We’re Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastide!

In December 1816, inventory records show that William Croghan purchased the following supplies for his household:
½ lb alspice
1 oz Thread
3 Pianno Strings
1 pair shoes
⅛ yds Levanture [Levantine?]
1 yd Riband
24 pains glass
4 pains glass
3 ¾ yds Blue Cloth
2 cuts Thread
2 doz Buttons
2 yds Linen
1 yd Flannel
1 lb Imperial Tea
2 Pitchers

His eldest son, Dr. John Croghan, is listed as ordering the following:
vest shape
1 ½ yds B. Cambric
2 skeins silk
1 doz moulds
paid Mrs Anderson for making vest shape
3 bowls
¼ lb Tea
1 qr. paper
½ yd Blk cambrick
½ qr. paper
2 yds Flannel
1 qr. paper
1 Loaf Sugar 8 Cherry
1 pair worsted
1 “ Lamb’s wool socks
½ quire Letter Paper
½ qr. common writing paper
½ qr. paper

Now, we have absolutely no evidence that any of this was going to be used in a holiday celebration like our own event, Christmastide. We don’t know if those two skeins of silk were a gift from John to one of his young sisters, or if William was planning on surprising Lucy with new glass windows. Three piano strings are certainly a part of regular piano maintenance and upkeep, and letter paper is a necessity when many of your friends and relations live miles away from Louisville.

What surprises do the gentlemen of the family have in store for the ladies?

It certainly is fun to imagine, however, that some of these purchases might turn into Christmas presents for the family’s end-of-year celebrations. In the early 19th century, Christmas looked a little different–Twelfth Night was the major seasonal holiday.  But a little after our interpretive time of 1816, many of the holiday traditions we know and love today came into being, such as “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (also known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”),  first published on December 23, 1823 in the Troy Sentinel in New York State. Gift-giving had long been a part of holiday celebrations, but was generally not reciprocal and involved the master and mistress of a house or family bestowing tokens on their children, servants, slaves, and others without expecting anything in return. However, we at Locust Grove encourage everyone to give gifts–especially those that can be purchased at our Holiday Book Sale and Period Craft Market! If you’re looking for pitchers like the ones William purchased or a pair of lamb’s wool socks, look no further! Here are our participating historic artisans whose wares will be for sale during Christmastide:

In the Visitors’ Center you can also shop in our Museum Store, where everything is 20% off through Sunday, December 4! Children can also learn about the history of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and make Christmas cards and pomander balls!

The ladies of the family will certainly have lots of tips for hosting a holiday party.

The ladies of the family will certainly have lots of tips for hosting a holiday party.

Once you venture out of the Visitors’ Center into the house, you’ll find members of the Croghan family and their friends engaged in all the bustle and activity of preparing for a holiday party. Perhaps you’ll encounter the ladies refreshing their curls while instructing younger members of the family on all the elements of being a good and gracious hostess. Maybe the gentlemen will deal you into a game of speculation or ask you which waistcoat is more appropriate for the occasion. There’s sure to be dancing and singing, as well as  conversations about all the events of the past year. No matter what time you arrive between 12pm and 7pm, you’re sure to find something to strike your historical fancy and draw you into the world of 1816. Christmastide festivities will run on Saturday, December 3, from 12-7pm. Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for children 6-12. Children under 6 will be free. Admission includes entrance to the Period Craft Market and the Holiday Book Sale. The Holiday Book Sale will continue on Sunday, December 4, from 10am-4:30pm with no admission charge.

Such silliness!

A lighthearted moment after last year’s Christmastide

We are so excited to welcome all of you back to Locust Grove this season! It is always a pleasure to have a cup of cheer with our friends and neighbors.

Warmly  yours,

Hannah

 

Those Caving Croghans: Locust Grove visits Mammoth Cave

This is a very momentous year for the National Park Service–it’s the National Park Centennial! To celebrate this occasion, Locust Grove staff and volunteers took a tour of Mammoth Cave, Kentucky’s only National Park and the longest known cave system in the world. Mammoth Cave has a noteworthy connection to Locust Grove–Dr. John Croghan, the eldest son of William and Lucy Croghan, purchased Mammoth Cave in 1839 for $10,000, and retained possession of the cave until his death in January of 1849. The cave is an important part of the Croghan family history and legacy, and it was a treat to learn more about its history. Let’s retrace our steps and hit the highlights of the day!

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We found our park!

Our first stop once we reached the park was a special presentation by Ranger Chuck DeCroix. Ranger Chuck not only reminded us of the National Park Centennial, but told us that Mammoth Cave would be celebrating its 75th Anniversary as a National Park on July 1, 2016! Mammoth Cave receives roughly 4,000-5,000 visitors per day, with an annual visitation of 650,000. Locust Grove’s own Del Marie V. is a Barren County native and a member of Friends of Mammoth Cave, and she and her family have been a part of preserving Mammoth Cave’s legacy since its inception as a National Park. Guided cave tours have been conducted for 200 years!

In the early 19th century, Mammoth Cave was valued for the presence of calcium nitrate, which was essential for the production of saltpeter. An early map of the cave known as the Eye Draught Map, produced in 1809, showed the location of the niter soil so useful to making saltpeter. Original copies of this map were in the collections of Thomas Jefferson and Dr. Benjamin Rush. In addition to being a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Dr. Rush was also a prominent physician of the day, and Dr. John Croghan studied with him from 1809-1812. In fact, it has very recently been discovered that John Croghan first visited Mammoth Cave in 1815 while traveling on the Green River. Mammoth Cave researchers have just found his signature carved into the cave wall, dated February 26, 1815. Previously, the first Croghan family member to visit Mammoth Cave was thought to be Nicholas Croghan, who left a signature in candlesmoke in Gothic Avenue on May 7, 1825, barely a month before he died.

When Dr. John purchased Mammoth Cave on October 8, 1839 for $10,000, he bought the property from Franklin Gorin, an attorney who a year earlier had brought several slaves to the cave. One of these slaves was Stephen Bishop, who, according to Ranger Chuck, was one of the greatest explorers of Mammoth Cave of all time. Bishop and the other Mammoth Cave slaves were also purchased by Dr. John along with the Cave. Stephen Bishop was the first to cross the Bottomless Pit into previously unexplored parts of the cave, and served as a tour guide until his death in 1857. One of Bishop’s most notable contributions was a map of the Cave drawn from memory at Locust Grove during the winter of 1841-1842, which was the most complete map of the cave to date. His former owner Franklin Gorin said of him after his death that “his great talent was a perfect knowledge of man”, and Stephen Bishop’s legacy can still be felt at the Cave today.

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A replica of Stephen Bishop’s map can be found in Dr. John Croghan’s office at Locust Grove.

 

When Dr. John purchased Mammoth Cave in 1839, he had high hopes for the tuberculosis treatment hospital he planned to open. Patients were housed in huts, of which two are still standing deep in the cave. In November of 1839, Dr. John wrote to his brother-in-law, General Thomas Jesup, of his plans for the cave, noting that “Owing to the uniformity of temperature throughout the year […] the dryness of the atmosphere and the continual purification thereof by the constant formation of salt Petre, I have no doubt there is no where to be found a spot so desirable for persons laboring under pulmonary affections […]” Unfortunately, the ten month experiment from the fall of 1842 into 1843 was a dismal failure, as none of his 15 patients improved and several died while undergoing treatment in the Cave. Nevertheless, the Croghan stamp is all over the Cave. There is a section called Croghan Hall and another called Clark’s Avenue, named for Dr. John and George Rogers Clark, respectively. Dr. John’s nieces and nephews inherited the cave along with his other property after his death from tuberculosis in 1849, and Serena’s Arbor bears the name of his niece, Serena Croghan, while Jesup’s Domes are individually named Lucy Ann and Julia for the daughters of his sister, Ann Croghan Jesup. 

During our cave tour, we were able to see two places of especial interest to fans of Locust Grove. One of our first stops was Gothic Avenue, where scores of visitors wrote their names in candlesmoke to mark their visit. One of these signatures was that of Nicholas Croghan, who visited in 1825. We  visited on June 18, and the next day, June 19, was the 214th birthday of Nicholas and his twin brother Charles. So naturall, we sang Happy Birthday to them in front of Nicholas’s signature!

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Happy Birthday, Nicholas!

We also had the chance to visit the two remaining tuberculosis huts left over from Dr. John’s experimental hospital. This was a rather grim experience, as Ranger Chuck explained that visitors to the cave while patients were in residence described them as skeletons. I tried to take a picture of the huts, but the low light in the cave meant that my picture didn’t turn out so well. (You can see better images here and here.)

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Actual photo taken by Hannah inside Mammoth Cave. Beautiful, right?

We denizens of Locust Grove spent almost two hours in Mammoth Cave, strolling down Gothic Avenue, admiring the various geological formations, and learning so much about the Cave that I’m sure I’ve forgotten something! It was incredible to think that the same Historic Entrance we used to enter and exit the Cave was used by Dr. John, Nicholas, Stephen Bishop, and thousands upon thousands of other visitors.

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Heading down into the Cave by way of the Historic Entrance.

It was also just fun to spend the day together! We hope you’ll be able to join us for one of our day trips in the future!

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We’re about to head down into the Cave! Can you spot George Rogers Clark in this photo?

All of us at Locust Grove are especially excited because it’s almost time for our favorite holiday–Independence Day! As is our tradition, admission to Locust Grove will be FREE on July 4 from 10-4:30pm, and will feature readings of the Declaration of Independence, period demonstrations, concessions by Sweet and Savory, and lots of 1816 celebratory flair! Come celebrate American Independence in 2016 by traveling back to 1816!

Yours in historical spelunking,

Hannah

P.S. To receive updates on all the goings-on at Locust Grove, why not join our e-mailing list? Sign-up HERE to receive monthly updates! Or if you foresee numerous visits to Locust Grove in your future, why not become a member? Friends of Locust Grove receive free admission, invitations to members-only events, a 10% discount in the Museum Store, a copy of our quarterly newsletter, The Grove Gazette and much, much more! More information can be found HERE.

You can also follow Locust Grove on the web by subscribing to the blog on the right, and following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. (We’re everywhere!)

Sources:

This blog post is indebted to a presentation at Mammoth Cave to Locust Grove staff and volunteers by Ranger Chuck DeCroix on June 18, 2016.

Ashley Bowen-Murphy, “The Nation’s First Tuberculosis Hospital Was Built Inside a Cave.” Atlas Obscura, June 7, 2016. http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-nations-first-tuberculosis-hospital-was-built-inside-a-cave

Stacy Conradt, “John Croghan, the Man Who Built a TB Ward in a Cave.” Mental Floss, April 17, 2015. http://mentalfloss.com/article/62631/john-croghan-man-who-built-tb-ward-cave.

Edward Forrest Frank, “Tuberculosis Hospital Remains in Mammoth Cave.” Black Guides of Mammoth Cave, October 22, 2013. https://blackguidesofmammothcave.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/tuberculosis-hospital-remains-in-mammoth-cave/

National Parks Service, “Physician, Heal Thyself.” https://www.nps.gov/maca/learn/historyculture/physicianhealthyself.htm

National Parks Traveler, “Mammoth Cave National Park Harbors More Than A Few Ghost Stories.” October 30, 2009. http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2009/10/mammoth-cave-national-park-harbors-more-few-ghost-stories4820

Gwynne Tuell Potts and Samuel W. Thomas. George Rogers Clark and Locust Grove. Louisville: Historic Locust Grove, Inc, 2006. 

 

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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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,
Hannah