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The Kentucky

The Kentucky

Illustrated by JOHN A. SPELMAN
Copyright Date: 1970
Pages: 464
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  • Book Info
    The Kentucky
    Book Description:

    From its origins in the Cumberland Mountains to its entry into the Ohio, the Kentucky River flows through two areas that have made Kentucky known throughout the world -- the mountains in the eastern part of the state and the Bluegrass in its center. InThe Kentucky, Thomas D. Clark paints a rich panorama of history and life along the river, peopled with the famous and infamous, ordinary folk and legendary characters. It is a canvas distinctly emblematic of the American experience.

    The Kentuckywas first published in 1942 as part of the "Rivers of America" series and has long been out of print. Reissued in this new enlarged edition, it brings back to life a distinguished contribution to Kentuckiana and is itself a historical document. In his new conclusion for this edition, Dr. Clark discusses some of the tremendous changes that have taken place since the book's initial publication.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5942-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-1)
  3. 1 The River
    (pp. 3-19)

    When white men first appeared in the Kentucky country, they crossed and recrossed the Kentucky River or wandered through its maze of headwaters. Perhaps it would be nearer the truth to say that these first scouts of eastern land speculators blundered through the river’s valley. Dr. Thomas Walker, the first Virginian to come land hunting, waded through the rugged Kentucky country and returned home to report a partial failure of his expedition. Christopher Gist, a romantic woodsman, was the next to record a visit through the same region, and before the century came to an end scores of other exploiters...

  4. 2 John Swift’s Silver
    (pp. 20-31)

    Young Jim Rose was sent out to sprout his father’s hillside cornfield up in Wolfe County. Jim cut the stubborn sassafras and scrub oak sprouts, and mashed the horseweeds from stumps and stubs which had been bruised by several generations of reluctant Rose grubbers. Clint, the father before him, had “brushed” that hillside as a lad, and doubtless he had, in the solitude of his work, dreamed of Swift’s rich silver lode which was said to be cached somewhere in near-by Tight Hollow. If a man could only discover the big haul of silver which Old Sailor John had hidden...

  5. 3 Boonesborough, Frontier Outpost
    (pp. 32-53)

    Gathered on the narrow Sycamore Shoals Island in the Watauga River in East Tennessee, the proprietors of the newly formed Transylvania Land Company passed out the last of their gaudy trinkets to their Indian friends. For several weeks the Transylvania proprietors, led by the ingenious Judge Richard Henderson, had dazzled the eyes of the Cherokees with $10,000 worth of fancy baubles. In return for these articles, the whites asked that the Indians trade them the vast stretch of wilderness territory which lay between the Alleghenies and the Ohio, and south of the Kentucky River and north of the Cumberland. One...

  6. 4 Off To ’Orleans
    (pp. 54-69)

    Asuave gentleman presented himself at the Spanish governor’s mansion in New Orleans in June, 1787. He had come down the river aboard a Kentucky River flatboat especially to visit Don Esteban Miro, colonel of the royal armies, political and military governor, and intendant general of the province of Louisiana. It was quite an exciting occasion in the governor’s household to receive so distinguished a personage as a former general officer of the American Patriots’ Army. The two officers bowed and scraped to each other. Each of them, however, was slyly sizing up the other. James Wilkinson, Kentuckian, was a shrewd...

  7. 5 Kentucky Steamboats
    (pp. 72-87)

    Many steamers ran with the Kentucky’s tide. Some of these boats, as proud as the Kentucky itself, puffed haughtily up and down the stream. They had a wide range of destinations. Some of them scrubbed their noses on the cobblestone front in faraway St. Paul. Many more rocked restlessly before the water fronts of Louisville, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans. Lower decks of these boats were crammed with rich cargoes of Bluegrass products. Strolling through the main halls and around the texas decks were Kentucky gentlemen and ladies, and just plain Kentuckians. Some of these were giggling belles accompanied by...

  8. 6 Bluegrass Kentuckian
    (pp. 88-110)

    A traveler in the eighteen-thirties wrote a line that would even yet describe much of Bluegrass Kentucky. As this observant visitor was jostled along in a stagecoach over the rolling hills of the plateau country, which nestles in the giant curved arm of the Kentucky, he was much interested in the land spread out before him. He was favorably impressed with what he called the champaign country. It billowed before him like a huge static green wave of the sea. The rugged land waves were broken only by long lines of trees which followed fence lines out of sight or...

  9. 7 Kentuckian, Mountaineer
    (pp. 111-126)

    When the traveler goes east from Lexington, he passes through Winchester, and then turns right on the highway which some sentimental promoter has called the “Trail of the Lonesome Pine.” Before he has gone far he begins to sense that the road is winding between and over knobs and down into their succeeding valleys. Then the knobs lift up, and far ahead the traveler catches the first sight of the Appalachian Range rolling out before him. This is an exciting land. Its ridges do not reach up into the clouds, except in certain places, nor are there any snow-capped peaks...

  10. 8 “All Hands Up and Circle Left”
    (pp. 127-148)

    When American pioneers fought their way with vigor and courage through the narrow mountain passes which penetrated the long and frowning Appalachian wall, or pushed their way on clumsy “push” boats upstream from the Bluegrass, they brought with them a sense of neighborly co-operation. Neighbor joined neighbor in helping a man to build a cabin, to deaden trees, to shuck his corn, or to marry off his daughters. Women came in to help the wife with her cooking, spinning, weaving, canning, and quilting. Men worked hard all day to help their neighbors with their heavy work, but after all it...

  11. 9 A Land in Which to Dream
    (pp. 149-160)

    In the year 1796 a strange young man of foreign appearance rode along the steep Kentucky River bank. He was carefully picking his way close to where Hickman Creek cuts its bed boldly between towering limestone banks to pour its floodwaters into the larger stream. Jean Jacques DuFour, Swiss immigrant and happy dreamer, was searching for a plot of good land. Back in his native Vevay, Switzerland, he had spent long hours poring over a map of the world. He was especially interested in America. Many times the young man had heard stories of the great democratic nation which had...

  12. 10 Shakers
    (pp. 161-183)

    Angier Marsh, writing from Bourbon County, Kentucky, in 1802, wound up a letter to a friend in the East by saying: “I am on my way to one of the greatest meetings of the kind ever known: it is on a sacramental occasion. Religion has got to such a height here, that people attend from a great distance; on this occasion I doubt not but there will be 10,000 people and perhaps 500 wagons. The people encamp on the ground and continue praising God day and night, for one whole week before they break up.” Perhaps when Marsh rode on...

  13. 11 Hard-Shells
    (pp. 184-194)

    Winding its way around knobs, under steep points and rocky ledges, the three forks of the Kentucky River pass many a scene of human activity, but none so rampant as the Saturday and Sunday meetings of the Hard-Shell Baptist Church. Somewhere, back in its very beginning, the upper Kentucky country became the battle ground of the Hard-Shell faith. These Separatist Baptists followed the traveling congregations over the mountains, and at Gilbert’s Creek, on the Dick’s River after Lewis Craig’s congregation had moved on, they founded the first branch of the church, and from there they moved upstream. It is American...

  14. 12 Funeralizing
    (pp. 195-205)

    Death is a grim thing in the mountains of Kentucky. Man in this isolated corner of America is a great respecter of its fearful powers. He has paid frequent tribute to its ghastly visits to his neighborhood. High above the Kentucky valley there are scores of green knobs crowned with shining whitewashed gravestones. There above the mountain home is the graveyard, so placed that every time the mountainman looks up he sees it and remembers to be sad. The lonely hillman misses a member of his family far more than if he lived in a community where life moved on...

  15. 13 A Kentucky Symbol
    (pp. 206-219)

    Between Brooklyn Bridge and Tyrone, the Kentucky River stretches out into a long gentle sweep of emerald-green water. On either side the steep, heavily wooded bluffs of Woodford and Anderson counties roll down close to each other. Near the middle of this long reach of the river is a sharp break in the steep Woodford County palisades. Grier Creek cuts a bold and sinuous swath through the blue-limestone bluff. It is a boisterous little Bluegrass stream which rises only a short distance back of the great Woodford hill. Where it flows into the Kentucky it has cut a deep bed,...

  16. 14 Graham’s Springs
    (pp. 220-237)

    Alone battered grave marker, stained by the ravages of time, stands on the grounds of the Graham’s Springs Sanatorium in Harrodsburg. For nearly a hundred years this stone has been an object of the most imaginative speculation. It perhaps is more of a marker to the “good old days” of Graham’s Springs than to the human ashes beneath it. Anyway, the story behind this mysterious stone is that of a headstrong southern belle who died on Dr. Graham’s dance floor. It is said that a well-dressed southern couple drove up to the famous Kentucky River resort and registered. There was...

  17. 15 Born to Be a Princess
    (pp. 238-255)

    The night of July 8, 1896, was extremely warm. Kid Ed Rucker, the Louisville boy wonder, fought Kid Ed Levigne at Boss John Whallen’s famous Buckingham vaudeville house. He made a date with Emma Carus the singing lady of the show. Kid Ed was a tender lad and did not know much about women and liquor, but this was the night of his initiation. In the whirl of the bout and the excitement which followed he forgot all about Emma and went off with the swaggering Levigne and his hilarious chorus girls. This was the day when the Gait House...

  18. 16 Dr. Warfield’s Colt Lexington
    (pp. 256-271)

    Often the dignified halls of the Smithsonian Institution ring out with the echoes of the voice of a small boy asking his father what kind of skeleton that is in the big glass case. The placard tells the visitor that it is the exhumed framework of the great thoroughbred racer Lexington, but a small placard could never tell much of this astonishing horse’s history. Lexington was foaled on Dr. Elisha Warfield’s sunny Bluegrass farm, the Meadows, at Lexington, on a branch of the south fork of Elkhorn Creek. His birthplace was one of the choicest of the fine Bluegrass farms...

  19. 17 Lion of White Hall
    (pp. 272-298)

    It was July, 1903. The sun bore down upon the roof of the tall house at White Hall. Long streamers of heat waves danced crazily over the wide meadowlands which spread out before the commodious Bluegrass house. In the yards the chickens were clucking impatiently to one another, and about the windows of the house flies droned lazily. Within the house in the large oval library was a bed, and on it was stretched the huge frame of an aged man. General Cassius Marcellus Clay, “Lion of White Hall,” was both tired and sick. His kidneys had ceased their normal...

  20. 18 Shryock’s Ferry
    (pp. 299-309)

    On the morning of September 18, 1861, two men drove leisurely through Versailles in a buggy. They were headed for Shryock’s Ferry, but if anyone on the streets of the Woodford county seat noticed them, it was to observe that Captain John Hunt Morgan, commanding officer of the Lexington Rifles Company of the State Guard, was going to start his fall fishing a little early. Fishing poles stuck out of the back of the buggy, and Captain Morgan and his companion lolled comfortably on the seat as the horse jogged along at an easy gait. Many times before John Hunt...

  21. 19 Nancy Hanks
    (pp. 310-320)

    There is a sort of provincial consciousness about a Bluegrass community which is fascinating. Its proud moments have made deep impressions upon the memories of the local sons, and because of this fact the man on the street can at times make some astounding blunders. A hundred stories of incongruous occurrences could be told about Lexington alone. Perhaps the most amusing of all of these is the persistent tale of that well-meaning group of women visiting in the town who wished to go to the grave of Nancy Hanks and to place some flowers on it out of admiration and...

  22. 20 The Log Run
    (pp. 321-338)

    Adventurous pioneer huntsmen who visited the upper Kentucky valley were impressed by the huge trees thrusting their towering limbs upward. Here, at last, was truly the land of happy hunting. Trees, magnificent ones, grew everywhere. This was an unspoiled huntsman’s Valhalla. Yarns as tall as the virgin Kentucky poplars were carried back over the mountains. Yarns of deer as fat and sleek as canebrake hogs, of bear, elk, fur-bearing animals, and of fish, so it was said, that actually choked the streams.

    There was that old Virginia colonel whose fancy was overwhelmed by the size and number of Kentucky trees....

  23. 21 Moonshiners
    (pp. 339-351)

    A history of the Kentucky River without an account of moonshining would be like considering the river without the water flowing within its banks. Moonshining has been a major industry up and down the tiny branches which trickle along to pour their floodwaters into the big stream.

    The upriver country is ideally adapted to the making of illegal whisky. A perfect maze of deep ravines, watered by flush spring branches, make it a simple matter to hide away from the prying eyes of revenue officials. Near-by mountain cornfields supply much of the basic grain needed for distilling purposes. Too, from...

  24. 22 Politics, Kentucky Style
    (pp. 352-374)

    Judge James H.Mulligan published his famous poem, “In Kentucky,”¹ in the LexingtonHeraldon February 12, 1902, after he had read it at a banquet in the Phoenix Hotel. It was a fine bit of comic verse which wound up on the sober note: “And politics the damnedest, In Kentucky.” In this poem, in which the genial Irish poet sizes up Kentucky in comic verse, the reader is introduced to more of the state than he realizes. It has been repeated thousands of times, and the postcards which bear it have been mailed all over the world. Its final sober...

  25. 23 Kentuckians Must Eat
    (pp. 375-390)

    Nowhere else in the United States has food been more a part of human life than up and down the Kentucky River. Eating is a sort of second religion with the folks who live in this valley. It is true that Kentucky foods, like Kentucky whisky, undergo several regional changes before the river runs its full course. One socially minded geologist swore that he could close his eyes, eat dinner, and designate the community in which it had been cooked. Despite these frequent changes, food is the main objective in the country. Long ago the Kentuckian settled the ancient hen...

  26. 24 This Is the Kentucky
    (pp. 391-405)

    The Kentucky country presents a veritable kaleidoscopic pattern of life. Its modern story is a long one, and there are countless details in it, but with all this it is never dull. The range of the story runs all the way from one of luscious living in grand country mansions and economic self-sufficiency of the land to one of abject poverty in a coal-mining village hovel. Upstream the Kentucky’s valleys are being subjected to new types of culture. Highways and railroads have completely remade the transportation story. Today the “outside” is not so far away as it once was. Where...

  27. 25 The River Flows On
    (pp. 406-430)

    A half century has elapsed between the writing of this concluding chapter and the first issue of the book. In that interval the Kentucky has flowed on in flood tide and in threatening drought. From Mayking to Carrollton it has flowed during a great war and an uneasy peace. In that constant flow of time and the river no pattern of life along its banks has remained constant. On an October afternoon, just outside the windows of a riverbank restaurant at Irvine, a long tail of red and yellow maple leaves gathered and swirled in the lazy current. A week...

  28. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 431-434)
  29. Bibliography
    (pp. 435-447)
  30. Index
    (pp. 448-460)