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Bid to relocate Bowman Valley closer

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By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - For the past three years, Tammy Ott and a small group of volunteers have been trying to do the “right thing.”

The mission has been to relocate and preserve the Bowman Valley School House.

Since 1916, the two-room schoolhouse educated African-American students until its closure in 1957 after the end of segregation.

The dream is to have the last remaining known schoolhouse for African Americans to be relocated next to the Woodsdale one-room schoolhouse on Highway 44, next to the Bullitt County Board of Education.

For the group, it has been a tough few years. But, light can be seen at the end of the tunnel.

“We’re there,” said Ott.

The biggest hurdle has been raising enough money to move the schoolhouse. Around $15,000 has been needed to make the move.

Ott said that with two moving companies interested in the project, the cost has dropped a little.

Some funds have been generated over the past few years but the biggest hope comes in the form of a grant through Brown Forman Corp..

Darlene Ayers, a former student at the school and a retired employee of Brown Forman, helped Ott writer a $10,000 grant. The award is expected in the next month and Ott feels confident that the relocation project will be successful.

There has also been a pair of anonymous $1,000 matching grants offered. The first match has been met and the second is in the process of being reached.

Confident that those funds will be secured, the next obstacle will be to actually move the school.

Along the route, there will be utility lines that will need to be temporarily raised. That could be a costly proposition if the utility companies charge for that service.

Assistance will also be needed from county and Shepherdsville officials for things such as traffic control when the house is moved from its current site off Cooper Run Road.

Architect Charles Keyes made sure the structure is solid enough to be relocated.

Members of the Bullitt County Drug Court program worked last year to make sure it was ready to be moved.

A class from Bellarmine University has done an oral history with some of the former students at the school. She would like to see that be part of the school for visitors to hear when the landmark is ready for the public.

She would also like to see some pictures placed in the school.

And Ott said it would be nice if student groups could be involved in the maintenance once it is relocated.

A historical marker should be placed in front of both schools, said Ott.

“It will be a tourist attraction,” said Ott, who is joined on the committee by Daniel Buxton, a local historian and president of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society; retired educator Gwinn Hahn; treasurer Lynn Eddington; banker Keith Griffee; former students Charles and Darlene Ayers; and David Strange, historian and director of the Bullitt County History Museum.

“A lot of people wondered why we were working so hard to make this happen,” admitted Ott. “I tell people that it is the right thing to do.”

She said it was important to preserve history.

Her big concern now is getting the schoolhouse moved this year. Ott said the school will probably not make it through another winter in its current condition.

“I think we’re going to make it,” said Ott. “I really feel this is going to happen.”

Anyone wishing to make a contribution, send checks made out to Bowman Valley School Project, P.O. Box 1714, Shepherdsville, Ky. 40165.

Ott encouraged anyone with ideas about fund-raiser projects for the school to call her at 543-2503.