Who is that lady standing out in the cold in front of the Library?

Have you ever noticed the woman depicted in bronze in front of the Main Library? We get lots of questions and comments about her. The plaque by her feet reads Mary Draper Ingles.  Children often read her name and then come into the library and ask us if she’s from Little House on the Prairie.  We’ve also been asked, usually by older children, if she is the grim reaper.

Kids are really concerned about her in the winter. They worry about her bare feet being cold. A lot of them also comment on the size of her feet. They want to know if the real Mary Ingles had feet that big. Halloween 2014 four (1 of 1)-3Most often, however, people ask us who she is and then want to know if we have a book about her. Yes, we have books about her; the most popular is probably the historical novel, Follow the River by James Alexander Thom. If you are interested in her story, you might want to reserve the book in our catalog, in the meantime I’ll share the highlights of her story with you.

Mary Draper Ingles was a strong, courageous woman best-known for escaping from Indian captivity at Big Bone Lick in Boone County, Kentucky. Most of what is known about her comes from a narrative account of the Ingles family written by Mary’s son, Colonel John Ingles.

Mary lived with her husband in a place called Draper’s Meadows, a Halloween 2014 four (1 of 1)-2small settlement of ten people in August County, Virginia. On Wednesday, July 30, 1755, the Shawnee attacked Draper’s Meadow. Mary was taken prisoner along with her two sons, Thomas and George. Mary’s husband was away at the time and was not captured. The Shawnee headed for the Ohio River and the Shawnee town of Sonnontio. When they reached the town, the two boys were taken from Mary and adopted into the tribe. Mary was taken to Big Bone Lick, more than 100 miles further west, to help make salt.

Sometime in October, Mary decided to escape. Because the prisoners were allowed to roam the camp at will, Mary and another woman simply left camp taking with them two blankets and two tomahawks. After four or five days, the women reached the junction of the Ohio and Licking Rivers, near present-day Cincinnati. There they found an abandoned cabin, which contained a supply of corn. According to the narrative, when the corn ran out, they survived on “black walnuts, grapes, pawpaws, etc.” The women crossed at least 145 creeks and rivers and traveled five to six hundred miles. They separated near the end of the journey and Mary arrived home on or about December 1, 1755. She reunited with her husband and had four more children before she died in 1815 at the age of 83.

Halloween 2014 four (1 of 1)Mary Draper Ingles was chosen as the subject of the Library statue because part of her story took place in Boone County and because she was a strong heroic woman who never gave up. She endured great hardship to achieve her goal of returning home.

The Mary Draper Ingles sculpture was created by Matthew Scott Langford. Largely self-taught, Langford has been a professional sculptor since 1991. Born in Cincinnati, but raised and educated in Northern Kentucky, Matthew Langford lives in Union, with his wife and two daughters, in an antebellum log cabin, not far from the site of Mary Ingles’ escape.

–Becky

Becky Kempf has been the Public Relations Coordinator at Boone County Public Library for the past eleven years. A graduate of Wright State University, she previously worked for Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana and the Association for the Advancement of Arts Education.

Once upon a time, there was no public library in Boone County…

All stories have a beginning, and since I am the only surviving member of the first library board, I feel it is my duty to tell the tale. Once upon a time, there was no public library in Boone County. If someone wanted a book, one had to buy it or go to Covington to the Kenton County Library.

At the time, I was the president of the Boone County Jaycettes, the feminine arm of the Jaycees.  “Where is the library?” asked Mary Margaret Garies, a new member whose husband had been transferred with his job. She found it hard to believe that a county that was growing with new industries and a burgeoning population had no library. We agreed to do something about it.  We sat down and began to brainstorm.

Boone County needs a library. I knew we needed a go-getter, someone who was active in the community and got things done, someone who cared about the healthy growth of our county. Having worked with Ted Bushelman in the Jaycees, I knew he was that someone, and so I asked Ted to join us in our worthy endeavor.  He agreed, and we began to meet regularly.  We spread the word, and our group grew.  We chose the name, ABLE, the Association for Boone Library Encouragement. Through networking, others joined us from organizations like the Lions Club, Florence Women’s Club, Rotary Club and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Effective communication was a necessity, so we formed a speakers’ bureau.  Carol Ackley, Don Ravencraft, Ted and I created a presentation that highlighted the reasons a library would be a boon to the county.  Persuading voters to agree to a new tax was paramount.  We were ready for any negative question with a positive answer and spoke to any group who would have us.

In order to get the library issue on the ballot, we learned we had to have 1500 signatures on a petition.  So, we walked door-to-door asking for support.  After reaching the quota, we spent many hours in the courthouse verifying that each signature was valid.

We needed a slogan, simple and direct.  “I Want a Library!” became our mantra. Many lapels sported our campaign buttons that had a white background with the slogan in bold, dark blue letters.

At the same time, there was a faction in the county that wanted a new jail.  That, too, was going to be on the ballot. A few of the politicians were not very happy with us.  One told me “…not to screw up his jail issue”.  Another warned me that my property value could easily be reappraised so I would have to pay a higher tax.  A local businessman angrily said, “My kids will never use a library, but they might be in a jail.”

In mid-September, I had to have back surgery and was hospitalized for 30 days due to complications.  It was a good thing I had a phone in my room, (no cell phones then) because Ted and I talked several times each day, planning and keeping track of how the movement was progressing.

As we neared election-day, we enlisted the help of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.  What a wonderful day it was as we watched those young people addressing postcards and folding pamphlets asking for support for the library issue.  I can still hear them cheering, “We want a library! We want a library! We want a library!”  The community had become involved, and “Library” was the buzzword wherever we went.  Many had gotten on-board promoting the issue;  many churches and organizations helped as the issue gained momentum.  Phil Carrico, the district librarian, was invaluable with his advice and support.

Election-day arrived.  I was on edge all day.  My mother and father, Roy and Elizabeth Nestor, kept our son, David, while I and my husband, Harold, went to the courthouse to wait for the votes to be tallied.  After the final count, Boone County WAS GOING TO HAVE ITS LIBRARY. The voters overwhelmingly supported the new tax that would pay for their own facility.  I remember crying and jumping up and down.  Two years of preparation and work had paid off.  A reporter from one of the radio stations came over to me and asked me to make a comment.  I remember saying, “I’m so thrilled the community wanted this. So many people of all ages worked long and hard for this cause. Now, Boone County is going to have its own library.”

The newly-appointed board consisted of Ted Bushman–president, Ginny Kohl–vice president, along with Don Ravencraft from Hebron, Emily Reeves–Florence and Gertrude Matheny–Burlington.  Our financial advisor was John Brockett.  We interviewed applicants for librarian and hired Jane Smith, who worked for the library system until her retirement of recent.  With Phil Carrico’s help, along with Charles Hinds, the state librarian, we went to work to find a temporary facility.  Mr. Nelson Markesbery had a boat shop and garage on Girrard Street that fit the bill.  He agreed to rent it to us, knowing that we would adapt it to accommodate our needs.  Kenton County gave us old shelves from its library, along with a desk, card catalog and books.  The state supplemented our supply of reading materials.  Soon, we were in business, and the Boone County Public Library opened its doors.

Thankfully, this library system’s story has no ending.  It continues to unfold with growth and great success.  I am sure we, Boone Countians, will enjoy its services and live happily together ever after.

–Ginny

Virginia Nestor Kohl (Ginny) is a retired teacher.  She was the Forensics coach at Boone County High School and directed the school’s plays and musicals.  Ginny taught English, interpersonal communications, speech, and drama.  She was also the yearbook sponsor.  She was married for 50 years to the late Harold Douglas Kohl.  Her son, David, teaches at Boone County High School, as well as her daughter-in-law, Krista.  Ginny has two grand-children, Ethan and Eliza, who are sophomores there.