“Your Affectionate Daughter”: Ann Croghan Jesup Writes Home

One of the delights of working at a historic house is telling the stories of the very real people who came before us. Sometimes, at least for me, it’s rather a challenge to infuse the narrative of the Croghan family’s time at Locust Grove with the personalities of William, Lucy, George Rogers Clark, the children, the slaves, and the many visitors who passed in and out of the home over the years. We believe William likely retained his accent from his native Ireland, and we note that Lucy Croghan  was thought to have “flashy” taste according to her eldest son John. Indeed, the quirks of George Rogers Clark’s personality deserve a blog post all their own! I’ve always loved learning more about the Croghan children, as they were brought up entirely in the new nation their father and uncles helped to create, and were given the challenge of forging their own paths for themselves and for their family name. Ann Croghan Jesup, the eldest daughter, is of especial fascination to me. Letters and family stories indicate that she was an intelligent, spirited woman, and her portrait hangs in the dining room of her childhood home as a testament to her character. Ann married General Thomas Jesup in May 1822, and the couple settled in Washington, D.C., as Jesup was serving as Quartermaster General of the United States Army. Although the couple returned to Kentucky as often as they could throughout their marriage, Ann was separated from her family for months at a time. The letters she writes, especially to her mother, display an abiding affection for her family and Locust Grove, and demonstrate the closeness of the Croghans. Below is a letter from Ann to her mother Lucy Croghan, written 193 years ago today. Doesn’t Ann sound like someone you’d like to befriend?

 

 

 

 

Ann Croghan Jesup to Lucy Croghan

                                                                                       George Town  September 29 1823

My Dear Mamma

       By the last mail I received your letter, I will not pretend to tell you, the happiness it afforded me I could scarecely believe it was from you, and read it over and over again until I knew every word by heart, in truth I had despaired of receiving a letter from you & wrote to Nicholas not to tantalize me with that hope again, I sometimes think I write to you all too often, but tis much a pleasure to me, that I will not willingly give it up although I know there is very little that I can says that will be interesting to you, your not being acquainted with any person here. The same mail that brought your letter also brought one from sister. She had a very fatiguing journey in, Charles was at the Springs. I shall be very much disappointed if he does not return this way. I write to sister very often, at least two letters to her one. And I certainly have not so much leisure as she has. I am always engaged, from sunrise until night, not with my needle, for I sow very little, the very best seamstresses will sow for 25 cents per day. I found I had fallen off so much in my music that I play a great deal to recover it. I shall take one lesson a week which will be quite enough. We give 50 cents a lesson which is sheap (sic) enough. & $6 a month for the Piano. Tell Nicholas we will see which will make the best progress in French. I do not care about learning but the Genl. Was so anxious that I at last consented to get a teacher. I have lately recd a present that I know brother John would beg from me ‘tis an inkstand made of a petrification found at the rock of Gibraltar, that, with a beautiful strand of necklace, was presented to me by a friend of the Genls who has recently returned from Europe—We gave, last week (for the first time) a pretty large tea party, twas for Genl & Mrs. Bloomfield, who were on a visit to their relations the Macombs. The night before ours, Mrs. Calhoun had one, every person was saying, well! Was there every anything so stupid, another, I am no sleepy, can’t keep my eyes open, another Well, Well, Well!! Was there ever such a party—all those remarks alarmed me, for the same persons were to come to ours—and for my life I could not prepare with the same spirit as if I had not heard those remarks, but ours was very different, whether twas because they knew twas the last & thought to make the best of it I can’t say—but I never saw so gay a party,  old & young enjoyed themselves & stayed to a very late hour, all thanked me for the pleasant evening they had spent. Yesterday I dined in company with the new Secretary of Navy Mr. Southard. He looks very like the largest Mr. Southard of Louisville & has about as much sence (sic) he affects too, to be diffident as not to be able to open his mouth in company, but tis because he dose (sic) not know what to talk about the Genl. Has called on him & he is to dine with us in a day or so, most of those great men become very little when you know them. There is Mr. Addington (now the representative of England) he is much inferior in every respect to almost any young gentlemen in Louisville & those young Counts and Barons that are attached to the different Legations are complete laughing stocks for the young ladies, really they laugh at them before their faces—they all are great admirers of the Miss. L’obedours, who repay them by making them as ridiculous of any & I did not like her so much. I should have a (__) laugh at her—she is so anxious for her girls to be the great (__) always contriving to catch beaux for them, fixing their hair, arranging their dress, telling them how to make themselves most agreeable to the beaux &c &c all this she dose before me indeed she is as king & affectionate to me as possible & I like her very much, but she makes herself so rediculious. She is the reverse of Mrs. Macomb who has no wit or deception about her. She a remarkable fine old lady—you must not think My Dear Mama that I ever make remarks of any person, I never do—if brother Wm. Has not started to Pittsburgh could you not come in with him Mr Dear Mama. Lucy Ann continues to grow very fast, she is teathing I think by her biting every thing she can het hold of. She is now sitting on the rug with her foot in her mouth, since I put on the pretty little blue shoes that Genl Macomb bought from New York for her. I can’t keep her feet out of her mouth. Mrs. Wilson, a sister of Mrs. Balch’s has just been here, she is quite a gay widow, directly I finish this I am going to look at the carpeting we had brought from N York. I would rather not get Brussels as our two rooms will take 125 yards –& it is 2 dollars a yard. The ingrane carpeting is very pretty & only half the price. I think we had better get that—David says he is very much mortified that none of his friends have written to home. Why dose not Black Charles send him a few lines? David is a very good boy indeed. But Rose is just as she was at home only lazier, however she is very fond & careful of Lucy Ann. I give my love to my Dear brothers—and pray write to me again My Dear Mama. We are all in very good health. Your Affectionate Daughter

                                                                                           A.H. Jesup

Post Script:

I see your letter is dated on the first, and I only recd it yesterday—if you would direct to the Genl. I should get them much sooner. Always let us hear of Mr. Clay’s health, for I am asked so often.  

——

It would be such fun to visit Ann in Washington, don’t you think? She has quite the social life!

Locust Grove is also quite social in October, with our First Wednesday Lecture, a reading performance of Frankenstein by Kentucky Shakespeare, and of course, the return of Market Fair! Check our calendar of events here for more information, or sign up for our e-mailing list here to receive monthly updates of all things Locust Grove. We certainly hope to see you this autumn! Ann’s portrait is always ready for visitors.

Yours sincerely,

Hannah

 

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.”

103

Yeoman Warder Brown with the ladies of the cast.

img_20151204_190323768.jpg

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

img_20151205_190447281.jpg

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!” 

img_20151201_192802107.jpg

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!

img_20151204_191107984.jpg

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.

49

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,

Hannah

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“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?

12289511_1177206032306967_4134782337443405646_n

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.

12239861_855094894610523_3588027119894089143_n

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.”

12301672_854810181305661_8292494959499882093_n

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

12308757_854838304636182_2139938986762807675_n

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!

12313940_854832324636780_3770293116808339575_n

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)

10525963_663984353721579_7968468922115896876_n

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.”

12342486_1177205718973665_7416123972316160723_n

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,

Hannah

12341127_854883527964993_209388105089213808_n

The entire cast!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photographs courtesy of Fox and Rose Photography and Hannah Zimmerman.