McLean County was formed in 1854, and held a Centennial Celebration July 9-11, 1954 at Calhoun Park. The three-day program, celebrating the 100th birthday of McLean County, was prepared and conducted by the James Bethel Gresham American Legion Post 64 at Calhoun.
It began at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 9 with an old time Fiddler’s Contest, reminiscent of 100 years before. Eight prizes were given out for the best performers, with prizes ranging from $3 for best novelty act on up to $20 for the best old-time string band. Admission for the event was 25 cents for children and 40 cents for adults.
Saturday morning offered a sport that was popular in the old days, and that was a turkey shoot, which went from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Modern shotguns were substituted for the muzzle-loading rifles of 100 years before, and a Remington automatic shotgun was given away after the shoot.
In keeping with the old-timey theme for western Kentucky, a barbecue was a must. So a barbecue picnic was served for both the noon meal and the evening meal. Saturday’s main feature was at 8 p.m., when former governor and senator A.B. (Happy) Chandler spoke, along with Charles M. Blackburn, American Legion national committeeman. An old-time square dance followed at 9 p.m., with old-fashioned music, and an experienced square dance caller.
The three-day celebration concluded with county-wide church services on Sunday afternoon in Calhoun Park. Former State Senator Lee Gibson introduced the speaker, John W.T. Givens, a retired minister who was born in McLean County, and had lived through all but 16 years of the county’s history. Gibson and Givens grew up a few miles apart from one another in northwestern McLean County. E.G. Robertson led the singing for the service. All denominations were invited to attend the church services, making the program “a fitting climax to the observation of 100 years of history as a county.”
The following is part of Happy Chandler’s speech from Saturday, July 10, 1954: “Keep faith with Cpl. (James Bethel) Gresham. Knowing that the first American soldier to die in world wars was a native of McLean County should be a source of pride to McLean Countians. Too, it should be a challenge to keep faith with him, and with all the others who died for liberty, so that we might keep the blessings they fought for. We can do it by choosing carefully our leaders, local, state, and national, who deal with the many problems confronting us today.”
Happy pointed out the many blessings of liberty we enjoy—free schools, free churches, free enterprises, so that men from humble beginnings have an opportunity to rise to highest offices in the land. Also, he said, “we enjoy freedom to do many things that in communist countries would be punishable by death.” To those who want to overthrow our government by force, Happy suggested they go to Russia or some other country that might suit them better. “Let us rather correct the problems and evils we have, not by destroying the government, but by working for solutions of problems to make it better.”
Our condolences go out to the family of Eugene Cobb, who passed away last week. He was one of the volunteers that worked so hard to get the museum up and running in the beginning. Our thanks to Scott Hillard, who came out on the 4th of July and mowed at the museum, giving Tim Sheppard a break. We appreciate you doing that on the holiday! Both the Museum and the Treasure House are open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The Treasure House hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the Museum hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Please provide your own mask to enter both facilities. There is additional parking in the rear, which you can get to by driving through, between the Museum and the Treasure House. PLEASE do not leave items outside for the Treasure House. Please bring any drop-off items to the volunteers, during their hours of operation. Currently the Treasure House is not accepting any books.
The Museum is located at 540 Main Street, Calhoun, and our mailing address is P.O. Box 291, Calhoun KY 42327. You can reach us at the Museum by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 270-499-5033. If we are not in, please leave a voicemail message, and we will get back with you as soon as we can. Wishing everyone a safe week, and hope to see you soon at the museum!