POUND — Well-wishers gathered Friday evening at the new headquarters of the Historical Society of The Pound to welcome home native and philanthropist Anna Buchanan Milburn, now 83 and living in Edgewood, Ky.
Milburn kept a tissue handy to catch frequent tears as she was taken down memory lane by the crowd, who recognized her roots in Pound, Shockey Hollow and Honey Camp as well as her recent financial contributions toward improvements downtown.
"This story is about a little thing that, of course, turned into a bigger thing," Bill Gilliam said in a sometimes tearful tribute, acknowledging all the people who have contributed in some way to ongoing efforts to help the people of Pound.
Holding the letter Milburn had written him in June, Gilliam told the touching story of how her donations came to pass and what they have helped make possible — improvements to the new historical society gathering spot, including a paved parking lot, the refurbished foot bridge spanning Pound River behind the building and a new fence that will serve as the backdrop for signs of historical reference to The Pound.
The first sign was unveiled that night, a tribute to Milburn's departed mother, Dollie Buchanan of Shockey Hollow, who made a Friendship 7 quilt in 1962 that would ultimately make its way to astronaut John Glenn after her death. Buchanan had been so touched and amazed by Glenn's orbit around the earth, Gilliam related, that she made a quilt in tribute to the astronaut and the space capsule in which he traveled.
But no one knew where the quilt had ultimately landed after it left here, Gilliam related, so he contacted the John Glenn Museum. They didn't know but suggested his children might have it.
Then his wife Pam did an online search just last week and tracked down the location of the quilt in the John Glenn Collection at Ohio State University library.
It was identified by "Unknown Artist 1962'," Gilliam said, up until now. He talked to OSU library personnel this week, he said, and they are going to change the credit to Dollie Buchanan as the quilter and include her photograph with the quilt.
Gilliam was in tears, Milburn, too, as he shared the story and unveiled the sign commemorating the quilter from Shockey Hollow.
One side of the historical sign features a photograph of Buchanan and letters the famous astronaut had written to her husband in 1989. Dollie Buchanan died in November 1988.
Glenn writes to the late Homer Buchanan in June that Buchanan's daughter, Leona, had told him about the quilt his wife had made in honor of his space flight.
"Annie and I like to keep memorabilia from those days, and the quilt would be an excellent addition to our collection if you would like to send it," Glenn wrote. "It would certainly be cherished." He noted that both of their mothers had participated in quilting bees "and we can truly appreciate all the work and creativity that a person puts into making a quilt."
Glenn acknowledges receipt of the quilt in a letter of thanks on Aug. 7 of the same year.
"That quilt is a work-of-art and one Annie and I can especially appreciate, since our mothers were part of a 'quilting circle' that met regularly when we were children.
"Dollie's thoughtfulness is wonderful, and we appreciate, more than we can say, your carrying out her wishes."
The other side of the sign shows a photograph of the quilt. That side is temporary until they get a better picture of the quilt, Gilliam explained. He said they also are talking about the possibility of creating a new Friendship 7 quilt.
The fence not only presents an opportunity to put history of The Pound on display, it also protects pedestrians from a cavernous hole left by building demolition a few years ago while also obscuring view of the eyesore.
Fence work by Gilliam and Finley Jackson that covers street-level view of the slide at the downtown intersection is what first caught Milburn's attention when she read about it in The Coalfield Progress. While she left Pound in 1957, her heart remains connected here, Gilliam told the crowd. She had not been back since her father died in 2001. She had been planning a trip home to visit her parents' grave.
The newspaper story sparked a letter to Gilliam offering to help and an exchange that led to a tender relationship between the two and to Milburn's contributions, in memory of her parents.
Friday evening, Milburn and locals shared stories about family and friends, making connections and showing old photographs.
Milburn was in the last graduating class of Christopher Gist High School, and historical society member Juanita Mullins arrived equipped with photo albums to help identify old classmates, friends, family and places.
Trista Short presented Milburn with a gift cake depicting her hometown in the mountains, Shockey Hollow and Honey Camp and a little suitcase marking her travels to a new home in northern Kentucky.