“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 lexhistorymuseum@yahoo.com for a pdf version!


This Day in History — April 17

Many of the men who early on took up the cause of Kentucky’s statehood were born in Virginia and most fought in the American Revolution. Christopher Greenup is one man who fits both of those characteristics. The third governor of Kentucky was most likely born in Loudoun County, Virginia, in 1750, though little is known of his parents. He worked as a surveyor and studied law before moving to Lincoln County in 1781 and was very active in the young Commonwealth, even representing Fayette County in the Virginia House for a time. Greenup participated in two of the Danville conventions that led to Kentucky’s statehood in 1792.

That same year, Christopher moved to Frankfort and began his career in Kentucky politics. For five years, he represented the Commonwealth in the United States House of Representatives. His aspiration, however, was the Office of Governor. He ran against James Garrard in 1800, but came in second place. He gained popularity in the following years and he was uncontested in the 1804 gubernatorial race and served for eight years. In his time as governor, he worked hard in directing public affairs and growing the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

While he was well-liked by citizens and the General Assembly alike, many of the programs he wished to put in place were unsuccessful. He wanted to reform the state militia, court system and the state revenue system, but was unable to secure the reforms that he envisioned. During his administrations, however, the Bank of Kentucky was founded and he initiated the purchase of stock in the Ohio Canal Company, as it was evident that the Ohio River would prove to be a very useful trade and transportation route. Kentucky almost became embroiled in the Bur Conspiracy scandal, but Greenup testified that Kentucky had no involvement in Burr’s supposed idea to invade Mexico and take over.

Christopher Greenup died in Frankfort at his home on April 17, 1818 and was buried in the Frankfort Cemetery. He left office in high-esteem and continued to be liked by the citizens of the Commonwealth. Greenup County, in northeastern Kentucky, was named after him in 1804.

Lexington’s Most Colorful Characters

Lexington’s Most Colorful Characters
by Jamie Millard
March 31, 2010

With the death of Louis “Shoeshine” Cobb this past November, Lexington lost its latest in a string of colorful characters that stretches unbroken to the community’s founding days in the late 1700s. Certainly, anyone who takes on a wildcat (of the four-footed kind) with his bare hands must be quite a character. Thus, one John McKinney qualifies as the town’s first such type (and its first school teacher), as in early June 1783 he was attacked by a strangely behaving cat inside the one-room schoolhouse on the site of today’s Lexington History Museum. As the cat’s claws dug into his torso, its teeth deep in his shoulder, the commotion from the fight convinced the other settlers of an American Indian attack. Finally, McKinney got the upper hand and choked the cat to death. After being bandaged, McKinney called his class to order and resumed their instruction for the day. Understandably, shortly thereafter, McKinney left teaching to take up farming in Bourbon County, helped write the state’s first constitution, and was elected to the first legislature.

William “King” Solomon is also counted among the town’s earliest characters. Reputedly the scion of a wealthy Virginia family, he migrated to Lexington and took up residence – as the town drunk. One day, while inebriated, he climbed a tree, only to fall and land on a constable. Promptly arrested, Solomon was auctioned to pay his fine and debts. Bought for the sum of 50 cents by a free black woman known as Aunt Charlotte (for which the East End’s Charlotte Court is named), he was essentially enslaved – a white man to a black woman. Solomon’s lasting fame stems from the 1833 cholera epidemic. Because he drank whiskey, not water (or so the story goes), he was impervious to the water-born germs in polluted wells. As even the grave diggers fled for safe haven, Solomon calmly stayed behind to bury the dead at the Old Episcopal Burying Ground on Third Street at today’s Elm Tree Lane. Upon his death in 1854, Solomon was buried in the new Lexington Cemetery, and a statue declaring him a “hero” was erected at the gravesite. (Footnote to history: Solomon was not the only person digging graves. Two others worked with him: London Ferrell, a free black who is the only non-white buried in that graveyard, and a young U.S. Army Lieutenant Jefferson I. Davis, graduate of Transylvania University and later president of the Confederacy.)

After the War Between the States, former soldiers on both sides returned to their communities to live out their lives with memories of heroic wartime adventures. For years, Col. O.F. Redd, CSA, celebrated his exploits by leading the town’s many parades high on his cavalry steed. Sometimes, he would swoop a watching youngster up on his saddle where she had a bird’s eye view of the parade route. At the terminus of the parade, he would always remove his hat with a grand gesture, stand in the stirrups, and let out a blood-curdling Rebel Yell.

Of course, regular readers of the Chevy Chaser and its sister publications are familiar with the visage, if not the story, of the dog known as Smiley Pete. For 11 years, Pete, a mixed breed with an apparently fixed grin, was a fixture at the corner of Main and Lime, holding court outside Hart’s Drugstore. Nearby merchants saw to his nutritional needs.When the regular rabies outbreak occurred, Smiley Pete took up residence at Del-Tor Veterinary until the crisis passed. In 1952, Pete sired his only documented litter. But his loose living caught up with him, and he died on June 17, 1957. A plaque is in the sidewalk at “his” corner, and he is buried near the old Fairlawn mansion on North Broadway, where the marker reads: “Pete/Our Dog/A Friend to All/A Friend of All.”

Lexington’s colorful characters have been such to prompt newspaper editorials. The Lexington Leader of April 5, 1965, pays tribute to no less than five individuals whose antics entertained the community, if not the police department. Lost John wore a top hat and tails, strolling around downtown and the UK campus, playing the harmonica. Evidently, he came into a few hundred dollars, which he splurged on a motor scooter, extending the speed and range of his wanderings. Eddie Young was banned from Main Street after he suggested how an inquiring woman could “catch a streetcar.” Pete McGarvey, whose residence was listed as the Workhouse on Bolivar Street, spent his non-jail time preaching to whomever would listen from his perch on Cheapside “while he got himself in shape to go back to jail.” Walkin’ Munn Wilson was a perennial candidate for political office who would “preach politics and brimstone” until led away by the police. And there was a certain Mrs. Littleton who took Lexington society by storm – until a police detective recognized her as a former resident of The Hill (the city’s red light district).

No accounting of Lexington’s colorful characters would be complete without mention of James “Sweet Evening Breeze” Herndon. Known as “Sweet Evening” or just “Sweets” (and rarely called or even known by his given name), Herndon was born in 1889 in Scott County. Allegedly, the youngest of eight children was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital for treatment of an eye injury – and abandoned. Miss Lake Johnson, the administrator, took a liking to him and provided living space at the hospital. He paid for his room by running errands for the hospital and playing ukulele for patients. In time, he trained as an orderly, and earned a reputation for his skills of tenderly turning the bedridden. He also earned a reputation as the city’s first cross-dresser. Many a Saturday evening found Sweets dressed in feminine finery, wearing makeup and sporting a handbag while he strolled downtown streets. Many legendary tales are told about Sweets, perhaps the most memorable being when he was lowered in a basket from the Woodland Auditorium ceiling to perform the “Passion Dance of the Bongo Bongoes.” Sweets died Dec. 16, 1983, and is said to have donated a hefty sum to Pleasant Green Baptist Church, of which he was a longtime member.

Now that “Shoeshine” has joined the pantheon of Lexington’s colorful characters, who stands ready to take up the mantel?

The Lexington History Museum is currently developing an exhibit based on the lives of many of these colorful characters. We would like your input. If you feel that we have omitted any treaured Lexington character, please letus know.

This Day in History — April 11

Though Kentucky is famed for its bourbon distilleries, the Commonwealth did not escape Prohibition and the temperance movement’s advocacy for a dry America. In truth, there were plenty of Kentuckians who valued theimportance of living a Christian, alcohol-free lifestyle. One of the most famous is Carrie Nation, who actually took up a hatchet to destroy the evils of the a bar. Frances Beauchamp utilized her voice, more so than a weapon, to convince people of the ills of the drink.

On April 11, 1923 Frances Estill Beauchamp passed away. The temperance advocate was born in Madison County in 1857, an only child.She was educated in Madison County and moved on to Science Hill Academy in Shelbyville. In 1875, she married James H. Beauchamp , an attorney.

The couple moved to Lexington in 1880. Frances was a devout Presbyterian and had embraced the temperance lifestyle at an early age. A temperance movement criticizes excessive alcohol use, complete abstinence, or government eradication of alcohol by legislation.

In America, temperance began as early as the American Revolution and continued through the 1800s and well into the 1900s. Beauchamp became active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in 1886, when a local chapter was formed in Lexington. She took charge of the Lexington union as president and helped to form chapters across Kentucky. In 1894 Beauchamp was elected assistant recording secretary of the national WCTU, an office she held for ten years, but returned to the Kentucky chapter in 1895 and held the position until her death.

Under her guidance, the WCTU exploded in Kentucky. There were more than 300 chapters formed across the Commonwealth. Temperance education was pivotal to expanding the message of the movement. Frances was a gifted orator. She gave speeches at chautauquas (educational meetings for adults), women’s clubs, revivals, and other forums across the nation. She used her voice and was  widely credited for the ratification of the prohibition amendment to the state constitution in November 1919.

Beauchamp died in Geneva, New York, on April 11, 1923, and was buried in the Lexington Cemetery.

Spotlight: Kentucky is My Land

Kentucky is my land.
It is a place beneath the wind and sun
In the very heart of America.
It is bounded on the east, north, and west by rivers
And on the south by mountains.
Only one boundary line is not a natural one,
It is a portion of southern boundary
That runs westward from the mountains
Across the delta lowlands to the Mississippi.

Within these natural boundaries is Kentucky,
Shaped like the mouldboard on a hillside turning-plow.
Kentucky is neither southern, northern, eastern, nor western,
It is the core of America.
If these United States could be called a body,
Kentucky can be called its heart.

I didn’t have any choices as to where I was born,
But if I had had my choice,
I would have chosen Kentucky.
And if could have chosen wind to breathe,
I would have chosen Kentucky wind.
With the scent of cedar, pinetree needles,
Green tobacco leaves, pawpaw, persimmon and sassafras.
I would have chosen too,
Wind from the sawbriar and greenbriar blossoms.

If I could have chosen the spot in Kentucky,
I would have chosen W-Hollow,
The place where I was born,
Where four generations of my people have lived,
And where they still live.
Here, too, I have always lived where
The hills form a semicircle barrier against roads
And there is only one way to get out.

This way is to follow the stream.
Here I first saw Kentucky light.
Here I first saw breathed Kentucky air.
And here I grew from childhood to manhood
Before I had been away to see what lay beyond
The rim of hills that closed my world.

I followed the little streams
That flowed over rocks between the high hills to the rivers
And then somewhere into the unknown world.
I hunted the wild game in the hunting seasons
Skillful as an Indian.
And I ran wild over the rock-rimmed hills
Enjoying this land of waters, sunlight,
Tobacco, pine, pawpaw, persimmon, sawbriar, greenbriar, and
I enjoyed the four seasons,
Sections of time my father used to divide his work for the year,
As much as any boy in America ever enjoyed them.

For Kentucky has four distinct seasons.
I learned this in childhood
And I didn’t get from a book.
Each season I learned was approximately three months.
Kentucky wasn’t all summer, all autumn, all winter or spring.
The two seasons that I wanted to be longer and longer
Were the Kentucky spring and autumn.

When winter began to break, snow melted
And ran down the little channels on the high hills.
Spring was in the wind.
I could feel it.
I could taste it.
I could see it.
And it was beautiful to me.
Then came the sawbriar and the greenbriar leaves
And the trailing arbutus on the rock-ribbed hills.

Next came the snowwhite blossoms of percoon in the coves,
Then came the canvas-topped tobacco beds,
White strips of fortune on each high hill slope.
Then came the dogwood and the wild crabapple blossoms,
White sails in the soft honey-colored wind of morning
And red sails of the flowering rose bud,
Stationery fire hanging in the soft honey- colored wind of morning
Of evening against the sunset….
The weeping willow, stream willow, and pussy willow
Loosed their long fronds to finger the bright wind tenderly.
Then came soft avalanches of green beech tops
In the deep hollow that hid the May-apple,
Yellowroot, ginseng, wild sweet williams, babytear and phlox.
When I learned Kentucky springs
Could not go on forever,
I was sick at heart.

For summer followed with work on the high hills.
I plowed the earth on steep slopes
And hoed corn, tobacco, cane, besides my strong mother
With a bright-warn gooseneck hoe.
Summer brought good earthy smells

Of tobacco, cane and corn and ferny loam and growing roots.
Summer brought berries too
That grew wild in the crevice rocks,
On the loamy coves and in the deep valleys.
Here grew the wild blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and
All I had to do was take my bucket and pick the up.

Then came the autumn with hazelnuts ripening on the pasture
Along the cattle paths and sheep trails.
The black walnuts, white walnuts, hickory nuts, beech nuts
Fell from the trees in little heaps.
And the canopy of leaves turned many colors
After the first sharp frost had fallen
And the soft summer wind turned cool and brittle
And the insect sounds of summer became a lost murmur
Like the dwindling streams.
Autumn brought sweet smells of the wild possom grapes.
And the mountain tea berries.
In the blood-red sassafras and persimmon.
Autumn brought the mellow taste of persimmon.
That after frost did not pucker my mouth with summer bitterness.

October paw paws with purple-colored skins,
I found in heaps beneath the trees when I went after cows.
I opened them to find the cornmeal-mush softness,
Yellow-gold in color and better than bananas to taste.

These things are my Kentucky.
They went into the brain, body, flesh, and blood of me.
These things, Kentucky- flavored, grown in her dirt,
Helped build my body strong and shape my brain.
They laid foundations for my future thoughts.
They made me a part of Kentucky.
These are inescapable things,
Childhood to boyhood to manhood.
Even the drab hills of winter were filled with music.
The lonesome streams in the narrow-gauged valleys
Sang poetic songs without words.
And the leafless trees etched on gray winter skies
Were strong and substantial lines of poetry.

When I was compelled to put poems on paper
They wrote themselves for they were ripe
And ready for harvest
As the berries, the persimmons and the paw paws
As the yellow leaves and nuts falling from the trees.
Then I went for the first time into other states
And I knew my Kentucky was different.

As I observed the closeness of the tombstones
In the eastern cemeteries
This gave me a feeling that land was scarce.
I saw the tall smokestacks of industry
Etched against the eastern skies
And cities that were a pillar of fire by night
And the clouds of rolling smoke by day…
I saw New York, a city so large it frightened me,
Cliff dwellings as high as Kentucky mountains,
The streets and avenues were deep gorges
Between high walls of multicolored stone.
And while it interested me
To see how fellow Americans lived,
I longed for Kentucky sunlight, sights and sounds
And for log shacks and the lonesome waters.
I was homesick for the land for the fox
And spring’s tender bud, bloom and leaf,
For white sails of the dogwood and the crabapple
And the flame of redbud in the sunset.
I knew that my Kentucky was different
And something there called me home.
The language too was different
Not that it was softer
But it was more musical with the hard “g”s
Left automatically from the spoken word
And the prefix “a” supplemented…
I knew more than ever before my brain
Had been fashioned by the sights and sounds
And beauties of wildgrowth and life of the hills
That had nurtured my flesh from infancy to full growth

Then I went beyond the hills to see
America’s South of which I had always thought
We were a distinct part.
But I learned we were different from the South
Though our soils grew cane, cotton and tobacco…
We moved faster and we spoke differently.
The West I visited where land
Was level as a floor,
Where the endless field of growing corn
Was a dark cloud that hugged the earth,
Where the single field of growing wheat was endless, endless,
And the clouds always in the distance
Came down and touched the earth.
No matter how fast the train or the car ran,
It never reached the spot where the clouds came down to earth.
The people moved quickly,
They talked with the speed of the western wind.
They were “doers,” not talkers.
I knew this was not the heart of America:
This was the West, the strong man of America.

I visited the North where industry
Is balanced with agriculture
And where man is measured by what he can do.
I did not find the softness of the pawpaw and the persimmon,
The lusty morning smell of green growing tobacco,
The twilight softness of Kentucky spring
But I did find the endless fields of corn and wheat
Where machinery did the work…
Beyond the cornfields and wheatfields
I saw the smokestacks of industry,
Belching fire and smoke toward the sky.
Highways were filled with traffic that shot past me like bullets.
And I found industrial city streets filled
With the fast tempo of humanity…
Then I was as positive as death Kentucky
Was not east, west, south, or north
But it was the heart of America
Pulsing with a little bit of everything.

…The heart of America
A land of even tempo,
A land of mild traditions,
A land that has kept it’s traditions of horse racing,
Ballad, song, story, and folk music.
It has steadfast to its pioneer tradition
Of fighting men, fighting for America
And for the soil of Kentucky,
That is not akin to poetry
But is poetry…
And when I get go beyond the border,
I take with me growth and beauty of the seasons,
The music of the pine and cedar tops,
The wordless songs of snow-melted water
When it pours over the rocks to wake the spring.
I take with me Kentucky embedded in my brain and heart,
In my flesh and bone and blood
Since I am Kentucky
And Kentucky is part of me.

–Jesse Stuart, “Kentucky is my Land”

This Day in History — February 17

February 17, 1984, Jesse Stuart, Kentucky Poet Laureate, educator and author who born in Greenup County passed away. Born on August 8 1906, the second of seven children, Jesse had a strong appreciation for the land from an early age. The child of itinerant farmers, Jesse also understood the hardships of rural poverty. Though his parents, Mitchell and Martha were uneducated, they instilled in their children the importance of education and all seven children would not only graduate high school, but become college graduates and educators themselves. For farming families in the rural South, schooling often stood in second place to planting and harvesting seasons. Jesse persevered and graduated from Greenup County High School in 1926. He attended Lincoln Memorial University, graduated in 1929 and returned to his native Greenup County to teach.

Stuart taught in one-room school houses in Greenup County throughout the depression and these experiences were the inspiration for his autobiographical book The Thread That Runs So True which was written in 1949. The book dramatized the need for education reform in the Commonwealth and the president of the National Education Association called it “the best book on education written in the last fifty years.” Stuart, who saw the need for education reform, left teaching to put his efforts toward lecturing and writing.

Jesse Stuart self-published most of his writing and was named Kentucky Poet Laureate in 1954. His poetry collections include Album of Destiny (1944) and Kentucky is My Land (1952). Stuart also lectured widely for many years, particularly on the subject of education and its value, and wrote a number of highly regarded books for children and youth. Prominent among the latter are The Beatinest Boy (1953) and A Penny’s Worth of Character (1954). His works have been part of the Greenup County curriculum and literature curriculum across the state of Kentucky for more than three decades.

As he had come to appreciate the value of the land at a very young age, he and his wife Naomi donated their property on W-Hollow in Greenup County as a nature preserve. He was able to acquire over 700 acres in Greenup County over his lifetime and his homestead is a testament to his dedication to the land. The Jesse Stuart Foundation in Ashland, Kentucky oversees that the property maintains the preserve designation and controls the rights to his literary works. The Foundation also helps local authors become published. The Jesse Stuart Lodge at Greenbo Lake State Resort Park, just down the road from his beloved W-Hollow, showcases many of his personal possessions and has a large portrait of him in the lobby. He is immortalized in the land which he loved so dearly.

Jesse Stuart died on February 17, 1984 and was buried in Plum Grove Cemetery in Greenup County, Kentucky. Kentucky truly was his land.

This Day in History — February 5

In the spirit of Lexington 1810, today’s This Day in History features someone who would have seen Lexington as it was 200 years ago.

William Taylor Barry was born in Virginia on February 5, 1784. As a child, William moved with his family to the young Fayette County. He attended Pisgah Academy, the Kentucky Academy in neighboring Woodford County, and Transylvania University, a college that was in its infancy. Barry was admitted to the Fayette County bar following his graduation from William and Mary College and legal studies with Judge John Rowan, one of Kentucky’s finest legal minds. Rigorous studies of the law paid off, as he was appointed Commonwealth Attorney shortly after he began practicing law in Kentucky.

His career in law and politics wouldn’t end there. Barry was elected to the Kentucky house in 1807 and he went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives from August 8, 1810, to March 3, 1811. William served in the War of 1812, when military service demanded that he turn his attention away from politics. For a small man, the Jeffersonian Republican was a powerful speaker and was known for his political know-how and way with words. Following his brief military service, Barry was reelected to the Kentucky house. Confident in his abilities, the members of the house sent him to the U.S. Senate, but he resigned and returned to Kentucky in 1816 after one session.

As a powerful voice in Kentucky politics and great legal mind in his own right, William Barry worked with Judge Jesse Bledsoe to develop a first-rate law curriculum at Transylvania University, his alma mater. From 1817 to 1821, he served in the Kentucky Senate and during his tenure Kentucky was faced with a bank panic, major financial crisis,  in which both prominent Kentuckians and ordinary citizens alike were losing their wealth and possessions. Following the panic, Barry spoke out for the Relief party which called for bank reform and debtor relief legislation. He was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1820 and served until 1824 alongside Governor John Adair. During their administration the Bank of the Commonwealth was founded, in part because of Barry’s “fiery stump speeches.” As Lieutenant Governor, Barry was involved in a committee which examined the public school systems of the other states. His committee’s Barry Report recommended that Kentucky establish a free public school system for all children.

Barry’s diverse political career would end with his appointment as ambassador to Spain. However, this would come following political scandal. He was a staunch supporter of Andrew Jackson (political rival of Henry Clay) and in 1829, Jackson appointed him as postmaster general. Within two years, however, accusations of corruption and favoritism within the Jackson administration led to congressional investigations in 1834-36. Such political calamity would ruin his physical and mental well-being and he died suddenly on August 30, 1835 in Liverpool, England as he was traveling to his new assignment. He was buried in the Frankfort Cemetery.