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How long has your family been around these parts?

By: Keith Kappes
Columnist
Carter County Times

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That question came up almost exactly two years ago in Carter County when I learned that a young radio announcer had mispronounced my last name several times, despite the fact that my extended family has been in this county for more than 100 years.

I appreciated the free plug for my book signing at the Grayson library but the idea of my name being misspoken was puzzling at first, then comical. But before I proceed, I’m pleased to report that my second book will be out this summer and I’ll be back to autograph each copy I sell. 

The mystery over mispronunciation of my family name disappeared when I realized that there is no one still living in Carter County using our name. My two first cousins, Jilda and Shelley, have different last names because of marriage. 

Their parents, my parents, our Uncle George, and our grandparents are deceased. My brother has lived in Ohio for many years and my sister lives in Ashland. That leaves me and I’ve been in Morehead for 52 years.

Sociologists have written for years about the strong “sense of place” that keeps most East Kentuckians in or near their ancestral hometowns. 

We of the Kappes clan have called Carter County home since my grandparents, George and Olive Kappes, migrated here from Northern Michigan in the early 1900’s.

In case you’ve never heard it spoken, we pronounce it as CAPE-US. However, it’s actually said as CAP-US in Germany. I took a bit of teasing about how we say it each time I had to visit the company doctor, Dr. Carl Kappes, while working for the Huntington Herald-Dispatch.

We’re not positive how it got changed when our forebears came to America from Europe.

My favorite family legend has it that someone up north might have behaved badly, that it could have involved the ownership of a beautiful horse and that the sheriff believed the other guy’s story.

As for how you say my name, I don’t care what you call me…just as long as you call me for dinner.

Keith Kappes can be reached at keithkappes@gmail.com

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