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Oldham Historical Society

Historical Society museum
steps closer to its goal

By Helen E. McKinney,
Contributing Writer

(June, 2002)NEW CASTLE, Ky. – The Henry County Historical Society found a permanent home in 1996 by purchasing the Caplinger House in New Castle. Plans are steadily evolving to turn it into a museum with a genealogical and educational resource center.
The house was purchased for approximately $55,000, and an additional $100,000 was borrowed to completely renovate it inside and out, according to society president Shirley Sills.

Henry County Historical Society

Henry County Historical Society
is turing this house into a
museum, genealogical
and research center

Proceeds from the sale of a history book of Henry County and donations helped ease some of the incurred debt. Sills said that untold numbers of volunteers combined in a community effort to restore the home to some of its former glory.
An architect and an historic preservation consultant, both from the University of Kentucky, began the initial phase of renovation. Local artisans then assumed responsibility for the exterior and interior restoration.
James Nelson Caplinger moved to New Castle in 1852 and built the house in 1863. The home is one of three he built in New Castle for each of his three daughters. Caplinger was a carpenter and was also involved in a pharmacy business.
Betsey Sewell, a society member who volunteers at the History Center and Museum, said that the Caplinger House offers quite a bit of history to local families. “There were a lot of weddings here. It belongs to a lot of people in the community.”
It became a popular site for weddings because the United Methodist Church owned the house from 1917 until 1969. It served as the church Parsonage for more than 50 years.
Sills said the house has been designated as a repository for county court records. Some of these records, which include marriage licenses and property deeds, date to 1799. Members are sorting and alphabetizing these records for future use.
When finished, the History Center and Museum will hold a wealth of information on Henry County history. The society is repaying the county by providing a home for information that cannot be found elsewhere. Individuals have traveled from as far away as Tucson, Ariz., to search through files, looking for clues to their ancestors, said Sills.
Although the society holds its meetings there, Sills said organizations that donate $500 a year are allowed to use the center for business meetings, if one member is also a society member.
Many historical society-sponsored programs are provided in the home to educate and enrich the public. One such event was a recent reading by native Henry County author Wendell Berry.
As a fund-raising event, the historical society has planned a golf scramble for June 15 at the Henry County Country Club. Board member Mark Boyer said the society hopes to raise $2,500 from this event.
Many items have been donated for display at the home. “We have adopted a collection management policy,” Sills said. Individuals can donate items, but the board and museum chairperson must approve the donations. Once accepted, the museum assumes unrestricted ownership, meaning it can display or store items as it sees best.
Through June, the museum is running a pictorial exhibit titled, “Life Along the Ohio River.” Operating hours for the public are 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.

• For information on the golf scramble, call (502) 845-2375.

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