The John M McConnell House is a historic home completed in 1834 the year John died at age 43. Currently the house is used as a tourism center, an educational resource and an event venue. The house is situated between Greenup County’s main road and the Ohio River. The Greek Revival home has eight rooms. There is a small brick building on the grounds that was originally used as a law office and later as a school.
As part of the efforts of the Magoffin County Civil War Committee to cultivate and expand our network of contacts and to facilitate our events Chris Patrick, Barbara Patrick, Kay Howard and I ventured to Greenup County for a Living History event at the McConnell House. We were hosted by Col Dahnmon Whitt who has been very supportive of our work to promote Magoffin County heritage and tourism.
The weather could not have been nicer for a November day and the people who attended were extra friendly. I think we all made a great impression of the Civil War era with the men in uniform and the ladies in fancy dress. Talks were given by President Lincoln who recited the Gettysburg Address, his wife Mary Todd, General Robert E Lee, his wife Mary Anna Custis, Mrs. Jefferson (Varina Howell) Davis and others. We were served at our leisure pinto beans, cornbread, potato salad, cole slaw, pizza, chips and drinks, our hosts made every effort to insure we felt at home. Aside from all this and the many fine authors displaying their books for sale I felt one of the highlights of the event was an impressive display of period medical instruments shown by a very knowledgeable gentleman. Modern medicine grew out of the massive suffering of the Civil War.
Why is an old house in Greenup County important to us here in Magoffin you might ask. I will try to answer that. I believe the future of Eastern Kentucky is dependant in large part on tourism. Think of tourism as a great lake and each county as a boat. You can see then that whatever lifts one county will lift all counties as a rising tide lifts all ships. This is why it is vital to cultivate regional ties and network with all those interested in the potential tourism has to offer. It is essential that as we transition to a broader based local economy that we have effective leadership in key positions to ensure that as the rest of Eastern Kentucky moves ahead we don’t get left behind yet again. The potential for tourism to flourish in Magoffin County is enormous and it is time to tap this resource. Great strides have been taken with the development of the Dawkins Trail and the purchase of property for a Puncheon Battlefield Community Park. A great start to be sure but to be successful many more things must be put in place. That will take effective leadership.
By Randall Risner, Certified Kentucky Community Scholar