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A Living Treasure

Smiser known by many
as a humble community servant

Former Melrose Inn owner to be honored
Sept. 24 by the Oldham Co. Historical Society

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

Kentucky 2010 Edition Cover

Kentucky 2010
Edition Cover

LA GRANGE, Ky. (September 2010) – Ann Barrickman Smiser has been surrounded by history all of her life. As a long-time resident of Oldham County, she will be honored with the J. Chilton Barnett “Champion of Oldham County History Award” on Friday, Sept. 24.
She humbly said, “I didn’t think I was all that deserving. There are a lot more people that deserve recognition.”
Despite her misgivings, Smiser was selected because of her involvement in many community projects and organizations. At 92, Smiser has earned the title “Living Treasure,” which was given to her in February 2009 by the Oldham County History Center and the Oldham Era.
Smiser was born to Stella and Edgar Barrickman of Skylight, Ky., on Aug. 1, 1918. The family farm in Skylight on Barrickman Lane had been in the family for 135 years. She described herself as a tomboy, having grown up with three brothers: Ray, Robert and Darrell.
In 1938, she married former Skylight resident Jack Smiser. “He was a good friend of my father,” she said. Smiser was 14 years older than her. They had one daughter, Janice Blackwell, who lives in Maryland.
Faith has played an important role in Smiser’s life. She has been a member of Shiloh Methodist Church in Skylight since age 14. She has served in the roles of secretary and treasurer for 50 years.
She and Jack may best be remembered as owning and operating a restaurant and hotel on Hwy. 42 near the Jefferson County line. The Melrose Inn was a popular stop along Hwy. 42 in Prospect because “Ann created an environment of southern hospitality for visitors, serving up traditional Kentucky food favorites such as country ham and biscuits and minted juleps,” said Nancy Theiss, executive director of the Oldham County History Center.

Oldham County History Center logo

Oldham County Historical Society Gala

• Friday, Sept. 24, at the Oldham County Historical Society, 106 N. Second Ave., La Grange, Ky.
• Featuring: Reception with an open bar; presentation of the J. Chilton Barnett “Champion of History Award” to Ann Smiser; catered sit-down dinner; music by John Manning & The Thrillers; silent auction; live auction with Rick Wardlow, auctioneer. Reception starts at 6:30 p.m.
• Tickets: $125 per person.
• 2009 Honorary Co-Chairs: Jon and Mary Beth Westbrook
• Information or to reserve tickets: (502) 222-0826

Past Winners
2009: Vincent Fanelli
2008: Gene Crady
2007: Joseph and Rose Ethel Hall
2006: Roy Kimberly “Kim” Snell (posthumously)
2005: Bill and Dorothy Lammlein
2004: Carl Klingenfus (posthumously)
2003: Theodore Klein (posthumously)
2002: Milton Carl Stoess

The menu included “Garibaldi salad, steaks, baked potatoes and was one of the first places to serve the Kern’s Kentucky Derby Pie,” said Theiss. “The Melrose Inn became an important destination for tourists for the Kentucky Derby in the 1960s and 1970s.”
Smiser and her husband operated the inn on nine acres in Prospect for 25 years. “We would have breakfast every morning looking out over our nine acres and envision a motel built on the property,” she said. The couple came up with the name after they had traveled to Natchez, Miss., and saw a plantation called Melrose.
There was an old house next to the motel, probably 80 to 100 years old, where her brother Robert lived, said Smiser. He decided to move out, and the Smisers turned it into a restaurant in 1961. “I took care of the recipes, planning and business part,” she said.
This will be the sixth year the Oldham County Historical Society has recognized a person with the Champion of History Award. Smiser will receive her honor at the Oldham County History Center during the Historical Society’s ninth annual dinner Gala. This year’s theme is “A Drive Down Memory Lane.”
Past recipients have included Milton Carl Stoess, Theodore Klein, Carl Klingenfus, Bill and Dottie Lammlein, Roy “Kim” Snell, Joseph W. and Ethel Hall, Gene Crady and Vincent Fanelli.
The evening will include a reception with open bar that begins at 6:30 p.m., catered sit-down dinner by Ladyfingers Catering, music by The Thrillers, dancing, silent auction and a live auction with auctioneer Rick Wardlow. Honorary co-chairs will be Jon and Mary Beth Westbrook. Black tie or 1950s or 1960s attire is optional.
“Ann has helped to support many of the activities and programs that have been generated at the History Center,” said Theiss.
And she will still be giving to the community, not merely receiving an award for herself, on the night of the Gala. Smiser owns the bell that hung at the old Funk Seminary in La Grange and plans to donate it to the History Center that evening.
“Not only does the bell come from Oldham County, it was made by the Belknap Co.,” said good friend and former neighbor Raymond Simpson.
Smiser is “one of the most amazing ladies I have ever known.”
Simpson and his wife, Judy, were long-time neighbors. Simpson lived in a subdivision in Prospect adjacent to the Harmony Landing subdivision where the Smisers lived at one time, before Smiser moved to her family farm in Skylight. The Simpsons were invited to a Derby Party the Smisers threw in the mid-1970s, and they have been friends ever since then.

Ann Smiser

Photo provided by
O.C. History Center

Ann Smiser and
her late husband,
Jack, owned and
operated The Melrose
Inn on Hwy. 42
near Prospect.

Smiser “has lived in and been associated with the county for as long as I can remember,” said Simpson, who is also Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Oldham County Historical Society. “She probably does a lot of stuff nobody knows about. She’ll be very appreciative of this honor.”
Simpson said he and his wife used to be frequent visitors at The Melrose Inn. “It’s a place we would go on Sundays after church.”
He also serves on the board of directors for the Mahan Foundation with Smiser. She said “Mr. Mahan chose me as Treasurer in 1983 because he trusted me.”
Smiser was good friends with Mahan and his wife, Virginia, whose property is now known as the Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve. “They gave a lot of money to charitable organizations in Oldham County. Mr. Mahan requested this.”
Smiser has kept busy all of her life. At one time, she and her husband began a car dealership in Skylight selling Desoto and Plymouth cars. In 1950, they purchased a Chevrolet and Oldsmobile dealership in La Grange. They even partnered with Davis Oldsmobile in Shelbyville for a time. Smiser said she did the accounting for all of the dealerships and Melrose Inn.
“My husband helped in the restaurant some, but he was more interested in building dealerships,” she said. Jack Smiser passed away in 1981.
Smiser moved to Shelbyville 12 years ago to be near friends and since she is unable to do any more farming on the family farm in Skylight. She enjoys playing golf at the local country club, participating in a local gardening club and book club, and volunteering with the Shelby County Theatre and annual Shelbyville Horse Show.
Smiser has always believed strongly in preserving history because, she says, “It’s so important for the generations that come after our own generation to know what contributions have been made to history.”

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