A Relative, a Revelation

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About twenty-two miles west of Bowling Green at the confluence of the Green and Barren Rivers sits Woodbury, Ky. with its population of 90. In front of one of the sparse farm homes that make up this sleepy community, a historic maker recognizes Thomas Henry Hines, a Confederate soldier that enlisted in the army 1861, led an escape from a federal prison in 1863, and was termed “the most dangerous man in the Confederacy.”

“History isn’t something that’s old and, in the past.” ~Tommy Hines 

A quieter and more distant relative, Tommy Hines, who carries the same name as his distant relative, often reflects on the marker and the home that history has not forgotten. Hines became so infatuated with this piece of family history that in 2005, he was compelled to purchase the home and has immersed his professional career in learning all he can about the descendant that lived his life as a spy and was known for being small and “wily,” opposite how the current day Hines lives.

“They called him the most dangerous man in the Confederacy,” Tommy Hines said of his ancestor Thomas Henry Hines. As Executive Director of the South Union Shaker Village, Tommy has uncovered many revelations about his ancestor and grappled with his role in the Civil War.

The current Executive Director of South Union Shaker Village has a master’s degree in historic preservation and is not naïve to Kentucky’s history with the Confederacy, nor is the revelation not alarming to Hines about the earlier Hines, in fact as a historian he wanted to learn more about this dynamic ancestor.

As Hines did research at his place of employment, South Union Shaker Village, he discovered that during the Civil War, Thomas Henry Hines headed an effort to burn a warehouse and cut off supply for Union troops at the settlement at South Union. Shakers were a Christian sect that emigrated from England to America. They practiced celibacy, pacifism and sexual equality. They lived in communal settlements until the 1900s when membership thinned from death and insufficient converts.

Kentucky was known as a “border state” during the Civil War, a place where slavery was legal but did not secede from the Union. Young men from Kentucky went to fight for both sides. The state entered a period of brief neutrality when troops from both sides entered the state. The Confederates claimed Bowling Green, a city in the western part of the state and proposed it as their state capital. It was approved but lasted a mere three months before Union troops took over. Historical markers exist in Bowling Green denoting it as the Confederate capital of the state.

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The American Civil War lasted approximately four years, included 24 states, and resulted in over a half a million casualties. There was no draft, young men on both sides took up arms to fight for their side. At the conclusion of the war in 1865, the Confederate States of America surrendered to the Union and the nation was reunited. However, decades of discussion, dissent, and dissatisfaction continues from supporters of the Confederacy.

Hines says he believes many of the Confederate monuments need more explanation and context as to why they were put up. With recent events like the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the Black Lives Matter movement these monuments have been under severe scrutiny.

“I think we need to know why they were put up and people need to understand where people were in 1890 or in 1920 when some of these things were being erected in cities,” said Hines.

Several Confederate markers in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The leftmost marker was removed from Western Kentucky University's campus in August 2020. (First image courtesy of Kentucky Department of Transportation).
Several Confederate markers in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The leftmost marker was removed from Western Kentucky University’s campus in August 2020. (First image courtesy of Kentucky Department of Transportation).

Bowling Green still has historical markers denoting the Confederacy’s presence around the city. Hines says those markers have problems of their own.

“It doesn’t tell the whole story,” he said. “It doesn’t tell you the fact that it was a Confederate capital for such a short amount of time and that the Union army eventually occupied Bowling Green. So it looks as if Bowling Green was a Confederate stronghold when it really and truly wasn’t.”

A portion of an email from WKU President Timothy Caboni on August, 21, 2020 to all faculty and staff regarding the removal of a Confederate marker on campus.
A portion of an email from WKU President Timothy Caboni on August, 21, 2020 to all faculty and staff regarding the removal of a Confederate marker on campus.

One such marker located on Western Kentucky University’s campus was removed in August of 2020 in the wake of conversations about racism in America. University president Timothy Caboni wrote in a staff email that the Kentucky Historical Society agreed that the placement of the marker is out of historical context.

Hines’ office at the South Union Shaker Village sits on the same plot of land that was treaded on by someone in his bloodline for much different reasons. He has continued to try to come to terms with Thomas Henry Hines, a man with different values than his own. He has spent three decades working at the village sifting through the records to better understand the people that once lived there and his own past.

“History isn’t something that’s old and, in the past,” Hines said. “If you really delve into it and get to know the people, it’s still like it lives in some way.”

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