Thursday, May 25, 2006

C. C. Hensley

Cyrus Clinton Hensley, mayor of Berea from 1958 until his death on December 13, 1980 at the age of 71, was born May 20, 1909 in Clay County, Kentucky, and moved to Berea with his family when he was eight. He also served as a Madison County deputy sheriff and Berea Chief of Police.

As mayor, Hensley helped organize the Industrial Development Corporation in 1960 and served as vice-president and chairman of the executive committee. He helped raise the $40,000 to develop Berea's first industrial sites. After the arrival of Berea's first industry, the Berea Rubber Company (later known as the Parker Seal Company and Parker-Hannifin), Hensley was the second employee hired in 1951, working his way up to surpervisor and then foreman. For many years, he held the Standard Oil distributorship in Berea. As a young man, he was employed by the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

He was a member of the First Christian Church, where he was an elder, and of the Berea Masonic Lodge 617 F&AM. He was active in the Berea Chamber of Commerce and the Berea Kiwanis Club.

Hensley traditionally wore a knitted red tie. That symbol was adopted by the Mayor and City Council when it established the C.C. Hensley Distinguished Service Award in 1979 in honor of Hensley's many years of faithful service to Berea. A memorial to him is on display at the flag pole in the Duerson stadium at the Berea City Park.

He was married to Gladys Bauffle Hensley and had one brother, Rudolph, and four sisters, Mrs. Bennett Roop, Mrs. O.H. Green, Mrs. Eunice Neumeyer, and Miss Audrey Hensley. He is buried in the Berea Cemetery.

See Berea Citizen, 19Dec1980, p1 and 2; 31May1979, p4; 21May1981, p1 and 2.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Berea Elections in 1901

The election for governor in 1899, which culminated in Republican charges that Democrats had stolen the race and the assaination of candidate William Goebel, created a climate of political mistrust and suspicion that affected the 1901 local elections in Berea. The controversy arose when the Berea town council nominated S.E. Welch Jr., a prominent Republican and business leader, as its new police judge, but the Deomocratic governor, J.C.W. Beckham, appointed Democrat H.C. Kinnard.

Outraged by this action, Republicans in Berea chose a straight Republican ticket for the fall elections. In the past, though Berea was a Republican bastion in Madison County, the town elections had customarily been nonpartisan. John L. Gay withdrew from the madistrate's race and filed for police judge. Wm. J. Tatum agreed to run for marshal. W.R. Gabbard, S.E. Welch Jr., T.J. Osborne, J.W. Stephens, and Josiah Burdette ran for town council. As a result, a rival caucus met and nominated a nonpartisan slate consisting of both Democrats and Republicans: E.T. Fish for police judge; Hiram Richardson for marshal; and Jas. Stigal, L.V. Dodge, J.J. Branaman, R.G. Ramsey, and R.W. Todd for town council.

The Berea Citizen worried that this partisan reaction to the Governor's appointment was "an unfortunate game of 'tit for tat.'" The paper wrote that the trouble had begun when "some mischievous person" had incited Governor Beckham to appoint a Democrat for police judge who had not been nominated by the town council. The Citizen observed that "this tyranny" had consigned Berea "to a state of anarchy for several months" and prophesied that a hudge amount of good will would be needed to see Berea through the next election in peace.

Hard feelings seemed inevitable as the two slates traded charges in speeches and letters to the paper. On November 5, 1901, the entire Republican slate was elected by a wide margin. John L. Gay went on to serve as police judge until 1909 when he was elected the first mayor of Berea, a position he held for 48 years. The anarchy predictated by the Citizen was a mere shadow of the violence that surrounded the Goebel election and assasination, but the suspicion and mistrust felt by many Republicans in Berea was real, and the appointment by Governor Beckham was viewed as an act of tyrany. Many in Berea viewed the selection of the police judge as an exercise of political sovereignty.

See Klotter, James C., William Goebel: The Politics of Wrath, The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 1977, 79-80; Klotter, James C., Kentucky: Portrait in Paradox, 1900-1950, The University of Kentucky Press, Lexington, KY, 1997, 52; The New York Times, 1Feb1900, p6; Ibid, 22May1900, p5; Berea Citizen, 23May1900, p1, 5; 25Apr1901; 16May1901; 30May1901; 11Jul1901; 3)ct1901; 7Nov1901; 17Oct1901; 24Oct1901; and 31Oct1901.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Berea High School First Commencement

The Berea High School, sometimes referred to as "fruit jar" high school, held its first Commencement exercises on May 19, 1929 at the Berea Baptist Church. The ten graduates each delivered an original essay:

Clinton Hensley — Preparedness for Peace
Adith Smith — Ambition
Wilbur Wynn — Achievement
Ella Mae Powell — Shall We Open the Gates?
Thurman Todd — The Airplane and the Future
Gladys Oliver— America’s Tenth Man
Fred Rominger—Repairing the Cabinet
Helen Cornelius—Lindbergh in Central America
Walter McKeehan—Kentucky for Progress
Lillian Hutchins—Valedictory

The commencement address was delivered by the Rev. Howard Morgan, pastor of the Maxwell Presbyterian Church of Lexington. His theme was "Democracy" and a plan for the youth of our country to face the problems and solve them.

See Berea Citizen 16May1929 and 30May1929.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Churchill Weavers

Churchill Weavers was founded by David Carroll Churchill and his wife, Eleanor, in 1922 in a third floor office at Boone Tavern in Berea, Kentucky. The weaving business soon outgrew the hotel space, and they set up shop with four looms in a shed at the edge of town on Lorraine Court where the present gift shop is located. They recruited local weavers and eventually employed 150 looms in the business.

D.C. Churchill was the engineer behind the company's success. He had graduated from MIT in 1899 and traveled as a missionary to India in 1901 to teach "mechanical trades." Working with unskilled native weavers, he perfected a hand loom which Indian laborers used to produce cloth four to eight times fater than the old-style looms. With the outbreak of World War I, Churchill and his wife returned to America, eventually accepting a teaching job at Berea College. When Churchill began his own weaving business, he used the same type looms he had designed in India.

Eleanor Churchill proved to be an unexpected asset to the family business. She was a natural designer with an innate flair for combining colors and textures in strikingly new ways. She was also the business manager of the firm. Over the years, Churchill Weavers avoided head-to-head competition with the large textile factories and sought to achieve a market niche with excellent handcrafted products.

Carroll Churchill died at age 96 in 1969. Eleanor Churchill sold the business to Lila and Richard Bellando in 1973. The Bellandos continued Churchill Weavers as a family business until 1996 when they sold it to Crown Crafts, Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia.

Over the years, Churchill Weavers was best known for woolen baby blankets, couch throws, neck ties, and ladies accessories. The expert weavers at the company were recognized in 1960 when B. F. Goodrich Co. selected Churchill Weavers to weave a special material for coveralls as part of NASA's space program.

See Berea Citizen, 29 May 1986, p54; information contributed by Richard and Lila Bellando.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Eleanor Franzen Churchill

Eleanor Franzen Churchill, co-founder of Churchill Weavers, was born in 1888 in Worthinton, Minnesota. After graduating from Wellesley College, she served as a missionary in India where she met and married her husband, David Carroll Churchill. They worked in India until the outbreak of World War I when they moved to Oberlin, Ohio, her husband's boyhood home.

In 1920 the Churchills moved to Berea after Berea College president Dr. William J. Hutchins asked David to teach physics and set up an industrial technology department. D. C. Churchill and Hutchins had been childhood friends.

After David had taught for two years, the Churchills launched Churchill Weavers in 1922, using local labor and looms built by David. He provided the technical expertise for the weaving enterprise. Eleanor provided the designs. Learning to weave after the founding of the busienss, she bodly combined textures and colors in new ways. Churchill Weavers contributed greatly over the years to the economic and artistic life of the Berea area and became a nationally known company.

Eleanor Churchill was also co-founder with Dr. Louise Hutchins of the Mountain Maternal Health Legaue in Berea which provided birth control services to mountain women. She was a director of Berea National Bank and a member of Union Church and many arts and women's leagues. She had two daughters, Alice Hadley and Cherry Belanger. She died at age 93 on October 3, 1981 and is buried in the family plot in Oberlin, Ohio.

See Berea Citizen, 8 Oct 1981; see also separate article on Churchill Weavers.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Delta Natural Gas Company, Inc.

Delta Gas, founded by Harrison D. Peet on October 14, 1949 in Stanton, Kentucky, opened a Berea office at the corner of U.S. Highway 25 and Meadowlark Drive in 1955. Delta's target market was mainly residential and small industrial users. The company obtained natural gas from interstate suppliers like Columbia and Tennessee Gas and delivered it to local communities through local transmissions lines. Delta Gas brought a new source of energy to Berea.

Delta Gas grew rapidly over the years. Its first annual report reflected a customer base of 398. By 1975 it had approximately 11,000 customers and 300 miles of pipeline. In the past twenty-five years, Delta Gas has continued to grow through acquisitions and mergers. In 2001 Delta Gas employed 156 employees system-wide, owned over 23,000 miles of pipe, and served over 40,000 customers in 23 central and southeastern Kentucky counties. It has five district offices located in Berea, Corbin, Middlesboro, Nicholasville, and Owingsville, and a corporate headquarters in Winchester.

Delta's Berea office moved into a newly constructed building on Glades Road in November 2001. Glenn R. Jennings, a Berea native and resident, is President, CEO, and chairman of the Board of Directors. He has been associated with Delta Gas since January 8, 1979.

See Berea Citizen, 29 May 1986, p85; and information contributed by company.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Samuel Ernest Welch Jr.

S.E. Welch Jr. , merchant, community-builder, and staunch Republican, was born in Scott County, Virginia on June 20, 1861. After migrating to McKee, Kentucky in 1883, he married the former Martha Belle Morris of Jackson County, Kentucky. They moved to Berea with their three children, John Welch, Ernest Dooley Welch, and Hilda Welch in 1890.

In Berea, Welch opened a store on the south side of Chestnut Street just east of the railroad tunnel. His store was so successful that he bought the three acres across the street in 1893 and began building what was later called "the Welch block," composed of a dry goods, hardware, furniture, grocery, Gentleman's Furnishings, and drug stores. This commercial block continued to exist after his death until it was destroyed by fire in 1924. He was so successful at business in Berea that the Berea Citizen recognized him as a commercial leader in the community in 1902.

After establishing his store, Welch played an important role in founding the first bank in Berea in 1901, Berea Bank & Trust Company. He left that bank after only one year, but then helped start a rival bank, Berea National Bank, in 1906. He served as president until his death in 1910. Welch also helped found the Berea Printing & Publishing Co. which published the Berea News, a local newspaper designed to compete with the college-owned Berea Citizen. Welch was involved in state and local Republican politics, and hr served two terms on the Berea town council.

In sharp contrast to his sterling reputation as a businessman and community-builder, Welch's personal reputation was tarnished by his affair with Jennie B. Fish, the wife of A.T. Fish, his partner in the Berea Bank & Trust Company, which lasted from 1899 until his death. There were whispered rumors, after A.T. Fish's unexpected and sudden death in 1902, that Welch had poisoned Fish. This clandestine relationship also lead to Welch shooting shooting P.D. McBride, a traveling salesman, in 1906 for visiting the Fish home. Eventually, Welch's older daughter, Dooley, eloped with Jennie B. Fish's son, Grover, and had a son. Welch tried hard to break up the couple's marriage and finally succeeded in 1910 when Dooley took her baby son and returned to the Welch house. (That house was located behind his commercial block and is now known as Reppert Funeral Home.) As a result, Grover Fish sought out Welch in his store one evening and fatally shot him in the back. A jury subsequently exonerated Fish, finding that the killing had been justified.

See Everybody Trades at Welches, at the Berea branch of the Madison County LIbrary for a more complete portrait of Welch, and the following editions of the Berea Citizen, 14 Dec 1972; 27 Feb 1902; 21 Apr 1910; 28 Apr 1910.