About the Column
In April of 1969, Dr. Fred A. Engle, Jr., and Dr. Robert N. Grise began writing a weekly column for the Richmond Daily Register about Madison County, Kentucky, history, entitled Madison’s Heritage. The column has included articles about the founding days of the county, as well as important Madison Countians, institutions, and events. The authors have gathered source material from old newspapers, historic primary documents, secondary sources about the area, as well as memories of growing up and living in Madison County. Their column first appeared in the Richmond, Kentucky, newspaper on April 9, 1969 and has been appearing regularly ever since.
The Madison’s Heritage collection has become one of the most complete, extensive, and widely-known histories of the county and has helped further define the county’s heritage. Madison’s Heritage has add to the understanding of the complexities of Madison County’s past and has brought to light many undiscovered reserves of information. Using an easy-to-read format, the authors have given readers unprecedented insights into the county’s past. The column has produced over 2,000 articles, as well as three volumes of selected articles, published in book form.
Madison’s Heritage has provided a constant stream of local history information to Madison Countians for over 40 years. Through quality research, writing, presentation, and interaction with readers, the Madison’s Heritage column has provided valuable insights into the county’s history. It has served Madison Countians for over 40 years and its distinct characteristics and history have formed an interesting story as Madison’s Heritage has become a staple of Madison County life. The column’s many unique features have led to its success and staying power. Because of its duration, its interactive element, the volume and quality of the articles, and because of the unique stories and lives of the authors themselves, Madison’s Heritage has gained a loyal readership and stood the test of time, while staying relevant and stimulating. Dr. Engle and Dr. Grise have surely left a legacy for future generations of Madison Countains who are interested in celebrating and learning about their heritage.
In 1969, Dr. Grise began talking with Randall Fields, editor of the Richmond Daily Register. They came up with the idea of writing a local history column. Dr. Engle remembers, “Bob came and asked me and I told him I didn’t know much about history, but he said, “Well we grew up here. We know a lot of history to start with, we can find more.” Dr. Engle suggested the title, Madison’s Heritage, and the pair began researching and writing. The authors remember that the editor didn’t want just three or four articles in the series. They definitely kept their promise of continuing the column, writing for 42 years and still going.
The Richmond Register
The Richmond Daily Register was formed in 1917 when Shelton Saufley, Sr. bought and combined weekly papers, the Kentucky Register and the Richmond Climax (which had previously been consolidated with the Herald and the Madisonian), to make a daily paper. The first issue of the Richmond Daily Register appeared on December 1, 1917. The Register dropped the “Daily” from its name around 1978.
The articles in the Madison’s Heritage column have covered a wide range of subject matter spanning the entire history of Madison County. The information in the articles in the collection is not in chronological order. The authors did not intend to write a comprehensive history of the county, but rather short vignettes about life in Madison County over the years. They wanted to go more in depth than existing works on the county and report antiquated stories, forgotten events, and details that are often left out of the history books. The authors wrote about different aspects of Madison County based on their personal preferences and the source material they came across. The authors have overlapped very little in what they’ve covered in their articles. Dr. Engle wrote many articles about local sports teams, while Dr. Grise wrote about telephones, events, and various other aspects of life in the county. The authors often wrote series of articles about the same topic that ran for consecutive weeks. Many times, they would have a large amount of information to cover about a particular subject, such as a church’s history, so they would separate the information and write multiple articles.
The authors have written about the early days of Madison County, as well as important institutions, places, people, and events. They have written about the explorations of the early frontiersmen, Daniel Boone and the Fort Boonesborough settlement, the Battle of Richmond, the founding of Berea College and Central University as well as its successors including Eastern Kentucky University, the founding of the Blue Grass Ordnance Depot, and the founding and history of Richmond, Berea, and other towns and villages in the county. They have written about important local businesses including the world famous Churchill Weavers, Bybee Pottery, Boone Tavern, and the Zaring Mill. They have written about banks, theatres, car dealerships, funeral homes, pharmacies, distilleries, and newspapers. They have covered local church and civic organizations and various schools that once existed in Madison County. They have written about the changes in government including the move of the county seat from Milford to Richmond, elections, and the impact of wars and the Great Depression on the county. They have written many articles about transportation in the county through the years, including articles on trains, stagecoaches, and ferries. They have written up the different sports teams that have represented Madison County, especially baseball, basketball, and football teams at the high school and college level, as well as the “Tobacco League” that was run by Dr. Engle in the 1950s.
They have written about many of the famous public and private buildings in the county including White Hall, Woodlawn, the Old Federal Building, the Arlington House, the Irvineton House, and the Bennett House. They have written about cemeteries, historical sites, and places of interest in the county. Articles have been written about famous Madison Countians and those with connections to the county including George Rogers Clark, Simon Kenton, Cassius Clay, Kit Carson, David Francis, Earl Combs, Keene Johnson, and Roy Kidd. They have written about women, African Americans, and Native Americans and their impact on the history of the county. They have also written about local characters, government leaders, and leaders in education, including university presidents and deans. Madison’s Heritage has also offered glimpses into the everyday life of Madison Countians, relating events and celebrations of the past that can only be found in memories and old newspapers. They have reported on natural disasters, shootings, accidents, and funny happenings in our county’s history.
The authors gathered their information for their articles from a number of sources. In the beginning of the column, they used Jonathan and Maud Dorris’ 1955 book Glimpses of Historic Madison County, Kentucky as a reference and starting point. Many of the articles are based on primary sources found in the Eastern Kentucky University library archives. The authors used old newspapers and other publications found in the archives to piece together articles. They looked through old issues of the Richmond Daily Register and the late 19th Century weekly newspaper, the Richmond Climax among others to find out what life used to be like in Madison County. They used the French Tipton Papers, which is a detailed collection of papers written by newspaper editor and local historian French Tipton during the 19th century. Tipton was planning on writing a county history before he was shot after an argument in Richmond in 1900. The collection is currently housed in the EKU Library Archives. The authors have also used notebooks from family histories found in the archives as source material.
Many of the articles are based on sources given to the authors by friends and readers, asking them to write a column about the information. Other articles were written based on the authors’ personal memories of growing up and living in the county.
The Madison’s Heritage collection can be taken as an archive and bibliography of primary sources relating to Madison County. The authors often did not provide complete bibliographic information about the sources on which they based their articles, but they usually did provide enough identifying information for those interested in the materials to find what the authors had discussed.
When the pair first began writing their short glimpses of Madison County life, they would alternate authorship each week. Later, they began to alternate every three weeks, with one writing a set of three articles and then the other writing a set of three. They also substituted for each other if one was sick or on vacation. The column appeared under different sections of the paper over the years, including “Lifestyles,” “Community” and “Seniors.” It also has appeared on different days of the week at the discretion of the newspaper staff, including, Wednesday, Saturday, and for the past few years, it has been running on Tuesdays.
The early articles were comprised of the column title, article title, author’s name, and the text of the article. Later articles included the author’s picture which changed over the years. The Register has been inconsistent on the authors’ names, sometimes including the middle name or initial and sometimes including the Jr. at the end of Engle’s name. The setup and look of the column has also varied with time. Some of the later articles also include pictures relating to the text. The authors submitted their articles to the Register with article title suggestions, but the Register editors have written the final titles for the articles, as well as the final copy. The Register staff retyped the articles submitted by the authors, and due to human error, through the years, there have been mistakes published in the articles. The authors often submitted corrections or additions in later articles to amend any errors.
Madison’s Heritage is a unique column that has been a staple of the Richmond and Madison County community for over four decades. It has provided valuable insights and information to the community on a weekly basis in homes, businesses, and schools and has sparked many water cooler conversations and personal reminisces. Madison’s Heritage is unique because of its duration, the volume and quality of the articles, and because of the unique stories and lives of the authors themselves.
The Richmond Register has published Dr. Engle and Dr. Grise’s column weekly since April 9, 1969 with few intermittent breaks. There have been a total of over 2,000 Madison’s Heritage articles published as of September 2011. Consistently coming up with informative and interesting material for readers for 42 years is no small feat. Madison’s Heritage may be one of the longest running weekly columns in the state of Kentucky, if not the nation.
Madison’s Heritage has had staying power. Many things have changed over the 43 years the column has appeared. When Madison’s Heritage began in 1969 it was a part of the Richmond Daily Register. The Register dropped the “Daily” from its name in the spring of 1978. The column has lasted through many changes in leadership at the Register. It has been under the editorship of fourteen editors since 1969. When the authors began writing for the Richmond Daily Register, they were paid $1 per article. They typed on manual typewriters and brought their articles to the Register. The articles are now word processed by the authors and then sent to the Register through email.
The column has lasted through changes not only in technology, but in the makeup and history of Madison County, Kentucky. The column has brought stories and snippets of history to readers as history has been made over the past 43 years. The county underwent major changes in demographics, politics, and in its economy while Madison’s Heritage reflected on earlier changes in the county’s history. The past four decades have seen a changing landscape of Madison County. Richmond is now a booming growth town with the population almost double what it was in 1970. Engle and Grise have seen the county change in many ways with huge increases in population and development as they continued preserving the county’s heritage.
History was being made in Madison County as Engle and Grise were writing. The column has seen the leadership of six presidents at Eastern Kentucky University and countless changes in the leadership of local government and civic organizations, as well as major events in Madison County. Later Madison’s Heritage articles began covering historic events in the county’s history, such as Roy Kidd’s historic coaching career at Eastern Kentucky University, which occurred during the column’s tenure. Dr. Engle said it well in the November 15, 1972, article “Where are They Now?” pondering, “How quickly does the present become the past.” The long career of the Madison’s Heritage authors shows how they have has persisted through the changing face of Madison County incorporating new bits of history for future generations.
Madison’s Heritage is set apart from other local histories due to its interactive element. Madison’s Heritage is not just a body of work written by two university professors, in many ways it was written by countless citizens of Madison County who have been interested in preserving their heritage.
Madison’s Heritage is truly a history of the people. Not only do the columns give an in-depth view of the ordinary lives of Madison Countians, it also records what the people of Madison County have been interested in preserving over the years. The Madison’s Heritage collection has had a lot of input from community members. Though Engle and Grise found information and generated many articles themselves, other article ideas were given to the authors by interested members of the community. The authors have had many materials submitted to them with requests to write an article based on the information. Members of the community have also shaped the column through corrections and additions to articles submitted to the authors and often republished in later articles. Many articles end with the phrase, “I am indebted to…for much of the information in this article” acknowledging the contributions of the community to the column and to the preservation of the history of Madison County.
The authors have received innumerable phone calls and letters about their articles over the years, correcting, thanking, or just reminiscing with the authors about the information preserved in their column. Grise recounts, “We had something of an informal following among the people because we were writing daily experiences of the people.” Unlike other histories of Madison County, Madison’s Heritage has been able to incorporate 42 years’ worth of reader input and concern.
The Madison’s Heritage collection is an extremely large body of work providing a plethora of information on Madison County. It is an impressive testament to the rich cultural heritage of the area and to the hard work and dedication of the authors. For years, it has filled a void in local historical research and has supplemented existing texts on the county. Dr. Grise points out, “The Madison’s Heritage series as taken as a whole project is the most complete history of Madison County, that is detailed account of Madison County,” with over 2000 articles that explore in depth countless facets of Madison County life. Madison’s Heritage has added immensely in depth and scope to the body of knowledge on Madison County, Kentucky, as well as to the larger repository of information on American life.
The Madison’s Heritage collection is set apart from other county histories and collections of local information because it provides an extensive supply of quality local history information that covers a wide variety of topics in depth. Madison’s Heritage is unlike comprehensive histories of the county which often only focus on the highlights of county history and local figures. Dr. Grise asserted, “The difference between Madison’s Heritage and these complete books of Madison County is that these books emphasize what the authors saw were the most important events, most important persons, and in our Madison’s Heritage we wrote about the detailed life of people, everyday life of people, complete with their significant accomplishments and their ordinary lives. The complete books didn’t write about the ordinary lives of the people of Madison County.” Madison’s Heritage has succeeded in bringing new and often undiscovered or overlooked facts and stories about Madison County to the forefront. The articles go deep into the details of the history of the county and explore the complexities and diversity of Madison County life.
Madison’s Heritage is unique in the way in which the authors have presented and delivered their information to a larger audience. By using the newspaper medium, Engle and Grise have been able to supply their audience with a constant supply of information pertaining to Madison County, publishing articles weekly, with many topics presented as a series of articles. The articles themselves are also written in a way in which made them accessible to a wide audience, from children to old timers. The articles are easily read in short, vignette form that provide interesting pieces of history that that many people relate to and understand. The information provided in the articles is of high quality and provide many ideas and potential opportunities for further research due to the variety of source material used by the authors. The Madison’s Heritage collection can be taken as an archive and bibliography of primary sources relating to Madison County due to the extensive research and information gathering done by the authors and the depth, scope, and duration of the column.