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Saving historic structures

Summerlong 'Heritage Saturdays' features
18th and 19th century demonstrators

Masterson House receives funds
for much-needed repairs

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

CARROLLTON, Ky. (May 2006) – Dinah Marshall’s mother taught her how to cane chairs. This is a skill she has never forgotten, and she often shares it with others.
“It’s time consuming,” and “hard on the hands,” Marshall said of weaving. But she loves it, nonetheless.
Her mother learned to cane from a six-page Cooperative Extension Office booklet when Marshall was a child. Her mother kept this booklet, which is now about 35 years old. She has made copies of the booklet and uses them to teach others about caning.
“You pass things on,” said Marshall. She has given classes on weaving seagrass bottoms for chairs and stools.
Marshall is part of this year’s lineup for "Heritage Saturdays" that begins May 20. The May event will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Masterson House, located on Hwy. 42 in Carrollton. A second Heritage Saturday is scheduled for Sept. 16.
In its fifth year, this event will feature food and house tours by Port William Historical Society President Nancy Jo Grobmyer. In addition to Marshall, demonstrations will be given by spinner Rita Westrick, basket maker Karen Browning, pioneer camping and dulcimer playing by Wayne and Sharon Eggemeiers, Nina Stewart and others from a local quilting group, butter churning by Grace Angotti and Maxine Lindsay, and a display of Carroll County Historian Katherine Salyers’ personal scrap books.
Marshall finds satisfaction in taking something useless and turning it into something useful. She discovers a lot of history in caning a chair, such as where the chair has been for the last century. Once she puts a new seat in it, the owner can use and enjoy it, perhaps passing it on to their children someday.
Originally from Trimble County, Marshall said people are now looking at older furniture and restoring it. “A new seat will last 30 to 40 years.”
There are certain steps involved with caning, and it usually takes Marshall 25 to 30 hours to complete a chair. Although she doesn’t sell her work, friends often ask her to cane chair bottoms for them.
Marshall is very knowledgeable about what she does. People used to get chairs like a kit, she said. Husbands would drill holes and put cushions on the chair or their wives would cane the bottom of the chair. “Chairs used to be a luxury,” she said.
Grobmyer said the purpose of Heritage Saturdays is “to expose the Masterson House to people. We have many visitors from other areas, more than local visitors.”
Run by the Port William Historical Society, the Masterson House is in need of repairs. The historical society owns the home and has applied for 501 C-3 status in the hope of receiving more grant funding. Wilson Contractors repaired the bathroom and kitchen area last year. The home now needs a new roof.
Carroll County Fiscal Court contributed $5,000 to the historical society last year for upkeep expenses, said Carroll County Judge-Executive Harold Tomlinson, Jr. He called the Masterson House “a part of our history” and noted that the historical society has had a hard time financially maintaining the home.
“We are fortunate to have those who are so dedicated to preserving our past,” said Tomlinson. The home is “just a part of what we have here to showcase. There is a lot of history and background in this community.”
In the 1790s, Richard and Sarah Shore Masterson moved to Port William from Masterson Station in Fayette County, Ky. Masterson was a surveyor who owned more than 40,000 acres of land.
Slaves built the house, a two-story brick. Grobmyer said it is “one of the oldest two-story brick buildings still standing on the Ohio River west of the Allegheny Mountains.”
The historical society has worked on other projects in the county as well. Two years ago they undertook the job of cleaning the Hawkins-Gaunt Cemetery on Hwy. 42, next to the BP Gas Convenience Store, said member Mary Broberg.
“It is one of the oldest cemeteries in the county,” said Broberg. Plantings were placed in the small cemetery and attempts were made to locate the families of those buried there.
Visitors will get to experience a different time period while learning of Carrollton’s past on Heritage Saturdays.

• For more information contact, Nancy Jo Grobmyer at (502) 732-5786.

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