Friday, July 5, 2013

Locust Grove Meets Jane Austen

Locust Grove
Built in 1790

It was a soggy Independence Day but I refused to be daunted and my visit to Locust Grove, one time home of George Rogers Clark, was quite a treat. Isn't it wonderful that some of these historic homes - this one was built in 1790 - have been preserved? And, the volunteers who take the time to familiarize themselves with the stories of the people who lived in them make the long-dead occupants come alive again.

I guess because it was such a rainy day, not too many people came out to take advantage of free admission to the house, so I had one volunteer, Jason, all to myself. He was on fire with the stories of Lucy Clark Groghan (George's sister), and her husband, William who had the brick house built on their 700-acre farm. 

We chatted for a long time in the room in which George Rogers Clark spent the final years of his life - from 1809 to 1819. By the time he came to live at Locust Grove, Jason told me, he was in poor health. He had had a stroke and due to a bad burn, one of his legs had been amputated. There was a ladderback chair in his room that had been outfitted with small wheels and since Clark's room was on the ground floor, he could get around to the dining room and the parlor and the estate office. 

I also learned that one of Lucy and William's sons, John Croghan, studied medicine under founding father and physician Benjamin Rush and in 1839 he bought Mammoth Cave and opened a tuberculosis clinic there. The thought at the time was that the constant cool temperature - about 54 degrees - would be restorative to patients.  It didn't work out and the hospital was only open a few months. 

Three presidents - Monroe, Taylor, and Jackson - all were guests in the home as well as artist John James Audubon.

I was surprised that there were no bookshelves in the house. William Croghan was a land surveyor - he and GRC were partners - and I thought maybe he would have had shelves built in. Although there were some odd books lying about, none of them had been actual possessions of the family. 

I learned that a couple of literary events are scheduled to be held on the grounds this summer. The sixth annual Jane Austen Festival will be happening July 20 and 21 and will celebrate the bicentennial of Pride and Prejudice. Last year, 1700 people attended workshops, a Regency fashion show, and afternoon tea. This year, there will be a reading marathon of P&P on the porch of the house.

In even better news, Locust Grove's summer used book sale is coming up in August. I have spent many a penny at these twice-a-year sales and have found some wonderful bargains. You can be sure the book sale dates are marked on my calendar.


  1. I was so hoping you would write about Locust Grove. Thank you. It is a home I would love to visit something; so much history with so many luminaries who visited, slept, or lived there. How fortunate for you that you had the docent to yourself.

    Now, what books will you buy???

    1. Ah, the books! I used to work with the two fellows who run this sale for LC and there are always some wonderful finds. A huge history section and lots of old books which I love best of all. And a fine selection of children's books which always intrigue me.

      Penny, this house is no more than 10 minutes from me and although I have attended events there, this was (shame on me) my first visit inside the home. There are quite a few activities held here during the year. It was such a pleasant outing. There were lots of volunteers and I was just lucky to get Jason to show me around. He was quite entertaining.

  2. Oh my goodness! I'd love to come to the Jane Austen festival. I'm sure I won't get there, but it sounds like fun. And I love touring old houses like this.

    1. It does sound like fun, doesn't it, Kat! I may have to go just to sit on the porch and read P&P.