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The Louisville-Thruston Chapter of the Kentucky Society was organized in November of 1960 by a group of Kentucky Society SAR members invited to meet at J. Colgan Norman's home. It was agreed that the chapter would be in Louisville and named in honor of R. C. Ballard Thruston for his note-worthy contributions in collection and preservation of historical documents in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Thruston had served as President-General of the NSSAR in 1913. William A. Chenault was elected President; First Vice-President - Joshua B. Everett; Second Vice-President - William Kinnaird; Secretary-Treasurer - D. B. Waller; Registrar - Harry W. Myers; Historian - James W. Menefee; and Chaplain - Lawrence Cassidy Jr. filled out the roster of officers.
On February 22, 1961, a luncheon meeting was held to commemorate George Washington's birthday. At that meeting, at the Pendennis Club, chapter officers were officially installed by Thomas Burchett Jr, President of the Kentucky Society, SAR and the charter was presented. Ranson H. Bassett, National Society Trustee from Kentucky was also present.
Initially, the officers met monthly to ensure the chapter's ongoing success. General membership meetings were held three times a year to commemorate patriotic events and, occasionally, to present honors and awards. Chapter Compatriots Colonel Ben Morris (1985 - 1986), Dr. William Gist (1995 - 1996), and James David Sympson (2010 - 2011) also served the National Society as Presidents General.
The first chapter newsletter, ''The Louisville Patriot'', was edited by Colonel Robert Jobson in 1981. By 1994, under the leadership of Chapter President Dr. V. Edward Masters, membership grew to 370 members. In 1994, the chapter newsletter was revived by Editor Dan Klinck as ''The Long Rifleman''. In 1996, the first chapter Color Guard of the Kentucky Society was formed. The Color Guard was named the ''V. Edward Masters Memorial Color Guard'' to honor the memory of the chapter Past-President, who proposed the color guard during his presidency. The first event of the newly formed chapter color guard was at Big Spring Country Club on February 17, 1996, consisting of Dan Klinck, Dan Allen, Norb Rawert, and Terry Brown. On May 17, 2006, Color Guardsmen Henry Head, Will Schrader, Les Black and Charles Scott were present at the funeral service for our first chapter President William Chenault. Chapter Chaplain Forrest Chilton performed the farewell service.
There are now five scheduled meetings a year; Flag Day Meeting in June, Constitution Day Joint Meeting in September, Christmas Dinner-Dance in December, the George Washington's Birthday Meeting in February, and Annual Meeting in April. The Louisville-Thruston Chapter celebrated our 50th anniversary in November 2010. This year will mark our 56th year. Currently we have approximately 330 active members.
Rogers Clark Ballard Thruston - Our Chapter Namesake (from The Long Rifleman published July 2011, Volume 2, Issue 4)
Rogers Clark Ballard Thruston is a man to be remembered, yet it’s probably a safe bet that his name will not be recognized by many of our members, despite the fact our chapter was named in his honor. As you will see from the following article, no one has done more to capture and preserve Kentucky history than R. C. Ballard Thruston.
Rogers Clark Ballard Thruston was born on 6 November 1858 into one of the most influential families of Louisville, Kentucky. He was the fourth son of Andrew Jackson Ballard and Frances Ann Thruston. On his father’s side, he was descended from the “old Indian fighter” Bland Ballard of Shelby County. On his mother’s side, he was descended from Frances Eleanor Clark Thruston, sister of George Rogers Clark and William Clark. His family donated the land for George Rogers Clark Park, Ballard Square, and Churchill Park in Louisville.
Rogers Clark Ballard graduated from the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University in 1880. After a brief stint with the Monon railway, Rogers began a long practice as an engineer and geologist in eastern Kentucky. From 1882 to 1887 he was associated as Metallurgist and Assistant Geologist with the Kentucky Geological Survey under the direction of A. R. Crandell, a faculty member of what was then the Kentucky Agricultural and Mechanical College in Lexington, now the University of Kentucky. It was during these years that, at his mother’s request, on 27 October 1884, Ballard adopted his mother's maiden name of Thruston as his own last name by act of the County Court of Fayette County. The first syllable of the name is pronounced the same as “through” or “threw.” In 1887, his brother Charles Ballard organized the Interstate Investment Company, of which Rogers became an officer. He resigned from the Kentucky Geological Survey and spent the next twenty-two years working in eastern Kentucky for this company and vari- ous spin-offs, acquiring extensive mineral and timber rights in eastern Kentucky and western Virginia. Rogers worked primarily in Harlan County, Kentucky and Lee County, Virginia, locating, surveying, purchasing, platting, registering and litigating property rights. His scientific and technical training and this practical experience engendered in him a meticulous attention to detail and determination to establish hard facts, which would later prove useful in his historical and genealogical work. He regularly spent the winter months in Lexington, but eight months a year in the field, tracing property lines and stepping out boundaries, often on steep, difficult slopes. Thirteen large folios of abstracts and plats were deposited with the Filson Club of Louisville documenting this careful work.
Thruston managed to establish working relationships with the xenophobic mountaineers of the area, as is testified by the thousands of photographs taken of life in the mountains during those years. He later recalled that he had purchased one of the earliest cameras known to the region, which he called a Kodak, although that was not a precise description, as he tended to use the word “Kodak” to refer to any camera and to the photographs they produced. Over the years, he produced literally thousands of photographs, not only of Appalachian life, but of Louisville, of his many trips abroad - to Panama, Mexico, Japan, China, Egypt - and to other parts of the United States. His extensive photographic collection of over 20,000 images dating from 1880 to 1942 is housed at the Filson Club in Louisville. Thomas D. Clark, dean of Kentucky historians, in an article in the Filson Club History Quarterly (Vol. 58, October 1984), speaks of Thruston’s “wide-ranging personal knowledge of the Appalachians, the nature of their environment, the people who populated them, and a first-rate photographic record...”
While working in Appalachia, Rogers became acquainted with John Fox, Jr. (1862-1919), the author of The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come (1903) and The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1908) among other works. He supplied Fox with many useful observations on Appalachian life. In a 1939 letter to Fox’s biographer Herald E. Green, Thruston wrote, “regarding the mountaineers, their manners, habits, customs, etc., I think there are none of his books that did not have something in them that I had told him.”
Rogers Clark Ballard Thruston decided to retire from his work in the mountains in 1909 at the age of forty-nine. In addition to his role as a director of the Ballard & Ballard Flour Mills, he was manager of the Big Stone Gap Iron Company and a director of the United States Trust Company. He was quite well off and could comfortably devote the remainder of his long life to a series of historical, patriotic and charitable activities.
During World War I, Rogers was the first chairman of the Louisville Chapter of the American Red Cross, 1917-1918. He served as president of the Yale Alumni Association of Kentucky. In his professional capacity he was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Forestry Association. From 1922 to 1935, he was a member of the Louisville Free Public Library Board, serving a term as president. He was a director of the Speed Museum in Louisville and of Liberty Hall in Frankfort. He served twice as governor of the Society of Colonial Wars in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, from 1909-1911 and again in 1922. He was a member of the Virginia Society of the Cincinnati.
Thruston became a member of the Sons of the American Revolution in 1890, the year the first National Congress of the Society met in Louisville, on the record of his great grandfather, Charles Myan Thruston. He later filed supplemental applications on the records of Bland Ballard, Armistead Churchill, William Oldham and William Pope. He became president of the Kentucky Society, SAR in October 1911, resigning on 17 June 1913 after being sworn in as President General of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution at the Chicago meeting on 20 May 1913. Prior to becoming President General, Thruston served as Vice- President General in 1910 and 1911, and as a member of the Executive Committee in 1912. He would be reelected as President General in 1914, serving until the National Congress in Portland, Oregon on July 20, 1915.
Throughout his life, Rogers Clark Ballard Thruston was a tireless researcher into his own family history and genealogy. He visited cemeteries and researched church records tirelessly, as well as hiring others to carry on this task when he was unable to do so in person. His voluminous correspondence on the Clark family remains a valuable resource today. The genealogical aspects of both the SAR and the Filson owe a great deal to his enthusiasm. He later presented a photostatic collection of 21,000 documents relating to the campaigns of George Rogers Clark to the Filson. He read a paper before the Filson on 1 June 1931, which was published in The Filson Club History Quarterly in 1934 (vol. 8, January 1934) concerning the relationship between John Filson’s book and the accompanying map of early Kentucky. In this work he demonstrated his meticulous attention to detail in discussing editions, paper quality, types, watermarks, mistakes in translation to other languages, and the locations of original copies. He concluded that the book, published in Wilmington, Delaware, and the map, engraved in Philadelphia, were sold as a unit with some editions, but not all.
Thruston made an exhaustive study of the history of the American flag. He gave illustrated lectures on the flags used by the various colonies up to the adoption of the national banner and had a brochure on the subject entitled “The History of the Origin and Evolution of the United States Flag,” endorsed and published by the Congress of the United States.
He was likewise concerned with the preservation of the historical record. In a letter of 27 March 1916 to Mrs. W. H. Thompson, Vice-President General of the DAR, he describes a visit to the Kentucky State Archives in Frankfort. “I went and found the papers strewn over the floor that were being trampled upon, and when I asked if they were of any value, was told, “No, they are of no value, you may have them if you want.” In 1936, partly through Thruston’s efforts, the Department of Library Archives was created, but it was not until 1950 that the Kentucky Records Control Law was passed to collect and preserve public records appropriately. Thruston was also responsible for having over one hundred copies of early American newspapers included in the Filson collection, including twelve volumes of The Kentucky Gazette dating from 1787 to 1800.
One of the most significant acquisitions of Thruston was the collection of genealogical papers relating to the signers of the Declaration of Independence. In 1885, Frank Willing Leach of Philadelphia began this collection, researching the families of the signers. He sought unsuccessfully to sell his collection to the Library of Congress for $10,000 in 1919, and then to the Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. At that time, the Descendants of the Signers and the SAR had a joint committee concerned with collecting and preserving materials related to the Declaration of Independence. The Secretary of the joint committee was John Calvert, who was also the Secretary of the signer’s organization. In this manner, the situation was brought to Thruston’s attention. Finding that neither the Society of the Descendants nor the SAR themselves had the funds to make the purchase, Thruston stepped up to the plate, writing to Calvert, “though I do not wish to make the purchase, I am willing to do so provided you will go and look over them and feel fully satisfied” that the materials are worth the price that Leach was asking, now reduced to $2,000. As a result of Calvert’s assurances, on 17 October 1922 the Leach Collection was purchased. Over the next several years, Calvert had four copies made of the original documents, comprising over 6,000 typewritten pages each. In a letter to Frank Steele, Secretary General of SAR, dated 19 April 1938, Thruston describes the distribution of these copies. “Of the four copies that were made, one went to each organization [i.e., the Society of the Descendants and the SAR], one to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and one, together with the originals to the Filson Club here.” John Calvert, Thruston and subsequent librarians have added to the collection. Thruston’s own contributions fill eight volumes. The collection was termed “one of the richest assemblies of personal histories of American families available” by Thomas D. Clark.
In his will in 1946, Thruston gave $50,000 to establish an endowment fund for the Filson, and $25,000 for an acquisition fund for the library and archives. Rogers Clark Ballard Thruston was effectively a second founder of the Filson.
At the Chicago National Congress of the SAR in 1913, it was resolved that the NSSAR and the appropriate state societies mark the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the journey of George Washington from Philadelphia to Cambridge, Massachusetts to take up his duties as Com- mander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in 1775. President General Thruston spent a great deal of effort organizing and coordinating this effort and participating in it. A detailed description of the festivities is preserved in the 1914 Yearbook (pages 176 to 187). This historical reenactment, called “Washington’s Journey,” left Philadelphia on 23 June 1915 and completed the journey immediately prior to the National Congress in Portland, Oregon. The participants wore colonial uniforms, with an eighteenth century coach providing transportation for the re- enactor of the General. They stopped in the same cities, and where possible in the same facilities, as the original journey, being greeted by enthusiastic crowds along the way. A brochure detailing the expedition was subsequently printed by the Society.
Rogers Clark Ballard Thruston died in Louisville on 30 December 1946, at the age of 88. Ironically, he was buried from the L. D. Pearson Funeral Home, located in the Ferguson Mansion at 1310 South Third Street, the present headquarters of the Filson. He is buried in Cave Hill Cemetery.
When it was decided in 1960 that members of the SAR in Louisville should be organized in a chapter, rather than simply being members of the Kentucky Society as they had been for three-quarters of a century, the new chapter was named Rogers Clark Ballard Thruston Chapter. Twenty years later, during the administration of President William Gist, Jr., the name was changed to the Louisville Thruston Chapter.
William C. Schrader III
Past President, ?Louisville Thruston Chapter