The Oldham County History Center is owned and operated by the Oldham County Historical Society. The Center is located on the block west of the Courthouse Square in LaGrange Kentucky. There are three buildings on the History Center property: J.C. Barnett Archives and Library, the Peyton Samuel Head Family Museum and the Rob Morris Chapel. The archives and museum buildings were erected in 1840. The church was built in 1880. The Archives building was owned by James and Amanda Mount during the Civil War. During this time "Aunt Amanda" received letters from her nephew, Amos Mount, who wrote about his experiences as a Union soldier during the Civil War. Their letters are part of the Oldham County Historical Society Collections. In addition, the James and Amanda were slave holders- recently their documents, which include runaway bounty hunter papers, have been included in the National Park Service National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
What is now known as the J.C. Barnett Library and Archives is a restored 1840s “Kentucky Four Square” house. The Archives building holds a vast collection of documents, genealogical records, photographs, a family name database and a library of regional and local history materials, including extensive family files. The building also serves as the administrative headquarters for the Oldham County Historical Society.
The Archives building was originally owned by James Mount (March 15, 1796-October 17, 1864, son of John Mount and Lydia Jennings) and Amanda Malvina Railey Mount (July 22, 1810-January 12, 1888, daughter of John Railey and Elizabeth Randolph). Amanda’s nephew, Amos G. Mount, sent letters to his aunt and uncle that described events during his service as a Union soldier in Company B of the 6th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry U.S. during the Civil War. James Mount had been appointed guardian of his nephew after Amos’ father died. The history center has preserved this collection of letters which detail what Amos saw from different camps and battlefields.
For a time, Mrs./Ms. Ross lived in the house. She worked as a county clerk and piano teacher. The Hitt family also lived in the Archives building at one time. Edward Albert Hitt (October 10, 1910-December 9, 1973) rented the house for 15 years before he died. His son, Wallace B. Hitt, remembers visiting the house where his father lived.
Peyton Samuel Head, benefactor of the history center, lived in this house until he renovated the house next door (now the museum) and made it the family’s permanent home. A Kentucky Historic Resources Inventory described the house as the oldest building on the square and one of the oldest in town. It was prominent for having a three-door façade.
Like the J.C. Barnett Library and Archives building, the Peyton
Samuel Head Family Museum was erected in the 1840’s. This
restored Victorian home is now an interactive and interpretive community museum. It contains a major exhibit on local history
and changing exhibits on a variety of topics.
Peyton Samuel Head (Sept. 8, 1849-Nov. 28, 1928) was a banker and landowner in Oldham County during the early 20th century. His parents were James M. Head and Margaret McMakin. Head was educated at county schools and La Grange College. He farmed until 1869, worked in the Grange Corporation store, and then began investing in real estate. Head was married to Blanche Hitt (April 17, 1867-Jan. 28, 1951). Head was one of the county’s earliest bankers and served on the board of directors of the first Bank of
Oldham County. He was also town treasurer and served as deputy sheriff of Oldham County. He owned 40 acres of land and valuable town property which included eight or nine houses and lots in La Grange.
Head’s daughter, Louise Head Dodge Duncan (b. about 1900-d. Dec. 30, 1990), inherited her father’s estate. In her will, she donated her home to the Oldham County Historical Society for the site of the current museum. Mrs. Duncan believed in giving back to the community, as proven by leaving the majority of her estate (over $5 million) in a trust for charitable groups in Oldham County. She owned the Archives building at one time as well.
In 1880, La Grange resident Amanda Mount deeded property for the construction of a Presbyterian Church near her home. It would become the church were Dr. Rob Morris, founder of the Order of the Eastern Star, often served as a Ruling Elder. He would many times be called upon to occupy the pulpit in the absence of the church’s regular minister. Morris would frequently lecture on his travels in the Holy Land in the interest of Masonic research.
Morris’s daughter, Ruth Electra (June 26, 1855-Jan. 10, 1936), married Mount’s son, John James Mount (June 20, 1852-Aug. 7, 1941), on January 8, 1878. John J. Mount was the police judge in La Grange. He and Ruth Electra had seven children: Rob Morris Mount (1878), Mary Maude (1881), John James, Jr. (1884), Charlotte Amanda (1889), Ella Morris (1893) and Sara Railey (1896) and one unnamed boy (Nov. 18, 1887-Nov. 21, 1887).
Louise Duncan was a blue-eyed, brown-haired petite 5’3”. She began school in La Grange at Molly Mahan’s private school, and then went on to Funk Seminary, finishing high school at a private school in Louisville. She finished her educational career at Camel Hagerman College in Lexington, graduating in 1910. She married a man named Dodge whose family had founded Dodge Automobiles, but that marriage ended in divorce. She worked as County Treasurer for ten years and during that time met Curtis Duncan (May 11, 1884-May 6, 1963) who was from Winchester, Clark County, Ky. They married but did not have any children together; Curtis had a daughter, Lucille, from a previous marriage.
The Oldham County Historical Society presently owns the Presbyterian Church, known as the Rob Morris Educational Building. It was remodeled and dedicated on August 20, 2006 by Freemasons and the Order of the Easter Star. Rob Morris said there were two things in life dear to his heart: his little Presbyterian Church and Freemasonry. The building is now used for educational classes, meetings and public programs.