NoD: Sen. Kathy Stein now represents these eight counties

Montgomery County stream – east of Mount Sterling, Kentucky

Late last week, the governor signed the state’s new redistricting law (HB1) into effect which redrew the boundaries of state legislative districts. In a highly political process, many were directly affected. Politicos and pundits have had much to say, with the most contentious move being the transfer of Lexington’s 13th Senate District to nor’eastern Kentucky taking with it Senator Kathy Stein. Lexington has gone all a’twitter and the folk at Barefoot & Progressive have led the charge. But this post isn’t about politics.

(UPDATE 2-24-2012): The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that HB1 was unconstitutional and, as a result, this won’t be Kathy’s new district. She shall continue to repesent the people of Lexington. But keep reading about eight of our wonderful Kentucky counties!

While the Herald-Leader took the opportunity to introduce Lexington its new state senator who lives two-and-one-half hours away in Henderson, no one appears to have yet offered Sen. Stein a tour of her new, very rural district. Having formerly represented a small, compact, urban district, Stein now has a lot of acreage to cover in representing her new constituents in Bath, Fleming, Harrison, Lewis, Mason, Montgomery, Nicholas, and Robertson counties. Off to the new 13th…

Maysville, KY
Maysville, Ky.

Mason County. Kathy may be most accustomed to Maysville (Mason County) which is the district’s largest city, though it still has fewer than 10,000 people. It was here that Rosemary Clooney started her career. In the small hamlet of Minerva, Kathy will find the birthplace of Supreme Court Justice Stanley Reed. As an attorney and ACLU member, Senator Stein will be interested to know that the Justice grew up in a house that was on the underground railroad all of which may have influenced his laying the groundwork for voting rights and ending racial desegregation in Smith v. Allwright.

Montgomery County. On Comment last Friday evening, Joe Gerth of the Courier-Journal noted that though Senator Stein was staying in Lexington, her temptation would be a relocation to Mount Sterling. With convenient access to Lexington via Interstate 64, Montgomery County offers beautiful rural scenes. Mount Sterling’s downtown features excellent examples of historic preservation and its annual Court Days festival is renowned.

Bath County. Getting to Owingsville is challenging, but well worth the effort. The people I encountered were all friendly and all well-informed about their community. The old jail was built in the late 1800s and is almost a miniature of the county courthouse. Quite unique! Civil War heritage is present, but the historical prize is the Owings House which ties political intrigue, fine architectural, royal guests, and a remembrance of the Alamo!

Fleming County. A look at our map shows that I haven’t yet ventured to Flemingsburg, but I can assure Senator Stein that there is something to see here! After all, Fleming County is the covered bridge capital of Kentucky!

Harrison County. When Senator Stein ventures into Cynthiana, she’ll see welcome signage to “a town as beautiful as its name.” Behind the courthouse is a log-house in which Henry Clay defended an accused murderer; at the close of the trial, Clay had given such an impassioned plea that the accused’s wife planted a big kiss on the great orator’s lips.

The AA Highway
AA Highway

Lewis County. The only courthouse lawn memorial to a Union soldier south of the Mason-Dixon line can be found here, in Vanceburg. It is a fine town with a great recognition of its history – more can be learned at the visitor’s center which is located in the restored home in Rep. George Morgan Thomas, a Republican who also received numerous appointments from Presidents Garfield and McKinley.

Nicholas County. A well-known landmark in the county seat of Carlisle is the Doll and Toy Museum. And Nicholas County had no greater ambassador than her native son, the late Gatewood Galbraith.

Robertson County. Without a doubt, Mount Olivet is the most different from downtown Lexington. But it does have its own sense of charm … and its own golf driving range. Robertson County, in terms of both population and square acreage, is Kentucky’s smallest. In history, the Johnson County Covered Bridge reminds of bygone times and the Blue Licks Battlefield State Park and Nature Preserve is a contemplative place that recalls a great incident from the French & Indian War.

NoD: The Owings House

The Owings House – Owingsville, Ky.

The lore surrounding the Owings House in downtown Owingsville is epic.

In 1795, Colonel Thomas Dye Owings was sent from Maryland to Kentucky by his father to operate some of the first iron furnaces in the region. Within fifteen years, Owings had amassed a good deal of wealth and land. Along with Colonel Richard H. Menefee, Owings would found the community that took his name, Owingsville.

Owings and Menefee each owned significant parcels of land in what would become Owingsville. To select whose name the community would take, the two men wagered that the man who built the finer home the quickest would be the namesake of the town. For the sum of $60,000, Owings won the contest. (Menefee, a good politician and acclaimed orator – the “Patrick Henry of the West” – died a pauper, his greatest legacy being a Kentucky county which bears his misspelled name).

Although there is no concrete evidence, it is widely believed that the Maryland native retained Washington, D.C. architect Benjamin Latrobe to design the Owings House. Some features of the property remind the writer of Latrobe’s work, including the Palladian window over the front door and the spiral staircase inside. In fact, the staircase was constructed in Baltimore and was carried overland by oxen before it was assembled and installed. The staircase alone was $10,000! The Owings House was completed in 1814 and soon was one of the destinations for Kentucky’s political elite.

Another guest of the house, from July 17, 1814 through July 22, 1815, was the exiled Louis Philippe of France (King from 1830 – 1848). This, too, is disputed as some believe that the houseguest was an imposter posing as the young Frenchman. It is true, however, that Louis Philippe was in Kentucky decades earlier when he lodged at Bardstown’s Talbott Tavern.

During the War of 1812, Owings raised a Kentucky regiment and was commissioned a colonel in the 28th U.S. Infantry. He also served in politics, as sheriff and as a judge. Ultimately, Owings’ business success faltered and he declared bankruptcy before leaving for Texas where he would serve first for Stephen Austin in Texas’ War of Independence before serving the U.S. in the Mexican War. Colonel Owings died and is buried in Texas.

In 1905, the east third of the Owings House was modified and adapted for use as a bank, the Owingsville Banking Company, which remains in operation today. All five bays pictured were part of Owings’ original home which bested Menefee in competition.

Bath County Tourism
National Register of Historic Places.
Thomas Dye Owings” by W. T. Block

NoD: The Old Bath County Jail (part deux)

Old Jail of Bath County, Owingsville, Ky.
Old Bath County Jail – Owingsville, Ky.

This is an update to a prior post dated April 11, 2011, on the Old Bath County Jail in which I could not confirm that the pictured structure was in fact the old Bath County Jail. In doing research on an upcoming post, I found information confirming that this beautiful structure was Bath County’s jail.
From the National Register (Owingsville Commercial District and Courthouse Square):

The  late-19th-century Bath County Jail  (see photos  6,7  and  site 5)  reverberates, in a  sense,  the massing of  the  courthouse.  This  two-story,  hip-rolled building is also  of brick construction,  and  its  centered square tower has  a pyramidal roof  each side being broken by a pedimented dormer.  The boxed  cornices  of  the building and  tower are  supported by modillions.  Windows of  the  first  floor have pedimented hoodmolds while  those of  the  second are  flat.  To  the  south  is  a  one-story polygonal addition,  and  at  the  rear  is  a  two-story,  shed-roofed appendage.

Bath County’s current jailer, Palmer “Jaybird” Crouch, has held the position since 1973. For the first two years, inmates were still held in this old jail (today, inmates are housed in the Montgomery County Jail). Crouch and his wife resided in the jailer’s quarters attached to the old jail and Crouch’s wife would prepare meals for the inmates until the state determined that the structure was unfit as a jail. [*]

NoD: Old Bath County Jail

Old Bath County Jail, Owingsville, Ky.

OK. So this place doesn’t look like a jail, but I was told by the local historian on my visit to Owingsville that this was in fact the old Bath County Jail. And Google marks the location as the current “Bath County Jail.”

After a little internet searching, I can’t seem to find much on the building. A challenge to you all!? Help me find out more about this building, which looks like it was designed with (or to mirror) the Bath County Courthouse.

NoD: Birthplace of General John Bell Hood

Birthplace of Gen. Hood, Owingsville, Ky.

General John Bell Hood was born in Owingsville, Kentucky in June, 1831. He served the Confederacy in the Civil War and did so with one of the most awesome beards in history. At Gettysburg, Hood (either by confusion or derelection) made a blunder which cost him the use of his arm. It also, arguably, cost the South a victory at Gettysburg and (given that the battle was the turning point of the War) the War. Am I exagerating history a little? Possibly.

We’ve highlighted this house before on the Kentucky120 visit to Owingsville, but inaccurately suggested that Hood was born in the house pictured; to clarify, he was born in a home that previously occupied the site. Yes, there is something about John Bell Hood that exudes hyperbole and exaggeration.

NoD: Jack Jouett, Jr.

Jack Jouett Historic Marker, Owingsville, Ky.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s immortal poem begins, “Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.” His words “one if by land, two if by sea” captured forever Paul Revere into America’s folklore. He is believed a great father of American independence.

But what of the other hero who made a similar ride? In early June 1781, Jack Jouett – asleep in Cuckoo, Louisa County, Virginia – heard British troops and quickly determined their destination: Charlottesville. Jouett took to his horse and rode the 40 miles to warn Governor Thomas Jefferson and the legislature (which had been convened in Charlottesville due to Benedict Arnold’s taking of Richmond).

Arriving hours before the British, Jouett first rode to Jefferson’s home, Monticello, where he successfully warned the Governor and those legislators staying there. Jouett then rode the additional two miles to Charlottesville and warned the balance of the legislature. All but seven legislators successfully escaped thanks to Jouett’s heroics. (Jefferson leisurely stayed at Monticello and escaped himself by horseback with only second to spare, but Jouett definitely warned him!)

Soon after, Jouett moved to Kentucky County. Passing a cabin on his way through the Wilderness Pass, Jouett hears a woman scream. He broke into the cabin only to find her being beaten by her husband and began to separate the two, but the woman defended her husband by taking a cast iron skillet to Jouett’s head. Fortunately, the skillet was of low grade and the bottom fell through, but Jouett rode on until he could find a blacksmith to release the remainder of the pan from his head. [*]

Settling first in what is now Mercer County, Jouett ultimately moved to Woodford County. He served in both the Virginia and Kentucky legislatures on behalf of Kentuckians and he aided in Kentucky’s first constitutional convention. He died while visiting his daughter in what-is-now Bath County and was buried in an unmarked grave at the “Peeled Oak” farm.

Bath County Courthouse – Owingsville, Ky.

Okay, so I had never, ever even heard of Owingsville. But there is a ton of history here. And how did Bath County get its name? Surprisingly, it was given the name because people used to come here to take baths. Seriously. According to the sign at the courthouse square, there were many well known mineral springs in the area. Bath County was also home for some time to Louis Philippe, the last King of France during his exile. Weird, huh?
Anyway, according to the signs at the courthouse, the Bath County Courthouse was among the 22 courthouses burned during the Civil War. But the burning of Bath’s courthouse was unintentional. As Confederate forces approached, the Union soldiers abandoned the area and an overheated stove started the fire.

* BONUS PIC FOR PETER – So this one caught me completely off guard. You know General John Bell Hood? Famous Confederate General remembered for Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Fredricksburg, etc.? He was born in this house in Owingsville. I had no clue.