Morgan County's "Memory Hill" A Dream Realized

By Hazel Craft - 2000

On April 29th, around 100 interested, enthusiastic friends and loved ones gathered at Memory Hill at Caney, Kentucky (near West Liberty), to help dedicate a "dream come true" for Mr. and Mrs. Wardie Craft of Caney; a dream that was conceived in 1958 in Washington, D. C., while the late Mr. Craft and his wife, Hazel, who continues to reside at Memory Hill, were on their honeymoon.

Wardie made the remark, "Wouldn't it be great if we could someday, somehow, leave a museum depicting the history of Eastern Kentucky!"

From that day forward, for almost 60 years, they worked toward that goal; collecting early American furniture, old cooking utensils, crocks, churns, tools, dishes, and much more. Many, many friends and loved ones made this collection possible.

The Crafts often remarked that the completion of the foundation was a "miracle." They often told the children, "God does work in mysterious ways."

So many people were connected in this dream that it's impossible to name them all. So many miracles took place. Wardie often remarked that it was a miracle that he was hired to teach at the Clear Fork School in Breathitt County, where he met a young 16-year-old girl, Hazel Bach; who had no other thought, but to finish school and become a teacher. Hazel often remarked that meeting Wardie "turned her world upside down."
Wardie made the remark to a friend, "I just met my wife." That was the beginning of an almost five-year courtship that resulted in marriage on June 12, 1938. From that day forward, they both worked toward their goal for a museum.

Hazel said, "We were both pack rats, collecting so many objects that, otherwise, would probably have been deposited in a garbage dump." They not only collected old objects, they began collecting children that needed a home and the love and affection the Crafts could bestow. Around 20 of their children and family members were present at the April 29th dedication.

It's impossible to enumerate all the accomplishments that took place on Memory Hill. By the way, the place was named Memory Hill in honor of their children, and the many school children with whom they came in contact.

Wardie retired as the principal at Cannel City School in 1969. Hazel taught on for 13 years. Wardie then started, in earnest, to fulfill their dream. First, he and his brother, Ernest Craft, with the aid of many others, moved seven log cabins from Morgan, Magoffin, Breathitt, and Wolfe Counties to the site. One is the two-story Henry Cabin from the Index community. Two cabins were made from this one cabin.

The logs were numbered so that the cabins could be reassembled as they were originally. Six were completed; two are not completed. After almost 20 years, the cabins have deteriorated and need some repairs. There is a church, a school, a home, two museums, and a blacksmith shop.

Plans were then made to erect a memorial to Elder Daniel Williams, an early pioneer who came into Kentucky in 1775 with Daniel Boone, on his second trip to Kentucky. Elder Williams' grave had been lost. Wardie began searching for the grave after reading in Spencer's "History of Kentucky" that Daniel Williams lived and was buried on Caney Creek.

Two men, Lomax Barker and John Lykins, informed Wardie that the old elder was buried either at Caney or Malone. Finally, Wardie located the grave in the Old Caney Cemetery, by crawling through a path animals had made through the tangle of vegetation. From that day forward, he became the caretaker of this old historic cemetery, where so many early pioneers are buried. Sixty percent of Morgan Countians alive today are descendants of Daniel and Violet Crouch Williams.

With the aid of Wardie's dad, Green Honchul, his classmates, and (later) his students, the cemetery was cleared, and the stones were re-erected around the graves. In the past few years, the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex has done a great job taking care of the historic old cemetery.

In the early 1970s, the Daniel Williams Historical Society was formed. In 1997, a transition was made and the historical society became the Memory Hill Foundation, with the aid of a former student of the Crafts, Joe Benton, a Lexington attorney. Many, many thanks are extended to him.

Now, the impressive marble structure erected in memory of Elder Daniel Williams adorns the Daniel Williams Park. This memorial was made possible by relatives and friends, who had their names inscribed on the monument for $100 per name. Presently, there is still space available for a few more names. The 16-ton memorial was dedicated in October 1983.

After the monument was erected, another one was erected honoring Wardie's great-great-grandfather, Daniel Duff, another pioneer minister, who preached with Daniel Williams. The large 20-room house, Daniel Williams Park, Memory Hill Cemetery, and the 19-acre farm now belong to the Memory Hill Foundation. At Hazel's death, the great collection of antiques and early primitives are willed to the foundation.

So much could be said concerning the Craft's lifetime efforts. Their one wish is that their efforts are not in vain, and what they have left at Memory Hill will enrich future generations, by allowing them the opportunity to understand and appreciate their heritage and great history of Eastern Kentucky.

Memory Hill Foundation wants to sincerely thank each and everyone who helped put the grounds and the large house in shape for the dedication. Special thanks to the Woodsbend Boys Camp for making the creek banks presentable, for removing the tons of trash that had lodged in beautiful Caney Creek, and to Judge Executive Sid Stewart for sending two dump trucks to remove the debris and trash retrieved from the creek.

Also, many thanks to Carol Adkins, Mary Stamper, Arkie Ward Patrick, Angela Jackson, Paul Craft, Tammy Craft, and many others, who helped make the place presentable for the dedication. The program included prayer by Elder Roy Collett, an introduction and history of Memory Hill by Hazel B. Craft, and remarks by Elder Gerald Hopkins, State Rep. John Stacy, and State Sen. Walter Blevins. Elder Gerald Hopkins gave the benediction.

Hazel B. Craft, HC 68 Box 224, West Liberty, KY 41472, shares this story with our readers. She contributes material to the Kentucky Explorer from time to time.