Springs Storytelling & Craft Festival
County to feature oral history
with storytelling festival
springs date to prehistoric
times, evolved to a salt lick
Helen E. McKinney
DRENNON SPRINGS, Ky. (October 2011) The history
of Drennon Springs dates pack to prehistoric times. Its stories
about the past, about a simpler time, and the craft of storytelling
itself that have made the Historic Drennon Storytelling & Craft
Festival a vital event for Henry County and the region.
The oral stories are what draws the crowd, said Eleanor
Jones Sharp, 78. Sharp has helped organize the festival for most of
its existence, except for a two year hiatus when two different groups
were in charge.
Sharp is a storyteller. I like to tell stories about the area
with history mixed in, she said. There are those people who tell
stories that pertain to something in their life and those that just
learn and memorize stories.
by Helen McKinney
Springs dates back to the
time of Indians and mammoths.
Sharp falls under the first category because these stories
are more heartwarming.
The Historic Drennon Storytelling & Craft Festival is scheduled
for Oct. 8-9 at the Drennon Christian Church in Drennon, Ky. Included
in the festival will be arts and crafts, historical presenters, local
storytellers, childrens games, bluegrass music, food by at least
three vendors and a horse trail ride.
Originally, the Henry County Historical Society wanted to start
this festival in the late 1980s to keep alive the rich history of Drennon
Springs, which most people are forgetting, said Corey Beatty.
He is trying to revive the festival. Declining membership and participation
brought the festival to a stop in 2007, he said.
The core idea of the event is to get back to the basics of Drennon
history and the surroundings, said Sharp, who is also church historian
for Drennon Christian Church. Her husband, Kenneth Sharp, used to grill,
cook beans in a kettle and make cornbread for festival goers.
We are just hoping to keep interest in Drennon alive, said
Beatty, who grew up in Henry County. I attended the festival most
years it was held, and I was always fascinated with the historic sites,
some still visible in the Drennon Springs area today.
Beatty has been pastor of Drennon Christian Church since July 19, 2009.
Drennon Springs was once the hotspot of the area but now is little
more than a blip on the radar of many local travelers, he said.
So many youth think nothing in Henry County is worth staying around
for, said Linda Roberts, member of the Henry County Historical
Society. Were trying to show them we have as rich a history
as any area. Roberts, a former eighth-grade teacher, has collected
the history of the area since 1991.
Drennon Springs dates to prehistoric times when a shallow sea covered
Kentucky that left salt deposits when it receded. Groundwater later
mixed with these salt deposits, carrying them to the surface. The salt
spring became known as a lick, attracting mammoth, buffalo
The lick at Drennon was discovered by Jacob Drennon and Matthew Bracken
on July 6, 1773. An Indian had told Drennon about the lick, and he found
four mineral springs during his stay there.
Gen. George Rogers Clark has been identified as the first settler at
the salt springs of Drennon. Interested in its salt-making capabilities,
he built a cabin in the area prior to 1779. The manufacture of salt
was discontinued when the price of salt made it no longer profitable.
In 1780 Archibald Dickerson believed he had discovered a silver vein
in the vicinity of two of the springs, but it turned out to be sulfide
of lead. Lead ore was mined for its silver content until 1815. Former
state geologist Willard Jillson identified it as the first lead
mine in Kentucky.
When pioneers in the area learned the medicinal use of the waters from
Native Americans, the area attracted not only the sick but became a
social hotspot as well. When cholera periodically broke out, Drennon
was advertised as the safest place around, said Roberts.
A.O. Smith purchased the property, spending about $100,000 on improvements.
People just flocked to it, she said. The terraced hillsides
contained three large hotels and cottages. After an outbreak of cholera
in 1849, Smith sold the site to the Western Military Institute, which
sought more adequate housing. The school was known as the West
Point of the South, when cholera broke out again, forcing the
Institute to move to Tennessee in 1854.
The site was used during the Civil War, but the main buildings were
destroyed by fire toward the end of the war. By 1900, a third hotel
was built on the site but also destroyed by fire in 1909. A decade later,
the springs were becoming a thing of the past.
Today, a few rock walls and an old gazebo are all that is physically
left to tell the long history of the area. The three springs remain,
camouflaged by the natural landscape.
Sharp hopes to one day write a book about Drennon Springs. Until then,
shell tell her stories orally to any who will listen.
For more information on the festival, contact
Corey Beatty at (502) 541-0296.
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