This Day in History – September 30

This Day in History – September 30

RADM_James_E._JouettOn September 30, 1902, James Jouett, who served in the Mexican-American War and Civil War, passed away in his Maryland home. Jouett was born February 7, 1826, near Lexington, Kentucky, the son of portrait artist Matthew Harris Jouett and grandson of Revolutionary War hero Jack Jouett, whose home is located in Woodford County.

Jouett was a naval officer, seeing blockade duty during the Mexican American War. He also was aboard a ship that accompanied Commodore Matthew Perry’s fleet during the expedition to open Japan up to the Western world. Perry’s first visit was made in 1852 and the second in 1854.

Following capture by the Confederate army at Pensacola, Florida early on in the Civil War, Jouett joined his Union comrades in the blockading forces at Galveston, Texas, distinguishing himself during the night of 7/8 November 1861 in the capture and destruction of Confederate schooner Royal Yacht, while serving on USS Santee.James_jouett_trenton_1886

His exploits included the capture of several blockade runners and command of the fast gunboat Metacomet under David G. Farragut at Mobile Bay. After the war Jouett held several shore assignments; at sea his highest post was command of the North Atlantic Squadron from 1884 to 1886.

He was promoted to captain in 1874, commodore in 1883, and rear admiral in 1886. Jouett retired in 1890. He lived the remainder of his days at “The Anchorage” in Sandy Spring, Maryland. Jouett was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


“Hands on History” Summer Day Camp mixes fun and learning!

The school year is drawing to a close and that means it is time to figure out what to do with the kids this summer. The Lexington History Museum is sponsoring 3 week-long summer day camp sessions for children of all ages. The camp mixes hands-on activities, walking tour of Lexington, trips to other historic sites and behind the scenes fun at the museum. Kids will play Native American games, explore life as a Pioneer, find out how Lexington was divided during the Civil War and create their own exhibit!

Three sessions will be held daily from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.: June 21- 25
July 05 – 09
July 12 – 16

Ages listed on the promotional material specify children 6 – 10, but we welcome children of all ages with a desire to learn about the history of Kentucky and Lexington!

Topics for the camp include: Native Americans in Kentucky, Lexington’s Pioneer Heritage, Abraham Lincoln and His Wife’s Hometown, Civil War Lexington, and Behind the Scenes of the Lexington History Museum.

Important Information about the Camp:

  • Each camp session costs $183 per camper
  • Cost includes all materials and any outside attraction admission charges.
  • Lunch is not included in the camp fee. (Campers should bring a bagged lunch printed with his/her name and a soft drink. There is access to a refrigerator to keep lunches cool.
  • Camps sessions are Monday – Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Campers are expected to be dropped off and picked up on time.
  • Late pick up at 5 p.m. is available for $25 per camper, per session.
  • Activities are in the Museum Center building, on the Court Square, or within short walking distance of the Museum

Payment is due the Monday before the desired session begins. Financial assistance is available for those in need.

Stop by the museum for a registration form or email for a pdf version!

This Day in History — April 18

When crisis leading to the “War Between the States” came to a peak with the beginning of the Civil War, it was hard for Kentucky to not be put in the middle of the fray. Kentucky, after all, held prime trade routes and was bordered by the very important Ohio River to the north and Mississippi River to the west. What does a state do when the legislature is in favor of the Union and the people (including the Governor) sympathize with the Union cause? In Kentucky, governor Beriah Magoffin proclaimed a (short-lived) neutrality policy.

Kentucky’s 21st governor was born on April 18, 1815 in Harrodsburg. Following graduation from Centre College in Danville, he attended Transylvania University where he studied law. He entered state politics in 1850, when he was elected to the state Senate. Magoffin defeated Joshua Bell in 1859 in a gubernatorial race.

Magoffin accepted slavery and states’ rights; he believed in the right of secession but hoped to prevent it by collective action of the slave states in reaching an agreement with the North. To avoid total conflict in Kentucky, he proclaimed that the Commonwealth remain neutral on May 20, 1861 and rejected aid from both the Union and Confederate armies.

Because of his Southern sympathies the 1861 two-thirds Union majority in the Kentucky legislature distrusted Magoffin. They would not pass any of his legislation. When he suggested that a Kentucky convention be held so that the Commonwealth may choose its stance in the Civil War, they blocked his effort.

Beriah Magoffin resigned from office in 1862 and was succeeded by James F. Robinson. He returned to a private life of farming and his law practice in Harrodsburg. Following the Civil War, he urged Kentucky to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution which would grant civil rights to African-Americans. He died on February 28, 1885, and was buried at Harrodsburg.

Lexington History Museum to be open seven days a week

Spring Break is coming and to provide activities for families during this week, the Lexington History Museum will be open seven days a week beginning Friday, March 26. Open 12-4 with extended hours on Saturday (10-4) the museum will continue to be open until November 1. School breaks are a perfect time to come explore the museum and there will be plenty of activities, including our Playdate with History room and family areas within Lincoln and His Wife’s Hometown.

We will be opening new exhibits including A Salute to the World Equestrian Games and Lexington in the Civil War in the coming months.

For more information, email, leave a comment on this post, or call 859-254-0530.

Chevy Chaser History: Those Clay Women

This day in history, March 18, Lucretia Hart Clay was born. To honor the birth of Lucretia Hart Clay, here is the Women’s History month article for the Chevy Chaser written by Jamie Millard and Joan Grever. Not only does it feature Lucretia, but other very important Clay women.

Those Clay Women
by Jamie Millard & Joan Grever
Originally printed in the Chevy Chaser magazine
March 04, 2010

Lexington, KY – As we begin the run up to the War of 1812 bicentennial, a lot of attention will be given to Lexington’s Henry Clay, leader of the War Hawks who embarked on the flawed adventure. Every bit as fascinating as the patriarch of the fabled family are three Clay women: a wife, a granddaughter cum daughter-in-law and a second cousin once removed.

Spanning three generation across 160 years, each Clay woman in her own way made significant contributions, not only to Lexington, but to the nation as well.

Lucretia Hart Clay (1781 – 1864), the daughter of a Continental Army Colonel, was born in Hagerstown, Md. Her father, Thomas Hart of North Carolina, was a principal in the Transylvania Company, which drove the settlement of Kentucky. The family moved to Lexington in 1795, residing in a fine house on the southwest corner of Mill and Short Streets (the structure was torn down in 1955 – an event that sparked the founding of the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation).

Lucretia was considered one of Lexington’s most attractive young women. The Hart home was a social center of town, where Lucretia played the first piano in Lexington. She drew the eye of young Henry Clay, a very eligible bachelor who arrived in Lexington from Virginia in 1797 penniless, but intent on building a law practice in the growing city.

Married at age 18, Lucretia and her husband established their home, “Ashland,” just six years later. By all rights, Lucretia was very much the woman of the house, organizing the kitchen gardens and overseeing the entertainment of the leading lights of the day. Such famous visitors as the Marquis de Lafayette, President Chester A. Arthur, Vice President John C. Breckinridge, Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln, and many others either visited or stayed at the house.

Along the way, Lucretia became the mother of 11 children who, along with their tutor and 10 house slaves, comprised a small village east of Lexington. Over the years, that community suffered great sorrow. By the time of her death on April 7, 1864, at the home of her youngest child, Lucretia had buried all but four of her children.

Josephine Russell Erwin Clay (1835 – 1920) was the widow of Lucretia’s grandson Andrew Eugene Erwin, a Confederate Colonel killed during the Siege of Vicksburg. She returned to her late husband’s hometown from her family farm near Independence, Mo., in 1864. Lucretia had invited Jo, her three daughters and her mother, Zaenett Freeland Russell, to supervise the household of her youngest son, and eccentric bachelor, John Morrison Clay – a move that scandalized Lexington society. The two were married the following year, by which time Lucretia was dead and unable to witness her granddaughter-in-law becoming her daughter-in-law (perhaps an outcome she intended).

When Henry Clay died in 1852, John had inherited 200 acres of Ashland property along the Tates Creek Pike. Having managed his father’s Thoroughbred breeding program, John established Ashland Stock Farm and built “Ashland on Tates Creek Pike,” designed by famous architect Thomas Lewinski. A Union man, John fended off several attempts by Confederate John Hunt Morgan to raid his fine stock.

Upon the marriage, Jo put a stop to John’s carousing, although letters written while he was out of town document his wild streak was not entirely tamed. Jo was a Catholic, and her husband frequently attended Mass with her, having been disallowed from joining Christ Church because he “ran” horses; John noted the discrepancy that trotters were admitted, but runners denied.

Jo became a partner in the farm, having grown up around horses in Missouri. Together, they bred Day Star, Ashland’s first Kentucky Derby winner in 1878. As John aged (he was 14 years her senior), Jo took on more and more of the farm operations. Under her hand, she converted the farm from a racing stable to a breeding operation as her husband retired from the track. Jo became known as the “Horsewoman of the Bluegrass,” raising the farm’s reputation to national prominence.

Not to be a one-dimensional horsewoman, Jo was also a best-selling author of romantic novels published by Lippincott & Co. of Philadelphia. Jo died suddenly on March 29, 1920. Eventually, portions of the farm were sold off. Cassidy Elementary and Morton Middle schools stand on part of the farm, Lakewood Subdivision in Chevy Chase on another.

Laura Clay (1849-1941), the eighth of 10 children born to Cassius Marcellus and Mary Jane Warfield Clay, was definitely the child of both her parents. Mary Jane was strong willed, holding her family together while Cassius spent vast amounts of time away from home pursuing abolition, and not a few skirts. At the age of 12, Laura and her family traveled to Boston, then London, and eventually St. Petersburg, where her father served as Ambassador to Russia under President Abraham Lincoln. Returning to Kentucky to save expenses, Laura was enrolled in the Sayre Institute, cared for the wounded from the Battle of Richmond, and observed a cavalry raid led by Gen. John Hunt Morgan.

Early in 1878, her parents divorced and Laura was given a portion of the farm at White Hall, as were each of her siblings. Calling herself a “practical farmer,” Laura became known for her strong business skills. Unlike the other two Clay women, however, Laura’s national reputation was far removed from the soil – and from any man, for that matter.

Laura Clay was one of the nation’s leaders in the struggle to secure voting rights for women. She became active in the movement in her early 30s, and by 1881 was elected president of the Kentucky Woman Suffrage Association, which evolved as the Kentucky Civil Rights Association when the cause broadened to include property rights for married women and the right to practice as physicians in asylums.

Laura led the charge in the Kentucky legislature that created benefits for women and children, secured the right to vote in school board races, and helped draw up the 1890 Kentucky Constitution. Laura’s work was not confined to Kentucky. She campaigned tirelessly in a dozen other states.

Finally, the tide was turned and Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution and sent it to the states for ratification. Kentucky ratified it in January 1920, and by August of that year the right of women to vote was the law of the land. Her sole foray into electoral politics came in 1923 when she ran for the Kentucky senate. She was defeated on the divisive issue of betting at horse tracks. She died on June 29, 1941, having enjoyed just over two decades of voting.

Just three of the many Clay women (and not a few men) who helped shape the destiny of our community, Commonwealth and nation.

This Day in History — December 13

Mary Todd Lincoln was born on December 13, 1818 in Lexington, Kentucky to Robert Todd and Eliza Parker Todd. Her mother’s family, the Parkers, and her father’s family, the Todds, were two of the most prosperous and well-known families from the Bluegrass region. Her grandfather, Levi Todd had helped establish Lexington and her father was involved in politics as a member of the Whig party and was also a merchant. Eliza Todd passed away in childbirth when Mary was six and her father married Elizabeth Humphreys. The Todds lived on West Main St in Lexington, today’s Mary Todd Lincoln House.

As a member of Lexington’s elite, Mary was afforded an in-depth education. She studied at Frenchwoman Charlotte Mentelle’s boarding school, which was located across from Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate. The Todd family lived less than two miles from the Clays was well acquainted with them. Though it is unclear whether Mary’s future husband would ever meet the esteemed politician, Clay once promised a young Mary that she would be among his first guests in Washington should he ever become president. After completing twelve years of school, Mary was one of the most well-educated women of her day.

But how did Mary Todd end up in Illinois in order to meet Abraham Lincoln? In 1832, Mary’s older sister Elizabeth married Ninian Edwards, son of a former governor of Illinois, and upon his graduation from Transylvania University, the couple moved to Springfield, which had become the new Illinois capitol. In 1839, Mary followed her sister to Springfield and at a dance, she met Abraham Lincoln, a junior partner of her cousin John Todd Stuart’s law firm.

Abraham and Mary were very different. Mary grew up very wealthy, whereas he grew up relatively poor and from a rural family. However, they shared a love of the written word and a deep interest in politics, and those among other things, linked them. The Todds did not necessarily approve of this backwoods nobody and tried to convince her that marrying Abraham was a mistake. They wed in 1842.

Mary’s new life as a lawyer’s wife seemed much different than the life of leisure she enjoyed in her youth. Abraham was often away working for long periods of time, which meant that Mary had to tend to household business as well as raising four sons. Though she lived a very domestic life, she also took great interest in politics and had very ambitious goals for her husband. Many say it was her ambition that took him to the White House. During her time as first lady, Mary worked hard to make the White House a fashionable place. She was often criticized for extravagant spending during the Civil War. She was also accused of being a Confederate sympathizer, because she was from Kentucky and her sister Emilie was married to Benjamin Hardin Helm, a Confederate general, who fell at Chickamauga. Mary invited Emilie to come stay with her in the White House in 1863.

Mary Todd Lincoln’s life after she became first lady was marked with tragedy. Her son Willie died of typhoid fever in 1862 at age eleven and the stress of the war burdened her as she saw the toll it took on her husband. Upon his assassination in 1865, Mary never recovered from shock. She struggled financially, fighting for Abraham’s pension, but living on the money from his estate. Her son Tad died of pneumonia, which only added to the grief and pain she felt. Robert Todd, her son, decided that it was best she stay in an asylum, but she fought for her freedom and was released after several months. Though she lived for nearly two decades after her husband’s death, Mary never recovered from the anguish that she felt upon his murder.

Mary Todd Lincoln died on July 16, 1882, and was buried in the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield.

To learn more about Abraham Lincoln in Lexington, please visit our exhibit “Lincoln and His Wife’s Hometown” which discusses Mary and her family’s interaction with her husband during his four visits to Lexington.

This Day in History — November 19

On November 19, 1898, Don Carlos Buell, Civil War general, died in Paradise, Kentucky. A West Point graduate, the Lowell, Ohio native distinguished himself during the Mexican War, rising to the rank of major. At the beginning of the Civil War, Buell was an early organizer of the Army of the Potomac and went on to lead the Army of the Ohio (which included Kentucky’s Union troops.) He was able to capture Nashville with little opposition. His troops participated in the Battle of Shiloh and the Siege of Corinth, but he is most noted for helping secure Kentucky as Union territory for the remainder of the Civil War.

On Valentine’s Day 1862 Buell entered and took control of Bowling Green as Rebel forces under the command of General Albert S. Johnson retreated toward Nashville. By the fall, Confederate General Braxton Bragg had invaded Kentucky. Buell and his army had to defend Louisville, Kentucky and important transportation route of the Ohio River. His troops surprised Bragg at Bardstown, forcing him to divide his army, before engaging at Perryville on October 8, 1862. Buell cut off Bragg’s line of communication by moving to Danville as Bragg retreated to Harrodsburg. Bragg then retreated south out of Kentucky via the Cumberland Gap, solidifying Union control over the Commonwealth. Buell was scrutinized for preventing Bragg’s escape out of Kentucky, which called into question his loyalty. He resigned his commission on June 1, 1864 and made a permanent move to Kentucky.

In 1880, Governor Luke Blackburn appointed him one of the twelve members of the first board of trustees at the Agricultural and Mechanical College, formerly part of Transylvania University, now the University of Kentucky. Buell was appointed state pension agent and held this position until 1890. He died on November 19, 1898 in Paradise, Kentucky and was buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.