History of Wayne County Historical Society

An article in the 1979 OVERVIEW reported that eleven people interested in organizing a historical society attended a meeting on January 1, 1977.While a list of those attending has not been located, an article in the Wayne County Outlook reported that Martha Phillips, Matilda Rankin, Elizabeth Duncan, and Bennie Coffey were elected as officers; Bess Stokes, Grace Brown, Virginia Rankin, and Lisle Roberts were identified as members of a steering committee. Reports of subsequent events has led to the conclusion that Juanita Coffey and Ermon Hatfield were in the group, although this is has not been officially verified.


According to the Articles of Incorporation approved in 1977,

The name of this society shall be the WAYNE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY, INC., and by such name it shall be known as a body corporate and its duration shall be perpetual.

The purpose of this society shall be to accumulate material relative to the history of our county; to collect books, pamphlets, maps, and artifacts for the purpose of establishing a reference library and museum for the use of the community and tourists alike; to preserve and to encourage others to preserve valuable historic buildings and monuments; to mark sites involved in community history; and to share the knowledge gained in these pursuits through publications, programs and involvement in the Kentucky Historical Society program.

An official listing of the first governing board has not been located; however the April 20, 1978, issue of the Wayne County Outlook reported that Martha Phillips, Matilda Rankin, Elizabeth Duncan, and Bennie Coffey were elected officers; Elizabeth Simpson, Proctor Rankin, Betty W. Tuttle, Gifford Walters, Ermon Hatfield, and Grace Brown were chairmen of standing committees.

The following list identifies individuals who have served as president of the organization:

1977-79 Martha Phillips
1979-83 Gifford Walters
1983-88 Elizabeth Duncan
1988-90 — —
1990-91 Ina Sloan
1991-93 Sara Belle Upchurch
1993-95 Harlan Ogle
1995-97 Richard Powels
1997-99 Phillip Catron
1999-2003 Glen Ramsey
2003-05 Ralph Edwards
2005-07 Joy McGinnis
2007-10 Imogene Ramsey
2010-2015 Joy McGinnis
2015-Present Angela Jones

A newsletter designed to provide members of the organization with interesting information related to the history of Wayne County and its citizenry was initiated by Elizabeth Simpson. In addition, the newsletter informed members of activities of the organization. This newsletter, entitled the OVERVIEW, has generally been published quarterly. Individuals who have served as editors of the OVERVIEW are included in the following list.

Elizabeth Simpson
Andrea Simpson (Baker)
Betty Tuttle
Gladys Vickery
Sara Belle Upchurch
Sue Rogers
Joy McGinnis
Ralph Edwards
Lisa New
Bill Walden

As noted in the Articles of Incorporation, a library was an important focus of the organization.Many members spent arduous hours collecting and cataloging materials for the library. From its initial location in the Wayne County Court House, it moved to the basement of the Public Library. When the Historical Society acquired the former Hotel Breeding as a location for a museum, it was moved to space in the old hotel coffee shop. In the fall of 2008, it was officially named the Elizabeth Furr Duncan Library in honor of a lady who had worked from the organization’s beginning to make the 1970 dream of an historical library a reality. In January of 2009, it moved to its current location in the south unit of the historical Hotel Breeding.


The Wayne County Historical Society meets quarterly to receive financial reports and reports from standing and ad hoc committees relative to planned and on-going activities.Quarterly meetings feature a program highlighting aspects of Wayne County and Kentucky History. These programs are open to the public.

Four of twelve Governing Board members are elected annually in April. Full information about the operation of the organization can be found by following the link to the by-laws.

A scrapbook featuring highlights of the organization’s first thirty years was prepared in 2007. This scrapbook is available in the Elizabeth Furr Duncan Library.