The Bullitt County History Museum

Ida Matilda Holsclaw
World's Oldest Newspaper Correspondent

The following article by Charles Hartley was published on 7 Feb 2016.

Today, if you want to keep up with the doings of your friends and neighbors, you may turn to social media. But before the Internet came along, many folks turned to their local newspapers to find out who was being visited, who was hosting get-togethers, who was sick or in the hospital, who was traveling or returning home, who was seen courting his favorite girl, and so on.

The newspapers counted on local correspondents to provide them with the goings-on in their particular section of the county, and nobody did it longer than Mrs. Ida Holsclaw.

Ida was born in Bullitt County in 1860 to William L. and Cynthia (Rogers) Ball, the middle of their nine children. She married Lee G. Roby of Cox's Creek in 1886, but he died nine months later of what was described as "congestion of the brain." He was only 32 at the time. She then married Dr. John Robert Holsclaw in 1890. He was born on the family farm in northern Bullitt County in 1850 to John and Mary Ann (Sanders) Holsclaw.

Ida and John Robert had four children in the next decade, but sadly the first two died as infants, and were among the first to be buried in the Hebron Cemetery. Their third was a son they named Paul, and Mary Cynthia was their last.

Paul married Mary Etta Jackson and they had four children before his death in 1939. The children included twin boys, Robert and Roger, and two girls, Jane and Ruth. Mary Cynthia never married, and lived with her mother.

Dr. Holsclaw graduated from the Louisville Medical College in 1875, and about that time he was appointed postmaster of his northern Bullitt County community. The post office needed a name, and Dr. Holsclaw was given the responsibility of naming it.

Martha Church, Joe Ball, and Ida Holsclaw, brother and sisters.
Picture takan in early 1940's; provided by Joe Ball, a descendant.

As the story goes, one night, while out riding his horse, he noticed the moonlight shining through the trees along the ground and in the waters of Tanyard Branch. It reminded him of zones drawn on a map, and he decided to name the post office Zoneton.

John and Ida shared 48 years of marriage before his death in 1938. During that time their lives centered around their community and their church, Little Flock Baptist.

Before their marriage, Ida taught school in Bullitt, Nelson, and Jefferson counties. She loved to write, and it wasn't long before she was writing about her community for the old Salt River Tiger newspaper. Later she would write for other newspapers including a Sunday "Zoneton" column for The Courier-Journal, a "Hebron" column for the Jeffersontown paper, and especially for The Pioneer News.

Besides her correspondent work, Ida was very active in her church where she started a church library and was its librarian. She organized women's missionary groups, and taught a Sunday School class until she was 98.

She published her first book at the age of 90; a history of Little Flock Baptist Church.

Ida continued to write her column past her 100th birthday, but gradually her failing eyesight forced her to turn most of that duty over to her daughter, Mary Cynthia Holsclaw. However, Ida continued to contribute "bits" to the column, poems, prose, wit, scripture, etc. which she recalled from the past.

In those last years, Ida Holsclaw was declared to be the "World's Oldest Newspaper Correspondent." I'm pretty sure you could add the correspondent with the longest tenure to her credit.

Mrs. Ida Matilda Holsclaw died on January 28, 1966, at the age of 105 in her home on Zoneton Road across from the church she loved. Her remains were buried in the Hebron Cemetery, where she joined her husband and infant children. Her daughter, Mary Cynthia continued to write the Hebron column for some time.

These community columns have pretty much disappeared from today's papers, and that is a shame in a way. I write a monthly column for The Pioneer News in which I look back 25, 50, 75 and 99 years to remember things that happened then. To write that column I visit the library and read old newspapers on microfilm, and some of my favorite things to read are these community columns.

For example, in 1941 there were columns from Hebron, Mt. Washington, Belmont, Lebanon Junction, Barrallton, Cedar Grove, and Needmore Road; as well as a personal column for anything missed in the others.

By 1966, Gladys K. Sprinkle (Mt. Washington), Mrs. Charles Wheeler (Lebanon Junction and Colesburg), Mrs. W. C. Lanham (Cedar Grove), and the Holsclaws (Hebron) were each writing community columns for the paper. And as late as 1990, folks like Oretha Ridgway (Nichols), Lois Simmons (Pleasant Grove), Jean Cox (Cedar Grove) and Louise Bischoff (Hebron) were still contributing their neighborhood's doings.

For decades, good folks like these kept us informed about what was happening in our neighborhoods. In almost every case, they wrote about our generosity, our concerns for others, about the good things happening in our lives. Sadly, today social media is frequently peppered with arguments, criticisms, and anger, topics that good neighbor correspondents of days-gone-by thought unfit to print. It's good to remember these folks who, like Ida Holsclaw, reminded us of our better selves.

Copyright 2016 by Charles Hartley, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.

The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday appointments are available by calling 502-921-0161 during our regular weekday hours. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 13 Jan 2024 . Page URL: