Happy Birthday, Charles and Nicholas!

Birthdays are always exciting, especially when you get to double the celebration! On this day, June 19, in 1802, Charles and Nicholas Croghan were born. The Croghan twins were the sixth and seventh children of William and Lucy Croghan, although we aren’t sure which one of them was born first. While Charles and Nicholas may not have had the significant careers and exploits of their siblings, they still had their own adventures and remarkable lives. Let’s celebrate these two members of our family with a look at their lives!

Nicholas and Charles Croghan on the porch of Locust Grove

Nicholas and Charles Croghan on the porch of Locust Grove


While we don’t know if the Croghan twins were identical or fraternal, we do know that there was a very simple way of telling Nicholas apart from Charles. Around age five, Nicholas had an accident and lost an eye. His older brother, Dr. John Croghan, wrote of the incident in a letter to his cousin John O’Fallon:

“Locust grove, June 27th 1807
Dear John
… the very unfortunate accident which has befallen my Brother Nicholas, … During this last storm which happened previous to my arrival here a tree was blown down not far distant from my Fathers house, on one of the limbs of which he has ascended, and having fallen from there, he struck his Eye on a stick which stood erect from the ground, which penetrated so deeply that it at once demolished both the Retina and Iris of the Eye. We have the sight of his Eye in a wine glass … I shall therefore terminate by stating that Nicholas is deprived of his sight, Uncle George (who is here at present) appears to be very near in the predicament, and indeed the soar Eyes predominate almost throughout the whole neighborhood. Uncle has been here for some time …
John Croghan. ”

As far as childhood mishaps go, Nicholas certainly wins for most dramatic!

From family letters, it seems that Charles and Nicholas were very close. Heather H., Locust Grove volunteer and researcher extraordinaire, noticed that letters to them at school are often addressed to them both, as though they were considered by their family to be a package deal.  You can read a few of those letters here.  Both brothers attended St. Thomas College, near Springfield, Kentucky.

Charles Croghan, William Croghan, Sr., Dr. John Croghan and Nicholas Croghan in the gardens at Locust Grove.

Charles Croghan, William Croghan, Sr., Dr. John Croghan and Nicholas Croghan in the gardens at Locust Grove.

In November 1819, Nicholas wrote an affectionate letter to Maria Preston that shows him as a young man of seventeen, full of plans for the future:

“Sunday November 14th 1819
Great is the pleasure Dear Cousin that I entertain even at the thought of writing to you, you must notice I suppose then how much greater that pleasure when I am only thinking of writing to you, but am actually writing when I have as it were the prize for which I am writing placed before me. What could that prize be, but that of receiving a letter from you . To me the most valuable, Besides when I am writing my heart will beats with joy, caused by the pleasing thought of pleasing you dear and affectionate Cousin, and what could please one Cousin more than that of giving, or the thought of giving another [illegible] The mind of persons are different, and that which is pleasing to one is sometimes distressing to another, I cannot therefore say that it is [illegible] to all, but I can say that to me there are very few things more pleasing […] I always remember with great pleasure the pleasant evening I spent at your Fathers and Uncle Fitzhugh and hope that we will spend many more such the next time I visit Jefferson County […]
I have not as yet found any one of the regular [illegible] in College but I intended joining the juror or next to the last class when I enter it. I had the pleasure of receiving a letter from Brother William on Thursday, but which I found to my great distress that papa had been very unwell but much pleased to hear that since then nearly recovered and I also heard from him that Aunt [illegible] still continued very unwell which indeed gives me much uneasiness.
I have heard a great many lectures during the last two weeks, the most of them on surgery, Natural History, Botany & the best of which I think as delivered Doct. Caldwell on medicine. The most diverting and some think the most [illegible] was delivered by [illegible] a Frenchman on Natural History and Botany.
[…] You must excuse me dear Cousin from writing in so bad a hand for I have written it so fast as I could so that I might have time to get my lessons for tomorrow thinking that I had better do that not to write at all. Brothers desire to be remembered to you.
Remember me to yours & my fathers family and the rest of my friends and relations whom you may have the pleasure of seeing—May happiness forever attend you is the ardent wish of your affectionate Cousin

The college Nicholas mentions is Transylvania University, and it seems he wanted to study medicine, like his older brother John. Nicholas was also one of the first Croghans to visit Mammoth Cave, in May 1825. He left his signature in candlesmoke in Gothic Avenue, a common practice for 19th-century visitors.

It seems that the twins were never in good health. Nicholas was at Green River and Mammoth Cave in May 1825, but by July had returned to Locust Grove, where he died on July 11, 1825. Heather H. managed to locate a copy of his obituary, which reads “At Locust Grove, near Louisville on Monday evening, the 11th instant, in the 23rd year of his age, NICHOLAS CROGHAN Esq. after an illness of seven days […] His gentleness of manners, and urbanity of address, won the admiration and regard of his acquaintances; while the tenderness of his filial and paternal feelings endeared him to the hearts of his family […] To use his dying words–nil conscire sibi nihil limit– and thus his soul escaped to eternity.”

Volunteer John V. has translated “Nil conscire sibi nihil limit” to mean  “To be aware of nothing about himself–himself–without restrictions” or “No regrets.” Understandably, Charles was distraught at the death of his twin, as John wrote in August 1825, “Poor Charles he has lost one who alone seemed to attach to him to life […] his shattered constitution cannot support the recollection of all he has lost. ”

Charles himself was not in good health for the rest of his life. From letters and other family papers, it seems possible he suffered from tuberculosis or another lung ailment. He traveled a great deal for his health, spending time in Florida and New Orleans. The following letter in 1828 to his elder brother William Croghan Jr. details his health issues:

“Locust grove September 21st [1828]
Dear Brother,
About two weeks ago, I returned home with my health much improved – since I have not been very well. There is now and has been this summer a great deal of sickness on the place. Since my return there have been 5 or 6 new cases of bilious fevers […]
I am trying to make arrangements to spend the ensuing winter in Florida; if I could get any time next month the money which will be due the first of January, I will have it in my power to go. To go there I disposed of my property in Indiana – got for it enough to answer me – 800 dollars, all of which was borrowed by the Genļ and Mr. Hancock […] On yesterday I had a slight agu[e], and, have now a fever, which I expect will leave me soon as it is not high […] If you come down this fall, can’t you bring Mary with you: We are all very anxious to see her. Remember me to Mrs. O’Hara, to Mr. and Mrs. Den, and believe me to be your affectionate brother

His brother John took special interest regarding his health, writing in 1831 “Charles’s health is, I think, gradually improving. Dr. Physick says “there is nothing objectionable to his going to Europe”, but Charles is determined not to risque a sea voyage without the Doctor recommends it as being essential to his recovery.” In 1832, the brothers traveled together to Europe as Charles’ health worsened, and John devoted himself to his brother’s care during this period. It was John who delivered the news of Charles’ death in Paris on October 21, 1832  at age 28 to his family through General Thomas Jesup:

“27th October 1832
Paris, France
…my painful duty to announce to you the death of our beloved Charles. He died on the night of the 21st and was interred in the cemetery of Pere La Chaise on the 23d. …attentions both medical and otherwise were shown him while living and his corpse was followed to the grave by nearly all of the Americans of this city. The most distinguished medical gentlemen attended him while here and they declare that his case has for a long time been utterly incurable. He died apparently without the slightest pain and in the perfect possession of his facilities. …Anxious as I am to return to the U. States… [not] until April. The delicate state of my health arising from the [illegible] duties which I have had so long to perform, requires that I should visit a temperate climate. I shall in obedience to the advice of medical gentlemen spend the ensuing winter in the south of France or Italy. Neither the affairs of poor Charles nor the interest of my family render it necessary to return before Spring. …
[John Croghan].”

As the letter notes, Charles was buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, and his remains are still interred there.

Dr. John Croghan, Edmund Croghan, Nicholas Croghan, and Charles Croghan in the farm office at Locust Grove.

Dr. John Croghan, Edmund Croghan, Nicholas Croghan, and Charles Croghan in the farm office at Locust Grove.

Compared to some members of the Croghan family, we don’t know much about Charles and Nicholas. Although we can read their letters, there are no extant portraits of either twin. It’s important, however, to mark the occasion of their birth as their family might have, as they were young men with dreams and ambitions who traveled widely and contributed to their family and society despite any issues of health. So Happy Birthday, Charles and Nicholas! We raise a glass to you!

With warm regards,



Twenty-Five Years of Encampment at Locust Grove

Are you ready for THUNDER? 18th century Thunder, that is! Our Spring Encampment is this weekend, April 22-23, and this year, we’re celebrating the event’s 25th anniversary! Join in the fun by visiting with the troops, practicing your drill skills, learning new recipes from the women in the hearth kitchen, and more!

Because it’s such a special celebration, I got in touch with Samantha H., a 24-year veteran of Encampment. Samantha has been a member of the Illinois Regiment of Virginia since 1990 and has only missed one year of Encampment–the very first. After participating in Encampment for the first time, Samantha was so excited about her experience that she journaled about it! She is a member of Kellar’s Company, along with her husband Kevin. Samantha first became interested in reenacting around 1990, when she went to an event at Governor Bebb Park in Ohio. There, she met a woman named Jane in red stays and striped stockings. Samantha remembers, “I talked to her for a couple hours about her clothing. Now she’s one of my closest friends.” Samantha is especially interested in historic clothing and her conversation with Jane is one of the things that drew her into reenacting.

samantha h market fair

Samantha and her family at Locust Grove 


Jane is also a participant in Encampment and is looking forward to returning this year. She has been a reenactor since she was seven years old and joined Kellar’s while she was in college. Every year, she most looks forward to seeing old friends and talking to the public. Jane remarks, “My favorite part is just being at LG. The site is so lovely in the spring and in the fall. ” Just as Jane grew up with reenacting, she has also passed it on to her children. When asked about a favorite memory, Jane exclaims, “There are too many to share! I feel like my daughter grew up at LG. The number of times I’ve laughed and cried with old friends and just met friends is so precious to me. It’s like home.”

jane rebecca 2003

Jane and her daughter Rebecca at Encampment in 2003. Image courtesy of Samantha H. 


encampment kitchen laugh

Jane and her daughter Rebecca at Encampment in 2016!


Samantha is also looking forward to seeing familiar faces. “You go out to events because you want to see your friends–it’s like going to a pool party.” History is also of the utmost importance to her.  She states firmly, “We need to do things to keep the history alive for ourselves and entice new people.” Samantha recalls one of her earliest Encampment memories to illustrate the importance of bringing history to life. “There was a group of us sitting by an outdoor fire. Tourists would walk up and then walk away. So I said ‘We’re not doing anything. We should do a first person scenario.’ My friend Sharon and I had done research on camp followers and we knew that material things were precious. So we worked out a scenario. I stole her apron and we got into a huge fight. Our husbands didn’t know anything about it, they thought we were really mad at each other. My husband even said to me, ‘I thought you two liked each other!’ I still remember they separated us but they didn’t know what to say to us because they were out of their depth. If it had been the soldiers, they would have been read the riot act. We were disciplined by the commanding officer because as camp followers, we were part of the army. [Sharon and I] were showing the culture of camp.”


jane samantha april 2003

Jane, Samantha, and friend April in the kitchen in 2003. Image courtesy of Samantha H. 


According to Samantha, camp life was pretty boring. “It’s the hard work of cooking or mending or sitting around waiting. We want to engage the audience. Having scenes and activities engages the crowd and makes history come alive and makes history memorable and meaningful.”  Samantha always wants people to feel welcome to join in the story: “Anyone can do this! Ask us!” Folks interested in trying reenacting on for size can try it out for one weekend for free, using tents, clothing, and other supplies borrowed from seasoned participants. Samantha also notes that there are lots of different reenacting groups so everyone can find one that fits their interests. If you’re just stopping by Encampment to spend a day in the 18th century, there’s something for you too. Samantha loves engaging visitors in activities and conversation–look out for the opportunity for children to become new recruits! And on one point, Samantha is emphatic–there’s no such thing as too much excitement for history. She remarks,”We are genuinely excited when someone is excited!” Encampment is absolutely the place to be part of the story of the American Revolution–just maybe don’t steal anyone’s apron.


past encampment drill children

Image courtesy of Lance G.


Encampment–18th Century Thunder will be held on April 22 and April 23, from 10am to 4:30pm daily. Admission is $6 for adults and free for children twelves and under. We can’t wait to see you!

With gratitude for friendship,


Images provided by Hannah Zimmerman, Lance G., and Samantha H.

Seeds of Knowledge with Sarah the Gardener

We’re ready for spring at Locust Grove, but it’s been a very productive winter! Our gardener Sarah conducts a great deal of research, and today, she’s sharing some insights from her favorite garden journal with us! Tell us more about sainfoin seeds, Sarah!


Sarah hard at work!


During those long, grey winter months, a gardener has more time to catch up on her reading, and what better to read than old garden journals! One of my favorites, which I return to again and again, are the journals of Joseph Hornsby. Mr. Hornsby, formerly of Williamsburg, VA, moved to Shelby County with his nearly-grown children and began his journal in Feb. 1798. Not just a simple listing of what seed varieties were planted where, he also used these pages to discuss health, social calls, family, weather, land disputes, and other affairs of his farm life.

Mr. Hornsby arrived in Shelby with sacks (literally) of seeds from friends in Williamsburg and abroad, and had a curious nature in regard to plants. One of the things I noticed early on was his mention (Oct. 22, 1798) of planting sainfoin seeds. My research reveals that this plant was introduced to the U.S. in 1786, but not much was done with it until the 1900’s, yet here was Mr. Hornsby, giving it a try! What is sainfoin and why would Mr. Hornby have had interest? It is a plant in the legume family which is grown much like alfalfa, yet it is more nutritious and non-bloating, making it an ideal forage plant for livestock, especially sheep. Mr. Hornsby never says how his experiment turned out, but I’m impressed with how forward–thinking he was!

His non-gardening entries were interesting, too. Suffering from headaches, he allowed himself to be “electrified” to seek relief. No such luck, though! His daughter Peggy experienced a mysterious, lengthy illness, for which the doctor bled her freely. He then posted ‘Doctor Moore went home early this morning & I think my daughter Peggy out of danger.’ ” Does he mean Peggy was cured, or that she’s safe now that Dr. Moore has gone? They spent a great deal of time visiting between neighboring farms, and a visit could last days, involving fox hunting and sending somebody out to barter corn for alcohol!

fall grounds

Mr. Hornsby was a slave holder, and I find his interaction with his enslaved population interesting. He elected to use the term “My People”, which initially confused me when I read that “The People” were in the corn crib! It’s not easy to find terms slave-owners used for their enslaved population, but it appears that variations on unpleasant terms, “servants”, “field hands”, and just plain “slaves” were more common terms. He was an odd mix of concern and indifference. He carefully noted which slaves were sick each day and seemed to have no problem sending for a doctor when needed, but he also had them working outside in foul weather, with inevitable results. On February 8th, 1803, he sent John to Doctor Knight to pick up pills for Alice. But on December 3rd of that year he dryly noted …”Clear and Cold, Mr. R. Merriweather set off after breakfast. Sally brought to Bed, Child Dead, John making shoes.” He had the same emotion earlier that year when he noted “One cow called young Nubb calved last night, the Calf dead.” Also, there seemed to be little division of labor, on gender lines, on Hornsby’s land when it came to outside work. His most constant gardener was a young woman named Dicey, who appears to be a “Jack of all trades” and quite capable of hoeing, grubbing stumps, making maple syrup, and helping in the kitchen when needed.

1840s hemp
What I would most like to find, however, is a connection between the Croghans and Mr. Hornsby. Shelbyville before modern travel is not exactly next door, but he made trips to Louisville and mentions, in March 1798, getting walnut trees from a friend in town. These plants, as well as English raspberries, English walnuts, English honeysuckle and weeping willow, came from a Mr. Moore, and Hornsby notes the garden was “formerly Mr. Lacasong’s (sic) Garden in his lifetime”. Is this somebody one of the Croghans knew? Mr. Croghan and Mr. Hornsby appear to be of roughly the same income and social standing, and had similarly-sized estates and enslaved populations. If I could just find a connection, I could argue that perhaps Locust Grove had the same plants and taste in garden design, perhaps from Hornsby himself!

Want to learn more? The diary is available online through the Library of Congress (just Google Joseph Hornsby’s diary) and there is a transcribed copy in our library as well. I would suggest reading it online, as you’re bound to find interesting and obscure words and terms which will send you on a mission of discovery!


Thanks for sharing, Sarah! We hope to bring you more updates on research related to understanding more about the Croghan family’s daily life and the lives of their neighbors over the next few months. What do you want to know? Ask us your questions–we always love hearing from you and we love sharing what we learn!

ask a curator.jpg

Happy Spring!