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Thursday, July 27, 2023

Ella Nunn was the First Lady

Ella Andrew Nunn of Albany, Kentucky authored two books at the age of 91. “Pioneer Days in the Foothills of the Cumberland" was written for her children. It covered what she remembered of olden times, and what her mother and father had handed down. It dealt with the events of the entire area. “Things I Remember About Clinton County," her most sought-after book, was about people and events in Clinton County and Mrs. Nunn's memories of her life here. Written in 1982, it was an excellent history of the county, from the 1880s through the early 1900's, and contained many rare and early photographs depicting various historical figures, buildings and happenings from that era. It was her legacy, other than her family. The books have been out of print and unavailable for a while now, but so cherished that it isn't often you see one for sale, a wonderful testament to not only a great writer, but a great local historian.

In 1981, Byron Crawford, columnist for the Louisville Courier-Journal, wrote that Ella Nunn, who was born on Oct. 28, 1889 at Seventy Six, was an authority on firsts in Clinton County. He called her the "First Lady." If you wanted to know who had the first washing machine in Clinton County, ask Ella Nunn, he said, and if you wanted to know who owned the first automobile in the county, Mrs. Nunn could tell you that, too. It was such factual trivia like that brings history to life, he had said. "Yet, much of it is forever lost, simply because no one thought it worth remembering." Crawford said Mrs. Nunn might never have preserved her recollections of the past had her son, Bill, not pushed her into it. After she died in 1984, Bill donated his mother’s books to the public library.

In 1934, Ella Nunn became the first woman to be elected to the Clinton County Board of Education and for a while after her second husband, W.H. Nunn, passed away in 1942, she was the publisher and editor of two newspapers, The New Era in Albany and the Pickett County Gazette in Byrdstown. Along with being the mother of seven children, she did other things too, like president of the American Legion Auxiliary, first Worthy Matron of Albany Eastern Star #429, president of the Homemakers Club, a school teacher and she taught Sunday School.

She would later write, "all of this is material and doesn't amount to much. What counts is having a mother who took us to church when we were young. She always had our clothes starched and ironed for Sunday school and church. I began to teach a Sunday school class in my early teens (14). One night during a revival, something came over me. I saw some of my friends giving themselves to the Lord; Mary Guthrie, Dorothy Thomas and others. It was then that I knew that I needed God. When I went home, I couldn't sleep. The next day, after dinner, I went out into a field under an old chestnut tree. It was January and very cold, and there I gave my heart to God. I remember I was crying and praying. All at once I looked up, and there, alone with God, I said, "Dear Lord, I give myself away. It's all that I can do." I was so happy. Now I know that He was waiting for me to surrender my whole life to Him. That was the happiest day of my life. I joined the church that night and was baptized the next day in a creek that had ice flakes in the water and snow was falling. I owe much to Him and my parents and friends that I love."

Byron Crawford was right. Nancy Lou Ellen "Ella" Andrew Nunn really was the First Lady. Next January will be 40 years since she passed away at the age of 94. True to what her obituary said, she is today remembered for her rich store of memories about Clinton County, her contributions to home, church and community and, most of all, her love of Clinton County and its people. In a letter she wrote on May 13, 1909, seven months before her first marriage to Blaine Campbell, she wrote "I do feel proud of my friends. I feel like I have a host of them. If I have an enemy in the whole wide world I do not know it. I would be really sorry if I knew I had some. I am not as pure and good as I ought to be but I try to be kind to all. For what pleasure would life be without friends and someone to love? It would not be worth living."

Mrs. Nunn's granddaughter, Nancy Speck, said, "I never knew anyone who did not love her and to this day when I see elderly people in my home town they always say "You're Mrs. Ella's granddaughter?" I am always proud to say, Yes I am!"

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