September 1880, my wife's soon-to-be-married
great-grandfather, Frank X. Bezold, opened a general store
in the rural farmlands of southern Campbell County,
Kentucky. He sold spices, fabric, shoes, hardware,
phonograph records, and gunpowder to the local farmers, who
often paid with butter, eggs, or other crops. Then once a
week, this produce was hauled to the big city by horse and
wagon (a 12-hour journey) for sale
to city grocers.
My wife's grandfather, Clem, was born in the house behind
the store, and he and his brothers grew up farming, keeping
shop, and hauling produce to market. "Old Dobbin" was
retired in 1914, when they got their first truck. Dobbin,
the family horse, was named after a lead character (the son
of a grocer) in the 1848 novel Vanity Fair.
the store passed down to Frank's youngest son, Frank Jr., and was
family-run for over 100 years, when it was finally closed down in
1981 by my father-in-law's cousin, Arnold Bezold.
My father-in-law (Gene) and I visited the store ten years later
in 1991. The storefront was weathered and shuttered shut, while the
interior was doubling as barn storage. But the antique counters and
displays were still present, reminiscent of a bygone era.
The store sat dormant for many many years, until 2009 when a
local farmers group created an annual event called the
Campbell County Backroads Farm Tour. It's purpose is "to
educate the public about the importance of farming by showcasing the
rich heritage that our farmers have nurtured for many generations."
Sixteen Campbell County farms opened their gates to the general
public to spend one day (rain or shine) in the country.
old Bezold store got a good cleaning and a new coat of paint, and
opened one day a year to the public. Mostly, the store served as a
museum background, while Arnold sold honey from his beekeeping
business that he started in 1985. The old farm which was once 12
hours from town by horse, then 2 hours by truck, was now a 30 minute
jaunt by car, thanks to the modern highway system. The following
year in 2010, over 2500 people took part in the free self-guided car
tour of Campbell County farms, and Arnold received over 1000
visitors that day.
My niece and father-in-law took the tour in 2011, bringing back
lots of pictures to share with the family. I had hoped to go on the
2012 tour, but Arnold's advanced age and failing health caused him
to drop out that year.
But I'm not here to talk about any of that. What I really wanted
to talk about are some genealogical treasures I recently