Alice P. Taylor’s first Henderson home was later Barret High School

Frank Boyett
 |  Columnist

You know the name because of the Christmas concert. But relatively few people alive today remember the woman Alice P. Taylor.

Much of what I know about her is because she was a family friend of longtime Gleaner publisher Leigh Harris. Leigh’s daughter Francele Armstrong wrote about her on at least four separate occasions in her column: Nov. 13, 1938; Dec. 8, 1946; Dec. 14, 1947; and May 26, 1959.

“Never a Sunday passed during the years I was growing up but the Taylors were at the Harris’ or the Harris’ were at the Taylors,” she wrote in 1959, two days after Alice died of heart trouble at age 89.

Alice introduced Francele to Hugh Edward Sandefur, which was the beginning of another long-lasting friendship. “She was brilliant, thoughtful, outgoing, objective, compassionate, generous – and the thing which she shared above all material things was herself. What a grand lady.”

She was born Dec. 13, 1869, in St. Louis to George and Alice Augusta Partridge, who were interesting people in their own right. Both were natives of New England but had met in Tuskegee, Alabama, where he was teaching Greek and Latin at a college and she was head of a female seminary.

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He was a provost marshal during the Civil War and she was a nurse. Both had college educations. After the war they moved to St. Louis, where they had four daughters. (An interesting factoid: Alice had a twin sister named Grace.) About the time their daughters were teenagers they moved to San Francisco, where he tried his hand at oilman, editor, and attorney. She was a teacher, lecturer, and author.

And Alice? She got a job teaching school at the Round Valley Indian Reservation in Mendocino County, California, which she had to reach via an 8-mile horseback ride.  It was in that role that she met N. Powell Taylor, a bright young man from Henderson who had gone West for his health. (He later became one of Henderson’s most distinguished lawyers and served as prosecuting attorney, commonwealth attorney and state senator.)

She gave up that teaching job, however, to study under Lizzie Parker Howell, “one of California’s finest vocal teachers” at the end of the 1800s. Alice built herself a respectable career singing in churches and concerts in San Francisco.

They were married Dec. 14, 1897, and Francele’s column on that date in 1947 noted they were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary at the Glass House Restaurant that day.

“It was a quiet wedding at home, for Alice’s mother, long an invalid, had passed away five weeks before the wedding.” Alice had promised her mother that she would not postpone the wedding – because her mother thought a six-year engagement was more than sufficient.

“In fact, Alice’s distress over leaving her career, her family, her friends in California, and traveling to distant Kentucky had caused her to lose 20 pounds before the wedding.”

Actually, the wedding doesn’t sound all that quiet. “Eighty guests were present, the house ornately decorated, and a French caterer served the supper. Music by artist friends followed.”

The couple then headed for what appears to be a honeymoon in New Orleans before N. Powell Taylor brought his bride from the West here to Henderson to meet the home folks. Their first dinner was at the home of his cousins, Jo and Sallie Eakins, “and then the couple went to their temporary quarters in (a single room in) the old Adams house,” which later became Barret Manual Training High School.

Then it was time to meet the entire family on Christmas Day at the Taylor farm near Zion. There were about 25 of them gathered there, and they were very curious about this “breezy, friendly, open-countenanced girl from the land beyond the Rockies. What would she be like?”

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If they expected her to be haughty, they were mistaken. She was more in awe of them because of the beauty of the surroundings, the antiques, the elaborate dinner, and the warmth of her reception.

“After dinner the family gathered in the front room and Alice brought out her guitar and sang many songs for Powell’s people, who were to become her people, in this Kentucky.”

When Christmas Day came to an end and the young couple were on their way back to Henderson “the Taylors knew that Powell had brought to Henderson a truly remarkable person – a person who would have no difficulty in making a new and brilliant life for herself in a strange land.”

She threw herself into it, joining the Woman’s Club, the Century Club, the Garden Club and singing not only for her own Presbyterian Church, but also for First Baptist, St. Paul’s Episcopal and for the Jewish congregation at the Adath Israel Temple.

She was the Henderson Choral Society’s first president when it was formed Jan. 18, 1921, and the president of the Henderson Music Club twice, instituting the Christmas candlelight service during her first stint.

“In 1924 Mrs. N. Powell Taylor was the first elected president (of the music club), serving until 1926, during which time she organized the women’s chorus, and began the annual Christmas Candlelight services, which are still held,” Melicent B. Quinn wrote in The Gleaner of June 24, 1960. Quinn was a founding member of the Henderson Music Club.

Alice relinquished control of the candlelight service in 1951 and that same year, at the suggestion of Rebecca Lackey, it was named in her honor.

She gave up her church singing after her youngest son died of heart failure at age 29 in 1935. Her husband died in 1950 and her other son died in 1956. But her own losses did not blind her to the misfortunes of others, Armstrong wrote.

“Five or six o’clock in the morning has always found Alice at her desk, or sitting up in bed, writing, writing – notes to the sick, notes to those who have had sorrow, notes to those who have had happiness, notes to youngsters in need of encouragement, notes to shut-ins and old friends.

“Then, as soon as the sun rose high in the sky, out the door would go Alice, and she would start her calls on the sick and the invalids. To each she would bring a small remembrance – a delicacy saved from a party, a handful of flowers, and into each sick room she took the breath of fresh air which only a truly Christian spirit can impart.”

This year’s Alice P. Taylor Candlelight Service will begin at 4 p.m. Dec. 4 at First United Methodist Church at Third and Green streets.

100 YEARS AGO

Local parts of what are now U.S. 60 and U.S. 41-Alternate were still little more than dirt roads in 1922 and officials from the Chamber of Commerce and county government were going to Frankfort to talk the State Highway Commission into doing something about that, according to The Gleaner of Dec. 10, 1922.

“Much of the grading and drainage work has been done already on the Dixie Bee and Ohio River roads but the remainder should … be rushed to completion during the next year for it is a pretty well understood fact that no surfacing work will be undertaken until a project is drained and graded from one end to the other.”

50 YEARS AGO

The Corydon Civil Defense unit got an unusual call from the Illinois Central Railroad, according to The Gleaner of Dec. 3, 1972.

Charles Scates was the only one there, and railroad personnel asked for his help in stopping a train from Corydon to Henderson that was scheduled to arrive in 25 minutes.

“They had reason to believe there was a broken crosstie along the route that could cause a serious accident, with possible heavy property damage and even injury to trainmen.”

Scates hurriedly got his flasher light going and parked in front of the train just as it was pulling out. The railroad called again afterward and expressed appreciation.

25 YEARS AGO

The Gleaner had maintained a Web presence for more than a year, but on Dec. 4, 1997, it activated a bona fide website that contained portions of the newspaper.

“With our new website people for the first time can read daily stories on the Web,” said Publisher Steve Austin.

Top local news, sports and feature stories were available, as well as photos and editorials. Other content included obituary and funeral notices, classified ads, movie times and capsule reviews, a guide to area restaurants, lottery results, and a weather page.

The Gleaner website also included links to popular search engines of the mid-1990s, as detailed in Chuck Stinnett’s column of Dec 7, which gave much greater detail and reviews of The Gleaner’s site from such people as Michael Mulligan.

I got a kick out of this pre-Google paragraph: “We also help you search for other parts of the Internet. On our “Search the ‘Net” page we provide you with the tools for finding items of interest on the Internet using popular search engines such as Alta Vista, Deja News (for searching electronic bulletin boards called newsgroups), Excite, Four 11 (for finding phone numbers and addresses), Hotbot, Lycos, and Yahoo.”

Readers of The Gleaner can reach Frank Boyett at YesNews42@yahoo.com or on Twitter at @BoyettFrank.