Remembering Sparta

Sparta Today, February 12, 1976

 This is Lincoln’s birthday.  He would have been 167 years old today. It was on the 4th day of March 1861 that Mr. Lincoln was inaugurated President of these United States.  Magoffin was governor of Kentucky.  The Civil War was fought to free Black people, but just in the last ten years have they really been free like the white, but today they go where they want to – restaurants, hotels and hospitals, and hold jobs like the white.  We do not have any Black’s in Sparta.  We only ever had one Black family to live in Sparta to my knowledge.

 Sparta, as of today, has 4 general stores, 3 liquor places called Taverns, 5 places where you can buy beer, 2 churches, both on the Sanders Road, 1 restaurant and one fertilizer plant with coal.

 We had:

A lumber yard.  It’s gone; the building’s torn down.
A stockyard; the building burned; they grow tobacco there now.
A picture show.  Gone.
A standard Oil Bulk Plant.  Gone, moved to Carrollton.
Two nurseries.  Today, we have just a shadow of one.
A good transfer company, run by F. P. Jacobs and his boy.  No more; it’s gone.
A good hotel.  No more; it’s a tavern.
A good school.  No more; it’s been moved to Warsaw, and Owenton.
A hardware store.  No more; burned down in 1942.
A good depot, employed 6 people, 7 days a week.  Now it’s 1 man, half a day, 5 days a week.
Three good stock buyers.  They all died, and no one took their place.

 This is in the last fifty years.  What will happen in the next fifty?

 As I think what we have had in Sparta, that is no more, I remember we had two icehouses, one of which was by what is now the Post Office.  The other was out by the side of the road where Walter Kennedy lived.  They were about 30 feet wide and 30 feet deep with a top on them.  The ice was cut in large blocks and laid in straw.  They would keep from one winter to the next. Some times you would have o throw away some old ice in the fall when you cleaned it out for a new supply of ice.

 Later we had what was called Mfg. Ice.  They would haul it from Covington, for Warsaw, Sparta, and Owenton.  Leslie Minor drove a wagon in his early life, but then, as many people began to get home freezers, the ice business was gone.  We now have four places you can buy ice in 10 and 20 pound bags.

 We also had a jail in Sparta in the early days, but one night some one set fire to it and burned it down.  It was where Norman B. Carver’s garage now stands.  We had a blacksmith over in old Sparta, run by a Mr. Ross, then by a Mr. Minor.

Mr. Frank Jacob used to buy rabbits in the wintertime from the hunters, back around 1917-1919, and by the twenties, they would bring them in by the wagonloads.  He would pack them in sugar barrels and ship them east.  There is no telling how many he did ship; it was in the thousands every week when the season was on, but after the rabbit disease they don’t ship any more.  In fact, it has only been in the last few years they kill them to eat.  The last one I killed was in 1921.

 We had a softball diamond here in old Sparta.  It was a good one – it was lit so you could play at night.  It was built and run by the American Legion Post #145 of Sparta.  It was later sold to the Catholic Church in Madison, Indiana. 

 We also had a tobacco-prizing barn in Sparta.  It stood where the Lombar [?] bought in 1908, and when they tore down the old building in 1976, it showed where the tobacco prizing house stood.  The joists were made of logs, from 10 to 12 inches thick.

 We had a livery stable.  It went from one side of the street to the other.  They kept their buggies upstairs.  I have a small picture of the barn and the icehouse.

 We also had a croquet court down where Marvin Crume has his parking lot for his cars, and there was a barn close by where they always played every Sunday afternoon.  This one time they were playing and a severe electric storm came up and everyone ran to the barn out of the rain. A Mr. Minor stopped at the door and was leaning against the barn post when lightening struck the pot and killed Mr. Minor.  I don’t remember his first name.


 When I was a boy about 12 to 14 years old I have heard good farmers say they would sign a contract to raise tobacco the ret of their life at ten cents per pound.  Today it will cost you better than 75 cents per pound to raise it.  My first and only crop was in 1911 on my father’s farm.  We cleaned up a new piece of ground, about 2 acres.  We had to take it to Shelbyville to sell, and got 14 cents per pound, but you must remember we were out nothing but our work.  Your tobacco seed you raised or got from your neighbor.  Canvas was fodder and brush.  No fertilizer.

 Now in the fall of 1915, in Owenton, loose leaf sold for $6.39 for a hundred pounds.  In 1919, when tobacco was in demand, leaf grades brought $1 to $1.30 per pound, but while some was bringing that, there was some a 6 cents per pound.  In 1920 the farmers got disappointed for the price drop to $13.13 for 100 pounds.  It was some time in the early thirties that Cate Crouch, Carl Crouch’s father, came to the bank to borrow $100 to raise his crop on.  When he sold that crop he barely had money to pay interest on the $100. Bill Farrar said that in 1937, he sold the best crop he ever raised for 14 cents per pound.  Leslie Minor said that when he was a small boy, around 1900, his father sold tobacco fo4 3 and 4 cents per pound.  Thurman Lafferty said the lowest crop of tobacco he ever sold was the first one he raised in 1938, for which he got 16 cents per pound.  Mr. John Samuel raised a crop of tobacco in 1912, and his daddy sold it for 4 cents per pound.  It brought $140 and he put the mondy in sheep at $3 per head.  Howard Gullion said his first crop raised was in 1934 and he got 18 cents.  His Dad sold one in 1931 for 7 cents.  Howard Tackett said in 1932 he took tobacco to Carrollton and was offered 50 cents per hundred pounds.

 The Lafferty Brothers sold some tobacco this year, 1976, for $1.20. I would like to say something about Owen County’s Mr. and Mrs. O. B. Coates.  On December 12, 1974 the top sale at the New Burley Tobacco warehouse in Florence was made by Mr. O. b. Coates, son of the late Addie Coates of the Poplar Grove community.  His crop brought a record price of $121.19 to lead the state in price.  State-wide average wa up to $120.41 per hundred for last Thursday with offerings producing good and bad prices, according to quality.  The average in Carrollton was $120.81.

 Here is another farmer who had a hard time – don’t give up - getting started: Tommy Cortney.  He told me the other day that in the year 1930 he raised a crop of tobacco on his father’s farm, worked all year and sold his crop for $110, but of course his father gave him a bed to sleep in and three hot meals a day.  But the next year, 1931, they built the Sanders and New Liberty Road.  He wanted to get a job on the road, and his father offered to help him, but he said no, he’d get it himself.  Did he?  No. You had to have lots of help for in 1931 if you remember, it was hard to get a job.  That was when the WPA was getting started.  They were talking about it but had not really gotten underway.  Well, Tommy Cortney got his job, and he helped build the road from Sanders to New Liberty, Ky.

 Today as you drive along the new road from Sparta to Owenton, just this side of Paul Craigmile’s garage is a beautiful brick home with lots of shade trees.  All around it in back are large barns, a large dairy barn, and a fine herd of milk cows.  I wondered who lived there.  I went up to the door, and knocked, and who came to the door but Tommy Cortney, the boy ho had such a hard time getting the job on the Sanders-New Liberty road in 1931.  Now Tommy did not get all this by himself, for he has a good helper, his wife Mrs. Fanny Jones, whom he married in 1933.  They have no children.  May the Lord bless them.