except holidays:
9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. 
Saturday hours by appointment only, please call on weekdays to arrange weekend visits.
Electronic mail
General Information, Sales, Customer Support:  [email protected]

Sharon Nelson Nutt

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Last modified:      Thursday, March 03, 2011