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Saturday, November 26, 2022

History Lesson

Nothing is really ended until it is forgotten. These words were particularly fitting at the grave marking for Maj. Gen. Samuel Hopkins in Henderson, Ky. For nearly 60 years, his final resting place and legacy were nearly forgotten.

“Did you know that it was Hopkins, not Richard Henderson, who was the founder of our city?” asks Mary Alice Springer, a local member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. “He laid out the very wide streets of our downtown area and until recently, there was no place here to go and honor him.”

Hopkins’ final resting place on his former land — now located behind the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service office on Zion Road in Henderson — was abandoned and left to be swallowed by an oasis of trees, brush, and decay. Despite his accomplishments (an American Revolutionary War officer, a major general in the War of 1812, the first judge of Henderson County, a Kentucky state representative, a state senator, and a representative to the U.S. Congress), his grave was nearly lost.

It was an injustice Springer felt personally called to correct. Her involvement with the restoration project officially began in 2009, when she was elected regent of the General Samuel Hopkins Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Her first item of business was an appearance at a Henderson City Commission meeting.

“I had no idea what I was doing,” Springer recalls. “I had never been to a city commission meeting and certainly never spoken at one. I got up and I looked at those men and I just told them, ‘You need to know why Hopkins is so important.’ And so I told them.”

When she finished, the mayor thanked Springer and her chapter for the invigorating history lesson and proceeded to lead a vote that carried unanimously to provide the funding to begin the project at Spring Garden Cemetery.

This launched what would become a three-year cooperative effort between the city and county of Henderson, the Henderson County Historical and Genealogical Society, the Henderson Fiscal Court, the Henderson County Detention Center, the UK Extension Service, and Marshall Howell IV, a local Eagle Scout with Troop 301, who made the interpretive signage at the cemetery his service project.

Springer handled the details and coordination of efforts with ease. She attributes much of this to her professional career as a medical writer — first for Mead Johnson & Co. for 21 years, then for her own company, Bluegrass Documentation. She sharpened her research skills on new chemical compounds and producing technical and medical writings, and was able to parlay that into a springboard to genealogy. “I like to document,” Springer says. “It’s who I am. It’s what I do.”

It is in the documenting of historical figures that brings Springer the most joy. “Most people are remembered for a few generations,” Springer says. “Your children, your grandchildren, they remember you but after that it gets fuzzy. That’s why it is so important to remember. To write it down. To mark it. To talk about it. We can keep our history and these people alive in that way.”

Badges of Honor
Henderson’s DAR chapter has been awarded first place in historic preservation at the state and division levels of NSDAR. On June 29, they took second place in the national Historic Preservation Contest for the Spring Garden Cemetery.

The dedication program of Sept. 16, 2011, won the Dorothy Mullen Award for outstanding arts and humanities programming from the Kentucky Recreation and Parks Society.

Among other awards, Springer has received a Gold Service medal from the Indiana Society Sons of the American Revolution, the Minuteman Award from the Kentucky National Guard, recognition from the Society of the War of 1812 in Indiana, and the General Jacob Brown Award, the highest award given by the Society of the Second War with Great Britain of the State of New York. She is only the second person to receive this award.

You’re Invited!
Mary Alice Springer and Emily Gilliam with Henderson Parks & Recreation are offering guided tours and educational lectures on General Samuel Hopkins and the restoration of Spring Garden Cemetery to any interested groups. Contact Springer at auntmaryalicespringer@yahoo.com or call 270-831-1274 to set up a time.

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