Betty Jane Mitchell Gorin-Smith, known as Betty Jane Gorin-Smith (born 1940), is an independent historian from Campbellsville in Taylor County in central Kentucky, best known for her book Morgan Is Coming!: Confederate Raiders in the Heartland of Kentucky, a study of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan's raids in 1863 during the height of the American Civil War.
A historic preservationist, Gorin-Smith worked to establish the Heartland Civil War Trails project. She has been a primary leader of the preservation effort at the Tebbs Bend Civil War battlefield, having published the Green River Bridge Battlefield Driving Tour. In 2004, U.S. Representative Ron Lewis honored Gorin-Smith on the House floor and proclaimed her the "historian laureate" for the Kentucky Heartland.
Family and education
Gorin-Smith was born in Campbellsville to the former Floye Minor (1917–2003) and David Heistand Mitchell. After Floye and David Mitchell divorced, Floye, a bookkeeper, in 1959 married Howard Smith (1906–1972), the owner of the Taylor County Stockyards. David H. Mitchell (1919–1995) was a 1941 graduate in economics from Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He also attended the University of Minnesota, where he studied Japanese. His business career was with the Timken Company, which relocated him to Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio. He was a veteran of the United States Army in World War II. Mitchell was a member of Mensa and the American Numismatic Association.
Betty Jane Mitchell graduated with Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts from the University of Kentucky at Lexington. She has also studied at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, Virginia. She formerly taught history for some three decades at Taylor County High School and at Southern Baptist-affiliated Campbellsville University in Campbellsville and Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia in Adair County. In 1987, she was a Fulbright scholar to the Netherlands.
Betty Jane Mitchell first married Donald L. Gorin (April 26, 1940 – August 26, 2000), a Taylor County native and graduate of Campbellsville High School and Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Tennessee, where he played basketball and baseball. He served in the Kentucky National Guard. He was a partner in the firm Blevins-Gorin Construction Company and a founder of Wholesale Hardwood Interiors. In 1990, Don Gorin was named "Kentucky Entrepreneur of the Year" by the accounting firm, Ernst & Young. The Gorins had a son, Mark Alan Gorin (born ca. 1965) and wife, Deborah, of Carmel, Indiana, and a daughter, Beth G. Cox (born ca. 1968) and husband Michael Todd Cox (born ca. 1966), of Hendersonville, Tennessee. Don Gorin also had a second son by a later marriage, Brandon Gorin, who resided in Baltimore, Maryland, at the time of his father's death.
After her divorce, Betty Gorin married Gordon E. Smith (born ca. 1928), an instructor in the English as a Second Language program at Campbellsville University, and hence acquired her hyphenated name. Gordon Smith edited his wife's book on General Morgan, which is considered exceptionally well-researched.
Morgan Is Coming!
On July 4, 1863, the day that the Confederates surrendered at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and marched south in defeat from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, another battle occurred beyond the line separating Taylor and Adair counties. This battle of Tebbs Bend launched General Morgan's Great Raid into Indiana and Ohio.
Union soldiers had crowded about the Adair County courthouse square in Columbia, as Confederate troops marched northward from Burkesville in Cumberland County by what is now Kentucky Highway 704 and Kentucky Route 61. Tutt Street in Columbia was then the dividing line between the two armies. Mostly forgotten outside Kentucky, Tebbs Bend was among the bloodiest encounters of the war in the Western theater. Later Governor James B. McCreary, a Confederate major, wrote in his diary: "Many of our best men were killed or wounded. The beginning of this raid is ominous." Tebbs Bend deflected the Confederates from proceeding to Louisville, which seemed as weakly defended at that time as Washington, D.C., had been in August 1814 during the War of 1812.
Jacob F. Lee in December 2007 reviewed Gorin-Smith's book for the Filson Historical Society:
Gorin's most important contribution to the literature is a detailed study of south central Kentucky during the war. The work is most useful for the information Gorin collected about Taylor County and the surrounding area. While the narrative is sometimes bogged down with excessive detail, Kentucky historians and genealogists will find the book to be a gold mine of information. In addition to the narrative, Gorin put together several appendices listing Taylor County soldiers in the Civil War, casualties of the Battle of Tebb's Bend, official reports related to the battle, and period correspondence from Kentuckians who lived around Campbellsville. Gorin also includes extensive illustrations of persons and places referred to in the text. . . .Gorin provides a well-documented history of the cavalryman's career in the area around Taylor County. However, she also raises many questions. While readers will learn much about Confederate raiders and guerrillas in the area, one wonders about the effects of the Union troops stationed in Taylor County. How did they interact with the community? Almost 10,500 slaves lived in the five counties Gorin studies. How did the demise of slavery affect whites and blacks in the area? That being said, Gorin has produced an informative study of the Civil War in south central Kentucky.
She is the founder of the Tebbs Bend Battlefield Association.
Gorin-Smith studied the impact of the Fruit of the Loom plant on Taylor County during the years from 1952 until layoff began in 1997, and the plant closed at the end of 1998. With overtime compensation, some factory workers made more money than schoolteachers, according to Gorin-Smith. "The Factory, as the townspeople called the company, earlier seemed the ticket to economic stability in Campbellsville. A victim of globalization, the plant nevertheless shut down and moved to Latin America, but Amazon.com moved into the community to replace some of the lost jobs. Not long afterward, another mainstay of the local economy, the Indiana-based Batesville Casket Company, also closed its Campbellsville factory. Gorin-Smith observed that in the rural area surrounding Campbellsville "there are a lot of brick houses. I call those 'Fruit of the Loom' houses or 'Factory' houses. The men farmed, and the women worked at the factory. Factory money built those houses, not farm money."
Gorin-Smith recalls that the city of Campbellsville had planned to construct a sewer system to treat wastewater from the Fruit of the Loom plant. Then Mayor Robert L. Miller had consulted with William F. "Bill" Farley, who purchased the company in 1985. According to Gorin-Smith, Farley promised Miller that the Campbellsville plant would remain operational. The closing, however, was completed as Miller, after thirty-three years in office, lost reelection in 1998 to Paul E. Osborne, a Campbellsville Realtor. "That really hurt Bob to be betrayed like that," said Gorin-Smith.
Betty and Gordon Smith were among those who worked on the pictoral history publication, The History of Campbellsville University, 1906-2006, the narrative of which was written by J. Chester Badgett, retired pastor of the Campbellsville Baptist Church.
In 2009, Gorin-Smith appeared before the Taylor County Project Development Authority to discuss placing historical markers in the more accurate locations.
The Hiestands, ancestors of Gorin-Smith's father, David Hiestand Mitchell, were early settlers of Campbellsville. The Jacob Heistand House, which dates from 1823, is now a museum in Campbellsville, another project of Gorin-Smith's historical preservation efforts. It is one of only twelve such German houses in Kentucky. Gorin-Smith often provides guided tours at the museum. In 2008 and 2009, Citizens Bank of Campbellsville donated $2,500 to the museum in recognition of its significance to the tourism industry of central Kentucky. In 2008, two other Campbellsville banks, Taylor County and Community, each gave $1,000 to sustain the facility.
In July 2004, Campbellsville University presented Gorin-Smith with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, named for Algernon Sydney Sullivan, the founder of the New York City law firm Sullivan and Cromwell. CU President Michael V. Carter hailed Gorin-Smith's academic and community accomplishments, which "illustrate the wide breadth of her service, knowledge, achievements and civic engagement. ... [She has] a vast knowledge of the history of not only Taylor County but this entire region of our commonwealth."
On November 6, 2015, Gorin-Smith received the annual "Award of Distinction" from the Kentucky Historical Society to commend her efforts toward the preservation of state history. Earlier on October 10, she was named the winner of the "Edith S. Bingham Excellence in Preservation Education Award".