Editor’s Note: The following article appears in the 69th Annual Daniel Boone Festival catalog.
Dora Sue Oxendine Farmer was announced as the winner of the 2015 Susan Arthur Historical Preservation Award during the 68th Daniel Boone Festival.
The award was presented “to an outstanding citizen of our county” by members of the GFWC/KFWC Junior Woman’s Study Club October 5, 2015 at the Knox Central Middle School gymnasium before the presentation and coronation of the 2015 Daniel Boone Festival royalty. This was the 10th year the Club has recognized those who have made significant contributions to the perpetuation of the history and traditions of their community.
The Susan Arthur Historical Preservation Award is in recognition of the many contributions of Susan Arthur, longtime president and a founder of the Knox Historical Museum and a teacher and librarian in Knox County and adjacent counties. “Miss Arthur spent many, many hours entertaining and educating students about the history of Knox County and our heritage,” the award presenter stated.
“She annually came to our candidate picnic where she shared many lovely and interesting stories about Knox County’s early times. In her honor we have created an award to recognize one person from our great county who goes above and beyond to preserve and maintain Knox County’s history.”
Dora Sue Oxendine Farmer is a product of a family intrinsically rooted in the rich history of Appalachia and the family histories of the Hubbards from Crane Nest and the Oxendines from Heidrick. Hearing detailed stories told by her parents about these communities influenced her love of history, sense of place, family traditions, and her own personal attempts to preserve Knox County’s unique history.
Her mother and father, Lucy and Sherman Oxendine, were founding members of the Knox Historical Museum in 1989. In 2013, Sherman Oxendine received the Susan A, Arthur Historical Preservation Award, posthumously, for his work in preserving Knox County’s rich history. When both of her parents were in their late sixties, they set out to preserve the distinctive and personal history of their individual lives by tape recording and chronicling the saga of their own lives’ stories. Hearing her parents retell stories about childhood events, community church life, comic adventures, farm experiences and life at Union College inspired her to retell her own special adventures growing up as a child in the mountains of Appalachia.
In late 2009, Dora Sue along with several family members developed the idea of writing and publishing their own family history book. Her cousins, Jakalyn Jackson, Leanna Butler and Glenna Steelman; along with her brother Bill and Bill’s wife, Dorothy; sisters Sharron and Linda; brother in law Charlie; daughter Wendy and the nieces, nephews and grandchildren have all written numerous family stories. Since that first family history book was compiled and published in 2009, the family continues to meet once a year to assemble the latest volume of stories. The year 2015 will mark their 7th year of writing stories of their rich family traditions. Stories are varied in content, some serious, some comical, but all are rich in detail as children as young as 5 years old write and contribute.
Every year during the Daniel Boone Festival, Dora Sue assists her family, the Oxendines, along with her Jackson cousins, as they create and design window displays featuring life on the frontier with Daniel Boone and early travelers into Kentucky.
For the past few years, Dora Sue has accompanied her sister, Linda, who plays the dulcimer, to area elementary schools where they tell stories and sing songs focusing on their Appalachian heritage and the journey of Daniel Boone. You may have seen them as they performed with students in neighboring elementary schools over the past few years or maybe just recently.
A few years ago, Dora Sue began volunteering at the Knox County Historical Museum. During her time working at the Museum she has written articles for the Knox Countian and for the Advocate. Some of the other things she has done while working at the Museum are: she organized a list of the books contained in the Museum for placement on the Museum’s website; she has designed various Museum displays; she has taken school groups on tours of the Museum, taken out-of-town visitors on tours and helped entertain special guests who have visited the museum.
This year with the encouragement of the Museum staff members, she researched the lives of several famous area women. As Dora Sue began her research, she discovered that Knox County holds many firsts, especially in the area of accomplishments of numerous local women. These women lived during the Civil War era up to the present day. Dora Sue knew that the stories of these women who accomplished these firsts in their lives had to be told again to new and younger audiences. Many of these brilliant women had broad intellectual interests and were accomplished in the areas of the arts, journalism, education, science, politics, government, business and entrepreneurial pursuits. During the month of March, which is designated as Women’s History Month, Dora Sue began writing articles about this diverse group of women for the Advocate. In correlation with her articles, she created and designed a display in the window of the old Mitchell Market, which included photographs, antiques and artifacts relevant to the period during which these women lived. In the future, she plans to write more articles highlighting even more local Knox County women who have gone above and beyond ordinary accomplishments. For the past four months, she has had several of the Knox Museum’s vintage photographs published in the Advocate along with annotated descriptions of each.
During her work with the Knox Historical Museum, Dora Sue became involved with the Barbourville Revitalization Project. For the past two years, she has served on a committee which is gathering information to help in problem solving of specific buildings needing attention on the Court Square. Currently she has plans to work with her committee in placing photographs on every historic building in downtown Barbourville showing the building as it once looked in its heyday. This endeavor, when complete, she hopes will work to preserve the historic relevance of each of these buildings for years to come. Further down the road, a walking tour is being planned which will highlight these buildings even more in an effort to safeguard their preservation for the years ahead. As you can see, Dora Sue has much more planned in her efforts to preserve the rich history of her county and hometown.
Dora Sue Oxendine Farmer was presented with a plaque acknowledging her as the winner of the tenth annual Susan Arthur Historical Preservation Award.
In addition to Mrs. Farmer’s plaque, her name was added to a second plaque which hangs on the Reception Room wall at the Knox Historical Museum. Previous winners of the Susan Arthur Award are Charles Reed Mitchell (2006), K.S. Sol Warren (2007), Michael C. Mills (2008), David and Betty Cole (2009), Nancy Clay Hampton (2010), William Sherman Oxendine (2011, posthumously), Steve Valentine (2012), David Cornett (2013), and Irma Gall and Peggy Kemner of the Lend-A-Hand Center (2014).