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Art Work of the Blue Grass Region of Kentucky
University of Kentucky Special Collections
Lexington, Kentucky 40506
The collection is open to researchers by appointment.
[Identification of item], Art Work of the Blue Grass Region of Kentucky, 2002AV2,Special Collections, University of Kentucky.
.3 cu. ft. (12 bound volumes): 114 images
Joshua Soule Smith wrote the text that accompanies the photographs. Smith graduated from the University of Kentucky Law School in 1871 and was accepted to the bar the same year. He served as both the City Attorney for Lexington, Kentucky and as County Attorney for Fayette County, Kentucky. In 1875 he became a professor of Common Law at the University of Kentucky. Smith also held positions at The Lexington Observer and Reporter, Lexington Press, and The Louisville Times. At The Louisville Times he served as a columnist and wrote under the pen name "Falcon."
The following is the text written by J. Soule Smith that accompanies the photogravures
Bluegrass Region of Kentucky
by J. Soule Smith
The "Bluegrass Region Of Kentucky" is a land famous in song and story, and loved by its people with a proud affection beyond what the stranger can conceive. It is a remarkable land, inhabited by a people who are as unique in their individuality as the land itself is unlike any other. It is a poem in itself, and its men and women have the distinct outlines of figures in a Shakespearian drama. It is unlike any other land; its people are unlike any other people. No matter how deeply the snow lies upon the landscape, the Bluegrass is green beneath it; and no matter how crisp and brown it may become in the parching drought of summer, it responds at once to the falling rain, and, in a day's time the emerald verdue smiles its gracious greeting to the passing breeze. One who has not seen its purple waves ripple on wind swept pastures, in the late spring, has missed a more gorgeous spectacle than the Bay of Naples, painted by the setting sun, or the Great Sound of Bermuda.
It is indeed a unique land; perhaps nowhere else on earth can be found the same conditions of soil, of climate, of people, and location. Geographically it is the oldest, and the highest, formation of the Western Continent. Its old Silurian rocks rise from the very foundations of the earth's crust, forced up like the peak of a volcano, round the edges of whose crater other strata are piled up to form a level surface. And the underlying stone-a soft limestone, full of minute sea shells, and easily disintegrating-seems as if it had been formed of heat and water; at the bottom of the sea, and lifted bodily up to the surface by the expansive gases of the underworld. The grass roots draw their nourishment from this natural phosphate, and the tendrills of red clover pierce down to the solid rock itself, and carry with them the solvent of the falling rain. So the fruits of the soil-the grass, the clover and the corn are rich with nourishment from bone, and brawn, and brain. It is a land where great men and good women draw strong bodies and active brains from the earth beneath them, and fine inspiration in the balmy air, and poetry in the bending sky. It is near to Heaven and most blest of all the earth.
Almost exactly in the centre of Kentucky lies this land of dream and sunshine. Fayette County is the central point, and from its Court House the bluegrass region stretches in a circle. Jessamine County, Woodford, Scott, Bourbon and Clark surround it. Parts of Madison, Garrard, Boyle, Mercer, Anderson, Franklin, Harrison and Montgomery share in it glories; through the best part of it winds the Kentucky River, which has cut its deep bed into the soft rocks three hundred feet below the surface, and presents its picturesque cliffs in many featured crags as sentinels over the wimpling waves below. Crowned with scanty growth of cedar, scarred here and there by the lightning's stroke, and wreathed with reminiscent legend, these battlements of ancient days are glorious in their majesty. The mists of morning wreathe them with subtle suggestiveness, the noon day sun crowns them with glory, and the soft moonlight loves to play hide and seek with flitting shadows in their crevices. The whole land is an epic poem-hill and valley, crag and plain, sombre forest and clover scented meadow, all furnish their separate beauties to the harmonious whole.
On this side bends then yellow corn,
On that, the blowing clover;
And, here, the hunter winds his horn,
To run the fox to cover.
On every cliff the bluegrass waves,
On every rock the heather;
And, here, and there, are sacred graves,
Where heroes sleep together.
It is indeed a land where "heroes sleep together." From times long before the American Indians roamed the cane-brakes, and infested the whispering forests of old "Kain-tuck-eee," heroes lived here, and died here, and were placed here, in their Druidical sepulchres. Serpent worship and the adoration of the sun, were perpetrated by mounds, and winding earth-works on the banks of the Elkhorn Creek, which still remain, a mystery to the populace, and a study to the scientist. With the inroad of Tartars who overwhelmed their civilization they vanished. A peaceful race, a highly civilized race, they must have been, but with all their kindly, gentle, instincts they knew how to die on the old soil, in the old land, and were buried where they fell. The American Indians who followed them aptly named this "the dark and bloody ground." No tribe of American Indians ever claimed it as their own. It was the oldest land on earth, and the most fertile. So they, in their superstitious fear, gave its possession, and its title, to the ghosts of great men who had occupied before them; and used it only as a common battleground, on which hostile tribes could meet. The dark forests, the inpenetrable cane-brakes, the consecrated spots where the blood of their ancestors had been shed, made them fearful of the land, and no red man ever founded his home, no chieftain ever established his village, in the "Dark and Bloody Ground." When the white man came, tradition said that he came only to his own. Those whom the Indians had driven out were white; they bowed to the rising sun; the ghosts of their ancestors owned and occupied the land; the Indian felt that his warfare against the "Pale face" and the "Long Knife" was hopeless. But he fought for the honor of his fathers, he died like the heroic savage that he was, and the echo of his death song mingled with the cries of exultation from the ghosts of those whom he had dispossessed.
The spirit of the Aborigines, and the death defiance of the Indians, mingle in the air of old Kain-tuck-ee yet, and, with the holy memories of an Anglo-Saxon ancestry, furnish inspiration to the sons of the Bluegrass land to emulate their sires in heroism, while the daughters of the old soil furnish a chaste motherhood to heroic posterity. As the Indians had come to chase away the children of the Sun, so the white man came from the East to occupy the land. Boone, and Kenton, and Bryan, and Calloway, crossed the mountains, and found the war-like red man skulking in the cane-brake. No Indian claimed the Bluegrass land as his; but every Indian sought to baptize it in a white man's blood. The first stroke of the ax was answered by the crack of a rifle and the whirr of a tomahawk; and every acre made blessed by the tassels of Nodding corn was first watered with the heart-drops from fallen foes. All along the Kentucky River, in the cliffs, are caves where the pioneer sought refuge from his savage foe; in the level lands he made rude furnaces to smelt lead from the rocks; and at the springs, which break from the earth's crust on the border lands, he cooked salt from the sparkling waters. He found here the gentleness of nature and its strength; the fertile soil, the smiling sky, the bubbling spring, but also the panther, the buffalo, and the Indians. But strange to say, there were few, if any venomous serpents in the Bluegrass Land. The ghosts of great nations perhaps brooded still upon the old sod, and made it, like that of Ireland, too sacred for a serpent brood. It has, yet, no atmosphere fitted to brood reptiles, or treacherous men-it is but little changed.
So the people of this land are warlike when aroused, but gentle and hospitable in deed and word, and thought. The spirit of their ancestors has not departed, the blood of a heroic ancestry is in their veins, but the sweet influence of Nature is about them, always inclining to peace, and charity, and gentle ministration to the stranger. In war, Kentucky has not been laggard nor her sons known as cowards-and the Bluegrass Region is the heart of Kentucky. As I write this a Breckinridge is borne to his rest in the cemetery at Lexington, who gave his young life to his country's cause in sight of Moro Castle, under whose grim walls a Crittenden died, like a Crittenden, with these death words on his lips "a Kentuckian kneels only to his God, and never turns his back on an enemy. Near by young Breckinridge, sleeps Hugh McKee who first planted the stars and stripes upon a Corean fort, and died planting that grand Oriflamme of liberty upon a hostile soil. Near by sleeps Roger Hanson, grave and grim-a Stonewall with his infantry; near by, sleeps Morgan, the flashing meteor of Kentucky cavalry; near by, sleeps John C. Breckinridge, the courteous gentleman, the peerless orator, the unspotted statesman, the soldier brave as Ajax, wise as Ulysses, and gentle as the knightly Bayard. And, in every part of this hallowed place, white monuments and grassy mounds, show where repose the forms of others who represent, as well as these, the noble qualities of Bluegrass men. Long circles of white headstones show where thousands of Federal dead are buried; in enduring stone a Confederate soldier keeps watch before a broken flagstaff; and a conquered banner, round which sleep a valiant few who fell beneath the Stars and Bars; above them all, the monument of Henry Clay stands, piercing heaven with its shaft, and throwing the kindly smile of the Great Commoner from its summit down upon the land which holds so softly to its breast the forms of all who loved it, and who fought for it, on either side.
At Paris, and Georgetown; at Versailles, and Midway, and Nicholasville; at Richmond, and Danville, and Mount Sterling, and Winchester,--wherever the blue grass bends its beauteous waves, or dashed its purple billows against the rock-ribbed boundaries of this sacred land-there are other cemeteries in which heroes sleep; and, on the hill at Frankfort, Kentucky's illustrious dead await the trumpet call. At Camp Nelson in Jessamine County, on a rolling table-land round which the Kentucky River sweeps, more than three hundred feet below, there are the graves of many thousand veterans who fell in the Union cause beneath the stars and stripes, and found a home beneath Kentucky sward until the Resurrection morn. I speak of these dead ones, because heroic death is always picturesque, and any ground is consecrated which enfolds a soldier's form.
The cemetery at Frankfort is worthy the tribute of any poet, the pen of any historian. In its small compass can be found memorials of heroic deeds, of transcendent statesmanship, of rugged worth, and delicate scholarship, not often so combined in one close neighborhood of death. It is best to visit it in spring, and then afoot. The footpath winds up from the Arsenal along the rugged cliff, below which laps the waters of Kentucky river, along whose bank the steel track of the railroad finds a friendly footing. The young leaves are pale green, knowing not yet the withering sun or grimy dust. And the tree boughs arcb above the path, changing the golden sunbeams to a shimmer of faint pea-green, like the sky's reflection on a pine-embordered bay in tropic lands, where winds but dally with the wave. The wood is glorious with the dogwood and the redbud's bloom; the honeysuckle loads the air with balm, and violets carpet all the earth. All kinds of mountain flowers bloom here in the bosom of the Bluegrass Land, and from the cliff-side, here and there, sweet, sparkling waters gush through verdant moss, and gurgle on their way among the stones. The spirit of sweet spring is in the air, and the heart leaps with all the strong, exultant, power of youth, although the head be gray. At last, climb up rude steps in the rock, and then you stand upon the highest summit of the bluff. Below, the river winds far to the South and West with the wooded hills embracing it; the little city sleeps in peace beyond tide-"South Frankfort," they call it, the chosen home of the tuberose, that flower sacred to all lovers in the Bluegrass Land.
The path ends at the monument of Daniel Boone and the faithful wife who shared his dangers and sweetened his wanderings with wifely love and gentle ministrations. It is much defaced by vandal hands, but still more picturesque by the defacement. Not far away are other monuments almost as deserving of the stranger's contemplation. The founders of the Commonwealth lie here, and distinquished names from Monterey and Buena Vista are carved upon a marble shaft. The slayer of Tecumsah has his monument, whereupon is wrought the sculptured history of that eventful day. Everywhere memorials of valor, of learning, of hospitality known only to the olden time, are seen. The ascent to the place lies among the wild flowers and the crags. The place itself is soft with bluegrass sward, and sweet with roses blooming on its rolling slopes. Imperishable fame makes glorious the memory of the dead who sleep beneath this soil, and gentleness and love belong to those who walk the winding paths and dress their father's graves.
Frankfort is not entirely in the Bluegrass Land, but at heart it is a Bluegrass city. Not a commercial center; not pushing or adventurous in its business enterprise; it sits serenely in its valley home the gentlest, sweetest, most complacent relic of Kentucky's past that can be found. The seat of government for a century, it has known and loved, and made its own, the best of all Kentucky's ancient chivalry, and grace, and elegance, and beauty. In its assembly halls the greatest and most courtly of the Western men have bowed before the splendid womanhood of olden days. Mothers of statesmen, and poets, and philosophers, and soldiers have here felt their maiden hearts beat proudly as they paced with mincing steps the well-waxed floor. In the old State House are stored the flags of 1812, of Mexico, and the banners of Union and Confederate regiments who fought from '61 to '65. A loving mother to all of Kentucky's children, Frankfort preserves their ashes in her urn among the hills, and drops her sympathetic tears upon their graves with loving kindness unto all. A gentle, precious, loving relic of the olden time is she, most admirably picturesque.
But South Frankfort is to Frankfort, what the Bluegrass Land is to other regions of the world; the tuberose, that flower which is to other flowers, what spirit is to matter, knows no perfection anywhere except in this most favored spot.
Yes, there is but one place on earth where the tuberose revels in the boundless realization of its own imaginings. Nowhere else does it ever attain the voluptuous perfection of it own dreams, and come forth full-budded into chaste beauty, white as the round boom of a vestal virgin, but with breath as deliciously seductive as the scented asphodel which Venus tended in Idalian meadows. Beneath my window the mint bed grows green, and gives generous fragrance to the moonlit air; I can smell the clustering grapes about my porch a great-hearted rose, reared up by my own hands, flings its sweet, saucy greeting at me from my mantel; but I turn from my poor patch of tuberoses and bow my head three times-yes, thrice. There is but one perfect tuberose, and South Frankfort is its home.
It is a flower which I love much, and, next to mint, the flavor of its sweet breath reaches most deeply into the twilight of my heart. A demure flower it is, and folds its leaves shyly, and half slyly together, like a Quaker maiden pinning her snowy kerchief about her snowy bosom. But its heart is warm, and it breaths the very breath of love. In its strange fragrance there is a shadow of grief, flitting about the strange delight of a present love, like the memory of a sorrow pouring out its balm for its own healing. Every distinction of its sweetness is married to something unlike itself, yet of itself a part. Just as young lovers, in the warm intoxication of their first passion, walk together among graves, and wonder which of them will die first, so this flower, somehow, mingles a tremulous and distinct fear with the rich outpourings of its sensuous heart. It weds Memory to Hope, and flavors bliss with the recollection of pain. It draws the heavy sweetness from the honey-hearted sunbeams, and passionately flings its soul upon the winds when the white moon silvers the night with glory, and gaudy blossoms have shut their hearts and folded their leaves in sleep. The dewdrops slumber in its bosom while the stars are winking, but it never sleeps; and loads the air with fragrance through all the silent watches of the night. Love and poetry and romance and mystery are in the breath of its lips, yet it folds its modest bloom together shrinkingly and stands as modestly aside from recognition as a white-souled nun waiting till the vesper bells shall ring. I am sorry for the man unto whose heart the tuberose tells no sweet and sacred story.
But Frankfort is only on the border of the Bluegrass Land. Across the river, to the West, the hills of Benson rise most beautifully when they are painted by the touch of the autumn sun, but not so typical of what the old land is. It is the Capital of the Commonwealth; the repository of its sacred relics; but it is not the capital of the Bluegrass Land. That honor is reserved for Lexington. As the Old Land is the heart of the world, so is Lexington the core of that heart. From the rim of rocks which encircle the old Silurian soil, every road leads to Lexington. It is the Rome of this modern day; the Imperial City toward which all magnetic currents flow. Upon the highest point in the earth's crust, in the very centre of that crater which was made by the upheaval of the first formed rock, it is quietly conscious of its eminence, and accepts the homage due to it like a queen upon her throne. No other place has heard such eloquence, no other place has given birth to such statesmanship or bred so many orators, no other place has, in such short time, so helped to make the world a better, brighter, worthier dwelling place for man. Lexington is the inland Naples of America-he who has not seen it has lived in vain.
More than a hundred years ago, the manly hunters met on this common trysting ground. A courier had brought across the misty mountains, and through the dark gorges, and past the rushing rivers, news of a battle where patriot blood was shed, and the first birth heroes of a new nation felt in agony. The men who listened as he told the tale were stern and silent. In their veins ran the blood of Scotch Covenanters, of Cromwellian Roundheads, of Cavaliers and exiled Hugenots. They had sought liberty in the panther's lair and found freedom where the Indian skulked. They feared God but would not quail before man, or beast, or devil. The sleet on Plymouth Rock was lie a cold reminder in their memories; the vine clad vales of France and the heather of the Highlands brought suggestions to their souls. All were Americans, all were freemen, all were patriots. "Let us name this town Lexington,: they said, and the blood of the minute men of New England became the seed which sprung this metropolis of the "Dark and Bloody Ground."
With such birth, it is not surprising that a glorious growth awaited this new settlement. In early days it was the Commercial Metropolis of the West-the Venice of the Mississippi Valley. Its merchant princes were known from New Orleans to Canada, and their integrity brought them both fame and fortune. From Philadelphia, came a culture and a perfect refinement of conduct which found congenial soil in the chivalric society of Lexington. Visitors from the East, from Ireland, England, and the Continental countries, were delighted to find a polished society where they looked for the "half horse half alligator" style of man. Old Transylvania had in its faculty the best minds of America and Europe, and among its matriculates men who have made history and illustrated the highest type of manhood. Mr. Clay, the peerless young prince of the West, was both professor and student in its halls. Jefferson Davis came from far off Mississippi to sit at the feet of its Gamaliels. Mr. Clay was professor in 1805, and trustee in 1818. Though he was never a graduate of the institution, yet in special studies, in close association with the learned men who composed its faculty, and in the reading which his position of professor of law and politics required, he found stimulus for an active intellect and pabulum for a mind which could digest all formulas. His early education had been defective-native intellect had made him great-but here he acquired that courtly finish to a strong and self-sufficing personality, which made him at once the greatest and the most forceful of all the great men of his day. He owed much to Transylvania and possibly no other man ever did so much for it. His great name drew students to it from many states; he was the legal adviser, and drew the will of James Madison who so bountifully endowed it; and, as the active trustee of that will he saw that every dollar did its duty. Morrison Chapel stands today one of the most picturesque, one of the most romantic, one of the most noticeable sights in Lexington. And it is not only a monument to the generous giver, James Morrison, but also to his faithful friend-the executor of wishes-Henry Clay.
Of course, Mr. Clay's monument towers above all graves, as it should, in the Lexington Cemetery; but a more durable, and a prouder monument in the hearts of the people is his remnant of Old Transylvania-Morrison College.
Ashland has now but a few mementos left of Mr. Clay. The old house was torn down years ago to make room for an elegant modern residence. The fences, whose posts he had planted with his own hands, have been reduced to ashes or wrought into relics. But his favorite path remains-the old earth shows, in her wrinkles, mementos of her precious dead long after stones and bronze have crumbled into dust.
That winding path is there along whose sinuosities he walked, with bended head and hands clasped behind his back, conning the great thoughts that afterwards in burning words electrified the world. The sun could only shimmer, in there, brokenly through interlacing boughs, for aspens quivered in the breeze above; and lilacs with their purple bloom were bordered on each side. But when the morning dew was still all diamonds on the grass, and when the twilight of long summer days came with blessed breadth, he found a solitude in this delightful walk where only God and Nature spoke to him. To walk there, gave his spirits rest and strength, and fitted him to meet the cares and conflicts of a busy world, and conquer all he met.
Another most picturesque feature of Lexington is the old Main Street Christian Church, still standing, but by a strange mutation of fate, with fresh paint on its hoary front, and new fresco on its walls, it becomes this day a Variety Theatre, and will open to burlesque before I finish the page on which I write. The memories which make it sacred are shocked at such desecration. In this church the early followers of Alexander Campbell preached the new doctrine of a primitive Christianity; in the church the great debate between Campbell and Rice took place-a battle of intellectual giants, with Henry Clay as moderator. It was a battle between John the Baptist and the beloved John the Evangelist; between baptism for the remission of sins, and the sprinkling on the door-posts that the angel of the Lord might pass the first born by. The enthusiasm of these battle cries has died; the old walls listen to the "tinkling cymbal and the sounding brass." Peter and Paul give place to comedians and Coryphees.
But I have not space to mention the historic places in the Bluegrass Land. Around Lexington there are hundreds of them. Every town and village in this mystic circle is sacred and romantic. I have named Frankfort because it is the Capital, and Lexington because it is the Metropolis. Scant courtesy have I shown to both. Danville, the oldest seat of learning next to Lexington, is picturesque in every way. Harrodsburg, and Shakertown, and High Bridge, could only be touched upon in many more pages than I shall write. Richmond and Georgetown, Paris and Millersburg, Winchester and Athens, and Clintonville and Ruddells Mills, deserve a mention that I cannot give. The artist shall do his work, and pictures shall speak of the glories of those places that my words may fail to paint.
Of one more place in Fayette County I must speak. On North Elkhorn, near the homes where Breckinridges bred, and Moores still live, there is a sacred temple of sunworshippers. Perhaps the aroma of the old religion has given its piety to the neighborhood, for, from old Mount Horeb Church radiates a Calvinistic sanctity. But the old mounds, the long trenches, the entrances and exits, show forth the last stand of a dying race, who left their bodies there upon the altars of their pristine faith. The Indian never builded there; the ghosts of those who occupied before his time warned him away. Those ghosts still occupy the land, but white men fear them not.
At but one spot in the Bluegrass land, have the modern Indians ever made a settlement; that is, at "Indian Old Fields," in Clark County, just where the broad, alluvial "bottoms" of some winding creeks break their dark waves of loam against the foothills of the mountains. Red River, its water tinged with iron ore as they were once reddened with the blood of men, runs not far away. Lullbegrud creek, made sacred by the saintly men who taught a pure religion on its bank so many years ago, runs through these fertile acres. There are healing springs of sulphur and iron. And an oil spring whose scum was well known in the olden days as the sovereign remedy for pains and aches. No doubt it was a health resort before the white man came. As early as 1773 it had been long deserted; only the old corn ridges-wrinkles in the soil-showed that the hand of man had tended it. It had become a land of ghosts before the pale face came to claim his own. What tribe had claimed it, or what became of them tradition does not tell. But it was bare of forest and the cane grew only sparsely by the edge of plashy brooks. The ridges of old oil fields were left, and the ashes of council fires, but no memorial of those who once had occupied the soil. It had been a settlement-the only, lonely settlement in all the Bluegrass Land, but there was no mound, no fortification, no serpent-like earthwork to indicate that it had ever known the "Children of the Sun." Silence brooded over it, and solitude claimed it for its own, long before the "long-knives" from the East came to raise their cabins by the streams. Perhaps the ghost of an extinct race warned the red man from the spot; at any rate, it was a shadow-land where spirits loved to dwell.
Why it should have been chosen is easy enough to know. It is a land of brooks and springs; on every side the hills rise to shut the keen winds off; in the spring the sun centers upon it its warmest glance-vegetation is quick to leap from its fertile soil; the ice melts soonest, and the violet blooms earliest, in this sacred and secluded spot; in Summer, the tobacco nods drowsily, and the corn whispers lovingly its tender confidences from stalk to stalk; over the broad-breasted lands the mist comes with autumn days, wreathing the distant hills in ghostly robes, and toning their scarlet, and crimson, and brown, and pale yellow, foliage into a purple gauze shot through with the rich, royal, tinges of magnificent death. Shut in on every side by rolling lands, it is a bit of paradise, which only needs the cherubim to guard, with flaming swords, each avenue of access. The soil is deep, the waters sparkle in their purity, the air is redolent of balm from pine and cedar on the hills, and, far away, the drumming of the pheasant, and the partridge call, are heard in mingled harmony to lull the soul to dreamy ecstacy. No wild winds come in winter to this land-the hills protect it from the biting sarcasm of the North. The yellow tassels of the corn, the dark green hemp, the russet wheat, bending its head beneath the sun; the apple with its rosy glow, shining amid the foliage of its parent tree; and the peach blushing through the down like some sweet maiden not yet ripe for motherhood; combine to make the summer like a world of vegetable wealth. But, when the winter comes, the blazing fire is lighted on the hearth, the cider foams, the chestnut crackles on the coals, the walnut gives its oily meat to longing appetites, and shell bark hickory nuts are ready to the hand. Outside, the snow lies still and deep; inside, the forest logs are slowly simmering with exuding sap, upon the hearth. Peace and content are in these homes, and plenty in their barns. The world may rave and madly dash itself against itself, as meeting waves rise wrestling in the foam, but, in this land of Beulah simple virtues have their birth and homely sports make glad a rustic life. Blue is the sky above; stars beam serenely from the concave heart of Heaven; the winds are hushed. The sun is soft and shimmering, and, like the wing of dove, the peace of God broods on this favored land. It is a benediction to itself and from itself draws the easy, quiet, sweet, content on which its people feed.
But to the Indian the land was a haunted land.. The spirits of his ancestors roamed about it. The ghosts of those whom his progenitors had dispossessed were jealous of the living men, who came to take their heritage. So, briefly did he occupy the place-it was the first intrusion of his tribe into the Bluegrass Land, and here he felt that he could never make a home. And, when the white man came, they felt some portion of the awe which swayed the savage heart. They passed this pleasant spot, and built their blockhouse on the banks of the Kentucky river, not far away, at Boonesboro. Here was the home of heroes-not of ghosts.
Boonesboro was a natural fort, like Bryan Station. It combined access to food and water with the possibility of defense. The cliffs broke from the river here, upon the Southern side, and left a long and gradual slope up to the table lands above. The blockhouse was on a tongue of land, flanked by a ravine and running to Kentucky river. Back of it the corn fields rose in a level ascent to the fringe of forest on the upland to the South. Across the river were crags, but not so close that any rifle known in that primeval time could send a hostile bullet from their summit to the fort. The corn fields could be overlooked from the upper story of the blockhouse, and nearby, among a grove of giant sycamores, there were two springs in the ravine. An attack, made from the rear, must be made from the open ground-one from the river would involve the landing from canoes of hostile forces who could easily be subject to the rifles of its defenders. The corn was raised in summer time and garnered in the fall. Inside of the blockhouse there was ample room to store food for the garrison in case of siege, and the path to the Spring could be defended by the rifles of the men inside the fort. Its location almost made a siege impossible, and only a few times it was beleagured. Scarcely a remnant of the fort can now be seen, but Nature has made the scenery picturesque, and a spot ennobled by so much stern heroism, and such deeds of true sacrifice, cannot help be of special interest to the poet, the scholar, the historian.
Bryan Station is perhaps twenty miles from Boonesborough, and only about five miles from Lexington. Daniel Boone spent much of his time here-probably as much as at his own fort. The Bryans were his relatives, and the fort was more exposed to attack than Boonesborough or Harrod's fort. Inroads of the Indian were nearly always from the North and by way of the Blue Licks. The fort at Bryan's station was directly in the way, before Lexington or any other forts could be attacked. The site was well chosen, being upon a considerable eminence fronting the North, the corn fields stretching back toward the South, and two cool springs of water within a hundred yards. One of these springs was made memorable by the courage and coolness of the women in the fort, who brought water for the garrison under the rifles of the savages who had laid ambush for the men. The artist has also given a picture of this spot.
From Bryan Station down through the rolling lands of Bourbon, over Stoner-the memorable creek-past Cane Ridge with its rolling uplands and dim distances, by the ruins of log forts and rude tabernacles where our forefathers fought the Indians and worshipped God almost in the same day and hour, the old Buffalo trail winds down a natural valley to the Blue Licks, where Boone and his companions made their salt and cured their game for winter use. It is a beautiful road threading a beautiful land, and leading past the house where old "Stone Hammer"-Governor Metcalfe-lived, down to the rocky ford, whose bushy banks were in savage days the key to the Bluegrass Lands. Every winding of this road is picturesque; every sunny hill and darkling gorge has its history. But I must leave its songs unsung. The whole broad-breasted land must be my theme. Not one place, nor another, shall I speak of now-my pen must turn its point toward hill and vale, the flower and fruit, the sun and shadow of the Bluegrass Land.
The natural beauties of this land can hardly be selected. Where all is lovely, what can be the best? Not time, nor space, permit a detail of the fairest phases of this strangely charming portion of God's earthy garden spot.
Sometimes, it seems to me that nothing can excel a woodland pasture in the fall. The grass is brown, not dead, but only sombre with reflection of Summer days. The maples shiver at the touch of frosty winds, and turn their pale leaves shrinkingly toward a pallid sun. The sturdy oak still wrestles with the breeze, defiant of the coming snow. The beech tree reddens with a hectic flush, the walnut hides its olive colored fruit amid the withering masses of its laggard leaves, and where the sturdy hickory stands, ripe nuts drop suddenly upon the earth which rustles as they fall. Some faint suggestions of a cloud are over all the sky like spirit sympathy upon an earthly grief-yes, like the vapor of a vanished tear upon another tear. The haze of Indian Summer casts a ghostlike veil upon the distant slopes, and in sympathetic silence only can be heard the tapping of the woodpecker on some withered tree, or squirrels chattering as they frisk among the boughs. Far off, the plaintive dove coos farewell to his Summer mate, and from the fence row, Bob-white whistles to himself. A sweet and sacred solitude is this, with which all sounds do harmonize.
The browsing cattle seek the sunny slopes, and, on the upland, weaning colts are frisking by their dams. There is a chill in all the air, like, sometimes, comes the thought of death across a pleasant retrospect. And yet the face of Nature is so sweetly calm, that one would think it smiled into the very eyes of death. And so it does; for, to the Bluegrass Land, Death is a little time of restfulness wherein the virgin soil waits for the resurrection of spring.
The virgin soil waits, sleeping; but it dreams the blue grass while it sleeps. Beneath the snow, beneath the sleet, despite the blizzard from the wrathful West, the blue grass grows serene, and calm, and verdant all the year. With steaming breath the cattle blows the drifted snow away and paw with an impatient hoof to find the juicy blades beneath, and draw from Nature's heart sweet nourishment.
And winter has its charms, as well as summer days or autumn afternoons. The pale blue sheen of sleet upon the boughs, beneath a cloudless moon, when frost is ken and blades of grass like fairy bells give forth their tinkle to the touch; the snow that sparkles like a phosphorescent wake behind the speeding sleigh; the new ice on the waveless pond which sings a welcome to the skate, all these are jewels of the Winter's crown, and robes of royalty.
A snow storm in the cedar thickets on the cliff, when scurrying flakes fight viciously against the stubborn twigs, until, in weariness, they yield, and bed themselves upon the bended boughs, presents a picture weirdly beautiful, and one which memory could not wish to lose. Great icicles hang from the rocks, and snow is drifted in their crevices, while, here and there, some sheltered ledge affords a dry and cozy nook in which a man may curl himself unpinched by frost, and calmly look abroad upon the whirling storm. Unseen, unknown of other men, here may he sit within a hermit's cell and feel the kiss of Nature on his lips. The wind howls down below him in the gorge, the snow flakes whirl in a delirious dance, the cedars creak, and crack, and crash beneath their burden of the snow, the gray clouds sweep their ragged trains athwart the sky, the crow sails swiftly on the rushing blast, and hawks are hastening to their hidden homes within the scarred seams of the precipice-all earth, and air, and sky, are in a tumult of unrest, but he who looks upon this moving snow is as serene, as though he were a thought within the centre of a placid soul. He views the panorama, and is still.
Such are a few of Winter's pictured scenes. Fair to the sight are they, and fairer to the thought. Yet who does not find fuller impulse in the spring? There is no spring in other lands like that which comes to this supernal spot. Some lands are bloomy all the year, until the roses seem like red cheeked harlots of the soil. They throw their kisses to the sun, and fling their odors on the breeze so lavishly, that, heartsick at their brazen wantonness, the soul sighs for a crocus in the snow. And there are lands where Winter tears her fleecy furs off with impetuous haste, and yields herself to Summer's hot embrace before the banns of her betrothal have been read. But, in the Bluegrass Land, Spring is the Vestal Priestess who unites the two. The sun woos first the ice-encumbered brook, and dallies with the cold coquettish snow. The still stream smiles in silent thought, then gurgles to a laugh. The snow escapes and hides within the earth. The brook breaks into song; it trills and warbles all the day and through the night it croons a lullaby. The crocus and the jonquil come, and then the violet is seen in sunny spots from which the snow has fled. The hyacinth brings its dainty breath, and tulips robe themselves in oriental gorgeousness.
Still Winter hesitates; her heart is warm but she will not be cheaply won. The sun must give more precious gifts before the kingly Summer wins her for his bride. He sends the March winds as his ministers, but still she says him nay. The grass grows greener on the slope, and from the pine, the dove coos coaxingly. Then all the trees are diamonded with drops, when April shakes her tresses in the air. The mossrose swells her bud and bursts its soft envelope with a blush. The pale green bravry of the maple comes, and darkens as the days go by. The other trees are fitted with their wedding robes. White lilies come upon their stalks, and mushrooms dot the pasture lands. The pear rejoiced in its clustered sprays, the grape vine loads the air with heaviness at night, the apple drifts its snowy blossoms on the sward, and pink trees are a mass of deliciousness. May scatters flowers far and wide, and, just before the mystic birth of June, the locust bloom flings on the air its sacred frankincense-so short, so sweet, so brief its l ife, that while the soul is yet intoxicated with its balm, death claims it, and until another year has passed it is a blessed memory.
This is the wedding of the Bluegrass Spring. The Winter yields himself reluctantly, and Spring has passed before her kiss has been absorbed entirely in the Summers' heart.
And now has Summer come indeed. The grass has grown in luxury and purpled into seed. The lark has hatched her chirping brood, young squirrels frisk among the trees, and half grown rabbits hop about the hedge row, or hide within the spreading lettuce tops. The rye, the wheat, the barley and the oats are billowing softly with the rhythmic breeze. Tobacco fields are coming into flower, the hemp begins to whiten into bloom, the rustling corn stalks float their yellow pollen on the air and show the shimmering silk above the nascent ear. The winter of the blackberry flower has passed and from the sky the sun sends messages of hope to every growing fruit. The world is beautiful-beautiful as a great glad heart can be-the days are long, and dreamy in their sensuousness. Nature puts forth her fullest strength in gladful exercise-the clover is abloom.
Who ever saw a field of clover, in its pristine beauty in the Bluegrass Land, shall not forget its glories. The sun of June makes splendid all the day. And, in the night, the silver sickle of the crescent moon reaps hours of gentle joy. Deep dew rests on the blushing bloom, when, from his couch of crimson clouds, the radiant sun uprises, all his face aglow with smiles; and soon his kisses warm the crystal drops, and melt them to his passionate desires, and call them heavenward in clouds of incense, sweet and soft, and fragrant as the nard that burns in censers of the Orient. The humming-bird flits here and there, the lark springs from her hidden nest to greet the God of Day, the hare leaps like a laggard through the matter sward, the bee is everywhere, industrious in the honied heart of flowers that almost force their bursting wealth of sweetness on his appetite, and, drowsily, the bumblebee drones as the sunbeams wake him from his slumbers in the loamy soil.
The day comes on apace; the cattle, rising from their bluegrass beds beneath the walnut trees, scent clover on the breeze, and low, expectant of the feast which shall not come to them; knee deep in the pebbly bottomed creek they stand, with moist tails sprinkling their heaving sides as though they should purge their flanks with hyssop and be clean. They cannot reach the clover yet, although in other fields the reaper clicks its sharp defiance to the golden headed wheat. Everywhere, about the border of the meadow land, is locust bloom sending its benediction on the whispering breeze to meet and mingle with the meadow's breath, until the lazy sun at noon lies lapped in languerous swoon, half drunken with the balm. The bumble bee has ceased his drone, the honey bee has sought his hive, the lark unto her nestlings has returned, the cattle chew their cud beneath the locust trees, the clover blooms are closed in sleep beneath the over-arching sky rocked gently by the dreamy breeze.
But, with the dying day, the earth awakens once more. Slowly the sun sinks to his Western bed of purple clouds, which quiver with his palpitating heart, and flame with crimson glory as he wraps their fleecy folds about his form. The white moon, in mid heaven, gleams graciously as twilight comes. The click of reapers and the clank of chains have ceased. The plaintive cow lows in the distance for her calf, and katydids begin to chirp. Crows wing themselves toward the roost flapping the still air wearily. The gurgle of the spring branch through its nodding beds of mint is audible. But now the clover wakens from its sleep, and, as the first bright star peeps from the purple shadows of the East, the dews begin to fall, upon the flowers and their bended heads arise to meet the gentle ministrations of the night. Above the meadow, like the bendiction of a blessed ghost, the faint, blue, mist has come, more gentle than the dew of Hermon. Scarce palpable to human sense, the clover feels its presence and draws new life from baptism in its gracious flood. Under the moonlight the meadow wakens and its myriad blossoms send heavenward the incense of their prayers. While the world of animal life is still, and slumbering, the meadow worships underneath the stars; so that at no time is Heaven desolate.
This is a fruitful meadow in the Bluegrass Land in June, and each night brings its morning more precious than the last; each today is more beautiful than yesterday.
And now this pleasant task is done. My pen would linger on this lovely scene, but that the end must come. The end must come to all things in this world, where sin makes sorrow possible, and death a certainty. Men live, men die, and after-life come sweetly to the good and true. The beautiful is but the harmony of what is best for all. Beyond the bondage of the flesh, the spirit stands, supreme, and smiling, as it views the grave of what was once its cerement. So does the spirit of this Bluegrass Land smile on the outer world. Embodied in the hills, it is the soul of all the hills; and, from its fertile heart, the incense of the morning dew is wafted up to God-a prayer more precious than the lips of any man can speak. The oldest land, the gentlest land, the sweetest land of all the earth, its breath is worship and its life perfume. Who love it not has never known its sweet beneficence; who does not dream as it would make him dream, has not the element of poetry within his soul; who has been son of blue grass soul, and dares to sully blue grass fame is but an atom of iniquity. Its skies are blue, its sunshine soft, its maidens fair, its men firm sons of noble sires.
Here heather blooms among the hills, and cedars sign upon the rocks; high in the air the eagle soars, undazzled by the sun; the falcon flits, the wild hawk breaths its way against the Western breeze, the blast comes, and the lightning gleams, yet the Bluegrass Land serenely smiles, all confident in its most gentle strength. For, when the storm shall pass, the wet trees glisten in the sun; the grass uplifts its head; the white clouds part their fleecy fringe of Heaven's tapestry to show a smiling sky. Each laughs its greeting back into the blue; and God is good, as all the atmosphere attests.
To leave a theme so subtle and so sweet; to lay the lingering pen aside, and bid the brain go gathering moss from other lands; to turn the thoughts from poetry to pelf; seems little less than sacrilege. The memories that haunt this gracious land take deep hold on the heart that finds its home among the blue grass slopes. The locust bloom; the pungent savour of the mint; the tuberose aroma, so like an angels' benediction on an infant's dream; the gurgle of the stream let loose from winter's grasp, and babbling to its mossy bank; the cry of crow, and strident chirp of katydid; the still, deep silences of summer nights when Nature draws herself into herself to grow more honey-hearted for the coming day; the speechless stars that look their love though mists of informed dew; the odor of ripe grapes beneath September skies; the sheen of heat that quivers through the August day; the white snow sparkling beneath a winter moon and crinkling to the tread-these, and a thousand other things, come knockong at the entrance to my soul, and bid me give them courtesy.
Yet must I cease. In some poor fashion have I spoken of the land I love. In some poor, homely, way the heart has testified. In poorer fashion has the pen traced words upon the scroll. God made the Bluegrass Land. His angels made the outer world-how then shall feeble man describe the blessed land which God made with a smile? Into its mornings the glorious gleams of Heaven are wrought; its noonday is significant of bliss ineffable; and its nights, like sacred sanctuaries, hold dreams so real, so supremely sweet, that to awake in paradise would almost be a sorrow. Here shall I quit the theme-the land I will not, cannot, quit until an angel wing shall brush me from the world. Then, in the heart of old Kentucky shall my body lie at rest, the while my spirit broods upon the Bluegrass Land.
This collection of photographs was published in book form as Art Work of the Blue Grass Region of Kentucky, by the Art Photogravure Company in 1898. The book was published as twelve separated staple soft-bound sections. The collection consists of one hundred and fourteen photogravures of Kentucky in the late Nineteenth century.
Copyright is in public domain.
, 1M52M1, Special Collections, University of Kentucky.
Smith, J. Soule. Louisville, KY: 1890.
Smith, J. Soule. Lexington, KY: Gravesend Press, 1949.