NoD: Grayson Lake and the Kitchen-Horton House

Grayson Lake - Grayson, Ky.
Grayson Lake – Carter County, Ky.

Named for the Carter County seat, Grayson Lake was formed by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1964 from their formation of an earth and rock dam on the Little Sandy River. Now, almost 75 miles of shoreline in Carter and Elliott counties surround this beautiful lake of approximately 1,500 acres.

Filled with bluegill, bass, catfish, crappie, and trout, the lake is very popular with local anglers. But history has its tale at Grayson Lake as well. Whenever I visit an Army Corps manmade lake, I’m reminded of the scenes from O Brother, Where Art Thou?
when the valley is flooded saving George Clooney et al. from the gallows  (Youtube) as well as the following scene where he opines on the New South being hooked up to the grid (Youtube). Surely, much in the flooded valley of Grayson Lake was lost when the waters rose in the mid 1960s.

Grayson Lake - Grayson, Ky.One structure, however, was moved from its foundation on the north bank of the Little Sandy River and now rests 700 feet northeasterly in a recreational area adjacent to the lake. The historic Van Kitchen Home (pictured at left) was built around 1835 by Elijah Horton. This log cabin was built in the “saddlebag” design, meaning two cabins close enough to one another that they share a common chimney. Although once prevalent through eastern Kentucky and West Virginia, the design has become quite rare.

After reaching Grayson during his “masterful retreat” from the Cumberland Gap, Gen. George Morgan (USA) continued toward Camp Dennison, Ohio with the Thunderbolt of the Confederacy – John Hunt Morgan – nipping at his heels. Gen. George Morgan supped at the Horton house and his men camped nearby, but their stay was disrupted by Gen. JHM’s men and a skirmish ensued. Bullet holes are still visible in the walls of the ol’ saddlebag’s second floor. The Van Kitchen House, named after the last family owning the house prior to the government’s acquisition in 1965, was listed on the National Register in 1974.


Grayson Lake - Grayson, Ky. Kitchen-Horton House @ Grayson Lake - Grayson, Ky. Grayson Lake - Grayson, Ky. Grayson Lake - Grayson, Ky.
additional photos on flickr

walkLEX: Hunt-Morgan Carriage House

The Bluegrass Trust for Historic Preservation hosts a monthly deTour to a local historic site that has been well-preserved and restored – the group meets on the first Wednesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. Details are always available on the Kaintuckeean Calendar and on Facebook! In September 2011, the deTour group visited three carriage houses; this is the first installment. More pictures from this deTour are available on flickr.

Carriage House deTour - Lexington, Ky.
Carriage House behind the Hunt-Morgan House – Lexington, Ky.

Behind the stately Hopemont on North Mill Street is the home’s carriage house. A carriage house, like the carriage, is a relic of centuries past. Today’s automobile and garage were preceded by horse-drawn carriages and these carriages (and their noble steeds) required protection from the elements. And unlike today’s two-car garages, a carriage house was never attached to the residence it served (even without carbon monoxide issues!).

Hopemont, built in 1814, preceded the above carriage house by some twenty years. It is quite unlikely that John Wesley Hunt – believed to be Kentucky’s first millionaire – would have built Hopemont without an accompanying carriage house. On this notion alone, one must conclude that the pictured carriage house was the home’s second. Although much of the interior structure is original, the carriage house was slightly modified at the turn of the twentieth century, i.e. circa 1900.

It is said that John Wesley Hunt’s nephew, John Hunt Morgan – the famed “Thunderbolt of the Confederacy,” stalled his famous Black Bess in the carriage house. And although the legend has been told in different ways, one version is as follows: General Morgan saddled Black Bess in the carriage house before riding through the rear of the Hunt-Morgan House only to stop and kiss his mother on the cheek before galloping out the front door.

Of course, Black Bess has been immortalized herself in another way when artist Pompeo Coppini sculpted a masculine mare upon which General Morgan would forever bestride in front of the old courthouse in Lexington. Yes, this famous mare is likely the most infamous ‘tenant’ of the Hunt-Morgan House carriage house.

Alvey, R. Gerald. Kentucky Bluegrass County (p.64-65)
Federal Writers Project, Kentucky: A Guide to the Bluegrass State (p. 204)

NoD: The Graves of Seven Who Fell in ‘The Masterful Retreat’

Rural Cemetery - Elliott County
Unmarked Grave – Elliott County, Ky.

Momma always instructed us not to “cut off the hand that feeds you.” This old maxim shouldn’t be forgotten in life or in battle.

The Cumberland Gap was a strategic link through the Appalachians during the Civil War and control of it was a constant struggle. After the battle of Ivy Mountain, Union troops became increasingly bold in southeastern Kentucky. By the middle of 1862, General George W. Morgan saw his opportunity to take the Cumberland Gap. To do so, however, he (and his men and their artillery) had to cross very rugged terrain. The end result was a loss of their supply line.

By June 17, 1862, General Morgan had taken control of the Cumberland Gap, but his men were relying on foraging for their rations. After taking the Gap, General Morgan wrote to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton: “The enemy evacuated this American Gibraltar this morning … and DeCourcy’s brigade took possession.” Gibraltar being, of course, a reference to the straight by which one enters the Mediterranean Sea.
Ultimately, however, the Confederate Army sought an invasion of Kentucky (ultimately leading to the Battle of Perryville) through Tennessee. With no supply line and the threat of being surrounded by rebel forces, General Morgan abandoned the Cumberland Gap on September 17, 1862 and began what would be known as “The Masterful Retreat” toward Grayson, Kentucky.

Along the way, the Union troops under Gen. George Morgan were under constant threat from the tactics of CSA Gen. John Hunt Morgan and his 1,200 cavalry riders. As USA Morgan’s 7th KY Division made its retreat to Grayson, a constant calibration of security tactics was necessary because of CSA Morgan’s guerrilla-like ambushes. The only “roadway” through Elliott County wide enough for the 7th KYwas the riverbed of the Little Sandy River, which flowed through many gorges and narrows perfect for ambush.

It was said the the rebels “fought vigorously with ax and torch, felling trees, barricading the road, destroying bridges, and making every barricade cost a skirmish and time.” At one such skirmish, seven men of the Union’s 7th Kentucky Division fell and are buried in this little cemetery located two miles south of Sandy Hook.

It is likely that this cemetery also served as a family cemetery for local residents as there are more than seven graves present. Today, as is the case with so many Civil War sites, this rural corner of Elliott County is being developed, but a roadside marker (“Skirmish Here“) records the spot in the annals of history.

The remainder of the 7th Division arrived in Grayson after a grueling 16 day march.

More pictures are available here.


walkLEX: A Facelift for Historic Marker #3

Hunt-Morgan House - Lexington, Ky.
Historic Marker #3 – Lexington, Ky.

In front of the Hunt-Morgan House, also known as Hopemont, at Lexington’s Gratz Park is a historic marker, number 3 in the Kentucky Historical Highway Marker Program, that reads:

Home of John Hunt Morgan, “Thunderbolt of the Confederacy.” Born Huntsville, Alabama, June 1, 1825. Killed Greeneville, Tennessee, September 4, 1864. Lieutenant, Kentucky Volunteers in Mexican War 1846-1847. Major General, C.S.A., 1861-1864.

Problem is, you can’t really read the Marker. Bronze Marker #3 is over fifty years old and, though its lettering has been repainted white more than once, it remains nearly illegible. The facts are a little misleading as well. While General Morgan certainly stayed at the house, calling it the “home of John Hunt Morgan” is a stretch. Further, the sign does nothing to recognize two other influential members of the family that called the Hunt-Morgan House home: John Wesley Hunt and Dr. Thomas Hunt Morgan.

So, the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation, the Morgan’s Men Association and several other groups and citizens are providing the $2,300 necessary to replace this sign with “updated text and an extended history.” The new sign is expected to be unveiled sometime in October. For more pictures of the historic marker and the Hunt Morgan House, click here.

BGT, email 8/9/2011
BGT, “Hunt Morgan House

NoD: Margaret Garner (Kentucky Chautaqua)

The Bluegrass Trust hosts a monthly brown bag lunch lecture series at the John Hunt Morgan House. In celebration of Black History Month, this month’s event was held at the Downtown Arts Center and was a live one-person Kentucky Chataqua show from the Kentucky Humanities Council

The Modern Medea, by Thomas Satterwhite Noble

Margaret Garner was a slave born in Boone County, Kentucky. Light-skinned, she was likely the daughter of her master – John P. Gaines (who was appointed by Pres. Zachary Taylor to be the governor of the Oregon Territory). When Gaines left her Oregon, he sold his farm, Maplewood (to which this post is geotagged), to his brother Archibald Gaines.

Archibald was a cruel master and ultimately, Margaret sought to escape with her three children. In the snowy winter of 1856, she escaped and crossed the frozen Ohio River, but was ultimately captured. Before her capture, however, she slit the throat of one of her children (she was stopped before she could kill the others) because she believed her children would be better in heaven than back in slavery. According to the story, Archibald was the father of each of her children and she didn’t want her daughters to be assaulted by their white masters.

Tried in Covington (rather than in Ohio), Garner was returned to slavery and sold down the river. The story of Margaret Garner was immediately well-known as it was publicized by both abolitionists (decrying the pathology of slavery) and pro-slavery forces (claiming that slaves were all subhuman). [*] The painting above, The Modern Medea, by Thomas Satterwhite Noble was inspired by Garner and was painted in 1867.  Her story was popularized again by Toni Morrison’s book, Beloved. Former UK professor research Garner, writing Modern Madea. There is also an opera about Garner which can be heard on NPR.

No Destination: Courthouse Markers in Georgetown

Scott County Courthouse, Georgetown, Ky.

Some counties just have a lot of historic markers around their courthouses. Scott County is one of them. Rather than create a post for each, I’m letting the markers speak for themselves the tale of Scott County. The beautiful 1877 courthouse is surrounded by

General Basil W. Duke, CSA (Marker 1861):

Marker 1861: A close associate of brother-in-law John Hunt Morgan, Duke provided tactics, discipline, and spirit, major elements of success of famous 2nd Ky. Cavalry. Wounded in battle twice, 1862; captured July 1863 in Ind.-Ohio raid; exchanged August 1864. After Morgan’s death, Basil Duke appointed to command brigade. Later led part of the escort for Jefferson Davis in April-May 1865.

(Reverse) Basil W. Duke (1838-1916) – Scott County native Basil Duke-attorney, politician, and author-is most noted for Civil War service to Confederacy. Admitted to bar in 1858, he began law practice in St. Louis. After Civil War he settled in Louisville. Elected to Ky. House of Rep. Duke led powerful railroad lobby and was bitter enemy of Wm. Goebel. Writings include History of Morgan’s Cavalry. Buried Lexington.

Georgetown Raided (Marker 701):

CSA Gen. John H. Morgan, on Kentucky raid here, July 15, 1862, camped two days. Destroyed rail bridges, USA stores, dispersed Home Guards. On 17th defeated USA at Cynthiana. Started back to Tenn. On last raid, Morgan was here, July 10, 1864, after taking Lexington. On 12th CSA met defeat at Cynthiana and retreated to Virginia. See map on other side.

Remember the Raisin (Marker 508):

Rendezvous of Kentucky Volunteers, Aug. 15, 1812, ordered to relieve Gen. Hull at Detroit. Kentuckians took Frenchtown (Monroe) on Raisin River Jan. 18, 1813. Four days later enemy attacked-killed, massacred, wounded, or captured all but 30. Of 1050 men not half reached home. Ky. counties named for officers: Allen, Ballard, Graves, Hart, Hickman, Edmonson, McCracken, Meade, Simpson.

Scott County Courthouse (Marker 1454):

Present structure, 4th courthouse of Scott County, erected in 1877 at a cost of $34,600. It is an outstanding example of the French “Second Empire Style,” known in U.S. as “Gen. Grant Style.” Built of materials obtainable in this area. Distance from ground to top of steeple is 185 ft. Designed by Thomas Boyd of Pittsburgh, who served as supervising architect.

(Reverse) Goebel Trial Here – Scott County courthouse chosen by Judge J. E. Cantrill for trials of the 20 persons accused of being involved in the assassination of Governor William Goebel. Although the murder was in Frankfort, the hearings were held in Georgetown to insure fair trials to the indicted. Three of the principal suspects were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Scott County, 1792 (Marker 1248):

Formed out of a part of Woodford County, it was the second created after Kentucky became a state. Named for Gen. Charles Scott, 1739-1813, a Va. native. Officer in Revolution, saw service at Trenton, 1776, Germantown and Monmouth, 1777, Stony Point, 1779. Came to Kentucky in 1785. Represented Woodford Co. in the Va. Assembly, 1789-90. Fourth governor of Ky., 1808-12.

No Destination: John Hunt Morgan Bridge

John Hunt Morgan Bridge, Cynthiana, Ky.

General John Hunt Morgan, the Thunderbolt of the Confederacy, is a favorite Civil  War general among many Kentuckians. In Lexington, the statute of him upon his steed is the only one in Kentucky with a mounted Civil War soldier or officer.

In Cynthiana, site of two Civil War battles (both involved JHM), a bridge “honor[s] famous Confederate calvary leader.” Opened to traffic on October 8, 1949, the General John Hunt Morgan Bridge was dedicated in 1950. It replaced a wooden, covered bridge which had been erected in 1837. Closed in 1944 and the flooring and sides removed, daring teenagers attempted to cross the skeletal remains of the covered bridge in 1946. Four drowned. In December 1948, that bridge was pushed into the river and construction began on the present bridge. [*] [*]

The bridge crosses the south fork of the Licking River.

No Destination: Campbellsville

Centrally located Campbellsville – Taylor County’s seat – is eighty miles from Lexington, Louisville and Bowling Green. Established in 1817, the town’s history is quintissentially Kentucky. Began as a grist mill, grew in population as a stop on a stagecoach route and later a rail line, and the target of Civil War raids by the infamous Gen. John Hunt Morgan. Today, Campbellsville’s Main Street (pictured, above) remains active with a number of businesses due at least in part to the presence of Cumberland University.

What is now Campbellsville was on the Cumberland Trace – that route through the Cumberland Gap that would serve as the early route for western settlers; ultimately those who passed through what would become Taylor County continued past the Cumberland River to what is now Nashville, Tenn.

Taylor County was separated from Green County in 1848 (named for General Zachary Taylor in the same year that he would become President) and Campbellsville at that time was selected to be the seat of the new county. The first courthouse was erected soon thereafter and was destroyed during an 1864 raid by Confederate forces. The next courthouse was built and survived until 1965 when it was razed in favor of a “contemporary” brick design. This is another instance in which, architecturally speaking, the courthouse project currently underway in Kentucky is “a good thing” as the new Taylor County Courthouse has that “modern take at an old building” quality that at least returns a bell tower to the courthouse square. All historic markers, however, remain at the site of the 1965 courthouse.

Nate, on his courthouse visits, loves the feel of coming over the hill into a town to see the tallest building in town – his immediate indicator of the courthouse’s prominence and central role for a community. Not in Campbellsville: the tallest spire will lead you up a hill to the Campbellsville Baptist Church (pictured, right). The congregation began as early as 1791, but the name of the church was not adopted until 1852. Following a 1962 fire, the present church was constructed. It replaced a 1916 sanctuary that consisted of “a domed ceiling and four walls of stained glass.”

walkLEX: Statue of Gen. J. H. Morgan

John Hunt Morgan Statue
Statue of Gen. John Hunt Morgan  – Lexington, Ky.

In front of the old Fayette County Courthouse (now the Lexington History Museum) stands a statute of General John Hunt Morgan, the “thunderbolt of the Confederacy.” He is mounted upon his noble steed, Black Bess. Sculpted by Pompeo Coppini in 1911, the statue is the only monument in Kentucky of the Civil War with a soldier on horseback.

As the story is told, Coppini arrived from New York for the great unveiling of his work. With dignitaries present, it was exclaimed upon the falling of the curtain that “Black Bess got balls!”

You see, Black Bess was a mare but Coppini had thought it undignified. “No hero should bestride a mare,” he had explained. An anonymous poet later wrote:

So darkness comes to Bluegrass men —
Like darkness o’er them falls —
For well we know gentlemen should show
Respect for a lady’s balls

Marion County Courthouse – Lebanon, Ky.

After visiting Lebanon for the first time, I know two things – first, this town loves ham, and secondly, John Hunt Morgan is all over the place here. I thought the famous Kentucky Confederate calvary officer and general was well represented in Lexington, buy Lebanon is another story. And I guess that makes sense, because Morgan burned much of the town during the Civil War, and according to the historic markers, he was also responsible for the burning of the courthouse that used to stand on this spot. His goal was to destroy treason indictments in the courthouse issued against his men. This courthouse was built in 1935.
Apparently Lebanon was a bustling railroad town, until the Civil War, and later the end of the railroad age brought it the quiet status it enjoys today. Oh, and it’s annual town festival is called “Ham Days.” Seriously. Like I said, this town loves its country ham.

BONUS PIC FOR PETER – Now this is the coolest thing about Lebanon’s courthouse. What you see above is the courthouse square. These buildings, several of which are occupied by the offices of attorneys and engineers, literally sit on the courthouse lawn, with just this little sidewalk separating them. While several of them have clearly been well maintained, a couple could use some work. One of the buildings on the square had a big hole in the door, and a couple of cats were hanging out inside sunning themselves.