Eastern Kentucky University just acquired a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite. This isn’t the sort of thing I’d normally bring to your attention, but this meteorite has an interesting provenance. It’s probably from the same bunch of space debris that turned up in my hometown of Tazewell, TN in 1853.
Other than the nineteenth-century angle, this doesn’t have much to do with American history, but look—I find something in the national news about a meteorite in my hometown, it’s going on the blog.
As long as we’re on the tangential subject of meteorites in my immediate vicinity, the town of Middlesboro, KY is actually inside a meteorite crater, and it’s about fifteen miles from Tazewell, just on the other side of Cumberland Gap. (Here’s an article from the Planetary Science Institute.) That’s two separate instances of big honking things hurtling down from space and smacking into the ground near where I’m sitting as I type this. Tomorrow I’m buying a hard hat.
I got a real shock when I read a new post over at the fantastic Posterity Project blog today. The Tennessee Preservation Trust has released its list of the state’s most endangered sites, and one of them is the Graham-Kivette House in Tazewell. This ca. 1810 home is by far the oldest house in the area, and it’s just a stone’s throw from the house where I grew up.
In fact, I have some vivid personal memories of the place. I think its last owner was John Kivette, who was Claiborne County’s historian and a good friend of my dad’s. When I was a kid I used to sit in one of the house’s downstairs rooms, underneath one of those massive fireplace mantels, while the two of them pored over archival material and chatted about local history and the Civil War. I’ve driven past the house thousands of times since then. I’ll probably be doing so again tonight.
Whenever these “most threatened” lists come out I always read them with a sort of vague, general concern. When it’s a place you know firsthand, it’s more like a punch to the stomach. I knew the house was a significant local landmark, but I had no idea I’d ever see it on a statewide list, or that it was in such precarious shape.
I’ve always said that all history is “local history” for somebody. It turns out “somebody” includes me, too.