Farm History

As I started to write the blog this morning, I was blank on what exactly to write about. We’ve had so much rain, we can’t ford the creek to get to the calves, or the tractors, or mow– so not a lot is going on at the present. Before writing each morning, however, I always check the local craigslist to see what is for sale. Found it funny yesterday that someone was selling cow manure. Maybe not too funny for those raised on a farm and, of course, I know it’s used as fertilizer, but there’s that city-girl in me still whose initial reaction is to laugh at people actually selling “clean” cow poop!

The historian in me has taken over this morning. Maybe its the historical photos someone posted on Facebook this morning of the area my grandparents grew up that sparked it, but I thought I’d share a little history of this farm. This is the area where Kentucky Bourbon got its start. When George Washington implemented a whiskey tax to help pay for the Revolutionary War, settlers in western Pennsylvania, in particular, revolted…the old Whiskey Rebellion. Some of those settlers packed up their stills and headed west, settling in this area. Our farm was part of one of those initial distilliary locations.

The land sold to new owners, who also produced distilled spirits that were made of barley, rye, and corn, as well as a pear liquor. By the time of the civil war, the new owner was one of the largest producers in the area. He married twice, apparently sisters (after he was widowed by the first sister) and the women are buried here on the property. A daughter married the local toll road keeper’s son and during the war gave birth to a daughter herself. Both were named Clara. Clara I died in Georgia sometime around the time she gave birth, so Clara II was raised by her grandparents…until a cholera outbreak killed her and her grandmother. She too is buried on the property, as was a slave, Gully, brought from Virginia and buried along with the rest of the family.

In time, one of the sons moved to Missouri and established a distillery there that is still in production today. The Civil War owner lived to a ripe old age, but died in Louisville, where his daughter listed him, not as a distiller, but as a rancher. The huge farm was broken up and passed to new owners and eventually Mike purchased it.

I love the history of the place. An old log pin barn forms the support for a later barn that is now about to collapse. An old stone cistern lay under the falling walls of the newer barn. Vertical dry stack walls reveal the Civil War connections to the farm, as it was part of the outer defenses for a nearby town. An old rock spring house hides away in the woods near the remaining foundations of long forgotten buildings. Arrowheads galore appear after Mike plows and a rain showers wash away the dirt, a hint that it was a major Native American encampment (in fact, nearby in the 1700s the British and Indians attacked American settlers, took prisoners, and marched them off to Detroit to be ransomed). An occasional old coin found in the dirt dates its loser.

These too are things that make farming worthwhile for me. It is a heritage we tend to forget otherwise when we think of our area as “horse country.” Racing, a century-old innovation, takes a far back seat to this history that is Kentucky, and every day as I glance out our windows at the land, I am reminded of it. Our cows, the fields, even the fruit trees relive a past that resides within the present.

About cattlebaroness

I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky with a BA in History, nearing completion of a Master of Arts in American history. Born and raised first on military bases around the world, then in Orange County, CA, I moved to Kentucky when my children were small. I now live on a small family farm and am learning about farm life, planting and our newest addition to the landscape--cattle. Until a month or two ago, all I knew about 'cows' were that they came in brown, black and white and that some are raised for milk and others for meat. I am a quick study out of necessity.
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2 Responses to Farm History

  1. kathy valadez says:

    you have a great way with words, love reading your stuff…

  2. Thanks, Kathy. It’s all off the top of my head, complete with typos, sometimes. While I loved traveling as a kid, Kentucky has always been “home.”

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