Lexington KY – An Amazing Locale for Horses … and People


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North America » United States » Kentucky » Lexington
October 31st 2013
Published: December 1st 2013
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Since inclement weather was in the forecast for Thursday, October 24, 2013, I picked up the water and sewer hoses, retracted the stabilizer jacks and connected the Pilgrim to my truck on Wednesday afternoon during a break in the weather. I have done this in the past when I am on a level camping site to expedite the tear-down process on departure day whether because of the weather or because of a long driving day. The forecast was on the mark with Thursday morning revealing a steady, heavy drizzle. About the only remaining task was to pick up the electric cord.

The drive east on US 36 from Rockville IN began in a light drizzle but quickly changed to snow and sleet and then back again. Just west of Indianapolis IN, I headed south on the I-465 bypass around the city and then caught I-65 south to Louisville KY where I headed east on I-64 to Lexington KY and the Kentucky Horse Park Campground.

The Kentucky Horse Park is owned by the Commonwealth of Kentucky and covers 1,229 acres. This land provides space for the competition facilities, the 260-site campground, the International Museum of the Horse, the American Saddlebred
Like I Said, Well-AttendedLike I Said, Well-AttendedLike I Said, Well-Attended

Kentucky Horse Park Campground - Lexington KY
Museum and the offices of more than 30 national and regional equine organizations and associations – as well as lots and lots of horse pastures.

Drizzle, sleet and snow accompanied bone-chilling wind on Friday. I ventured out to take a familiarization drive, to stop at the visitor center, to get some groceries and to have a propane tank refilled. The lady at the visitor center provided me with several opportunities for walking tours. I decided to hold that thought until the weather improved. The young man who filled the propane tank related that the current weather was more akin to a cold spell in January or February than anything normally seen in October. At any rate, it was miserable enough for me to make most of the day a cooking day. It’s nice to have some tasty leftovers microwave- or warming pan-ready after a busy day as a professional tourist.

Saturday, October 26, 2013 found me driving to downtown Lexington and the Mary Todd Lincoln House – weekend days eliminate competition with school groups. Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of President Abraham, was born in Lexington KY on December 13, 1818. The fourth of sixteen children born during two
A “Scenic” View Of A Dairy FarmA “Scenic” View Of A Dairy FarmA “Scenic” View Of A Dairy Farm

Bluegrass Scenic Railroad & Museum - Versailles KY
marriages, Mary was daughter to one of the town’s wealthier and more prominent men, Robert Smith Todd. A businessman and politician, Todd provided his children with the social standing and material advantages Mary’s future husband lacked in his own youth. Mary grew up in the highest levels of Lexington society and mingled with her father’s influential political guests – the most prominent of these being family friend Senator Henry Clay who resided less than two miles from the Todd family.

In 1832, Mary’s older sister, Elizabeth, married Ninian Edwards - the son of a former Illinois governor. After his graduation from college, they moved to Springfield IL. Mary followed them to Springfield in 1839 where she attended a dance and met a junior partner in her cousin’s law firm. Abe and Mary were polar opposites in many respects, but many things brought them together including a love of poetry and literature and a deep interest in politics. Mary recognized Abe’s intellectual depth and political ambition before many others did. They wed in November 1842.

By marrying Lincoln, Mary exchanged her life of ease and privilege for that of a working lawyer’s wife. While he was gone for extended
Some Of The Obstructive Trees Were Desperately Holding Onto Their FoliageSome Of The Obstructive Trees Were Desperately Holding Onto Their FoliageSome Of The Obstructive Trees Were Desperately Holding Onto Their Foliage

Bluegrass Scenic Railroad & Museum - Versailles KY
periods riding the circuit, she was doing much of the household labor and raising their four sons. Through it all, Mary worked to advance her husband’s political career. Still, Lincoln’s career progressed slowly. Defeat in a race for the United States Senate in 1858 came at the hands of Mary’s former suitor, Stephen A. Douglas. As the division between the northern and southern sections of the country widened, Lincoln’s much admired speeches on limiting the spread of slavery while preserving the union secured his election in 1860 as the nation’s first Republican president.

Mary Todd Lincoln’s life in the White House was marked by controversy and tragedy. Some unfairly assumed that as the product of a slave-holding Kentucky family she had Confederate sympathies, while others felt her partnership with Lincoln was a betrayal of her Southern heritage. Furthermore, several of Mary’s siblings supported the Confederacy through marriage or military service. Not surprisingly, the divided loyalties within the Todd family fueled much controversy in the nation’s press.

Mary’s own behavior, however, at times alienated those who might otherwise have sympathized with her situation. Her expenditures on the White House were publicized as extravagant and pretentious, especially in a time
A “Scenic” Pond Peeping At The “Scenic” TrainA “Scenic” Pond Peeping At The “Scenic” TrainA “Scenic” Pond Peeping At The “Scenic” Train

Bluegrass Scenic Railroad & Museum - Versailles KY
of war. Few deny that Mary Todd Lincoln suffered greatly while in the White House. Mary watched her husband age visibly under the pressures and anxieties of the war. In early 1862, Mary lost eleven year-old son Willie to typhoid fever, and in early 1865 the heaviest blow fell - Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theater on April 14th. Although Mary lived for seventeen years after her husband’s death, she never recovered from the shock.

Mary took solace in travel and a growing interest in the practice of spiritualism. After an extended stay in Europe with his mother, eighteen year-old Tad died of pneumonia and pleurisy in 1871. Increasingly dependent on medications for a variety of physical and emotional ailments, Mary's episodes of erratic behavior resulted in a brief period of confinement in an asylum in 1875 at son Robert's instigation. Estranged from her only surviving child, Mary retired to Europe to live out her life in some measure of peace. Illness eventually forced her to return to the United States where she died in July 1882. Mary is entombed, along with her husband, in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield IL.

The Mary Todd Lincoln House museum has fourteen rooms on three floors and is furnished with period pieces from the 1830s and 1840s as well as some original Todd and Lincoln family pieces. Interior photography is not allowed; however, the museum web site has several interior photographs available for viewing. The attraction is nice and the tour guide was knowledgeable and entertaining, but this attraction falls somewhat short of a “must see.” If one has extra time, it is worthy.

In spite of the continuing blustery weather (so much so that I forgot to take an exterior photo of the Todd house), I drove to Versailles KY to take an afternoon ride on the Bluegrass Scenic Railroad. The museum is located in the Woodford County Park and offers an 11 mile, 90 minute out-and-back ride through a mixture of rural horse farms and suburban developments. I had been hoping for some great views of the fall foliage but realized before boarding the train that the weather had pretty much dashed those notions. The “views” of the horse farms I had envisioned turned out to be brief “glimpses” harvested sporadically where saplings and bushes had not totally obstructed the panorama.

The ride terminates at a bluff high
Singing - It’s Just A Matter Of TimeSinging - It’s Just A Matter Of TimeSinging - It’s Just A Matter Of Time

Bluegrass Scenic Railroad & Museum - Versailles KY
above the Kentucky River where an abandoned trestle is waltzing with Father Time and Mother Nature. Passengers were allowed to disembark for 10-15 minutes to “enjoy” the view of denuded trees so made by the uninviting wind. Even on a great day with the fall plumage blazing or the spring wildflowers erupting, there would not be much to treasure from a ride on the Bluegrass Scenic Railroad. Admittedly, I did not dally amongst the outdoor displays because of the weather; however, I would suggest saving your funds for a ticket on a different (truly) scenic railroad.

Sunday found me heading for Richmond KY and the Fort Boonesborough State Park. Daniel Boone was chosen by the Transylvania Company to head a party of 31 axe men to clear a path through the Cumberland Gap that would run from Long Island of the Holston River in Tennessee to Otter Creek of the Kentucky River. On April 1, 1775, Daniel Boone’s party reached the southern bank of the Kentucky River and began to build a fort that became known as Boonesborough.

I had instructed Informational Irene (my GPS) to take me to Fort Boonesborough State Park. She did; however, the portion
Many Of The “Cabins” Housed The ArtisansMany Of The “Cabins” Housed The ArtisansMany Of The “Cabins” Housed The Artisans

Fort Boonesborough State Park – Lexington KY
of the park where I landed was the “resort” portion of the park where the boat launch, the swimming pool and the campground are located. I saw no directional signs during my odyssey through the resort and found Fort Boonesborough quite by accident. The attraction is about a half mile south (up the hill) from the main entrance to the State Park.

Nothing remains of the original Fort Boonesborough, but the “new” Fort Boonesborough has been reconstructed as a working fort complete with cabins, blockhouses and furnishings. The literature touts “resident artisans” on hand to provide craft demonstrations and to give visitors a sense of life as a Kentucky pioneer. I was astounded when I found not one or two artisans on hand but about a half dozen IN LATE OCTOBER!

The weaver, trapper and gunsmith were all friendly and eager to transmit their knowledge, and a couple of “shopkeepers” were not in residence when I stopped (the time of day suggested a lunch break). One cabin was hosted (not) by a chap who was so aloof that my fleeting stop was such that I cannot even remember his trade! It seems like there’s a two percent no
The Weaver Was Passionate About Her CraftThe Weaver Was Passionate About Her CraftThe Weaver Was Passionate About Her Craft

Fort Boonesborough State Park – Lexington KY
matter where one turns. Perhaps his wife was becoming impregnated, and he wanted to be there!

In spite of the cold, the skies were partly sunny and (for me) that changes everything. The attraction was quite interesting, and the Fort Boonesborough Foundation keeps an ambitious slate of activities year round, including The Siege of Fort Boonesborough that was held in late September. It seems that no matter how many living history attractions I visit, I learn something new from each artisan. I will make Fort Boonesborough a recommended site for those who have had limited experience with similar facilities OR for those who can attend on a special event day. That having been said, it is still a cool attraction and is a good way for the average tourist to occupy some spare time.

My next stop was Ashland - The Henry Clay Estate in Lexington KY. Henry Clay was born the seventh son of nine children to Reverend John and Elizabeth Hudson Clay on April 12, 1777 in Hanover County VA. As a three-year-old, Clay saw British troops ransack his family’s home and then grew up in an environment that had produced Patrick Henry and other political leaders. His widowed mother married Captain Henry Watkins who got work for the adolescent Clay as a clerk in the chancery office. With only a limited amount of formal education, the young Clay developed a handwriting style which remained clear until the end of his life. During more than half a century Henry Clay produced thousands of handwritten letters, legal briefs and other public documents.

In 1797, the twenty year old, newly licensed attorney set forth to find clients and fortune in Kentucky. In Lexington, Clay presented his Virginia license to the court and was given a license to practice law in Kentucky. Little could he have imagined, at that point, that the expanding West would become so vital a part of his life. Almost immediately, the young Virginian entered into the public and social life of rapidly expanding central Kentucky. Within a decade he had established a reputation as a highly successful trial lawyer. He married Lucretia Hart, the daughter of one of Kentucky’s major pioneering land families and became a land owner, livestock breeder, and farmer.

Henry Clay began his political career in 1803 when he was elected to the Kentucky General Assembly. In 1806 Clay
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Ashland - The Henry Clay Estate – Lexington KY
was employed to defend Aaron Burr, a task which he abandoned because of his appointment to the United States Senate that same year. Clay served alternately in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and served as Speaker of the House in five Congresses. He served as commissioner to the joint American-British peace negotiations in Ghent, Belgium in 1814. The issue for which he became most famous, however, was the Missouri Compromise. In his heart, Henry Clay favored the gradual abolition of slavery.

Burning deeply within Clay’s psyche was a yearning to be President of the United States. He made his first run for the office in 1824, with only a remote chance of winning, followed by another attempt in 1832. He suffered his most disappointing loss for Presidential office in 1844. On June 29, 1852, Henry Clay asked his son Thomas to come and sit at his bedside. Just before noon, “The Great Compromiser” died at the age of 75. The name of Henry Clay was stamped deeply on American politics during his lifetime, but perhaps his greatest honor came after his death when American historians named him one of the greatest U.S. Senators of all time.
A Pretty Fancy SmokehouseA Pretty Fancy SmokehouseA Pretty Fancy Smokehouse

Ashland - The Henry Clay Estate – Lexington KY

Indeed, Henry Clay profoundly affected Abraham Lincoln to the point that Lincoln (as confessed to a sculptor), "almost worshipped Henry Clay" and campaigned for his Presidential bid in 1844. Lincoln oftentimes imitated and quoted Clay when delivering speeches. During his debates with Stephen Douglas, Lincoln quoted Clay no less than 41 times and used a bound copy of one of Clay's speeches as one of four resources while preparing his first inaugural address.

Henry Clay had lived in Lexington since 1799, but by 1804 Clay was ready to move from his urban setting to the outskirts of town so he began to acquire land for a farm for his young family. By 1809, the center block of his new home was complete, and Clay was residing on the farm he named Ashland for the ash trees abundant on the property. At its largest, Ashland consisted of over 600 acres, and Clay owned up to 60 slaves to operate the plantation.

By 1811, Clay desired still more room and two wings were added to Ashland. The use of inferior building materials, particularly a porous type of brick, resulted in an unstable structure, and the building was likely damaged in
The Icehouses/Dairy CellarsThe Icehouses/Dairy CellarsThe Icehouses/Dairy Cellars

Ashland - The Henry Clay Estate – Lexington KY
the New Madrid earthquake and aftershocks of 1811-12. Clay's many repairs could never completely stabilize the house. Even though, given his political career, Clay spent most of the years from 1810-1829 in Washington, DC; the Clays resided at the home until his death in 1852.

When Clay died, his will dictated that Lucretia would have the property, but that when she departed or died, the property would be sold to settle the estate. A short time after Clay’s death, Lucretia moved to live with her son John at his home – Ashland on Tates Creek. Ashland was sold to another of her sons, James.

Upon purchase of Ashland, James Clay found the mansion in a state of serious disrepair. He arrived at the difficult conclusion that there was only one thing to be done - raze the house and rebuild. James had the house torn down, taking care to save all materials that could practically be salvaged. He then rebuilt the home on the existing foundation following his father’s original floor plan. He did alter certain details in the rebuilding to bring the house into a more current style, but, by and large, intentionally recreated his father’s home.
Pretty Nice Digs For The GardenerPretty Nice Digs For The GardenerPretty Nice Digs For The Gardener

Ashland - The Henry Clay Estate – Lexington KY


James Clay resided at Ashland until 1862 when he fled Lexington for fear of reprisal for his strong support of the Confederacy. He first traveled to Cuba then on to Montreal, Canada where he remained until his death in 1864 without ever returning to the home he built as a memorial to his father. His widow, Susan Jacob Clay, put the estate up for sale in 1866, and Ashland was bought by John Bryan Bowman to become part of the new Kentucky University.

Bowman initially used the home as a residence, but, after a time, certain rooms on the first floor were designated for the university’s use as a museum. Eventually, Ashland was rented out by Kentucky University until, in 1882, Kentucky University split into what became Transylvania University and the University of Kentucky. At that time, Ashland was sold to Henry Clay’s granddaughter, Anne Clay McDowell and her husband Henry Clay McDowell, who had been so named in honor of her famous grandfather. (Briefly, my maternal grandfather, also from Kentucky, was named Henry Clay Williams for a like reason!) The McDowells returned Ashland to family ownership for the first time in sixteen years.

The McDowells immediately
I Would Have Liked To Have Talked To The Foreman But Lunch Was In Order On The Other Side Of The BridgeI Would Have Liked To Have Talked To The Foreman But Lunch Was In Order On The Other Side Of The BridgeI Would Have Liked To Have Talked To The Foreman But Lunch Was In Order On The Other Side Of The Bridge

Cabin Creek Covered Bridge (1873) – Cottageville KY – Built 1867; 114 Feet Long
engaged in a major renovation and restoration effort. They kept the house largely the same but made several significant interior alterations to modernize it and bring it into a more popular style. Anne and Henry Clay McDowell resided at Ashland until their deaths. At that time, their oldest child, Nannette, took possession of the home. Nannette McDowell Bullock, her husband Thomas and son Henry were the last residents of Ashland, and it is through Nannette’s efforts that the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation was created – preserving Henry Clay’s legacy, the house and 17 remaining acres for future generations.

Henry Clay deeply loved Ashland. For him, it provided a place of refuge and sanctuary from a difficult, and often disappointing, world and was one of the few places where Clay regularly found happiness. Today, Ashland serves as a place of retreat and comfort for many of its neighbors, the people of Lexington and thousands of guests who visit the site each year – just as it did for Henry Clay. Ashland has been open to the public as a historic house museum since 1950 and was made a National Historic Landmark in 1961. Interior photography is not allowed, but the
How Long Will It Last Without Repair?How Long Will It Last Without Repair?How Long Will It Last Without Repair?

Grange City Covered Bridge – Hillsboro KY – Built c.1865; 86 Feet Long
history of Ashland and its builder vaults it to the “must see” list.

Monday, October 28 found me on another covered bridge peek-a-boo. I have ten covered bridges that lie northeast of Lexington listed in my spreadsheet and had them included in my printout of attractions to see in the Lexington area. Those of you who read my previous blog might remember I had no Internet access while I was in Rockville IN; therefore, I had not entered the coordinates into Google Earth and geographically re-sequenced the bridge locations in a logical order – they remained on the printout in alphabetical order.

I entered the GPS coordinates of the covered bridges in the sequence as they appeared on the printout. After visiting five covered bridges (one of which was undergoing an extensive rebuild) and encountering two bridges located on private property with “No Trespassing” signs posted; I realized what had happened, saw that I would have to do some serious backtracking and opted to abandon my plans to visit the other three. I did however, in spite of the overcast skies and the mostly barren trees, have a very nice drive that generally took me northeast on US
Some Wood Protectant Might Be In OrderSome Wood Protectant Might Be In OrderSome Wood Protectant Might Be In Order

Johnson Creek Covered Bridge (1874) - Mount Olivet KY – Built 1862; 110 Feet Long
68 to Maysville KY and then south on KY 11 to its intersection with I-64 which took me back to Lexington. The bridges I saw are, compared to Indiana and New England, in need of some major TLC before they are lost to the elements, time and posterity.

I had much grander plans for my one-week stay in Lexington, but having attractions on my “to do” list does not mean that I will suffer through miserable weather to complete the list nor to develop pneumonia as a memento of my stay. Fortunately, my aunt lives nearby and Lexington is located such that a slight diversion as I travel to other cities will offer me other opportunities to complete my list. I definitely plan to return to visit some of the thoroughbred farms and to partake of some of the walking tours endorsed by the visitor center.


Additional photos below
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The Small Museum Has Some Interesting DisplaysThe Small Museum Has Some Interesting Displays
The Small Museum Has Some Interesting Displays

Fort Boonesborough State Park – Lexington KY
The Candlemaker Had Gone To Lunch When I StoppedThe Candlemaker Had Gone To Lunch When I Stopped
The Candlemaker Had Gone To Lunch When I Stopped

Fort Boonesborough State Park – Lexington KY
The Approaches To This Bridge Have Been Rebuilt RecentlyThe Approaches To This Bridge Have Been Rebuilt Recently
The Approaches To This Bridge Have Been Rebuilt Recently

Goddard or White Covered Bridge (date unknown) – Flemingsburg KY – Built c.1880; 63 Feet Long
The Setting Is Perfect, But It’s No Longer In ServiceThe Setting Is Perfect, But It’s No Longer In Service
The Setting Is Perfect, But It’s No Longer In Service

Ringos Mills Covered Bridge (ca. 1869) - Ringos Mills KY – Built 1869; 90 Feet Long


1st December 2013

Visit Hawaiian horses
The Kentucky bluegrass country is gorgeous when the chance for freezing drizzles falls to nill. November, on the other hand, is a perfect time to explore Hawaii's horse country. I enjoyed your account of Mary Lincoln's birthplace. Accusations about inlaws challenged both Lincoln and Grant.

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