100 Years Ago, Latonia Jockey Reached Horse Racing’s Pinnacle

Latonia Boy Wins Great English Race, 27 May 1914 cropped

The Kentucky Post headline the evening Matt won the Epsom Derby. The win marked a first for anyone from the Cincinnati area in the race and one of the few times to that point an American owner and jockey took the event.

On May 27, 1914 a record crowd gathered at the historic Epsom Downs in England for the annual running of the world’s greatest horse race, the English Derby.  The dramatic death of suffragette Emily Davison on the track the year prior and the nearly unprecedented 30 horse field drew a large crowd who knew that quite anything could happen at the annual event.[1]  The tension mounted precipitously at the post line as the horses waited for the starter’s signal.  Matt McGee, an American jockey born and raised in Covington sitting atop of his fine colt Durbar II, stared down the track towards the outside rail and saw the crowd favorite Kennymore growing anxious for the start.  At 9-4 odds, and with Europe’s top jockey and future racing Hall of Famer Frank O’Neill aboard, the horse was thought to be shoo-in for victory, even with the crowded field.   The other rival for the title, Brakespear, owned by none other than the King of England himself, waited patiently close to the inside rail.  The 20 minutes standing at the line must have seemed like an eternity for the horse, however, as he frequently backed away from the starting tape.  The signal to go caught Brakespear off-guard and led to a poor start while the anxious Kennymore took off perpendicular to the rest of the field, racing directly towards the inside rail.

Matt on Durbar 27 May 1914

Matt aboard the winning Durbar II, with H.B. Duryea leading the pair into the winner’s circle.

At the half mile mark of the mile and a half race, McGee pulled Durbar into fourth place, a few lengths behind pace setter Polycrates.  MacGee had ridden Durbar to victory in France prior to this day, pulling out some minor victories in a couple of stakes races, before being placed by owner Herman Duryea in this day’s race.  At 20-1 odds, the horse took some light bets but was off of the radar of most enthusiasts in the build up to the race.  McGee saw an opening as the field approached the famous turn at Tattanham’s Corner and slipped Durbar in front at the rail.  He quickly pulled away from the field down the stretch and passed the finish line a full three lengths ahead of his nearest competitor.  The crowd fell into a hushed silence.  Two Americans with a French and American bred horse had taken the coveted prize, much to the chagrin of the proud English folks in the crowd.  Duryea likely fell into shock as well.  Not necessarily from the win, but rather from the payout on the $4,000 bet he placed on his own horse in addition to the $32,000 race prize.[2]  Matt McGee, the little jockey from Latonia, Kentucky reached the pinnacle of his racing career at this moment and calmly remarked to reporters, “I had never had an easier race in my life.”

Jockey Colony at Santa Anita

This photo from a March 1909 edition of the Los Angeles Herald shows the jockeys at Santa Anita during the racing season. Matt is second from the left in the bottom row.

Matt’s racing career began in his hometown, at the old Latonia Racetrack where many residents had strong ties to the horse racing industry.  Matt and two of his brothers, all of diminutive Irish stock, attempted careers as jockeys, but only Matt proved successful in the trade.  Beginning in 1908, he raced for four years in the United States.  He traveled about the country trying to find work while Progressive reformers cracked down on the racing and gaming industries in states like New York and California.  In fact, the closure of tracks in huge markets like California and New York were in some ways directly responsible for the rise of horse racing in Kentucky.  The Bluegrass State’s reputation for feuds, moonshine, and general lawlessness made many in the thoroughbred industry set their sights on the state as a refuge for continued racing.[3] After his first year on the courses, the American Racing Manual remarked that “McGee….gave indications that [he] may be challenging the leaders in a year or two.”  His contract was sold to a California stable where he enjoyed the last racing season in Los Angeles before anti-gambling legislation shut down the races.  In 1909, Matt finished fifth among the jockeys overall in wins, with 150 coming in a career high 862 mounts.  That year he also raced in his first Kentucky Derby, though he finished in ninth place aboard Campeon.  In the year 1911 he rode perhaps his greatest horse, a chestnut filly named Round the World.  The horse won many races in the buildup to the Kentucky Derby, including a huge prize at the Juarez Derby in Mexico that made her a favorite in the days leading up to the Derby.   The horse tired from overwork as she ran numerous tune-up races in Lexington in the weeks prior to the Derby, a far cry from the limited workload of modern thoroughbreds.  Matt led her across the finish line that year in sixth place in the seven horse field, an assured disappointment in one of the most thrilling Derby races to that point.  After the 1911 Kentucky Derby, Matt officially retired from American racing as the pressures on making weight finally became too much.  He had contemplated the move for a time, but waited until after the Derby to make his decision out of an agreement with his owner to race the special filly in the major events. Europe offered greater opportunity and with the closures of so many tracks across the United States a flood of jockeys and others in the thoroughbred industry made their way to the continent.  Matt joined those on the move in 1913 and began racing with Herman Duryea during that year.  Matt quickly became his top jockey and their two years together netted the pair steady profits in many of the large races around France.  The victory lap after the

McGee on Flowershop, Prix de Diane 1920

Matt aboard Flowershop after winning the Prix de Diane in 1920. The race is the equivalent of the Kentucky Oaks, run the day before the Derby, open to three year old fillies and run at the Chantilly racecourse outside of Paris.

1914 English Derby was cut short, however, when nearly one month to the day after the race Austro-Hungarian prince Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in what amounted to the sounding bell for World War I.  As nations mobilized for war, racing was shut down and many jockeys and horses were called to serve in the fight.  In late September, 1914, Durbar was smuggled out of the war zone draped in an American flag and declared “neutral” in the fight, as he eventually made his way to the United States.  Matt and his family left as well for a time, though they eventually returned amid the fighting when racing resumed on a limited basis in 1915.

 

Matt and his family stayed in France after the war as well and his racing career continued relatively unimpeded into the 1930s.  He perpetually finished towards the top of the list among winning jockeys, though most often finding himself in second place behind rival and friend Frank O’Neill.  Upon his retirement, he settled in to a comfortable life training and raising horses for the Rothschild family near his home outside of Paris.  The bellicose calls for war sent Matt home again in the spring of 1941 after the German army overran his town and reportedly used his home as officers’ quarters and as a base of operation.  He returned to Covington alone to a family he had not seen in nearly a decade.  His wife and daughter soon followed, though the family never reunited totally.  His wife Laura fell victim to cancer and died in Chicago in 1945.  Matt followed in October 1949 and was laid to rest in Mother of God cemetery in Fort Wright.  His daughter returned to France after the war and according to family lore, sought to reclaim the family’s lost fortunes.

Matt's Wife and Child

Numerous trips across the ocean meant lots of travel records. These passport records come from a 1920 request for residence in Lamorlaye, France. On the shows Matt’s daughter, Norma Frances, was born in Lamorlaye in 1915. His wife, Laura Brown, traveled alongside the the jockey until they left France for good in 1941. Passport photos courtesy ancestry.com

As we approach another Kentucky Derby this coming May, we are all reminded of the importance of the horse racing industry to the state’s history.  The Kenton County Library offer vast resources for those interested in learning more about racing history.  The Keeneland Racetrack library, in partnership with the University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Virtual Library, has digitized nearly the entire run of the Daily Racing Form.  In addition to form charts, race results, and general racing news the paper also covered political activity relating to national issues, like the interruptions of the World Wars, and local issues like the battle over the annexation of Latonia to the city of Covington.  The Latonia Racetrack’s prominence in the industry also made it a popular topic in local papers.[4]  Digital editions of the historic Cincinnati Enquirer and the Louisville Courier Journal are available for access in the library or at home with a library card.  The Northern Kentucky Newspaper Index also has coverage of some local figures and events and patrons can access the newspapers on microfilm in the Covington library.  Finding information outside the United States can be much trickier and may require some language fluency, but information is available.  France has a wonderful collection of digitized photos, periodicals, and books available through their national library and keyword searches can reveal a wealth of information in addition to offering a different perspective on events in the United States.    Contact the Local History and Genealogy Department at the Covington Branch of the Kenton County Library if you would like help researching anything related to local or national racing history.  Also stop by the branch for a display with more about the history of Matt McGee’s racing career.

Written by Nate McGee, Library Associate, Local History and Genealogy Department, Covington

[1] Davison, the suffragette, threw herself in front of the King of England’s horse as he approached the finish line and became at martyr for the suffrage cause in the British Isles.  In 1914, a policeman was shot by Ada Rice, a presumed suffragette, but no serious injury occurred.

[2] The prize money alone would be valued at close to $1 million today.

[3] See Maryjean Wall’s great book, How Kentucky Became Southern, for more on this process and the rise of racing overall in the state.

[4] Check out James Claypool’s fine history of the Latonia Racetrack, The Tradition Continues:  The Story of Old Latonia, Latonia, and Turfway Racetracks for a good comprehensive history of Racing in northern Kentucky.

Love in Faces and Places

There is plenty of love in our Faces and Places Photograph Archive. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, I thought I would share some of the love and Valentine’s Day inspired photographs in our online archive.

AnniversariesFaces and Places contains many Silver, and Golden Wedding Anniversary photographs like this one of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Smith of Park Hills on May 5th, 1974.

Engagements- It was very popular in the 1960s and 70s for women to publish an engagement photograph in the local newspaper. Pictured is Judith Ann Stephens of Union, on June 3, 1965 who was engaged to Richard Lee Hammitt. You can search for engagement announcements in our Northern Kentucky Newspaper Index.

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Weddings- A lot of happy couples on their wedding day can be found by searching Faces and Places. I especially enjoy this August 2, 1981 wedding of Helen Buschard 75, to Charlie Williams, 81. Buschard is wheeled down the aisle by Robert Williams (Lakeside Place Administrator) who gave her away at the ceremony.

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Sweet Shops- Chocolates, candy, cakes and pies are all popular tokens of love on Valentine’s Day. Faces and Places has photographs of local sweet and candy shops, like this picture of Katherine Hartmann. Hartmann was the owner of Lily’s Candies at 9th and Madison, and she is ready for for the Valentine’s Day rush on February 12, 1982. Also, we’ve added local sweet shops to our Historypin account! 

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These are just a few of the images of love and Valentine’s Day we found in Faces and Places. What is your favorite love inspired picture in the Faces and Places collection? Have you found a relatives engagement, anniversary or wedding photograph? Tell us in the comments below!

Written by Cierra Earl – Library Associate in the Local History and Genealogy Department at Covington

Professional Baseball in Covington: They built it but they did not come.

Remember the film Field of Dreams? Kevin Costner’s character builds a baseball field in the middle of his corn field because a voice told him to do it. In 1913 here in Covington, KY baseball enthusiasts and businessmen wanted to bring a professional baseball team to the city. Baseball was viewed as a great way to advertise the city. Those working to bring a club here believed the city would be placed on the map after they landed a team. Can you imagine having two different teams to root for like they have in Chicago and New York, it almost happened but it did not last long.

At the end of the 1912 season the Blue Grass League lost two teams. The Blue Grass League was a Class D Minor League which had teams in cities throughout Kentucky. In order to fill the two vacant spots the organization set its sights on the river towns of Covington and Newport in Northern Kentucky. The attempt to establish teams in Newport and Covington by the Blue Grass league was blocked by the Cincinnati Reds. As a member of a major league (the National League) the Reds had jurisdiction covering a five mile radius that forced smaller leagues like the Blue Grass League to seek permission from establishing clubs in their surrounding area. Newport and Covington both fell under this five mile radius and Garry Herrman of the Reds refused to let the teams establish on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River.   Covington almost missed out on bringing a professional baseball club to the city, but the Federal League was forming in Indianapolis and was looking to establish a team in Cincinnati or Covington. The Reds had no jurisdiction of this league as it was not a member of organized baseball and considered an outlaw league. After some hoopla over where the team would play Covington was awarded the franchise and immediately set out to build a ball park. The club was named the Covington Blue Sox to memorialize a team that had once played in the city thirty years prior in the late 1870s. Club organizers after incorporating under the Covington Amusement Company selected a small lot at 2nd and Scott Streets to build a ballpark due to its close proximity to the suspension bridge. Opening Day in Covington was scheduled for May 9th 1913. Construction on the park continued ‘round the clock to complete the new park by the home opener.

Grand stands41

Work on Federal Park began on April 16th 1913. Crews had only a few weeks to build the park in time for Opening Day on May 9th 1913.

The park by all comparisons was tiny with the distance from home plate to right field being 197 feet, and 267 to center field and 218 to left field. Club owners promised a good brand of baseball despite the size of the park. With the park under construction club owners set out to build their team. The club had several managerial candidates including the Detroit Tiger great Ty Cobb. Cobb was in the middle of a contract negotiation and the Covington club promoters tried to bring him here to manage. Cobb did not accept the offer. With Cobb out of the picture the club hired Sam Leever and he quickly went to work putting a team together of players from all parts of the country.

Schoolmaster Leever

Nicknamed the “Schoolmaster” from Goshen, Ohio, former Pittsburgh Pirate Sam Leever was tapped to lead the Blue Sox to the inaugural Federal League Pennant.

They held tryouts and practices at Crowe’s Park in Hyde Park while the home park was being built. The team played a few exhibition games against a team of assembled professionals, the West Baden, Indiana Sprudels and a team from Kokomo, Indiana. The Blue Sox played in the inaugural Federal League game at Cleveland. The two teams battled through a ten inning 6 to 6 tie. The umpire called the game due to darkness.

The Blue Sox held their Opening Day on May 9th 1913. Covington Mayor George “Pat” Phillips had declared a half holiday for the city with city offices closing at noon and encouraging businesses to close to support the team. It was a festive day with a parade, bands and decorations across the city. One can only imagine and wonder how it would have stacked up against a modern Reds Opening Day Parade. The dedication ceremonies on the field were just as vibrant as the parade, with the mayor tossing out a golden ball for the ceremonial first pitch, messenger pigeons being released to spread the news of the opening to each city on the Federal League circuit as well as one going to President Woodrow Wilson.

mayor phillips tosses first pitch

Part of the ceremonies for Opening Day, Covington Mayor George “Pat” Phillips throws out the ceremonial first pitch. Standing next to him Alice Coleman, holding a bouquet of American Beauty roses waits to release a number of messenger pigeons to announce the opening of Federal Park in Covington to the cities on the Federal League circuit and President Woodrow Wilson.

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A photograph of the entire team from Opening Day May 9 1913. It may very well be the only photograph of the team.

In front of a crowd of over 6,000 the Blue Sox shut out the visiting St. Louis team 4-0. It seemed as if the new club was a hit and would be long lasting. The club would go on to play some decent baseball. Blue Sox second baseman James Emery even smacked an inside the park home run during a game in May. Despite a stint as league leaders the support for the club never reached the large crowds that Opening Day had brought. The team experienced several rain outs and a lengthy road trip during the month of June that did little to keep the team on the minds of the locals. Rumors began swirling that the club was in trouble and may be forfeited, but were denied adamantly by club officials.

19 Jun 1913 4 Games28

Ads like this appeared almost daily in the local newspapers. Take note of the announcement of Ladies Day Friday, the club tried numerous promotions such as this to generate support.

The June 19-22 home series against St. Louis would prove to be the final home stand of the Blue Sox. On June 25th several local newspapers announced the franchise had been forfeited. The Federal League chose Kansas City to be the new home of the club. Covington club officials cited poor attendance to be the primary culprit behind the ventures failure. By 1914 the Federal League had become a third major league and rivaled the American and National League’s. Many players from the National and American League joined clubs in the Federal League. The Federal League became a Major League from 1914 and 1915. before it disbanded at the end of the 1915 season.

If you have any more information about this team that you would like share, including photographs and memorabilia please contact Luke Groeschen at Luke.Groeschen@kentonlibrary.org.

This blog was written by Luke Groeschen in the Local History and Genealogy Department in Covington

Thanksgiving Preparation

thanksgiving dinner table

So the whole family is coming for dinner and you want things to be perfect – the food, the music, the decor… everything. Where to begin? Don’t worry, the Kenton County Public Library has you covered!

1. The Menu!

You should finalize your Thanksgiving menu about one week in advance. So shoot for a final menu on Thursday, Nov. 21. My thanksgiving bookThanksgiving menu is set with traditional items like turkey, cranberries, mashed potatoes, gravy, dinner rolls and stuffing followed by pumpkin and apple pie. But I like to liven things up a bit each year by picking a new stuffing or cranberry sauce recipe or even something new all together from one of the thousands of cookbooks that can be found at the library.

This year I will glance through Thanksgiving: how to cook it well by Sam Sifton, 2012, The pioneer woman cooks : a year of holidays : 140 step-by-step recipes for simple sumptuous celebrations by Ree Drummond, 2013 and Fine Cooking Thanksgiving cookbook: recipes for turkey and all the trimmings by editors of Fine cooking magazine, 2012 for new ideas.

2. The Online Entertainment!

You don’t want your guests bored prior to dinner, dozing off after dinner or dreaming about Black Friday shopping so liven the place up with free music and movies. Freegal and Hoopla are always available on the library’s website, even when the library is closed. They don’t have waiting lists or holds either! All you need is an Internet connection and a Kenton County Public Library Card.

You can download three free songs per week from Freegal so start stocking up now! Your music doesn’t have to be Thanksgiving themed. Just something fun and upbeat. The top downloaded songs at the Library are currently Walk Off the Earth – Royals, Daughtry – Waiting for Superman and Sara Bareilles – Brave. The top three albums include Justin Timberlake – 20/20 Experience, Carrie Underwood – Blown Away and Miranda Lambert – Four the Record. Another great thing about Freegal is you get to keep the songs forever!

Hoopla allows you to check out books and movies, with a total of eight items a month. Katy Perry – Prism, Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt and Luke Bryan – Crash My party are three of the hottest albums on Hoopla right now. You are able to keept he item for one week. And if you need to entertain the kids at your dinner party, break out Tale of Despereaux, Lego Movie: The Adventures of Clutch Powers or Ivan the Incredible. All three are available on Hoopla and have no wait!

3. The Traditional Entertainment!

Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Winnie the Pooh:
Seasons of Giving or Alvin and the Chipmunks: Alvin’s Thanksgiving Celebration. The library carries all three, which you can put on hold. Some good books to have lying around for the kids include I Spy Thanksgiving by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick, Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen, Over the River and Through the Wood: The New England Boy’s Song About Thanksgiving Day by Lydia Maria Child and Sarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday by Mike Allegra. These items can also be put on hold at the website.

4. The Decor!

Marthafall fruits has you covered in “Good things for easy entertaining” from the editors of Martha Stewart living. We also have some super cute ideas on our Thanksgiving Pinterest page. My biggest advice is to think outside of turkey and pumpkins, unless you want to go that route. I like to think fall in general. I’d like to go with an orange, red and brown color pattern. I might wrap a nice candle in cinnamon sticks. It will add a nice fall smell and be pretty to look at. Let the kids contribute by decorating with crafts they make.

You can create a great centerpiece with fall flowers or by dressing up fall fruits.

 

5. Celebrate Family!

The holidays are a great time to connect with family members and start writing down your family history. Take a few minutes during on Thanksgiving to ask your family about your history and write it down. Should you or anyone else in your family want to get started tracing your family heritage, having this information will make the initial search much easier. Be sure to take lots of photos at family gatherings so you have something to always remember them by.

thanksgiving dinner

This photo was found in our Faces & Places database.

Take a few minutes to research the Library’s Faces and Places database before your big dinner. You might find photos of your own family there.

6. Enjoy your day and if you still need ideas, visit our Pinterest Page!

This post was written by Gina Holt, public relations coordinator

Covington Renovation Celebration

PrintExcitement is building in Covington!  The newly expanded and remodeled Covington Branch of the Kenton County Library is nearly completed.  This project is the culmination of a decades-long plan.  Phase one was to replace the overcrowded and very busy Erlanger Branch.  This was done in 2001.  Phase two consisted of building the new William E. Durr Branch, just south of Independence, to serve the quickly growing central part of the county (opened in 2007).  Phase three is the Covington Branch.

Covington is the flagship branch of the system with roots going back to the late 1800s.  The current building, constructed in 1973-74, needed major upgrades and enhancements.  As an example, the stairwells and fire alarm system were not up-to-code, the heating and cooling system was original, the building had no sprinkler system and the roof needed replacing.  The building also lacked many of the amenities our patrons have grown accustomed at the other two branches.

So what’s new at the Covington Branch?  First of all, you will encounter a new three-story entry pavilion.  This space is flooded with natural light and houses our new Circulation Department.  The Children’s Department has tripled in size and has its own activity room and reading garden.  This colorful area also includes a new piece of public art specifically designed for the space:   A large mosaic featuring a river scene with a child fishing surrounded by native flora and fauna.  The mosaic includes pieces of pottery and other elements donated to the library by our patrons.  The children’s area has also been decked out in kid appropriate furniture and comfortable seating for their parents.

The building now also has a separate computer lab to assist the staff in teaching technology classes and a large meeting room for adult and teen programs that is twice as large as the old one.  Our new reference desk is ready to go and is shaped in a semicircle, reminiscent of the old round desk at the Carnegie Library.

The third floor has been turned over entirely to out Kentucky History Department, one of the largest public library Kentucky collections in the nation.  This area includes a temperature and humidity controlled archive room, computer stations and the refurbished tables from the original Covington Public Library.

Other new features include a drive-thru window, new garage for our outreach vehicles, small study rooms, more public computer terminals, ample seating and an outdoor patio area.  One of the features that our architects worked hard to achieve was more natural light.  I think you will discover they succeeded.  Additional windows and a new clearstory make for a bright a cheerful space for all ages.

Some of the things that have not changed:  Our impressive collection of local 19th and 20th century art, free surface lot parking and, most importantly, our friendly, knowledgeable and helpful staff.  I encourage all of you to make a trip to the new Covington Library – a great asset to our region!

CELEBRATE WITH US AT THE RENOVATION CELEBRATION – Saturday, Oct. 26

502 Scott Blvd., Covington

9:30 a.m. – Ribbon Cutting

10:30 a.m. – Cincinnati Zoo visits

10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. – Tours of the Library

10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. – Genealogy computer workshops

11 a.m. – 12 p.m. – Intro to Library Databases

12-12:30 p.m. – Unveiling of the Children’s Department Art

12:30-12:50 – Job Search Central Resources

1:30-1:50 p.m. – Job Search Central Resources

1-2 p.m. – Jazz Music with the Tim Watson Trio

1-2 p.m. – YA Manga Art Unveiling

2-3 p.m. – Celebrate Favorite Book Character Day!

2-3 p.m. – Overview of Covington KCPL computer classes

Please pick up a calendar or visit www.kentonlibrary.org for details.

3-4 p.m. – Elementz Sudio Kre8v Hip Hop Dance

Spooky Stories In Your Own Backyard

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Reserve a copy of Kentucky Hauntings Homespun Ghost Stories and Unexplained History by Roberta Simpson Brown and Lonnie E. Brown today!

Looking to read about ghosts, spirits, phantoms, or unexplained phenomena? Want to read a spooky story about Kentucky or one that originates in your own back yard? Do you think your house may be haunted and want to research its history? Look no further than the Kenton County Public Library. We have numerous local history books and resources filled with haunting tales, ghost stories, and documented unexplained experiences that will give you a good fright just in time for Halloween.

If you’re thirsting for spooky tales from Kentucky, sink your teeth into Ghosts Across Kentucky by William Lynwood Montell or Ghosts, Spirits, and Angels True Tales from Kentucky and Beyond by Thomas Lee Freese. If you have regional supernatural interests, try Haunted Louisville: History and Hauntings from the Derby City by Robert W. Parker or Appalachian Ghost Stories Tales from Bloody Breathitt by Jerry Deaton.

For local hauntings, dare to turn the pages of Cincinnati Ghosts and other Tristate Haunts by Karen Laven, or The Cincinnati Haunted Handbook and Haunted Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio by Jeff Morris and Michael A. Morris. Or, if you don’t find the truth stranger than fiction, A Vampire in Covington by Tim Kelly is a new addition to our Kentucky Fiction collection that incorporates many famous people and locations from Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Join paranormal investigators Zak, Nic and Aaron as they investigate the paranormal experiences at Bobby Mackey’s Music World.

Also, don’t forget to read or re-read books about the widely-known Northern Kentucky haunting of Bobby Mackey’s Music World. Books in our collection include Haunting Experiences at Bobby Mackey’s by Christel Brooks, and the fictional Hell’s Gate: Terror at Bobby Mackey’s Music World by Douglas Hensley.  We also have copies of the Ghost Adventures television program that investigated Bobby Mackey’s in Season 1 and Season 4. Have you experienced something you can’t explain at Bobby Mackey’s? Creep us out in the comments!

The true story of Pearl Bryan’s murder in Fort Thomas has captivated Northern Kentuckians for over a century, inspiring countless ghost stories and legends. Learn more about the macabre case in The Pearl Bryan Murder Story by Anthony W. Kuhnheim and The Perils of Pearl Bryan Betrayal and Murder in the Midwest in 1896 by James L. McDonald . You can also read online newspaper accounts from the investigation and trial in the Cincinnati Enquirer – Historical 1841-1922 Database.  What hair-raising stories have you been told about what happened to Ms. Bryan’s head? Leave us a reply and let us know!

Do you hear bumps in the night? Here are a few basic steps for researching a potentially haunted house. Obtain a copy of the deed from your local courthouse.  (This will tell you who has owned the house and more details on when it was built.) Visit the Kenton County Public Library and start researching! Use our city directories and find out more on the families who lived there. To find more information on the previous owners and the home search the Northern Kentucky Newspaper Index, geNKY and our online map collection. For more information on how to research your home take a look at our guide History at Home: Resources for Documenting Historic Houses, Structures and Neighborhoods. Remember to document all your sources and keep organized records. Do you have any unsettling stories about your home?

If you’re feeling in the spirit to peruse cemetery records of your ancestors, our geNKY database contains many indexes to local cemeteries including Linden Grove, Persimmon Grove, St. John’s, St. Mary’s and Mary E. Smith African American Cemetery.

In the back row: Mark Kluemper (16), Tyrone Rice (21), and in the front row: Lori Young (12), Mary Bales (18), Greg Washington (17) rehearsing for haunted house sponsored by Covington-Kenton County Jaycees on October 15, 1975. This photograph was found in our Faces and Places Database.

Once you’ve had your fill of eerie tales, you might try researching a few of your own. If you fancy yourself a ghost hunter and want to learn more about people and places from the past, the library has many resources for you to investigate. The Local History and Genealogy Department’s Faces and Places Photograph Database contains many spooky images. Take a minute to search for yourself or your family members. You may be surprised by who haunts the database.

Do you have any ghost stories about local places or Kentucky? Leave us a comment and let us know what spooky stories we have in our own backyard!

This blog post was written by Cierra Earl from the Local History and Genealogy Department in Covington.

Expanded Local History & Genealogy Dpt at Covington Library

The Local History and Genealogy Department has opened in its new space at the Covington location of the Kenton County Public Library. The department is now located on the top floor, and is staffed all hours when the library is open. The department’s collection includes Kentucky Biographies, Kentucky Fiction, Kentucky Non-Fiction, Kentucky Reference (containing numerous books on many Kentucky counties), city and business directories dating back to the 1830s, maps, and many more resources for doing genealogy and history research. Come enjoy the quiet workspace and dig deeper into your family history!

                   Department

Looking south in the Local History and Genealogy Department. The chairs and tabletops from the Carnegie library were refurbished and used in the new space.

Microfilm Machines

Beth uses one of the microfilm machines to look up newspaper articles.

Maps

Need a map? The department has city, county, regional and state maps of Kentucky.

Computer Area

If you’re interested in accessing online databases such as Ancestry.com, geNKY, or Faces and Places, we have eight new computers dedicated to this purpose. Staff members are readily available to assist you with using these resources.

Check out our video of the new department! Have you visited the new department yet? Let us know what you think!