SPECIFIC HISTORICAL CONTRIBUTION
When the Battle of Richmond’s Visitor Center opened to the public in October2008, Phillip M. Seyfrit was in place as the Madison County Director of Historical Properties. During the renovation of the Rogers House, he played a lead role in the design and preparation of the building as a museum for the Battle of Richmond. His other duties included being responsible for Madison County Parks at White Hall and Union City.
Since 2018, his title has been Curator of the Battle of Richmond. In this capacity, he is responsible for the Battle of Richmond property to include the Visitor Center and Pleasant View.
In 2013, Phil took an active role in refurbishing the six Battle of Richmond state historic highway markers with the help of a state grant. He has become the resident authority on the intricacies of getting approval from Frankfort for state historic highway markers.
He has been instrumental in preparing the text and having 13 interpretative signs placed on the grounds of Battlefield Park. He did not stop there, but has expanded to include 11 additional markers interpreting the 1862 Battle of Richmond at Saint Mark Catholic Church, Madison County Library, Madison County Court House, Richmond Cemetery, Madison Kindergarten Academy, Fort Estill Hill, and Duncannon Lane.
Phil was instrumental in starting the Battle of Richmond Association’s (BORA) annual sock drive, tying donations of socks to the needs of Civil War soldiers. Over one thousand pairs of socks are donated each year and are given to the Salvation Army. He is also responsible for the collection of Christmas cards and movie CD’s for our armed forces.
Recently, he saw the need to have sign placed at the Four Mile/Old Soldier’s Cemetery. Donations were solicited and the sign was erected.
Phil plays a leading role in the continued existence of the Madison County Civil War Round Table and along with Bob Moody initiated the World War II Round Table group.
Prior to his position with the Battle of Richmond, Phil was employed by Combs, Parsons, and Collins Funeral Home as a mortician.
WILLIAM “SPEEDY” DENNY
In his epic Depression Era novel, The Grapes of Wrath, author John Steinbeck, wrote “How will we know it’s us without our past?”. Madison County’s own native son, William “Speedy” Denny, knows this well, with the result that we, young and old, are the better for it.
Early in life Speedy acquired an appreciation for art and for the past, its tangible relics, and their intrinsic beauty as well as their stories. Well he knows the maxim he employs in his own work as the owner of Denny’s Sod Company that “Work well -done IS art”. With many history lovers, there is often someone who cultivated that interest, nurturing it along life’s way. In Speedy’s life, it came in the form of a beloved grandmother, Ethel Ray Denny, who fed his mind and soul by sharpening his keen eye for detail.
What she did for him, he, and wife Marsha, now seek to do for the people of Madison County with their efforts to establish Millstone Park, the most unique park of its kind in the state. Not only have they donated their own valuable collection as its nucleus, Speedy himself has been directly involved in every detail of the park’s creation, from how the millstones are mounted and displayed to his carefully chosen and specially ordered Vodka Begonias.
Over the years, Speedy’s passion for history has led him down other avenues of collecting though certainly millstones have been by far the largest single objects he has diligently sought. His father, John Denny, unexpectedly took him out of high school one day to go exploring for Native American artifacts along the edges of a cliff in eastern Kentucky. While that may have sparked his passion for walking hundreds of miles in plowed fields and collecting the very finest Kentucky Native artifacts, his first true collector’s zeal targeted Kentucky license plates. They date to a time before the counties were even included on them, . . all the way back to the year 1910, when only 2400 were issued in the state of Kentucky. As for his pottery collection – that is a whole other conversation.
Why has he turned his love of the past into a passion for collecting millstones? For one, they are extremely limited, scarce, even, and being hand-crafted, no two are exact duplicates. Each has a local history with a specific community and those who knew how to use them. The ancient process of cultivation and refining grain into the very bread on our plates has been largely lost and forgotten, creating a huge hole in our collective, historical memory.
Our ancestors and the livestock which in turn fed them – all – depended upon different varieties of grain products for survival. These skillfully wrought millstones remind us that we forget this humble lesson at our own peril. As a people we have forgotten our forbearer’s feats of engineering in constructing the long-gone mills and the craftsmanship necessary to quarry the stones, shape and use them, simply to feed themselves.
One historian has written that, “At its best, preservation engages the past in a conversation with the present over a mutual concern for the future”. Speedy’s gift comes at a critical time in our history, for with COVID 19 we have been given a hard lesson and forced to recall what is fundamental about ourselves and our families, what we eat, who produces it, and how. With his gift of Millstone Park, Speedy Denny simply helps us remember.
GYPSIE LEE COSBY JONES 1927-2017
Gypsie Lee was a southern lady in manner and speech, a product of southern tradition and her Madison County heritage. From her home in “Rebels’ Retreat” in the Baldwin community, she never wavered in her respect and admiration for her ancestor’s part in the Civil War.
Gypsie Lee was a longtime member of the historic Tates Creek Baptist Church, the Kentucky Heritage Council, and the Madison County Civil War Roundtable. At the grand age of 68, Gypsie Lee published a Civil War narrative, Reflections in the Wind: Reliving a Memorable Era in Northern Madison County. Based on years of research and prompted by her love of Madison County, Gypsie incorporated county history, family memories and several original poems. She described Reflections in the Wind as a “poetic composition incorporated with facts to give the narrative a stronger appeal”.
Her early history of the Tates Creek Separate Baptist Church, with many excerpts from its minute books beginning in 1786, is accompanied by her sometimes-fanciful images of Kentucky, before the “War Between the States”. Family stories are intertwined with excerpts from published Kentucky volumes and interviews with local historians. She recalled tales of her grandfather, Oliver Welch Cosby, witnessing the September 4, 1862 triumphant entrance of the Confederates into Lexington; and her great grandfather, Wingfield Cosby, a Southern sympathized, being incarcerated in a Federal prison in Lexington.
Thanks to her efforts, we have a unique insight into Madison County’s involvement in a traumatic era. Her narrative, though no long in vogue, recalls actual events, tragic and sorrowful, but which nevertheless give us a glimpse into our early Madison County history.
DR. FRED BRAMMELL
On a dreary rainy day in 2013, Dr. Fred Brammell took three people on a tour of an extremely dilapidated Mt. Pleasant. Rain was coming off the roof and running down an interior wall. The foundation was sagging, and the building had been vacant since 1997. He had invited Rusty Rechenbach, Sue Chenault and Sharon Graves on the tour to get their ideas for what he could do with the house if he purchased it. Ideas were shared and a historic property took a first step in coming back to life.
Before he agreed to purchase the property from the city, he had to negotiate with the Madison County School Board to obtain a small portion of land adjacent to the house for access. Fortunately, they were agreeable to Dr. Brammell’s request.
Thus began the total renovation of Mt. Pleasant, which started life ca. 1826 as the home of George Brown who had come from England. He built a cotton spinning and wool carding factory on Dreaming Creek at the bottom of the hill below Mt. Pleasant. George’s daughter married Solomon Smith and Mt. Pleasant was gifted to them.
Mt. Pleasant stayed in the Smith family until Betsy Toy Hall purchased it, furnished it and gave it to the Madison County Historical Society in 1977. MCHS sold it to the Madison County School Board about 1990. The school board divided the property and sold the house and west yard to the City of Richmond. The properties were reunited as condition of Dr. Brammell purchasing it as one parcel. The school board sold their parcel to the city and the city sold the entire property to the Kentucky Trust for Historic Preservation.
Dr. Brammell was originally interested in the Miller House on Irvine Street. Someone in Frankfort suggested that he look at Mt. Pleasant. He wanted to save the oldest house in Richmond as his interests range from Colonial History to the period just after the Revolutionary War. Since purchasing Mt. Pleasant, he has actively worked with Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s estate in Virginia on the details of renovation and to hold a Social Studies teacher workshop on Indentured Servitude.
Dr. Brammell’s background is not in history, although his love of history began in fourth grade when Mrs. Delores Adams, his teacher inspired him. He is originally from Grayson in Carter County and went to work at Begley Drug after graduating from UK’s Pharmacy School. He worked there a short time before deciding to attend veterinarian school at Auburn University. In 1978 he graduated and set up a practice in Richmond. Upon retirement, he opened a practice in Stanton in a building designed to resemble a building in Colonial Williamsburg.
JACQUELINE GRISBY BURNSIDE
Jackie Burnside is Chair of Sociology at Berea College and teaches courses in introductory sociology, race and ethnic groups’ relations, cultural anthropology, complex organizations, and general studies seminars.
A 1974 graduate of Berea College, Burnside enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in Panama with the 193rd Infantry Brigade (Canal Zone) for nearly four years. In recognition of her work, she was awarded a U.S. Army Commendation Medal (1979) and the U.S. Army Good Conduct Medal (1979). After completing her Army service, she and her husband returned to Berea (Madison County) where he was employed by Berea College. She continued her higher education by obtaining a doctorate in sociology at Yale University (Connecticut) in 1988. Her dissertation was an organizational study of Berea College with its abolitionist founders, post-slavery black and white students and teachers in the late 19th Century.
Since 1999 Burnside has organized an oral history project by working with Berea College students and community residents to conduct interviews with descendants to learn about the black and white students, teachers and families who pioneered the interracial education school and community named after the Biblical town of Berea (Greece). Known as the Historic Black Berea (HBB) Project, this research is available as a touring map (pamphlet) with audio tape/CD for local schools, residents and tourists. The HBB Project was selected for the Lucy Harth Smith-Atwood S. Wilson Award for Civil and Human Rights in Education by the Kentucky Education Association (KEA) at their annual meeting (April, 2002). Publication of her picture album book, Berea and Madison County, Kentucky by Arcadia Publishing (Blacks in America Series, 2007) completed Burnside’s earlier research about Historic Black Berea. This book’s focus is the nearly 40 year development of an inter-racial community based on the religious principal of the kinship of all people.
Burnside is completing her 20th year of service as an elected public official on the Berea Community School Board (Berea Independent School District). As a school board member, she has achieved the KSBA Academy of Studies’ Level V - Certificate of Studies, which requires a minimum of 120 hours of continuing education (seminars and workshops) completed with the Kentucky School Board Association. In May 2020, she was appointed by Governor Andy Beshear to be a member of the Standards and Assessments Process Review Committee.
Her professional memberships include being a member of American Association of University Women, Phi Kappa Phi, Anthropologists and Sociologists of Kentucky (A.S.K.), and the Berea Arts Council.
SUSTAINED HISTORICAL SUPPORT
BEREA COLLEGE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS AND ARCHIVES
“Of one blood...” begins the motto of Berea College. “It’s ABOUT US” completes the mission of the Hutchins Library Special Collections & Archives. Because of Berea College’s abolitionist founding, its interracial history, and its commitment to service to the southern Appalachian regions, Hutchins Library provides a unique place to archive the histories of Berea College, the Berea Community, and the Southern Appalachian region.
The Berea College Archives collections include official records, publications, oral histories, personal papers, and photographs documenting the College’s founding and history since 1855 and the history and culture of the Southern Appalachian region. Yearly, numerous students, staff, and international scholars access these collections which claim several thousand feet of primary source material.
The Sound Archives is unparalleled in its collection of audio and video documenting Appalachian history and culture also that of Berea’s town and gown. It allows us to “listen” to voices telling our stories as recorded from homes, churches, festivals and the college campus. Student performances and visits from notable scholars and social activists share this soundstage as well.
The SCA book collections are themselves a rarity. The Curio or Rare Books Collection has sacred texts revered for their age and uniqueness; a 1611 King James first edition resides alongside the 2011 St. John Bible. There, also, are collectibles penned by mountain wordsmiths and English bards. Jesse Stuart, James Fenimore Cooper, and Carter G. Woodson share shelf space with Harriet Simpson Arnow, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.
The Mountain Book collection recently celebrated its 100th birthday with a beginning noted as, “so small that there were more books on Tibet than on the mountains of Appalachia.” Today this collection numbers over 26,000 volumes and grows daily. The Lincoln book collection represents one of the nation’s largest repositories of publishing by or about native Kentuckian, Abraham Lincoln. The “Berea” collection is also unique and contains publications edited, authored, or written about Bereans.
Since 1855, Berea College has embraced the concept of “Oneness”. It gathers the stories of our peoples and stores them in the archives of Hutchins Library. It has designated the Special Collections & Archives and its staff as the keepers of its histories.
For its long-standing efforts to collect, maintain, and share its vision of “oneness”, the Madison County Historical Society presents the Berea College Hutchins Library Special Collections and Archives with this award for Sustained Historical Support to Madison County History.