A passion for the past

Salyers’ life-long research, geneaology
considered invaluable to Carrollton

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

CARROLLTON, Ky. (September 2004) – Katherine Salyers’ love affair with history has lasted since the 1950s. Her goal for the last half-century has been to record Carroll County’s history before it vanishes.

Kathryn Salyers

Photo by Melissa Pelsor

This office at 511 Highland Ave. will
serve as the new chamber office.

She has received a lot of media attention lately due to her appearance in “Where the Rivers Meet.” This documentary chronicles the history of Carroll County and was made by Lori Hedges of Madison, Ind. Hedges, a student at Hanover College, created the film for a class project.
Salyers was the principle person interviewed, said Carroll County Public Library Director Jarrett Boyd, because “she’s made it her life’s calling to document the history of Carrollton.”
Salyers was born on Sept. 12, 1914, in Dry Ridge, Ky., located in nearby Grant County. Her parents moved to Carrollton when she was 11 to care for her ailing grandfather, who had suffered a stroke.
“Once you get in Carrollton, you’re stuck,” she said, referring to the fact that the family had moved there by horse and buggy in 1929.
Since then she has lived in her grandmother’s home in downtown Carrollton. Stepping into Salyers' house gives one the profound sense of stepping back in time. The interior of the house contains “ a houseful of history,” said Boyd.
What began as a hobby now fills three filing cabinets and several bookcases. Many files and countless notebooks contain handwritten pages on a subject that has consumed Salyers since she began her hobby of recording the county’s history.
“I just did it because I like it,” said Salyers of her passion for the past. Her research enables future generations to look into the past more easily.
Evelyn Welch, curator for the Butler-Turpin Historic House at Gen. Butler State Resort Park, said researchers generally have one choice in that they “can go to the county clerk’s office and do the work yourself.” Salyers, on the other hand, has “done the work for you.” Her research is catalogued, and in today’s high-tech world, this makes genealogical research “less labor intensive,” said Welch. This is an incentive to get more people involved in this time-consuming hobby, said Welch.
Salyers, who was employed by the Big Burley Warehouse for 27 years, has documented family Bible records, Deed Books I and II of Carroll County, early court order books (when Carrollton, then known as Port William, was a part of Gallatin County), census records and obituaries. Her cemetery records contain the location of 185 or more cemeteries in the county.
Since 1962, she has traveled to each cemetery to personally record the gravestone information, and is still adding to her list of 238 names. “I love to dig around in cemeteries,” said Salyers.
She is definitely the “go-to person for genealogy questions,” said Boyd. The Mormon Church, whose Family History Center contains the world’s largest collection of genealogical records, recently collected 17 rolls of microfilm from Salyers' files.
While growing up, Salyers asked her mother repeatedly to tell her stories about her parent’s life in Grant County. In 1879, her grandfather Salyers left Kentucky to travel to Missouri. He took his family by Conestoga wagon across the prairie. His son, Salyers' father, remembered images such as wild strawberries, prairie dogs and stopping to eat a lunch of biscuits and fried chicken upon the prairie. He recalled it as the best lunch he’d ever had.
Salyers grandfather died in 1886 in Missouri and her grandmother returned to Kentucky with four children. Her father met her mother in Warsaw, and they eloped in Vevay, Ind.
Even though she has four generations of family buried in Grant County, Salyers calls Carrollton home. She said people frequently ask her why she is so interested in Carroll County history when she has such strong ties to another county. Her reasoning is centered in the pride she feels for the county in which she lives.
“Life is so complicated now,” said Salyers, who turns 90 in September. An afternoon spent with her is like stepping into a good historical novel and becoming one with the main character. For Salyers, life has been a journey into the past, which she freely shares with future generations.

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