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Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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Missing our history

By Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

One of my favorite things to do, at any newspaper I’ve worked at, has always been to spend time in the archives – or the morgue as it was known in places with a dedicated room. Locally, though, we’ve lost a lot of that.

A number of the old volumes of the Olive Hill Times and its predecessor papers were lost in the Tygart Creek floods, and those that remained – housed alongside existing copies of the Grayson Journal and the Sandy Valley Enquirer – were taken away when the offices in Grayson were closed by CNHI.

So, I was giddy when I discovered that many of those older volumes are preserved on microfilm at the Grayson branch of the Carter County Public Library. Unfortunately, the microfilm machine required to view it is in need of repair.

It’s a shame. I have been considering a subscription to newspapers.com, for researching local history and other accounts I come across.

I’ve found through other research that things quoted on websites, and even in books, don’t always match the original reports. In something akin to a game of telephone, things get changed along the way; and outrageous or salacious details added in the process tend to stick, even if they’re inaccurate or can’t be found in the original accounts.

As these things then pass from the realms of news and history into those of oral tradition, legend, and folklore the truth gets even harder to discern.

It’s why primary sources are so important. Unfortunately, again, the access to locally owned papers and their predecessors through newspapers.com are also limited. None of the papers that are, or were, owned by CNHI appear to be available through the source. This includes continuously published papers like the Ashland Daily Independent.

If these archives were available elsewhere, through a source controlled by the owners, that wouldn’t be a problem. But like with the already digitally archived content from our previous Carter County newspapers, that information doesn’t seem to be available to the public; and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

Without access to the various physical archives, there isn’t any way for the average person to find and follow up on any family stories they may have been told.

Luckily for us there are some clippings in the many volumes of Jack Fultz’s scrapbooks preserved by the Olive Hill Historical Society. There are also the microfilm reels at the library, and some volumes reportedly preserved at Kentucky Christian University. There are the original bound copies of the old Grayson Journal, Sandy Valley Enquirer, and Olive Hill Times that used to be housed at the Grayson Journal-Enquirer office as well. Those were reportedly handed off to the Highlands Museum in Ashland when some short-sighted individual ordered them consigned to the garbage bin.

Thank God for the person who had the wisdom to defy that order.

But still, for those of us intent on getting to the bottom of stories we may have heard, the road to verification isn’t an easy one.

Of course, nothing worthwhile ever is.

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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