The Feminine County and General Pulaski’s Gender

Counties and localities have historically been named after men. This is not a surprising fact for a society where women were traditionally unable to serve in military or government. After all, these place names were almost uniformly created several decades before women could even vote.
As a result of this implicit gender bias, Jessamine County has long been thought to be the only Kentucky county with a feminine name. Although this represents a small percentage of Kentucky’s 120 counties, we can be grateful to at least be on the list. According to Wikipedia, the number of counties in the United States with feminine names are woefully low.
New research, however, indicates that another Kentucky county may be named after a woman, or perhaps an intersex, individual.
   Pulaski County is named after Casimir Pulaski, an 18th century Polish-American general who aided  colonial forces during the Revolutionary War. Revered as the “Father of the American Calvary,” Pulaski is often depicted on horseback.
When arriving in the United States, Pulaski threw his allegiance to the young country and wrote General George Washington: “I came here, where freedom is being defended, to serve it, and to live or die for it.”
Modern science, funded by the Smithsonian Institute, has revealed new information about Casimir Pulaski using xis* skeletal remains. Pulaski died during the siege of Savannah in 1779; xe was only 34. Pulaski’s bones were stored under a monument in that city.
Through DNA testing, it has been determined that General Pulaski was born with XX chromosomes (typically, female) and was thus female. It is likely that the infant’s external sex organs, however, appeared (in some ways) in the male form. As a result of the baby’s apparent anatomy, Casimir’s parents raised xim male which gave Casimir the opportunity to serve in the military and to save General Washington’s life at the Battle of Brandywine.
But despite xis gender identity, Casimir was not, in fact, male. Xe was either female (chromosomal-based) or intersex (both sexes). Without diaries, we cannot understand what Casimir thought of xis sexuality or his gender identity. But no doubt, the lens through which we view the legacy of General Casimir Pulaski will forever be changed through this scientific discovery. Neither Pulaski’s gender identity nor his sexuality (of which we know nothing) have any impact whatsoever on his contributions to American history. And perhaps that is the point.
This summer is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City which is seen as a seminal moment in the fight for LGBT rights in this country. In Kentucky, the Kentucky Heritage Council has been working to recognize significant LGBT sites in the Commonwealth. Given the modern science, Pulaski should be so recognized. Xis contributions, as a transgender/intersex individual, to our society were significant. Given that approximately 1.7% of children are born with intersex traits (approximately the same likelihood as one having red hair), it is a demographic which should not be ignored.
Kentucky already celebrates General Pulaski every year.  KRS 2.140 provides that October 11 of each year (the anniversary of Pulaski’s death) is a state holiday in Kentucky which should be marked “with appropriate ceremonies” in “schools, churches, or other suitable places.” Perhaps, in light of the Smithsonian’s latest research, this holiday will garner more attention in 2019 and beyond?

“Casimir Pulaski may have been woman or intersex, study says. BBC News. Available at, last accessed April 16, 2019.
Mervosh, Sarah. “Casimir Pulaski, Polish Hero of the Revolutionary War, Was Most Likely Intersex, Researchers Say. New York Times. Available at; last accessed April 16, 2019. 
Viloria, Hida. “An Intersex Revolutionary May Have Saved General Washington’s Life.” Out Magazine. Available at; last accessed April 16, 2019.
*Nota bene. In referring to General Pulaski, the author of this post has carefully avoided using either the masculine or the feminine pronoun instead utilizing “xe” which has become a standard gender-neutral third-person singular subject pronoun. 

A Museum at the Stockyards

On October 3, 1889, the Lexington Leader reported that the “Bluegrass Stock Yards buildings, the property of Carrithers & Beard, were leveled to the ground by fire Wednesday afternoon. The buildings occupied an area of about two acres. This is the second time the stock yards have been burned out. The buildings were unusually full of provender, a large quantity of it having recently been hauled.”

It would by no means be the last stock yard fire in Lexington, Kentucky. The most recent fire (in January 2016) destroyed seven acres of stockyard infrastructure sending thick, black clouds of smoke skyward in a plume that could be seen from neighboring counties. Emerging from this destruction is a new stockyards, though the location has left the urban center of Lexington and found a new home along the interstate near the Kentucky Horse Park.

In September 2018, the new stock yards opened in an impressive 232,000 square foot facility that boasts a regional marketplace. With a friend, I visited there a few months ago for the first time to have lunch at Hayden’s Stockyard Eatery. On the way out, I discovered another treat: The Blue Grass Stockyards Museum.

According to its website, the museum “is home to pictures, artifacts and information about central Kentucky’s storied past and influence on the region, country and the world. Stop by the museum to reflect on the past and dream about the future of production agriculture’s vital role in the Bluegrass state.”

If you haven’t previously checked this museum (or the stockyards, or Hayden’s) out, take the opportunity to do so!

Springing Back

Tobacco wagon at the University of Kentucky Experiment Farm. 1899.
Source: University of Kentucky.

As you’ve likely noticed, I haven’t been entirely faithful in posting to this site or keeping up with the affairs of Kentucky history and historic preservation. I’m still passionate, but time has kept me away. As it is springtime (officially, today), I’m hoping to spring back into the habit of more faithful sharing of Kentuckys’ rich history.

As part of the springtime renewal, you may notice that I’ve updated a few things on the website including the design. I’ll be adding a few features and tools back, but I felt the site needed a reset. Also, stay tuned! I’ll soon be sharing about a couple of projects I’m working on!   

A Stretch of Waveland Museum Lane Closes

Waveland Museum Lane will close November 15, 2018

A stretch of Lexington’s Waveland Museum Lane will be closed today, November 15, 2018, to traffic. This is an old stretch of road that connects Winthrop Drive and Millpond Road; the stretch used to be part of Higbee Mill Road when that road transversed the farms west of Nicholasville Pike in the southern edges of Fayette County.

Old city maps identifying Higbee Mill Road

The stretch of roadway will become part of a mixed use trail. The stretch of roadway is right around  the corner from my office – Brackney Law Office, PLLC. The soon to be “lost” roadway has become part of my daily commute, so I created a little video to remember her by.

Lexington Lincoln Day

Anyone familiar the history of Lexington, Kentucky knows that there are many connections between our community and our nation’s sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln. His wife, Mary Todd, was born in and grew up in Lexington. As a result of this connection, Lincoln made three trips to Lexington from 1847 to 1850.

Lincoln’s Trips to Lexington

The first of those trips was in November of 1847.  Abraham Lincoln was a Congressman-elect, having just won an election to serve the people of Illinois in Congress. The young couple stayed in Lexington for about three weeks during their sojourn to Washington, D.C. During the visit, Abraham Lincoln heard two great orators speak with views that ultimately shaped his own.

Henry Clay, on November 13, 1847, gave an impassioned speech to a Lexington audience that included Mr. Lincoln. Lincoln was a supporter of Henry Clay and was influenced by both Clay and his Whig political views.

On the 25th of the same month, Lincoln heard the Rev. Robert J. Breckinridge, minister of First Presbyterian Church, preach a guest sermon at the newly opened Second Presbyterian. It was a Thanksgiving Day sermon. Rev. Breckinridge was known as the “Napoleon of the pulpit.” Though the words of his sermon from that day have not been preserved, Breckinridge was “noted for his hostility to slavery” and his sermon, no doubt, also had an influence on the future President. That afternoon, the Lincoln’s left Lexington for a trek by stage, boat, and train to our nation’s capital.

Two future occasions would cause Abraham Lincoln to return to Lexington: the death of Mary’s father in 1849 and her maternal grandmother in 1850.

Event Details

To celebrate the President’s Lexington connection, November 17, 2018 will be designated Lincoln Day in Lexington. Hopefully, this will become an annual event timed to coincide with the occasions of Lincoln’s first visit to the Athens of the West!

Come celebrate with us the first Lexington Lincoln Day on November 17, 2018. The celebration will be from 10 am to 1 pm at the new VisitLEX Visitors Center at the newly renovated former Fayette County Courthouse. LEX History Tours and the Lexington History Museum are putting on this event with VisitLEX and the Explorium of Lexington. We will celebrate the significant influence that Lexington and Lexingtonians had on the remarkable life of Abraham Lincoln. We will also celebrate the recent designation of Camp Nelson as a National Monument and its importance to central Kentucky.

There will be activities for adults and children alike. Included will be presentations on Lexington’s influence on Lincoln followed by a short walking downtown tour displaying pertinent locations that were impactful to Lincoln during his three visits to Lexington. A short presentation will also be made describing the importance that Camp Nelson had on the African-American community in and around Lexington. The Explorium of Lexington will provide a table with fun tools for kids to learn the history of Kentucky.

The Love of a Place: Richard Taylor’s Elkhorn

Elkhorn: Evolution of a Kentucky Landscape by Richard Taylor

As readers of this blog know, I am passionate about Kentucky and Kentucky history. Although not a native to the Commonwealth, I have lived here for most of my life and have developed a deep love of place. Kentucky, however, is an expansive place with different locales and environments. From the urban cores of Lexington and Louisville to the Appalachian hills to the wide fields of western Kentucky, Kentucky’s topography is not homogenous. Yet, I still love this place.

A new book published by the University Press of Kentucky, Elkhorn: Evolution of a Kentucky Landscape, explores the rich history of a creek that cuts through central Kentucky.

The author, Richard Taylor, explains in his introduction, his passion for this place. For forty or so years, Taylor had developed a passion for a narrow slice of Kentucky and he wanted to share his passion with his readers. Taylor introduced me to what he described as “a new name for an old concept – the love of place”: topophilia.

Topo” means “place” in Greek and “philia” is “love of.”

Taylor’s topophilia for the microregion he has inhabited for the past forty years is infectious and his telling of its history most informative.

Through the course of ten chapters, Taylor examines the prehistoric past, the Native Americans who once hunted here, the arrival of the white settlers and their attempts at taming the waters of the Elkhorn Creek. The tenth chapter is reserved as a miscellanea for other anecdotes and stories that might not best fit into other chapters.

Among the anecdotes I found most interesting were those related to “ghost bridges.” Of course, the Switzer Bridge is well known and remains intact following a 1997 restoration following a devastating flood. Not all bridges that crossed the Elkhorn, however, have been so luck. At one time, over four hundred covered bridges crossed Kentucky creeks and rivers. According to Robert Laughlin, author of Kentucky’s Covered Bridges, only a dozen covered bridges remain. But “ghost bridges” can be found across Kentucky and several are noted along the Elkhorn. Stone abutments evidence old paths which would have carried travelers and commerce alike.

The character, however, who serves almost as Taylor’s protagonist is one the author admits “is hardly a household name.” Judge Harry Innes.

I know of no monument to him other than his tombstone in the Frankfort cemetery, not even a street name in a capital dedicated to commemorating its notable dead. Ask the name of the first federal judge west of the mountains and only a handful of local historian can name him. Ask who presided over the first treason trial of Aaron Burr and most will draw a blank. Yet Harry Innes was an important player in the formation of Kentucky, active in eight of the ten conventions that resulted in Kentucky’s separation from the mother state of Virginia at its beginning 225 years ago as the fifteenth addition to the Union.

Judge Harry Innes.
Portrait by Matthew Harris Jouett

Yes, Judge Harry Innes was a significant force in Kentucky’s history. Taylor paints an excellent portrait of the man, one self described himself “first a Kentuckian, and secondly, an American.” As I seek here to review Taylor’s work and not share its secrets, suffice it to say that Innes is a challenging character as well.

In recent history, we have learned that this is true of many of our revered founders and historical figures. Taylor notes the benefits of “historical hindsight” and observes that “history does not paint in black and white but in hues and shadows.”

Similar to how the artist Paul Sawyier painted his beautiful watercolors of the same watershed with hues and shadows, so, too, does Taylor with his words. If you love the Elkhorn or have a general topophilia for our Commonwealth, Elkhorn: Evolution of a Kentucky Landscape is worthy of your time.

Disclaimer: The author was provided with a courtesy copy of the book by the publisher for the purposes of writing a review. Additionally, links in this post to are affiliate links.

Library Collection For Sale

A sampling of books for sale

The Withers Library

In 1897, Mrs. Sarah Rice Withers bequeathed nearly $33,000 to the Nicholasville Presbyterian Church for the creation of a public circulating library. On the first floor of a building at Maple and First Street, 600 books were moved in. Additional volumes were added to the collection and two employees (a librarian and an assistant) operated the full-time facility.

In 1906, a two-story building (pictured below) was constructed for the library at the corner of Main and Oak streets. Later, the library moved to the corner of Chestnut and Second streets.

At the time of this move, in 1964, the library’s collection was also replaced. The old collection was auctioned and purchased by Swintosky family – a collection of some 3,000 volumes. Since that auction of 54 years ago, the books have remained at the Swintosky residence. Until now.


The books that comprised this library collection – including many vintage and antique books – were given to the Jessamine County Historical Society. The Society cannot house this entire collection and is selling the majority of it to raise funds for the society.

The sale will be occurring until Thanksgiving on Saturdays from noon-5:00 pm and Monday-Friday from 5:00-8:00 pm at the Jessamine County Historical Society, 216 N. Main Street, Nicholasville, Kentucky. For the latest updates on sale dates and sale information, please visit the Society’s Facebook event page.

Hiding Fairview in Jessamine County

Fairview. Photo dated 1980 by Kenneth Gibbs for the Kentucky Heritage Council (NRHP)

Fairview is located at the corner of Ash Grove and Lexington Roads in Jessamine County. Thanks to the population growth in Nicholasville along U.S. 27, the property is located within the city limits of Nicholasville. And that growth is having a direct impact on Fairview itself.

The History of Fairview

Construction of Fairview, also known on the National Register of Historic Places as the Marshall-Bryan House, began around 1850 by Dr. Lewis Marshall. Dr. Marshall was the younger brother of Chief Justice John Marshall of the United States Supreme Court.

Decades earlier and prior to the Revolutionary War, Alexander McKee had surveyed and claimed this land for himself. In fact, McKee possessed some 3,000 acres in Fincastle County. His allegiance, however, to England during the war resulted in him losing his land holdings. According to historian Walter Hoberg, “an inquest of escheat was held at Lexington by the sheriff of Kentucky county on July 1, 1780, regarding [McKee’s] holdings. They were declared forfeited and were sold for $30,000 at a sheriff’s sale. The money was used in the establishment of Transylvania University.”

It was later that the land on which Fairview was constructed was sold to the Marshall family. Before Fairview would be completed, however, Dr. Lewis Marshall opted to construct a home in Woodford County and the land was sold to the Bryan family and which family would continue to own the property until it was sold in January 2018 to developers.

Fairview in 2018. Author’s collection.

In his newsletter to constituents, Jessamine County Fourth District Magistrate George W. Dean wrote a brief history of Fairview, noting that during the Civil War “the roof of the house was used as an observation point to observe possible troop movements in the area … [and that] enemy troops could be spotted from long distances by clouds of dust created by the movement of large numbers of men and horses, especially during dry weather.”

When the property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, Fairview was described as “one of the most expressive of the county’s Greek Revival houses [with] design features unusual in the county (full front portico, octagonal entry columns, hipped roof, vertical stacking of features.”

Author’s collection.

The Development

According to Cheryl Truman’s article in the Lexington Herald-Leader, a new development called Greyson on 27 “will include 26 acres of multi-family homes and 33 acres of single-family houses.” It is being developed by Hills Property Management of Cincinnati.

Travelers along the old highway have recognized this home as a landmark for 170 years, but soon the building will be invisible to passing motorists as a 2-story, 14 unit multi-housing apartments building will be constructed between the old home and the highway. Although some lament this loss and it certainly does impact the setting of the historic home, it is laudable that the developers are rehabilitating and incorporating the historic Fairview into their plans. Too often, the dozers that scrape the property would take with it the centuries old brick and mortar. Although the historic property will forever be altered and hidden from plain view, all is not lost.

It is my hope that historic signage will be available so that visitors and residents alike may have the opportunity to pause and consider Fairview’s past.

Portion of Zone Map Amendment, Final Development Plan for Connell Property.

On the Air!

On Monday, June 4, I will be appearing on WTVQ-TV’s Midday Kentucky to discuss Lost Lexington. Check it out at noon on Channel 36! There may even be a giveaway!

And I spent two Saturdays in May talking with Doug Fain on All Things Jessamine which airs Saturday’s on WNKJ 105.9 in Nicholasville. Doug and I talked about the Rev. John Metcalf House and the Lady Sterling House. You can learn more about the Lady Sterling House by clicking here, too! Click on the links to listen to the podcast if you missed out on those episodes of Jessamine County history!

Doug Fain and Peter Brackney discussing Nicholasville’s history.

To check out Peter’s other past events, click here.