Weekend Wonders with Bob and Lynn

Every day at Locust Grove is a little bit different, but the weekends are an especially fun time.  While our weekdays see a lot of visitors, weekends are anything but slow! This Saturday, we hosted a den of Boy Scouts who were especially interested (or grossed out) to learn that pig’s bladders were often boiled and blown up for use as toys by the Croghan children. And that’s only one of the cool things you’ll learn if you hang out with our weekend staff! We have a wonderful corps of docents and volunteers, and a few of them can only be found at Locust Grove on the weekend, so I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to two of our weekend faces.

Bob Pilkington has been a volunteer at Locust Grove since 1990, and is one of our longest serving docents. If you take a tour with Bob on a Saturday afternoon, you’ll learn everything you’d ever want to know about Locust Grove, and the Croghan and Clark families. Before he was a docent, however, Bob dressed up like George Rogers Clark in the winter to greet guests ! Although his late wife, Audrey Pilkington, had been a docent at Locust Grove since the 1970s, Bob didn’t know much about the property until he had to learn about George. I think Bob should reprise his role as GRC this winter. Won’t you help me persuade him?

Try to stump Bob with a question about George Rogers Clark. I dare you.

Try to stump Bob with a question about George Rogers Clark. I dare you.

One of our Weekend Managers, Lynn Lamb, had a special connection to Locust Grove even before he joined the staff. Lynn is a reenactor, and has participated in several of Locust Grove’s military encampments, such as the one we host during the Market Fair. Lynn started reenacting in 1977 and has he says, once he got the bug, “it was all over.” Lynn has reenacted every major American military conflict from the French and Indian War to the more recent Vietnam War, although he now focuses his energies on serving as a American Revolution-era militiaman for Logan’s Company here in Kentucky. If you want to learn more about the life of a reenactor or what it was like to serve in the military in the 18th century, Lynn is your man.

Although he currently pa

Although he currently participates in Revolutionary reenactments, Lynn’s favorite era is the Civil War.

When we’re not too busy on the weekends, I tend to practice my cup and ball skills. My current record is seven in a row, but once we’ve recovered from the Fall Antiques Fair, I’ll begin to work up to eight in a row. If cup and ball ever becomes an Olympic sport, I’ll be so ready.

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Patience, fierce concentration, and an expert flip of the wrist lead to victory.

Patience, fierce concentration, and an expert flip of the wrist lead to victory.

This weekend also saw an exciting development in our ongoing dairy project: The gate was delivered and stained!

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Installing a gate in the dairy is one of the final steps in its completion. It will help keep the artifacts on display safe while allowing guests to step into the dairy to experience its clean, cool atmosphere.

Once it’s properly installed, we’ll be able to finish setting up the building as it would have looked circa 1790! It’s going to look so historically accurate, I can’t even stand it.

There’s never a dull moment at Locust Grove, even on Saturday and Sunday, and you’ve only met a few of our Weekend Wonders. And if there is a break in the action, you can always enjoy a Coke with your new BFF, George Rogers Clark.

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I remain, as ever, your faithful blogger,

Hannah

P.S.  If you’d like to remain completely up-to-date on everything Locust Grove, please join the e-mailing list, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and enter your email at the top right of this page to receive new blog posts by email. And if there’s something you’d like to see here on the blog, please leave a comment to let us know! Thanks ever so and we hope to see you soon!

Our Red-Haired Revolutionary: The Life and Times of George Rogers Clark

Welcome back to the Locust Grove Blog! Throwback Thursday seems like a grand time to talk about our favorite and most famous resident, General George Rogers Clark. GRC (as I’ll be abbreviating his very distinguished, but somewhat lengthy name) lived at Locust Grove from 1809 until his death in 1818. The “Our Red-Haired Revolutionary” series will focus on stories and facts about GRC that are a little more obscure and might not get mentioned on your tour of Locust Grove. But first, let’s see who we’re dealing with.

Well, hello there.

Well, hello there.

This image, of course, greets you as you walk into the Exhibit gallery at the Visitor’s Center. It’s been dubbed “Hollywood George” for obvious reasons. We have several different likenesses of GRC on the premises, but this is one of my favorites. It shows him in his prime, as he would have appeared during the American Revolution.

Some vital GRC statistics:

  • Born November 19, 1752 in Albemarle County, VA to John and Ann Rogers Clark. He was the second oldest of ten children, including Lucy Clark Croghan (7th of 10) and William Clark (9th of 10.)
  • Began a career as a surveyor in 1771 at the age of 19.
  • Built a fort on Corn Island in the Ohio River in 1778 , effectively founding the city of Louisville.
  • Also in 1778, he captured the British fort at Kaskaskia and Fort Sackville at Vincennes, IN, in what was then Illinois territory.
  • From 1782-1787, served as one of five Indian Commissioners for the Western territories.
  • Lived at Locust Grove from 1809 until his death on February 13, 1818.

Something I learned only recently about GRC was that in 1783, Thomas Jefferson, then governor of Virginia, asked George Rogers Clark  to explore the western United States. Of course, this was twenty years before the Louisiana Purchase and the Corps of Discovery expedition, headed by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, GRC’s younger brother. GRC would have been the perfect candidate for such an journey in 1783 , because of his recent, successful Illinois Campaign during the war, when he held Kaskaskia and Vincennes, and his position as Indian Commissioner of the Westward Territories. In 1791, Jefferson wrote of Clark, “No man alive rated him higher than I did […] We are made to hope he is engaged in writing the account of his Expedition North West of the Ohio; they will be valuable morsels of history, and will justify to the world those who have told them how great he was.” This is pretty high praise from possibly the most famous American red-haired revolutionary! It’s said that upon being informed of this remark, Clark began to weep.

If you’re looking to visit the site of GRC’s most famous victory, George Rogers Clark National Historical Park is located on the presumed site of Fort Sackville in Vincennes, Indiana. Or if you live in Louisville and you’re looking to pay homage little closer to home, George Rogers Clark Park is located on the site of the original Clark Family Homestead, Mulberry Hill. It’s a lovely spot for a picnic. But you know where else is the perfect place for a fall picnic? You guessed it–Locust Grove itself. We’ve got the picnic tables all set out for you. Come visit us soon! The Fall Antiques Fair is only 10 days away, so you can take home some treasures after you view ours.

Yours faithfully,

Hannah

New Life for Old Buildings (Plus a welcome!)

Hello all and welcome to the rejuvenated blog for Historic Locust Grove! I’m Hannah, your friendly neighborhood blogger and one of the HLG Weekend Managers, and I’m here to guide you through everything new, old, and fascinating about Locust Grove. In addition to the restarting this blog, we’ve also just updated our website! You can head over to http://locustgrove.org/ to oooh and ahhh and find out what’s going going on at the house and visitor’s center. (I especially recommend the Upcoming Events section at the bottom of the page. Did you know the Fall Antiques Fair is only 12 days away?)

Now, my #1 job as blogger is to get you excited about history at Locust Grove and thereby induce you to visit us as soon as possible! So, to start out, I’d like to tell you about my favorite ongoing project that is very near completion–the furnishing and restoration of the Locust Grove Dairy!

Last summer, I had the pleasure of researching 18th and 19th century dairy practices and making suggestions to bring our dairy out of the blahs that had defined it since its reconstruction in 1967 and back into the tidy splendor of the late 1790s, when William and Lucy Croghan were in residence.

Here’s what it looked like last summer:

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And here’s what it looks like now!

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Now, I know what you’re all thinking: “Umm, Hannah? It doesn’t look that different–you just added floors and shelves, and took out all the stuff. Why are you still so excited?”

Well, having a dirt floor was one of the biggest problems with our dairy. Because of the nature of working with milk, colonial dairies in the 18th century needed to be clean and cool, so the milk wouldn’t spoil or be contaminated by bugs or dirt. Dairies like ours were usually graded two or three feet below the surface, or could sometimes be built even further underground, like the dairy cellar at Henry Clay’s Ashland. Our dairy was built at the right level, but dairy floors were generally made of wood, stone, or tile, so they could be cleaned more easily. By installing this floor, made of reclaimed wood, we’re one step closer to a dairy the Croghan family might have recognized.

“Okay, that’s pretty cool. But what’s the deal with the shelves?”

Dairies of this time period typically had two rows of shelves–one about waist height from which to work, and one overhead to store cheeses, pans of milk, and other accoutrements. Installing these shelves in our dairy is a bit of a challenge, however. Our dairy is quite a remarkable structure for lots of reasons, but mostly because of its construction. Dairies were usually frame or brick, like this one at Colonial Williamsburg.  Our dairy was reconstructed from stone to match the reconstructed kitchen, smokehouse, and residence trio. However, in all my research, I never found another stone dairy. We actually have very few records about what the Croghan dairy looked like. We know they had a dairy, and we know where it was located, but archaeology and other records have given us little else.

“So you’re just making up stuff as you go along?”

Of course not. We always want to safeguard the historical integrity of the site and be as accurate as possible to the time period and the records we do have. Simply put, our dairy just hasn’t received much attention since it was reconstructed in 1967.  It’s the same size and shape as an 18th century dairy should be, and is made of a similar material. The one conundrum we’ve encountered that we can’t explain or fix are the wall slits. Air circulation and ventilation were paramount to running a successful dairy. You wanted to be able to allow air to flow freely through the structure with a minimal amount of light. (Milk doesn’t fare well when exposed to sunlight.) Typically, this was achieved by having vents at the top of the structure that were latticed and screened with muslin, to achieve the effect of a screen. For some reason, when the Locust Grove dairy was reconstructed, it was built with vertical slits in three of its walls.

“Oh, but that’s not confusing! You’d need those slits to protect the house from attack! You could shoot the Indians or the British or whomever without being shot yourself!”

That’s an interesting point, friendly reader,but sadly, our site was never used as a location for a John Wayne movie. Locust Grove was never under any sort of attack–unless you count the Janeites who descend on the property each July for the Jane Austen Festival, but we’re always happy to see them! An Indian visit was very likely, given George Rogers Clark’s residence here and his role as an Indian Commissioner for the Western territories, but these slits simply don’t fit into either Locust Grove’s history, or the profile of a colonial dairy. Therefore, we have to conclude they were a mistake, albeit one that makes our dairy unique!

Although our dairy was reconstructed over forty years ago, we’re still working on outfitting it to reflect the residence of the Croghan family. Adding the new floors and the shelves is only the beginning! I’ll be sure to update you on our progress. Thanks for stopping by the blog today, and drop by the house to visit soon. Our doors are always open to visitors from near and far. I challenge you all to a game of cup and ball.

With kind regards,

Hannah

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