The Bullitt County History Museum

The Trunnell House

The following article by Charles Hartley originally appeared in The Courier-Journal on 9 Mar 2014. It is archived here with additional information for your reading enjoyment.

One of the oldest structures in Shepherdsville sits opposite the library, and just west of the railroad. It began as the home of former County Judge James F. Smith and his family. The Smiths purchased a brick house on Shepherdsville lot 44 in 1870. Thirteen years later they added lot 43, and when fire destroyed their brick home in January 1896, they wasted no time in erecting this two-story frame dwelling in the middle of the combined lots that same year.

Shown above are three excepts of early drawings showing the combined lot where the Trunnell House sits today. The 1886 drawing shows the brick house occupied by the Smith family before it burned in 1896. The 1909 and 1920 drawings are similar, and are easily recognized as the house currently occupying the lot.

Smith was a dry goods merchant in Shepherdsville as early as 1870. He may also have been the J. F. Smith who was Bullitt County sheriff for a time. J. R. Zimmerman, a local attorney, later wrote that "Judge Smith was a large, handsome, powerful man, physically, and of much intellect. He was as courageous as a Numidian lion, when aroused."

Smith died in early 1901, and in his will he left the house and lot to his wife during her lifetime, and to his now-grown children after that. His widow, Lula Smith had more house than she needed, and decided to turn it into a boarding house. During the tenure of a couple of hired managers the place was known variously as the Peoples Hotel, and more often just Smith's Hotel.

C. F. Troutman, part-owner of the nearby Troutman's Mammouth Store, became interested in the place. By 1910 he had obtained each of the Smith children's interest, but Mrs. Smith seemed reluctant to sell. Then in September 1910, Joe Trunnell made arrangements with her to take over the hotel's management and a new era began.

That previous summer the unpaved street between the railroad and the house was the scene of considerable excitement when the horse pulling a buggy carrying two young ladies and a baby was startled by a barking dog which ran at him. The horse became unmanageable and dashed down the street, overturning the buggy and throwing its passengers into the soft mud. Miss Nannie Thompson received a slight scalp wound and a dislocated elbow. Miss Blanche Jeffries and the baby were okay except for a mud bath. The paper reported that "neither the horse nor the buggy were much hurt."

The photo shown here was likely taken shortly after the Trunnels moved in. It shows Joe Trunnell sitting on the far right, his wife Sola standing in the middle, and perhaps their daughters near her. The others may have been relatives or tenants.

The house was the scene of tragedy in July 1911 when Lily Irene Pemberton, a daughter of Judge and Lula Smith, took her own life brought on by depression following separation from her husband and economic difficulties.

In October 1912, Mrs. Smith sold the place to Mr. Troutman and moved to Louisville. The Trunnells continued to run the place, and in 1918 they bought it for themselves. It remained in their family for nearly 70 years.

Another early picture of the house was taken in December 1917 following the terrible train wreck. This photo of train wreckage shows the house in the background. It was here that a baby, thrown from the train, was sheltered until her identity was learned and she was retrieved by her father. Shown here is a photo of Sola Trunnell holding the baby girl, Anne Craven, which appeared in a Louisville newspaper in an effort to determine who the baby was.

Joe and Sola Trunnell's three daughters were all born at the family home at Solitude in Bullitt County where they lived until the family took over the boarding house. Hazel, the youngest, later married Curtis Smith and they had two daughters, Irma Dell and Mary Curtis, who both became talented musicians.

Mary Curtis relates that she was born there during the 1937 flood, and after her birth they put planks from the stairs to the transom over the front door to take her out to the boat in the flood water.

Bertha Trunnell and Nancy Strange

Bertha Trunnell, Joe and Sola's eldest daughter, taught in Bullitt County schools until 1924 when she moved to Auburndale Elementary in Jefferson County. She was teacher and then principal there until 1955 when she became principal of the then-new Kenwood Elementary where she stayed until her retirement in 1967. That October the new elementary school on St. Andrew's Church Road was named in her honor.

Nancy Trunnell, the third daughter, married Wilbur Strange and they had two children, Joseph and Ruth. Wilbur died of pneumonia, leaving Nancy a widow with children to rear. She went to work as a deputy in the Circuit Clerk's office, and then in 1937 she was elected as Bullitt County's Circuit Court Clerk, a post she filled for 44 years until her retirement in 1981.

Following their parents' deaths in the 1950's, Hazel deeded her share of the Trunnell House to Bertha and Nancy. Bertha seems to have lived in Louisville during the school year, and at home in Shepherdsville during the summers. Nancy and her children, while they were growing up, occupied the house year-round.

Bertha died in 1981, and Nancy followed two years later. The house then belonged to Nancy's children and they sold it in 1988 to Albert and Linda Tinnell.

Today this fine house looks much the same as it did a century ago, as it serves as offices for some local attorneys. It has been the scene of tragedy and joy, and seems ready to carry on for years to come.

Copyright 2014 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: