Yuletide Greetings from all of us!

A Merry Christmas to you from everyone at Locust Grove! We have had such a wonderful time celebrating the season with you, and sharing the story of Locust Grove throughout all of 2015! Thank you for being part of continuing to preserve all that makes the site so special.

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For a bit of Christmas reading, here is a letter from Dr. John Croghan to his brother-in-law, General Thomas Jesup, from Christmas 1844.
“Locust grove Decr 25, 1844

My dear Genl

Your letter of the 13th caused me the most painful solicitude.  You remarked that “if there be not a favorable change I will write tomorrow.”  I am greatly relieved by your not writing as it satisfies me that, my dear Sister, and William are better. God grant that all of you may be well ere this reaches you. If I could act as my feelings dictate I would be with you, now and remain until Spring but my health, as well as other considerations renders it impossible. George gives me inexpressible grief and concern.  He has for two months acted in the most exemplary manner, but, it was apparent that something rendered him unhappy.  He told me a few days since the cause of his anxiety and indeed, I have just received letters confirming his statements.  He has at different times & places in his fits of intemperance, involved himself and drawn for double pay.  This has been officially made known, and he is miserable in consequence of not being able, as yet, to raise the necessary sum to pay these accounts.  A gentleman in Louisville offered to loan him on the best terms a sum sufficient to pay all his debts, and upon going to Louisville to receive this sum, he was informed by the gentleman who offered the loan, “that very unexpectedly & much to his chagrin, the money he intended for the Col: had been loaned the day previous.”  At the instance of the gentleman, the Col: left here Thursday for Lexington to negotiate a loan.  He expected to return Sunday; and as he has not as yet arrived, I apprehend he will not succeed.  He seems more thoughtful & more penitent that I have ever known him to be, and says, “if he can but once get free from the shameful embarrassment which his vile debaucheries have occasioned, that he will soon be what he ought long to have been.” I sincerely pray it may be so, but his past promises make me doubt it. Confidentially speaking I got a letter from William, enclosing one from Mr Wilkins, in which he (Mr W) expresses the great pain it gave him to state the Col: had drawn double pay for the months of Jan: Feb: March & April.  William writes that “to save the Col: he would pay one half if I would pay the other half.”  I wrote to him that I would and to inform Mr Wilkins immediately that he might consider the debt as paid. After all I have paid the Col. I had determined never to pay another cent for him, but here is a case involving the reputation of ones family and I, therefore, cannot hesitate about making an effort to save him. The Col. not being here, and receiving those letters during his absence renders me truly unhappy. This is Christmass (sic) merry Christmass (sic) – to me it has been a day of gloom and melancholy forebodings. Give my love to Ann and to my nieces and nephews and sincerely hoping that all of you are well, I remain dear Genl.

Sincerely yours,

John Croghan”

Ah yes, “gloom and melancholy forebodings”–just what the Christmas season is all about! Perhaps Dr. John had been reading A Christmas Carol, published by Charles Dickens just the year before and had decided to see what Scrooge felt at the beginning of the tale. One can only hope that he woke up from a long winter’s nap in much better spirits.

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Although it isn’t set at Christmas, the following letter, from George Hancock, husband of Eliza Croghan, to Thomas Jesup, expresses a little more of the sentiments of this time of year.

“Fotheringay, May 14th 1820

My Dear Genl.

I scarcely know how to account for our not having heard from each other since I had the pleasure of seeing you. My excuse must be my having been almost constantly engaged while at Louisville in a controversy with out old acquaintances Davis & Floyd. Davis has been informed that I threatened to horsewhip him, he wrote in a very insulting note with the including of drawing a challenge.  Never having made the the trust he had heard I had, I wrote him that his informant has been guilty of a malicious falsehood, that I (__) him as having such beneath the notice of a gentlemen, and should not notice him as such. A few days after Col. Floyd handed me a challenge from him–I informed Col. Floyd that I did not know his friend as a gentleman but would hold myself responsible to him (Col. Floyd) for, so doing, and be considered the offence sufficient, I was ready to meet him (__) did not think it cause of quarrel between us, & there it rested.

This you will say is a poor excuse for not writing, I admit it. But pray My Dear Genl what plea can you bring forward to us like your silence? Has the bustle and gaiety of the metropolis thrown a shade on the recollection of your former friends? I can answer for you that is has not, (__) your excuse whatever it may be, I know will be satisfactory. (__) as I am from society, I hear little of the world abroad, and my communications can afford little to interest you. So that the only pleasure you can expect from our correspondence, must be that which is the result of a consciousness of conferring an obligation.

I have  few days since from our friends at Locust Grove, they were well. By the by Genl. when do you visit Ky again. Having been made once your confidant I must insist to knowing whether you intend (__) the sign in the West, and like a true soldier, not discouraged by a first (__) make another desperate effort to pressure the fortress: Believe me woman may be compared to a fortress, the modesty, to its defenders. When summoned to (__) (__) some time feel confident that if attacked surrender is inevitable.

I say more however I must insist on knowing your feelings on that, are you mad? (__) will your answer, for as my Uncle Toby says “ there is reasons in all things”.

I have just heard of the recent changes in spain. What effect think you, will it have on our negotiations? Will the U.S. before they come to an ultimate understanding, wait until the present storm in Europe, may have subsided in a calm? (__) having been your study and delight, should a war ensue you would of course awaken from that business which exceeds a soldier’s life in time of peace, and participated in (__). But should a continued peace be our (__) Pray what role will be your employment? When I saw you I think you had determined to retire from public life, and in the society of a few friends find that enjoyment which pomp & luxury can never procure.

I agree with you that happiness is to be found only in the bosom of an affectionate family, and in the society of all friends. Happiness is the child of friendships; and I fear it is too often the case that she is not found by those who seek her in ambition, and that is the intrigues of courts and among the jealousies of the great, she never focuses her abode–

As soon as your leisure will permit, I shall be happy to hear from you in the mean time accept my highest (__) of (__) and believe me

Sincerely your Obt Servt

Geo Hancock”

May all of you find happiness in “the bosom of an affectionate family, and in the society of all friends” this year! We so look forward to seeing you in 2016!

 

Joyfully yours,

Hannah

P.S. Locust Grove will be closed from January 1-January 31 for housekeeping and maintenance. We will be answering our phones, mail, email, and keeping up with all of you all over social media! Please check in with us, and we hope to see you when we re-open for the 2016 season on February 1!

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A Good Man Needs a Good Coat: Dressing Thomas Jesup

Weddings are always exciting, especially historical ones, and we at Locust Grove are deep in the throes of preparations for the reenactment of Ann Croghan and Thomas Jesup’s wedding on July 18! When we last checked in with the wedding, we admired Hannah Stoppel’s magnificent craftsmanship of Ann’s wedding dress, and now, it’s the gentlemen’s turn! Our Program Manager Brian Cushing, and our Thomas Jesup Brandon Vigliarolo are hard at work on the 1822 uniform coat that will serve as Jesup’s wedding attire. This is a very special project, so I’ll turn it over to them to tell you all about it!

First of all, let me introduce you to these two gentlemen. Brian is a Louisville native, a historic clothing aficionado, the chief of our Costumed Interpreter corps, and our current Program Manager. Brandon is a native of Michigan, a graduate of Michigan State University, a four-year veteran of the United States Army as an MP, Hannah Stoppel’s real-life boyfriend, a copywriter, and Locust Grove’s 1816 Dr. John Croghan. Brian and Brandon also take on other historical roles–recently they portrayed William Henry Harrison and Henry Clay, respectively.

Tippecanoe and Brandon too.

Tippecanoe and Brandon too.

Now, on to the important things: how did this wedding reenactment come about? Why choose Ann and Jesup over another couple? 

Brian: The way I remember it, the idea to have a Summer “come one, come all” living history soiree on the grounds occurred at about the same time when we had to call off the historical ball in 2014 due to the threat of bad weather (basically- why aren’t we doing a version of this when we can’t get snowed out!!??). Then we started playing with the idea of incorporating an interpretation of an event that happened at Locust Grove that wouldn’t ordinarily fit into any of our interpretations to provide an interactive, educational, Locust Grove centered theme for the day.  When it became apparent that the first year for the event would also act as a stand in for the Jane Austen Festival while it is on hiatus, the 1822 wedding made the most sense as a complement to that idea. As far as why that one and not any other- one is that it happened at Locust Grove, whereas William and Lucy were married elsewhere.  Ann and Jesup’s wedding just seems to be a favorite in the current “Locust Grove consciousness.”

Who was Thomas Jesup? Why is he significant?

Brian: SO much more to tell [about him] than I am recalling at the moment. He was a veteran of the War of 1812 and by 1822, Quartermaster General of the US Army. After William Croghan, Sr. died (not long after the wedding) Jesup wound up in a very prominent role as one of the heads of the family. His advice was constantly sought by pretty much everyone and he was one of the ones repeatedly bailing George Croghan out of trouble.

The pattern pieces for the coat Brandon will wear as Jesup.

The pattern pieces for the coat Brandon will wear as Jesup.

Brandon, how did you get the honor of being Jesup?

Brandon: When the event was first announced it was pretty much an immediate decision to cast Hannah as Ann — I don’t even know if they considered anyone else, which I think speaks volumes to her abilities as an actress, interpreter, and costumer.

I (albeit jokingly) was not too sure I was happy with the idea of someone else playing Hannah’s pretend husband, and did a fair deal of pouting when I was told that we definitely needed a John Croghan, and that they were looking for a Jesup. Due to other obligations, we were left without a Jesup, so I was asked to step in!I’m still not sure if it was because they trust me to play a good Jesup or because they wanted to put a stop to the pouting.

Brian:  I would like to point out that I think it is fitting that our one US Army veteran currently with the interpreter corps gets to wear this insane uniform.

A proper coat requires a proper fit.

A proper coat requires a proper fit.

What can people expect the day of the wedding? 

Brian: The wedding will be the unifying theme to what we want to be a laid back, enjoyable time for living history people of any period/caliber or just the curious to spend a day enjoying the beauty and history at Locust Grove and remembering why we love it so much and why it is important to work so hard to make it the best it can be. Wedding “preparation” will happen throughout the day as well as a performance of Jane Austen’s juvenilia by an actress from KY Shakespeare (for those who need their July Austen fix!), food for sale, an evening ball, and a special visit from HMS Acasta– commemorating the bicentennial of their last trip home.

What’s the deal with this coat? Why is it significant?

Brian: We have gone to a great deal of effort over the past couple years to be sure our first person interpreters appear as authentically as possible to the way people did at the time they portray. So when we took on the 1822 wedding, we knew we had to be all in. Hannah Stoppel set the bar high with her research and construction of an 1822 wedding gown for Ann. Carol made the final call that Jesup should be dressed correctly in uniform rather than a civilian alternative since the military was so much a part of this family and that Locust Grove would support the effort. The uniform regulations had just changed in 1821. The problem was, resources for such things tend to center around wars and since we were between major wars in 1821, this thing took quite a bit more detective work than had we been doing a scenario occurring during the Revolution or War of 1812.

What research went into making the coat?  How is it being constructed?

Brian:  A lot of interesting people have assisted our search for information and resources and the team we have working on this thing is beyond amazing with their skill and commitment to making sure this is done as best it can be so that the final product is nothing short of a museum level interpretation. You will never here these guys say, “No one will know the difference;” It’s correct or it’s not. I did the pattern and have handled cutting, fitting, and initial construction of the structure of the coat.Amy Liebert, Hannah Stoppel, Melissa Alexander, and Mia Seitz will detail work, pad stitching, finishing, and all around everything else.

The main fabric is a deep blue wool broadcloth, heavily milled- the edges will for the most part be left raw and will hold that edge without fraying. The buttonholes and blind stitched buttonholes will all be done by hand with silk buttonhole twist, deep blue matching the coating color. Nathanael Logsdon of Taylor Rose Historical Outfitters got the 2 gold epaulettes done for us and Steve Abolt of Allegheny Arsenal was able to provide us with the correct gold stars that are prescribed for the base of the tails. Blue was affirmed as the correct color for uniforms of the United States army- shortages during the War of 1812 had lead to quite a variety being seen. The regulations of 1813 ushered in an elegant simplicity to the army’s uniforms, which was continued in 1821. Contrasting colors and metallic lace was left behind.

The army updated its uniform regulations from the 1813 version in 1821. I have yet to find an extant 1821 staff officer coat or a portrait of anyone definitely wearing one. The regulations still exist, though, and we had advice from Steve Abolt, who has dug further into this than we probably ever will. I am watching the massive amounts of embellishment (that will nevertheless appear subdued) go in by hand right now, and the buttons are on the way (MUCH more difficult to find than we anticipated). So- fingers crossed- we have an incredible team and we are determined.

An in-progress 1821 regulation staff officer's coat!

An in-progress 1821 regulation staff officer’s coat!

Brandon: Honestly I don’t think I have a whole lot to add since the research, construction, planning, and organization of the coat and event was very much a Brian accomplishment. All I get to do is make it look good.

Brandon, you’re a relative newbie to the Locust Grove team. What do you enjoy about it? Brian, why do you stick around? 

Brandon: I love Locust Grove  because of the chance it gives me to have a face-to-face encounter with history. There’s something powerful about a physical space that has existed as home to countless generations of people, and something amazing about being able to be a part of that history. I also enjoy the difference in the depth of the history between Michigan and Louisville — there aren’t too many places as old as Locust Grove in the north!

Brian: I came to Locust Grove in Nov., 1999 as a costumed interpreter. Never thought it would one day actually be part of my job. And it’s not just a job- bringing the past alive is what I spend most of my time trying to figure out how to most effectively do. I’m really honored to be able to put that to work at Locust Grove with the incredible potential it has for it and the relevance it has to the modern museum audience. The Jesup coat presented a unique challenge- we had made the commitment to not compromising on quality when it came to interpreting material culture in the past so we couldn’t stop here.

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Well, gentlemen, after all the work that has been put into this coat and this wedding, we can’t wait to see it in person on July 18! Thank you so much for all your hard work and devotion to this project and to Locust Grove! Wedding guests can find all the details of the day here and you can check in on Hannah and the making of Ann’s wedding finery here. We could not be more delighted about this wedding than if we were Croghans ourselves, so we certainly hope you will join us for this splendid occasion!

With great anticipation, I remain,

Hannah

(All photographs courtesy of Brian Cushing and Brandon Vigliarolo)