Thursday, March 13, 2003

NKU opens windows to history Saturday

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS - Don't know much about history?

Then check out the 10th annual Northern Kentucky History Day at Northern Kentucky University on Saturday.

Among Northern Kentucky's little known historical facts:

• The runaway slave immortalized in Toni Morrison's 1987 novel Beloved was based on a Boone County woman who killed her daughter rather than see her returned to slavery.

What: Northern Kentucky History Day
When: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday
Where: University Center at Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights
Cost: $5 for advance registration, $6 at the door; includes continental breakfast, historical displays, speakers and workshops.
Sponsors: Northern Kentucky University, The Historical Confederation of Kentucky, and historical societies and heritage groups from 13 Northern Kentucky counties
Information: (859) 441-7667
• During the Civil War, many of the wounded from the Battle of Shiloh were transported by steamboat to military hospitals in Newport and Covington.

• In 1807, soon after the famed Lewis and Clark expedition, William Clark stopped at Big Bone Lick in what is now known as Boone County, to collect fossils for President Thomas Jefferson. Those ice age fossils can be found at Jefferson's Monticello in Charlottesville, Va., and in museums throughout the world.

"This is a chance to make some contacts and get some new ideas, particularly for folks who're interested in genealogy,'' said Dr. James Ramage, Regents professor of history at NKU. While some of the presentations are aimed at die-hard history buffs, most will appeal to the average person, he said.

"We'd love to see high school teachers attend and count this as their in-service (training),'' said retired schoolteacher Martha Pelfrey, a member of the Campbell County Historical Society. "This is a great chance to learn about local history.''

Most of the history day presentations will revolve around the Civil War. A border slave state, Kentucky residents were deeply divided. The commonwealth became increasingly vulnerable to raids from Gen. John Hunt Morgan and others as the war wore on and attention was focused elsewhere.

Author Lester V. Horwitz will discuss the longest raid of the Civil War, while other speakers will focus on Civil War military hospitals in Northern Kentucky and on Tristate native Ulysses S. Grant.

Other Civil War-era topics will focus on Northern Kentucky's role in the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves, with emphasis on Margaret Garner, the Boone County runaway slave who killed her daughter rather than see her returned to slavery.

Ramage's keynote speech will be on "U.S. Grant: The Rise and Fall of his Public Reputation.'' The victorious Union general and 18th U.S. president was a native of Point Pleasant, Ohio. During his presidency, Grant often visited his parents at their home at 520 Greenup St. in Covington.

Grant was in Covington soon after the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C., in 1861, triggering the Civil War. The retired Army man also was visiting his parents in June of that year when he received a telegram from Illinois' governor offering him an appointment as a colonel in the 21st regiment of Illinois Infantry. During 1862, Grant's wife, Julia, and their three children, lived with his parents.

"When Grant took a world tour after his retirement, they hailed him around the world as a great hero,'' Ramage said. "In the 1930s, that admiration stopped, and textbooks started slamming him for the corruption in his administration. One theory was that (society) turned against Grant because he didn't go along with racism and segregation. He was very strong against the Klan.''


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