Locust Grove

Front View of Locust Grove

The year was 1752. America was not yet established. There were 13 colonies under the rule of Britain, and Kentucky did not yet exist.

On November 19 of that year, a future Revolutionary War General was born to John and Ann Rogers Clark. John and Ann welcomed their second son, George Rogers Clark, into the world in Albemarle County, Virginia. The Clarks had welcomed their first son, Jonathan, just 2 years earlier.

The young family owned 400 acres of land that had been left to John when his father died. In 1757, the Clarks sold their land and moved to a small plantation in Caroline County, VA where George would grow up and watch his small family grow. By the time George was 18, the Clark family had welcomed 8 more children into the world, four girls and four boys. One of George’s sisters, Lucy, was born in 1765, and his youngest brother William, was born in 1770.

It is these three Clarks; George, Lucy, and William, that are most important to the story of Locust Grove.

Come along with me to hear how the Clark family influenced Kentucky and America.

Three Members of the Clark Family

Influence on Kentucky and America

Early Kentucky

The land that would become known as Kentucky was given its name from the Kentucky River. Many Native American tribes used the lands for hunting prior to English settlement. One of those tribes was the Iroquois. It is believed that the Iroquois named the river Ken-tah-ten, meaning on the meadow or on the prairie.

The exploration of the land by the English began in the mid-1700s. In a prior post on the Cumberland Gap, I discuss the the first known explorers, such as Thomas Walker.

In 1774, Harrodsburg is founded as the first permanent settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains in what was then Kentucky County, Virginia. You can read about our prior trip to Harrodsburg here.

Enter George Rogers Clark

It is here that our historic timeline crosses with the Clark family.

George Rogers Clark had learned to survey land from his grandfather. So, when many Virginian men were crossing over the Appalachian Mountains to survey land along the Ohio River and beyond, George joined their trip. In 1770, at the young age of 20, George crossed over the Appalachians and spent the next four years surveying and exploring the lands of Kentucky. During that time, he located land for himself and for his family. He also acted as a guide for other explorers wishing to move west.

In 1774, George participated in Lord Dunmore’s War and gained recognition as an Indian fighter. With the uptick of Native American aggression toward the settlers, in 1776, Clark and a group of delegates from Harrodsburg returned to eastern Virginia to negotiate for more protection from and connection to the state. The group wanted Kentucky to officially become a county of Virginia. Gov. Patrick Henry and the Executive Council granted their wish and Kentucky became a county of Virginia in 1776.

Now, I’m not here to rewrite George’s biography. However, his accomplishments are, for the time, extraordinary and should be noted. It is actually those accomplishments that led to his famous status in the late 1700s and early 1800s, and one of the reasons Locust Grove is still standing today. Bare with me! We’ll get there!

George Rogers Clark’s Accomplishments

  • 1778: Clark and a group of settlers land on a small island just above the Falls of the Ohio (later named Corn Island) along the Ohio River, opposite Beargrass Creek. It was here that Clark organized a base camp for the conquest of the Old Northwest.

    “Most of the settlers who came with him moved ashore the following winter and established Fort-on-Shore (Fort Nelson) within the present city limits. The town was organized in 1779 and named for Louis XVI of France; it was incorporated as a town the following year,”

    becoming the town of Louisville.

  • 1778-1779: Clark took control of Fort Kaskaskia in Illinois. Later, he and his militia took Fort Sackville in Vincennes, Indiana from the British General Hamilton, forever ending British and French authority there . The entire region became known as the county of Illinois, part of the state of Virginia.

    “The heroic march of Clark’s men from Kaskaskia on the Mississippi River in mid-winter and the subsequent victory over the British remains one of the most memorable feats of the American Revolution.”

  • 1781: Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson promotes Clark to brigadier general giving him command of both Kentucky and Illinois County militia.

  • 1783: The Treaty of Paris with Britain turned the Northwest Territory over to the United States. The newly formed nation proclaimed Clark to be the “Conquerer of the Old Northwest.”

William Croghan

Born in Ireland in 1752, William Croghan immigrated to Philadelphia at the age of 16. When the Revolutionary War broke began in 1775, Croghan joined the American Revolution as a captain in the 8th Virginia Regiment.

William Croghan / Photo Credit: Locust Grove

Croghan “…crossed the icy Delaware River under the command of General George Washington, and was commissioned Major at the conclusion of the grim Valley Forge winter. He served with Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, and James Monroe at the battles of Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, and Germantown.”

In 1780, Croghan was captured at Charleston with fellow Virginians, Lt. Col. Jonathan Clark and Lt. Edmund Clark (brothers of George Rogers Clark). In 1781, when the men were released, the Clark brothers took Croghan home with them to Virginia. It is there that Croghan met Lucy, one of the Clark sisters.

In 1784, Croghan moved to Louisville to become a surveyor. He was named Deputy to the Virginia State Line principal surveyor, George Rogers Clark.

Lucy Clark

In 1785, Lucy and her family moved to the Kentucky Territory after George recommended they do so for the rich soil of the land.

With William Croghan working for George, and the Clark family now west of the Appalachian Mountains, one can assume that Lucy and William spent quite a bit of time together, because on July 14, 1789, at the age of 24, Lucy married William Croghan in Louisville.

Locust Grove Back Porch

Locust Grove – The Home of William and Lucy Clark Croghan

We have finally reached the point of our timeline where Locust Grove becomes a part of this historic story!

In 1790, William purchased 38 acres along the falls of the Ohio River, costing 341 pounds. It is on this property that the Georgian brick home was built. Construction began in 1792, and the home was completed in 1795. (During the construction, the newly married couple stay in a log cabin on the property.)

The stone and lumber used to build the home came from the property. The bricks are believed to have been fired on the property as well. Several hundred dollars were spent on materials not available on the property, such as locks, hinges, shutters, and glass. The walls of the home were built to stand the test of time. The first floor interior and exterior walls were laid 3 bricks deep. The second floor walls were laid 2 bricks deep, and the third floor walls were laid 1 brick deep. A stone foundation was used to support the home and the cellar below it. It is known that slave labor was used to build the home. Tax records for 1792 show that Croghan was, “taxed for 516 acres of land, along with 1 white male, 17 blacks, and 34 horses and cattle.” (Thomas, Samuel, “William Croghan, Sr., (1752-1822): A Pioneer Kentucky Gentlemen”)

While Croghan did own numerous acres of land, the property was not run as a farm, or plantation. Instead, William made his money from his land surveying office, a ferry that he ran crossing the Ohio River, rental properties, salt wells, a mill, and various other businesses. Slave labor was used to run the household; from cooking, cleaning, and tending to fires in the fireplaces to caring for gardens, cattle, and chopping firewood. Today, Locust Grove is dedicated to telling the stories of the enslaved, just as equally as telling the stories of the Croghan and Clark families.

The Croghan Family

William and Lucy filled their 3 story home with a bustling household of children in no time; John (1790-1849), George (1791-1849), William (1794-1850), Ann (1797-1846), Elizabeth (1801-1833), Charles (1802-1832), and his twin Nicholas (1802-1826), and Edmund (1805-c. 1825) were welcomed.

The children shared 2 nursery rooms on the 3rd floor. On the 2nd floor, a ballroom, visitor bedroom, master bedroom, and family bedroom were used. On the 1st floor, William’s surveying office, a bedroom (Uncle George would move in in 1809), a sitting room, and dining room were used, along with a spacious entry hall for air circulation.

The children enjoyed playing on the spacious property and all went on to prestigious schools. This was extremely important to William as he had never received a decent education.

The Hospitality of Locust Grove

In 1809, General George Rogers Clark retired to his sister’s home at Locust Grove after having a stroke which led to a horrible accident. He had fallen into a fireplace at his home suffering a serious burn, which led to a leg amputation. He moved into the home to be cared for by Lucy and his nieces. His reputation still held as a Revolutionary War hero and many people came by to visit, as he sat on the back porch of the home.

Whether the visitors were there for General Clark or the Croghan family, many famous people crossed the door of Locust Grove, all receiving southern hospitality that made them feel welcome.

Known Visitors to Locust Grove

The End of an Era

On February 13, 1818, General George Rogers Clark left this world under the care of his sister Lucy and the Croghan family. He was buried in the family cemetery behind the home, but was later re-interred at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.

Just 4 short years after the General’s death, the Croghan family suffered another loss. William Croghan died in 1822. In his will, he left his wife and children a total of 53,860 acres of land.

Following William’s death, Lucy spent most of her time in Washington, D.C. with her daughter Ann. She returned to Locust Grove in 1834, after the death of her daughter Elizabeth. Just four years later, Lucy died in 1838.

The home stayed in the family until 1878 when it was sold to a river boat captain named James Paul who later sold it to Richard Waters of Hermitage Farm. The home did go through updates of gas, water, and later electricity, as well as indoor bathrooms and a kitchen was added.

In 1961, the property was sold to Jefferson County and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Extensive renovations were done to take the home back to its original architecture and layout. The home was opened to the public as a historic museum home in 1964 and currently sits on 55 remaining acres of land.

Visiting Today

So, I know you have come to expect to hear about the adventures my daughter, my mom, and I experience on the day of our visit to historic places. On this day however, I chose to visit on my own. Now, let me explain that Locust Grove is a home we have visited MANY times. It is my favorite home in Jefferson County because of the home as well as the outbuildings that have been restored. I actually remember visiting Locust Grove as a kid, and I remember seeing the changes that had been made to the home as an adult. Restoration takes time, and each time I visited something had been updated making it more period-correct.

I had taken my daughter to tour the home when she was younger, on several occasions, even visiting on Mother’s Day several years in a row. I’m sure if I looked really hard, I could locate photos. However, we are talking about 14 summers of photos, it would take a minute! Instead, I chose to take a beautiful Fall Break day and visit Locust Grove on my own, just to capture photos!

While I don’t have a crazy adventure story to tell, the day I visited was gorgeous. I toured with a couple who were from Ohio. They had visited Mammoth Cave the day before. The tour guide was awesome. He knew everything about the home and the family, answering every question that we had. He also walked us through the outbuildings, telling about the work that is being done to locate foundations of slave cabins and other outbuildings.

He mentioned that even for those in Jefferson County, Locust Grove is an unknown jewel. I thought to myself, “That’s exactly why I’m doing this blog.” It is my hope that my visits, my stories, and my photos make more people aware of these special places, and maybe, just maybe, they will visit too and pass along their stories to others. These homes that are well over 200 years old (226 years for Locust Grove), will not stand on their own. It is with care and protection that they will last for future generations, and that takes money. Every tour taken puts money toward the survival of these historic homes, and if you can’t visit, maybe you can donate.

Making people aware of these precious, priceless treasures is my mission. It is my passion. I thank you for coming along with me on my travels, now go out there and do some of your own! Want to visit Locust Grove? Click here to find out their tour days and times. I almost forgot! Locust Grove also has a fantastic museum that you need to take time to visit. The tour admission covers the museum and a video so take advantage of it! It’s worth your time… promise!

Until next time, Happy Travels!

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