Jackson Purchase Historical Society receives state-level recognition

David G. Hayes, retired Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals judge, leads members of the Jackson Purchase Historical Society on a boat tour of Reelfoot Lake, in Lake County, Tennessee, last November. JPHS, which works to preserve the history of eight west Kentucky counties and four Tennessee border counties, was recognized earlier this month by the Kentucky Historical Society as the Volunteer Organization of the Year.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The Jackson Purchase Historical Society, a group dedicated to preserving the region's past, was recognized by the Kentucky Historical Society as the Volunteer Organization of the Year earlier this month.

Serving the eight far western counties of Kentucky (McCracken, Ballard, Carlisle, Calloway, Fulton, Graves, Hickman and Marshall) as well as four Tennessee border counties (Henry, Lake, Obion and Weakley), the organization has worked for six decades to better the population's historical knowledge of the region by hosting regular programs and lectures, as well as publishing an annual journal.

"The JPHS is vital to keeping the rich history of our area alive," said Richard Parker, the group's vice president. "JPHS offers an opportunity for history enthusiasts to pursue their passion, even if they do not do it professionally. So much history lives within the minds of regular citizens, and JPHS is a great way to access previously untold stories."

Recent programs hosted by JPHS have covered topics like the history of the Reelfoot Lake area in Lake County Tennessee, Ulysses S. Grant and the region's history of military engineering along the river and the life of Mary Wheeler, a musicologist who preserved the songs of black river workers around the turn of the 20th century.

"People want to know about where they live and how it came to be the way it is," Bill Mulligan, the group's president, told The Sun this week. "Also, there's the basic appeal of history, which is that it's about people. People are intrinsically interesting."

Mulligan credits the success of the organization to the efforts of countless supporters over the years. "This all started 60 years ago and there are a number of people who really committed time and energy to the society," he said. "The people who've recognize that local history is significant; that's what's helped to grow the society."

Amanda Higgins, community engagement coordinator for the Kentucky Historical Society, coordinated the annual award ceremony at the old State Capitol building in Frankfort where JPHS was recognized Nov. 8. The KHS official commended the group for its passion.

"Folks' connection to their neighborhoods and counties helps local knowledge flourish and to connect residents to the histories of their slice of the commonwealth," Higgins said. "Organizations like the JPHS are important groups to maintain and promote the history of a given area or region. They help to show how our daily lives intersect with the big national narratives about our past and our contemporary moments.

"We were pleased to honor the JPHS and look forward to their continued work on the Purchase's past."

The Jackson Purchase Historical Society is free to join. Anyone interested in learning about the group and its upcoming programs can do so by visiting www.jacksonpurchasehistory.org.

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