Chris Lueken's blog
On March 20th, 2012, Richard Briggs, Gary Kempf, John Gatton, and myself took a day trip down Indiana’s 111. To get to the part of 111 I am interested in, you simply take the newly repaired Sherman-Minton Bridge to New Albany, Indiana and follow the signs towards the Horseshoe Casino Boat. Our crew had no interest in ‘The Boat', however, our intentions were to make our way to Corporal Charles Kelley's 'perch', (a member of the 37 Indiana Vol. Infantry) where he sat and drew a photograph of West Point, Kentucky and above it, our beloved Fort Duffield, one hundred and fifty years ago.
On our drive to that spot, we first stopped at a little place that was once called Sugar Grove. From the late 1800s until the 1950s, it was a thriving little town to go to for church picnics and socials. From an essay by Griffin A. Pless written January 24, 1956: "Most churches, especially the Protestant ones only functioned one day out of seven, the Sunday morning and evening services, and a possible mid-week prayer meeting, so that the annual picnic was quite an attraction to bring members of the congregations into closer social contacts and better understanding, and an opportunity for Sunday Schools to award merits for regular attendance, etc."
Ferryboats from New Albany (Indiana) and Portland (Kentucky) would usher people to this magical place on the great Ohio River for a place to meet at church functions. I will post a photograph of an old drawing below of Sugar Grove, and you can see to the northwest, across highway 111 there were steps coming down that steep hill, then over the highway, above a huge rock (one I did successfully climb) and over to the campground. All that is left now is the rock described above, a few outbuildings, and one main structure that resembled an old church. We got out of Gary's van and crossed 111. I scrambled upon the rock and posed for photos, climbed down, then we proceeded to investigate the old structure. It had obviously been used by fisherman in recent years, mostly for a place to lodge and drink beer. John Gatton and I walked around the building, mused at the creek behind it, and its distance from the Ohio River. Soon we were back in Gary's van headed to yet another forgotten place: Rosewood, Indiana.
Rosewood once had a post office, as well as a thriving community. Now all that remains is the Rosewood Church, a beautifully kept cemetery, and a few well-kept homes, all along 111. We stopped by the cemetery that holds the remains of Mary Colvin-Pinkston (1876-1921). Mary had an interesting life. Her sister was married to a Doctor Applegate (not of West Point) who lived across the river in Jefferson County. She was engaged to a man named Leo Thurman of West Point, Ky. Her brother in law had begged her repeatedly NOT to marry Leo, but she did anyway. At some point early in her marriage, Leo murdered a man in Norfolk, Virginia. Investigators had a difficult time finding Leo, as they had no photograph of him to identify him. However, his wife Mary did, and she gave it to authorities to help find him. He was captured, tried, and proven guilty. His sentence was to be hung dead. Here is some information from Genealogy.com: "Leo C. (son) born 13 Dec 1882 married Mary Colvin on 5 Nov 1903 at Louisville, Ky. (from the Jefferson County register (film at KHC) Book 20, page 227: “Leo C. Thurman, Mary Colvin; license 4 Nov 1903; no return recorded.” Leo was hung Friday, April 10th, 1908 at Norfolk, Va. Buried in an unmarked grave at St. Patrick's cemetery, Fort Knox, Ky. Mary Colvin remarried George Pinkston and was living in Salsbury, NC at the time of Leo's death". This tells us clearly that Mary divorced Leo before he was later executed for the crime committed. Leo was actually given a hold on his execution, until he finished a book he was writing about the crime he committed. Once finished, he was hung and all proceeds of the book sales benefited his poor and ailing mother, who is buried next to him in Saint Patrick's cemetery.
After leaving the cemetery that held old Mary’s bones, we headed further down 111 and stopped where the James Noe tree stood, (now completely gone, even its remains that were once on display under an awning type of structure) then drove South from there to Rabbit Hash road that led us past several old homes, and wound us up to the backside of the cliff that faces the Ohio River. This is where we parked to head over to the spot that Sergeant Charles Kelley drew his photograph of Fort Duffield and West Point. We walked up- over a mile- as Richard Briggs led the way. I must note here that Mr. Briggs, at the age of 86, SMOKED us going up that hill! Once up there we marveled at the thick foliage we knew we had to walk through to get to Kelley’s perch, but off we went. The mid-March southern heat was setting in at this time, and due to our unusually warm winter the bugs were out full force. Several times we thought we had found the little Union Fort he drew the picture at, but the spots turned out to be perhaps an old well or storage area. Gary and Richard stopped to rest, but John and I pushed on. Walking another 200 yards North, we came to the old road that ran behind the fort, followed that up to the cliff, and stood there looking across the shimmering Ohio River and West Point. Several times we thought we had found the perch he sat at to draw the Fort, but something just didn’t seem right about it. Honestly, I was ready to give up. John was still restless, knowing it was so very close and kept looking along the cliff. Right about the time we had both decided to rejoin both Richard and Gary, he spotted it. No doubt- there it was. Suddenly the cliff had a clear view with no tree blockage of West Point and Fort Duffield. Three big rocks, perfect for chairs, sat right at the very edge of the cliff, providing the perfect spot to not only sit and draw, but to keep an eye on a town overtaken by Union troops all whilst the neighborhood clung on strong to their Southern roots. In fact, I should point out that there was one shot fired from a cannon from this Fort to West Point. They shot their cannon right at the Withers’ home directly behind the spot where Richard Briggs’s home is today. The cannon ball lodged into the home while there was a gathering of men who supported the Southern cause. Needless to say, that meeting ended immediately.
I climbed down the ledge and sat on the rock, exactly where Corporal Charles Kelley sat one hundred and fifty years ago and gazed at the Ohio River, the Salt River, West Point, and Fort Duffield. It’s a large body of blue and green to soak in, with light dancing off of the river, and the effect is soothing. Emotion swept over me as I thought of the line in the song I Am Weary, Let Me Rest by the Cox Family: “I am standing by the river. Angels wait to take me home”. The breeze flowing over the cliff was filled with blooms of spring and my skin tingled in the heat. I had John take a photograph of me, then I took one of him, and it was time to go, as Gary began to yell, “YO!” as we had been gone for some time at that point. Walking back we happened upon a little stream that rushed below us before falling over the cliff, under 111, through the field as a stream, and into the Ohio River. I cautiously walked though it and in my mind, I thought, ‘I can’t believe the day I am having’. It was one that I didn’t want to end, but because of that, I tried to wrap up every detail to stuff deep into my heart. It’s a funny thing to feel pride for the things your ancestors have done, but if you’ve ever felt it, you understand. The men and women in my line who pioneered and helped to settle this land loved it as much as I do now. I have a deep appreciation and thankful spirit that they chose to settle here, in this area, and here I am, nine generations later, marveling at their work.
Today some of the usual "Breakfast Club" members, (Gary Kempf, Richard Briggs, Connie Morris, George Wiliams, Sharon Williams, Roszelle Moore, and myself) met at Rhonda's restaurant. Instead of the usual coffee refill after coffee refill and article editing (along with the usual 'remember when?' conversations) we left in two cars to take a trip to New Amsterdam, Indiana, where Schaffers General Store has their Wednesday pork tenderloin special. We drove down Dixie Highway, took a right on 1638, drove past Otter Creek park where several of my ancestors first settled in the late 1700s, on to the Matthew E. Welsh truss style bridge, then looped around to the Mauckport town's 2nd Street, which soon becomes River Road.
I must pause here to describe River Road. This road was gravel until recent Casino funds granted to Harrison County allowed for it to become paved. It curves and turns. Several times I whispered a silent prayer that a country boy in a Chevy truck wouldn't come flying around the next corner. You pass hollars, creeks, and drive right along the Ohio river- which is just a stone's throw away. After passing Mauckport (a description of that town to be written later) you come to a large, open hollow called "Haunted Hollow". The story behind Haunted Hollow: A man who worked for the near by limestone quarry had been murdered. His body was found here, in this wide hollow, but his head was never recovered. I shivered at the thought of driving through this lonely place in the dark, and made a vow never to do so. Moments after passing this hollow you make a sharp curve, and you suddenly come upon a group of three houses. One empty, two occupied. Richard Briggs (who had just told us the story of Haunted Hollow), began to tell us of this 'town' called Titus. We continued on through the soft, green rolling countryside, a peach tree orchard, as well as harsh, dust filled lime quarries. Soon enough we made our way off of River Road to Main Street in New Amsterdam, Indiana.
The store was full of people. Mostly older gentlemen sitting around, telling stories of farming, and marveling at the warm February temperatures. Our group was greeted with both curiosity and kindness, then a warm greeting when several of the men recognized Mr. Briggs. We all walked around, eyeballing the dusty old glass bottles for sale, staring up at the ceiling full of antiques that would never be for sale, then finally sat down to order our food. The pork tenderloin and chili were delicious. I was sandwiched between Gary Kempf and Richard Briggs and across from Roszelle Moore, Connie Morris, and Reverend Betty Seibern from the local Methodist church. We laughed at funny stories told at the table and I realized it was one of those moments that I wished I could freeze time. "Lord", I thought, "let this day last forever. If not, please allow these people to stay in my world for all the days I have left in it". It was one of those rare, fleeting moments that although one will talk, laugh, and appear merry; a tender moment occurs within the heart.
Before leaving, I borrowed Gary's pen and signed us all in. I stood back to admire our names in the New Amsterdam visitor book, then walked off and left Gary's pen there. (A fact I realized later, when he asked for it back, miles away from New Amsterdam.)
We drove back down River Road and stopped briefly at a huge rock that had a story attached to it. "Some Indian men were sitting here by the river, eating lunch, when this bolder fell right on them!" Richard explained. We died laughing. I crawled out of the van, attempting to climb it, but failed. We drove on and stopped again at Mauckport, where we drove through earlier.
Mauckport is a town that I refer to as an "Another Lifetime" place to live. Meaning, that if I had permission by the Man Upstairs to have another life, living here would be one of them. Daniel Boone settled on this land in 1806, along with his brother, Squire. Squire is actually buried just a bit north in Squire Boone Caverns. Being the closest river port for Corydon, Indiana, the town's earliest days were its heyday. During the Civil War Morgan and his men made their famous crossing from Brandenburg over to Mauckport. A few men with northern sympathies attempted to stop Morgan's Raiders, but it was to no avail. Morgan's men burned the Alice Dean steam boat upon their arrival, before moving on to Corydon. It was after the Civil War years that Mauckport really began to decline, with the rise of the use of railroads instead of river boat. Probably the biggest factor in the little city's shrink in population was the Great Flood of 1937, going from a population of 209 in 1930 to 154 in the 1940 census. As of the 2000 census, the town had 83 residents. Gary pulled his van over and I jumped out when we arrived at the city's park. Here there is a mural of the river and the Alice Dean painted on the side of a building. I ran over to the cemetery and photographed a few grave stones as well. Before driving away we visited the oldest house in town, a beautiful old shell of a Federal currently owned by Mrs. Myrtle Fisher. It was built in 1850 and is located on "Back Street". I'll post some photos below.
We ended our field trip at my favorite river town, West Point. Sitting on the confluence of the Salt and Ohio rivers, it is a place my Grandfather loved dearly. It is where he grew up, and came back often as an adult to visit. He instilled that love within me, and I plan on continuing to let it grow.
myself took a road trip to Richmond, Kentucky (the county of Madison) to
learn more about the battle of Richmond that took place there in August
We started in the cemetery, actually going backwards in the battle's
timeline (phase III). After stopping in the office and acquiring a map
to reach the Confederate monument, we made our way to that part of the
cemetery. The monument itself is a sobering salute to the fallen rebel
army men who lost their lives, ironically, in a cemetery. A smaller,
older stone that sits nearby reads, 'The Southern Dead'. An old,
withered Confederate battle flag stands erect next to it.
We walked over to the oldest part of the cemetery, not far from the mass
Confederate grave. Here there were old Kentucky pioneers
buried here as early as 1831. One stone had a dove resting on top- its
tail and beak were broken off. This sparked my imagination because phase
three of this battle, which I had not gotten into the details here yet,
actually happened here, where we stood. The ages of these graves told
us that they were here when the last phrase of the battle happened. We
know through accounts from Union soldiers who survived this battle that
many of the stones were used as shields from the firing of the Rebels.
At this point of the battle, the Federals were in total disorder,
fleeing from the relentless onslaught of Confederate fighting. They
retreated back into town. Scott’s cavalry rode west to cut off their
retreat, (under the command of General Kirby Smith) and virtually all of
Maj. Gen. Bull Nelson’s army was captured.
I positioned myself behind one particular headstone, with my back to the
city of Richmond and my face towards White's farm, where the Federals
would've just left in retreat. This is where I would've been looking
right at a gray coat if this day was August 30th, 1862. I shuttered at
the thought. I wondered if the tail and beak on the bird that sat
quietly upon the old headstone had been shot off by one of these
oncoming soldiers? What stories these stones could tell, stories beyond
the description etched on about the bodies who lay six feet below them.
missing- and note the ball it sits on. It appears to be shot at as well.
The man buried here, Joel Walker Watts, died in the Union Prisoner of
War camp, Camp Douglas.
This week only, folks!
Here is the link:
Chris Lueken and the staff at ATHS.
Today my daughter had an extended school day to make up for the larger number of snow days this year, so I made my way down to Elizabethtown. After stopping in the Hardin County History Museum, I made my way north on Dixie Highway with the window down, simply enjoying the first day of March.
At a stop light I noticed to my right a cemetery on a hill, surrounded by a beautiful stone wall. I immediately pulled my car over, parked and walked up the hill to the cemetery.
Turns out, I was visiting the Helm Cemetery for the first time in person. I had read about it before numerous times in books and online on www.findagrave.com, but had never seen it.
The grave marker for Governor John L. Helm is fantastic. On the front it says, "John L. Helm, born at Helm Place, Hardin County, Ky., July 4 A.D. 1802, Died at the same place, Sept. 8, A.D., 1867".
Here are some quick facts on the man from wikipedia:
"John LaRue Helm (July 4, 1802 – September 8, 1867) was the 18th and 24th governor of the U.S. state of Kentucky, although his service in that office totaled less than fourteen months. He also represented Hardin County in both houses of the Kentucky General Assembly and was chosen to be the Speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives four times. In 1838 his sole bid for federal office ended in defeat when his opponent, Willis Green, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Helm was first elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1826; between 1826 and 1843 he served eleven one-year terms in the state house. In 1844 he was elected to the state senate, where he served continuously until he was chosen as the Whig Party nominee for lieutenant governor on a ticket with John J. Crittenden, famous for the Crittenden Compromise. The Whigs won the general election and Helm was elevated to governor on July 31, 1850, when Crittenden resigned to accept an appointment as United States Attorney General in President Millard Fillmore's cabinet. After his service as governor Helm became president of the struggling Louisville and Nashville Railroad. He invested thousands of dollars of his own money in the project and convinced residents along the line's main route to buy stock in the company. In 1859 the line was completed, but the next year Helm resigned over of differences with the board of directors regarding a proposed branch that would extend the line to Memphis, Tennessee.
Although he openly opposed secession during the American Civil War, federal military forces labeled Helm a Confederate sympathizer. In September 1862, he was arrested for this alleged sympathy, but Governor James F. Robinson recognized him as he was being transported to a prison in Louisville and had him released. After the war Helm identified with the Democratic Party, and in 1865 Hardin County voters returned him to the state senate. In 1867 he was the state's Democratic candidate for governor. Despite his failing health, Helm made a vigorous canvass of the state and won the general election. He was too weak to travel to Frankfort for his inauguration, so state officials administered the oath of office at his home on September 3, 1867. He died five days later."
What amazed me most is that you can still see the house he died in, the family home, while you are standing at his headstone. You can't miss the big white columns that grace the front of the house. It's wonderful to see a house and cemetery so old, taken care of so well.