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It’s been a year since someone torched the Dry Ridge Consolidated Colored School, a historic, structure inside Grant County Park in Crittenden and Connie Taylor is still mad.
“I’m still very upset. I’m angry and upset in humankind,” Taylor said.
She has spent countless hours researching and documenting the history of black families in Grant County.
The fire, which occurred around 1:52 a.m. on Oct. 14, 2012 also damaged the white, frame church, known as Rice’s Chapel, sitting next to it, but it left the school a pile of soot, ashes and scorched, twisted metal.
In May 2012, a suspicious fire also destroyed a two-story concession stand at the front of the park.
Police continue to investigate tips, but no arrests have been made.
Rewards totaling $3,000 are being offered for any information leading to arrests in the fires.
“We looked into what we believed to be a good lead a couple of weeks ago, but it didn’t pan out,” said Trooper David Jones, public information officer at Kentucky State Police Post 6 in Dry Ridge.
“The investigation is ongoing and we will investigate every tip that comes in,” he said.
The fire, not only destroyed a building of significant historical value, it also disrupted all activities when it burned out an electrical panel that provided lights to the much-used Bobby Gibson ball field.
Park officials and little league commissioners continue to make improvements at the park while working on a long-term plan.
“This is a fluid project,” said Tabatha Clemons, Grant County Parks and Recreation Director. “We are trying to re-build and re-think the way we do things. Unfortunately the fires happened but now we have an opportunity to do more and better for everyone at the park.”
Clemons said the fires did inconvenience activities at the park.
“We had to re-evaluate every event that we do just because of the impact to the electrical system,” she said. “We encourage the people of Crittenden and people who use the park to keep a close on it and if you see something suspicious, please call just so we can check it out.”
Grant County Sheriff Chuck Dills would like to find those responsible and see that they are punished.
“The history there can’t be replaced. What’s lost can’t be recovered, but we will continue to keep the case open so that we can hopefully find out who did it and see they are charged,” Dills said.
For Taylor, the building may be gone but her determination to preserve a part of Grant County’s history is not.
“I’m still working on the history,” she said. ‘I continue to meet families and document that part of our history.”
Many of the artifacts inside the old school were not destroyed by fire because Taylor didn’t leave them in the building, but rather carried them with her. Many of the photos featured were actually re-prints.
Taylor has donated items to the Grant County Public Library, where they are now displayed inside a glass case in the history room.
She’s also donated other items to Northern Kentucky University and the Owen County Historical Society.
She continues to work on a book that will feature much of her research into Grant County’s black families and copies of photos she’s found.
Taylor and a group of history students from NKU, who were visiting the Dry Ridge Consolidated Colored School for an oral history project prior to the fire, have set up a web site at www.gcbhm.wordpress.com. The site is updated as Taylor develops new information on local black families.
“There may not be a building anymore, but there’s still a story to be told,” Taylor said. “I want this information to be available to people in Grant County so they’ll know their history.”
Anyone with information about the fires, should call the Grant County Sheriff’s Office at 859-824-3333.