The Curious Case of Mr. Collins

Here at Locust Grove, we have an extensive research library for the use of our staff, volunteers, and docents, so everyone can continue to learn about the Croghan and Clark families, the history of the city of Louisville and the state of Kentucky, and everything about life in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. We are always growing our knowledge to better serve our visitors and answer questions, whether someone asks what herbs were planted in the kitchen garden to the best way to cure meats in the smokehouse. Our docents, to a man (and woman!) are incredibly skilled and knowledgeable individuals, and our corps of Costumed Interpreters volunteer copious amounts of time and endless resources to bring our family and their friends and neighbors to life.  Because we are always engaged in research, we often discover new and surprising things about Locust Grove.

Heather H., a docent, master photographer, and the queen of historical pastimes, works with our Costumed Interpreters as a plainclothes handler, and conducts a great deal of primary source research to enhance our interpreters’ knowledge of their characters’ lives. Heather has “a great fondness for historic obituaries” and states that she has “been working on locating obits and death notices for everyone that is portrayed by the costumed interpreter cast. I came across Mr. Collins when I was working on the notices for the Croghans.”

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Mr. Collins Who? Surely you must mean Mr. Clark or Mr. Croghan.” Mr. Collins is certainly not a name we hear around Locust Grove unless there’s a meeting of the Louisville Chapter of the Jane Austen Society in session.

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Hugh Thomson, c. 1894

This Mr. Collins, however, had not walked right out of the pages of Pride and Prejudice and onto the porch at Locust Grove. Heather had discovered the obituary below of a Mr. John Collins, who has a curious relationship to Locust Grove.

John Collins obit

Published in the National Advocate (New York, New York) and also ran in the Long Island Star, the Connecticut Courant, the New York Daily Advertiser, and the Democratic Press. 

“At the residence of Maj. William Croghan, Locust Grove, on the 9th of January, mr. JOHN COLLINS, aged 102, a native of New Jersey.

The deceased had lived in the family of Major Croghan for the last 27 years, and has uniformly enjoyed remarkable good health; he affirmed before his death that he never, in the course of his life, been blooded or taken a single potion of physic. What was remarkable in the deceased, was, that he considered everything his own, and would frequently threaten to dispossess merchants in Louisville of their goods unless they kept their accounts uniform and correct, but in other respects was perfectly sane.”

WHOA. This Mr. Collins sounds like quite a character, and he has quickly become a favorite of the denizens of Locust Grove. Other death notices and obituaries only note his age, place of residence, and the date of his death, but we are nonetheless fascinated by his existence. Docent and historian Lynn R. remarks, “It’s just the most perfect story. Heather deserves extra cookies for finding him.” (I agree!)

No research has been discovered to support the idea that Mr. Collins was a blood relative of the Croghans, but it seems that he was a long-time part member of the household. According to Heather, our manuscript collection includes only one mention of a Mr. Collins in a letter written by William Croghan, Sr. in 1796:

“There are no surveys in either offices in Reynolds name, from the Situation of those Warrants & entries you should have got them Cheap from Mr. Reynolds. In my last letter to you I informed you that you omited one of your Warrants No 3580 for 2666 ⅔ are in the power you sent Mr. Collins to convey to me or any person I might direct, this warrant is the principal one, the (__) under being but five Warrants of 100 Acres each. If you intend letting me have it please to send a power to convey it by the bearer Mr. John. Gwathmey whom I expect will shortly return to this Country. I received the 100 acres by Mr. Sheppard for which shall credit your acct. I am dear sir. Your most humble Servt. W. Croghan”

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William! Tell us more about your buddy!

The 1810 census includes three white males over the age of 45 living at Locust Grove. These men are most likely William Croghan, George Rogers Clark, and John Collins. Lynn Renau believes that Mr. Collins may have witnessed some of William Croghan’s legal transactions and did some recording keeping as well, as not all of the family accounts are in William Croghan’s hand. Lynn and Heather’s working theory is that some of these accounts could have been the work of John Collins, who may have been a clerk for the Croghans. We have no records of John Collins’ burial, and there is no record that John Collins’ grave was removed to Cave Hill Cemetery with the rest of the Croghans, so it is likely that he remains here at Locust Grove in the original family cemetery.

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Where are you, Mr. Collins?

Heather notes that “I have no doubt there’s documentation floating around out there to help us fill in his story. It’s just a matter of finding the time to look for them. I do find it interesting that this man lived with the family for years and appears to have been a long time business partner of William Croghan’s, yet he is only mentioned in that one family letter […] I can’t wait to learn more about him when I have the time.”

As soon as we know more about Mr. Collins, we’ll be sure to update you all! Until then, we’re looking for volunteers to profile on this blog! Our volunteers are incredible, and they deserve the spotlight! If you’d like to be profiled, fill out the form located here. Thank you for all that you do!

We also want to hear from everyone who has ever visited Locust Grove, toured the house and grounds, followed us on social media, attended one of our programs and events, or even thought about Locust Grove! You can help us out by taking our quick survey here. Your thoughts really are  important to us as we look to the future of Locust Grove!

And don’t forget–the Spring Used Book Sale is March 4-6! Thousands of books are ready to make new homes on your shelves. We can’t wait to see you!

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With sincere good wishes,

Hannah

 

How to Visit a Historic House (Especially Locust Grove!)

One of the great pleasures of working at a historic house is the opportunity to welcome visitors from all over the world. During our very busy summer, our guests came to Locust Grove from as far away as Australia and as nearby as just across Blankenbaker Lane. We are always overjoyed to see you, whether it’s your first visit or your seventeenth, and we look forward to making you part of our family and showing off our house. If you stay with us long enough, we will tell you everything we know about the Croghans and Clarks, lives of Locust Grove’s enslaved people, Louisville’s growth as  a city, Kentucky’s significance as a state, and the work that has gone into restoring and preserving the house and grounds for you and future generations to enjoy. Many of our visitors are veterans of historic house tours, but some may be unfamiliar with the ways a historic house is different from a more traditional museum, including the students on school field trips who will file through the halls this fall.  When it comes to our house tours, our staff, desk volunteers, and docents who act as our tour guides want to make sure you feel welcome from the moment you walk in the door until the moment you take your leave. It’s especially important to us to give you the best experience we can! I asked our wonderful volunteers and staff members for their suggestions on how to make the most of a visit to a historic house like Locust Grove. Here’s what they had to say.

Rosalind and Lynn, two of the friendly faces who might greet you when you arrive!

Rosalind and Lynn, two of the friendly faces who might greet you when you arrive!

  1. If you are on a schedule, let us know when you arrive. Ask how long the tour will last, and tell us if you need to leave by a certain time. This will allow us to tailor your visit to you, and will also alert your docent to your time constraints so you can enjoy the tour and not be checking your watch. If it looks like you might not be able to go on the tour, we are happy to direct you to our museum gallery, set up a viewing of the film, and provide you with a map of our grounds and outbuildings so you can see everything but the house before you have to hit the road.
Our volunteers, like Tim and Nancy, are always happy to help!

Our volunteers, like Tim and Nancy, are always happy to help!

2.Call ahead if you are bringing a big group or may need special accommodations. Locust Grove is a three-story brick house built in 1792. Some of the rooms are small, and the only way to access the upper floors is climbing a staircase that shows the quirks of its age. If you are concerned about accessing the house, please call us so we can talk you through a visit to Locust Grove and tell you what a visit will entail so you can be informed. Our visitor’s center is fully accessible, and we are happy to provide assistance in any way we can. If you take the tour, but choose to stay on the first floor of the house, we are prepared to offer you photographs of the upper floors and to talk you through the rest of the tour. If you are bringing a group of ten or more, we ask that you call ahead to schedule your visit in advance so we can provide adequate docents to make your visit as pleasant as possible. No one wants to be crammed uncomfortably into one of the smaller rooms straining to hear! At Locust Grove, we endeavor to provide a personal, engaging experience, and we will do everything in our power to make that happen!

This August, Alba celebrated 15 years of working as a weekend manager at Locust Grove! Congratulations, Alba! We are so fortunate to count you as a part of our family!

This August, Alba celebrated 15 years of working as a weekend manager at Locust Grove! Congratulations, Alba! We are so fortunate to count you as a part of our family!

3. Speak up and ask questions! If you have something you’re just itching to ask, please do! Want to know about the purpose of the fancy copper basin in the master bedroom? Confused about why only six places are set in the dining room for a family of ten? Wondering about the significance of preserving the house in the first place? Ask us, ask us! Our most frequently asked question is, “Where is the bathroom?”, and we’re always happy to answer anything you might want to know, from what an enslaved person’s daily life might entail or where you can buy wallpaper like the pattern in the Grand Parlor. Although we hope you’ll return to visit, this might be your only chance to visit Locust Grove, and we’d hate for you to leave with lingering questions, even if they seem mundane to you. Tell your docent if you have a particular interest in something so your tour can be tailored to you. If we don’t know the answer, we’ll look it up! 

Rodger is one of our newest docents. Welcome Rodger!

Rodger is one of our newest docents. Welcome Rodger!

4. This is someone else’s house. One of the biggest differences between a historic house and a more traditional museum is the way we display our collection of items from the past. At Locust Grove, every building, every inch of carpet, wallpaper, and woodwork, and every item displayed in the house, from a thimble in the parlor to the punkah in the dining room is a part of our collection, and should be treated gently and with the utmost respect. You guessed it–this means please don’t touch. The furnishings in the house all date to the time period during which the Croghans were living at Locust Grove, all the woodwork is original, and the carpets and wallpapers have been carefully designed and produced to evoke those of times gone by. If your docent hands you some soap or a ball made from a pig’s bladder, consider it an invitation and by all means, touch! Otherwise, we ask you to keep your hands to yourselves and be aware of the age of your surroundings. For this reason, it’s especially important for you to stay with your tour guide. We welcome you to take photographs of anything you’d like to remember–just please turn off the flash. Thank you!

Bob Boone and Bob Pilkington always bring their sense of fun to work.

Bob B. and Bob P. always bring their sense of fun to work.

5. Keep an open mind. All of our docents have worked very hard to perfect their tours, and each of them have their own personal flair. The one thing each docent has in common is a desire to spark your imagination so you can understand the life lived at Locust Grove before any of us ever stepped over the doorstep. Be prepared to hear something new! Each docent’s tour is different, and even in history, we are constantly learning new things, so information is updated. Your curiosity by coming to visit and asking questions absolutely helps us to learn more about the place we love.

Our volunteers come from all ages and backgrounds, and often have special skills.

Our volunteers come from all ages and backgrounds, and often have special skills. Here, Carol, Kelli, Jocelyn, Heather, and Noah demonstrate an 18th century game.

Irene often interprets the crafts of dyeing, spinning, and weaving for school visits.

Irene often interprets the crafts of dyeing, spinning, and weaving for school visits.

Visitors like you are the reason we preserve and interpret Locust Grove and share the stories of all the people who lived here. We welcome your compliments, your suggestions, your concerns, and of course, your questions. Please stay in touch with us! I like to tell my tour guests that the reasons for using the back door are twofold. One: The front door sticks. Two: The back door was the door commonly used by members of the family and household. After you visit Locust Grove, we consider you part of our family and our story, so we encourage you to take ownership of your visit to Locust Grove. We cannot wait to see you again this fall!

With my sincere good wishes,

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!)

And They Lived Historically Ever After: The Wedding of Ann Croghan and Thomas Jesup

After weeks of preparation and anticipation, Ann Croghan married Thomas  Jesup at Locust Grove on July 18, 2015. Of course, Ann and Thomas were actually married in 1822, but we at Locust Grove were delighted to have the opportunity to reenact the occasion. Normally at Locust Grove, our costumed interpreters spend time in the year 1816, so it was an especial treat to step forward into the future and discuss other events in the lives of the Croghan family. Many wonderful people worked together to make this event possible, despite the heat of the day, so in the spirit of that cooperation, for this post several members of our interpreter corps have shared their perspectives on the event, as they had a front row seat to the fun and frivolity of the proceedings.

The happy couple! Photo courtesy Heather Hiner of Fox and Rose Photography)

The happy couple! Photo courtesy Heather Hiner of Fox and Rose Photography)

From Brian Cushing, Locust Grove’s program manager: I am completely in awe of what the first person interpreter team was able to pull off with the recreation of the 1822 wedding of Ann Heron Croghan to General Thomas Sydney Jesup. Hannah Stoppel (Ann Croghan) and Brandon Vigliarolo (Thomas Jesup) hit the books to get an in-depth understanding of who these people were and what their lives were like leading up to their wedding. Their presentations to the interpreters prior to the event helped us all to achieve a more complete understanding of the history of the world of the Croghans. Melissa Alexander did special research on Mary Carson O’Hara, soon to be the wife of William Croghan, Jr., to additionally flesh out the world of Locust Grove in 1822.

Jesup suffered an injury to his right hand during the War of 1812, so Gwynne Potts reminder Brandon to keep his hand in a glove for the event. (Photo courtesy of Heather Hiner of Fox and Rose Photography)

Jesup suffered an injury to his right hand during the War of 1812, so Gwynne Potts reminder Brandon to keep his hand in a glove for the event. (Photo courtesy of Heather Hiner of Fox and Rose Photography)

Another huge credit for pulling this off on the ground goes to Keith Stevenson, usually our 1842 Dr. John Croghan, who chose to stay in plain clothes for this event and was indispensable in helping me get the organizational side of things and “heavy lifting” done throughout the day. Frank Jarboe, who Market Fair attendees will remember as “Parson John”- the traveling 18th Century minister, helped us out by providing the text for the ceremony.  Kelly Stevenson implemented her expert calligraphy skills to make “Reserved” signs for the ceremony and also decorated the bride and groom’s  table for the reception. Executive Director Carol Ely and Marketing Coordinator Bonny Wise made sure there was a piece of cake in the hands of all of the wedding guests at the reception. Mia Seitz made a special promotional sign for the upcoming 18th Century Market Fair in hopes of luring some of our guests back for another incredible experience. And, of course, the long list of Locust Grove staff, docents, gate/admission volunteers, concession volunteers, and an intrepid few who agreed to be all purpose. It was a real team effort to pull off what was a truly unique, spectacular day.

The ladies gathered in the grand parlor to make final preparations for the ceremony.

The ladies gathered in the grand parlor to make final preparations for the ceremony.

From Amy Liebert (Mrs. Emilia Clarke): As the theatrical director for this program, I was blown away by the dedication, energy, creativity and amazing performances our cast brought to this event.

In addition to the amount of work the cast put into their costumes, there was also an all cast rehearsal last wednesday as well as a rehearsal in the morning for the bride, groom, their attendants, Lucy and William, and the minister. This was in addition to the usual regular rehearsals and workshops where our cast members hone their skills.

This was also the first time out for one of our interpreters, Kendra McCubbin and the last appearance for some time of one of our seasoned alums, Julia Bache, who is going off to college in the fall. Julia usually plays Ann Croghan in 1816; however, for this event she was Mary Ann Bullitt.

Jason Hiner stepped in as William Croghan at the last minute and put on a fantastic performance all day.Albert Roberts, stepped into the role of minister for the ceremony (with very little advanced notice!).

William Croghan escorts his daughter Ann Croghan to the ceremony

William Croghan escorts his daughter Ann Croghan to the ceremony

From Sam Loomis (William Croghan, Jr.): Such a good turn out for the heat! Albert gave a lovely sermon on matrimony and sacred bonds, and included a very robust shout against fornication.

The gentlemen of the family preparing for the ceremony in the farm office.

The gentlemen of the family preparing for the ceremony in the farm office. (Photo courtesy Heather Hiner of Fox and Rose Photography) 

From Jason Hiner (William Croghan): The event last week was magnificent. It was similar to the Fourth of July event but with even more CIs and far more interactions since there was a much broader story for the day. And with lots of other Jane Austen Society members milling around in semi-regency attire, guests couldn’t help but be immersed in living history for the day.

Guest gather for the wedding ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Sami Hagan)

Guest gather for the wedding ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Sami Hagan)

Just as the bride and groom were finalizing their vows, a butterfly fluttered above them back-and-forth and then launched itself into the open air above the audience. Several people gasped and Mrs. Croghan pointed up at it and breathlessly exclaimed, “Look!”

I think the part the guests loved the best may have been the prepping of the bride and the groom. The men retired to the farm office and played cards (imploring the guests not to let Lucy know that the fish were out on the table) and the women gathered in the second floor parlor and actually made real preparations. It was glorious. One of the great things on the second floor was that Mrs. Emilia Clarke had to chase several men out of the room because of the state of undress of several of the ladies (multiple wardrobe malfunctions had to be dealt with). A couple of the men she beckoned to come back and then she doled out a punishment like a good school marm. She assigned them to go to their wives and tell them the things they loved about them. It being a day to celebrate nuptials and all…

Mrs. Lucy Croghan sharing advice to unmarried ladies. (Photo courtesy Heather Hiner of Fox and Rose Photography)

Mrs. Lucy Croghan sharing advice to unmarried ladies. (Photo courtesy Heather Hiner of Fox and Rose Photography)

In researching the wedding, it was discovered that a custom of the time was for the guests to take off their stockings, wad them up in a ball, and throw them at the bride and groom for good luck. I’m not making this up. Those 19th centuries crazies loved their dirty laundry apparently. This revelation plunged the CI core into at least 15 minutes of introspection about the scope for a reenactment of this glorious custom. Alas, there were concerns about the potency of sweat produced by the 100 degree heat and the decision was made for everyone to keep their stockings on. The event was the poorer for it, in my opinion.

Mary O'Hara (Melissa Alexander), Ann Croghan (Hannah Stoppel), Thomas Jesup (Brandon Vigliarolo) and William Croghan, Jr. (Sam Loomis)

Mary O’Hara (Melissa Alexander), Ann Croghan (Hannah Stoppel), Thomas Jesup (Brandon Vigliarolo) and William Croghan, Jr. (Sam Loomis) pose for the official portrait of the wedding party. (Photo courtesy of Heather Hiner, Fox and Rose Photography) 

From Melissa Alexander (Mary O’Hara): I am floored by both the preparations leading up to and their execution for this event.  I had the honor of joining many different facets of the preparation team, since I ended up helping with logistics, stitching, and interpreting.  I had the honor of portraying Mary O’Hara, William Croghan, Jr.’s wife, which I enjoyed very much.  The most fun I had was sitting in the great parlor before the wedding with all of the ladies, especially when Hannah (Ann Croghan) donned her wedding veil.  Oh, the squeals of delight!  I am so proud of our whole team at Locust Grove for pulling this event off and I cannot express how honored I am to have been a part of it!

Ann Croghan (Hannah Stoppel) and her maid of honor, Mary O'Hara Melissa Alexander)

Ann Croghan (Hannah Stoppel) and her maid of honor, Mary O’Hara (Melissa Alexander) (Photo courtesy of Heather Hiner of Fox and Rose Photography) 

From Brandon Vigliarolo (Thomas Jesup): It was a great event. Despite the extreme weather I had a great time, especially during the ceremony. It was a neat experience to stand on the steps and take part in a recreation like ours. It was also great to be able to make the day double special for us since we got engaged too! 

From Hannah Stoppel (Ann Croghan) : My favorite part of the day was getting ready with all the ladies in the great parlor…and getting engaged.

That’s right, folks! Hannah and Brandon became engaged themselves on the morning of the event! Their smiles on the steps are real! Best wishes to you both!

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Best wishes to you, Hannah and Brandon!

The wedding was a truly wonderful day–we certainly hope you enjoyed it, and we look forward to having you as our guests at Locust Grove again soon!

With warmest regards,

Hannah