Christmas in our hearts: Christmastide at Locust Grove

We had a marvelous time celebrating Christmastide with all of our friends and neighbors this year! Over 400 guests came through our doors to visit with the Croghans, enjoy music and dancing in the Grand Parlor, tour the house and the kitchen, shop in the book sale and the Museum Store, and celebrate the spirit of the season! A grand time was had by all, and here are some stories and pictures to prove it!

On Friday evening, Locust Grove was honored to host Yeoman Warder Robert Brown of the Tower of London. Yeoman Warder Brown regaled guests in the auditorium with ghost stories from the tour before touring the house and greeting the cast. His visit to Louisville was hosted by the Society of the Cincinnati, of which William Croghan was a member. Jamie E. as Owen Gwathmey greeted Yeoman Warder Brown and members of the Society in the dining room, where he showed off “Major Croghan’s portrait and the china with their emblem designed by Pierre L’Enfant. We had fun with the steamboats too, sharing that Captain Shere had gone upriver: Where no man had gone before. Then we let them know the name of his ship was of course: The Enterprise.”


Yeoman Warder Brown with the ladies of the cast.


Out in the kitchen, hearth cook Melissa made drinking chocolate, baked apples, cider, and gingerbread to conjure up historical smells for our guests!


As with most of our interpretation events, Christmastide takes place in the year 1816, and guests are invited to inquire about current events, fashions, traditions, and other topics from that year. Sharron H., as Fanny Fitzhugh, found that even discussing something as mundane  as the weather can be interesting for guests and interpreters alike. Sharron recalls that a group of guests  “came in asking, “What’s this about a year without a summer?” And Ted and I started sharing stories we’d heard about how cold it had been in New England with late frosts and freezing temps well into the summer and how just plain cold it had been that year. We talked about how we had heard that crops across Europe were lost to freezes and floods and how we feared there would be famine if it went on too long. When one of the guests asked if we knew what was causing this, we said we had no idea, but we wondered if the rumors of “end times” could be true. First there was the massive earthquakes in 1811/1812 and the tales of how the Mississippi flowed backwards for a time. Then there was the recent comet that came and just hung in the sky for weeks. Now this weird weather…It all started when the steamboat’s first trip UP the river. Maybe God was trying to tell us we were getting too big for our britches!” 


General Clark and his sister Fanny greet guests.

Our cast of costumed interpreters includes several younger members, all of whom have their own unique perspective on life in 1816. As Laura B. (Barbara Cosby) introduced a group of younger guests to her dolls, one of them inquired if she had ever heard of Barbie! Laura as Barbara was then able to talk with these guests about how she acquired her playthings while they acquainted her with 21st century ideas such as plastic and Target! Laura and Jocelyn H/ (Eloise Bullitt) also played period games such as Game of Goose with guests of all ages, demonstrating that fun can be had in any century!


Several of our guests of all ages joined in the dancing and proved to be quick studies, especially this little guest, who conceded to dance as long as her mom joined her. Hannah S. as Elizabeth Taylor was one of the dancers, and she remarked that “my favorite moment was when we got to dance with that sweet little tiny who danced with her mom. The smile on her face when we all clapped for her at the end was just magical.”

In the parlor, Mia S. as Lucy Croghan received guests to her home and shared some of the trials of raising six sons. Mia recalls that she told many guests to tell her if they found her sons playing cards, and was gratified when a young guest, after coming across the Croghan sons playing Speculation in the Farm Office raced back to the parlor to report the clandestine card-playing.


Mrs. Peggy Taylor and Mrs. Lucy Croghan disapprove of card playing.

Christmastide has always included music, but this year musical accompaniment for dancing was provided by Tammy B. as Mrs. Richard Taylor on the violin, with carols sung by Hannah S. and Sara R., as Elizabeth Taylor and Mary Ann Cosby. We were incredibly fortunate to have them share their talents with us, as mentioned by Brian Cushing: “Our wonderful musical interpreters scrambled when we found out that our long time musicians were no longer available and the vocals by Hannah and Sara and the violin music from Tammy that resulted was not only breathtakingly beautiful and enchanting but one of the most authentic feeling musical interpretations that has ever happened there. A visitor from another historic site remarked to me what a truly authentic salon/parlor experience it was.”

Jason H. (Judge Fortunatus Cosby) also had words of praise for our musicians, declaring that “the highlight for me was our two vocalists singing their duets. They drew so many people into the grand parlor and got so many compliments from the crowd. While Mr. Cosby was as effusive as always, they did TRULY sound angelic.Tammy was so terrific that we kept entreating her to come back up and play. She was much in demand!”

If you don’t believe our eye-and-ear witnesses, here’s a short clip of these talented ladies!

And here is Tammy fiddling to accompany the dancing!

Our mischievous gardener Sarah hung mistletoe from the banister, and many couples were caught underneath, turning Christmastide into “Kissmastide”!

Christmastide is structured as a family party, when the Croghans, and their relations, friends and neighbors come together to celebrate the season and the end of another year. We always want our guests to feel just as welcome to take part in this family celebration. Janice S. as Ann Clark Gwathmey remarked that “The house really felt like home and we really felt like one big family. Our greetings to each other were warm and heartfelt. Our conversations to each other and to the guests were genuine and our laughter was contagious!” We hope all you felt this same spirit! Much cheer to all of you in the coming weeks!

Joyfully yours,


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“Good people all, this Christmastide”: Spreading Cheer at Locust Grove

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmastide around Locust Grove! Our staff and volunteers have been sprucing up the store and decking the halls in preparation for Christmastide, our holiday program. Enter the year 1816 for a Croghan family celebration with music, dancing, games, delicious smells in the hearth kitchen, and plenty of holiday cheer. Our marvelous Costumed Interpreters have trained and prepared all year for this weekend, and will populate the house as members of the extended Croghan and Clark families might have two hundred years ago during the holiday season. In 2015 in the Visitors’ Center, we’ll have children’s activities, treats, a small seasonal book sale, and our annual 20% off store sale. Christmastide is one of the only times visitors have the chance to see the house at night, so please stop by for a visit! Let’s peek in on the preparations, shall we?


Greenery is piled up in the auditorium waiting to deck the house in holly and ivy!

At a recent dress rehearsal, costumed interpreters moved throughout the house practicing their dance steps, whist playing, and historical improvisation skills. A few cast members were missing from this rehearsal, but during Christmastide, expect a full complement of Clarks, Croghans and their cousins! I stopped in the dining room to talk to Owen Gwathmey (Jamie E.) and his wife, Ann Clark Gwathmey (Janice S.), George Rogers Clark’s oldest sister. The Gwathmeys have eleven living children, and moved to Kentucky because, as Ann said “the whole family had settled here but us.” Their son Samuel laid out Jeffersonville, Indiana and in 1816, their son John had just sold the hostel The Indian Queen for $20,000! Their children did very well for themselves, and the Gwathmeys are very proud, as they should be.


Ann Clark Gwathmey, Owen Gwathmey, and their granddaughter Eloise Bullit, daughter of Diana “Missy” Gwathmey Bullit. (Photograph courtesy of Heather Hiner of Fox and Rose Photography)

Upstairs, I found Sarah (Mrs. Richard) Taylor, portrayed by Tammy B., fiddling for the dancers. Mrs. Taylor is the mother of Elizabeth Taylor and the mother-in-law to Peggy, who is married to Zachary, that military man who is away serving at Fort Howard in Wisconsin. Both Peggy and Eliza will be joining Mrs. Taylor at Locust Grove for the holiday revels. Tammy auditioned to be a Costumed Interpreter at Locust Grove after she became “bewitched by the fashion” of the period. Tammy, like all of our interpreters has become deeply involved in the history and background of her historical character. Tammy muses that “There is little written about Sarah, as is often the case with women of history. One creates a character based on information and reflections of others, her background, who she married, what they did, and the success of her children. Something happens through the process of improvising in character with one another. Relationships between characters form, as do real relationships among CIs. These relationships really keep me engaged in the process. We struggle together, have great laughs and live in another time together.”


Mrs. Peggy Taylor (Marrie K.), wife of Zachary. (Photograph courtesy of Heather Hiner of Fox and Rose Photography)


The Ladies of Locust Grove, in their Christmastide finery. Back row: Elizabeth Ferguson, Sarah Anderson, Peggy Taylor, Emilia Clarke, Eliza Cosby, Mary Ann Cosby, Elizabeth Taylor. Front row: Barbara Cosby, Sarah Taylor, Fanny Fitzhugh, Lucy Croghan, Eloise Bullitt, Ann Gwathmey. (Photograph courtesy of Heather Hiner of Fox and Rose Photography)

Amy L. is the theatrical director for the Costumed Interpreter program, and also portrays Emilia Clarke, the wife of Nicholas Clarke, who was William Croghan’s nephew. Amy remarks, “I am constantly impressed at the new levels I see our cast members pushing themselves to. Our new recruits this year have taken an amazing amount of initiative to reach and raise the bar, quickly learning the material and translating it into a natural performance. Our alums continue to research, rehearse, and create amazing, authentic garments. I have also noticed more and more of them bringing period skills and other elements of everyday life, such as letter writing, reading and other educational materials, into their performances. I hope everyone realizes how much work these folks put into being able to sit there and look perfectly natural and effortless.” It is indeed amazing to wander through the house and hear the Croghan brothers arguing over who owes who after a game of Speculation, while George Rogers Clark reminisces with his sisters!


The men of the Clark and Croghan families. Back row: Dr. John Croghan and Charles Croghan. Front row: Judge Fortunatus Cosby, General George Rogers Clark, and Owen Gwathmey. (Photograph courtesy of Heather Hiner of Fox and Rose Photography)


Fanny Clark Fitzhugh, Emilia Clarke, and Sarah Taylor will be about the house to greet neighbors and friends. (Photograph courtesy of Heather Hiner of Fox and Rose Photography)

Program Manager Brian Cushing runs the show behind the scenes, but be sure to look for him and tell him what you think of the event! He is filled with excitement and gratitude for the dedication of the volunteer Costumed Interpreters. He borders on gushing as he states, ” I just want to say how amazed I am that we have a team of volunteers with the variety of talents it takes to pull this off, the drive to put the massive amount of work in it takes in out of passion for it, and how proud I am to be able to work with them. We’ve gotten used to seeing these folks doing what they do at Locust Grove but their professionalism, nuanced attention to a broad range of details, and the broad range of skills at work in each everything they do is truly unique. They have earned this moment in the spotlight.”


Brian is a blur of energy behind the scenes with Charles and Dr. John Croghan

Three of our interpreters–Sam L. as William Croghan, Jr., Mia S. as Lucy Croghan, and Brandon V. as Dr. John Croghan–had another moment in the spotlight and appeared on Great Day Live to talk about Christmastide. You can find their fabulous appearance here.

Christmastide will be 5:30-9PM on Friday and 4-9PM on Saturday. Admission to Christmastide is $8 for adults and is free for children 12 and under.  On Friday, guests will have an especially exciting treat–an actual Yeoman Warder from the Tower of London, more commonly known as a Beefeater, will make a special presentation at 6:30PM. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to learn more about the Tower and perhaps even Christmas traditions from across the pond! We just love Christmastide, and we hope to see you this weekend for a cup of cheer!

Merrily yours,



The entire cast!

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Photographs courtesy of Fox and Rose Photography and Hannah Zimmerman.

We’re going to Kentucky, we’re going to the Fair: A Weekend at Locust Grove’s Market Fair

Fall is one of the best times of year to visit Locust Grove, so what better way to see the house and grounds than during the lively festivities of Market Fair! This year’s event was a tremendous success, full of wonderful performances, engaging demonstrations, dozens of vendors of all sorts of foods and goods, and of course, the faces of our friends who came out to the fair! Here are some of the highlights from the weekend.


My favorite part of Market Fair is seeing the site come alive with the stories from the past and the people in the present who interpret those stories. It’s especially fun when Locust Grove plays host to animals! Spinner and Weaver Peggy from Loom Hall borrowed three sheep and brought them with her! I spent a lot of my weekend making friends with Juniper, Llama, and Cotton.



Good morning sheep!


An animated discussion about wool.

Wool at Loom Hall.

Wool at Loom Hall.


Peggy was happy to talk wool, sheep, spinning, and looms to visitors.

Another new addition to Market Fair was an 18th century pony cart! Candy trotted Mattie the pony around the fair, cheering everyone up with the sound of the cart’s bells!


Candy and Mattie pause during artillery demonstrations.


Spot Candy and Mattie in this picture!

Crown Point Bread Company joined us again from New York, and brought along Carver, the resident bread dog. However, Carver was more interested in the wares of His Lordship’s Beef than bread and made every effort to befriend Steve and his team throughout the weekend.


“Come on Steve, just one tiny taste?”


Meat roasts at His Lordship’s Beef


Carver’s human, Yannig, sold delicious rolls, loaves, and cookies, and always had long lines.


The crew of His Lordship’s Beef!

For many people, Market Fair is a kind of family reunion, a time to spend time with friends and fellow reenactors from all over the country. Blacksmith Aubrey Williams came from Terre Haute, Indiana for the weekend, and shared a booth with Jim Carr, from the Hikes Point neighborhood of Louisville. Williams has been coming to Market Fair for about ten years, and enjoys demonstrating his forge to visitors, remarking that “people like you to make things.” Carr works in IT when not in the forge and got hooked on reliving history after visiting Market Fair a few years ago.


Jim and Aubrey are truly talented smiths.

Silas Moore the Rat Catcher brought his apprentice (and grandson) Roscoe to Market Fair this year.

Silas Moore the Rat Catcher brought his apprentice (and grandson) Roscoe to Market Fair this year.

By day, Nathanael Logsdon is the director of Historic Tunnel Mill, and the proprietor of Taylor Rose Historical Outfitters. During Market Fair, he brewed my favorite beverage, coffee, along with tea and chocolate, as Hellringer and Kurtz. (The Kentucky Bourbon Pecan blend was delicious!)



Nathanael was joined by his family and a giant copper coffee pot!

I also met a group of folks with another connection to George Rogers Clark–Barbara Lemmons and Gary, Liz, and Kyra Williams from Evansville, Indiana. Their home historic site is George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in Vincennes, and they enjoy coming down to Louisville to further celebrate the past and George Rogers Clark. As Gary, a graphic designer, said “George Rogers Clark was a very real person”, and learning more about him and other like him is one of the best part of reenacting. Kyra has been a reenactor her whole life–24 years, one month, and three weeks as of Market Fair!–and along with her mom, Liz, counts the shopping and the people as her favorite part of the event. My favorite part? Barbara’s ginger cookies.


Gary, Kyra, Barbara, and Liz are Market Fair veterans!

Joining us once again all the way from Wisconsin were the Amazing Budabi Brother, Nick and Erik. According to Erik, they grew up as Amish gypsies, and were raised as ninjas. Put differently by Nick, they were born into reenacting and trained horses and oxen until they learned to juggle as teenagers to help them get girls. They quickly learned that jokes and fire make for a better show, and audiences seem to agree! What should we expect from the Budabis at next year’s Market Fair? “Elephants.”



Erik often gets called Aladdin. Someone once told Nick he looked like the Hamburglar.




We also had some wonderful musical performances by Jonathan Hagee the balladeer and Jack Salt and the Captain’s Daughter! You can go to our YouTube channel and check out some song snippets from these talented performers.

Market Fair wasn’t always pleasant, however. Some Patriot gentlemen began declaiming anti-British sentiments and reading aloud from Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, and brought out a dummy of the King. Two Loyalist gentlemen overheard, and the next thing anyone knew, the Regulars were on the move, and the Patriots were on the run.


Mr. Paine has some interesting ideas.


However, this Loyalist gentleman didn’t seem to appreciate them.


Searching for those radical gentlemen.

Market Fair wouldn’t be complete without reenacting a few military drills and engagements.








So, for one weekend, this old house rang with the sounds of forges and pony cart bells, cannon fire, sea chanteys, and good friends meeting old friends. What a lovely end to October–we can’t wait until next year! We love knowing what you thought of your historical experiences, so please share your stories and pictures with us, here on the blog in the comments section, or on Facebook. We certainly hope to see you again soon–for Christmastide! Thank you for spending time with us this autumn!

With sincere good wishes,





P.S. Check out even more photos from Market Fair below!

Additional photographs provided by Jeannie Vezeau, Gail Thompson, and Bob Boone.