Monday, September 30, 2013

The Seige of Boonesborough

When the Revolutionary war broke out in 1775, Daniel Boone responded to the call to arms by packing up his family and heading west. He took a group through the Cumberland Gap and established a settlement along the Kentucky River originally called Boone's Fort but soon changed to Boonesborough. There, in February of 1778, Boone and a party of men who were out gathering salt were surrounded by the Shawnee. The Indians had been armed by the British in hopes that they would liquidate the American settlements west of the mountains and avoid having to commit British troops to the area. Because they were greatly outnumbered, Boone convinced his men to surrender rather than fight. Most of the men were taken to Detroit where they became British prisoners, but the Shawnee custom was to adopt some prisoners into their tribe to replace fallen warriors and Boone got made an honorary Shawnee.

A Renaissance Faire tent at the American Revolution
Several months later he learned that the Shawnee were planning to attack Boonesborough in force. He escaped and sped back to warn the settlement, covering 150 miles in five days without food or supplies. The Indian attack arrived in September resulting in a siege of 11 days. Boonesborough had a wooden stockade around it and the Indians had no cannon to reduce the fortifications, so after several failed attacks they lost interest and went back to raiding small homesteads and less well defended settlements.  Now, every September, a contingent of that strangest of all creatures, the historical re-enactor, descends on a reconstructed Boonesborough to re-create the battle in miniature and, more than anything, play with their replica black powder muskets.

Fort Boonesborough State Park has a fairly accurate re-creation of the original fort with about 18 or 20 buildings and a surrounding wooden stockade. Artisans in the buildings give demonstrations of colonial era crafts during the tourist season which extends until the fall leaves drop. In addition to these regular costumed park staff, on the day we went about 30 or 40 re-enactors were there to play out the 11 day battle in about 30 min. This consisted of about 10 min. of poorly memorized dialogue representing the pre-battle negotiations followed by 20 min. of muskets being fired more or less at random. There was lots of noise and smoke and an embarrassingly high percentage of musket misfires.  At one point the defenders rolled out a makeshift cannon constructed out of a wooden log reinforced with iron bands.  Boone's brother actually produced such a contraption at the historical battle.  It lasted two shots.  The whole show was pretty fun (more for the actors than the spectators I suspect) but you were left with the impression that both sides were terrible marksmen since no one ever showed any signs of being shot. Eventually the Indians retreated and we went back into the Fort to tour the regular exhibits.

Waiting for the battle to commence.
Daniel and Chief Blackfish parlay
Negotiations break down
Bold settlers defend the fort wearing sunglasses.
The attackers return fire and ignite a stack of corn stalks for no apparent reason.
The wooden cannon makes a brief appearance.
Candle making
There was a candle making shop and one for producing soap. The cakes of soap were then taken out to the village square where a woman was washing clothes by beating them severely with a wooden hammer. I wasn't sure exactly why that would work but I left her to it. There was also a blacksmith's forge where they were producing a replica musket, which was pretty interesting. Without metal drills or power equipment, making a single musket barrel took about two months. The flintlock mechanism was usually shipped in from Boston or other parts East, being too complicated for the locals to produce.
Blacksmith at work
The horner answers questions
There was also a woodworking shop which demonstrated techniques that would not have taken place in a shop but would have been something that each settler would have to be able to do on their own property. Making wooden utensils and bowls, tool handles, table legs and the like. Much of the work was done with a hammer and chisel, gradually shaping a hunk of wood by chipping away the bits you didn't want. The next workshop in the row was the Horner (as in Little Jack). This is someone who makes things out of cow horns. I had never really thought about this before. Obviously, they made powder horns, but the fellow said that if you steam a horn it becomes pliable and you can turn it into almost anything that you would today make
Ready to produce the evening refreshments
out of plastic. In the corner of his shop he had a 5 gallon copper still with which he makes bootleg liquor, strictly for research purposes I'm sure. Unlike the one I had seen in the Museum last week, this one was all set up and ready to run, and apparently does so a couple of times a week. It is, as it turns out, perfectly legal to make whiskey and other alcoholic beverages for your friends and family as long as you don't sell any of it. Some of the pioneers apparently would mix up mash in saddlebags and let it ferment while they were on the trail. Then in the evening, they poured it into a small one gallon still they carried with them to produce up to a pint of high potency liquor a day. It probably tasted awful but I don't think they cared.

This was the first time we had ever been to a reenactment other than a Renaissance Faire. There were maybe 200 people there for the shooting and everyone seemed to have a good time. We'll probably do it again if the circumstances present themselves.
A little post-battle entertainment

Friday, September 27, 2013

More Random Tales

Statue of Stephen Foster at My Old Kentucky Home State Park
Stephen Foster has been dubbed "the father of American music" and was one of the first people in history to try to make a living writing popular songs. He composed over 200 of them including "Oh! Susanna", "Camptown Races", "Old Folks at Home", "My Old Kentucky Home", "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair", "Old Black Joe", and "Beautiful Dreamer". Unfortunately, he failed in his quest to make a living at it, dying of pneumonia at the age of 37 with a net worth of 39 cents. Despite the fact that his songs were enormously popular, copyright law was pretty hit and miss so sheet music publishers would just print copies of his music without bothering to pay any royalties. His songs were largely geared to that most racist of American entertainments, the blackface minstrel show and a good chunk of his income came from selling performance rights of his music to the Christy Minstrels, one of the premier blackface troops of the pre-Civil War era. (I had less than no idea this was the namesake of The New Christy Minstrels in the 1960's.)

The actual old Kentucky home
Foster never had any Old Kentucky Home (he lived in Pennsylvania), but his cousin did and Stephen visited it during his honeymoon in 1852. The house served as the inspiration for the song which is now the official state song of Kentucky. If you would like to see "My Old Kentucky Home", it is now the centerpiece of a state park in Bardstown, KY. The house was built by Judge John Rowan in 1795 and was home to the Rowan family for 4 generations until it was sold to the state of Kentucky in 1920. Unlike many of the historic houses we have been through, almost all of the furnishings in the home are original although the home has been refurbished with new carpeting and wallpapers. It is a very nice home and very nice grounds but still, these are people you have never heard of and don't care about. The only reason anyone goes there is because of the song which is a nostalgic remembrance by a man who never lived there and had nothing to be nostalgic about. It's funny how history works out sometimes.  (It should be noted that the state of Kentucky has expunged all references to "darkies" from the song's lyrics.)

Bardstown is a haven of Catholicism situated in the midst of southern U.S. Protestantism. It was the site of the first Catholic Cathedral west of the Allegheny Mountains, however when the state capital was situated in Louisville, the Archbishop relocated  and built himself a shiney new cathedral, relegating the Bardstown church to the status of proto-Cathedral. Bardstown is also the location of several major distilleries including Jim Beam, Makers Mark and Heaven Hill and bills itself as the "Bourbon Capital of the World".  The weekend after we visited was the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival but all the good events had sold out, so we visited during the week and avoided the crowds.

Overpriced conveyance
We opted not to do another distillery tour, but we did tour the town in a horse-drawn carriage which was nice, but not worth nearly what we paid for it. We were planning to take a trolley tour however the  trolley drivers are also the school bus drivers, so after Labor Day the trolley tours stop at noon so the kiddies can get home. We also stopped into the Old Talbott Tavern (built in 1779) and had some Bourbon based drinks since it was the only tavern we had seen that was still serving its intended purpose. That evening we had the highly recommended southern fried chicken at Kurtz Restaurant, a place where the family started serving meals out of their home in 1937. They are still serving the same meals in the same house, specializing in old family recipes currently prepared by the third generation descendents of the original cook. The chicken was "skillet fried" and was really good, nice and crispy on the outside and moist on the inside but in the end it was still just fried chicken. Maybe I was expecting too much.

Artifacts sans context
Bardstown also has a small museum complex which includes a Civil War Museum, I'm not sure why exactly since the Civil War never really got to Bardstown. They had a lot of items on display and it was interesting but did not really tell any kind of coherent story. It's great if you want to look at a lot of period firearms and clothing and  other artifacts but it could have used more context.

Outdoors, they also had an area of log buildings from the original settlement days. Most of these were moved from original locations around the county.  One of the homes was a single room log house with a ladder going up to a loft where the children slept. We had not seen this before but in a letter Daniel Boone describes this arrangement in his family's home at Boonesville.


For those of you who, like me, have forgotten everything you ever knew about Henry Clay, we will have a quick recap. Clay was a Kentucky lawyer and politician who wound up being a Kentucky state representative and senator. He was elected speaker of the house during his first term in congress and is largely responsible for transforming the speakership from an administrative position to a post of considerable political power.  He ran for president five times, losing the presidential election three
Henry Clay's estate of Ashland
times and failing to even gain his party's nomination the other two. His party, by the way, was the Whigs who campaigned on a platform of artificial hairpieces for all. After losing the presidential race in 1824 he threw his electoral votes to John Quincy Adams, giving the latter what he needed to become president. In return, John Quincy appointed Sen. Clay to the post of Secretary of State which he filled from 1825 two 1829. He was the driving force behind the Missouri compromise in 1820 and also the compromise of 1850, both of which sought to preserve the balance between slave and free states and avert the Civil War.

Ice houses
We visited his home in Lexington. Well, sort of. The home that he actually built and lived in fell into such disrepair that after he died his son razed the whole thing to the ground and rebuilt it on the same foundation with the same floor plan. However in the replacement, the outside was in an Italianate style and the inside was Greek revival. Still, it was an interesting tour and the place was stuffed full of Henry Clay artifacts which I can't show you because photography was not allowed. Outside the house were two ice houses for food storage. They would fill the underground portions of these buildings with ice in February and it wouldn't completely melt away until the end of August. We have seen other ice houses (Thomas Jefferson had one at
The privy -it's a two holer!
Monticello) but none in this weird parapet style. We also saw the original privies. There were two rooms in the outhouse, each of which had two seats. Think about that, how does that work exactly? "Oh, I'm feeling a little plugged up, guess I'll go out and have myself a nice dump."  "Great idea, I think I'll join you."  In Ephesus, we saw Roman public bathrooms with whole rows of seats side-by-side, but I would never have guessed that the 19th century American elite would have needed more than one seat in a privy.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Random Tales from Bluegrass Country

"Kentucky" is a word in several Native American languages that means "meadow land". Before the European settlers arrived, the area around present day Lexington was a huge savanna bounded by
The Bluegrass State
higher elevation plateaus on all sides, filled with herds of bison and other wildlife and used by the Shawnee, Cherokee and Iroquois as a hunting ground. Much of the area was covered with a species of Poa grass now known as Kentucky Bluegrass. Despite the photograph to the right, the term "bluegrass"was coined because of the tiny blue flowers that appear for a couple of weeks in the spring. The rest of the year, the grass is green just like everyplace else. The bluegrass area was where all the early Kentucky settlers set up shop and still contains the states largest cities and most of its population.

Statue at the Kentucky Horse Park
Early on during the settlement of Kentucky it was noted that horses raised on Kentucky bluegrass were sturdier than average. It turns out this was not due to the inherent nature of the grass itself but rather to the high calcium content of the soil which led to better bone structure. In any event, a culture of horse breeding grew there and the area is now covered with large horse farms. The Kentucky Horse Park is a combination working horse farm and horse themed tourist attraction we visited for an afternoon. Going there, you can learn more than you ever wanted to know about horses, horse racing and horse heroes.
Horses of the world show

This is Cigar, one of the former champion racehorses now living out his retirement at the Park.  Foaled in April of 1990, he was not raced until his third year. He was bred as a turf racing horse, but out of nine races in his three-year-old year on turf he placed second once and failed to show in the other eight. At that point, his owner decided to try racing him the next year on dirt. I have no idea what the difference between a turf track and a dirt track is to the horse, but Cigar running on dirt won his next 16 races in a row, tying the sport record and allowing him to retire as the highest money winner in horse racing history.

At this point Cigar was supposed to retire to a stud farm and produce multiple generations of champions, the usual reward for big winners. Unfortunately, out of the first 49 pairings, the number of mares that got pregnant was zero. Lab testing confirmed that the horse was sterile and several years of treatments failed to change that fact. There will be no little Cigarettes. The Prince of Saudi Arabia who owned him at that point collected $25 million from an insurance company that had issued a policy on the horse covering sickness, injury and other failures to reproduce. In retrospect, I suspect they wish they had gotten a semen analysis prior to issuing the policy. The Prince at that point lost interest in the horse and donated him to the Kentucky Horse Park as "a gift to the people of Kentucky". Cigar now gets trotted out and shown to tourists three times a day and otherwise does not have to do squat. Not a bad gig.


Confederate memorial at Perryville
During the Civil War, Kentucky was in an odd position. It was a slave state but did not really want to withdraw from the Union. The Kentucky legislature passed a resolution declaring the state neutral in the conflict and hoped that would end their involvement, but such was not to be the case. The state controlled access to the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and was therefore strategically desirable for both sides. There were many sympathizers for both sides as well. The Confederacy felt that as a slave state, Kentucky naturally fell into their camp and included a star on their flag for the state. Southern sympathizers even set up a second state government at Bowling Green. The Confederates thought that if they invaded Kentucky, the locals would rise up in support and throw the Yankees out, so they sent an army of about 30,000 men North, headed towards Lexington. Meanwhile, Kentucky native Abraham Lincoln believed the state was key to a Union victory and sent over 50,000 troops to defend the state, divided into three Corps.

On October 8 of 1862, the Confederates met the Union 3rd corps just outside the small town of Perryville and fought one of the bloodiest and least remembered battles of the war. The rebel army, although outnumbered, forced the union troops to retreat and, if you just read the scorecard, won a tactical victory in terms of total casualties. However, by the end of the battle
Picture of Roger with puppies and cannon
they were running low on ammunition and the other two Union corps (each of which by now was larger than the entire southern contingent) were rapidly approaching, forcing the Southerners to retreat through the Cumberland gap and abandon the state. For the rest of the war, Kentucky, although nominally "loyal" was under Union military occupation.

After the battle, the Union forces were not particularly gracious. They buried their war dead but left the southern soldiers to literally rot on the ground. After a week, a local farmer named Henry Bottom, on whose land much of
Picture of Vicki with puppies and cannon
the battle had been fought, along with some of his neighbors and their slaves gathered up the Confederate dead and buried them in a mass grave at the top of a hill on his land. A memorial statue was eventually constructed over the site and right next to it is the visitor center for the Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site. We visited the site with its small museum outlining the course of the battle and then toured the battlefield which has apparently changed little in the ensuing century and a half. We saw Henry Bottom's home which is still standing there. Like the Shakers, the battle led to financial ruin for Henry from which he was never able to recover. Virtually every building in a 50 mile radius was converted to a field hospital for several months and the Union army confiscated and consumed all of the food in the area waiting for supplies to be brought in. The Confederacy's hoped for popular uprising never materialized however although Kentucky was loyal to the Union, she wasn't very happy with it.
Henry Bottom's farm house

Dr. McDowell's house with the apothecary shop on the right
Danville is a town about 20 miles south of Harrodsburg where we went to visit the house of Dr. Ephraim McDowell, the father of abdominal surgery. In the 18th century, abdominal surgery was toyed with and then abandoned because all of the patients died, probably of peritonitis. Then in 1809, Dr. McDowell successfully removed a 22 pound ovarian tumor. The patient, Mrs. Jane Todd Crawford, was thought by her local physician to have an overdue pregnancy. Not knowing what to do, he called Dr. McDowell who rode 60 miles to evaluate the woman and discovered that she had a massive ovarian tumor. He explained to her that she was probably going to die regardless of treatment but she wanted to proceed with surgery anyway. She rode 60 miles on horseback to get back to his house in Danville where the procedure was performed on Christmas Day in an upstairs bedroom without the benefit of anesthesia. Dr. McDowell knew nothing about infectious disease or antisepsis but did insist on "scrupulous cleanliness" for surgery. He performed the operation in 25 min., first opening the tumor and removing 15 pounds of gelatinous contents to make it small enough to fit through the opening, then removed the remainder through the 10 inch incision. Fully expecting his patient to die, he was surprised five days later when he walked in and found her making her own bed. She went on to live for another 39 years. He subsequently performed several similar successful operations before reporting his techniques to the medical community.

Our lovely, superannuated guide in the apothecary
We toured the doctor's house in Danville largely because of this curious connection to medical history. Our guide was a delightful, rather elderly retired nurse who had been giving tours of the place for 30 years. We were her last customers on her last day on the job. The house had been restored and preserved by the Boyle County Medical Society. The furnishings had all been scattered but after they opened the house for tours, McDowell descendents started coming out of the woodwork offering family heirlooms for display, so they actually have a fair amount of original material. Dr. McDowell ran an apothecary shop attached to his house, however the contents of the shop currently on display were not Dr. McDowell's. The complete set that you see in the picture including all of the jars, the drawers, the mortar, the scales, the whole shebang was donated by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals on the condition that they not be mixed with any other collections. This was quite generous on the part of Pfizer considering that the collection probably represents 1/10,000th of 1% of their annual profits.

Grayson's Tavern
Across the street from the doctor's house is a small park called Constitution Square. It includes the tavern where the Kentucky state constitution was largely hammered out, presumably over respectable quantities of adult beverages. (Unfortunately, it now holds the park administrative offices so we could not go in for a pleasant pint.) There are also a number of "replica" log buildings from the early pioneer days however the building below is not a replica, it is an actual log cabin built sometime prior to 1792. They do not know how much prior, but in August of 1792 it became the first post office west of the Appalachian Mountains.
The US Post Office circa 1792

Friday, September 20, 2013

Kentucky History

By the late 1780s, Kentucky was becoming unmanageable as a county of Virginia. Richmond was just too far away and difficult to reach, so the push was on for Kentucky to become a separate state. At about the same time, Frankfort was established by James Wilkinson in 1786. Statehood was granted in 1789 and a commission was appointed to decide where the capital would be. A number of towns were in contention for this honor and Frankfort was not the oldest nor the biggest nor the richest. But they were the town that paid the commissioners the biggest bribe.  According to early histories, the offer of Andrew Holmes' log house as capitol for seven years, a number of town lots, £50 worth of locks and hinges, 10 boxes of glass, 1,500 pounds of nails, and $3,000 in gold helped the commission reach the correct decision. This was apparently not unusual at the time. It is said the decision to allow Kentucky to become a state in the first place revolved around a barge load of tobacco given to certain members of the Virginia House of Burgesses to help them decide the issue. That represented about $5000 in cash when the barge reached New Orleans.

We went to Frankfort to visit the Museum of Kentucky History. We spent a couple of hours going through the exhibits which ran in chronological order starting with the Native Americans and ending
Native American flute
with the civil rights movement. I'm not going to try and give any kind of comprehensive history of Kentucky (that is why God gave us Wikipedia) but I am going to mention a few items that interested me.

One of the early exhibits showed a Native American flute. I have heard the sound of these in documentary films but I cannot recall ever having actually seen one. It appears to play something like a European recorder. Apparently these were made throughout North and South America and were used for religious ceremonial purposes. On the (admittedly few) occasions when I have seen Indian dance performances I have only seen drums and rattles as instruments and the flute kind of surprised me.

The painting shown here is a famous picture of "Daniel Boone Leading Settlers through the Cumberland Gap" that you see reproduced all over the state. Underneath is a well preserved flintlock long rifle that "may have belonged to Daniel Boone". There were at least three of these in the Museum. Now Daniel lived to be 90 years old and spent most of those years as a soldier and/or hunter and may well have owned dozens of flintlocks during his lifetime but I suspect it is kind of like pieces of the true cross. Anyone can scratch "Daniel" into the stock of a rifle.

Here is another one of Daniel Boone's alleged rifles along with a plaster cast of his skull made when they transported his body from Missouri, where he died, back to Kentucky where they reburied him in the new Frankfort Cemetery 15 years later. The Missouri branch of the Boone family says they got the wrong skeleton and Daniel is still buried in Marthasville. This was generally considered sour grapes until a forensic anthropologist in 1983 declared that the plaster cast was most consistent with the skull of an African-American. Oh, and Daniel Boone apparently never covered that skull with a coonskin cap. He preferred felt hats. The coonskin cap was used on the television show to allow Fess Parker to wear the same getup he used for Davy Crockett.

This is not an early version of the Sousaphone.  It is a pot bellied still from the prohibition era.  Kentucky and Tennessee worked hard to keep the east coast speakeasies supplied with alcohol.  This was specially made for the job, unlike many that were put together out of old car radiators, allowing lead and antifreeze to leech into the whiskey and give it a little extra kick.

Later in the Museum they had a model T Ford on display. Apparently Ford set up a factory in Louisville Kentucky in 1913 which managed to turn out a whopping 11 cars per day. There is still a Ford plant in Louisville, although not at the same location, which makes Explorers and Escapes.

The entrance fee to the museum includes tickets to the Kentucky Military Museum and the Kentucky Museum of Women's History which we did not have time to see, but also included a
The Old Capitol Building
guided tour of the Old Capitol Building which is about a block away. Our tour group consisted of just the two of us and our guide picked us up at the museum entrance and walked us down the street. This was the third state capital, the first two having burned down. It served as the state capital from 1830 until 1910 and has belonged to the museum since 1920. It was built in a Greek Revival style and was modeled after the Temple of Minerva at Priene. The most interesting feature of the interior is a stone staircase with no visible means of
Free floating stairs
support. Looking at the stairs, it's hard to believe that there is enough stone at each joint to support the weight of the steps above. We did not climb the staircase, the guide had us take the elevator to the legislative chambers on the second floor. I don't know if she does that with all the tourists or just me but I did not complain. In the center of the building is a large dome with large windows to bring light inside. The decorations were all hand made out of some kind of plaster by a single individual. They are starting to come apart somewhat but the Museum's keepers are afraid to try any kind of restoration for fear of the whole thing coming down around their ears.
Large windows in the capital dome
Flying staircases
Our tour guide in the old state assembly chamber
The following day we went to visit the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, about 5 miles from our campground as the crow flies but 22 miles by road because of the river. Shakers were a religious sect that developed in England and came to America in the late 18th century to avoid religious persecution. They initially set up a number of communities in New York State.
The center family house at Pleasant Hill
The early settlers of Kentucky up to about 1790 were mostly not church affiliated but the area had a major period of religious revival in the 1790s and early 1800s. You can still see the effects driving through the area. Any town that you go through will have a church or two on every block (and in a state that prides itself on its bourbon whiskey, almost half of the towns are still "dry".) The Shakers saw this as a field ripe for the harvest and sent missionaries to Kentucky to seek converts. They were a little Pentecostal... during worship they would dance and shake and speak in tongues. They lived communally and believed the second coming of Christ was imminent. Because of this, populating the planet was not a priority and Mother Ann Lee, the patron saint of the movement, insisted on total
Shaker hand crafts
celibacy. The Shakers did not marry and if a couple entered the community already married, they had to live separately. You would think this would make the religion a pretty hard sell but they were surprisingly successful in getting converts. This is mostly because they were surprisingly successful at many other things like managing their farms and having plenty of food and other creature comforts. In the pre-Civil War era life was pretty hard and the Shaker community was not unattractive. They also made it a policy to take in orphans and raise them within the church society. At the age of 21, they got to decide whether they wanted to stay or not, but how many would choose to leave the only life they have ever known?

The east family compound
The community divided itself into three "families" of about 100 members each and lived in large barracks type buildings with men on one side and women on the other. Each family essentially ran its own farm with all members working together for the common good. There is a tendency for people who don't know any better (like me) to think that the Shakers were similar to the Amish and avoided any modern conveniences but this could not be further from the truth. They were inventors and early adopters of new technology. They had a system of running water from a central water tower at a time when most of the surrounding villages were still carting their water around in buckets. A horse powered pump would move the water from the spring up to the water tower. They also had horse powered washing machines to help with the laundry and machines that would de-husk their corn and an early type of grain elevator. They believed in sexual equality at a time when such ideas were almost unheard of and were pacifists, refusing to take sides in the Civil War.

The war became their undoing anyway. Their location near the battle of Perryville brought thousands of soldiers to their doorstep, many sick or wounded and they did their best to care for both sides. They were literally eaten out of house and home that year and were never really able to fully recover after the war. American society changed significantly and the number of converts dropped off to almost nothing. Celibacy has always been a hard sell and as year after year went by and Christ failed to appear, their central dogmas appeared less and less likely to hold up. By 1900 there were only 34 members of the community left and the last Kentucky Shaker died in 1923.

Wagon tour
The property changed hands a few times but generally fell into disrepair until it was finally purchased by a preservation society in the 1960s. Of the 60 some odd buildings on the property at the height of their prosperity, 34 remain and have been restored including all three of the "family" houses and the Trustees Building where the community did their business with the outside world. You can pretty much see the whole thing in a couple of hours including a 30 min. tour in a horse-drawn wagon. The restoration was overseen by the same man who put together Colonial Williamsburg and it is somewhat similar with workers in period costumes answering questions and giving demonstrations throughout the day. There is also an outstanding restaurant in the Trustees Building which serves only food from local farms with a daily menu based on what happens to be available.

Paddlewheel boat
Pleasant Hill also owns a boat dock along the Kentucky River where they use to ship their farm goods down river. The village owns a paddlewheel boat on which you can take a one-hour ride. Interestingly, the Kentucky River isn't really a river in this area so much as a series of lakes. Just after the Civil War it was decided to build a series of dams and locks to maintain the depth of the river at a minimum of 6 feet between here and the Ohio River. This project was pursued at great expense over a couple of decades and was finally completed at about the same time that the railroad arrived and made the lock system obsolete. The dams are now used primarily to maintain a supply of drinking water for the cities along the river and the locks are used only by private boaters.

The boat ride was pleasant and had narration by the captain who had a dry sense of humor. The trip took us underneath one high railroad bridge and, in each direction, just as we approached the bridge a train came by. The boat captain told us that it was the same train, it just goes around in circles all day long to entertain the boat passengers. I think he was kidding.

Boating on the Kentucky River