Edmonson Voice Report:
Legislation that would prohibit merchant processors from using specific merchant category codes for transactions involving the sale of firearms and/or ammunition is one step closer to becoming law after passing the Kentucky House earlier today.
“Despite countless attacks over the years, the Second Amendment continues to protect our right to keep and bear arms. However, we continue to hear folks advocate for a designated code that could be used to infringe on the privacy of buyers while making potential discrimination against gun shops and firearms retailers easier. We felt like this was an opportunity to get ahead of it with House Bill 357,” Meredith said.
House Bill 357, filed by Representative Michael Meredith of Oakland and Representative Derek Lewis of London, would prohibit the use specific merchant category codes during the sale of a firearm and/or ammunition. The issue stems from a move by the International Organization for Standardization, a global network of unelected officials based in Geneva, Switzerland. In 2022, the organization created a four-digit merchant category code for firearms retailers in a move that many felt was aimed at tracking purchases.
While 18 states, including Kentucky, have proposed measures to prohibit the use of these merchant codes, other states are moving in the opposite direction. California and New York have mandated the use of these codes, and similar measure is currently making its way through the Colorado state legislature. This is in addition to the federal congressional support such mandates have received. This past December, 47 members of Congress sent a letter to all major credit card companies requesting that they mandate the use of merchant codes in states where they are not yet prohibited so that purchases may be flagged.
“This bill would protect the purchaser’s private information and ensure they’re not identified and profiled based simply on their exercise of a constitutional right in existence since 1791,” Lewis added.
HB 357 was passed by the House Standing Committee on Banking and Insurance, and is now headed to the full House for consideration.
For more information about HB 357 and to track its legislative progress, visit the Kentucky General Assembly’s website at legislature.ky.gov.
Fentanyl, Meth, & Marijuana Found
Darren Doyle, story:
A Mammoth Cave man and Bowling Green woman were arrested and face multiple felony drug charges after a traffic stop on Friday of last week.
According to the Edmonson County Sheriff's Facebook Page, Edmonson County Sheriff James Edward Vincent conducted a traffic stop on February 23rd on Veterans Memorial HWY. The Sheriff stated to the Edmonson Voice that the vehicle was found to be traveling 79MPH in a 55MPH zone.
The driver was identified as Ronald Smith (46), of Mammoth Cave and the passenger was identified as Jessica Daugherty (38) of Bowling Green. The Sheriff also stated the odor of marijuana was detected and that consent to search was given. Various drugs and paraphernalia were discovered inside the vehicle, the Sheriff said. Both individuals were arrested.
Ronald Smith was charged with:
Jessica Daugherty of Bowling Green KY was charged with:
They were transported and lodged in the Hart County Jail, where each are being held on $10,000 bonds, according to Hart County Jail.
Madison Doyle, story and photo:
Edmonson County Fiscal Court met Monday, February 26, 2024. The meeting was called to order by Judge Executive Scott Lindsey, followed by various county department heads giving standard their standard reports.
The first major discussion of the meeting began with Leah Thompson, who spoke on behalf of the Barren County Child Advocacy Center. Thompson first explained to the court that the Child Advocacy Center, (CAC), is an organization that helps children who have experienced sexual abuse, sexual trauma, etc. She said that last year, CAC helped a total of 35 Edmonson County children.
Thompson went on to explain the federal government has cut the budget for the next fiscal year (2025), and they will be losing a whopping amount of $350,000. The CAC was provided no explanation for these extreme budget cuts, she said. This will cause crucial jobs to be lost, such as mental health therapists for these children who are in "desperate need", as Thompson put it.
Thompson asked the court to donate $6,000 to the organization in the hopes the CAC won't have to terminate important roles. She mentioned that she visited multiple fiscal court meetings in counties that seek help from the CAC, asking them for donations - in an amount tailored to the number of children the CAC helps in that area.
Edmonson County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Tim Jackson spoke up and said the Sheriff's office has already looked into this matter, and mentioned a private donor was interested putting up the money. Thompson said anybody can donate any amount at any time, and all donations are "appreciated more than words can say". No action was taken by the court.
Following this, the Peoples Bank made a brief presentation. At the previous fiscal court meeting, the court voted to move all county government banking to one single bank, which you can read more about here.
Donna Shockley, branch manager of Peoples Bank in Brownsville said the county has banked with them for years, and they would really hate to see them go. She said they could offer the county a fixed rate of 5.05%, for one year, which was a "huge deal". She said they can revisit that offer again after the year was over. Another spokesperson from the Peoples Bank mentioned the county has a loan request in place with them that would refund FEMA dollars, which they could not honor if the court took their banking elsewhere.
Mag. TJ Massey spoke up and asked for clarification on the loan request, to which the Peoples Bank representative responded "the county currently has a loan request for roadway repairs...FEMA dollars. This was under the impression that we would have the deposit accounts. We learned last week that you all decided to move to Bank of Edmonson County. So if that's the case, I assume you'll want them to file that loan."
No other questions were asked, no action was taken, and the meeting moved to the next item of business. It was later voted on that the county purchase new checks/deposit books at Bank of Edmonson County for new accounts in the amount of $3,801.
Darren Dennison and Josh Brooks were appointed to the Edmonson County Water Board, with Dennison's position being effective immediately and Brooks' position effective March 1st, 2024. Dennison was present at the meeting tonight, and said he had 30 years of experience in this business, and he was "honored and humbled to serve the county he raised his children in, and that he calls home."
Dennison’s leadership at the Leitchfield Water Plant has earned several accolades and awards over the years.
The court also voted to:
Darren Doyle, story:
Instead of working a real job like you, scammers continue to try stealing your hard-earned income by new means everyday, and the Bank of Edmonson County is warning of a new tactic that reverts to older methods like the good 'ol U.S. mail.
According to Bank of Edmonson CEO Michelle Coleman, one resident received what appeared to be a legitimate document from the Bank about the recipient's mortgage but with vague or threatening language.
"The attached was received by a local resident customer who does not have an active mortgage," said Coleman. "We urge local residents DO NOT call this number and do not attempt to sign this document. The scammers would likely ask for your bank account information, and this is a scam. There is no affiliation with Bank of Edmonson County whatsoever. The mailing notes that at the bottom in the fine print but this is not a legitimate mailing and should be shredded."
Any of the three Bank of Edmonson branch locations can be reached by calling their main office number at 270-597-2175.
"As always, we are here to help and if the community ever has anything they have questions or concerns about, please visit our locations at Brownsville, Bowling Green, or Smiths Grove, or give us a call," Coleman added.
Edmonson County Fiscal Court met in session on Monday, February 12, 2024 at the upstairs courtroom in the Edmonson County Courthouse.
In addition to discussions on the current county water situation and the decision to move the county's bank accounts to one single bank, other business was discussed.
After basic county office reports were given, a discussion was held on whether or not a wet/dry vote could be held as requested in the Lincoln Fire District at the next election.
County Attorney Adam Turner said in his opinion, there was no clear answer whether the county could or couldn't sign off to have the option placed on the ballot. He said he spoke with the Alcohol Control Board and the KY Association of Counties (KACO), and he said initially, he was only given instructions on how to handle a local option.
Judge/Executive Scott Lindsey said the county would need to sign a letter stating whether or not the local request met the criteria for a vote, meaning that the request documentation met all the proper requirements. It would not mean that the county or Judge/Executive's Office would be in favor or against. Lindsey said with no case law in comparison with the local request, he would have to sign the letter. The court was not required to take any action, Co. Attorney Turner was only updating the court.
Tracy Burba and Ashlee Jaggers, owners of a multi-vendor business on Main Street called "Creations by Tracy & Ashlee," spoke to the fiscal court about the parking issues their business has recently faced since the county created a new parking lot on the south side of the Community Center and Courthouse on East Jackson St.
Both ladies claimed the former county administration was supposed to provide some assistance since they say the parking lot has now taken away public parking that was used for not only their business, but also for the Community Center and Courthouse, but that never happened and they need some solutions. The both said that they took parking into consideration when choosing to buy and remodel the building several years ago, but now, with no parking for the public available in the new lot or on Jackson St. with the addition of it becoming a two-way street, and now with a no parking space next to the stop sign at Jackson and Main, there is only a couple spots available for not only the customers but for employees of the businesses.
The ladies said they house eleven different vendors in the building and have already lost one due to the lack of available parking. They asked that the county open up the new lot for public parking. Judge Lindsey said that he's had discussions with Brownsville Mayor Jerry Meredith and spots could possibly be added on Jackson Street.
Darren Doyle, President of the Edmonson County Chamber of Commerce spoke to the court about a county ordinance that requires the Chamber to provide a representative to serve on the county's Rec Tax Commission. Doyle asked magistrates to vote to amend the ordinance to remove the Chamber's requirement to sit on the commission for a number of reasons.
The first was that the Chamber is a private nonprofit org with no county affiliation, second was that no Chamber member currently pays the Rec Tax, so the Chamber would have no real contribution to the commission, and third, although the Chamber supports the tax, its reasoning, and its beneficiary, which is Parks and Rec, Chambers normally advocate against taxes for businesses, so there was a conflict of interest.
Magistrates took no action yesterday but are expected to discuss further at the next meeting.
Magistrates also voted to:
The next Edmonson County Fiscal Court meeting is scheduled for February 26th at 4PM.
Darren Doyle, story:
Magistrates voted 3-2 to move all county government accounts from Peoples Bank to Bank of Edmonson County at yesterday's Edmonson County Fiscal Court meeting.
District 2 Magistrate T.J. Massey spoke on a proposal that was presented to the court by representatives of Bank of Edmonson County at their previous fiscal court meeting. He explained that the county currently has 80% of their accounts at Peoples Bank, with balances totaling approx. $3.5M and the other 20% at Bank of Edmonson, with an approx. balance of $500,000.
Mag. Massey said that Bank of Edmonson County has offered competitive rates for the county, but those rates would only apply if all accounts were moved over. Massey did not say what the rates were at the meeting. County Treasurer Tammi Willhite said the county would immediately lose $7,000 in banking products that would have to be replaced if all accounts were moved. Those products include laser security checks and carbon deposit books, which she said are required for government entities. Massey said he thought the discussion had become emotional and he didn't understand why, and he said at even losing $7K now, the county's accounts would be better off in the long run by moving.
Treas. Willhite and Judge Lindsey said the rates would be the same overall between both banks, but Lindsey said the decision was up to the magistrates. Both Mags. James Vincent and Anthony Hennion asked about having a larger portion moved to Bank of Edmonson, and Judge Lindsey said Willhite showed an example of how to make a change from 80/20 to 63/37 while only losing $1500 in products; however, Mag. Mark Meeks said the agenda item was to vote on moving all accounts, not a portion.
With no more discussion, Meeks motioned to move all accounts from Peoples to BoEC, with Massey seconding the motion. Magistrates voted in favor of the motion except James Vincent and Anthony Hennion, who voted against. Mag. Gary Bagshaw recused himself of the vote due to a conflict of interest.
Today, we spoke with Magistrate Massey about his motion and vote and Massey provided much more context than was discussed in open court.
"The Bank of Edmonson County has approached the county multiple times about better rates but nothing has ever been discussed. I know the question has been asked before as to why there is so much money at Peoples Bank but not much at Bank of Edmonson County, and there's never really been much of an answer," Massey said. "Throughout the year, Peoples Bank has raised their rates and we obviously welcomed that. But once I started looking into it, I started laying out facts, and they were facts. Once Bank of Edmonson gave us a competitive bid, they asked for all of the money at a rate of 5%. We have two accounts right now at Peoples higher than 5% but the rest of them are lower, at somewhere around 4.85%."
Treas. Willhite told the Edmonson Voice that her job is simply to look out for the best interest of the county when comes to financial matters, and why she felt like the change would still be about the same.
"The proposal was based on the money being in the Fed Fund Rate program set by the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C.. It being a federal program, when the target rates are set by the Federal Reserve, it is the same for any bank institution that falls within Federal Reserve guidelines. So this program is consistent over multiple financial institutions and all carry the same target rates under the Fed Fund rate program."
Massey said that by moving all the accounts over to Bank of Edmonson, it makes the county more money this year, which he did not completely clarify at yesterday's meeting. Other factors that Massey said went into his decision to support the move was that Peoples Bank has been sold four different times since some of the accounts were first created in 1975. He noted that Bank of EC has never changed ownership in their history. He said despite some scrutiny he has faced since supporting the motion and vote yesterday, he felt like it was the best decision for the county.
"I just started making direct comparisons, rates, and writing down facts. And again, these are facts," he said. "Bank of Edmonson County has three offices with their main branch located in Edmonson County. Peoples Bank has 138 offices with a main branch being based out of Ohio. Bank of Edmonson holds 83.69% of the market share in our county, currently. Peoples Bank holds 16.31% of that market share. Forty-five of 49 employees of Bank of Edmonson reside in Edmonson County, Peoples Bank has 3 employees that reside in Edmonson County. Bank of Edmonson pays $50,000 in deposit tax, Peoples Bank pays approximately $5,000 in deposit tax. Bank of Edmonson pays property tax of $1.7 million of property evaluation, which directly comes to fiscal court. Peoples Bank pays a property tax of $430,000 of property evaluation. Bank of Edmonson County closed 609 loans to county residents in 2023, totaling $28,126,744. At this time, and I didn't have comparable numbers for Peoples Bank, but I did learn that the growth tax from 2022 to 2023 for new property in Edmonson County was $32 million, therefore, if the Bank of Edmonson County closed $28 million of that, they obviously hold a lion's share of this amount."
Massey said he had to favor the proposal of Bank of Edmonson County when considering the total picture, and that's why he chose to support the motion to move all accounts.
"I stand by my decision to move all the county's money, but I think it should be revisited later," Massey said.
Darren Doyle, story and photos:
Brownsville resident Greg Nugent announced at last night's Edmonson County Fiscal Court meeting that he was resigning his position as an Edmonson County Water District Commissioner.
Nugent's resignation is the third leadership position vacated over the past several months under public scrutiny regarding Edmonson County's continuing water supply situation and issues. General Manager Tony Sanders, who served in his position for over 10 years recently stepped down for a different role in the Water District, and Nugent announced last night at the meeting that Tim Brewster was stepping down in his leadership role at the water treatment plant.
Malcolm Doyle, a Cedar Springs resident, respectfully addressed the Fiscal Court last night and shared his disapproval of the Fiscal Court's decision to not reappoint Barry Rich to the District Water Board. The Water District has credited Rich for single-handedly discovering the dangerously low water levels caused by the removal of Lock and Dam No. 5 in Roundhill. The District says Rich saw the low levels while crossing the bridge, gathered other members of the commission, and immediately went to the dam removal site and halted the project until more could be learned. Nugent has said in recent interviews that the county's water supply may have even been stopped had Rich not stepped in.
In December, an item on the Fiscal Court agenda was to reappoint Rich to another term on the Water Commission; however, no magistrate made a motion to do so, and the item died. No reason was given as to why Rich was not reappointed, nor have any other names been mentioned publicly, and the seat is still open. Now, magistrates will have to vote on two more seats to fill with the resignation of Nugent. The Fiscal Court went into closed session last night to discuss the issue.
"We discussed the open Water Board positions," Judge/Executive Scott Lindsey told the Edmonson Voice today. "We will try to make the appointments of the two open positions at our next meeting on the 26th."
Mr. Doyle addressed the court calmly but firmly, and sounded much like a father giving the classic "I'm not mad but disappointed," speech. None of the magistrates responded to Doyle's comments.
"I just want to say I don't mean any disrespect to anybody here but I disagree with the way y'all have done Barry Rich on the Water Board," Doyle said. "We're talking about a man that spent 48 years of dedication of his life for his county. A magistrate for 28 years, 16 years on the water board...he's done as much for this county as anybody ever did."
Mr. Doyle went on to express his concerns about the water supply and the role that the U.S. Corps of Engineers has played in the removal of the dams, which have proven to be the cause for water levels, resulting in intake issues for the Water District. Doyle said he could have filled the courtroom with supporters of Barry Rich, but said he did not, as requested by Mr. Rich.
Judge Lindsey said that the Water District is being blamed for things out of their control. He also told Mr. Doyle and the crowd that lawmakers at state and federal levels are offering their assistance for the water situation.
"It's just difficult because people are in control of things that we can't control," said Lindsey. "And that's hard."
Judge Lindsey did not directly address the failed motion of the reappointment of Rich to the Water Board.
Upon the conclusion of his remarks, Greg Nugent asked if he could address the court, to which Judge Lindsey permitted.
"Your Water District Board has been working tirelessly to take care of some of these issues," Nugent said. "Issues that come from an aging system in the Wax community, a system that the Corps of Engineers turned over to the Edmonson County Water District many years ago."
He went on to say that the District reached out to some bordering counties several years ago to serve their residents when their own counties would not. He discussed the Wax treatment plant.
"Edmonson County Water District reaches a lot of people, and with that comes a large system--700 miles of lines, and even with an aging system, they tried to help the people. You never do wrong when you try to do right, but with that, is a large system that needs repair."
He reminded the court that the District does not set local rates; they are set by the Public Service Commission. He also told the court that backlash from the community from the amount of boil water advisories that are happening now are not completely justified.
"Edmonson County Water District is funded by their customers," he said. "It's not tax dollars and it's not the magistrates' fault or the judge's fault, because it's all funded by the customers. We do get some grants and funding for different things, but it's customer-funded."
On February 2, 2024, the Edmonson Voice received a statement from the U.S. Corps of Engineers described in the subject line as "regarding misperceptions in local community surrounding Green River Lock and Dam 5 removal." They stated:
"It has been brought to our attention that there is a significant amount of inaccurate information in the local community that continues to inaccurately correlate reported water quality issues in Grayson and Hart counties (specifically the area served by the Wax Treatment Plant) with the removal of Green River Lock and Dam Number 5 near Glenmore, Kentucky."
"The anticipated removal of Green River Lock and Dam Number 5 – set to resume in Summer 2024—is completely unrelated to water quality issues at the Edmonson County Wax water treatment plant. There are two separate water treatment plants that serve the local area. Edmonson County Water District treats surface water from the Green River at the Brownsville treatment plant and from Nolin Lake at the Wax treatment plant."
Nugent went on to explain the boil water advisory protocol that the District follows. He said by law, an advisory has to be issued anytime a line breaks or is cut or repaired, but just because an advisory is issued, it doesn't mean the water is unsafe for use.
"That doesn't mean your water is bad, it means that the Edmonson County Water District follows the law. I've been told that some districts don't."
He said he hoped that his words were received.
"You're water is safe," he said. "It's tested by government standards and there should be no outcry. There's been a ton of outcry that the water is bad. Your water is not bad. Water is being done the way it should be--the way it's been done for years, it's just all bad information out there."
He credited a Water District worker in the crowd for his hard work.
"He's the guy in the ditch in the middle of the night, when it's 20 degrees, so everybody can have water. He's sitting on the front row by Malcolm. He's concerned. He goes to bed with it. And I want you to know that everyone at the Water District cares about your water."
He also said he felt for Barry Rich, and said there was a good chance had Rich not acted when the Lock removal project was underway, the District would not have been able to pump water out of the river. He also credited Rich with political influence on state lawmakers to provide local assistance.
"We're fighting as hard as we can, trying to find solutions," he said. "I didn't come tonight to say anything during this meeting, but since it was brought up, I'm turning in my resignation to the Edmonson County Water District. I hope they put somebody on the board that can do a better job, maybe younger, maybe smarter, and get this all taken care of, because it's going to bed with all of us. I wake up in the middle of the night wide awake, with this on my mind. I have to get up, start doing research about what to do, and two or three hours later, I might go to bed. It's very difficult. I want you to know your water is good. Those boil water advisories do not mean your water is bad. People don't know that. It doesn't mean it's not there for a reason--it could be--but 99.9% of the time it's fine but there's a reason to have that, don't get me wrong. Go ahead and boil it, do what they say. I just want you all to understand what's going on."
Nugent said he would remain on the board for 30 more days and encouraged water customers to ask questions and specifically to attend the Water Board meetings. He thanked the court for listening.
Did You Know? Edmonson County's First Newspaper, The Edmonson Star, Owned by Black EC Business Tycoon
A Look Into the Origin of Our County's First Published News and the Prominent Black Family That Helped Establish Brownsville As We Know it Today
Darren Doyle, story:
It has often been said "time flies when you're having fun," so it's hard to believe that the Edmonson Voice is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. While the Voice was groundbreaking in the way that folks get their local news, another news outlet paved the way for that to happen nearly 100 years before. And no, it's not the newspaper that you think it is.
Denver Darious Ferguson, probably the most notable Black businessman from Brownsville, KY that you've never heard of, was the owner and creator of the first newspaper ever published in Edmonson County in 1916.
The Edmonson Star, also known as "The Edmonson Star News" was first published in April of 1916, according to the volume and edition numbers.
You're probably thinking, "Wow, why didn't I know this?" That's a good question, which brings up the second question: "Who is Denver Ferguson?" Well, he's someone you need to know about. His accomplishments were impressive, and they include not only his newspaper, but also serving in WWI, running a successful printing company, nightclub founder, and a booking agent. He is credited for helping to start a music scene that ended up producing some of the most legendary musicians and performers in music history.
Ferguson was born on February 19, 1895 to Samuel and Mattie Whitney Ferguson in Brownsville and died May 11, 1957 in Indianapolis, Indiana at age 62. He is buried in the Ferguson Cemetery, which is not easy to find if you've never been there. The cemetery is located on Cemetery Road, a small street off of Cedar Street, directly behind Cee Bee Food Store. The road turns to gravel and one would think they're heading to someone's farm, but the road leads to the cemetery.
Most all records list his burial site at Page-Ferguson Cemetery, but descendants of Mr. Ferguson disagree on the cemetery's name. There are actually two cemeteries in Edmonson County that are predominately used by black families: Page Cemetery, located directly behind the Edmonson County 5/6 Center with access from Vincent Street, and Ferguson, just mentioned.
Before we delve into Denver Ferguson himself, let's talk about The Edmonson Star.
According to author David Williams, from Black History News and Notes, "Denver attended the local school system in Brownsville and won accolades as an extremely bright student. Although he did not graduate from high school, others recognized his intellectual acumen, and he took a job as a public school teacher. As a very precocious young man, he established a newspaper called the Edmondson [sic] Star News and served as its publisher. Cleverly, he hired a white editor who was highly visible in the community, hoping that newspaper sales would not be affected by racism."
That editor was Mr. John A. Logan, who was my great-great grandmother Kate Logan's brother. I had no idea that publishing news in Edmonson County was part of my family tree, which was obviously fascinating for me. The news business was only the beginning of Logan's accomplished career.
There are no known original copies of The Edmonson Star left; however, we found one library that had one edition on microfilm, the Young Library at the University of Kentucky. After speaking with the helpful folks at the Edmonson County Public Library, we discovered that our library could borrow the microfilm from UK's library and in a few weeks, I was able to view this information in person, right here in Brownsville. The public library staff was incredibly knowledgeable, and helpful.
It took traveling down quite a few rabbit holes and conducting interviews with several folks for the info found in this feature, but the newspaper's local content was certainly a reflection of a much simpler time. I write "local content," because much of it in the edition I found was syndicated. Clips and pieces from national news or cute anecdotes from around the country were much of the content. Much of the information published is uncredited.
One example of local updates were from a column entitled "Asphalt--Asphalt News." This included lines like "We all had a nice time a church last Sunday night. A fine sermon was preached by Bro. T(h)rompson." As well as, "Mr. Oscar Raymer and Misses Ivyl Johnson, Lois Johnson and Lora York, went buggy riding, Sunday afternoon, they all had a fine time and went to church, Sunday night."
Good to know the author made sure to let readers know that they still made it to church.
We also found that several typos containing 'r' instead of 'h' were common in the paper, including plenty of other mistakes. I guess that's where I get it, since my uncle was in charge of that.
Another interesting paragraph I found was a column with the headline actually misspelled "Hotel Destoyed" (Destroyed), which describes the burning of the Mammoth Cave Hotel on December 9, 1916.
The paper also included publishing information such as edition times, editor and manager, and the rates for advertising and subscriptions. For only one dollar, you could receive the "Star" for an entire year.
One thing that hasn't changed in the news business over the last 100 years is the need for advertising. It's the entire revenue stream of the Edmonson Voice and has worked well over our short span of 10 years. The Edmonson Star was no different, and a large portion of content in the Star was both advertising and running their own ads about how others need to purchase their advertising.
A couple of our favorites were ads for "Daniel Boone's Axle Grease" and "Castoria," labeled as "A Vegetable Preparation for Assimilating the Food by Regulating the Stomachs and Bowels of Infants and Children." Sounds like both products could accomplish the same goal.
Several small ads appeared from the paper itself, like "People Read This Newspaper," and "Do You Believe in Signs? If you do, you are a judicious advertiser and a good business man. Judicious advertising Always Pays and especially when you advertise in a paper that is read by everybody in its territory."
We couldn't agree more. We also enjoyed one column that stated, "Come in and pay that overdue subscription account. Don't wait until the paper stops." While the Voice doesn't have subscriptions, we have advertising accounts with our clients, and many of them go overdue. It's good advice. Maybe we should try running the same type of ads?
Denver's parents were very well known in Brownsville, being prominent and well-respected citizens. According to interviews and other research, the Fergusons owned more property in Brownsville than anyone. Not only that, but their generosity paved the way for two local churches, Brownsville General Baptist and Cedar Grove Baptist to start, as they donated the land for the buildings. In addition, they owned the property where the old Kelwood sewing factory used to be, as well as the Edmonson County Public Library, hence the name "Ferguson Street."
They also owned the entire block where the old service station formerly stood, at the fork of Main Street and Washington Street. Two different sources said that Sam's generosity continued through donating land for one of the local schools, however, we could not confirm that through county records.
Sam's wife, Mattie, served as a mid-wife to many mothers in Brownsville and Edmonson County and was also known as a folk medicine practitioner in the community.
In an interview with longtime Brownsville resident Scottie Woodcock, now at age 91, he shared memories of the Fergusons, who he knew well.
"Their house was a big, two story block house where City Hall is now. The City tore it down to build City Hall there," he said. "It was a very nice home. They were high-class." Woodcock said he remembered when the Fergusons donated the land for Brownsville General Baptist.
"I was about 13 years old when I helped dig the basement of that church," he said. "I was a charter member of that church and we used a team of mules and an old pond scoop to dig that basement."
Sam ran a successful concrete block manufacturing business, where he made the blocks one at a time, using concrete and a form. While the family was respected in town, racism was still present.
In the book "The Chitlin' Circuit and the Road to Rock 'n' Roll" by Preston Lauterbach, which can be purchased here, the author said that Sam was able to devise his own expression of the motto "When I die, bury me upside down so the whole world can kiss...."
Lauterbach wrote "Sam Ferguson owned more of the town than any dozen white residents combined, but they still called him Uncle Sam. Among his numerous property acquisitions over the years was a grassy hilltop at Brownsville's north side. The highest point in town, Sam christened it the Ferguson Cemetery and commissioned a pair of ten-foot-high granite obelisks for himself and his wife, Mattie. Though white Brownsville insisted on looking down on the Fergusons in life, it'd have to look up to them for eternity."
Scottie said that Sam smoked a pipe all the time.
"He'd come into my dad's store and smoke that pipe. I was 18 years old and he gave me a silver dollar--said he'd give it to me if I'd never smoke. He was always so good to me. I never did tell this, but I drove up there last year, I went up there where he was buried and it was all grown up. And right here was a man that was good to me, he was in my dad's store practically everyday, I felt so bad about it I mowed it myself. I went back to my childhood where an old man was good to a kid."
Sam's influence on his boys, both Denver and Sea Ferguson, was evident, as the boys both went on to build great wealth in Indianapolis with sharp, innovative ideas. Not even a high school graduate himself, Denver became a school teacher in Brownsville in his late teens. With Denver's desire for entrepreneurship, Sam started Denver in the printing business after purchasing a small press through Sears and Roebuck for him, according to local historian and retired educator, Norman Warnell.
"Denver used that press to get into the printing business, and I heard about that paper, but it wasn't around long I don't think," said Warnell. "He eventually went to Indianapolis and I reckon he took that press with him and was printing everything from handbills to gambling tickets, and that's when he first started making money. I don't know for sure, but he's probably Edmonson County's first millionaire."
The printing business not only was the origin of The Edmonson Star, but it also provided other printing services like cards, handbills, and other paper needs. The newspaper didn't last long because Denver was drafted to serve in World War I in April of 1918.
"Denver was no slouch, he ended up as the Battalion Sergeant Major (the highest enlisted rank)," said Lt. Col. Floyd Houston, U.S. Marine Corps (ret), an Edmonson County resident, military historian, and former Commander of the local VFW Chapter 6937.
Denver served overseas from June 30, 1918 to June 25, 1919. He was honorably discharged on July 2, 1919.
While John A. Logan continued to manage the newspaper upon Denver's military service, Logan also had other aspirations and eventually became one of Edmonson County's top prosecutors. Upon Denver's return to Brownsville, Ferguson loaded up his printing press, closed the paper and moved his operation to Indianapolis.
Although the Edmonson Star was short lived, once Denver got to Indianapolis, he was involved in decades of lucrative business. As he continued his printing business in Indiana, one of his first big breaks, despite the hurdles of racism and unfair treatment, was printing tickets for a gambling street lottery game, disguised as a baseball novelty.
As read in Lauterbach's book, "Denver designed his daily lottery slips to resemble a baseball scorecard, with columns for runs, hits, and errors for every game scheduled on a given day. Players filled their three-digit "gigs" into a tea's runs, hits, and errors column..."
"...The outcome of real baseball games, however, had no bearing on the winning numbers. The daily report of the Indianapolis bank clearings and debits determined the winners. The clearings and debits typically ran seven or eight digits long, so players guessed which numbers would appear in the hundred-thousandth, ten-thousandth, and thousandth spots. Players could bet on as many three-digit possibilities as they could afford, logging their predictions on a baseball ticket in a team's runs, hits, and errors box, and paying their runner accordingly."
Lauterbach wrote that the game had to appear to at least be intended for clean amusement, since gambling devices were illegal.
"Far more important, Denver could control one or two locally generated bank reports far more simply than he could rig outcomes or reported scores of baseball games. Bank reports came out in the evening paper. Of course, wise policy bankers recognized the importance of winning, and arranged for a daily hit or two on lightly played gigs."
From there, Denver began to acquire wealth and begin investing in other ventures. His younger brother Sea Ferguson soon joined him and their empire continued to grow.
Lauterbach's book tells how Denver became one of the founders of the Black music scene in Indianapolis during his 30-year span of being an influential businessman. His clubs would host all the great Black musicians and bands, not only including those like Duke Ellington and Count Basie, but also great talent that would never become household names. His role in the nightclub scene he started in Indiana began a network of entertainers performing in what was known as "The Chitlin' Circuit," which stretched to Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and then to Memphis. It would be the circuit that spawned the careers of B.B. King, Little Richard, and even James Brown.
After troubles with the IRS and other race-based hurdles, the Ferguson brothers later started a booking agency that brought entertainers like Duke Ellington to the Indianapolis area. Sea went on to build a very successful bowling alley, only the third ever built by a Black man. Scottie Woodcock said Sea Ferguson also negotiated the selling of his family's property for the sewing factory in Brownsville in the early 70s, where Woodcock shared a role.
"Sea drove the biggest car I'd ever seen," said Woodcock.
David Finnell, age 64, and a grandson of Denver Ferguson, said although he never met his grandfather, who died before his was born, he was very familiar with his mother's accounts of Denver, and they weren't normally in a positive light.
"None of us knew him," said Finnell, of he and his siblings. "We have pictures of him, we have stories of him. I'm looking at a newspaper clipping right now on my whiteboard about The Sunset Terrace here in Indianapolis, it's an announcement in the newspaper about it's grand opening (owned by Ferguson). There was plenty about him in the Indianapolis papers. The Indianapolis Recorder is still a Black-owned, Black-operated, or a Black-focused newspaper and they carried many stories on him because he was the highlight of the Black community."
Denver would later suffer from health problems and a third and final marriage to a pen pal woman in Germany that ended as soon as it began. It would also prove to be a costly one, losing most of his fortune in his final years due to health and divorce. Denver's life story can't be told in just one article or book.
With months invested in the story of Denver Ferguson, which began with my interest in our county's origin of published news, I have learned a great deal about our community and its beginnings, and have a goal to share more about this family. Knowing about our past gives us reason to either proudly reflect who we are or learn from mistakes.
Who knows, maybe the Voice should try publishing very simple or amusing stories here and there like they did in the Star over 100 years ago?
I'll start with one I know, firsthand:
Darren Doyle, guitar enthusiast, bought yet another guitar last week without first consulting his wife, Debbie. A thorough conversation was had by the couple, with Debbie rolling her eyes several times. While Mrs. Doyle did not demand that he sell the guitar, both agreed it was in Darren's best interest to clean the kitchen that evening and schedule a nice dinner at an area restaurant for her as soon as possible.
Denver Ferguson's incredible story all started in Brownsville, KY, a population that is 98% White, where Brownsville City Hall now stands, in the home of his parents, who were children of slaves. While Edmonson County's first newspaper is long gone, many would agree that the Fergusons were all Edmonson Stars.
Special thanks to Josh Howard, Lt. Col. Floyd Houston, The Indiana Historical Society, Lynn Skaggs, Norman Warnell, Preston Lauterbach, David Finnell, Scottie Woodcock, Mammoth Cave National Park, Luwanda Brooks, Alicia Edwards, and all the resources at the Edmonson County Public Library.
Edmonson Voice Report:
South Central Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (SCRTC) has been deploying fiber optics throughout Edmonson County with assistance from state and federal grant funding awarded to the cooperative in June of 2022. A second phase of new construction to cover additional parts of the county began about ten months ago in March of 2023. Subsequently, this has allowed over seventy miles of new buried and aerial fiber optic infrastructure throughout expanded areas that will have the ability to provide advanced broadband communication services to this rural community.
SCRTC is now prepared to offer fiber optic services for homes and businesses along some of these new routes. If you live around the following areas and are interested in fast, reliable internet service with symmetrical speeds of 500 Mbps or more, complete an inquiry form at scrtc.com/edmonson or call (270) 678-2111:
“We encourage folks to go to our website at scrtc.com/edmonson and fill out a service inquiry form.” said Jeff Eaton, General Manager of the cooperative. “We are releasing new routes of this project almost weekly. “Now is the time to get your service order in to get the process started.” He added.
The site scrtc.com/edmonson was created to make people aware of the areas in Edmonson County that are included in this grant, and to let them know when service might be available. In an effort to keep folks up to date, SCRTC has recently revised its territory map associated with this webpage to include all southern portions of this build-out that are now available. This Google map, accessible by scanning the QR Code, shows two areas. Everything in the violet shaded areas south of Brownsville around the Edmonson County Ambulance Service is now serviceable by SCRTC.
Territories still shaded in red, north of that location, including Hwy 259 northbound through the Lindseyville, Kyrock and Sweeden communities, as well as Nolin Dam Rd including Brier Creek Rd and Union Light Rd areas are currently in its finishing stages of construction. SCRTC hopes to be able to start making service orders for those residences and businesses within the foreseeable future. “We will continue to update our website as new routes north of Brownsville become available,” said Eaton. “Keep checking back at scrtc.com/edmonson. It won’t be long.”
Digital TV through My Stream TV, traditional land-line telephone service, and an array of residential and business solutions are also part of what SCRTC can offer. To sign up for service, or for questions about your specific location and availability, please call SCRTC at (270) 678-2111.
Darren Doyle, story:
Bank of Edmonson County is warning customers about a new text scam that is making its way around phones and devices.
The user will receive a text message from either an unknown number of a number that looks more like a code. The message tells the user that a charge in a random amount has either been completed or is waiting for your approval and provides a link to find out more or to decline the charge; however, the link is a scam that is an effort to either cause harm to your device or access your personal information.
"The Bank will never text you for information," said Michelle Coleman, Bank CEO.
Personal information should never be given over the phone and you should never click any links of which you are unsure. To verify info, one may call the Bank directly at 270-597-2175 to speak with someone who can help.
Edmonson Voice Report:
A grand jury recently returned the following indictments:
Jason Wayne Vaughn: Flagrant non-support.
Shawn Keith Lindsey: Possession of a controlled substance first degree, Assault fourth degree (domestic) Possession of a drug paraphernalia, Terroristic threatening third degree.
Shawn Keith Lindsey: Possession of a controlled substance first degree, Possession of drug paraphernalia, Violation of a Kentucky E.P.O/D.V.O
Shawn Keith Lindsey: Possession of a controlled substance first degree, Possession of drug paraphernalia, Violation of a Kentucky E.P.O/D.V.O
Shawn Keith Lindsey: Possession of a controlled substance first degree, Violation of a Kentucky E.P.O/D.V.O, Fleeing or evading police second degree.
Shawn Keith Lindsey: Possession of a controlled substance first degree, Operating on suspended or revoked operator's license, Disorderly conduct second degree, Reckless driving.
Michael Shawn Brooks: Assault third degree (3 counts), Disorderly conduct, Resisting arrest.
David Lee Jessie: Flagrant nonsupport.
William Barlett Evans, Jr.: Assault third degree, Resisting arrest, Menacing.
Michael David Johnson: Burglary second degree, Possession of a controlled substance first degree, Possession of burglar's tools, Possession of drug paraphernalia, Possession of marijuana, Persistent felony offender second degree.
Kristen Lynise Matthews: Burglary second degree, Possession of a controlled substance first degree, Possession of burglar's tools, Possession of drug paraphernalia, Possession of marijuana, Persistent felony offender first degree.
An indictment is only a formal charge and is not an admission of guilt. All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.