Letters from Januarys Past


Winter always seems to catch up to Kentucky in January, and this past week has been no exception. We’ve had two dazzling snowstorms, which got me thinking about what the Croghan family was doing during past Januarys. Below are two letters written almost two hundred years ago to the day, from William Croghan, Jr. to his brother George, and from Ann Croghan Jesup to her sister, Eliza Croghan Hancock. While neither of these letters were written at Locust Grove, they give plenty of insight into life in the early nineteenth century, as well as the close bond of the Croghan family. Enjoy!

William Croghan, Jr. to Col. George Croghan


George Croghan and William Croghan, Jr. George was three years older than his brother, a lawyer who would inherit Locust Grove in 1822. Both brothers married wealthy women from prominent East Coast families.


New Orleans Jany 23, 1819

Dear George

       Your horses &c are so long comeing, & learning that they will not be fit for service if they come by water for at least a month after their arrival – I have resolved tomorrow to start to Fort Adams[.]  For the Negroes I have purchased six yokes of Oxen, which will answer very well for breaking up the ground, everything now is in readiness & in a week, I shall be hard at work on the plantation.  There are out horses &c sufficient for the negroes, if any more be wanting they must be erected at their leisure.  My Cotton seed I have just been up after, & had taken to the plantation.  The cane given me by Minor, is at his upper plantation which I will take in the boat as I come down.  

Major Lee has made a purchase within half a mile of you, for his son, he begins operations immediately.  

Why do you not write more frequently?

My Love to Papa Mama, Serena, & the family…

     William   Croghan Jr.

P.S.  Jan 25–I have just returned from up the coast, having made a purchase of Madam Victors land Six acres front, including a house worth $5000 for $3000 per acre–payable one half in May 1820 and follow 1821

Ann Croghan Jesup to Eliza Croghan Hancock


Ann Croghan Jesup and Eliza Croghan Hancock. Ann was four years older than Eliza, and lived in Washington, DC, as her husband was Quartermaster General of the US Army. Eliza and her husband George Hancock owned Locust Grove from 1828-1834.


Washington Jan 22 1828

My dear sister

       Genl Jesup has gone to Mr. Southards party, and the Children are asleep & all is so quiet about the (town or house) that I think I can write to you without interruption. I would have answered your letter immediately if Lucy Ann had not been sick but I never like to write to you without making sure all are well—she has not been well for more than two weeks. The doctor said it is want of action in her liver” that ails her, she has not been confined to her bed nor had a fever but complained constantly of pain in her bowels & lost her appetite & spirit but today & yesterday the weather was delightful sunshiney and she is much better, she has been very much confined on account of the dreadful weather that now that she begins to take the first (__) she will soon be well—she is very anxious to be well enough by the 26th to go to Miss Ringgolds little party. I have been obliged to amuse her in every way to keep her from fretting—she never tires of our  (__) about Uncle Hancock’s” I am sure I could not tell how many times both Cealy & myself have called over (__) your name, “Now mama tell me about the dear that Uncle gave me” & (__) to make out a long story about “now tell me about Tom’s (__) with (__) Betsy—now about the (__) that Aunt when she was picking blackberries & of May & of Aunt Molly & believe I have tired you out talking so much of Lucy Ann now Marys turn, she is as good humoured as when you saw her & is far prettier. She has as great a passion for “Tories” as she calls stories as her sister. She is the most mischievous creature that ever was. I have to whip her two or three times a day, but while I am whipping her she is planning more mischief & as soon as I have finished at it she goes. She always has a long story to tell her Papa about her Mama whipping her ”but but Mama” & if she does not understand her she gives him a good slap in the face. Little Jane grows finely. She looks very much like her sisters did at her age, her hair is quite black. She has grown (__) five minutes in the night indeed she is no trouble to carry on. I always dress & undress her & that is all the trouble she gives. Mrs. Findley comes to see her almost every day—I have not been and visiting until Friday last for three months. I was out all this morning with Mrs. Findlay and Mrs. [illegible lines]. Mrs. Williams would be at her house this week so I expect when will commence then with her parties. So the other secretaries wives do. I will have a dress made for you with pleasure if you will only say of what you wish it. I would advice a silk, as you say you do not want it before spring. I dare say I could send it to Fotheringay–but if you go as early as April to KY had it not better be sent there. Black watered silks are very much the fashion now—capes—collars & indeed everything one fancies, is work on the neck & I think I can tell the length for your dress; let me know how (__) your waiste is & I can have it made to fit you if you. If you want anything else let me know. When I heard from home all were well— (__) Taylor is still in the City as big a fool as ever not withstanding the PM General is his father in law—Dr. Johnston has been three weeks in the city & was quite a (illegible lines)                                                                         

Sister AH Jesup



We at Locust Grove think just as fondly of you, our  friends, as the Croghans did of their family, and we look forward to seeing you all when we re-open for 2016 on February 1!

Warmly yours,





Making Your Own Piece of History: The Virginia Floor Cloth and Textile Company

January is a quiet, yet busy month here on Blankenbaker Lane. Locust Grove staff and volunteers are cleaning the house and visitors’ center, performing necessary maintenance, taking store inventory, and planning our calendar of the events for the upcoming year. Stay tuned for our complete 2016 calendar, but I am excited to announce that our first workshop of the year has been scheduled and is taking reservations! Virginia Tucker of the Virginia Floor Cloth and Textiles Company will present a two-day Painted Floor Cloth Workshop on February 6 and 7, from 10-4PM each day. Participants will be trained in the lost art of creating an 18th Century-style painted black and white floor cloth. A 24″ x 30″ floor cloth will be the result of the weekend’s workshop. All supplies will be provided and will be included in the $135 fee. Virginia and her husband Randolph have been involved with Locust Grove for 12 years, so I thought it was high time they were profiled for the blog. Read on to learn more about them and their work!

Virginia Tucker outside her booth at the 2015 Market Fair. 

Virginia Tucker and her husband Randolph own the Virginia Floor Cloth & Textiles Company,  located in Louisville, KY. They are living historians and have a shop that travels to historic events in the Mid West and to the East Coast. Virginia has  been creating handmade floor cloths for over 16 years, and began hand dying and block printing scarves and fabric for the last 8 years. The Tuckers are constantly researching to provide as much authenticity to their product as possible.
How did you get started with historic floor cloths and textiles?
 In 1999 I was invited by a friend Angela Burnley of Burnley and Trowbridge fabrics to come to an event in Goodlettsville, TN called Manskers Station. She said bring the children and I will provide you with clothing to wear. That was all it took for me to become a lover of history and historic items. This is where I saw my first floor cloth.
How would floor cloths have been used? Why are they still practical?
Floor cloths go back as far as 1700. They were used in a variety of ways. Hall ways to entire rooms. We believe that initially they were created from the sail cloth that ships changed after they had been torn and were no longer able to be used as sails. They were then cut to make smaller floor cloths. They became very popular with the middle class as a way to move into a higher standard because they could be made to look like marble, or a wool rug which were very expensive. Now they are popular because they are easy care, hypoallergenic and can be created to a person’s personal specifications.
What training or background do you have?
I have not had formal training. All of my training has been through my love of history and research, which is always ongoing.
What is the most difficult part of your work?
Researching to find accurate information regarding patterns that were used during the 18th century.
What is your favorite part of your work?
Teaching our 3 different workshops. No two classes are alike but they are all fun to do and we meet wonderful people.

Printing blocks used to make floor cloths on display in the Locust Grove Museum Store. 

What are some of the big projects you have undertaken?
 I have done some floor cloths for Locust Grove, including a 12×12 that is a view of Locust Grove that they use for school trips and the door mats in the house.  I have done some for some smaller historic sites as well.
What should workshop participants expect?
In our level 1 floor cloth class students will be provided with some of the history of floor cloths and we will teach the math on how to measure the spaces within a floor cloth, finishing , sealing and care once done. We will also teach different techniques of marbleizing. They will be given 3 different patterns to choose from: 9 diamonds, checkerboard, or medallion with border.
in progress floor cloth

An in-progress floor cloth. Photo courtesy of the Virginia Floor Cloth and Textile Company. 

What do you wish people knew about historic textiles and floor cloths?
 We wish that the general public knew that in the 18th century the colors were as vibrant  as today and that the patterns in the material and the floor cloths were as complex as patterns made today.

Virginia’s floor cloths are on sale in the Locust Grove Museum Store. 

The motto of the Virginia Floor Cloth and Textiles company is a floor cloth in every home whether we make it for them or we teach them how to make one themselves.

Randolph and Virginia Tucker. Photograph courtesy of the Virginia Floor Cloth and Textile Company. 

Make a reservation for the Painted Floor Cloth workshop today and have a floor  cloth for your very own home or the home of a friend! Pre-paid reservations of $135 are required, and the workshop is limited to 25 participants. Please call 502.897.9845 to make a reservation. We’ll happily put down our January brooms to take your call. And mark your calendars now–Locust Grove will reopen for tours and the 2016 season on February 1! We can’t wait to see you.
Paintily yours,