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Today we conclude a list of prominent individuals who each have been discussed in 100 previous columns.
Each has contributed in his or her own way to the development of Shelby County, but this is not to be seen as a compilation of all the important – or the most important – contributors.
Shelby County has been around nearly 221 years, and this is simply an alphabetical skimming of those who made it what it is today – which includes how it became my home.
McMakin, Major Ben (1912-1945)
Serving as a second lieutenant of Marines in San Diego in 1939, I met 1st Lt. Benjamin McMakin, who was the regimental adjutant, a very responsible position for a young officer. I had not realized at the time that he was a Shelby County native and a good friend and classmate of Clarence Miller’s. Captured on May 6, 1942, when Corregidor in the Philippines surrendered to the Japanese, McMakin survived as a prisoner of war for nearly three years. He died on Jan. 18, 1945, while on board a Japanese ship, the Brazil Maru, which was carrying prisoners from the Philippines to Japan.
Meriwether, Bettie (1839-1915)
Bettie Allen Meriwether, owner of Allen Dale Farm in Shelby County, took great pride in her farm, which had been in her family since its establishment in 1795 by Robert Polk Allen. She valued the land, having fought a long and successful legal battle, to wrest the farm from control of her brother, George Baylor Allen, whose plans to mortgage the property would have undoubtedly been tantamount to its sale. In 1887 Meriwether, who had been widowed for nearly 20 years, held a wedding for her only child, Sue T. Meriwether, at her handsome home at 934 Main Street in Shelbyville.
Meriwether, Nicholas (1749-1828)
Nicholas Meriwether, a cousin of Meriwether Lewis, arrived in Kentucky in 1779 on a mission of locating land for himself, for his family and for others. His entries in the survey books included large tracts but also revealed an appreciation for strategically located small tracts, such as Rocky Island at the Falls of the Ohio – 40 acres – and Sandy Island below the Falls – 30 acres. In late 1784, shortly after Meriwether brought his family to Louisville, tragedy struck. Between Oct. 4 and Nov. 18, 1784, four of his sons died and on Nov. 27 of that year, the final blow was dealt with the death of their mother, Elizabeth. Neither family papers nor public records reveal the cause of these tragic deaths. After Shelby County had been established in 1792, Meriwether wrote to John Bradford, editor of the Kentucky Gazette, to complain that Daniel M’Cleland had been appointed to the position of justice of the peace, charging him with being a “felonious hog thief.” His letter was published, occupying three out of four of the front-page columns of the issue of Dec. 1, 1792
Miller, Clarence (1912-2011)
Clarence Miller, a Shelbyville farmer, became chairman of the Kentucky Commodity Stabilization Service (CSS) in 1953 and a year later went to Washington, D.C., as national director of the Tobacco Division of the same agency. In 1956, he became associate administrator of the national CSS. In 1959 and 1960, the final two years of the Eisenhower administration, he served as assistant secretary of agriculture for marketing and foreign agriculture, working directly under Secretary Ezra Taft Benson. In March 2007, in a generous gesture, he donated his historic Red Orchard Farm, now known as Red Orchard Park, to Shelby County's Parks Department.
The first officials of the new county of Shelby were: David Standiford, sheriff; Martin Daniel, Benjamin Roberts, and Thomas Gwyn, judges of the Court of Quarter Sessions; and Thomas Shannon, Joseph Winlock, Daniel M'Cleland, and Abraham Owen, judges of the County Court (justices of the peace). On Oct. 15, 1792, the Shelby County Court began its first term. It met at the house of Brackett Owen, father of Abraham Owen and ancestor of Tom Owen, well-known Louisville councilman who leads historic tours of Louisville landmarks
Pollard, Colonel Ben (1932- )
Ben Pollard lived directly across Main Street from the old Shelbyville High School. Upon hearing the school bell, he would gather up his books and cross the street in time for class. He entered Purdue University planning to play football and become an engineer but “quickly found that I was a far better engineer than Big Ten football player.” He took four years of Air Force ROTC and, upon graduation in 1954, received a commission as second lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve. In the Vietnam War, he was pilot of a 2-seat F 105, “Thunderchief,” a low-level, terrain-avoidance aircraft, flying night attacks against the toughest targets in Vietnam. On May 15, 1967, while attacking a heavily defended railroad yard northwest of Hanoi, Pollard and his crewmate were shot down. He was captured by the North Vietnamese, and confined in infamous Hoa Lo (“Hanoi Hilton”) prison, where he was placed in Cell 18, where POW’s were brutally tortured. He related: “Nothing was off limits in Cell 18, where hell was truly in session!” On March 4, 1973, 2,120 days after that bailout, Lt. Col. Ben Pollard was released from prison.
Ernest Powell had been groom to Salvator, holder for many years of the world's record for the mile, owned by James Ben Ali Haggin of Elmendorf Farm near Lexington. In 1907, Powell brought his family to Allen Dale Farm, where they lived in a comfortable, 2-story log house close to the main residence. He became a key employee and great favorite of Sue Henning, taking care of her horses and carriages
Shannon, Maj. William
William Shannon, brother of Justice Thomas Shannon, served as Shelby County clerk, pro tempore. A distinguished military officer, he had served as quartermaster and commissary for George Rogers Clark. One of the largest land owners in the newly-formed county, he donated an acre for public buildings of the county seat, Shelbyville, offering to lay off lots for the new town on his adjoining 50 acres. In 1794, in an altercation in front of John Felty’s tavern, Shannon threw a stone at Felty and simultaneously was struck in a vital part by a dirk thrown by Felty. Shannon died instantly; Felty died a few days later. It is ironic that William Shannon, who in l792 donated the land for public buildings and in l793 built the first Shelby County Courthouse, in 1794 became the first person to have his will probated by the Shelby County Court.
Ed. Shinnick, editor of the Shelby Record, published a series of weekly columns during 1916-1918, supported for the most part by official records, that constitute an accurate account of early events in the county, These columns were consolidated and included in a 1974 reprint of his writings, Some Old Time History of Shelbyville and Shelby County. Students of early local history can find this book in our Shelby County Public Library.
Van Stockum, Florence (1894-2005)
Florence Van Stockum’s first husband, Sgt. Reginald Bareham, was one of 19,240 British soldiers killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, July 1, 1916. She died in 2005, at the age of 110, the oldest person ever to have lived in Shelby County, Kentucky.
Van Stockum, Susanne de Charette (1915-2000)
Paris-born Susanne de Charette Van Stockum persuaded her husband, upon his retirement from the Marine Corps, to move the family to Allen Dale, her farm in historic Shelby County. His preference had been to settle near a military base, with its hospital, PX and commissary, where the retirees gather for cocktails each day after the “sun had gone over the yardarm” to discuss past associations and past events. Fortunately, her preference prevailed ,and the family settled in Shelby County on Groundhog Day 1970.
Ron Van Stockum’s latest book, Remembrances of World Wars, may be purchased at Terhune Style Shop, 14 Village Plaza Shopping Center or from Amazon.com.