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Uncle Will of Wildwood

Uncle Will of Wildwood: Nineteenth-Century Life in the Bluegrass

With an introduction by Thomas D. Clark
Illustrations by Robert James Foose
Copyright Date: 1974
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    Uncle Will of Wildwood
    Book Description:

    Uncle Will of Wildwoodis a warm and humorous memoir of the nineteenth-century Bluegrass that recalls a defining period of Kentucky's past. It was a time of self-sufficient country estates when, as Thomas D. Clark writes in his introduction, "every Bluegrass farm gate was the entryway into a ruggedly independent domain." Wildwood was such a place, ruled by the affable Uncle Will of this classic book.

    Everything at Wildwood revolved around Will Goddard, who was "a cross between a hurricane and an electric fan." Uncle Will -- with his mad dashes into Harrodsburg for mowing-machine parts, his habit of leaving his stallion Black Joe unhitched, his irrepressible spirit, and his uncanny perception of the potential of a horse -- became a family and community legend.

    A celebration of Kentucky before the arrival of the modern age,Uncle Will of Wildwoodfondly remembers life before the automobile, before radio and television, and before growing cities eroded the quiet and grand way of country life. Though Uncle Will's story is nearly two hundred years old, his lessons of self-sufficiency, community, and eccentricity are still pertinent today. In print for the first time since 1974,Uncle Will of Wildwoodcaptures the riotous spirit of one Kentucky man and the flavor of country life.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5846-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xviii)
    Thomas D. Clark

    Atop the periphery of the rolling limestone plateau just south of the Kentucky River, and on the watershed of the Salt in Mercer County is some of the finest farm land in North America. In the spring, lush pastures spread out on all sides, and grazing horses and cattle attest to the fertility of the soil. It was across the upper edge of this rich meadowland that James Harrod led his tiny band of landhunters in May 1774 to scout the territory. They saw it at its best, when both trees and shrubs were in bloom, and cane and grass...

  4. Author’s Note
    (pp. xix-xxii)
    Robert Berry Jewell
    (pp. 1-9)

    My recollection of mother’s great-uncle W. W. Goddard is a cross between a hurricane and an electric fan, a whoosh and a holler in a white linen suit, carrying a long buggy whip—and in one hell of a hurry.

    I remember Uncle Will mostly as he was in the summertimes, given to wearing white suits and dusters and broadbrimmed white felt hats. He was a short, stocky, extremely muscular man, about 5ʹ7ʺ, and he kept himself in top physical trim at all times. He wasalwaysrushing, at a rapid gait on foot, at a gallop in a buckboard,...

    (pp. 10-19)

    To the northeast and southwest of Harrodsburg the land sloped gently to the Kentucky River. The land was very fertile; gradual slopes gave it drainage, and the springs gushing from the understratum of limestone rock made for healthy livestock.

    As a natural consequence of such conditions, there grew up a neighborhood of prosperous farmers and stock breeders who had come to live on the site of what was the Great Meadow. These men were first of all good farmers; some were horsebreeders; some specialized in cattle or sheep or hogs. But they all lived well. Their wives had good driving...

    (pp. 20-31)

    Uncle Will belonged to no church for reasons that seemed convincing to him. There were just too many damn hypocrites in the churches, he said. He did like the Shakers, however; they lived only three miles or so from Wildwood at Pleasant Hill, and Uncle Will sometimes traded shorthorns with them. Brother Ephriam, Brother James Settle, and Dr. Pennybaker were always delighted to see him arriving in a cloud of dust, the tails of his duster flying in the breeze and Black Joe galloping.

    Uncle Will liked the Shakers because they were energetic, thrifty, and good judges of livestock, and...

    (pp. 32-48)

    Uncle Will was born in 1819, the son of John Michael Goddard and Margaret McClary Goddard, whose father, a Methodist preacher, had been chaplain of Congress. A brother-in-law who was always called “Uncle Leuba” had been a rather famous musician and was said to have been music tutor to Louis Phillipe. When Louis Phillipe came to Nelson County, Kentucky, Uncle Leuba came with him and continued to live in the state.

    Uncle Will’s mother and father died when he was still a little boy, so Uncle Will came to live with the Berrys—his sister Evalina, her husband, and children....

    (pp. 49-72)

    Uncle Will was a good farmer, and Wildwood was a good farm. The soil was deep with an underlying stratum of limestone, and Uncle Will saw to it that red clover and bluegrass seed were sowed regularly, and that his pastures were mowed twice a year. He knew that if bluegrass were given the chance, it would eventually crowd out the weeds. Moreover, tobacco grew best on bluegrass sod plowed and turned over. Burley was grown at Wildwood, but because it took so much from the soil, it was never raised more than two years in the same field. Corn,...

    (pp. 73-83)

    Uncle Will had a keen sense of humor, and he was somewhat of a philosopher, I guess. In any case, he had a great capacity for making friends—and what is more important, a greater capacity for holding them. He was a tireless man, forthright, with a loyalty that could not be swerved. He was as good a judge of people as he was of livestock, and his generosity was proverbial. There was a quality of leadership in him, a fearlessness, and a genuine hatred of sham and pretense. He was certainly prejudiced, as men of his temperament often are,...

    (pp. 84-102)

    Weeks before the Harrodsburg Fair, which was held around the first of August, Uncle Will saw to it that all Wildwood was in a ferment of excitement getting ready to participate in a big way. Uncle Will had helped to organize the fair at Harrodsburg in 1870, and since that date, each year he was one of its most enthusiastic promoters and exhibitors.

    In fact the morning after the fair was over, when Uncle Will was making his daily tour of the farm, he was already planning his livestock, crop, and garden entries for the next year’s fair. By the...