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Title: The Blue-Grass Region of Kentucky - and other Kentucky Articles
Author: Allen, James Lane, 1849-1925
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Blue-Grass Region of Kentucky - and other Kentucky Articles" ***

by The Kentuckiana Digital Library)

[Illustration: OLD STONE HOMESTEAD.]





  [Illustration: (Publisher's logo)]


Copyright, 1892, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

_All rights reserved._


The articles herein reprinted from HARPER'S and _The Century_ magazines
represent work done at intervals during the period that the author was
writing the tales already published under the title of _Flute and

It was his plan that with each descriptive article should go a short
story dealing with the same subject, and this plan was in part wrought
out. Thus, with the article entitled "Uncle Tom at Home" goes the tale
entitled "Two Gentlemen of Kentucky;" and with the article entitled "A
Home of the Silent Brotherhood" goes the tale entitled "The White Cowl."
In the same way, there were to be short stories severally dealing with
the other subjects embraced in this volume. But having in part wrought
out this plan, the author has let it rest--not finally, perhaps, but
because in the mean time he has found himself engaged with other themes.

[Illustration: JAMES LANE ALLEN


  VOL. 24. NO. 287, JULY.]



  THE BLUE-GRASS REGION                                           1

  UNCLE TOM AT HOME                                              45

  COUNTY COURT DAY IN KENTUCKY                                   87

  KENTUCKY FAIRS                                                127

  A HOME OF THE SILENT BROTHERHOOD                              169

  HOMESTEADS OF THE BLUE-GRASS                                  199

  THROUGH CUMBERLAND GAP ON HORSEBACK                           229

  MOUNTAIN PASSES OF THE CUMBERLAND                             269



  Old Stone Homestead                                 _Frontispiece_

  Blue-grass                                                      5

  Sheep in Woodland Pasture                                       9

  Negro Cabins                                                   15

  Cattle in a Blue-grass Pasture                                 21

  Hemp Field                                                     25

  Tobacco Patch                                                  29

  Harrodsburg Pike                                               33

  A Spring-house                                                 41

  The Mammy                                                      59

  The Cook                                                       65

  Chasing the Rabbit                                             77

  The Preacher                                                   81

  Wet Goods for Sale--Bowling Green                              91

  Concluding a Bargain                                           93

  Court-house Square, Lexington, Kentucky                        97

  The "Tickler"                                                 101

  The Quack-doctor                                              105

  Auctioning a Jack                                             109

  Lords of the Soil                                             113

  Swapping Horses                                               117

  Gentlemen of Leisure                                          121

  Corn-husking                                                  131

  Militia Muster                                                135

  Products of the Soil                                          139

  Cattle at Lexington Fair                                      143

  Harness Horses                                                147

  The Modern Tourney                                            151

  The Judge's Stand--The Finish                                 155

  A Dinner-party                                                157

  The Race-course--The Finish                                   159

  Stallions                                                     163

  Mules                                                         165

  Office of the Father Prior                                    177

  Within the Gates                                              181

  A Fortnightly Shave                                           187

  The Garden                                                    197

  Old Ferry at Point Burnside                                   233

  "Damn me if them ain't the damnedest beans I ever seen!"      237

  Moonrise on Cumberland Ridge                                  239

  Cumberland Falls                                              243

  Native Types                                                  247

  Interior of a Mountaineer's Home                              251

  Mountain Courtship                                            255

  A Family Burying-ground                                       259

  A Mountaineer Dame                                            261

  Old Corn-mill at Pineville                                    265

  Map Showing Mountain Passes of the Cumberland                 277

  Cumberland Gap                                                281

  Ford on the Cumberland                                        297

  Kentucky River from High Bridge                               309



One might well name it Saxon grass, so much is it at home in Saxon
England, so like the loveliest landscapes of green Saxon England has it
made other landscapes on which dwell a kindred race in America, and so
akin is it to the type of nature that is peculiarly Saxon: being a
hardy, kindly, beautiful, nourishing stock; loving rich lands and apt to
find out where they lie; uprooting inferior aborigines, but stoutly
defending its new domain against all invaders; paying taxes well, with
profits to boot; thriving best in temperate latitudes and checkered
sunshine; benevolent to flocks and herds; and allying itself closely to
the history of any people whose content lies in simple plenty and
habitual peace--the perfect squire-and-yeoman type of grasses.

In the earliest spring nothing is sooner afield to contest possession
of the land than the blue-grass. Its little green spear-points are the
first to pierce the soft rich earth, and array themselves in countless
companies over the rolling landscapes, while its roots reach out in
every direction for securer foothold. So early does this take place,
that a late hoar-frost will now and then mow all these bristling
spear-points down. Sometimes a slow-falling sleet will incase each
emerald blade in glittering silver; but the sun by-and-by melts the
silver, leaving the blade unhurt. Or a light snow-fall will cover tufts
of it over, making pavilions and colonnades with white roofs resting on
green pillars. The roofs vanish anon, and the columns go on silently
rising. But usually the final rigors of the season prove harmless to the
blue-grass. One sees it most beautiful in the spring, just before the
seed stalks have shot upward from the flowing tufts, and while the thin,
smooth, polished blades, having risen to their greatest height, are
beginning to bend, or break and fall over on themselves and their nether
fellows from sheer luxuriance. The least observant eye is now
constrained to note that blue-grass is the characteristic element of the
Kentucky turf--the first element of beauty in the Kentucky landscape.
Over the stretches of woodland pasture, over the meadows and the lawns,
by the edges of turnpike and lane, in the fence corners--wherever its
seed has been allowed to flourish--it spreads a verdure so soft in fold
and fine in texture, so entrancing by its freshness and fertility, that
it looks like a deep-lying, thick-matted emerald moss. One thinks of it,
not as some heavy, velvet-like carpet spread over the earth, but as some
light, seamless veil that has fallen delicately around it, and that
might be blown away by a passing breeze.

[Illustration: BLUE-GRASS.]

After this you will not see the blue-grass so beautiful. The seed ripens
in June. Already the slender seed stalks have sprung up above the
uniform green level, bearing on their summits the fuzzy, plumy, purplish
seed-vessels; and save the soft, feathery undulations of these as the
wind sweeps over them, the beauty of the blue-grass is gone. Moreover,
certain robust and persistent weeds and grasses have been growing
apace, roughening and diversifying the sward, so that the vista is less
charming. During July and August the blue-grass lies comparatively
inactive, resting from fructification, and missing, as well, frequent
showers to temper the sunshine. In seasons of severe drought it even
dies quite away, leaving the surface of the earth as bare and brown as a
winter landscape or arid plain. Where it has been closely grazed, one
may, in walking over it, stir such a dust as one would raise on a
highway; and the upturned, half-exposed rootlets seem entirely dead. But
the moderated heats and the gentle rains that usually come with the
passing of summer bring on a second vigorous growth, and in the course
of several weeks the landscape is covered with a verdure rivalling the
luxuriance of spring.

There is something incongruous in this marvellous autumnal
rejuvenescence of the blue-grass. All nature appears content and
resting. The grapes on the sunward slopes have received their final
coloring of purple and gold; the heavy mast is beginning to drop in the
forest, followed by the silent lapse of russet and crimson leaves; the
knee-deep aftermath has paled its green in the waiting autumn fields;
the plump children are stretching out their nut-stained hands towards
the first happy fire-glow on chill, dark evenings; and the cricket has
left the sere, dead garden for a winter home at the hearth. Then, lo!
as if by some freakish return of the spring to the edge of winter the
pastures are suddenly as fresh and green as those of May. The effect on
one who has the true landscape passion is transporting and bewildering.
Such contrasts of color it is given one to study nowhere but in
blue-grass lands. It is as if the seasons were met to do some great
piece of brocading. One sees a new meaning in Poe's melancholy
thought--the leaves of the many-colored grass.

All winter the blue-grass continues green--it is always _green_, of
course, never _blue_--and it even grows a little, except when the ground
is frozen. Thus, year after year, drawing needful nourishment from the
constantly disintegrating limestone below, flourishes here as nowhere
else in the world this wonderful grass.

Even while shivering in the bleak winds of March, the young lambs
frolicked away from the distent teats of the ewes, with growing relish
for its hardy succulence, and by-and-by they were taken into market the
sooner and the fatter for its developing qualities. During the long
summer, foaming pails of milk and bowls of golden butter have testified
to the Kentucky housewife with what delight the cows have ruminated on
the stores gathered each plentiful day. The Kentucky farmer knows that
the distant metropolitan beef-eater will in time have good reason to
thank it for yonder winding herd of sleek young steers that are softly
brushing their rounded sides with their long, white, silky tails, while
they plunge their puffing noses into its depths and tear away huge
mouthfuls of its inexhaustible richness. Thorough-bred sire and dam and
foal in paddocks or deeper pastures have drawn from it form and quality
and organization: hardness and solidity of bone, strength of tendon,
firmness and elasticity of muscle, power of nerve, and capacity of lung.
Even the Falstaff porkers, their eyes gleaming with gluttonous
enjoyment, have looked to it for the shaping of their posthumous hams
and the padding of their long backbones in depths of snowy lard. In
winter mules and sheep and horses paw away the snow to get at the green
shoots that lie covered over beneath the full, rank growth of autumn, or
they find it attractive provender in their ricks. For all that live upon
it, it is perennial and abundant, beautiful and beneficent--the first
great natural factor in the prosperity of the Kentucky people. What
wonder if the Kentuckian, like the Greek of old, should wish to have
even his paradise well set in grass; or that, with a knowing humor, he
should smile at David for saying, "He maketh his grass to grow upon the
mountains," inasmuch as the only grass worth speaking of grows on his
beloved plain!



But if grass is the first element in the lovely Kentucky landscape, as
it must be in every other one, by no means should it be thought sole or
chief. In Dante, as Ruskin points out, whenever the country is to be
beautiful, we come into open air and open meadows. Homer places the
sirens in a meadow when they are to sing. Over the blue-grass,
therefore, one walks into the open air and open meadows of the
blue-grass land.

This has long had reputation for being one of the very beautiful spots
of the earth, and it is worth while to consider those elements of
natural scenery wherein the beauty consists.

One might say, first, that the landscape possesses what is so very rare
even in beautiful landscapes--the quality of gracefulness. Nowhere does
one encounter vertical lines or violent slopes; nor are there perfectly
level stretches like those that make the green fields monotonous in the
Dutch lowlands. The dark, finely sifted soil lies deep over the
limestone hills, filling out their chasms to evenness, and rounding
their jagged or precipitous edges, very much as a heavy snow at night
will leave the morning landscape with mitigated ruggedness and softer
curves. The long, slow action of water has further moulded everything
into symmetry, so that the low ancient hills descend to the valleys in
exquisite folds and uninterrupted slopes. The whole great plain
undulates away league after league towards the distant horizon in an
endless succession of gentle convex surfaces--like the easy swing of the
sea--presenting a panorama of subdued swells and retiring surges.
Everything in the blue-grass country is billowy and afloat. The spirit
of nature is intermediate between violent energy and complete repose;
and the effect of this mild activity is kept from monotony by the
accidental perspective of position, creating variety of details.

One traces this quality of gracefulness in the labyrinthine courses of
the restful streams, in the disposition of forest masses, in the free,
unstudied succession of meadow, field, and lawn. Surely it is just this
order of low hill scenery, just these buoyant undulations, that should
be covered with the blue-grass. Had Hawthorne ever looked on this
landscape when most beautiful, he could never have said of England that
"no other country will ever have this charm of lovely verdure."

Characteristically beautiful spots on the blue-grass landscape are the
woodland pastures. A Kentucky wheat field, a Kentucky meadow, a Kentucky
lawn, is but a field, a meadow, a lawn, found elsewhere; but a Kentucky
sylvan slope has a loveliness unique and local. Rightly do poets make
pre-eminently beautiful countries abound in trees. John Burroughs,
writing with enthusiasm of English woods, has said that "in midsummer
the hair of our trees seems to stand on end; the woods have a frightened
look, or as if they were just recovering from a debauch." This is not
true of the Kentucky woods, unless it be in some season of protracted
drought. The foliage of the Kentucky trees is not thin nor dishevelled,
the leaves crowd thick to the very ends of the boughs, and spread
themselves full to the sky, making, where they are close together,
under-spaces of green gloom scarcely shot through by sunbeams. Indeed,
one often finds here the perfection of tree forms. I mean that rare
development which brings the extremities of the boughs to the very limit
of the curve that nature intends the tree to define as the peculiar
shape of its species. Any but the most favorable conditions leave the
outline jagged, faulty, and untrue. Here and there over the blue-grass
landscape one's eye rests on a cone-shaped, or dome-shaped, or inverted
pear-shaped, or fan-shaped tree. Nor are fulness of leafage and
perfection of form alone to be noted; pendency of boughs is another
distinguishing feature. One who loves and closely studies trees will
note here the comparative absence of woody stiffness. It is expected
that the willow and the elm should droop their branches. Here the same
characteristic strikes you in the wild cherry, the maple, and the
sycamore--even in great walnuts and ashes and oaks; and I have
occasionally discovered exceeding grace of form in hackberries (which
usually look paralytic and as if waiting to hobble away on crutches), in
locusts, and in the harsh hickories--loved by Thoreau.

But to return to the woodland pastures. They are the last vestiges of
that unbroken primeval forest which, together with cane-brakes and
pea-vines, covered the face of the country when it was first beheld by
the pioneers. No blue-grass then. In these woods the timber has been
so cut out that the remaining trees often stand clearly revealed in
their entire form, their far-reaching boughs perhaps not even touching
those of their nearest neighbor, or interlacing them with ineffectual
fondness. There is something pathetic in the sight, and in the
thought of those innumerable stricken ones that in years agone were
dismembered for cord-wood and kitchen stoves and the vast fireplaces
of old-time negro cabins. In the well kept blue-grass pasture
undergrowth and weeds are annually cut down, so that the massive
trunks are revealed from a distance; the better because the branches
seldom are lower than from ten to twenty feet above the earth. Thus in
its daily course the sun strikes every point beneath the broad
branches, and nourishes the blue-grass up to the very roots. All
savagery, all wildness, is taken out of these pastures; they are full
of tenderness and repose--of the utmost delicacy and elegance. Over
the graceful earth spreads the flowing green grass, uniform and
universal. Above this stand the full, swelling trunks--warm browns and
pale grays--often lichen-flecked or moss-enamelled. Over these expand
the vast domes and canopies of leafage. And falling down upon these
comes the placid sunshine through a sky of cerulean blueness, and past
the snowy zones of gleaming cloud. The very individuality of the tree
comes out as it never can in denser places. Always the most truly
human object in still, voiceless nature, it here throws out its arms
to you with imploring tenderness, with what Wordsworth called "the
soft eye-music of slow-waving boughs." One cannot travel far in the
blue-grass country without coming upon one of these woodland strips.

[Illustration: NEGRO CABINS.]

Of the artistic service rendered the landscape of this region by other
elements of scenery--atmosphere and cloud and sky--much might, but
little will, be said. The atmosphere is sometimes crystalline, sometimes
full of that intense repose of dazzling light which one, without ever
having seen them, knows to be on canvases of Turner. Then, again, it is
amber-hued, or tinged with soft blue, graduated to purple shadows on the
horizon. During the greater part of the year the cloud-sky is one of
strongly outlined forms; the great white cumuli drift over, with every
majesty of design and grace of grouping; but there come, in milder
seasons, many days when one may see three cloud belts in the heavens at
the same time, the lowest far, far away, and the highest brushing
softly, as it were, past the very dome of the inviolable blue. You turn
your eye downward to see the light wandering wistfully among the low
distant hills, and the sweet tremulous shadows crossing the meadows with
timid cadences. It _is_ a beautiful country; the Kentucky skies are not
the cold, hard, brilliant, hideous things that so many writers on nature
style American skies (usually meaning New England skies), as contrasted
with skies European. They are at times ineffably warm in tone and tender
in hue, giving aerial distances magical and fathomless above, and
throwing down upon the varied soft harmonious greens of the landscape
below, upon its rich browns and weathered grays and whole scheme of
terrene colors, a flood of radiance as bountiful and transfiguring as it
is chastened and benign.

But why make a description of the blue-grass region of Kentucky? What
one sees may be only what one feels--only intricate affinities between
nature and self that were developed long ago, and have become too deep
to be viewed as relations or illusions. What two human beings find the
same things in the face of a third, or in nature's? Descriptions of
scenery are notoriously disappointing to those whose taste in landscape
is different, or who have little or no sentiment for pure landscape
beauty. So one coming hither might be sorely disappointed. No
mountains; no strips of distant blue gleaming water nor lawny cascades;
no grandeur; no majesty; no wild picturesqueness. The chords of
landscape harmony are very simple; nothing but softness and amenity,
grace and repose, delicacy and elegance. One might fail at seasons to
find even these. This is a beautiful country, but not always; there come
days when the climate shows as ugly a temper as possible. Not a little
of the finest timber has been lost by storms. The sky is for days one
great blanket of grewsome gray. In winter you laugh with chattering
teeth at those who call this "the South," the thermometer perhaps
registering from twelve to fifteen degrees below zero. In summer the
name is but a half-truth. Only by visiting this region during some
lovely season, or by dwelling here from year to year, and seeing it in
all the humors of storm and sunshine, can one love it.


But the ideal landscape of daily life must not be merely beautiful: it
should be useful. With what may not the fertility of this region be
compared? With the valleys of the Schuylkill, the Shenandoah, and the
Genesee; with the richest lands of Lombardy and Belgium; with the most
fertile districts of England. The evidences of this fertility are
everywhere. Nature, even in those places where she has been forced for
nearly a hundred years to bear much at the hands of a not always
judicious agriculture, unceasingly struggles to cover herself with
bushes of all sorts and nameless annual weeds and grasses. Even the
blue-grass contends in vain for complete possession of its freehold. One
is forced to note, even though without sentiment, the rich pageant of
transitory wild bloom that _will_ force a passage for itself over the
landscape: firmaments of golden dandelions in the lawns; vast beds of
violets, gray and blue, in dim glades; patches of flaunting sunflowers
along the road-sides; purple thistles; and, of deeper purple still and
far denser growth, beautiful ironweed in the woods; with many clumps of
alder bloom, and fast-extending patches of perennial blackberry, and
groups of delicate May-apples, and whole fields of dog-fennel and
golden-rod. And why mention indomitable dock and gigantic poke, burrs
and plenteous nightshade, and mullein and plantain, with dusty
gray-green ragweed and thrifty fox-tail?--an innumerable company.

Maize, pumpkins, and beans grow together in a field--a triple crop.
Nature perfects them all, yet must do more. Scarce have the ploughs left
the furrows before there springs up a varied wild growth, and a fourth
crop, morning-glories, festoon the tall tassels of the Indian corn
ere the knife can be laid against the stalk. Harvest fields usually have
their stubble well hidden by a rich, deep aftermath. Garden patches, for
all that hoe and rake can do, commonly look at last like spots given
over to weeds and grasses. Sidewalks quickly lose their borders.
Pavements would soon disappear from sight; the winding of a distant
stream through the fields can be readily followed by the line of
vegetation that rushes there to fight for life, from the minutest
creeping vines to forest trees. Every neglected fence corner becomes an
area for a fresh colony. Leave one of these sweet, humanized woodland
pastures alone for a short period of years, it runs wild with a dense
young natural forest; vines shoot up to the tops of the tallest trees,
and then tumble over in green sprays on the heads of others.


A kind, true, patient, self-helpful soil if ever there was one! Some of
these lands after being cultivated, not always scientifically, but
always without artificial fertilizers, for more than three-quarters of a
century, are now, if properly treated, equal in productiveness to the
best farming lands of England. The farmer from one of these old fields
will take two different crops in a season. He gets two cuttings of
clover from a meadow, and has rich grazing left. A few counties have at
a time produced three-fourths of the entire hemp product of the United
States. The State itself has at different times stood first in wheat
and hemp and Indian corn and wool and tobacco and flax, although half
its territory is covered with virgin forests. When lands under improper
treatment have become impoverished, their productiveness has been
restored, not by artificial fertilizers, but by simple rotation of
crops, with nature's help. The soil rests on decomposable limestone,
which annually gives up to it in solution all the essential mineral
plant food that judicious agriculture needs.

Soil and air and climate--the entire aggregate of influences happily
co-operative--make the finest grazing. The Kentucky horse has carried
the reputation of the country into regions where even the people could
never have made it known. Your expert in the breeding of thoroughbreds
will tell you that the muscular fibre of the blue-grass animal is to
that of the Pennsylvania-bred horses as silk to cotton, and the texture
of his bone, compared with the latter's, as ivory beside pumice-stone.
If taken to the Eastern States, in twelve generations he is no longer
the same breed of horse. His blood fertilizes American stock the
continent over. Jersey cattle brought here increase in size. Sires come
to Kentucky to make themselves and their offspring famous.

The people themselves are a fecund race. Out of this State have gone
more to enrich the citizenship of the nation than all the other States
together have been able to send into it. So at least your loyal-hearted
Kentuckian looks at the rather delicate subject of inter-State
migration. By actual measurement the Kentucky volunteers during the
Civil War were found to surpass all others (except Tennesseeans) in
height and weight, whether coming from the United States or various
countries of Europe. But for the great-headed Scandinavians, they would
have been first, also, in circumference around the forehead and occiput.
Still, Kentucky has little or no literature.

[Illustration: HEMP FIELD.]

One element that should be conspicuous in fertile countries does not
strike the observer here--much beautiful water; no other State has a
frontage of navigable rivers equal to that of Kentucky. But there are
few limpid, lovely, smaller streams. Wonderful springs there are, and
vast stores of water in the cavernous earth below; but the landscape
lacks the charm of this element--clear, rushing, musical, abundant. The
watercourses, ever winding and graceful, are apt to be either swollen
and turbid or insignificant; of late years the beds seem less full
also--a change consequent, perhaps, upon the denudation of forest lands.
In a dry season the historic Elkhorn seems little more than a ganglion
of precarious pools.


The best artists who have painted cultivated ground have always been
very careful to limit the area of the crops. Undoubtedly the
substitution of a more scientific agriculture for the loose and easy
ways of primitive husbandry has changed the key-note of rural existence
from a tender Virgilian sentiment to a coarser strain, and as life
becomes more unsophisticated it grows less picturesque. When the work of
the old-time reaper is done by a fat man with a flaming face, sitting on
a cast-iron machine, and smoking a cob pipe, the artist will leave the
fields. Figures have a terrible power to destroy sentiment in pure
landscape; so have houses. When one leaves nature, pure and simple, in
the blue-grass country, he must accordingly pick his way circumspectly
or go amiss in his search for the beautiful. If his taste lead him to
desire in landscapes the finest evidences of human labor, the high
artificial finish of a minutely careful civilization, he will here find
great disappointment. On the other hand, if he delight in those
exquisite rural spots of the Old World with picturesque bits of
homestead architecture and the perfection of horticultural and
unobtrusive botanical details, he will be no less aggrieved. What he
sees here is neither the most scientific farming, simply economic and
utilitarian--raw and rude--nor that cultivated desire for the elements
in nature to be so moulded by the hand of man that they will fuse
harmoniously and inextricably with his habitations and his work.

The whole face of the country is taken up by a succession of farms. Each
of these, except the very small ones, presents to the eye the variation
of meadow, field, and woodland pasture, together with the homestead and
the surrounding grounds of orchard, garden, and lawn. The entire
landscape is thus caught in a vast net-work of fences. The Kentuckian
retains his English ancestors' love of enclosures; but the uncertain
tenure of estates beyond a single generation does not encourage him to
make them the most durable. One does, indeed, notice here and there
throughout the country stone-walls of blue limestone, that give an
aspect of substantial repose and comfortable firmness to the scenery.
But the farmer dreads their costliness, even though his own hill-sides
furnish him an abundant quarry. He knows that unless the foundations
are laid like those of a house, the thawing earth will unsettle them,
that water, freezing as it trickles through the crevices, will force the
stones out of their places, and that breaches will be made in them by
boys on a hunt whenever and wherever it shall be necessary to get at a
lurking or sorely pressed hare. It is ludicrously true that the most
terrible destroyer of stone-walls in this country is the small boy
hunting a hare, with an appetite for game that knows no geological
impediment. Therefore one hears of fewer limestone fences of late years,
some being torn down and superseded by plank fences or post-and-rail
fences, or by the newer barbed-wire fence--an economic device that will
probably become as popular in regions where stone and timber were never
to be had as in others, like this, where timber has been ignorantly,
wantonly sacrificed. It is a pleasure to know that one of the most
expensive, and certainly the most hideous, fences ever in vogue here is
falling into disuse. I mean the worm-fence--called worm because it
wriggled over the landscape like a long brown caterpillar, the stakes
being the bristles along its back, and because it now and then ate up a
noble walnut-tree close by, or a kingly oak, or frightened, trembling
ash--a worm that decided the destiny of forests. A pleasure it is, too,
to come occasionally upon an Osage orange hedge-row, which is a green
eternal fence. But you will not find many of these. It is generally too
much to ask of an American, even though he be a Kentuckian, to wait for
a hedge to grow and make him a fence. When he takes a notion to have a
fence, he wants it put up before Saturday night.

[Illustration: TOBACCO PATCH.]

If the Kentuckian, like the Englishman, is fond of fencing himself off,
like the Frenchman, he loves long, straight roads. You will not find
elsewhere in America such highways as the Kentuckian has constructed
over his country--broad, smooth, level, white, glistening turnpikes of
macadamized limestone. It is a luxury to drive, and also an expense, as
one will discover before one has passed through many toll-gates. One
could travel more cheaply on the finest railway on the continent. What
Richard Grant White thought it worth while to record as a rare and
interesting sight--a man on an English highway breaking stones--is no
uncommon sight here. All limestone for these hundreds of miles of road,
having been quarried here, there, anywhere, and carted and strewn along
the road-side, is broken by a hammer in the hand. By the highway the
workman sits--usually an Irishman--pecking away at a long rugged pile as
though he were good to live for a thousand years. Somehow, in patience,
he always gets to the other end of his hard row.

One cannot sojourn long without coming to conceive an interest in this
limestone, and loving to meet its rich warm hues on the landscape. It
has made a deal of history: limestone blue-grass, limestone water,
limestone roads, limestone fences, limestone bridges and arches,
limestone engineering architecture, limestone water-mills, limestone
spring-houses and homesteads--limestone Kentuckians! Outside of
Scripture no people was ever so founded on a rock. It might be well to
note, likewise, that the soil of this region is what scientists call
sedentary--called so because it sits quietly on the rocks, not because
the people sit quietly on it.

Undoubtedly the most picturesque monuments in the blue-grass country are
old stone water-mills and old stone homesteads--landmarks each for
separate trains of ideas that run to poetry and to history. The latter,
built by pioneers or descendants of pioneers, nearly a hundred years
ago, stand gray with years, but good for nameless years to come; great
low chimneys, deep little windows, thick walls, mighty fireplaces;
situated usually with keen discretion on an elevation near a spring,
just as a Saxon forefather would have placed them centuries ago. Haply
one will see the water of this spring issuing still from a recess in a
hill-side, with an overhanging ledge of rock--the entrance to this
cavern being walled across and closed with a gate, thus making,
according to ancient fashion, a simple natural spring-house and dairy.

Something like a feeling of exasperation is apt to come over one in
turning to the typical modern houses. Nowhere, certainly, in rural
America, are there, within the same area, more substantial, comfortable
homesteads. They are nothing if not spacious and healthful, frame or
brick, two stories, shingle roofs. But they lack characteristic
physiognomy; they have no harmony with the landscape, nor with each
other, nor often with themselves. They are not beautiful when new, and
can never be beautiful when old; for the beauty of newness and the
beauty of oldness alike depend on beauty of form and color, which here
is lacking. One longs for the sight of a rural Gothic cottage, which
would harmonize so well with the order of the scenery, or for a light,
elegant villa that should overlook these light and elegant undulations
of a beautiful and varied landscape. It must be understood that there
are notable exceptions to these statements even in the outlying
districts of the blue-grass country, and that they do not apply to the
environs of the towns, nor to the towns themselves.

Nowhere does one see masses of merely beautiful things in the country.
The slumbering art of interior decoration is usually spent upon the
parlor. The grounds around the houses are not kept in the best order.
The typical rural Kentucky housewife does not seem to have any
compelling, controlling sense of the beautiful. She invariably concedes
something to beauty, but not enough. You will find a show of flowers at
the poorest houses, though but geranium slips in miscellaneous tins and
pottery. But you do not generally see around more prosperous homes any
such parterres or beds as there is money to spend on, and time to tend,
and grounds to justify.

[Illustration: HARRODSBURG PIKE.]

A like spirit is shown by the ordinary blue-grass farmer. His management
strikes you as not the pink of tidiness, not the model of systematic
thrift. Exceptions exist--many exceptions--but the rule holds good. One
cannot travel here in summer or autumn without observing that weeds
flourish where they harm and create ugliness; fences go unrepaired;
gates may be found swinging on one hinge. He misuses his long-cultivated
fields; he cuts down his scant, precious trees. His energy is not
tireless, his watchfulness not sleepless. Why should they be? Human life
here is not massed and swarming. The occupation of the soil is not close
and niggard. The landscape is not even compact, much less crowded. There
is room for more, plenty for more to eat. No man here, like the ancient
Roman prætor, ever decided how often one might, without trespass, gather
the acorns that fall from his neighbors' trees. No woman ever went
through a blue-grass harvest field gleaning. Ruth's vocation is unknown.
By nature the Kentuckian is no rigid economist. By birth, education,
tradition, and inherited tendencies he is not a country clout, but a
rural gentleman. His ideal of life is neither vast wealth nor personal
distinction, but solid comfort in material conditions, and the material
conditions are easy: fertility of soil, annual excess of production over
consumption, comparative thinness of population. So he does not brace
himself for the tense struggle of life as it goes on in centres of
fierce territorial shoulder-pushing. He can afford to indulge his
slackness of endeavor. He is neither an alert aggressive agriculturist,
nor a landscape gardener, nor a purveyor of commodities to the
green-grocer. If the world wants vegetables, let it raise them. He
declines to work himself to death for other people, though they pay him
for it. His wife is a lady, not a domestic laborer; and it is her
privilege, in household affairs, placidly to surround herself with an
abundance which the lifelong female economists of the North would regard
with conscientious indignation.

In truth, there is much evidence to show that this park-like country,
intersected by many beautiful railroads, turnpikes, and shaded
picturesque lanes, will become less and less an agricultural district,
more and more a region of unequalled pasturage, and hence more park-like
still. One great interest abides here, of course--the manufacture of
Bourbon whiskey. Another interest has only within the last few years
been developed--the cultivation of tobacco, for which it was formerly
thought that the blue-grass soils were not adapted. But as years go by,
the stock interests invite more capital, demand more attention, give
more pleasure--in a word, strike the full chord of modern interest by
furnishing an unparalleled means of speculative profit.

Forty years ago the most distinguished citizens of the State were
engaged in writing essays and prize papers on scientific agriculture. A
regular trotting track was not to be found in the whole country. Nothing
was thought of the breeding and training of horses with reference to
development of greater speed. Pacing horses were fashionable; and two
great rivals in this gait having been brought together for a trial of
speed, in lieu of a track, paced a mighty race over a river-bottom flat.
We have changed all that. The gentlemen no longer write their essays.
Beef won the spurs of knighthood. In Kentucky the horse has already been
styled the first citizen. The great agricultural fairs of the State have
modified their exhibits with reference to him alone, and fifteen or
twenty thousand people give afternoon after afternoon to the
contemplation of his beauty and his speed. His one rival is the
thoroughbred, who goes on running faster and faster. One of the brief
code of nine laws for the government of the young Kentucky commonwealth
that were passed in the first legislative assembly ever held west of
the Alleghanies dealt with the preservation of the breed of horses.
Nothing was said of education. The Kentuckian loves the memory of Thomas
Jefferson, not forgetting that he once ran racehorses. These great
interests, not overlooking the cattle interest, the manufacture of
whiskey, and the raising of tobacco, will no doubt constitute the future
determining factors in the history of this country. It should not be
forgotten, however, that the Northern and Eastern palate becomes kindly
disposed at the bare mention of the many thousands of turkeys that
annually fatten on these plains.


"In Kentucky," writes Professor Shaler, in his recent history, "we shall
find nearly pure English blood. It is, moreover, the largest body of
pure English folk that has, speaking generally, been separated from the
mother country for two hundred years." They, the blue-grass Kentuckians,
are the descendants of those hardy, high-spirited, picked Englishmen,
largely of the squire and yeoman class, whose absorbing passion was not
religious disputation, nor the intellectual purpose of founding a State,
but the ownership of land and the pursuits and pleasures of rural life,
close to the rich soil, and full of its strength and sunlight. They
have to this day, in a degree perhaps equalled by no others living, the
race qualities of their English ancestry and the tastes and habitudes of
their forefathers. If one knows the Saxon nature, and has been a close
student of Kentucky life and character, stripped bare of the accidental
circumstances of local environment, he may amuse himself with laying the
two side by side and comparing the points of essential likeness. It is a
question whether the Kentuckian is not more like his English ancestor
than his New England contemporary. This is an old country, as things go
in the West. The rock formation is very old; the soil is old; the race
qualities here are old. In the Sagas, in the Edda, a man must be
over-brave. "Let all who are not cowards follow me!" cried McGary,
putting an end to prudent counsel on the eve of the battle of the Blue
Licks. The Kentuckian winced under the implication then, and has done it
in a thousand instances since. Over-bravery! The idea runs through the
pages of Kentucky history, drawing them back into the centuries of his
race. It is this quality of temper and conception of manhood that has
operated to build up in the mind of the world the figure of the typical
Kentuckian. Hawthorne conversed with an old man in England who told him
that the Kentuckians flayed Tecumseh where he fell, and converted his
skin into razor-strops. Collins, the Kentucky Froissart, speaking of
Kentucky pioneers, relates of the father of one of them that he knocked
Washington down in a quarrel, and received an apology from the Father of
his Country on the following day. I have mentioned this typical Hotspur
figure because I knew it would come foremost into the mind of the reader
whenever one began to speak with candor of Kentucky life and character.
It was never a true type: satire bit always into burlesque along lines
of coarseness and exaggeration. Much less is it true now, except in so
far as it describes a kind of human being found the world over.

But I was saying that old race qualities are apparent here, because this
is a people of English blood with hereditary agricultural tastes, and
because it has remained to this day largely uncommingled with foreign
strains. Here, for instance, is the old race conservatism that expends
itself reverentially on established ways and familiar customs. The
building of the first great turnpike in this country was opposed on the
ground that it would shut up way-side taverns, throw wagons and teams
out of employment, and destroy the market for chickens and oats. Prior
to that, immigration was discouraged because it would make the already
high prices of necessary articles so exorbitant that the permanent
prosperity of the State would receive a fatal check. True, however, this
opposition was not without a certain philosophy; for in those days
people went to some distant lick for their salt, bought it warm from
the kettle at seven or eight cents a pound, and packed it home on
horseback, so that a fourth dropped away in bitter water. Coming back to
the present, the huge yellowish-red stage-coach rolls to-day over the
marbled roads of the blue-grass country. Families may be found living
exactly where their pioneer ancestors effected a heroic settlement--a
landed aristocracy, if there be such in America. Family names come down
from generation to generation, just as a glance at the British peerage
will show that they were long ago being transmitted in kindred families
over the sea. One great honored name will do nearly as much in Kentucky
as in England to keep a family in peculiar respect, after the reason for
it has ceased. Here is that old invincible race ideal of personal
liberty, and that old, unreckoning, truculent, animal rage at whatever
infringes on it. The Kentuckians were among the very earliest to grant
manhood suffrage. Nowhere in this country are the rights of property
more inviolable, the violations of these more surely punished: neither
counsel nor judge nor any power whatsoever can acquit a man who has
taken fourpence of his neighbor's goods. Here is the old land-loving,
land-holding, home-staying, home-defending disposition. This is not the
lunching, tourist race that, to Mr. Ruskin's horror, leaves its crumbs
and chicken-bones on the glaciers. The simple rural key-note of life is
still the sweetest. Now, after the lapse of more than a century, the
most populous town contains less than twenty thousand white souls. Along
with the love of land has gone comparative content with the annual
increase of flock and field. No man among them has ever got immense
wealth. Here is the old sense of personal privacy and reserve which has
for centuries intrenched the Englishman in the heart of his estate, and
forced him to regard with inexpugnable discomfort his neighbor's
boundaries. This would have been a densely peopled region, the farms
would have been minutely subdivided, had sons asked and received
permission to settle on parts of the ancestral estate. This filling in
and too close personal contact would have satisfied neither father nor
child, so that the one has generally kept his acres intact, and the
other, impelled by the same land-hunger that brought his pioneer
forefather hither, has gone hence into the younger West, where lie
broader tracts and vaster spaces. Here is the old idea, somewhat current
still in England, that the highest mark of the gentleman is not
cultivation of the mind, not intellect, not knowledge, but elegant
living. Here is the old hereditary devotion to the idea of the State.
Write the biographies of the Kentuckians who have been engaged in
national or in local politics, and you have largely the history of the
State of Kentucky. Write the lives of all its scientists, artists,
musicians, actors, poets, novelists, and you find many weary
mile-stones between the chapters.

[Illustration: A SPRING-HOUSE.]

Enter the blue-grass region from what point you choose--and you may do
this, so well traversed is it by railways--and you become sensitive to
its influence. If you come from the North or the East, you say: "This is
not modern America. Here is something local and unique. For one thing,
nothing goes fast here." By-and-by you see a blue-grass race-horse, and
note an exception. But you do not also except the rider or the driver.
The speed is not his. He is a mere bunch of mistletoe to the horse.
Detach him, and he is not worth timing. Human speed for the most part
lies fallow. Every man starts for the goal of life at his own natural
gait, and if he sees that it is too far off for him to reach it in a
lifetime, he does not run the faster, but has the goal moved nearer him.
The Kentuckians are not provincial. As Thoreau said, no people can long
remain provincial who have a propensity for politics, whittling, and
rapid travelling. They are not inaccessible to modern ideas, but the
shock of modern ideas has not electrified them. They have walled
themselves around with old race instincts and habitudes, and when the
stream of tendency rushes against this wall, it recoils upon itself
instead of sweeping away the barrier.

The typical Kentuckian regards himself an American of the Americans, and
thinks as little of being like the English as he would of imitating the
Jutes. In nothing is he more like his transatlantic ancestry than in
strong self-content. He sits on his farm as though it were the pole of
the heavens--a manly man with a heart in him. Usually of the blond type,
robust, well formed, with clear, fair complexion, that grows ruddier
with age and stomachic development, full neck, and an open, kind,
untroubled countenance. He is frank, but not familiar; talkative, but
not garrulous; full of the genial humor of local hits and allusions, but
without a subtle nimbleness of wit; indulgent towards purely masculine
vices, but intolerant of petty crimes; no reader of books nor master in
religious debate, faith coming to him as naturally as his appetite, and
growing with what it feeds upon; loving roast pig, but not caring
particularly for Lamb's eulogy; loving his grass like a Greek, not
because it is beautiful, but because it is fresh and green; a peaceful
man with strong passions, and so to be heartily loved and respected or
heartily hated and respected, but never despised or trifled with. An
occasional barbecue in the woods, where the saddles of South Down mutton
are roasted on spits over the coals of the mighty trench, and the
steaming kettles of burgoo lend their savor to the nose of the hungry
political orator, so that he becomes all the more impetuous in his
invectives; the great agricultural fairs; the race-courses; the monthly
county court day, when he meets his neighbors on the public square of
the nearest town; the quiet Sunday mornings, when he meets them again
for rather more clandestine talks at the front door of the neighborhood
church--these and his own fireside are his characteristic and ample
pleasures. You will never be under his roof without being touched by the
mellowest of all the virtues of his race--simple, unsparing human
kindness and hospitality.

The women of Kentucky have long had reputation for beauty. An average
type is a refinement on the English blonde--greater delicacy of form,
feature, and color. A beautiful Kentucky woman is apt to be exceedingly
beautiful. Her voice is low and soft; her hands and feet delicately
formed; her skin pure and beautiful in tint and shading; her eyes blue
or brown, and hair nut brown or golden brown; to all which is added a
certain unapproachable refinement. It must not for a moment be supposed,
however, that there are not many genuinely ugly women in Kentucky.



On the outskirts of the towns of central Kentucky, a stranger, searching
for the picturesque in architecture and in life, would find his
attention arrested by certain masses of low frame and brick structures,
and by the multitudes of strange human beings that inhabit them. A
single town may have on its edges several of these settlements, which
are themselves called "towns," and bear separate names either
descriptive of some topographical peculiarity or taken from the original
owners of the lots. It is in these that a great part of the negro
population of Kentucky has packed itself since the war. Here live the
slaves of the past with their descendants; old family servants from the
once populous country-places; old wagon-drivers from the deep-rutted
lanes; old wood-choppers from the slaughtered blue-grass forests; old
harvesters and ploughmen from the long since abandoned fields; old cooks
from the savory, wasteful kitchens; old nurses from the softly rocked
and softly sung-to cradles. Here, too, are the homes of the younger
generation, of the laundresses and the barbers, teachers and ministers
of the gospel, coachmen and porters, restaurant-keepers and vagabonds,
hands from the hemp factories, and workmen on the outlying farms.

You step easily from the verge of the white population to the confines
of the black. But it is a great distance--like the crossing of a vast
continent between the habitats of alien races. The air seems all at once
to tan the cheek. Out of the cold, blue recesses of the midsummer sky
the sun burns with a fierceness of heat that warps the shingles of the
pointed roofs and flares with blinding brilliancy against some
whitewashed wall. Perhaps in all the street no little cooling stretch of
shade. The unpaved sidewalks and the roadway between are but
indistinguishable parts of a common thoroughfare, along which every
upspringing green thing is quickly trodden to death beneath the
ubiquitous play and passing of many feet. Here and there, from some
shielded nook or other coign of vantage, a single plumy branch of
dog-fennel may be seen spreading its small firmament of white and golden
stars close to the ground; or between its pale green stalks the faint
lavender of the nightshade will take the eye as the sole emblem of the
flowering world.

A negro town! Looking out the doors and windows of the cabins, lounging
in the door-ways, leaning over the low frame fences, gathering into
quickly forming, quickly dissolving groups in the dusty streets, they
swarm. They are here from milk-white through all deepening shades to
glossy blackness; octoroons, quadroons, mulattoes--some with large
liquid black eyes, refined features, delicate forms; working, gossiping,
higgling over prices around a vegetable cart, discussing last night's
church festival, to-day's funeral, or next week's railway excursion,
sleeping, planning how to get work and how to escape it. From some
unseen old figure in flamboyant turban, bending over the wash-tub in the
rear of a cabin, comes a crooned song of indescribable pathos; behind a
half-closed front shutter, a Moorish-hued _amosoro_ in gay linen thrums
his banjo in a measure of ecstatic gayety preluding the more passionate
melodies of the coming night. Here a fight; there the sound of the
fiddle and the rhythmic patting of hands. Tatters and silks flaunt
themselves side by side. Dirt and cleanliness lie down together.
Indolence goes hand in hand with thrift. Superstition dogs the slow
footsteps of reason. Passion and self-control eye each other across the
narrow way. If there is anywhere resolute virtue, round it is a weltered
muck of low and sensual desire. One sees the surviving types of old
negro life here crowded together with and contrasted with the new phases
of "colored" life--sees the transitional stage of a race, part of whom
were born slaves and are now freemen, part of whom have been born
freemen but remain so much like slaves.

It cannot fail to happen, as you walk along, that you will come upon
some cabin set back in a small yard and half hidden, front and side, by
an almost tropical jungle of vines and multiform foliage: patches of
great sunflowers, never more leonine in tawny magnificence and
sun-loving repose; festoons of white and purple morning-glories over the
windows and up to the low eaves; around the porch and above the
door-way, a trellis of gourd-vines swinging their long-necked, grotesque
yellow fruit; about the entrance flaming hollyhocks and other brilliant
bits of bloom, marigolds and petunias--evidences of the warm, native
taste that still distinguishes the negro after some centuries of contact
with the cold, chastened ideals of the Anglo-Saxon.

In the door-way of such a cabin, sheltered from the afternoon sun by his
dense jungle of vines, but with a few rays of light glinting through the
fluttering leaves across his seamed black face and white woolly head,
the muscles of his once powerful arms shrunken, the gnarled hands folded
idly in his lap--his occupation gone--you will haply see some old-time
slave of the class of Mrs. Stowe's Uncle Tom. For it is true that
scattered here and there throughout the negro towns of Kentucky are
representatives of the same class that furnished her with her hero;
true, also, that they were never sold by their Kentucky masters to the
plantations of the South, but remained unsold down to the last days of

When the war scattered the negroes of Kentucky blindly, tumultuously,
hither and thither, many of them gathered the members of their families
about them and moved from the country into these "towns;" and here the
few survivors live, ready to testify of their relations with their
former masters and mistresses, and indirectly serving to point a great
moral: that, however justly Mrs. Stowe may have chosen one of their
number as best fitted to show the fairest aspects of domestic slavery in
the United States, she departed from the common truth of history, as it
respected their lot in life, when she condemned her Uncle Tom to his
tragical fate. For it was not the _character_ of Uncle Tom that she
greatly idealized, as has been so often asserted; it was the category of
events that were made to befall him.

As citizens of the American Republic, these old negroes--now known as
"colored gentlemen," surrounded by "colored ladies and gentlemen"--have
not done a great deal. The bud of liberty was ingrafted too late on the
ancient slave-stock to bear much fruit. But they are interesting, as
contemporaries of a type of Kentucky negro whose virtues and whose
sorrows, dramatically embodied in literature, have become a by-word
throughout the civilized world. And now that the war-cloud is lifting
from over the landscape of the past, so that it lies still clear to the
eyes of those who were once the dwellers amid its scenes, it is perhaps
a good time to scan it and note some of its great moral landmarks before
it grows remoter and is finally forgotten.


These three types--Mrs. Stowe's Uncle Tom, and the Shelbys, his master
and mistress--were the outgrowth of natural and historic conditions
peculiar to Kentucky. "Perhaps," wrote Mrs. Stowe in her novel, "the
mildest form of the system of slavery is to be seen in the State of
Kentucky. The general prevalence of agricultural pursuits of a quiet and
gradual nature, not requiring those periodic seasons of hurry and
pressure that are called for in the business of more southern districts,
makes the task of the negro a more healthful and reasonable one; while
the master, content with a more gradual style of acquisition, had not
those temptations to hard-heartedness which always overcome frail human
nature, when the prospect of sudden and rapid gain is weighed in the
balance with no heavier counterpoise than the interests of the helpless
and unprotected." These words contain many truths.

For it must not be forgotten, first of all, that the condition of the
slave in Kentucky was measurably determined by certain physical laws
which lay beyond the control of the most inhuman master. Consider the
nature of the country--elevated, rolling, without miasmatic districts or
fatal swamps; the soil in the main slave-holding portions of the State
easily tilled, abundantly yielding; the climate temperate and
invigorating. Consider the system of agriculture--not that of vast
plantations, but of small farms, part of which regularly consisted of
woodland and meadow that required little attention. Consider the further
limitations to this system imposed by the range of the great Kentucky
staples--it being in the nature of corn, wheat, hemp, and tobacco, not
to yield profits sufficient to justify the employment of an immense
predial force, nor to require seasons of forced and exhausting labor. It
is evident that under such conditions slavery was not stamped with those
sadder features which it wore beneath a devastating sun, amid unhealthy
or sterile regions of country, and through the herding together of
hundreds of slaves who had the outward but not the inward discipline of
an army. True, one recalls here the often quoted words of Jefferson on
the raising of tobacco--words nearly as often misapplied as quoted; for
he was considering the condition of slaves who were unmercifully worked
on exhausted lands by a certain proletarian type of master, who did not
feed and clothe them. Only under such circumstances could the culture of
this plant be described as "productive of infinite wretchedness," and
those engaged in it as "in a continual state of exertion beyond the
powers of nature to support." It was by reason of these physical facts
that slavery in Kentucky assumed the phase which is to be distinguished
as domestic; and it was this mode that had prevailed at the North and
made emancipation easy.

Furthermore, in all history the condition of an enslaved race under the
enslaving one has been partly determined by the degree of moral
justification with which the latter has regarded the subject of human
bondage; and the life of the Kentucky negro, say in the days of Uncle
Tom, was further modified by the body of laws which had crystallized as
the sentiment of the people, slave-holders themselves. But even these
laws were only a partial exponent of what that sentiment was; for some
of the severest were practically a dead letter, and the clemency of the
negro's treatment by the prevailing type of master made amends for the
hard provisions of others.

It would be a difficult thing to write the history of slavery in
Kentucky. It is impossible to write a single page of it here. But it may
be said that the conscience of the great body of the people was always
sensitive touching the rightfulness of the institution. At the very
outset it seems to have been recognized simply for the reason that the
early settlers were emigrants from slave-holding States and brought
their negroes with them. The commonwealth began its legislation on the
subject in the face of an opposing sentiment. By early statute
restriction was placed on the importation of slaves, and from the first
they began to be emancipated. Throughout the seventy-five years of
pro-slavery State-life, the general conscience was always troubled.

The churches took up the matter. Great preachers, whose names were
influential beyond the State, denounced the system from the pulpit,
pleaded for the humane and Christian treatment of slaves, advocated
gradual emancipation. One religious body after another proclaimed the
moral evil of it, and urged that the young be taught and prepared as
soon as possible for freedom. Antislavery publications and addresses,
together with the bold words of great political leaders, acted as a
further leaven in the mind of the slave-holding class. As evidence of
this, when the new constitution of the State was to be adopted, about
1850, thirty thousand votes were cast in favor of an open clause in it,
whereby gradual emancipation should become a law as soon as the majority
of the citizens should deem it expedient for the peace of society; and
these votes represented the richest, most intelligent slave-holders in
the State.

In general the laws were perhaps the mildest. Some it is vital to the
subject not to pass over. If slaves were inhumanly treated by their
owner or not supplied with proper food and clothing, they could be taken
from him and sold to a better master. This law was not inoperative. I
have in mind the instance of a family who lost their negroes in this
way, were socially disgraced, and left their neighborhood. If the owner
of a slave had bought him on condition of not selling him out of the
county, or into the Southern States, or so as not to separate him from
his family, he could be sued for violation of contract. This law shows
the opposition of the better class of Kentucky masters to the
slave-trade, and their peculiar regard for the family ties of
their negroes. In the earliest Kentucky newspapers will be found
advertisements of the sales of negroes, on condition that they would be
bought and kept within the county or the State. It was within chancery
jurisdiction to prevent the separation of families. The case may be
mentioned of a master who was tried by his Church for unnecessarily
separating a husband from his wife. Sometimes slaves who had been
liberated and had gone to Canada voluntarily returned into service under
their former masters. Lest these should be overreached, they were to be
taken aside and examined by the court to see that they understood the
consequences of their own action, and were free from improper
constraint. On the other hand, if a slave had a right to his freedom, he
could file a bill in chancery and enforce his master's assent thereto.

But a clear distinction must be made between the mild view entertained
by the Kentucky slave-holders regarding the system itself and their
dislike of the agitators of forcible and immediate emancipation. A
community of masters, themselves humane to their negroes and probably
intending to liberate them in the end, would yet combine into a mob to
put down individual or organized antislavery efforts, because they
resented what they regarded an interference of the abolitionist with
their own affairs, and believed his measures inexpedient for the peace
of society. Therefore, the history of the antislavery movement in
Kentucky, at times so turbulent, must not be used to show the sentiment
of the people regarding slavery itself.


From these general considerations it is possible to enter more closely
upon a study of the domestic life and relations of Uncle Tom and the

"Whoever visits some estates there," wrote Mrs. Stowe, "and witnesses
the good-humored indulgence of some masters and mistresses and the
affectionate loyalty of some slaves, might be tempted to dream of the
oft-fabled poetic legend of a patriarchal institution." Along with these
words, taken from _Uncle Tom's Cabin_, I should like to quote an extract
from a letter written me by Mrs. Stowe under date of April 30, 1886:

    "In relation to your letter, I would say that I never lived in
    Kentucky, but spent many years in Cincinnati, which is separated
    from Kentucky only by the Ohio River, which, as a shrewd
    politician remarked, was dry one-half the year and frozen the
    other. My father was president of a theological seminary at Walnut
    Hills, near Cincinnati, and with him I travelled and visited
    somewhat extensively in Kentucky, and there became acquainted
    with those excellent slave-holders delineated in _Uncle Tom's
    Cabin_. I saw many counterparts of the Shelbys--people humane,
    conscientious, just and generous, who regarded slavery as an evil
    and were anxiously considering their duties to the slave. But
    it was not till I had finally left the West, and my husband was
    settled as professor in Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, that
    the passage of the fugitive-slave law and the distresses that
    followed it drew this from me."

The typical boy on a Kentucky farm was tenderly associated from infancy
with the negroes of the household and the fields. His old black "Mammy"
became almost his first mother, and was but slowly crowded out of his
conscience and his heart by the growing image of the true one. She had
perhaps nursed him at her bosom when he was not long enough to stretch
across it, sung over his cradle at noon and at midnight, taken him out
upon the velvety grass beneath the shade of the elm-trees to watch his
first manly resolution of standing alone in the world and walking the
vast distance of some inches. Often, in boyish years, when flying from
the house with a loud appeal from the incomprehensible code of
Anglo-Saxon punishment for small misdemeanors, he had run to those black
arms and cried himself to sleep in the lap of African sympathy. As he
grew older, alas! his first love grew faithless; and while "Mammy" was
good enough in her way and sphere, his wandering affections settled
humbly at the feet of another great functionary of the household--the
cook in the kitchen. To him her keys were as the keys to the kingdom of
heaven, for his immortal soul was his immortal appetite. When he stood
by the biscuit bench while she, pausing amid the varied industries that
went into the preparation of an old-time Kentucky supper, made him
marvellous geese of dough, with farinaceous feathers and genuine
coffee-grains for eyes, there was to him no other artist in the world
who possessed the secret of so commingling the useful with the

[Illustration: THE MAMMY.]

The little half-naked imps, too, playing in the dirt like glossy
blackbirds taking a bath of dust, were his sweetest, because perhaps his
forbidden, companions. With them he went clandestinely to the fatal
duck-pond in the stable lot, to learn the art of swimming on a walnut
rail. With them he raced up and down the lane on blooded alder-stalk
horses, afterwards leading the exhausted coursers into stables of green
bushes and haltering them high with a cotton string. It was one of these
hatless children of original Guinea that had crept up to him as he lay
asleep in the summer grass and told him where the best hidden of all
nests was to be found in a far fence corner--that of the high-tempered,
scolding guinea-hen. To them he showed his first Barlow knife; for them
he blew his first home-made whistle. He is their petty tyrant to-day;
to-morrow he will be their repentant friend, dividing with them his
marbles and proposing a game of hopscotch. Upon his dialect, his
disposition, his whole character, is laid the ineffaceable impress of
theirs, so that they pass into the final reckoning-up of his life here
and in the world to come.

But Uncle Tom!--the negro overseer of the place--the greatest of all the
negroes--greater even than the cook, when one is not hungry. How often
has he straddled Uncle Tom's neck, or ridden behind him afield on a
barebacked horse to the jingling music of the trace-chains! It is Uncle
Tom who plaits his hempen whip and ties the cracker in a knot that will
stay. It is Uncle Tom who brings him his first young squirrel to tame,
the teeth of which are soon to be planted in his right forefinger. Many
a time he slips out of the house to take his dinner or supper in the
cabin with Uncle Tom; and during long winter evenings he loves to sit
before those great roaring cabin fireplaces that throw their red and
yellow lights over the half circle of black faces and on the mysteries
of broom-making, chair-bottoming, and the cobbling of shoes. Like the
child who listens to "Uncle Remus," he, too, hears songs and stories,
and creeps back to the house with a wondering look in his eyes and a
vague hush of spirit.

Then come school-days and vacations during which, as Mrs. Stowe says,
he may teach Uncle Tom to make his letters on a slate or expound to him
the Scriptures. Then, too, come early adventures with the gun, and 'coon
hunts and 'possum hunts with the negroes under the round moon, with the
long-eared, deep-voiced hounds--to him delicious and ever-memorable
nights! The crisp air, through which the breath rises like white
incense, the thick autumn leaves, begemmed with frost, rustling
underfoot; the shadows of the mighty trees; the strained ear; the heart
leaping with excitement; the negroes and dogs mingling their wild
delight in music that wakes the echoes of distant hill-sides. Away!
Away! mile after mile, hour after hour, to where the purple and golden
persimmons hang low from the boughs, or where from topmost limbs the
wild grape drops its countless clusters in a black cascade a sheer two
hundred feet.

Now he is a boy no longer, but has his first love-affair, which sends a
thrill through all those susceptible cabins; has his courtship, which
gives rise to many a wink and innuendo; and brings home his bride, whose
coming converts every youngster into a living rolling ball on the
ground, and opens the feasts and festivities of universal joy.

Then some day "ole Marster" dies, and the negroes, one by one, young and
old, file into the darkened parlor to take a last look at his quiet
face. He had his furious temper, "ole Marster" had, and his sins--which
God forgive! To-day he will be buried, and to-morrow "young Marster"
will inherit his saddle-horse and ride out into the fields.

Thus he has come into possession of his negroes. Among them are a few
whose working days are over. These are to be kindly cared for, decently
buried. Next are the active laborers, and, last, the generation of
children. He knows them all by name, capacity, and disposition; is bound
to them by life-long associations; hears their communications and
complaints. When he goes to town, he is charged with commissions, makes
purchases with their own money. Continuing the course of his father, he
sets about making them capable, contented workmen. There shall be
special training for special aptitude. One shall be made a blacksmith, a
second a carpenter, a third a cobbler of shoes. In all the general
industries of the farm, education shall not be lacking. It is claimed
that a Kentucky negro invented the hemp-brake. As a result of this
effective management, the Southern planter, looking northward, will pay
him a handsome premium for his blue-grass slave. He will have no white
overseer. He does not like the type of man. Besides, one is not needed.
Uncle Tom served his father in this capacity; let him be.

Among his negroes he finds a bad one. What shall he do with him? Keep
him? Keeping him makes him worse, and moreover he corrupts the
others. Set him free? That is to put a reward upon evil. Sell him to
his neighbors? They do not want him. If they did, he would not sell him
to them. He sells him into the South. This is a statement, not an
apology. Here, for a moment, one touches the terrible subject of the
internal slave-trade. Negroes were sold from Kentucky into the Southern
market because, as has just been said, they were bad, or by reason of
the law of partible inheritance, or, as was the case with Mrs. Stowe's
Uncle Tom, under constraint of debt. Of course, in many cases, they were
sold wantonly and cruelly; but these, however many, were not enough to
make the internal slave-trade more than an incidental and subordinate
feature of the system. The belief that negroes in Kentucky were
regularly bred and reared for the Southern market is a mistaken one.
Mrs. Stowe herself fell into the error of basing an argument for the
prevalence of the slave-trade in this State upon the notion of exhausted
lands, as the following passage from _The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin_

[Illustration: THE COOK.]

    "In Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky slave-labor long
    ago impoverished the soil almost beyond recovery and became
    entirely unprofitable."

Those words were written some thirty-five years ago and refer to a time
long prior to that date. Now, the fact is that at least one-half the
soil of Kentucky has never been under cultivation, and could not,
therefore, have been exhausted by slave-labor. At least a half of the
remainder, though cultivated ever since, is still not seriously
exhausted; and of the small portion still left a large share was always
naturally poor, so that for this reason slave-labor was but little
employed on it. The great slave-holding region of the State was the
fertile region which has never been impoverished. To return from this
digression, it may be well that the typical Kentucky farmer does not
find among his negroes a bad one; for in consequence of the early
non-importation of slaves for barter or sale, and through long
association with the household, they have been greatly elevated and
humanized. If he must sell a good one, he will seek a buyer among his
neighbors. He will even ask the negro to name his choice of a master and
try to consummate his wish. No purchaser near by, he will mount his
saddle-horse and look for one in the adjoining county. In this way the
negroes of different estates and neighborhoods were commonly connected
by kinship and intermarriage. How unjust to say that such a master did
not feel affection for his slaves, anxiety for their happiness, sympathy
with the evils inseparable from their condition. Let me cite the case of
a Kentucky master who had failed. He could pay his debts by sacrificing
his negroes or his farm, one or the other. To avoid separating the
former, probably sending some of them South, he kept them in a body and
sold his farm. Any one who knows the Kentuckian's love of land and home
will know what this means. A few years, and the war left him without
anything. Another case is more interesting still. A master having
failed, actually hurried his negroes off to Canada. Tried for defrauding
his creditors, and that by slave-holding jurors, he was acquitted. The
plea of his counsel, among other arguments, was the master's
unwillingness to see his old and faithful servitors scattered and
suffering. After emancipation old farm hands sometimes refused to budge
from their cabins. Their former masters paid them for their services as
long as they could work, and supported them when helpless. I have in
mind an instance where a man, having left Kentucky, sent back hundreds
of dollars to an aged, needy domestic, though himself far from rich; and
another case where a man still contributes annually to the maintenance
of those who ceased to work for him the quarter of a century ago.

The good in human nature is irrepressible. Slavery, evil as it was, when
looked at from the remoteness of human history as it is to be, will be
adjudged an institution that gave development to certain noble types of
character. Along with other social forces peculiar to the age, it
produced in Kentucky a kind of farmer, the like of which will never
appear again. He had the aristocratic virtues: highest notions of
personal liberty and personal honor, a fine especial scorn of anything
that was mean, little, cowardly. As an agriculturist he was not driving
or merciless or grasping; the rapid amassing of wealth was not among his
passions, the contention of splendid living not among his thorns. To a
certain carelessness of riches he added a certain profuseness of
expenditure; and indulgent towards his own pleasures, towards others,
his equals or dependents, he bore himself with a spirit of kindness and
magnanimity. Intolerant of tyranny, he was no tyrant. To say of such a
man, as Jefferson said of every slave-holder, that he lived in perpetual
exercise of the most boisterous passions and unremitting despotism, and
in the exaction of the most degrading submission, was to pronounce
judgment hasty and unfair. Rather did Mrs. Stowe, while not blind to his
faults, discern his virtues when she made him, embarrassed by debt,
exclaim: "If anybody had said to me that I should sell Tom down South to
one of those rascally traders, I should have said, 'Is thy servant a dog
that he should do this thing?'"


But there was another person who, more than the master, sustained close
relationship to the negro life of the household--the mistress. In the
person of Mrs. Shelby, Mrs. Stowe described some of the best traits of
a Kentucky woman of the time; but perhaps only a Southern woman herself
could do full justice to a character which many duties and many burdens
endued with extraordinary strength and varied efficiency.

She was mistress of distinct realms--the house and the cabins--and the
guardian of the bonds between the two, which were always troublesome,
often delicate, sometimes distressing. In those cabins were nearly
always some poor creatures needing sympathy and watch-care: the
superannuated mothers helpless with babes, babes helpless without
mothers, the sick, perhaps the idiotic. Apparel must be had for all.
Standing in her door-way and pointing to the meadow, she must be able to
say in the words of a housewife of the period, "There are the sheep; now
get your clothes." Some must be taught to keep the spindle and the loom
going; others trained for dairy, laundry, kitchen, dining-room; others
yet taught fine needle-work. Upon her fell the labor of private
instruction and moral exhortation, for the teaching of negroes was not
forbidden in Kentucky.

She must remind them that their marriage vows are holy and binding; must
interpose between mothers and their cruel punishment of their own
offspring. Hardest of all, she must herself punish for lying, theft,
immorality. Her own children must be guarded against temptation and
corrupting influences. In her life no cessation of this care year in
and year out. Beneath every other trouble the secret conviction that she
has no right to enslave these creatures, and that, however improved
their condition, their life is one of great and necessary evils. Mrs.
Stowe well makes her say: "I have tried--tried most faithfully as a
Christian woman should--to do my duty towards these poor, simple,
dependent creatures. I have cared for them, instructed them, watched
over them, and known all their little cares and joys for years.... I
have taught them the duties of the family, of parent and child, and
husband and wife.... I thought, by kindness and care and instruction, I
could make the condition of mine better than freedom." Sorely
overburdened and heroic mould of woman! Fulfilling each day a round of
intricate duties, rising at any hour of the night to give medicine to
the sick, liable at any time, in addition to the cares of her great
household, to see an entire family of acquaintances arriving
unannounced, with trunks and servants of their own, for a visit
protracted in accordance with the large hospitalities of the time. What
wonder if, from sheer inability to do all things herself, she trains her
negroes to different posts of honor, so that the black cook finally
expels her from her own kitchen and rules over that realm as an autocrat
of unquestioned prerogatives?

Mistresses of this kind had material reward in the trusty adherence of
their servants during the war. Their relations throughout this
period--so well calculated to try the loyalty of the African
nature--would of themselves make up a volume of the most touching
incidents. Even to-day one will find in many Kentucky households
survivals of the old order--find "Aunt Chloe" ruling as a despot in the
kitchen, and making her will the pivotal point of the whole domestic
system. I have spent nights with a young Kentuckian, self-willed and
high-spirited, whose occasional refusals to rise for a half-past five
o'clock breakfast always brought the cook from the kitchen up to his
bedroom, where she delivered her commands in a voice worthy of Catherine
the Great. "We shall have to get up," he would say, "or there'll be a
row!" One may yet see old negresses setting out for an annual or a
semi-annual visit to their former mistresses, and bearing some
offering--a basket of fruits or flowers. I should like to mention the
case of one who died after the war and left her two children to her
mistress, to be reared and educated. The troublesome, expensive charge
was faithfully executed.

Here, in the hard realities of daily life, here is where the crushing
burden of slavery fell--on the women of the South. History has yet to do
justice to the noblest type of them, whether in Kentucky or elsewhere.
In view of what they accomplished, despite the difficulties in their
way, there is nothing they have found harder to forgive in the women of
the North than the failure to sympathize with them in the struggles and
sorrows of their lot, and to realize that _they_ were the real practical
philanthropists of the negro race.


But as is the master, so is the slave, and it is through the characters
of the Shelbys that we must approach that of Uncle Tom. For of all
races, the African--superstitious, indolent, singing, dancing,
impressionable creature--depends upon others for enlightenment,
training, and happiness. If, therefore, you find him so intelligent that
he may be sent on important business, so honest that he may be trusted
with money, house, and home, so loyal that he will not seize opportunity
to become free; if you find him endowed with the manly virtues of
dignity and self-respect united to the Christian virtues of humility,
long-suffering, and forgiveness, then do not, in marvelling at him on
these accounts, quite forget his master and his mistress--they made him
what he was. And it is something to be said on their behalf, that in
their household was developed a type of slave that could be set upon a
sublime moral pinnacle to attract the admiration of the world.

Attention is fixed on Uncle Tom first as head-servant of the farm. In a
small work on slavery in Kentucky by George Harris, it is stated that
masters chose the cruelest of their negroes for this office. It is not
true, exceptions allowed for. The work would not be worth mentioning,
had not so many people at the North believed it. The amusing thing is,
they believed Mrs. Stowe also. But if Mrs. Stowe's account of slavery in
Kentucky is true, Harris's is not.

It is true that Uncle Tom inspired the other negroes with some degree of
fear. He was censor of morals, and reported derelictions of the lazy,
the destructive, and the thievish. For instance, an Uncle Tom on one
occasion told his master of the stealing of a keg of lard, naming the
thief and the hiding-place. "Say not a word about it," replied his
master. The next day he rode out into the field where the culprit was
ploughing, and, getting down, walked along beside him. "What's the
matter, William?" he asked, after a while; "you can't look me in the
face as usual." William burst into tears, and confessed everything.
"Come to-night, and I will arrange so that you can put the lard back and
nobody will ever know you took it." The only punishment was a little
moral teaching; but the Uncle Tom in the case, though he kept his
secret, looked for some days as though the dignity of his office had not
been suitably upheld by his master.

It was Uncle Tom's duty to get the others off to work in the morning.
In the fields he did not drive the work, but led it--being a
master-workman--led the cradles and the reaping-hooks, the hemp-breaking
and the corn-shucking. The spirit of happy music went with the workers.
They were not goaded through their daily tasks by the spur of pitiless
husbandry. Nothing was more common than their voluntary contests of
skill and power. My recollection reaches only to the last two or three
years of slavery; but I remember the excitement with which I witnessed
some of these hard-fought battles of the negroes. Rival hemp-breakers of
the neighborhood, meeting in the same field, would slip out long before
breakfast and sometimes never stop for dinner. So it was with cradling,
corn-shucking, or corn-cutting--in all work where rivalries were
possible. No doubt there were other motives. So much work was a day's
task; for more there was extra pay. A capital hand, by often performing
double or treble the required amount, would clear a neat profit in a
season. The days of severest labor fell naturally in harvest-time. But
then intervals of rest in the shade were commonly given; and milk,
coffee, or, when the prejudice of the master did not prevent (which was
not often), whiskey was distributed between meal-times. As a rule they
worked without hurry. De Tocqueville gave unintentional testimony to
characteristic slavery in Kentucky when he described the negroes as
"loitering" in the fields. On one occasion the hands dropped work to run
after a rabbit the dogs had started. A passer-by indignantly reported
the fact to the master. "Sir," said the old gentleman, with a hot face,
"I'd have whipped the last d----n rascal of 'em if they _hadn't_ run

[Illustration: CHASING THE RABBIT.]

The negroes made money off their truck-patches, in which they raised
melons, broom-corn, vegetables. When Charles Sumner was in Kentucky, he
saw with almost incredulous eyes the comfortable cabins with their
flowers and poultry, the fruitful truck-patches, and a genuine Uncle
Tom--"a black gentleman with his own watch!" Well enough does Mrs. Stowe
put these words into her hero's mouth, when he hears he is to be sold:
"I'm feared things will be kinder goin' to rack when I'm gone. Mas'r
can't be 'spected to be a-pryin' round everywhere as I've done,
a-keepin' up all the ends. The boys means well, but they's powerful

More interesting is Uncle Tom's character as a preacher. Contemporary
with him in Kentucky was a class of men among his people who exhorted,
held prayer-meetings in the cabins and baptizings in the woods,
performed marriage ceremonies, and enjoyed great freedom of movement.
There was one in nearly every neighborhood, and together they wrought
effectively in the moral development of their race. I have nothing to
say here touching the vast and sublime conception which Mrs. Stowe
formed of "Uncle Tom's" spiritual nature. But no idealized manifestation
of it is better than this simple occurrence: One of these negro
preachers was allowed by his master to fill a distant appointment.
Belated once, and returning home after the hour forbidden for slaves to
be abroad, he was caught by the patrol and cruelly whipped. As the blows
fell, his only words were: "Jesus Christ suffered for righteousness'
sake; so kin I." Another of them was recommended for deacon's orders and
actually ordained. When liberty came, he refused to be free, and
continued to work in his master's family till his death. With
considerable knowledge of the Bible and a fluent tongue, he would
nevertheless sometimes grow confused while preaching and lose his train
of thought. At these embarrassing junctures it was his wont suddenly to
call out at the top of his voice, "Saul! Saul! why persecutest thou me?"
The effect upon his hearers was electrifying; and as none but a very
highly favored being could be thought worthy of enjoying this
persecution, he thus converted his loss of mind into spiritual
reputation. A third, named Peter Cotton, united the vocations of
exhorter and wood-chopper. He united them literally, for one moment
Peter might be seen standing on his log chopping away, and the next
kneeling down beside it praying. He got his mistress to make him a long
jeans coat and on the ample tails of it to embroider, by his direction,
sundry texts of Scripture, such as: "Come unto me, all ye that are heavy
laden!" Thus literally clothed with righteousness, Peter went from cabin
to cabin preaching the Word. Well for him if that other Peter could have
seen him.

These men sometimes made a pathetic addition to their marriage
ceremonies: "Until death or _our higher powers_ do you separate!"

Another typical contemporary of Uncle Tom's was the negro fiddler. It
should be remembered that before he hears he is to be sold South, Uncle
Tom is pictured as a light-hearted creature, capering and dancing in his
cabin. There was no lack of music in those cabins. The banjo was played,
but more commonly the fiddle. A home-made variety of the former
consisted of a crook-necked, hard-shell gourd and a piece of sheepskin.
There were sometimes other instruments--the flageolet and the triangle.
I have heard of a kettle-drum's being made of a copper still. A Kentucky
negro carried through the war as a tambourine the skull of a mule, the
rattling teeth being secured in the jawbones. Of course bones were
everywhere used. Negro music on one or more instruments was in the
highest vogue at the house of the master. The young Kentuckians often
used it on serenading bravuras. The old fiddler, most of all, was held
in reverent esteem and met with the gracious treatment of the minstrel
in feudal halls. At parties and weddings, at picnics in the summer
woods, he was the soul of melody; and with an eye to the high demands
upon his art, he widened his range of selections and perfected according
to native standards his inimitable technique. The deep, tender, pure
feeling in the song "Old Kentucky Home" is a true historic

It is wide of the mark to suppose that on such a farm as that of the
Shelbys, the negroes were in a perpetual frenzy of discontent or felt
any burning desire for freedom. It is difficult to reach a true general
conclusion on this delicate subject. But it must go for something that
even the Kentucky abolitionists of those days will tell you that
well-treated negroes cared not a snap for liberty. Negroes themselves,
and very intelligent ones, will give you to-day the same assurance. It
is an awkward discovery to make, that some of them still cherish
resentment towards agitators who came secretly among them, fomented
discontent, and led them away from homes to which they afterwards
returned. And I want to state here, for no other reason than that of
making an historic contribution to the study of the human mind and
passions, that a man's views of slavery in those days did not determine
his treatment of his own slaves. The only case of mutiny and stampede
that I have been able to discover in a certain part of Kentucky, took
place among the negroes of a man who was known as an outspoken
emancipationist. He pleaded for the freedom of the negro, but in the
mean time worked him at home with the chain round his neck and the ball
resting on his plough.

[Illustration: THE PREACHER.]

Christmas was, of course, the time of holiday merrymaking, and the
"Ketchin' marster an' mistiss Christmus gif'" was a great feature. One
morning an aged couple presented themselves.

"Well, what do you want for your Christmas gift?"

"Freedom, mistiss!"

"Freedom! Haven't you been as good as free for the last ten years?"

"Yaas, mistiss; but--freedom mighty sweet!"

"Then take your freedom!"

The only method of celebrating the boon was the moving into a cabin on
the neighboring farm of their mistress's aunt and being freely supported
there as they had been freely supported at home.

Mrs. Stowe has said, "There is nothing picturesque or beautiful in the
family attachment of old servants, which is not to be found in countries
where these servants are legally free." On the contrary, a volume of
incidents might readily be gathered, the picturesqueness and beauty of
which are due wholly to the fact that the negroes were not free, but
slaves. Indeed, many could never have happened at all but in this
relationship. I cite the case of an old negro who was buying his freedom
from his master, who continued to make payments during the war, and made
the final one at the time of General Kirby Smith's invasion of Kentucky.
After he had paid him the uttermost farthing, he told him that if he
should ever be a slave again, he wanted him for his master. Take the
case of an old negress who had been allowed to accumulate considerable
property. At her death she willed it to her young master instead of to
her sons, as she would have been allowed to do. But the war! what is to
be said of the part the negro took in that? Is there in the drama of
humanity a figure more picturesque or more pathetic than the figure of
the African slave, as he followed his master to the battle-field,
marched and hungered and thirsted with him, served and cheered and
nursed him--that master who was fighting to keep him in slavery?
Instances are too many; but the one may be mentioned of a Kentucky negro
who followed his young master into the Southern army, stayed with him
till he fell on the field, lay hid out in the bushes a week, and
finally, after a long time and many hardships, got back to his mistress
in Kentucky, bringing his dead master's horse and purse and trinkets.
This subject comprises a whole vast field of its own; and if the history
of it is ever written, it will be written in the literature of the
South, for there alone lies the knowledge and _the love_.

It is only through a clear view of the peculiar features of slavery in
Kentucky before the war that one can understand the general status of
the negroes of Kentucky at the present time. Perhaps in no other State
has the race made less endeavor to push itself into equality with the
white. This fact must be explained as in part resulting from the
conservative ideals of Kentucky life in general. But it is more largely
due to the influences of a system which, though no longer in vogue, is
still remembered, still powerful to rule the minds of a naturally
submissive and susceptible people. The kind, affectionate relations of
the races under the old regime have continued with so little
interruption that the blacks remain content with their inferiority, and
lazily drift through life. I venture to make the statement that,
wherever in the United States they have attempted most to enforce their
new-born rights, they have either, on the one hand, been encouraged to
do so, or have, on the other, been driven to self-assertion by harsh
treatment. But treated always kindly, always as hopelessly inferior
beings, they will do least for themselves. This, it is believed, is the
key-note to the situation in Kentucky at the present time.



The institutions of the Kentuckian have deep root in his rich social
nature. He loves the swarm. They very motto of the State is a
declaration of good-fellowship, and the seal of the commonwealth the act
of shaking hands. Divided, he falls. The Kentuckian must be one of many;
must assert himself, not through the solitary exercise of his intellect,
but the senses; must see men about him who are fat, grip his friend,
hear cordial, hearty conversation, realize the play of his emotions.
Society is the multiple of himself.

Hence his fondness for large gatherings: open-air assemblies of the
democratic sort--great agricultural fairs, race-courses, political
meetings, barbecues and burgoos in the woods--where no one is pushed to
the wall, or reduced to a seat and to silence, where all may move about
at will, seek and be sought, make and receive impressions. Quiet masses
of people in-doors absorb him less. He is not fond of lectures, does not
build splendid theatres or expend lavishly for opera, is almost of
Puritan excellence in the virtue of church-going, which in the country
is attended with neighborly reunions.

This large social disposition underlies the history of the most social
of all his days--a day that has long had its observance embedded in the
structure of his law, is invested with the authority and charm of
old-time usage and reminiscence, and still enables him to commingle
business and pleasure in a way of his own. Hardly more characteristic of
the Athenian was the agora, or the forum of the Roman, than is county
court day characteristic of the Kentuckian. In the open square around
the courthouse of the county-seat he has had the centre of his
public social life, the arena of his passions and amusements, the
rallying-point of his political discussions, the market-place of his
business transactions, the civil unit of his institutional history.

It may be that some stranger has sojourned long enough in Kentucky to
have grown familiar with the wonted aspects of a county town. He has
remarked the easy swing of its daily life: amicable groups of men
sitting around the front entrances of the hotels; the few purchasers and
promenaders on the uneven brick pavements; the few vehicles of draught
and carriage scattered along the level white thoroughfares. All day the
subdued murmur of patient local traffic has scarcely drowned the
twittering of English sparrows in the maples. Then comes a Monday
morning when the whole scene changes. The world has not been dead, but
only sleeping. Whence this sudden surging crowd of rural folk--these
lowing herds in the streets? Is it some animated pastoral come to town?
some joyful public anniversary? some survival in altered guise of the
English country fair of mellower times? or a vision of what the little
place will be a century hence, when American life shall be packed and
agitated and tense all over the land? What a world of homogeneous,
good-looking, substantial, reposeful people with honest front
and amiable meaning! What bargaining and buying and selling by
ever-forming, ever-dissolving groups, with quiet laughter and familiar
talk and endless interchange of domestic interrogatories! You descend
into the street to study the doings and spectacles from a nearer
approach, and stop to ask the meaning of it. Ah! it is county court day
in Kentucky; it is the Kentuckians in the market-place.



They have been assembling here now for nearly a hundred years. One of
the first demands of the young commonwealth in the woods was that its
vigorous, passionate life should be regulated by the usages of civil
law. Its monthly county courts, with justices of the peace, were derived
from the Virginia system of jurisprudence, where they formed the
aristocratic feature of the government. Virginia itself owed these
models to England; and thus the influence of the courts and of the
decent and orderly yeomanry of both lands passed, as was singularly
fitting, over into the ideals of justice erected by the pure-blooded
colony. As the town meeting of Boston town perpetuated the folkmote of
the Anglo-Saxon free state, and the Dutch village communities on the
shores of the Hudson revived the older ones on the banks of the Rhine,
so in Kentucky, through Virginia, there were transplanted by the people,
themselves of clean stock and with strong conservative ancestral traits,
the influences and elements of English law in relation to the county,
the court, and the justice of the peace.


Through all the old time of Kentucky State-life there towers up the
figure of the justice of the peace. Commissioned by the Governor to hold
monthly court, he had not always a court-house wherein to sit, but must
buy land in the midst of a settlement or town whereon to build one, and
build also the contiguous necessity of civilization--a jail. In the rude
court-room he had a long platform erected, usually running its whole
width; on this platform he had a ruder wooden bench placed, likewise
extending all the way across; and on this bench, having ridden into
town, it may be, in dun-colored leggings, broadcloth pantaloons, a
pigeon-tailed coat, a shingle-caped overcoat, and a twelve-dollar high
fur hat, he sat gravely and sturdily down amid his peers; looking out
upon the bar, ranged along a wooden bench beneath, and prepared to
consider the legal needs of his assembled neighbors. Among them all the
very best was he; chosen for age, wisdom, means, weight and probity of
character; as a rule, not profoundly versed in the law, perhaps knowing
nothing of it--being a Revolutionary soldier, a pioneer, or a
farmer--but endowed with a sure, robust common-sense and rectitude of
spirit that enabled him to divine what the law was; shaking himself
fiercely loose from the grip of mere technicalities, and deciding by the
natural justice of the case; giving decisions of equal authority with
the highest court, an appeal being rarely taken; perpetuating his own
authority by appointing his own associates: with all his shortcomings
and weaknesses a notable, historic figure, high-minded, fearless, and
incorruptible, dignified, patient, and strong, and making the county
court days of Kentucky for wellnigh half a century memorable to those
who have lived to see justice less economically and less honorably

But besides the legal character and intent of the day, which was thus
its first and dominant feature, divers things drew the folk together.
Even the justice himself may have had quite other than magisterial
reasons for coming to town; certainly the people had. They must
interchange opinions about local and national politics, observe the
workings of their own laws, pay and contract debts, acquire and transfer
property, discuss all questions relative to the welfare of the
community--holding, in fact, a county court day much like one in
Virginia in the middle of the seventeenth century.


But after business was over, time hung idly on their hands; and being
vigorous men, hardened by work in forest and field, trained in foot and
limb to fleetness and endurance, and fired with admiration of physical
prowess, like riotous school-boys out on a half-holiday, they fell to
playing. All through the first quarter of the century, and for a longer
time, county court day in Kentucky was, at least in many parts of the
State, the occasion for holding athletic games. The men, young or in the
sinewy manhood of more than middle age, assembled once a month at the
county-seats to witness and take part in the feats of muscle and
courage. They wrestled, threw the sledge, heaved the bar, divided and
played at fives, had foot-races for themselves, and quarter-races for
their horses. By-and-by, as these contests became a more prominent
feature of the day, they would pit against each other the champions of
different neighborhoods. It would become widely known beforehand that
next county court day "the bully" in one end of the county would whip
"the bully" in the other end; so when court day came, and the justices
came, and the bullies came, what was the county to do but come also? The
crowd repaired to the common, a ring was formed, the little men on the
outside who couldn't see, Zaccheus-like, took to the convenient trees,
and there was to be seen a fair and square set-to, in which the fist was
the battering-ram and the biceps a catapult. What better, more
time-honored, proof could those backwoods Kentuckians have furnished of
the humors in their English blood and of their English pugnacity? But,
after all, this was only play, and play never is perfectly satisfying to
a man who would rather fight; so from playing they fell to harder work,
and throughout this period county court day was the monthly Monday on
which the Kentuckian regularly did his fighting. He availed himself
liberally of election day, it is true, and of regimental muster in the
spring and battalion muster in the fall--great gala occasions; but
county court day was by all odds the preferred and highly prized season.
It was periodical, and could be relied upon, being written in the
law, noted in the almanac, and registered in the heavens.


A capital day, a most admirable and serene day for fighting. Fights grew
like a fresh-water polype--by being broken in two: each part produced a
progeny. So conventional did the recreation become that difficulties
occurring out in the country between times regularly had their
settlements postponed until the belligerents could convene with the
justices. The men met and fought openly in the streets, the friends of
each standing by to see fair play and whet their appetites.

Thus the justices sat quietly on the bench inside, and the people fought
quietly in the streets outside, and the day of the month set apart for
the conservation of the peace became the approved day for individual
war. There is no evidence to be had that either the justices or the
constables ever interfered.

These pugilistic encounters had a certain law of beauty: they were
affairs of equal combat and of courage. The fight over, animosity was
gone, the feud ended. The men must shake hands, go and drink together,
become friends. We are touching here upon a grave and curious fact of
local history. The fighting habit must be judged by a wholly unique
standard. It was the direct outcome of racial traits powerfully
developed by social conditions.


Another noticeable recreation of the day was the drinking. Indeed the
two pleasures went marvellously well together. The drinking led up to
the fighting, and the fighting led up to the drinking; and this amiable
co-operation might be prolonged at will. The merchants kept barrels of
whiskey in their cellars for their customers. Bottles of it sat openly
on the counter, half-way between the pocket of the buyer and the shelf
of merchandise. There were no saloons separate from the taverns. At
these whiskey was sold and drunk without screens or scruples. It was not
usually bought by the drink, but by the tickler. The tickler was a
bottle of narrow shape, holding a half-pint--just enough to tickle. On a
county court day wellnigh a whole town would be tickled. In some parts
of the State tables were placed out on the sidewalks, and around these
the men sat drinking mint-juleps and playing draw poker and "old

Meantime the day was not wholly given over to playing and fighting and
drinking. More and more it was becoming the great public day of the
month, and mirroring the life and spirit of the times--on occasion a day
of fearful, momentous gravity, as in the midst of war, financial
distress, high party feeling; more and more the people gathered together
for discussion and the origination of measures determining the events of
their history. Gradually new features incrusted it. The politician,
observing the crowd, availed himself of it to announce his own candidacy
or to wage a friendly campaign, sure, whether popular or unpopular, of a
courteous hearing; for this is a virtue of the Kentuckian, to be polite
to a public speaker, however little liked his cause. In the spring,
there being no fairs, it was the occasion for exhibiting the fine stock
of the country, which was led out to some suburban pasture, where the
owners made speeches over it. In the winter, at the close of the old or
the beginning of the new year, negro slaves were regularly hired out on
this day for the ensuing twelvemonth, and sometimes put upon the block
before the Courthouse door and sold for life.

[Illustration: THE "TICKLER."]

But it was not until near the half of the second quarter of the century
that an auctioneer originated stock sales on the open square, and thus
gave to the day the characteristic it has since retained of being the
great market-day of the month. Thenceforth its influence was to be more
widely felt, to be extended into other counties and even States;
thenceforth it was to become more distinctively a local institution
without counterpart.

To describe minutely the scenes of a county court day in Kentucky, say
at the end of the half-century, would be to write a curious page in the
history of the times; for they were possible only through the unique
social conditions they portrayed. It was near the most prosperous period
of State life under the old regime. The institution of slavery was about
to culminate and decline. Agriculture had about as nearly perfected
itself as it was ever destined to do under the system of bondage. The
war cloud in the sky of the future could be covered with the hand, or
at most with the country gentleman's broad-brimmed straw-hat. The whole
atmosphere of the times was heavy with ease, and the people, living in
perpetual contemplation of their superabundant natural wealth, bore the
quality of the land in their manners and dispositions.

When the well-to-do Kentucky farmer got up in the morning, walked out
into the porch, stretched himself, and looked at the sun, he knew that
he could summon a sleek kindly negro to execute every wish and whim--one
to search for his misplaced hat, a second to bring him a dipper of
ice-water, a third to black his shoes, a fourth to saddle his horse and
hitch it at the stiles, a fifth to cook his breakfast, a sixth to wait
on him at the table, a seventh to stand on one side and keep off the
flies. Breakfast over, he mounted his horse and rode out where "the
hands" were at work. The chance was his overseer or negro foreman was
there before him: his presence was unnecessary. What a gentleman he was!
This was called earning one's bread by the sweat of his brow. _Whose_
brow? He yawned. What should he do? One thing he knew he _would_
do--take a good nap before dinner. Perhaps he had better ride over to
the blacksmith-shop. However, there was nobody there. It was county
court day. The sky was blue, the sun golden, the air delightful, the
road broad and smooth, the gait of his horse the very poetry of motion.
He would go to county court himself. There was really nothing else
before him. His wife would want to go, too, and the children.

So away they go, he on horseback or in the family carriage, with black
Pompey driving in front and yellow Cæsar riding behind. The turnpike
reached, the progress of the family carriage is interrupted or quite
stopped, for there are many other carriages on the road, all going in
the same direction. Then pa, growing impatient, orders black Pompey to
drive out on one side, whip up the horses, pass the others, and get
ahead, so as to escape from the clouds of white limestone dust, which
settles thick on the velvet collar of pa's blue cloth coat and in the
delicate pink marabou feathers of ma's bonnet: which Pompey can't do,
for the faster he goes, the faster the others go, making all the more
dust; so that pa gets red in the face, and jumps up in the seat, and
looks ready to fight, and thrusts his head out of the window and knocks
off his hat; and ma looks nervous, and black Pompey and yellow Cæsar
both look white with dust and fear.

A rural cavalcade indeed! Besides the carriages, buggies, horsemen, and
pedestrians, there are long droves of stock being hurried on towards the
town--hundreds of them. By the time they come together in the town they
will be many thousands. For is not this the great stock-market of the
West, and does not the whole South look from its rich plantations and
cities up to Kentucky for bacon and mules? By-and-by our family carriage
does at last get to town, and is left out in the streets along with many
others to block up the passway according to the custom.

[Illustration: THE QUACK-DOCTOR.]

The town is packed. It looks as though by some vast suction system it
had with one exercise of force drawn all the country life into itself.
The poor dumb creatures gathered in from the peaceful fields, and
crowded around the Court-house, send forth, each after its kind, a
general outcry of horror and despair at the tumult of the scene and the
unimaginable mystery of their own fate. They overflow into the
by-streets, where they take possession of the sidewalks, and debar
entrance at private residences. No stock-pens wanted then; none wanted
now. If a town legislates against these stock sales on the streets and
puts up pens on its outskirts, straightway the stock is taken to some
other market, and the town is punished for its airs by a decline in its

As the day draws near noon, the tide of life is at the flood. Mixed in
with the tossing horns and nimble heels of the terrified, distressed,
half-maddened beasts, are the people. Above the level of these is the
discordant choir of shrill-voiced auctioneers on horseback. At the
corners of the streets long-haired--and long-eared--doctors in curious
hats lecture to eager groups on maladies and philanthropic cures. Every
itinerant vender of notion and nostrum in the country-side is there;
every wandering Italian harper or musician of any kind, be he but a
sightless fiddler, who brings forth with poor unison of voice and string
the brief and too fickle ballads of the time, "Gentle Annie," and "Sweet
Alice, Ben Bolt." Strangely contrasted with everything else in physical
type and marks of civilization are the mountaineers, who have come down
to "the settlemints" driving herds of their lean, stunted cattle, or
bringing, in slow-moving, ox-drawn "steamboat" wagons, maple-sugar, and
baskets, and poles, and wild mountain fruit--faded wagons, faded beasts,
faded clothes, faded faces, faded everything. A general day for buying
and selling all over the State. What purchases at the dry-goods stores
and groceries to keep all those negroes at home fat and comfortable and
comely--cottons, and gay cottonades, and gorgeous turbans, and linseys
of prismatic dyes, bags of Rio coffee and barrels of sugar, with many
another pleasant thing! All which will not be taken home in the family
carriage, but in the wagon which Scipio Africanus is driving in; Scipio,
remember; for while the New Englander has been naming his own flesh and
blood Peleg and Hezekiah and Abednego, the Kentuckian has been giving
even his negro slaves mighty and classic names, after his taste and
fashion. But very mockingly and satirically do those victorious titles
contrast with the condition of those that wear them. A surging populace,
an in-town holiday for all rural folk, wholly unlike what may be seen
elsewhere in this country. The politician will be sure of his audience
to-day in the Court-house yard: the seller will be sure of the
purchaser; the idle man of meeting one still idler; friend of seeing
distant friend; blushing Phyllis, come in to buy fresh ribbons, of being
followed through the throng by anxious Corydon.

And what, amid this tumult of life and affairs--what of the justice of
the peace, whose figure once towered up so finely? Alas! quite outgrown,
pushed aside, and wellnigh forgotten. The very name of the day which
once so sternly commemorated the exercise of his authority has wandered
into another meaning. "County court day" no longer brings up in the mind
the image of the central Court-house and the judge on the bench. It is
to be greatly feared his noble type is dying. The stain of venality has
soiled his homespun ermine, and the trail of the office-seeker passed
over his rough-hewn bench. So about this time the new constitution of
the commonwealth comes in, to make the autocratic ancient justice over
into the modern elective magistrate, and with the end of the
half-century to close a great chapter of wonderful county court days.

But what changes in Kentucky since 1850! How has it fared with the day
meantime? What development has it undergone? What contrasts will it

Undoubtedly, as seen now, the day is not more interesting by reason of
the features it wears than for the sake of comparison with the others it
has lost. A singular testimony to the conservative habits of the
Kentuckian, and to the stability of his local institutions, is to be
found in the fact that it should have come through all this period of
upheaval and downfall, of shifting and drifting, and yet remained so
much the same. Indeed, it seems in no wise liable to lose its meaning of
being the great market and general business day as well as the great
social and general laziness day of the month and the State. Perhaps one
feature has taken larger prominence--the eager canvassing of voters by
local politicians and office-seekers for weeks, sometimes for months,
beforehand. Is it not known that even circuit court will adjourn on this
day so as to give the clerk and the judge, the bar, the witnesses, an
opportunity to hear rival candidates address the assembled crowd? And
yet we shall discover differences. These people--these groups of twos
and threes and hundreds, lounging, sitting, squatting, taking every
imaginable posture that can secure bodily comfort--are they in any vital
sense new Kentuckians in the new South? If you care to understand
whether this be true, and what it may mean if it is true, you shall not
find a better occasion for doing so than a contemporary county court

[Illustration: AUCTIONING A JACK.]

The Kentuckian nowadays does not come to county court to pick a quarrel
or to settle one. He _has_ no quarrel. His fist has reverted to its
natural use and become a hand. Nor does he go armed. Positively it is
true that gentlemen in this State do not now get satisfaction out of
each other in the market-place, and that on a modern county court day a
three-cornered hat is hardly to be seen. And yet you will go on defining
a Kentuckian in terms of his grandfather, unaware that he has changed
faster than the family reputation. The fighting habit and the shooting
habit were both more than satisfied during the Civil War.

Another old-time feature of the day has disappeared--the open use of the
pioneer beverage. Merchants do not now set it out for their customers;
in the country no longer is it the law of hospitality to offer it to a
guest. To do so would commonly be regarded in the light of as great a
liberty as to have omitted it once would have been considered an
offence. The decanter is no longer found on the sideboard in the home;
the barrel is not stored in the cellar.

Some features of the old Kentucky market-place have disappeared. The war
and the prostration of the South destroyed that as a market for certain
kinds of stock, the raising and sales of which have in consequence
declined. Railways have touched the eastern parts of the State, and
broken up the distant toilsome traffic with the steamboat wagons of the
mountaineers. No longer is the day the general buying day for the
circumjacent country as formerly, when the farmers, having great
households of slaves, sent in their wagons and bought on twelve months'
credit, knowing it would be twenty-four months' if they desired. The
doctors, too, have nearly vanished from the street corners, though on
the highway one may still happen upon the peddler with his pack, and
in the midst of an eager throng still may meet the swaying, sightless
old fiddler, singing to ears that never tire gay ditties in a cracked
and melancholy tone.

[Illustration: LORDS OF THE SOIL.]

Through all changes one feature has remained. It goes back to the most
ancient days of local history. The Kentuckian _will_ come to county
court "to swap horses;" it is in the blood. In one small town may be
seen fifty or a hundred countrymen assembled during the afternoon in a
back street to engage in this delightful recreation. Each rides or leads
his worst, most objectionable beast; of these, however fair-seeming,
none is above suspicion. It is the potter's field, the lazar-house, the
beggardom, of horse-flesh. The stiff and aged bondsman of the glebe and
plough looks out of one filmy eye upon the hopeless wreck of the fleet
roadster, and the poor macerated carcass that in days gone by bore its
thankless burden over the glistening turnpikes with the speed and
softness of the wind has not the strength to return the contemptuous
kick which is given him by a lungless, tailless rival. Prices range from
nothing upward. Exchanges are made for a piece of tobacco or a
watermelon to boot.

But always let us return from back streets and side thoughts to the
central Court-house square and the general assembly of the people. Go
among them; they are not dangerous. Do not use fine words, at which they
will prick up their ears uneasily; or delicate sentiments, which will
make you less liked; or indulge in flights of thought, which they
despise. Remember, here is the dress and the talk and the manners of the
street, and fashion yourself accordingly. Be careful of your speech; men
in Kentucky are human. If you can honestly praise them, do so. How they
will glow and expand! Censure, and you will get the cold shoulder. For
to them praise is friendship and censure enmity. They have wonderful
solidarity. Sympathy will on occasion flow through them like an electric
current, so that they will soften and melt, or be set on fire. There is
a Kentucky sentiment, expending itself in complacent, mellow love of the
land, the people, the institutions. You speak to them of the happiness
of living in parts of the world where life has infinite variety, nobler
general possibilities, greater gains, harder struggles; they say, "We
are just as happy here." "It is easier to make a living in Kentucky than
to keep from being run over in New York," said a young Kentuckian, and
home he went.

If you attempt to deal with them in the business of the market-place, do
not trick or cheat them. Above all things they hate and despise intrigue
and deception. For one single act of dishonor a man will pay with
life-long aversion and contempt. The rage it puts them in to be charged
with lying themselves is the exact measure of the excitement with
which they regard the lie in others. This is one of their idols--an
idol of the market-place in the true meaning of the Baconian philosophy.
The new Kentuckian has not lost an old-time trait of character: so high
and delicate a sense of personal honor that to be told he lies is the
same as saying he has ceased to be a gentleman. Along with good faith
and fair dealing goes liberality. Not prodigality; they have changed all
that. The fresh system of things has produced no more decided result
than a different regard for material interests. You shall not again
charge the Kentuckians with lacking either "the telescopic appreciation
of distant gain," or the microscopic appreciation of present gain. The
influence of money is active, and the illusion of wealth become a
reality. Profits are now more likely to pass into accumulation and
structure. There is more discussion of costs and values. Small economies
are more dwelt upon in thought and conversation. Actually you shall find
the people higgling with the dealer over prices. And yet how significant
a fact is it in their life that the merchant does not, as a rule, give
exact change over the counter! At least the cent has not yet been put
under the microscope.

[Illustration: SWAPPING HORSES.]

Perhaps you will not accept it as an evidence of progress that so many
men will leave their business all over the country for an idle day once
a month in town--nay, oftener than once a month; for many who are at
county court in this place to-day will attend it in another county next
Monday. But do not be deceived by the lazy appearance of the streets.
There are fewer idlers than of old. You may think this quiet group of
men who have taken possession of a buggy or a curb-stone are out upon a
costly holiday. Draw near, and it is discovered that there is fresh,
eager, intelligent talk of the newest agricultural implements and of
scientific farming. In fact the day is to the assembled farmers the
seedtime of ideas, to be scattered in ready soil--an informal,
unconscious meeting of grangers.

There seems to be a striking equality of stations and conditions. Having
travelled through many towns, and seen these gatherings together of all
classes, you will be pleased with the fair, attractive, average
prosperity, and note the almost entire absence of paupers and beggars.
Somehow misfortune and ill-fortune and old age save themselves here from
the last hard necessity of asking alms on the highway. But the
appearance of the people will easily lead you to a wrong inference as to
social equality. They are much less democratic than they seem, and their
dress and speech and manners in the market-place are not their best
equipment. You shall meet with these in their homes. In their homes,
too, social distinctions begin and are enforced, and men who find in the
open square a common footing never associate elsewhere. But even among
the best of the new Kentuckians will you hardly observe fidelity to
the old social ideals, which adjudged that the very flower of birth and
training must bloom in the bearing and deportment. With the crumbling
and downfall of the old system fell also the structure of fine manners,
which were at once its product and adornment.



A new figure has made its appearance in the Kentucky market-place,
having set its face resolutely towards the immemorial Court-house and
this periodic gathering together of freemen. Beyond comparison the most
significant new figure that has made its way thither and cast its shadow
on the people and the ground. Writ all over with problems that not the
wisest can read. Stalking out of an awful past into what uncertain
future! Clothed in hanging rags, it may be, or a garb that is a mosaic
of strenuous patches. Ah! Pompey, or Cæsar, or Cicero, of the days of
slavery, where be thy family carriage, thy master and mistress, now?

He comes into the county court, this old African, because he is a
colored Kentuckian and must honor the stable customs of the country. He
does little buying or selling; he is not a politician; he has no debt
to collect, and no legal business. Still, example is powerful and the
negro imitative, so here he is at county court. It is one instance of
the influence exerted over him by the institutions of the Kentuckian, so
that he has a passion for fine stock, must build amphitheatres and hold
fairs and attend races. Naturally, therefore, county court has become a
great social day with his race. They stop work and come in from the
country, or from the outskirts of the town, where they have congregated
in little frame houses, and exhibit a quasi-activity in whatever of
business and pleasure is going forward. In no other position of life
does he exhibit his character and his condition more strikingly than
here. Always comical, always tragical, light-hearted, sociable; his
shackles stricken off, but wearing those of his own indolence,
ignorance, and helplessness; the wandering Socrates of the streets,
always dropping little shreds of observation on human affairs and bits
of philosophy on human life; his memory working with last Sunday's
sermon, and his hope with to-morrow's bread; citizen, with so much
freedom and so little liberty--the negro forms one of the conspicuous
features of a county court day at the present time.

A wonderful, wonderful day this is that does thus always keep pace with
civilization in the State, drawing all elements to itself, and
portraying them to the interpreting eye. So that to paint the scenes of
the county court days in the past is almost to write the history of the
contemporary periods; and to do as much with one of the present hour is
to depict the oldest influences that has survived and the newest that
has been born in this local environment. To the future student of
governmental and institutional history in this country, a study always
interesting, always important, and always unique, will be county court
day in Kentucky.



The nineteenth century opened gravely for the Kentuckians. Little akin
as was the spirit of the people to that of the Puritans, life among them
had been almost as granitic in its hardness and ruggedness and desolate
unrelief. The only thing in the log-cabin that had sung from morning
till night was the spinning-wheel. Not much behind those women but
danger, anxiety, vigils, devastation, mournful tragedies; scarce one of
them but might fitly have gone to her loom and woven herself a garment
of sorrow. Not much behind those men but felling of trees, clearing of
land, raising of houses, opening of roads, distressing problems of
State, desolating wars of the republic. Most could remember the time
when it was so common for a man to be killed, that to lie down and die a
natural death seemed unnatural. Many must have had in their faces the
sadness that was in the face of Lincoln.

Nevertheless, from the first, there had stood out among the Kentuckians
broad exhibitions of exuberant animal vigor, of unbridled animal
spirits. Some singularly and faithfully enough in the ancestral vein of
English sports and relaxations--dog-fighting and cock-fighting, rifle
target-shooting, wrestling matches, foot-racing for the men, and
quarter-racing for the horses. Without any thought of making spectacles
or of becoming themselves a spectacle in history, they were always ready
to form an impromptu arena and institute athletic games. They had even
their gladiators. Other rude pleasures were more characteristic of their
environment--the log-rolling and the quilting, the social frolic of the
harvesting, the merry parties of flax-pullers, and the corn-husking at
nightfall, when the men divided into sides, and the green glass
whiskey-bottle, stopped with a corn-cob, was filled and refilled and
passed from mouth to mouth, until out of those lusty throats rose and
swelled a rhythmic choral song that could be heard in the deep woods a
mile or more away: at midnight those who were sober took home those who
were drunk. But of course none of these were organized amusements. They
are not instances of taking pleasures sadly, but of attempts to do much
hard, rough work with gladness. Other occasions, also, which have the
semblance of popular joys, and which certainly were not passed over
without merriment and turbulent, disorderly fun, were really set apart
for the gravest of civic and political reasons: militia musters,
stump-speakings, county court day assemblages, and the yearly
July celebrations. Still other pleasures were of an economic or
utilitarian nature. Thus the novel and exciting contests by parties of
men at squirrel-shooting looked to the taking of that destructive
animal's scalp, to say nothing of the skin; the hunting of beehives in
the woods had some regard to the scarcity of sugar; and the nut
gatherings and wild-grape gatherings by younger folks in the gorgeous
autumnal days were partly in memory of a scant, unvaried larder, which
might profitably draw upon nature's rich and salutary hoard. Perhaps the
dearest pleasures among them were those that lay closest to their
dangers. They loved the pursuit of marauding parties, the solitary
chase; were always ready to throw away axe and mattock for rifle and
knife. Among pleasures, certainly, should be mentioned the weddings. For
plain reasons these were commonly held in the daytime. Men often rode to
them armed, and before leaving too often made them scenes of carousal
and unchastened jocularities. After the wedding came the "infare," with
the going from the home of the bride to the home of the groom. Above
everything else that seems to strike the chord of common happiness in
the society of the time, stands out to the imagination the picture of
one of these processions--a long bridal cavalcade winding slowly along a
narrow road through the silent primeval forest, now in sunlight, now in
the shadow of mighty trees meeting over the way; at the head the young
lovers, so rudely mounted, so simply dressed, and, following in their
happy wake, as though they were the augury of a peaceful era soon to
come, a straggling, broken line of the men and women who had prepared
for that era, but should never live to see its appearing.

[Illustration: CORN HUSKING.]

Such scenes as these give a touch of bright, gay color to the dull
homespun texture of the social fabric of the times. Indeed, when all the
pleasures have been enumerated, they seem a good many. But the effect of
such an enumeration is misleading. Life remained tense, sad, barren;
character moulded itself on a model of Spartan simplicity and hardihood,
without the Spartan treachery and cunning.

But from the opening of the nineteenth century things grew easier. The
people, rescued from the necessity of trying to be safe, began to
indulge the luxury of wishing to be happy. Life ceased to be a warfare,
and became an industry; the hand left off defending, and commenced
acquiring; the moulding of bullets was succeeded by the coining of


[Illustration: MILITIA MUSTER.]

It is against the background of such a strenuous past that we find the
Kentucky fair first projected by the practical and progressive spirit
that ruled among the Kentuckians in the year 1816. Nothing could have
been conceived with soberer purpose, or worn less the aspect of a great
popular pleasure. Picture the scene! A distinguished soldier and honored
gentleman, with a taste for agriculture and fine cattle, has announced
that on a certain day in July he will hold on his farm a "Grand Cattle
Show and Fair, free for everybody." The place is near Lexington, which
was then the centre of commerce and seat of learning in the West. The
meagre newspapers of the time have carried the tidings to every tavern
and country cross-roads. It is a novel undertaking; the like has never
been known this side of the Alleghanies. The summer morning come, you
may see a very remarkable company of gentlemen: old pioneers,
Revolutionary soldiers, volunteers of the War of 1812, walking in
picturesque twos and threes out of the little town to the green woods
where the fair is to be held; others jogging thitherward along the
bypaths and newly-opened roads through the forest, clad in homespun
from heel to head, and mindful of the cold lunches and whiskey-bottles
in their coat-pockets or saddle-bags; some, perhaps, drawn thither in
wagons and aristocratic gigs. Once arrived, all stepping around loftily
on the velvet grass, peering curiously into each other's eyes, and
offering their snuffboxes for a sneeze of convivial astonishment that
they could venture to meet under the clear sky for such an undertaking.
The five judges of the fair, coming from as many different counties, the
greatest personages of their day--one, a brilliant judge of the Federal
Court; the second, one of the earliest settlers, with a sword hanging up
at home to show how Virginia appreciated his services in the Revolution;
the third, a soldier and blameless gentleman of the old school; the
fourth, one of the few early Kentuckians who brought into the new
society the noble style of country-place, with park and deer, that
would have done credit to an English lord; and the fifth, in no respect
inferior to the others. These "perform the duties assigned them with
assiduity," and hand over to their neighbors as many as fifteen or
twenty premium silver cups, costing twelve dollars apiece. After which,
the assemblage variously disperses--part through the woods again, while
part return to town.

Such, then, was the first Kentucky fair. It was a transplantation to
Kentucky, not of the English or European fair, but of the English
cattle-show. It resembled the fair only in being a place for buying and
selling. And it was not thought of in the light of a merry-making or
great popular amusement. It seems not even to have taken account of
manufactures--then so important an industry--or of agriculture.

Like the first was the second fair held in the same place the year
following. Of this, little is and little need be known, save that then
was formed the first State Agricultural Society of Kentucky, which also
was the first in the West, and the second in the United States. This
society held two or three annual meetings, and then went to pieces, but
not before laying down the broad lines on which the fair continued to be
held for the next quarter of a century. That is, the fair began as a
cattle-show, though stock of other kinds was exhibited. Then it was
extended to embrace agriculture; and with branches of good husbandry it
embraced as well those of good housewifery. Thus at the early fairs one
finds the farmers contesting for premiums with their wheats and their
whiskeys, while their skilful helpmates displayed the products--the
never-surpassed products--of their looms: linens, cassinettes, jeans,
and carpetings.

With this brief outline we may pass over the next twenty years. The
current of State life during this interval ran turbulent and stormy. Now
politics, now finance, imbittered and distressed the people. Time and
again, here and there, small societies revived the fair, but all efforts
to expand it were unavailing. And yet this period must be distinguished
as the one during which the necessity of the fair became widely
recognized; for it taught the Kentuckians that their chief interest lay
in the soil, and that physical nature imposed upon them the agricultural
type of life. Grass was to be their portion and their destiny. It taught
them the insulation of their habitat, and the need of looking within
their own society for the germs and laws of their development. As soon
as the people came to see that they were to be a race of farmers, it is
important to note their concern that, as such, they should be hedged
with respectability. They took high ground about it; they would not
cease to be gentlemen; they would have their class well reputed for fat
pastures and comfortable homes, but honored as well for manners and
liberal intelligence. And to this end they had recourse to an
agricultural literature. Thus, when the fair began to revive, with
happier auspices, near the close of the period under consideration, they
signalized it for nearly the quarter of a century afterwards by
instituting literary contests. Prizes and medals were offered for
discoveries and inventions which should be of interest to the Kentucky
agriculturist; and hundreds of dollars were appropriated for the victors
and the second victors in the writing of essays which should help the
farmer to become a scientist and not to forget to remain a gentleman. In
addition, they sometimes sat for hours in the open air while some
eminent citizen--the Governor, if possible--delivered an address to
commemorate the opening of the fair, and to review the progress
of agricultural life in the commonwealth. But there were many
anti-literarians among them, who conceived a sort of organized hostility
to what they aspersed as book-farming, and on that account withheld
their cordial support.

[Illustration: PRODUCTS Of THE SOIL.]


It was not until about the year 1840 that the fair began to touch-the
heart of the whole people. Before this time there had been no
amphitheatre, no music, no booths, no side-shows, no ladies. A fair
without ladies! How could the people love it, or ever come to look upon
it as their greatest annual occasion for love-making?

An interesting commentary on the social decorum of this period is
furnished in the fact that for some twenty years after the institution
of the fair no woman put her foot upon the ground. She was thought a
bold woman, doing a bold deed, who one day took a friend and, under the
escort of gentlemen, drove in her own carriage to witness the showing of
her own fat cattle; for she was herself one of the most practical and
successful of Kentucky farmers. But where one of the sex has been, may
not all the sex--may not all the world--safely follow? From the date of
this event, and the appearance of women on the grounds, the tide of
popular favor set in steadily towards the fair.

For, as an immediate consequence, seats must be provided. Here one
happens upon a curious bit of local history--the evolution of the
amphitheatre among the Kentuckians. At the earliest fairs the first form
of the amphitheatre had been a rope stretched from tree to tree, while
the spectators stood around on the outside, or sat on the grass or in
their vehicles. The immediate result of the necessity for providing
comfortable seats for the now increasing crowd, was to select as a place
for holding the fair such a site as the ancient Greeks might have chosen
for building a theatre. Sometimes this was the head of a deep ravine,
around the sides of which seats were constructed, while the bottom below
served as the arena for the exhibition of the stock, which was led in
and out through the mouth of the hollow. At other times advantage was
taken of a natural sink and semicircular hill-side. The slope was sodded
and terraced with rows of seats, and the spectators looked down upon the
circular basin at the bottom. But clearly enough the sun played havoc
with the complexions of the ladies, and a sudden drenching shower was
still one of the uncomfortable dispensations of Providence. Therefore a
roofed wooden structure of temporary seats made its appearance, designed
after the fashion of those used by the travelling show, and finally out
of this form came the closed circular amphitheatre, modelled on the plan
of the Colosseum. Thus first among the Kentuckians, if I mistake not,
one saw the English cattle-show, which meantime was gathering about
itself many characteristics of the English fair, wedded strangely enough
to the temple of a Roman holiday. By-and-by we shall see this form of
amphitheatre torn down and supplanted by another, which recalls the
ancient circus or race-course--a modification corresponding with a
change in the character of the later fair.

The most desirable spot for building the old circular amphitheatre was
some beautiful tract of level ground containing from five to twenty
acres, and situated near a flourishing town and its ramifying turnpikes.
This tract must be enclosed by a high wooden paling, with here and there
entrance gates for stock and pedestrians and vehicles, guarded by
gate-keepers. And within this enclosure appeared in quick succession
all the varied accessories that went to make up a typical Kentucky fair
near the close of the old social regime; that is, before the outbreak of
the Civil War.


Here were found the hundreds of neat stalls for the different kinds of
stock; the gay booths under the colonnade of the amphitheatre for
refreshments; the spacious cottages for women and invalids and children;
the platforms of the quack-doctors; the floral hall and the pagoda-like
structure for the musicians and the judges; the tables and seats for
private dining; the high swings and the turnabouts; the tests of the
strength of limb and lung; the gaudy awnings for the lemonade venders;
the huge brown hogsheads for iced-water, with bright tin cups dangling
from the rim; the circus; and, finally, all those tented spectacles of
the marvellous, the mysterious, and the monstrous which were to draw
popular attention to the Kentucky fair, as they had been the particular
delight of the fair-going thousands in England hundreds of years before.

For you will remember that the Kentucky fair has ceased by this time to
be a cattle-show. It has ceased to be simply a place for the annual
competitive exhibition of stock of all kinds, which, by-the-way, is
beginning to make the country famous. It has ceased to be even the
harvest-home of the Bluegrass Region, the mild autumnal saturnalia of
its rural population. Whatever the people can discover or invent is
indeed here; or whatever they own, or can produce from the bountiful
earth, or take from orchard or flower-garden, or make in dairy, kitchen,
or loom-room. But the fair is more than all this now. It has become the
great yearly pleasure-ground of the people assembled for a week's
festivities. It is what the European fair of old was--the season of the
happiest and most general intercourse between country and town. Here the
characteristic virtues and vices of the local civilization will be found
in open flower side by side, and types and manners painted to the eye in
vividest colorings.

Crowded picture of a time gone by! Bright glancing pageantry of life,
moving on with feasting and music and love-making to the very edge of
the awful precipice, over which its social system and its richly
nurtured ideals will be dashed to pieces below!--why not pause an
instant over its innocent mirth, and quick, awful tragedies?


The fair has been in progress several days, and this will be the
greatest day of all: nothing shown from morning till night but
horses--horses in harness, horses under the saddle. Ah! but _that_ will
be worth seeing! Late in the afternoon the little boys will ride for
premiums on their ponies, and, what is not so pretty, but far more
exciting, young men will contest the prize of horsemanship. And then
such racking and pacing and loping and walking!--such racing round and
round and round to see who can go fastest, and be gracefulest, and turn
quickest! Such pirouetting and curveting and prancing and cavorting and
riding with arms folded across the breast while the reins lie on the
horse's neck, and suddenly bowing over to the horse's mane, as some
queen of beauty high up in the amphitheatre, transported by the
excitement of the thousands of spectators and the closeness of the
contest, throws her flowers and handkerchief down into the arena! Ah,
yes! this will be the great day at the fair--at the modern tourney!

[Illustration: HARNESS HORSES.]

So the tide of the people is at the flood. For days they have been
pouring into the town. The hotels are overflowing with strangers; the
open houses of the citizens are full of guests. Strolling companies of
players will crack the dusty boards tonight with the tread of buskin and
cothurnus. The easy-going tradespeople have trimmed their shops, and
imported from the North their richest merchandise.

From an early hour of the morning, along every road that leads from
country or town to the amphitheatre, pour the hurrying throng of people,
eager to get good seats for the day; for there will be thousands not
seated at all. Streaming out, on the side of the town, are pedestrians,
hacks, omnibuses, the negro drivers shouting, racing, cracking their
whips, and sometimes running into the way-side stands where old negro
women are selling apples and gingerbread. Streaming in, on the side of
the country, are pedestrians, heated, their coats thrown over the
shoulder or the arm; buggies containing often a pair of lovers who do
not keep their secret discreetly; family carriages with children made
conspicuously tidy and mothers aglow with the recent labors of the
kitchen: comfortable evidences of which are the huge baskets or hampers
that are piled up in front or strapped on behind. Nay, sometimes may be
seen whole wagon-loads of provisions moving slowly in, guarded by portly
negresses, whose eyes shine like black diamonds through the setting of
their white-dusted eyelashes.

Within the grounds, how rapidly the crowd swells and surges hither and
thither, tasting the pleasures of the place before going to the
amphitheatre: to the stalls, to the booths, to the swings, to the
cottage, to the floral hall, to the living curiosities, to the swinish
pundits, who have learned their lessons in numbers and cards. Is not
that the same pig that was shown at Bartholomew's four centuries ago?
Mixed in with the Kentuckians are people of a different build and
complexion. For Kentucky now is one of the great summering States for
the extreme Southerners, who come up with their families to its
watering-places. Others who are scattered over the North return in the
autumn by way of Kentucky, remaining till the fair and the fall of the
first frost. Nay, is not the State the place for the reunion of families
that have Southern members? Back to the old home from the rice and sugar
and cotton plantations of the swamps and the bayous come young Kentucky
wives with Southern husbands, young Kentucky husbands with Southern
wives. All these are at the fair--the Lexington fair. Here, too, are
strangers from wellnigh every Northern State. And, I beg you, do not
overlook the negroes--a solid acre of them. They play unconsciously a
great part in the essential history of this scene and festival. Briskly
grooming the stock in the stalls; strolling around with carriage whips
in their hands; running on distant errands; showering a tumult of
blows upon the newly-arrived "boss" with their nimble, ubiquitous
brush-brooms; everywhere, everywhere, happy, well-dressed, sleek--the
fateful background of all this stage of social history.

[Illustration: THE MODERN TOURNEY.]

But the amphitheatre! Through the mild, chastened, soft-toned atmosphere
of the early September day the sunlight falls from the unclouded sky
upon the seated thousands. Ah, the women in all their silken and satin
bravery! delicate blue and pink and canary-colored petticoats, with
muslin over-dresses, black lace and white lace mantles, white kid
gloves, and boots to match the color of their petticoats. One stands up
to allow a lemonade-seller to pass; she wears a hoop-skirt twelve feet
in circumference. Here and there costumes suitable for a ball; arms and
shoulders glistening like marble in the sunlight; gold chains around the
delicate arching necks. Oh, the jewels, the flowers, the fans, the
parasols, the ribbons, the soft eyes and smiles, the love and happiness!
And some of the complexions!--paint on the cheeks, powder on the neck,
stick-pomatum plastering the beautiful hair down over the temples. No
matter; it is the fashion. Rub it in! Rub it in well--up to the very
roots of the hair and eyebrows! Now, how perfect you are, madam! You are
the great Kentucky show of life-size wax-works.

In another part of the amphitheatre nothing but men, red-faced, excited,
standing up on the seats, shouting, applauding, as the rival horses rush
round the ring before them. It is not difficult to know who these are.
The money streams through their fingers. Did you hear the crack of that
pistol? How the crowd swarms angrily. Stand back! A man has been shot.
He insulted a gentleman. He called him a liar. Be careful. There are a
great many pistols on the fair grounds.

In all the United States where else is there to be seen any such holiday
assemblage of people--any such expression of the national life impressed
with local peculiarities? Where else is there to be seen anything that,
while it falls far behind, approaches so near the spirit of uproarious
merriment, of reckless fun, which used to intoxicate and madden the
English populace when given over to the sports of a ruder age?


These are the descendants of the sad pioneers--of those early cavalcades
which we glanced at in the primeval forests a few minutes ago. These
have subdued the land, and are reclining on its tranquil autumn fulness.
Time enough to play now--more time than there ever was before; more than
there will ever be again. They have established their great fair here on
the very spot where their forefathers were massacred or put to torture.
So, at old Smithfield, the tumblers, the jesters, the buffoons, and the
dancers shouldered each other in joyful riot over the ashes of the
earlier heroes and martyrs.

It is past high noon, and the thousands break away from the amphitheatre
and move towards a soft green woodland in another part of the grounds,
shaded by forest trees. Here are the private dinner-tables--hundreds of
them, covered with snowy linen, glittering with glass and silver. You
have heard of Kentucky hospitality; here you will see one of the
peaceful battle-fields where reputation for that virtue is fought for
and won. Is there a stranger among these thousands that has not been
hunted up and provided for? And such dinners! Old Pepys should be
here--immortal eater--so that he could go home and set down in his
diary, along with other gastronomic adventures, garrulous notes of what
he saw eaten and ate himself at the Kentucky fair. You will never see
the Kentuckians making a better show than at this moment. What courtesy,
what good-will, what warm and gracious manners! Tie a blue ribbon on
them. In a competitive exhibition of this kind the premium will stay at

But make the most of it--make the most of this harmony. For did you see
that? A father and a son met each other, turned their heads quickly and
angrily away, and passed without speaking.

[Illustration: A DINNER-PARTY.]

Look how these two men shake hands with too much cordiality, and search
each other's eyes. There is a man from the North standing apart
and watching with astonishment these alert, happy, efficient
negroes--perhaps following with his thoughtful gaze one of Mrs. Stowe's
Uncle Toms. A Southerner has drawn that Kentucky farmer beside a tree,
and is trying to buy one of these servants for his plantation. Yes, yes,
make the most of it! The war is coming. It is in men's hearts, and in
their eyes and consciences. By-and-by this bright, gay pageant will pass
so entirely away that even the thought of it will come back to one like
the unsubstantial revelry of a dream. By-and-by there will be another
throng filling these grounds: not in pink and white and canary, but in
blue, solid blue--blue overcoats, showing sad and cold above the snow.
All round the amphitheatre tents will be spread--not covering, as now,
the hideous and the monstrous, but the sleeping forms of young men,
athletic, sinewy, beautiful. This, too, shall vanish. And some day, when
the fierce summer sun is killing the little gray leaves and blades of
grass, in through these deserted gates will pass a long, weary,
foot-sore line of brown. Nothing in the floral hall now but cots, around
which are nurses and weeping women. Lying there, some poor young fellow,
with the death dew on his forehead, will open his shadowy eyes and
remember this day of the fair, where he walked among the flowers and
made love.

But it is late in the afternoon, and the people are beginning to
disperse by turnpike and lane to their homes in the country, or to
hasten back into town for the festivities of the night; for to-night the
spirit of the fair will be continued in other amphitheatres. To-night
comedy and tragedy will tread the village boards; but hand in hand also
they will flaunt their colors through the streets, and haunt the
midnight alleys. In all the year no time like fair-time: parties at
private houses; hops, balls at the hotels. You shall sip the foam from
the very crest of the wave of revelry and carousal. Darkness be over it
till the east reddens! Let Bacchus be unconfined!



The fair languished during the war, but the people were not slow to
revive it upon the return of peace. Peace, however, could never bring
back the fair of the past: it was gone forever--gone with the stage and
phase of the social evolution of which it was the unique and memorable
expression. For there was no phase of social evolution in Kentucky but
felt profoundly that era of upheaval, drift, and readjustment. Start
where we will, or end where we may, we shall always come sooner or later
to the war as a great rent and chasm, with its hither side and its
farther side and its deep abyss between, down into which old things were
dashed to death, and out of which new things were born into the better

Therefore, as we study the Kentucky fair of today, more than a quarter
of a century later, we must expect to find it much changed. Withal it
has many local variations. As it is held here and there in retired
counties or by little neighborhoods it has characteristics of rural
picturesqueness that suggest the manners of the era passed away. But the
typical Kentucky fair, the fair that represents the leading interests
and advanced ideas of the day, bears testimony enough to the altered
life of the people.

The old circular amphitheatre has been torn down, and replaced with a
straight or a slightly curved bank of seats. Thus we see the arena
turned into the race-course, the idea of the Colosseum giving way to the
idea of the Circus Maximus. In front of the bank of seats stretch a
small track for the exhibition of different kinds of stock, and a large
track for the races. This abandonment of the old form of amphitheatre is
thus a significant concession to the trotting-horse, and a sign that its
speed has become the great pleasure of the fair.

As a picture, also, the fair of to-day lacks the Tyrolean brightness of
its predecessor; and as a social event it seems like a pensive tale of
by-gone merriment. Society no longer looks upon it as the occasion of
displaying its wealth, its toilets, its courtesies, its hospitalities.
No such gay and splendid dresses now; no such hundreds of dinner-tables
on the shaded greensward. It would be too much to say that the
disappearance of the latter betokens the loss of that virtue which the
gracious usages of a former time made a byword. The explanation lies
elsewhere. Under the old social regime a common appurtenance to every
well-established household was a trained force of negro servants. It was
the services of these that made the exercise of generous public
entertainment possible to the Kentucky housewife. Moreover, the lavish
ideals of the time threw upon economy the reproach of meanness;
and, as has been noted, the fair was then the universally recognized
time for the display of munificent competitive hospitalities. In truth,
it was the sharpness of the competition that brought in at last the
general disuse of the custom; for the dinners grew more and more
sumptuous, the labor of preparing them more and more severe, and the
expense of paying for them more and more burdensome. So to-day the
Kentuckians remain a hospitable people, but you must not look to find
the noblest exercise of their hospitality at the fair. A few dinners you
will see, but modest luncheons are not despicable and the whole tendency
of things is towards the understanding that an appetite is an affair of
the private conscience. And this brings to light some striking
differences between the old and the new Kentuckians. Along with the
circular amphitheatre, the dresses, and the dinners, have gone the
miscellaneous amusements of which the fair was ere-while the mongrel
scene and centre. The ideal fair of to-day frowns upon the side-show,
and discards every floating accessory. It would be self-sufficient. It
would say to the thousands of people who still attend it as the greatest
of all their organized pleasures, "Find your excitement, your
relaxation, your happiness, in a shed for machinery, a floral hall, and
the fine stock." But of these the greatest attraction is the last, and
of all kinds of stock the one most honored is the horse. Here, then, we
come upon a noteworthy fact: the Kentucky fair, which began as a
cattle-show, seems likely to end with being a horse-show.

[Illustration: STALLIONS.]

If anything is lacking to complete the contrast between the fair in the
fulness of its development before the war and the fair of to-day, what
better could be found to reflect this than the different _morale_ of the

You are a stranger, and you have the impression that an assemblage of
ten, fifteen, twenty thousand Kentuckians out on a holiday is pervaded
by the spirit of a mob. You think that a few broken heads is one of its
cherished traditions; that intoxication and disorderliness are its
dearest prerogatives. But nowadays you look in vain for those heated,
excited men with money lying between their fingers, who were once the
rebuke and the terror of the amphitheatre. You look in vain for heated,
excited men of any kind: there are none. There is no drinking, no
bullying, no elbowing, or shouldering, or swearing.

[Illustration: MULES.]

While still in their nurses' arms you may sometimes see the young
Kentuckians shown in the ring at the horse-fair for premiums. From their
early years they are taken to the amphitheatre to enjoy its color, its
fleetness, and its form. As little boys they ride for prizes. The horse
is the subject of talk in the hotels, on the street corners, in the
saloons, at the stables, on county court day, at the cross-roads and
blacksmiths' shops, in country church-yards before the sermon. The
barber, as he shaves his morning customer, gives him points on the
races. There will be found many a group of gentlemen in whose presence
to reveal an ignorance of famous horses and common pedigrees will bring
a blush to the cheek. Not to feel interested in such themes is to lay
one's self open to a charge of disagreeable eccentricity. The horse has
gradually emerged into prominence until to-day it occupies the



More than two hundred and fifty years have passed since the Cardinal de
Richelieu stood at the baptismal font as sponsor to a name that within
the pale of the Church was destined to become more famous than his own.
But the world has wellnigh forgotten Richelieu's godson. Only the
tireless student of biography now turns the pages that record his
extraordinary career, ponders the strange unfolding of his moral nature,
is moved by the deep pathos of his dying hours. Dominique Armand-Jean le
Bouthillier de Rancé! How cleverly, while scarcely out of short-clothes,
did he puzzle the king's confessor with questions on Homer, and at the
age of thirteen publish an edition of Anacreon! Of ancient, illustrious
birth, and heir to an almost ducal house, how tenderly favored was he by
Marie de Médicis; happy-hearted, kindly, suasive, how idolized by a
gorgeous court! In what affluence of rich laces did he dress; in what
irresistible violet-colored close coats, with emeralds at his
wristbands, a diamond on his finger, red heels on his shoes! How nimbly
he capered through the dance with a sword on his hip! How bravely he
planned quests after the manner of knights of the Round Table, meaning
to take for himself the part of Lancelot! How exquisitely, ardently, and
ah! how fatally he flirted with the incomparable ladies in the circle of
Madame de Rambouillet! And with a zest for sport as great as his unction
for the priestly office, how wittily--laying one hand on his heart and
waving the other through the air--could he bow and say, "This morning I
preached like an angel; I'll hunt like the devil this afternoon!"

All at once his life broke in two when half spent. He ceased to hunt
like the devil, to adore the flesh, to scandalize the world; and
retiring to the ancient Abbey of La Trappe in Normandy--the sponsorial
gift of his Eminence and favored by many popes--there undertook the
difficult task of reforming the relaxed Benedictines. The old
abbey--situated in a great fog-covered basin encompassed by dense woods
of beech, oak, and linden, and therefore gloomy, unhealthy, and
forbidding--was in ruins. One ascended by means of a ladder from floor
to rotting floor. The refectory had become a place where the monks
assembled to play at bowls with worldlings. The dormitory, exposed to
wind, rain, and snow, had been given up to owls. In the church the
stones were scattered, the walls unsteady, the pavement was broken, the
bell ready to fall. As a single solemn reminder of the vanished spirit
of the place, which had been founded by St. Stephen and St. Bernard in
the twelfth century, with the intention of reviving in the Western
Church the bright examples of primitive sanctity furnished by Eastern
solitaries of the third and fourth, one read over the door of the
cloister the words of Jeremiah: "_Sedebit solitarius et tacebit_" The
few monks who remained in the convent slept where they could, and were,
as Chateaubriand says, in a state of ruins. They preferred sipping
ratafia to reading their breviaries; and when De Rancé undertook to
enforce reform, they threatened to whip him for his pains. He, in turn,
threatened them with the royal interference, and they submitted. There,
accordingly, he introduced a system of rules that a sybarite might have
wept over even to hear recited; carried into practice cenobitical
austerities that recalled the models of pious anchorites in Syria and
Thebais; and gave its peculiar meaning to the word "Trappist," a name
which has since been taken by all Cistercian communities embracing the
reform of the first monastery.

In the retirement of this mass of woods and sky De Rancé passed the rest
of his long life, doing nothing more worldly, so far as is now known,
than quoting Aristophanes and Horace to Bossuet, and allowing himself to
be entertained by Pellisson, exhibiting the accomplishments of his
educated spider. There, in acute agony of body and perfect meekness of
spirit, a worn and weary old man, with time enough to remember his
youthful ardors and emeralds and illusions, he watched his mortal end
draw slowly near. And there, asking to be buried in some desolate
spot--some old battle-field--he died at last, extending his poor
macerated body on the cross of blessed cinders and straw, and commending
his poor penitent soul to the mercy of Heaven.

A wonderful spectacle to the less fervid Benedictines of the closing
seventeenth century must have seemed the work of De Rancé in that old
Norman abbey! A strange company of human souls, attracted by the former
distinction of the great abbot as well as by the peculiar vows of the
institute, must have come together in its silent halls! One hears many
stories, in the lighter vein, regarding some of its inmates. Thus, there
was a certain furious ex-trooper, lately reeking with blood, who got
himself much commended by living on baked apples; and a young nobleman
who devoted himself to the work of washing daily the monastery
spittoons. One Brother, the story runs, having one day said there was
too much salt in his scalding-hot broth, immediately burst into tears of
contrition for his wickedness in complaining; and another went for so
many years without raising his eyes that he knew not a new chapel had
been built, and so quite cracked his skull one day against the wall of

The abbey was an asylum for the poor and helpless, the shipwrecked, the
conscience-stricken, and the broken-hearted--for that meditative type of
fervid piety which for ages has looked upon the cloister as the true
earthly paradise wherein to rear the difficult edifice of the soul's
salvation. Much noble blood sought De Rancé's retreat to wash out its
terrifying stains, and more than one reckless spirit went thither to
take upon itself the yoke of purer, sweeter usages.

De Rancé's work remains an influence in the world. His monastery and his
reform constitute the true background of material and spiritual fact
against which to outline the present Abbey of La Trappe in Kentucky.
Even when thus viewed, it seems placed where it is only by some freak of
history. An abbey of La Trappe in Kentucky! How inharmonious with every
element of its environment appears this fragment of old French monastic
life! It is the twelfth century touching the last of the nineteenth--the
Old World reappearing in the New. Here are French faces--here is the
French tongue. Here is the identical white cowl presented to blessed St.
Alberick in the forests of Burgundy nine hundred years ago. Here is the
rule of St. Benedict, patriarch of the Western monks in the sixth
century. When one is put out at the way-side station, amid woodlands and
fields of Indian-corn, and, leaving the world behind him, turns his
footsteps across the country towards the abbey, more than a mile away,
the seclusion of the region, its ineffable quietude, the infinite
isolation of the life passed by the silent brotherhood--all bring
vividly before the mind the image of that ancient distant abbey with
which this one holds connection so sacred and so close. Is it not the
veritable spot in Normandy? Here, too, is the broad basin of retired
country; here the densely wooded hills, shutting it in from the world;
here the orchards and vineyards and gardens of the ascetic devotees;
and, as the night falls from the low, blurred sky of gray, and cuts
short a silent contemplation of the scene, here, too, one finds one's
self, like some belated traveller in the dangerous forests of old,
hurrying on to reach the porter's lodge, and ask within the sacred walls
the hospitality of the venerable abbot.



For nearly a century after the death of De Rancé it is known that his
followers faithfully maintained his reform at La Trappe. Then the French
Revolution drove the Trappists as wanderers into various countries, and
the abbey was made a foundery for cannon. A small branch of the order
came in 1804 to the United States, and established itself for a while in
Pennsylvania, but soon turned its eyes towards the greater wilds and
solitudes of Kentucky. For this there was reason. Kentucky was early a
great pioneer of the Catholic Church in the United States. Here the
first episcopal see of the West was erected, and Bardstown held
spiritual jurisdiction, within certain parallels of latitude, over all
States and Territories between the two oceans. Here, too, were the first
Catholic missionaries of the West, except those who were to be found in
the French stations along the Wabash and the Mississippi. Indeed, the
Catholic population of Kentucky, which was principally descended from
the colonists of Lord Baltimore, had begun to enter the State as early
as 1775, the nucleus of their settlements soon becoming Nelson County,
the locality of the present abbey. Likewise it should be remembered that
the Catholic Church in the United States, especially that portion of it
in Kentucky, owes a great debt to the zeal of the exiled French clergy
of early days. That buoyancy and elasticity of the French character,
which naturally adapts it to every circumstance and emergency, was then
most demanded and most efficacious. From these exiles the infant
missions of the State were supplied with their most devoted laborers.

Hither, accordingly, the Trappists removed from Pennsylvania,
establishing themselves on Pottinger's Creek, near Rohan's Knob, several
miles from the present site. But they remained only a few years. The
climate of Kentucky was ill suited to their life of unrelaxed
asceticism; their restless superior had conceived a desire to
christianize Indian children, and so removed the languishing settlement
to Missouri. There is not space for following the solemn march of those
austere exiles through the wildernesses of the New World. From Missouri
they went to an ancient Indian burying-ground in Illinois, and there
built up a sort of village in the heart of the prairie; but the great
mortality from which they suffered, and the subsidence of the fury of
the French Revolution recalled them in 1813 to France, to reoccupy the
establishments from which they had been banished.

It was of this body that Dickens, in his _American Notes_, wrote as

    Looming up in the distance, as we rode along, was another of the
    ancient Indian burial-places, called Monk's Mound, in memory of a
    body of fanatics of the order of La Trappe, who founded a desolate
    convent there many years ago, when there were no settlements
    within a thousand miles, and were all swept off by the pernicious
    climate; in which lamentable fatality few rational people will
    suppose, perhaps, that society experienced any very severe

This is a better place in which to state a miracle than discuss it; and
the following account of a heavenly portent, which is related to have
been vouchsafed the Trappists while sojourning in Kentucky, may be given
without comment:

    In the year 1808 the moon, being then about two-thirds full,
    presented a most remarkable appearance. A bright, luminous
    cross, clearly defined, was seen in the heavens, with its arms
    intersecting the centre of the moon. On each side two smaller
    crosses were also distinctly visible, though the portions of them
    most distant from the moon were more faintly marked. This strange
    phenomenon continued for several hours, and was witnessed by the
    Trappists on their arising, as usual, at midnight, to sing the
    Divine praise.

The present monastery, which is called the Abbey of Gethsemane, owes its
origin immediately to the Abbey of La Meilleraye, of the department of
the Loire-Inférieure, France. The abbot of the latter had concluded
arrangements with the French Government to found a house in the island
of Martinique, on an estate granted by Louis Philippe; but this
monarch's rule having been overturned, the plan was abandoned in favor
of a colony in the United States. Two Fathers, with the view of
selecting a site, came to New York in the summer of 1848, and naturally
turned their eyes to the Catholic settlements in Kentucky, and to the
domain of the pioneer Trappists. In the autumn of that year,
accordingly, about forty-five "religious" left the mother-abbey of La
Meilleraye, set sail from Havre de Grace for New Orleans, went thence by
boat to Louisville, and from this point walked to Gethsemane, a
distance of some sixty miles. Although scattered among various countries
of Europe, the Trappists have but two convents in the United
States--this, the oldest, and one near Dubuque, Iowa, a colony from the
abbey in Ireland.


[Illustration: WITHIN THE GATES.]

The domain of the abbey comprises some seventeen hundred acres of land,
part of which is tillable, while the rest consists of a range of wooded
knobs that furnish timber to the monastery steam saw-mill. Around this
domain lie the homesteads of Kentucky farmers, who make indifferent
monks. One leaves the public road that winds across the open country and
approaches the monastery through a long, level avenue, enclosed on each
side by a hedge-row of cedars, and shaded by nearly a hundred beautiful
English elms, the offspring of a single parent stem. Traversing this
dim, sweet spot, where no sound is heard but the waving of boughs and
the softened notes of birds, one reaches the porter's lodge, a low,
brick building, on each side of which extends the high brick-wall that
separates the inner from the outer world. Passing beneath the archway of
the lodge, one discovers a graceful bit of landscape gardening--walks
fringed with cedars, beds for flowers, pathways so thickly strewn with
sawdust that the heaviest footfall is unheard, a soft turf of green,
disturbed only by the gentle shadows of the pious-looking Benedictine
trees: a fit spot for recreation and meditation. It is with a sort of
worldly start that you come upon an enclosure at one end of these
grounds wherein a populous family of white-cowled rabbits trip around in
the most noiseless fashion, and seemed ashamed of being caught living
together in family relations.

Architecturally there is little to please the æsthetic sense in the
monastery building, along the whole front of which these grounds extend.
It is a great quadrangular pile of brick, three stories high, heated by
furnaces and lighted by gas--modern appliances which heighten the
contrast with the ancient life whose needs they subserve. Within the
quadrangle is a green inner court, also beautifully laid off. On one
side are two chapels, the one appropriated to the ordinary services of
the Church, and entered from without the abbey-wall by all who desire;
the other, consecrated to the offices of the Trappist order, entered
only from within, and accessible exclusively to males. It is here that
one finds occasion to remember the Trappist's vow of poverty. The
vestments are far from rich, the decorations of the altar far from
splendid. The crucifixion-scene behind the altar consists of wooden
figures carved by one of the monks now dead, and painted with little
art. No tender light of many hues here streams through long windows rich
with holy reminiscence and artistic fancy. The church has, albeit, a
certain beauty of its own--that charm which is inseparable from fine
proportion in stone and from gracefully disposed columns growing into
the arches of the lofty roof. But the cold gray of the interior, severe
and unrelieved, bespeaks a place where the soul comes to lay itself in
simplicity before the Eternal as it would upon a naked, solitary rock of
the desert. Elsewhere in the abbey greater evidences of votive poverty
occur--in the various statues and shrines of the Virgin, in the pictures
and prints that hang in the main front corridor--in all that appertains
to the material life of the community.

Just outside the church, beneath the perpetual benediction of the cross
on its spire, is the quiet cemetery garth, where the dead are side by
side, their graves covered with myrtle and having each for its
head-stone a plain wooden crucifix bearing the religious name and
station of him who lies below--Father Honorius, Father Timotheus,
Brother Hilarius, Brother Eutropius. Who are they? And whence? And by
what familiar names were they greeted on the old play-grounds and
battle-fields of the world?

The Trappists do not, as it is commonly understood, daily dig a portion
of their own graves. When one of them dies and has been buried, a new
grave is begun beside the one just filled, as a reminder to the
survivors that one of them must surely take his place therein. So, too,
when each seeks the cemetery enclosure, in hours of holy meditation,
and, standing bareheaded among the graves, prays softly for the souls of
his departed brethren, he may come for a time to this unfinished grave,
and, kneeling, pray Heaven, if he be next, to dismiss his soul in peace.

Nor do they sleep in the dark, abject kennel, which the imagination, in
the light of mediæval history, constructs as the true monk's cell. By
the rule of St. Benedict, they sleep separate, but in the same
dormitory--a great upper room, well lighted and clean, in the body of
which a general framework several feet high is divided into partitions
that look like narrow berths.


We have acquired poetical and pictorial conceptions of monks--praying
with wan faces and upturned eyes half darkened by the shadowing cowl,
the coarse serge falling away from the emaciated neck, the hands
pressing the crucifix close to the heart; and with this type has been
associated a certain idea of cloistral life--that it was an existence of
vacancy and idleness, or at best of deep meditation of the soul broken
only by express spiritual devotions. There is another kind of monk, with
the marks of which we seem traditionally familiar: the monk with the
rubicund face, sleek poll, good epigastric development, and slightly
unsteady gait, with whom, in turn, we have connected a different phase
of conventual discipline--fat capon and stubble goose, and midnight
convivial chantings growing ever more fast and furious, but finally
dying away in a heavy stertorous calm. Poetry, art, the drama, the
novel, have each portrayed human nature in orders; the saint-like monk,
the intellectual monk, the bibulous, the felonious, the fighting monk
(who loves not the hermit of Copmanhurst?), until the memory is stored
and the imagination preoccupied.

Living for a while in a Trappist monastery in modern America, one gets
a pleasant actual experience of other types no less picturesque and on
the whole much more acceptable. He finds himself, for one thing, brought
face to face with the working monk. Idleness to the Trappist is the
enemy of the soul, and one of his vows is manual labor. Whatever a
monk's previous station may have been, he must perform, according to
abbatial direction, the most menial services. None are exempt from work;
there is no place among them for the sluggard. When it is borne in mind
that the abbey is a self-dependent institution, where the healthy must
be maintained, the sick cared for, the dead buried, the necessity for
much work becomes manifest. In fact, the occupations are as various as
those of a modern factory. There is scope for intellects of all degrees
and talents of wellnigh every order. Daily life, unremittingly from year
to year, is an exact system of duties and hours. The building, covering
about an acre of ground and penetrated by corridors, must be kept
faultlessly clean. There are three kitchens--one for the guests, one for
the community, and one for the infirmary--that require each a
_coquinarius_ and separate assistants. There is a tinker's shop and a
pharmacy; a saddlery, where the broken gear used in cultivating the
monastery lands is mended; a tailor's shop, where the worn garments are
patched; a shoemaker's shop, where the coarse, heavy shoes of the monks
are made and cobbled; and a barber's shop, where the Trappist beard is
shaved twice a month and the Trappist head is monthly shorn.

Out-doors the occupations are even more varied. The community do not
till the farm. The greater part of their land is occupied by tenant
farmers, and what they reserve for their own use is cultivated by the
so-called "family brothers," who, it is due to say, have no families,
but live as celibates on the abbey domain, subject to the abbot's
authority, without being members of the order. The monks, however, do
labor in the ample gardens, orchards, and vineyard, from which they
derive their sustenance, in the steam saw-mill and grain-mill, in the
dairy and the cheese factory. Thus picturesquely engaged one may find
them in autumn: monks gathering apples and making pungent cider, which
is stored away in the vast cellar as their only beverage except water;
monks repairing the shingle roof of a stable; monks feeding the huge
swine, which they fatten for the board of their carnal guests, or the
fluttering multitude of chickens, from the eggs and young of which they
derive a slender revenue; monks grouped in the garden around a green and
purple heap of turnips, to be stored up as a winter relish of no mean

Amid such scenes one forgets all else while enjoying the wealth and
freshness of artistic effects. What a picture is this young Belgian
cheese-maker, his sleeves rolled above the elbows of his brawny arms,
his great pinkish hands buried in the golden curds, the cap of his serge
cloak falling back and showing his closely clipped golden-brown hair,
blue eyes, and clear, delicate skin! Or this Australian ex-farmer, as he
stands by the hopper of grist or lays on his shoulder a bag of flour for
the coarse brown-bread of the monks. Or this dark old French opera
singer, who strutted his brief hour on many a European stage, but now
hobbles around, hoary in his cowl and blanched with age, to pick up a
handful of garlic. Or this athletic young Irishman, thrusting a great
iron prod into the glowing coals of the sawmill furnace. Or this slender
Switzer, your attendant in the refectory, with great keys dangling from
his leathern cincture, who stands by with folded hands and bowed head
while you are eating the pagan meal he has prepared for you.

[Illustration: A FORTNIGHTLY SHAVE.]

From various countries of the Old World men find their way into the
Abbey of Gethsemane, but among them are no Americans. Repeatedly the
latter have joined the order, and have failed to persevere up to the
final consecration of the white cowl. The fairest warning is given to
the postulant. He is made to understand the entire extent of the
obligation he has assumed; and only after passing through a novitiate,
prolonged at the discretion of the abbot, is he admitted to the vows
that must be kept unbroken till death.


From the striking material aspects of their daily life, one is soon
recalled to a sense of their subordination to spiritual aims and
pledges; for upon them, like a spell of enchantment, lies the sacred
silence. The honey has been taken from the bees with solemnity; the
grapes have been gathered without song and mirth. The vow of life-long
silence taken by the Trappist must of course not be construed literally;
but there are only two occasions during which it is completely set
aside--when confessing his sins and when singing the offices of the
Church. At all other times his tongue becomes, as far as possible, a
superfluous member; he speaks only by permission of his superior, and
always simply and to the point. The monk at work with another exchanges
with him only the few low, necessary words, and those that provoke no
laughter. Of the three so-called monastic graces, _Simplicitas_,
_Benignitas_, _Hilaritas_, the last is not his. Even for necessary
speech he is taught to substitute a language of signs, as fully
systematized as the speech of the deaf and dumb. Should he, while at
work, wound his fellow-workman, sorrow may be expressed by striking his
breast. A desire to confess is shown by lifting one hand to the mouth
and striking the breast with the other. The maker of cheese crosses two
fingers at the middle point to let you know that it is made half of milk
and half of cream. The guest-master, whose business it is to act as your
guide through the abbey and the grounds, is warily mindful of his
special functions and requests you to address none but him. Only the
abbot is free to speak when and as his judgment may approve. It is
silence, says the Trappist, that shuts out new ideas, worldly topics,
controversy. It is silence that enables the soul to contemplate with
singleness and mortification the infinite perfections of the Eternal.

In the abbey it is this pervasive hush that falls like a leaden pall
upon the stranger who has rushed in from the talking universe. Are these
priests modern survivals of the rapt solitaries of India? The days pass,
and the world, which seemed in hailing distance to you at first, has
receded to dim remoteness. You stand at the window of your room looking
out, and hear in the autumn trees only the flute-like note of some
migratory bird, passing slowly on towards the south. You listen within,
and hear but a key turning in distant locks and the slow-retreating
footsteps of some dusky figure returning to its lonely self-communings.
The utmost precaution is taken to avoid noise; in the dormitory not even
your guide will speak to you, but explains by gesture and signs. During
the short siesta the Trappists allow themselves, if one of them, not
wishing to sleep, gets permission to read in his so-called cell, he must
turn the pages of his book inaudibly. In the refectory, while the meal
is eaten and the appointed reader in the tribune goes through a service,
if one through carelessness makes a noise by so much as dropping a fork
or a spoon, he leaves his seat and prostrates himself on the floor until
bidden by the superior to arise. The same penance is undergone in the
church by any one who should distract attention with the clasp of his

A hard life, to purely human seeming, does the Trappist make for the
body. He thinks nothing of it. It is his evil tenement of flesh, whose
humors are an impediment to sanctification, whose propensities are to be
kept down by the practice of austerities. To it in part his monastic
vows are addressed--perpetual and utter poverty, chastity, manual labor,
silence, seclusion, penance, obedience. The perfections and glories of
his monastic state culminate in the complete abnegation and destruction
of animal nature, and in the correspondence of his earthly life with the
holiness of divine instruction. The war of the Jesuit is with the world;
the war of the Trappist is with himself. From his narrow bed, on which
are simply a coarse thin mattress, pillow, sheet, and coverlet, he rises
at 2 o'clock, on certain days at 1, on others yet at 12. He has not
undressed, but has slept in his daily garb, with the cincture around his

This dress consists, if he be a brother, of the roughest dark-brown
serge-like stuff, the over-garment of which is a long robe; if a Father,
of a similar material, but white in color, the over-garment being the
cowl, beneath which is the black scapular. He changes it only once in
two weeks. The frequent use of the bath, as tending to luxuriousness, is
forbidden him, especially if he be young. His diet is vegetables, fruit,
honey, cider, cheese, and brown-bread. Only when sick or infirm may he
take even fish or eggs. His table-service is pewter, plain earthenware,
a heavy wooden spoon and fork of his own making, and the bottom of a
broken bottle for a salt-cellar. If he wears the white cowl, he eats but
one such frugal repast a day during part of the year; if the brown robe,
and therefore required to do more work, he has besides this meal an
early morning luncheon called "mixt." He renounces all claim to his own
person, all right over his own powers. "I am as wax," he exclaims;
"mould me as you will." By the law of his patron saint, if commanded to
do things too hard, or even impossible, he must still undertake them.

For the least violations of the rules of his order; for committing a
mistake while reciting a psalm, responsory, antiphon, or lesson; for
giving out one note instead of another, or saying _dominus_ instead of
_domino_; for breaking or losing anything, or committing any fault while
engaged in any kind of work in kitchen, pantry, bakery, garden, trade,
or business--he must humble himself and make public satisfaction
forthwith. Nay, more: each by his vows is forced to become his brother's
keeper, and to proclaim him publicly in the community chapter for the
slightest overt transgression. For charity's sake, however, he may not
judge motives nor make vague general charges.

The Trappist does not walk beyond the enclosures except by permission.
He must repress ineffably tender yearnings that visit and vex the human
heart in this life. The death of the nearest kindred is not announced to
him. Forgotten by the world, by him it is forgotten. Yet not wholly.
When he lays the lashes of the scourge on his flesh--it may be on his
carious bones--he does it not for his own sins alone, but for the sins
of the whole world; and in his searching, self-imposed humiliations,
there is a silent, broad out-reaching of sympathetic effort in behalf of
all his kind. Sorrow may not depict itself freely on his face. If a
suffering invalid, he must manifest no interest in the progress of his
malady, feel no concern regarding the result. In his last hour, he sees
ashes strewn upon the floor in the form of a cross, a thin scattering of
straw made over them, and his body extended thereon to die; and from
this hard bed of death he knows it will be borne on a bier by his
brethren and laid in the grave without coffin or shroud.


But who can judge such a life save him who has lived it? Who can say
what undreamt-of spiritual compensations may not come even in this
present time as a reward for bodily austerities? What fine realities may
not body themselves forth to the eye of the soul, strained of grossness,
steadied from worldly agitation, and taught to gaze year after year into
the awfulness and mystery of its own being and deep destiny?
"Monasticism," says Mr. Froude, "we believe to have been the realization
of the infinite loveliness and beauty of personal purity; and the saint
in the desert was the apotheosis of the spiritual man." However this may
be, here at Gethsemane you see one of the severest expressions of its
faith that the soul has ever given, either in ancient or in modern
times; and you cease to think of these men as members of a religious
order, in the study of them as exponents of a common humanity struggling
with the problem of its relation to the Infinite. One would wish to lay
hold upon the latent elements of power and truth and beauty in their
system which enables them to say with quiet cheerfulness, "We are
happy, perfectly happy."

Excepting this ceaseless war between flesh and spirit, the abbey seems a
peaceful place. Its relations with the outside world have always been
kindly. During the Civil War it was undisturbed by the forces of each
army. Food and shelter it has never denied even to the poorest, and it
asks no compensation, accepting such as the stranger may give. The savor
of good deeds extends beyond its walls, and near by is a free school
under its control, where for more than a quarter of a century boys of
all creeds have been educated.

There comes some late autumnal afternoon when you are to leave the
place. With a strange feeling of farewell, you grasp the hands of those
whom you have been given the privilege of knowing, and step slowly out
past the meek sacristan, past the noiseless garden, past the porter's
lodge and the misplaced rabbits, past the dim avenue of elms, past the
great iron gate-way, and, walking along the sequestered road until you
have reached the summit of a wooded knoll half a mile away, turn and
look back. Half a mile! The distance is infinite. The last rays of the
sun seem hardly able to reach the pale cross on the spire which anon
fades into the sky; and the monastery bell, that sends its mellow tones
across the shadowy landscape, is rung from an immemorial past.

[Illustration: THE GARDEN.]

It is the hour of the _Compline_, the _Salve_, and the _Angelus_--the
last of the seven services that the Trappist holds between 2 o'clock in
the morning and this hour of early nightfall. Standing alone in the
silent darkness you allow imagination to carry you once more into the
church. You sit in one of the galleries and look down upon the stalls of
the monks ranged along the walls of the nave. There is no light except
the feeble gleam of a single low red cresset that swings ever-burning
before the altar. You can just discern a long line of nameless dusky
figures creep forth from the deeper gloom and glide noiselessly into
their seats. You listen to the _cantus plenus gravitate_--those long,
level notes with sorrowful cadences and measured pauses, sung by a full,
unfaltering chorus of voices, old and young. It is the song that smote
the heart of Bossuet with such sadness in the desert of Normandy two and
a half centuries ago.

Anon by some unseen hand two tall candles are lighted on the altar. The
singing is hushed. From the ghostly line of white-robed Fathers a
shadowy figure suddenly moves towards the spot in the middle of the
church where the bell-rope hangs, and with slow, weird movements rings
the solemn bell until it fills the cold, gray arches with quivering
sound. One will not in a lifetime forget the impressiveness of the
scene--the long tapering shadows that stretch out over the dimly
lighted, polished floor from this figure silhouetted against the
brighter light from the altar beyond; the bowed, moveless forms of the
monks in brown almost indiscernible in the gloom; the spectral glamour
reflected from the robes of the bowed Fathers in white; the ghastly,
suffering scene of the Saviour, strangely luminous in the glare of the
tall candles. It is the daily climax in the devotions of the Old World
monks at Gethsemane.



Kentucky is a land of rural homes. The people are out in the country
with a perennial appetite and passion for the soil. Like Englishmen,
they are by nature no dwellers in cities; like older Saxon forefathers,
they have a strong feeling for a habitation even no better than a
one-story log-house, with furniture of the rudest kind, and cooking in
the open air, if, only, it be surrounded by a plot of ground and
individualized by all-encompassing fences. They are gregarious at
respectful distances, dear to them being that sense of personal worth
and importance which comes from territorial aloofness, from domestic
privacy, from a certain lordship over all they survey.

The land they hold has a singular charm and power of infusing fierce,
tender desire of ownership. Centuries before it was possessed by them,
all ruthless aboriginal wars for its sole occupancy had resolved
themselves into the final understanding that it be wholly claimed by
none. Bounty in land was the coveted reward of Virginia troops in the
old French and Indian war. Hereditary love of land drew the earliest
settlers across the perilous mountains. Rapacity for land caused them
to rush down into the green plains, fall upon the natives, slay,
torture, hack to pieces, and sacrifice wife and child, with the swift,
barbaric hardihood and unappeasable fury of Northmen of old descending
upon the softer shores of France. Acquisition of land was the
determinative principle of the new civilization. Litigation concerning
land has made famous the decisions of their courts of law. The
surveyor's chain should be wrapped about the rifle as a symbolic epitome
of pioneer history. It was for land that they turned from the Indians
upon one another, and wrangled, cheated, and lied. They robbed Boone
until he had none left in which to lay his bones. One of the first acts
of one of the first colonists was to glut his appetite by the purchase
of all of the State that lies south of the Kentucky River. The middle
class land-owner has always been the controlling element of population.
To-day more of the people are engaged in agriculture than in all other
pursuits combined; taste for it has steadily drawn a rich stream of
younger generations hither and thither into the younger West; and
to-day, as always, the broad, average ideal of a happy life is expressed
in the quiet holding of perpetual pastures.

Steam, said Emerson, is almost an Englishman; grass is almost a
Kentuckian. Wealth, labor, productions, revenues, public markets, public
improvements, manners, characters, social modes--all speak in common of
the country, and fix attention upon the soil. The staples attest the
predominance of agriculture; unsurpassed breeds of stock imply the
verdure of the woodlands; turnpikes, the finest on the continent,
furnish viaducts for the garnered riches of the earth, and prove the
high development of rural life, the every-day luxury of delightful
riding and driving. Even the crow, the most boldly characteristic
freebooter of the air, whose cawing is often the only sound heard in
dead February days, or whose flight amid his multitudinous fellows forms
long black lines across the morning and the evening sky, tells of fat
pickings and profitable thefts in innumerable fields. In Kentucky a
rustic young woman of Homeric sensibility might be allowed to discover
in the slow-moving panorama of white clouds her father's herd of
short-horned cattle grazing through heavenly pastures, and her lover to
see in the halo around the moon a perfect celestial racetrack.

Comparatively weak and unpronounced are the features of urban life. The
many little towns and villages scattered at easy distances over the
State for the most part draw out a thin existence by reason of
surrounding rural populations. They bear the pastoral stamp. Up to their
very environs approach the cultivated fields, the meadows of brilliant
green, the delicate woodlands; in and out along the white highways move
the tranquil currents of rural trade; through their streets groan and
creak the loaded wagons; on the sidewalks the most conspicuous human
type is the owner of the soil. Once a month county-seats overflow with
the incoming tide of country folk, livery-stables are crowded with
horses and vehicles, court-house squares become marketplaces for
traffic in stock. But when emptied of country folk, they sink again into
repose, all but falling asleep of summer noonings, and in winter seeming
frost-locked with the outlying woods and streams.

Remarkable is the absence of considerable cities, there being but one
that may be said truly to reflect Kentucky life, and that situated on
the river frontier, a hundred miles from the centre of the State. Think
of it! A population of some two millions with only one interior town
that contains over five thousand white inhabitants. Hence Kentucky makes
no impression abroad by reason of its urban population. Lexington,
Bowling Green, Harrodsburg, Winchester, Richmond, Frankfort, Mount
Sterling, and all the others, where do they stand in the scale of
American cities? Hence, too, the disparaging contrast liable to be drawn
between Kentucky and the gigantic young States of the West. Where is the
magnitude of the commonwealth, where the ground of the sense of
importance in the people? No huge mills and gleaming forges, no din of
factories and throb of mines, nowhere any colossal centres for rushing,
multiform American energy. The answer must be: Judge the State thus far
as an agricultural State; the people as an agricultural people. In time
no doubt the rest will come. All other things are here, awaiting
occasion and development. The eastern portions of the State now verge
upon an era of long-delayed activity. There lie the mines, the
building-stone, the illimitable wealth of timbers; there soon will be
opened new fields for commercial and industrial centralization. But
hitherto in Kentucky it has seemed enough that the pulse of life should
beat with the heart of nature, and be in unison with the slow unfolding
and decadence of the seasons. The farmer can go no faster than the sun,
and is rich or poor by the law of planetary orbits. In all central
Kentucky not a single village of note has been founded within
three-quarters of a century, and some villages a hundred years old have
not succeeded in gaining even from this fecund race more than a thousand
or two thousand inhabitants. But these little towns are inaccessible to
the criticism that would assault their commercial greatness. Business is
not their boast. Sounded to its depths, the serene sea in which their
existence floats will reveal a bottom, not of mercantile, but of social
ideas; studied as to cost or comfort, the architecture in which the
people have expressed themselves will appear noticeable, not in their
business houses and public buildings, but in their homes. If these
towns pique themselves pointedly on anything, it is that they are the
centres of genial intercourse and polite entertainment. Even commercial
Louisville must find its peculiar distinction in the number of its
sumptuous private residences. It is wellnigh a rule that in Kentucky the
value of the house is out of proportion to the value of the estate.

But if the towns regard themselves as the provincial fortresses of good
society, they do not look down upon the home life of the country.
Between country and town in Kentucky exists a relation unique and well
to be studied: such a part of the population of the town owning or
managing estates in the country; such a part of the population of the
country being business or professional men in town. For it is strikingly
true that here all vocations and avocations of life may and do go with
tillage, and there are none it is not considered to adorn. The first
Governor of the State was awarded his domain for raising a crop of corn,
and laid down public life at last to renew his companionship with the
plough. "I retire," said Clay, many years afterwards, "to the shades of
Ashland." The present Governor (1888), a man of large wealth, lives,
when at home, in a rural log-house built near the beginning of the
century. His predecessor in office was a farmer. Hardly a man of note in
all the past or present history of the State but has had his near or
immediate origin in the woods and fields. Formerly it was the
custom--less general now--that young men should take their academic
degrees in the colleges of the United States, sometimes in those of
Europe, and, returning home, hang up their diplomas as votive offerings
to the god of boundaries. To-day you will find the ex-minister to a
foreign court spending his final years in the solitude of his
farm-house, and the representative at Washington making his retreat to
the restful homestead. The banker in town bethinks him of stocks at home
that know no panic; the clergyman studies St. Paul amid the native corn,
and muses on the surpassing beauty of David as he rides his favorite
horse through green pastures and beside still waters.

Hence, to be a farmer here implies no social inferiority, no rusticity,
no boorishness. Hence, so clearly interlaced are urban and rural society
that there results a homogeneousness of manners, customs, dress,
entertainments, ideals, and tastes. Hence, the infiltration of the
country with the best the towns contain. More, indeed, than this: rather
to the country than to the towns in Kentucky must one look for the local
history of the home life. There first was implanted under English and
Virginian influences the antique style of country-seat; there flourished
for a time gracious manners that were the high-born endowment of the
olden school; there in piquant contrast were developed side by side the
democratic and aristocratic spirits, working severally towards equality
and caste; there was established the State reputation for effusive
private hospitalities; and there still are peculiarly cherished the
fading traditions of more festive boards and kindlier hearthstones. If
the feeling of the whole people could be interpreted by a single saying,
it would perhaps be this: that whether in town or country--and if in the
country, not remotely here or there, but in wellnigh unbroken succession
from estate to estate--they have attained a notable stage in the
civilization of the home. This is the common conviction, this the idol
of the tribe. The idol itself may rest on the fact of provincial
isolation, which is the fortress of self-love and neighborly devotion;
but it suffices for the present purpose to say that it is an idol still,
worshipped for the divinity it is thought to enshrine. Hence you may
assail the Kentuckian on many grounds, and he will hold his peace. You
may tell him that he has no great cities, that he does not run with the
currents of national progress; but never tell him that the home life of
his fellows and himself is not as good as the best in the land.
Domesticity is the State porcupine, presenting an angry quill to every
point of attack. To write of homes in Kentucky, therefore, and
particularly of rural homes, is to enter the very citadel of the popular


At first they built for the tribe, working together like beavers in
common cause against nature and their enemies. Home life and domestic
architecture began among them with the wooden-fort community, the idea
of which was no doubt derived from the frontier defences of Virginia,
and modified by the Kentuckians with a view to domestic use. This
building habit culminated in the erection of some two hundred rustic
castles, the sites of which in some instances have been identified. It
was a singularly fit sort of structure, adjusting itself desperately and
economically to the necessities of environment. For the time society
lapsed into a state which, but for the want of lords and retainers, was
feudalism of the rudest kind. There were gates for sally and swift
retreat, bastions for defence, and loop-holes in cabin walls for deadly
volleys. There were hunting-parties winding forth stealthily without
horn or hound, and returning with game that would have graced the great
feudal halls. There was siege, too, and suffering, and death enough, God
knows, mingled with the lowing of cattle and the clatter of looms. Some
morning, even, you might have seen a slight girl trip covertly out to
the little cottonpatch in one corner of the enclosure, and, blushing
crimson over the snowy cotton-bolls, pick the wherewithal to spin her
bridal dress; for in these forts they married also and bore children.
Many a Kentucky family must trace its origin through the tribal
communities pent up within a stockade, and discover that the family
plate consisted then of a tin cup, and, haply, an iron fork.

But, as soon as might be, this compulsory village life broke eagerly
asunder into private homes. The common building form was that of the
log-house. It is needful to distinguish this from the log-house of the
mountaineer, which is found throughout eastern Kentucky to-day.
Encompassed by all difficulties, the pioneer yet reared himself a
better, more enduring habitation. One of these, still intact after the
lapse of more than a century, stands as a singularly interesting type of
its kind, and brings us face to face with primitive architecture.
"Mulberry Hill," a double house, two and a half stories high, with a
central hall, was built in Jefferson County, near Louisville, in 1785,
for John Clark, the father of General George Rogers Clark.

The settlers made the mistake of supposing that the country lacked
building-stone, so deep under the loam and verdure lay the whole
foundation rock; but soon they discovered that their better houses had
only to be taken from beneath their feet. The first stone house in the
State, and withal the most notable, is "Traveller's Rest," in Lincoln
County, built in 1783 by Governor Metcalf, who was then a stone-mason,
for Isaac Shelby, the first Governor of Kentucky. To those who know the
blue-grass landscape, this type of homestead is familiar enough, with
its solidity of foundation, great thickness of walls, enormous, low
chimneys, and little windows. The owners were the architects and
builders, and with stern, necessitous industry translated their
condition into their work, giving it an intensely human element. It
harmonized with need, not with feeling; was built by the virtues, and
not by the vanities. With no fine balance of proportion, with details
few, scant, and crude, the entire effect of the architecture was not
unpleasing, so honest was its poverty, so rugged and robust its purpose.
It was the gravest of all historic commentaries written in stone. Varied
fate has overtaken these old-time structures. Many have been torn down,
yielding their well-chosen sites to newer, showier houses. Others became
in time the quarters of the slaves. Others still have been hidden away
beneath weather-boarding--a veneer of commonplace modernism--as though
whitewashed or painted plank were finer than roughhewn gray-stone. But
one is glad to discover that in numerous instances they are the
preferred homes of those who have taste for the old in native history,
and pride in family associations and traditions. On the thinned, open
landscape nothing stands out with a more pathetic air of nakedness than
one of these stone houses, long since abandoned and fallen into ruin.
Under the Kentucky sky houses crumble and die without seeming to grow
old, without an aged toning down of colors, without the tender memorials
of mosses and lichens, and of the whole race of clinging things. So not
until they are quite overthrown does Nature reclaim them, or draw once
more to her bosom the walls and chimneys within whose faithful bulwarks,
and by whose cavernous, glowing recesses, our great-grandmothers and
great-grandfathers danced and made love, married, suffered, and fell

Neither to the house of logs, therefore, nor to that of stone must we
look for the earliest embodiment of positive taste in domestic
architecture. This found its first, and, considering the exigencies of
the period, its most noteworthy expression in the homestead of brick. No
finer specimen survives than that built in 1796, on a plan furnished by
Thomas Jefferson to John Brown, who had been his law student, remained
always his honored friend, and became one of the founders of the
commonwealth. It is a rich landmark, this old manor-place on the bank of
the Kentucky River, in Frankfort. The great hall with its pillared
archway is wide enough for dancing the Virginia reel. The suites
of high, spacious rooms; the carefully carved wood-work of the
window-casings and the doors; the tall, quaint mantel-frames; the deep
fireplaces with their shining fire-dogs and fenders of brass, brought
laboriously enough on pack-mules from Philadelphia; the brass
locks and keys; the portraits on the walls--all these bespeak the
early implantation in Kentucky of a taste for sumptuous life and
entertainment. The house is like a far-descending echo of colonial Old

Famous in its day--for it is already beneath the sod--and built not
of wood, nor of stone, nor of brick, but in part of all, was
"Chaumière," the home of David Meade during the closing years of the
last, and the early years of the present, century. The owner, a
Virginian who had been much in England, brought back with him
notions of the baronial style of country-seat, and in Jessamine
County, some ten miles from Lexington, built a home that lingers in
the mind like some picture of the imagination. It was a villa-like
place, a cluster of rustic cottages, with a great park laid out in
the style of Old World landscape-gardening. There were artificial
rivers spanned by bridges, and lakes with islands crowned by
temples. There were terraces and retired alcoves, and winding ways
cut through flowering thickets. A fortune was spent on the grounds;
a retinue of servants was employed in nurturing their beauty.
The dining-room, wainscoted with walnut and relieved by deep
window-seats, was rich with the family service of silver and glass;
on the walls of other rooms hung family portraits by Thomas Hudson
and Sir Joshua Reynolds. Two days in the week were appointed
for formal receptions. There Jackson and Monroe and Taylor were
entertained; there Aaron Burr was held for a time under arrest;
there the old school showed itself in buckles and knee-breeches, and
rode abroad in a yellow chariot with outriders in blue cloth and
silver buttons.

Near Lexington may be found a further notable example of early
architecture in the Todd homestead, the oldest house in the region,
built by the brother of John Todd, who was Governor of Kentucky
Territory, including Illinois. It is a strong, spacious brick
structure reared on a high foundation of stone, with a large, square
hall and square rooms in suites, connected by double doors. To the
last century also belongs the low, irregular pile that became the
Wickliffe, and later the Preston, house in Lexington--a striking
example of the taste then prevalent for plain, or even commonplace,
exteriors, if combined with interiors that touched the imagination
with the suggestion of something stately and noble and courtly.

These are a few types of homes erected in the last century. The wonder
is not that such places exist, but that they should have been found in
Kentucky at such a time. For society had begun as the purest of
democracies. Only a little while ago the people had been shut up within
a stockade. Stress of peril and hardship had levelled the elements of
population to more than a democracy: it had knit them together as one
endangered human brotherhood. Hence the sudden, fierce flaring up of
sympathy with the French Revolution; hence the deep re-echoing war-cry
of Jacobin emissaries. But scarcely had the wave of primitive conquest
flowed over the land, and wealth followed in its peaceful wake, before
life fell apart into the extremes of social caste. The memories of
former position, the influences of old domestic habits were powerful
still; so that, before a generation passed, Kentucky society gave proof
of the continuity of its development from Virginia. The region of the
James River, so rich in antique homesteads, began to renew itself in the
region of the blue-grass. On a new and larger canvas began to be painted
the picture of shaded lawns, wide portals, broad staircases, great
halls, drawing-rooms, and dining-rooms, wainscoting, carved wood-work,
and waxed hard-wood floors. In came a few yellow chariots, morocco-lined
and drawn by four horses. In came the powder, the wigs, and the queues,
the ruffled shirts, the knee-breeches, the glittering buckles, the
high-heeled slippers, and the frosty brocades. Over the Alleghanies, in
slow-moving wagons, came the massive mahogany furniture, the sunny
brasswork, the tall silver candlesticks, the nervous-looking, thin
legged little pianos. In came old manners and old speech and old
prides: the very Past gathered together its household gods and made an
exodus into the Future.

Without due regard to these essential facts the social system of the
State must ever remain poorly understood. Hitherto they have been but
little considered. To the popular imagination the most familiar type
of the early Kentuckian is that of the fighter, the hunter, the rude,
heroic pioneer and his no less heroic wife: people who left all things
behind them and set their faces westward, prepared to be new creatures
if such they could become. But on the dim historic background are the
stiff figures of another type, people who were equally bent on being
old-fashioned creatures if such they could remain. Thus, during the
final years of the last century and the first quarter of the present
one, Kentucky life was richly overlaid with ancestral models. Closely
studied, the elements of population by the close of this period
somewhat resembled a landed gentry, a robust yeomanry, a white
tenantry, and a black peasantry. It was only by degrees--by the dying
out of the fine old types of men and women, by longer absence from the
old environment and closer contact with the new--that society lost its
inherited and acquired its native characteristics, or became less
Virginian and more Kentuckian. Gradually, also, the white tenantry
waned and the black peasantry waxed. The aristocratic spirit, in
becoming more Kentuckian, unbent somewhat its pride, and the
democratic, in becoming more Kentuckian, took on a pride of its own;
so that when social life culminated with the first half-century, there
had been produced over the Blue-grass Region, by the intermingling of
the two, that widely diffused and peculiar type which may be described
as an aristocratic democracy, or a democratic aristocracy, according
to one's choosing of a phrase. The beginnings of Kentucky life
represented not simply a slow development from the rudest pioneer
conditions, but also a direct and immediate implantation of the best
of long-established social forms. And in nowise did the latter embody
itself more persuasively and lastingly than in the building of costly


With the opening of the present century, that taste had gone on
developing. A specimen of early architecture in the style of the old
English mansion is to be found in "Locust Grove," a massive and
enduring structure--not in the Blue-grass Region, it is true, but
several miles from Louisville--built in 1800 for Colonel Croghan,
brother-in-law of Gen. George Rogers Clark; and still another remains
in "Spring Hill," in Woodford County, the home of Nathaniel Hart, who
had been a boy in the fort at Boonesborough. Until recently a further
representative, though remodelled in later times, survived in the
Thompson place at "Shawnee Springs," in Mercer County.

Consider briefly the import of such country homes as
these--"Traveller's Rest," "Chaumière," "Spring Hill," and "Shawnee
Springs." Built remotely here and there, away from the villages or
before villages were formed, in a country not yet traversed by
limestone highways or even by lanes, they, and such as they, were the
beacon-lights, many-windowed and kind, of Kentucky entertainment.
"Traveller's Rest" was on the great line of emigration from Abingdon
through Cumberland Gap. Its roof-tree was a boon of universal shelter,
its very name a perpetual invitation to all the weary. Long after the
country became thickly peopled it, and such places as it, remained the
rallying-points of social festivity in their several counties, or drew
their guests from remoter regions. They brought in the era of
hospitalities, which by-and-by spread through the towns and over the
land. If one is ever to study this trait as it flowered to perfection
in Kentucky life, one must look for it in the society of some fifty
years ago. Then horses were kept in the stables, servants were kept in
the halls. Guests came uninvited, unannounced; tables were regularly
set for surprises. "Put a plate," said an old Kentuckian of the time
with a large family connection--"always put a plate for the last one
of them down to the youngest grandchild." What a Kentuckian would have
thought of being asked to come on the thirteenth of the month
and to leave on the twentieth, it is difficult to imagine. The
wedding-presents of brides were not only jewels and silver and gold,
but a round of balls. The people were laughed at for their too
impetuous civilities. In whatever quarter of the globe they should
happen to meet for the hour a pleasing stranger, they would say in
parting, "And when you come to Kentucky, be certain to come to my

Yet it is needful to discriminate, in speaking of Kentucky
hospitality. Universally gracious towards the stranger, and quick to
receive him for his individual worth, within the State hospitality ran
in circles, and the people turned a piercing eye on one another's
social positions. If in no other material aspect did they embody the
history of descent so sturdily as in the building of homes, in no
other trait of home life did they reflect this more clearly than in
family pride. Hardly a little town but had its classes that never
mingled; scarce a rural neighborhood but insisted on the sanctity of
its salt-cellar and the gloss of its mahogany. The spirit of caste was
somewhat Persian in its gravity. Now the Alleghanies were its
background, and the heroic beginnings of Kentucky life supplied its
warrant; now it overleaped the Alleghanies, and allied itself to the
memories of deeds and names in older States. But if some professed to
look down, none professed to look up. Deference to an upper class, if
deference existed, was secret and resentful, not open and servile. The
history of great political contests in the State is largely the
victory and defeat of social types. Herein lies a difficulty: you
touch any point of Kentucky life, and instantly about it cluster
antagonisms and contradictions. The false is true; the true is false.
Society was aristocratic; it was democratic; it was neither; it was
both. There was intense family pride, and no family pride. The
ancestral sentiment was weak, and it was strong. To-day you will
discover the increasing vogue of an _heraldica Kentuckiensis_, and
to-day an absolute disregard of a distinguished past. One tells but
partial truths.

Of domestic architecture in a brief and general way something has been
said. The prevailing influence was Virginian, but in Lexington and
elsewhere may be observed evidences of French ideas in the glasswork
and designs of doors and windows, in rooms grouped around a central
hall with arching niches and alcoves; for models made their way from
New Orleans as well as from the East. Out in the country, however, at
such places as those already mentioned, and in homes nearer town, as
at Ashland, a purely English taste was sometimes shown for woodland
parks with deer, and, what was more peculiarly Kentuckian, elk and
buffalo. This taste, once so conspicuous, has never become extinct,
and certainly the landscape is receptive enough to all such stately
purposes. At "Spring Hill" and elsewhere, to-day, one may stroll
through woods that have kept a touch of their native wildness. There
was the English love of lawns, too, with a low matted green turf
and wide-spreading shade-trees above--elm and maple, locust and
poplar--the English fondness for a home half hidden with evergreens
and creepers and shrubbery, to be approached by a leafy avenue, a
secluded gate-way, and a gravelled drive; for highways hardly admit to
the heart of rural life in Kentucky, and way-side homes, to be dusted
and gazed at by every passer-by, would little accord with the spirit
of the people. This feeling of family seclusion and completeness also
portrayed itself very tenderly in the custom of family graveyards,
which were in time to be replaced by the democratic cemetery; and no
one has ever lingered around those quiet spots of aged and drooping
cedars, fast-fading violets, and perennial myrtle, without being made
to feel that they grew out of the better heart and fostered the finer

Another evidence of culture among the first generations of Kentuckians
is to be seen in the private collections of portraits, among which one
wanders now with a sort of stricken feeling that the higher life of
Kentucky in this regard never went beyond its early promise. Look into
the meagre history of native art, and you will discover that nearly all
the best work belongs to this early time. It was possible then that a
Kentuckian could give up law and turn to painting. Almost in the
wilderness Jouett created rich, luminous, startling canvases. Artists
came from older States to sojourn and to work, and were invited or
summoned from abroad. Painting was taught in Lexington in 1800. Well for
Jouett, perhaps, that he lived when he did; better for Hart, perhaps,
that he was not born later: they might have run for Congress. One is
prone to recur time and again to this period, when the ideals of
Kentucky life were still wavering or unformed, and when there was the
greatest receptivity to outside impressions. Thinking of social life as
it was developed, say in and around Lexington--of artists coming and
going, of the statesmen, the lecturers, the lawyers, of the dignity and
the energy of character, of the intellectual dinners--one is inclined to
liken the local civilization to a truncated cone, to a thing that should
have towered to a symmetric apex, but somehow has never risen very high
above a sturdy base.

But to speak broadly of home life after it became more typically
Kentuckian, and after architecture began to reflect with greater
uniformity the character of the people. And here one can find material
comfort, if not æsthetic delight; for it is the whole picture of human
life in the Blue-grass Region that pleases. Ride east and west, or
north and south, along highway or by-way, and the picture is the same.
One almost asks for relief from the monotony of a merely well-to-do
existence, almost sighs for the extremes of squalor and splendor, that
nowhere may be seen, and that would seem so out of place if anywhere
confronted. On, and on, and on you go, seeing only the repetition of
field and meadow, wood and lawn, a winding stream, an artificial pond, a
sunny vineyard, a blooming orchard, a stone-wall, a hedge-row, a tobacco
barn, a warehouse, a race-track, cattle under the trees, sheep on the
slopes, swine in the pools, and, half hidden by evergreens and
shrubbery, the homelike, unpretentious houses that crown very simply and
naturally the entire picture of material prosperity. They strike you as
built not for their own sakes. Few will offer anything that lays hold
upon the memory, unless it be perhaps a front portico with Doric, Ionic,
or Corinthian columns; for the typical Kentuckian likes to go into his
house through a classic entrance, no matter what inharmonious things may
be beyond; and after supper on summer evenings nothing fills him with
serener comfort than to tilt his chair back against a classic support,
as he smokes a pipe and argues on the immortality of a pedigree.

On the whole, one feels that nature has long waited for a more exquisite
sense in domestic architecture; that the immeasurable possibilities of
delightful landscape have gone unrecognized or wasted. Too often there
is in form and outline no harmony with the spirit of the scenery, and
there is dissonance of color--color which makes the first and strongest
impression. The realm of taste is prevailingly the realm of the want of
taste, or of its meretricious and commonplace violations. Many of the
houses have a sort of featureless, cold, insipid ugliness, and interior
and exterior decorations are apt to go for nothing or for something
worse. You repeat that nature awaits more art, since she made the land
so kind to beauty; for no transformation of a rude, ungenial landscape
is needed. The earth does not require to be trimmed and combed and
perfumed. The airy vistas and delicate slopes are ready-made, the
parklike woodlands invite, the tender, clinging children of the summer,
the deep, echoless repose of the whole land, all ask that art be laid on
every undulation and stored in every nook. And there are days with such
Arcadian colors in air and cloud and sky--days with such panoramas of
calm, sweet pastoral groups and harmonies below, such rippling and
flashing of waters through green underlights and golden interspaces,
that the shy, coy spirit of beauty seems to be wandering half sadly
abroad and shunning all the haunts of man.

But little agricultural towns are not art-centres. Of itself rural life
does not develop æsthetic perceptions, and the last, most difficult
thing to bring into the house is this shy, elusive spirit of beauty.
The Kentucky woman has perhaps been corrupted in childhood by tasteless
surroundings. Her lovable mission, the creation of a multitude of small,
lovely objects, is undertaken feebly and blindly. She may not know how
to create beauty, may not know what beauty is. The temperament of her
lord, too, is practical: a man of substance and stomach, sound at heart,
and with an abiding sense of his own responsibility and importance,
honestly insisting on sweet butter and new-laid eggs, home-made bread
and home-grown mutton, but little revelling in the delicacies of
sensibility, and with no more eye for crimson poppies or blue
corn-flowers in his house than amid his grain. Many a Kentucky woman
would make her home beautiful if her husband would allow her to do it.

Amid a rural people, also, no class of citizens is more influential than
the clergy, who go about as the shepherds of the right; and without
doubt in Kentucky, as elsewhere, ministerial ideals have wrought their
effects on taste in architecture. Perhaps it is well to state that this
is said broadly, and particularly of the past. The Kentucky preachers
during earlier times were a fiery, zealous, and austere set, proclaiming
that this world was not a home, but wilderness of sin, and exhorting
their people to live under the awful shadow of Eternity. Beauty in every
material form was a peril, the seductive garment of the devil. Wellnigh
all that made for æsthetic culture was put down, and, like frost on
venturesome flowers, sermons fell on beauty in dress, entertainment,
equipage, houses, church architecture, music, the drama, the
opera--everything. The meek young spirit was led to the creek or pond,
and perhaps the ice was broken for her baptism. If, as she sat in the
pew, any vision of her chaste loveliness reached the pulpit, back came
the warning that she would some day turn into a withered hag, and must
inevitably be "eaten of worms." What wonder if the sense of beauty pined
or went astray, and found itself completely avenged in the building of
such churches? And yet there is nothing that even religion more surely
demands than the fostering of the sense of beauty within us, and through
this also we work towards the civilization of the future.


Many rural homes have been built since the war, but the old type of
country life has vanished. On the whole, there has been a strong
movement of population towards the towns, rapidly augmenting their
size. Elements of showiness and freshness have been added to their
once unobtrusive architecture. And, in particular, that art movement
and sudden quickening of the love of beauty which swept over this
country a few years since has had its influence here. But for the most
part the newer homes are like the newer homes in other American
cities, and the style of interior appointment and decoration has few
native characteristics. As a rule the people love the country life
less than of yore, since an altered social system has deprived it of
much leisure, and has added hardships. The Kentuckian does not regard
it as part of his mission in life to feed fodder to stock; and
servants are hard to get, the colored ladies and gentlemen having
developed a taste for urban society.

What is to be the future of the Blue-grass Region? When population
becomes denser and the pressure is felt in every neighborhood, who will
possess it? One seems to see in certain tendencies of American life the
probable answer to this question. The small farmer will be bought out,
and will disappear. Estates will grow fewer and larger. The whole land
will pass into the hands of the rich, being too precious for the poor to
own. Already here and there one notes the disposition to create vast
domains by the slow swallowing up of contiguous small ones. Consider in
this connection the taste already shown by the rich American in certain
parts of the United States to found a country-place in the style of an
English lord. Consider, too, that the landscape is much like the
loveliest of rural England; that the trees, the grass, the sculpture of
the scenery are such as make the perfect beauty of a park; that the fox,
the bob-white, the thoroughbred, and the deer are indigenous.
Apparently, therefore, one can foresee the distant time when this will
become the region of splendid homes and estates that will nourish a
taste for out-door sports and offer an escape from the too-wearying
cities. On the other hand, a powerful and ever-growing interest is that
of the horse, racer or trotter. He brings into the State his increasing
capital, his types of men. Year after year he buys farms, and lays out
tracks, and builds stables, and edits journals, and turns agriculture
into grazing. In time the Blue-grass Region may become the Yorkshire of

But let the future have its own. The country will become theirs who
deserve it, whether they build palaces or barns. One only hopes that
when the old homesteads have been torn down or have fallen into ruins,
the tradition may still run that they, too, had their day and deserved
their page of history.



Fresh fields lay before us that summer of 1885. We had left the rich,
rolling plains of the Blue-grass Region in central Kentucky and set
our faces towards the great Appalachian uplift on the south-eastern
border of the State. There Cumberland Gap, that high-swung gate-way
through the mountain, abides as a landmark of what Nature can do when
she wishes to give an opportunity to the human race in its migrations
and discoveries, without surrendering control of its liberty and its
fate. It can never be too clearly understood by those who are wont to
speak of "the Kentuckians" that this State has within its boundaries
two entirely distinct elements of population--elements distinct in
England before they came hither, distinct during more than a century
of residence here, and distinct now in all that goes to constitute a
separate community--occupations, manners and customs, dress, views of
life, civilization. It is but a short distance from the blue-grass
country to the eastern mountains; but in traversing it you detach
yourself from all that you have ever experienced, and take up the
history of English-speaking men and women at the point it had reached
a hundred or a hundred and fifty years ago.

Leaving Lexington, then, which is in the midst of the blue-grass
plateau, we were come to Burnside, where begin the navigable waters of
the Cumberland River, and the foot-hills of the Cumberland Mountains.

Burnside is not merely a station, but a mountain watering-place. The
water is mostly in the bed of the river. We had come hither to get
horses and saddle-bags, but to no purpose. The hotel was a sort of
transition point between the civilization we had left and the primitive
society we were to enter. On the veranda were some distinctly modern and
conventional red chairs; but a green and yellow gourd-vine, carefully
trained so as to shut out the landscape, was a genuine bit of local
color. Under the fine beeches in the yard was swung a hammock, but it
was made of boards braced between ropes, and was covered with a
weather-stained piece of tarpaulin. There were electric bells in the
house that did not electrify; and near the front entrance three barrels
of Irish potatoes, with the tops off, spoke for themselves in the
absence of the bill of fare. After supper, the cook, a tall, blue-eyed,
white fellow, walked into my room without explanation, and carried away
his guitar, showing that he had been wont to set his sighs to music in
that quarter of the premises. The moon hung in that part of the
heavens, and no doubt ogled him into many a midnight frenzy. Sitting
under a beech-tree in the morning, I had watched a child from some city,
dressed in white and wearing a blue ribbon around her goldenish hair,
amuse herself by rolling old barrels (potato barrels probably, and she
may have had a motive) down the hill-side and seeing them dashed to
pieces on the railway track below. By-and-by some of the staves of one
fell in, the child tumbled in also, and they all rolled over together.
Upon the whole, it was an odd overlapping of two worlds. When the
railway was first opened through this region a young man established a
fruit store at one of the stations, and as part of his stock laid in a
bunch of bananas. One day a mountaineer entered. Arrangements generally
struck him with surprise, but everything else was soon forgotten in an
adhesive contemplation of that mighty aggregation of fruit. Finally he
turned away with this comment: "Damn me if them ain't the damnedest
beans _I_ ever seen!"


The scenery around Burnside is beautiful, and the climate bracing. In
the valleys was formerly a fine growth of walnut, but the principal
timbers now are oak, ash, and sycamore, with yellow pine. I heard of a
wonderful walnut tree formerly standing, by hiring vehicles to go and
see which the owner of a livery-stable made three hundred and fifty
dollars. Six hundred were offered for it on the spot. The hills are
filled with the mountain limestone--that Kentucky oolite of which the
new Cotton Exchange in New York is built. Here was Burnside's depot of
supplies during the war, and here passed the great road--made in part a
corduroy road at his order--from Somerset, Kentucky, to Jacksborough,
over which countless stores were taken from central Kentucky and regions
farther north into Tennessee. Supplies were brought up the river in
small steamboats or overland in wagons, and when the road grew
impassable, pack-mules were used. Sad sights there were in those sad
days: the carcasses of animals at short intervals from here to
Knoxville, and now and then a mule sunk up to his body in mire, and
abandoned, with his pack on, to die. Here were batteries planted and
rifle-pits dug, the vestiges of which yet remain; but where the forest
timbers were then cut down a vigorous new growth has long been
reclaiming the earth to native wildness, and altogether the aspect of
the place is peaceful and serene. Doves were flying in and out of the
cornfields on the hill-sides; there were green stretches in the valleys
where cattle were grazing; and these, together with a single limestone
road that wound upward over a distant ridge, recalled the richer scenes
of the blue-grass lands.

Assured that we should find horses and saddlebags at Cumberland Falls,
we left Burnside in the afternoon, and were soon set down at a station
some fifteen miles farther along, where a hack conveyed us to another
of those mountain watering-places that are being opened up in various
parts of eastern Kentucky for the enjoyment of a people that has never
cared to frequent in large numbers the Atlantic seaboard.


As we drove on, the darkness was falling, and the scenery along the road
grew wilder and grander. A terrific storm had swept over these heights,
and the great trees lay uptorn and prostrate in every direction, or
reeled and fell against each other like drunken giants--a scene of
fearful elemental violence. On the summits one sees the tan-bark oak;
lower down, the white oak; and lower yet, fine specimens of yellow
poplar; while from the valleys to the crests is a dense and varied
undergrowth, save where the ground has been burned over, year after
year, to kill it out and improve the grazing. Twenty miles to the
south-east we had seen through the pale-tinted air the waving line of
Jellico Mountains in Tennessee. Away to the north lay the Beaver Creek
and the lower Cumberland, while in front of us rose the craggy, scowling
face of Anvil Rock, commanding a view of Kentucky, Tennessee, and
Virginia. The utter silence and heart-oppressing repose of primeval
nature was around us. The stark white and gray trunks of the immemorial
forest dead linked us to an inviolable past. The air seemed to blow upon
us from over regions illimitable and unexplored, and to be fraught with
unutterable suggestions. The full-moon swung itself aloft over the sharp
touchings of the green with spectral pallor; and the evening-star stood
lustrous on the western horizon in depths of blue as cold as a sky of
Landseer, except where brushed by tremulous shadows of rose on the verge
of the sunlit world. A bat wheeled upward in fantastic curves out of his
undiscovered glade. And the soft tinkle of a single cow-bell far below
marked the invisible spot of some lonely human habitation. By-and-by we
lost sight of the heavens altogether, so dense and interlaced the
forest. The descent of the hack appeared to be into a steep abyss of
gloom; then all at once we broke from the edge of the woods into a
flood of moonlight; at our feet were the whirling, foaming rapids of the
river; in our ears was the roar of the cataract, where the bow-crowned
mist rose and floated upward and away in long trailing shapes of
ethereal lightness.


The Cumberland River throws itself over the rocks here with a fall of
seventy feet, or a perpendicular descent of sixty-two, making a mimic
but beautiful Niagara. Just below, at Eagle Falls, it drops over its
precipice in a lawny cascade. The roar of the cataract, under favorable
conditions, may be heard up and down stream a distance of ten or twelve
miles. You will not find in mountainous Kentucky a more picturesque

While here, we had occasion to extend our acquaintance with native
types. Two young men came to the hotel, bringing a bag of small, hard
peaches to sell. Slim, slab-sided, stomachless, and serene, mild, and
melancholy, they might have been lotos-eaters, only the suggestion of
poetry was wanting. Their unutterable content came not from the lotus,
but from their digestion. If they could sell their peaches, they would
be happy; if not, they would be happy. What they could not sell, they
could as well eat; and since no bargain was made on this occasion,
they took chairs on the hotel veranda, opened the bag, and fell to. I
talked with the Benjamin of his tribe:

"Is that a good 'coon dog?"

"A mighty good 'coon dog. I hain't never seed him whipped by a varmint

"Are there many 'coons in this country?"

"Several 'coons."

"Is this a good year for 'coons?"

"A mighty good year for 'coons. The woods is full o' varmints."

"Do 'coons eat corn?"

"'Coons is bad as hogs on corn, when they git tuk to it."

"Are there many wild turkeys in this country?"

"Several wild turkeys."

"Have you ever caught many 'coons?"

"I've cotched high as five 'coons out o' one tree."

"Are there many foxes in this country?"

"Several foxes."

"What's the best way to cook a 'coon?"

"Ketch him and parbile him, and then put him in cold water and soak
him, and then put him in and bake him."

"Are there many hounds in this country?"

"Several hounds."

Here, among other discoveries, was a linguistic one--the use of
"several" in the sense of a great many, probably an innumerable
multitude, as in the case of the 'coons.

They hung around the hotel for hours, as beings utterly exempt from
all the obligations and other phenomena of time.

     "Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things?"

The guide bespoken the evening before had made arrangements for our
ride of some eighteen miles--was it not forty?--to Williamsburg; and
in the afternoon made his appearance with three horses. Of these one
was a mule, with a strong leaning towards his father's family. Of the
three saddles one was a side-saddle, and another was an army saddle
with refugee stirrups. The three beasts wore among them some seven
shoes. My own mincing jade had none. Her name must have been Helen of
Troy (all horses are named in Kentucky), so long ago had her great
beauty disappeared. She partook with me of the terror which her own
movements inspired; and if there ever was a well-defined case in which
the man should have carried the beast, this was the one. While on her
back I occasionally apologized for the injustice of riding her by
handing her some sour apples, the like of which she appeared never to
have tasted before, just as it was told me she had never known the
luxury of wearing shoes. It is often true that the owner of a horse in
this region is too poor or too mean to have it shod.

Our route from Cumberland Falls lay through what is called "Little
Texas," in Whitley County--a wilderness some twenty miles square. I
say route, because there was not always a road; but for the guide,
there would not always have been a direction. Rough as the country
appears to one riding through it on horseback, it is truly called
"flat woods country;" and viewed from Jellico Mountains, whence the
local elevations are of no account, it looks like one vast sweep of
sloping, densely-wooded land. Here one may see noble specimens of
yellow poplar in the deeper soil at the head of the ravines; pin-oak,
and gum and willow, and the rarely beautiful wild-cucumber. Along the
streams in the lowlands blooms the wild calacanthus, filling the air
with fragrance, and here in season the wild camellia throws open its
white and purple splendors.

It was not until we had passed out of "Little Texas" and reached
Williamsburg, had gone thence to Barbourville, the county-seat of the
adjoining county of Knox, and thence again into Bell County, that we
stopped at an old way-side inn on the Wilderness road from Kentucky
through Cumberland Gap. Around us were the mountains--around us the
mountaineers whom we wished to study.

[Illustration: CUMBERLAND FALLS.]


Straight, slim, angular, white bodies; average or even unusual stature,
without great muscular robustness; features regular and colorless;
unanimated but intelligent; in the men sometimes fierce; in the women
often sad; among the latter occasional beauty of a pure Greek type; a
manner shy and deferential, but kind and fearless; eyes with a slow,
long look of mild inquiry, or of general listlessness, or of unconscious
and unaccountable melancholy; the key of life a low minor strain, losing
itself in reverie; voices monotonous in intonation; movements uninformed
by nervousness--these are characteristics of the Kentucky mountaineers.
Living to-day as their forefathers lived a hundred years ago; hearing
little of the world, caring nothing for it; responding feebly to the
influences of civilization near the highways of travel in and around the
towns, and latterly along the lines of railway communication; but sure
to live here, if uninvaded and unaroused, in the same condition for a
hundred years to come; lacking the spirit of development from within;
devoid of sympathy with that boundless and ungovernable activity
which is carrying the Saxon race in America from one state to another,
whether better or worse. The origin of these people, the relation they
sustain to the different population of the central Kentucky region--in
fine, an account of them from the date of their settling in these
mountains to the present time, when, as it seems, they are on the point
of losing their isolation, and with it their distinctiveness--would
imprison phases of life and character valuable alike to the special
history of this country and to the general history of the human mind.

The land in these mountains is all claimed, but it is probably not all
covered by actual patent. As evidence, a company has been formed to
speculate in lands not secured by title. The old careless way of marking
off boundaries by going from tree to tree, by partly surveying and
partly guessing, explains the present uncertainty. Many own land by
right of occupancy, there being no other claim. The great body of the
people live on and cultivate little patches which they either own, or
hold free, or pay rent for with a third of the crop. These not
unfrequently get together and trade farms as they would horses, no deed
being executed. There is among them a mobile element--squatters--who
make a hill-side clearing and live on it as long as it remains
productive; then they move elsewhere. This accounts for the presence
throughout the country of abandoned cabins, around which a new forest
growth is springing up. Leaving out of consideration the few instances
of substantial prosperity, the most of the people are abjectly poor, and
they appear to have no sense of accumulation. The main crops raised are
corn and potatoes. In the scant gardens will be seen patches of cotton,
sorghum, and tobacco; flax also, though less than formerly. Many make
insufficient preparation for winter, laying up no meat, but buying a
piece of bacon now and then, and paying for it with work. In some
regions the great problem of life is to raise two dollars and a half
during the year for county taxes. Being pauper counties, they are exempt
from State taxation. Jury fees are highly esteemed and much sought
after. The manufacture of illicit mountain whiskey--"moonshine"--was
formerly, as it is now, a considerable source of revenue; and a
desperate sub-source of revenue from the same business has been the
betrayal of its hidden places. There is nothing harder or more dangerous
to find now in the mountains than a still.

[Illustration: NATIVE TYPES.]

Formerly digging "sang," as they call ginseng, was a general occupation.
For this China was a great market. It has nearly all been dug out except
in the wildest parts of the country, where entire families may still be
seen "out sangin'." They took it into the towns in bags, selling it at a
dollar and ten cents--perhaps a dollar and a half--a pound. This was
mainly the labor of the women and the children, who went to work
barefooted, amid briers and chestnut burs, copperheads and rattlesnakes.
Indeed, the women prefer to go barefooted, finding shoes a trouble and
constraint. It was a sad day for the people when the "sang" grew scarce.
A few years ago one of the counties was nearly depopulated in
consequence of a great exodus into Arkansas, whence had come the news
that "sang" was plentiful. Not long since, during a season of scarcity
in corn, a local store-keeper told the people of a county to go out and
gather all the mandrake or "May-apple" root they could find. At first
only the women and children went to work, the men holding back with
ridicule. By-and-by they also took part, and that year some fifteen tons
were gathered, at three cents a pound, and the whole country thus got
its seed-corn. Wild ginger was another root formerly much dug; also to
less extent "golden-seal" and "bloodroot." The sale of feathers from a
few precarious geese helps to eke out subsistence. Their methods of
agriculture--if methods they may be styled--are the most primitive.
Ploughing is commonly done with a "bull-tongue," an implement hardly
more than a sharpened stick with a metal rim; this is often drawn by an
ox, or a half-yoke. But one may see women ploughing with two oxen.
Traces are made of hickory or papaw, as also are bed-cords. Ropes are
made of lynn bark. In some counties there is not so much as a
fanning-mill, grain being winnowed by pouring it from basket to basket,
after having been threshed with a flail, which is a hickory withe some
seven feet long. Their threshing-floor is a clean place on the ground,
and they take up grain, gravel, and dirt together, not knowing, or not
caring for, the use of a sieve.


The grain is ground at their homes in a hand tub-mill, or one made by
setting the nether millstone in a bee-gum, or by cutting a hole in a
puncheon-log and sinking the stone into it. There are, however, other
kinds of mills: the primitive little water-mill, which may be
considered almost characteristic of this region; in a few places
improved water-mills, and small steam-mills. It is the country
of mills, farm-houses being furnished with one as with coffee-pot or
spinning-wheel. A simpler way of preparing corn for bread than by even
the hand-mill is used in the late summer and early autumn, while the
grain is too hard for eating as roasting-ears, and too soft to be ground
in a mill. On a board is tacked a piece of tin through which holes have
been punched from the under side, and over this tin the ears are rubbed,
producing a coarse meal, of which "gritted bread" is made. Much pleasure
and much health they get from their "gritted bread," which is sweet and
wholesome for a hungry man.

Where civilization has touched on the highways and the few improved
mills have been erected, one may see women going to mill with their
scant sacks of grain, riding on a jack, a jennet, or a bridled ox. But
this is not so bad as in North Carolina, where, Europa like, they ride
on bulls.

Aside from such occupations, the men have nothing to do--a little work
in the spring, and nine months' rest. They love to meet at the country
groceries and cross-roads, to shoot matches for beef, turkeys, or
liquor, and to gamble. There is with them a sort of annual succession
of amusements. In its season they have the rage for pitching horseshoes,
the richer ones using dollar pieces. In consequence of their abundant
leisure, the loneliness of the mountains, and their bravery and vigor,
quarrels are frequent and feuds deadly. Personal enmities soon serve to
array entire families in an attitude of implacable hostility; and in the
course of time relatives and friends take sides, and a war of
extermination ensues. The special origins of these feuds are various:
blood heated and temper lost under the influence of "moonshine;"
reporting the places and manufacturers of this; local politics; the
survival of resentments engendered during the Civil War. These, together
with all causes that lie in the passions of the human heart and spring
from the constitution of all human society, often make the remote and
insulated life of these people turbulent, reckless, and distressing.

But while thus bitter and cruel towards each other, they present to
strangers the aspect of a polite, kind, unoffending, and most hospitable
race. They will divide with you shelter and warmth and food, however
scant, and will put themselves to trouble for your convenience with an
unreckoning, earnest friendliness and good-nature that is touching to
the last degree. No sham, no pretence; a true friend, or an open enemy.
Of late they have had much occasion to regard new-comers with distrust,
which, once aroused, is difficult to dispel; and now they will wish to
know you and your business before treating you with that warmth which
they are only too glad to show.

The women do most of the work. From the few sheep, running wild, which
the farm may own, they take the wool, which is carded, reeled, spun, and
woven into fabrics by their own hands and on their rude implements. One
or two spinning-wheels will be found in every house. Cotton from their
little patches they clean by using a primitive hand cotton-gin. Flax,
much spun formerly, is now less used. It is surprising to see from what
appliances they will bring forth exquisite fabrics: garments for
personal wear, bedclothes, and the like. When they can afford it they
make carpets.

They have, as a rule, luxuriant hair. In some counties one is struck by
the purity of the Saxon type, and their faces in early life are often
handsome. But one hears that in certain localities they are prone to
lose their teeth, and that after the age of thirty-five it is a rare
thing to see a woman whose teeth are not partly or wholly wanting. The
reason is not apparent. They appear passionately fond of dress, and
array themselves in gay colors and in jewelry (pinchbeck), if their
worldly estate justifies the extravagance. Oftener, if young, they have
a modest, shy air, as if conscious that their garb is not decorous.
Whether married or unmarried, they show much natural diffidence. It
is told that in remoter districts of the mountains they are not allowed
to sit at the table with the male members of the household, but serve
them as in ancient societies. Commonly, in going to church, the men ride
and carry the children, while the women walk. Dancing in some regions is
hardly known, but in others is a favorite amusement, and in its
movements men and women show grace. The mountain preachers oppose it as
a sin.


Marriages take place early. They are a fecund race. I asked them time
and again to fix upon the average number of children to a family, and
they gave as the result seven. In case of parental opposition to
wedlock, the lovers run off. There is among the people a low standard of
morality in their domestic relations, the delicate privacies of home
life having little appreciation where so many persons, without regard to
age or sex, are crowded together within very limited quarters.

The dwellings--often mere cabins with a single room--are built of
rough-hewn logs, chinked or daubed, though not always. Often there is a
puncheon floor and no chamber roof. One of these mountaineers, called
into court to testify as to the household goods of a defendant neighbor,
gave in as the inventory, a string of pumpkins, a skillet without a
handle, and "a wild Bill." "A wild Bill" is a bed made by boring
auger-holes into a log, driving sticks into these, and overlaying them
with hickory bark and sedge-grass--a favorite couch. The low chimneys,
made usually of laths daubed, are so low that the saying, inelegant
though true, is current, that you may sit by the fire inside and spit
out over the top. The cracks in the walls are often large enough to give
ingress and egress to child or dog. Even cellars are little known,
potatoes sometimes being kept during winter in a hole dug under the
hearthstone. More frequently a trap-door is made through the plank
flooring in the middle of the room, and in a hole beneath are put
potatoes, and, in case of wealth, jellies and preserves. Despite the
wretchedness of their habitations and the rigors of mountain climate,
they do not suffer with cold, and one may see them out in snow knee-deep
clad in low brogans, and nothing heavier than a jeans coat and

The customary beverage is coffee, bitter and black, not having been
roasted but burnt. All drink it, from the youngest up. Another beverage
is "mountain tea," which is made from the sweet-scented golden-rod and
from winter-green--the New England checkerberry. These decoctions they
mollify with home-made sorghum molasses, which they call "long
sweetening," or with sugar, which by contrast is known as "short

Of home government there is little or none, boys especially setting
aside at will parental authority; but a sort of traditional sense of
duty and decorum restrains them by its silent power, and moulds them
into respect. Children while quite young are often plump to roundness,
but soon grow thin and white and meagre like the parents. There is
little desire for knowledge or education. The mountain schools have
sometimes less than half a dozen pupils during the few months they are
in session. A gentleman who wanted a coal bank opened, engaged for the
work a man passing along the road. Some days later he learned that his
workman was a schoolteacher, who, in consideration of the seventy-five
cents a day, had dismissed his academy.


Many, allured by rumors from the West, have migrated thither, but nearly
all come back, from love of the mountains, from indisposition to cope
with the rush and vigor and enterprise of frontier life. Theirs, they
say, is a good lazy man's home.

Their customs respecting the dead are interesting. When a husband dies
his funeral sermon is not preached, but the death of the wife is
awaited, and vice versa. Then a preacher is sent for, friend and
neighbor called in, and the respect is paid both together. Often two or
three preachers are summoned, and each delivers a sermon. More peculiar
is the custom of having the services for one person repeated; so that
the dead get their funerals preached several times, months and years
after their burial. I heard of the pitiful story of two sisters who had
their mother's funeral preached once every summer as long as they lived.
You may engage the women in mournful conversation respecting the dead,
but hardly the men. In strange contrast with this regard for ceremonial
observances is their neglect of the graves of their beloved, which they
do not seem at all to visit when once closed, or to decorate with those
symbols of affection which are the common indications of bereavement.

Nothing that I have ever seen is so lonely, so touching in its neglect
and wild, irreparable solitude, as one of these mountain graveyards. On
some knoll under a clump of trees, or along some hill-side where
dense oak-trees make a mid-day gloom, you walk amid the unknown,
undistinguishable dead. Which was father and which mother, where are
lover and stricken sweetheart, whether this is the dust of laughing babe
or crooning grandam, you will never know: no foot-stones, no
head-stones; sometimes a few rough rails laid around, as you would make
a little pen for swine. In places, however, one sees a picket-fence put
up, or a sort of shed built over.

[Illustration: A MOUNTAINEER DAME.]

Traditions and folk-lore among them are evanescent, and vary widely in
different localities. It appears that in part they are sprung from the
early hunters who came into the mountains when game was abundant, sport
unfailing, living cheap. Among them now are still-hunters, who know the
haunts of bear and deer, needing no dogs. They even now prefer wild
meat--even "'possum" and "'coon" and ground-hog--to any other. In Bell
County I spent the day in the house of a woman eighty years old, who was
a lingering representative of a nearly extinct type. She had never been
out of the neighborhood of her birth, knew the mountains like a garden,
had whipped men in single-handed encounter, brought down many a deer and
wild turkey with her own rifle, and now, infirm, had but to sit in her
cabin door and send her trained dogs into the depths of the forests to
discover the wished-for game. A fiercer woman I never looked on.


Our course now lay direct towards Cumberland Gap, some twenty miles
southward. Our road ran along the bank of the Cumberland River to the
ford, the immemorial crossing-place of early travel--and a beautiful
spot--thence to Pineville, situated in that narrow opening in Pine
Mountain where the river cuts it, and thence through the valley of
Yellow Creek to the wonderful pass. The scenery in this region is one
succession of densely wooded mountains, blue-tinted air, small
cultivated tracts in the fertile valleys, and lovely watercourses.

Along the first part of our route the river slips crystal-clear over its
rocky bed, and beneath the lone green pendent branches of the trees that
crowd the banks. At the famous ford it was only two or three feet deep
at the time of our crossing. This is a historic point. Here was one of
the oldest settlements in the country; here the Federal army destroyed
the houses and fences during the Civil War; and here Zollikoffer came to
protect the Kentucky gate that opens into East Tennessee. At Pineville,
just beyond, we did not remain long. For some reasons not clearly
understood by travellers, a dead-line had been drawn through the midst
of the town, and not knowing on which side we were entitled to stand,
we hastened on to a place where we might occupy neutral ground.

The situation is strikingly picturesque: the mountain looks as if cleft
sheer and fallen apart, the peaks on each side rising almost
perpendicularly, with massive overhanging crests wooded to the summits,
but showing gray rifts of the inexhaustible limestone. The river when
lowest is here at an elevation of nine hundred and sixty feet, and the
peaks leap to the height of twenty-two hundred. Here in the future will
most probably pass a railroad, and be a populous town, for here is the
only opening through Pine Mountain from "the brakes" of Sandy to the
Tennessee line, and tributary to the watercourses that centre here are
some five hundred thousand acres of timber land.

The ride from Pineville to the Gap, fourteen miles southward, is most
beautiful. Yellow Creek becomes in local pronunciation "Yaller Crick."
One cannot be long in eastern Kentucky without being struck by the
number and character of the names given to the watercourses, which were
the natural avenues of migratory travel. Few of the mountains have
names. What a history is shut up in these names! Cutshin Creek, where
some pioneer, they say, damaged those useful members; but more probably
where grows a low greenbrier which cuts the shins and riddles
the pantaloons. These pioneers had humor. They named one creek
"Troublesome," for reasons apparent to him who goes there; another, "No
Worse Creek," on equally good grounds; another, "Defeated Creek;" and a
great many, "Lost Creek." In one part of the country it is possible for
one to enter "Hell fur Sartain," and get out at "Kingdom Come." Near by
are "Upper Devil" and "Lower Devil." One day we went to a mountain
meeting which was held in "a school-house and church-house" on
"Stinking Creek." One might suppose they would have worshipped in a more
fragrant locality; but the stream is very beautiful, and not malodorous.
It received its name from its former canebrakes and deer licks, which
made game abundant. Great numbers were killed for choice bits of venison
and hides. Then there are "Ten-mile Creek" and "Sixteen-mile Creek,"
meaning to clinch the distance by name; and what is philologically
interesting, one finds numerous "_Trace_ Forks," originally "_Trail_


Bell County and the Yellow Creek Valley serve to illustrate the
incalculable mineral and timber resources of eastern Kentucky. Our road
at times cut through forests of magnificent timbers--oak (black and
white), walnut (black and white), poplar, maple, and chestnut, beech,
lynn, gum, dogwood, and elm. Here are some of the finest coal-fields in
the world, the one on Clear Creek being fourteen feet thick. Here are
pure cannel-coals and coking-coals. At no other point in the Mississippi
Valley are iron ores suitable for steel-making purposes so close to fuel
so cheap. With an eastern coal-field of 10,000 square miles, with an
area equally large covered with a virgin growth of the finest economic
timbers, with watercourses feasible and convenient, it cannot be long
before eastern Kentucky will be opened up to great industries.
Enterprise has already turned hither, and the distinctiveness of the
mountaineer race already begins to disappear. The two futures before
them are, to be swept out of these mountains by the in-rushing spirit of
contending industries, or to be aroused, civilized, and developed.

Long before you come in sight of the great Gap, the idea of it dominates
the mind. While yet some miles away it looms up, 1675 feet in elevation,
some half a mile across from crest to crest, the pinnacle on the left
towering to the height of 2500 feet.

It was late in the afternoon when our tired horses began the long,
winding, rocky climb from the valley to the brow of the pass. As we
stood in the passway, amid the deepening shadows of the twilight and the
solemn repose of the mighty landscape, the Gap seemed to be crowded with
two invisible and countless pageants of human life, the one passing
in, the other passing out; and the air grew thick with unheard
utterances--primeval sounds, undistinguishable and strange, of creatures
nameless and never seen by man; the wild rush and whoop of retreating
and pursuing tribes; the slow steps of watchful pioneers; the wail of
dying children and the songs of homeless women; the muffled tread of
routed and broken armies--all the sounds of surprise and delight,
victory and defeat, hunger and pain, and weariness and despair, that the
human heart can utter. Here passed the first of the white race who led
the way into the valley of the Cumberland; here passed that small band
of fearless men who gave the Gap its name; here passed the "Long
Hunters;" here rushed the armies of the Civil War; here has passed the
wave of westerly emigration, whose force has spent itself only on the
Pacific slopes; and here in the long future must flow backward and
forward the wealth of the North and the South.



The writer has been publishing during the last few years a series of
articles on Kentucky. With this article the series will be brought to a
close. Hitherto he has written of nature in the Blue-grass Region and of
certain aspects of life; but as he comes to take leave of his theme, he
finds his attention fixed upon that great mountain wall which lies along
the southeastern edge of the State. At various points of this wall are
now beginning to be enacted new scenes in the history of Kentucky; and
what during a hundred years has been an inaccessible background, is
becoming the fore-front of a civilization which will not only change the
life of the State within, but advance it to a commanding position in
national economic affairs.

But it should not be lost sight of that in writing this article, as in
writing all the others, it is with the human problem in Kentucky that he
is solely concerned. He will seem to be dealing with commercial
activities for their own sake. He will write of coals and ores and
timbers, of ovens and tunnels and mines; but if the reader will bear
with him to the end, he will learn that these are dealt with only for
the sake of looking beyond them at the results which they bring on:
town-making in various stages, the massing and distributing of wealth,
the movements of population, the dislodgment of isolated customs--on the
whole, results that lie in the domain of the human problem in its
deepest phases.

Consider for a moment, then, what this great wall is, and what influence
it has had over the history of Kentucky and upon the institutions and
characteristics of its people.

You may begin at the western frontier of Kentucky on the Mississippi
River, about five hundred miles away, and travel steadily eastward
across the billowy plateau of the State, going up and up all the time
until you come to its base, and above its base it rises to the height of
some three thousand feet. For miles before you reach it you discover
that it is defended by a zone of almost inaccessible hills with steep
slopes, forests difficult to penetrate, and narrow jagged gorges; and
further defended by a single sharp wall-like ridge, having an elevation
of about twenty-two hundred feet, and lying nearly parallel with it, at
a distance of about twenty miles. Or, if you should attempt to reach
this wall from the south, you would discover that from that side also it
is hardly less hostile to approach. Hence it has stood in its virgin
wilderness, a vast isolating and isolated barrier, fierce, beautiful,
storm-racked, serene; in winter, brown and gray, with its naked woods
and rifts of stone, or mantled in white; in summer, green, or of all
greens from darkest to palest, and touched with all shades of bloom; in
autumn, colored like the sunset clouds; curtained all the year by
exquisite health-giving atmospheres, lifting itself all the year towards
lovely, changing skies.

Understand the position of this natural fortress-line with regard to the
area of Kentucky. That area has somewhat the shape of an enormous flat
foot, with a disjointed big toe, a roughly hacked-off ankle, and a
missing heel. The sole of this huge foot rests solidly on Tennessee, the
Ohio River trickles across the ankle and over the top, the big toe is
washed entirely off by the Tennessee River, and the long-missing heel is
to be found in Virginia, never having been ceded by that State. Between
the Kentucky foot and the Virginia heel is piled up this immense, bony,
grisly mass of the Cumberland Mountain, extending some three hundred
miles north-east and south-west.

It was through this heel that Kentucky had to be peopled. The thin,
half-starved, weary line of pioneer civilizers had to penetrate it, and
climb this obstructing mountain wall, as a line of travelling ants might
climb the wall of a castle. In this case only the strongest of the
ants--the strongest in body, the strongest in will--succeeded in getting
over and establishing their colony in the country far beyond. Luckily
there was an enormous depression in the wall, or they might never have
scaled it. During about half a century this depression was the
difficult, exhausting entrance-point through which the State received
the largest part of its people, the furniture of their homes, and the
implements of their civilization; so that from the very outset that
people represented the most striking instance of a survival of the
fittest that may be observed in the founding of any American
commonwealth. The feeblest of the ants could not climb the wall; the
idlest of them would not. Observe, too, that, once on the other side, it
was as hard to get back as it had been to get over. That is, the
Cumberland Mountain kept the little ultramontane society isolated. Being
isolated, it was kept pure-blooded. Being isolated, it developed the
spirit and virtues engendered by isolation. Hence those traits
for which Kentuckians were once, and still think themselves,
distinguished--passion for self-government, passion for personal
independence, bravery, fortitude, hospitality. On account of this
mountain barrier the entire civilization of the State has had a
one-sided development. It has become known for pasturage and
agriculture, whiskey, hemp, tobacco, and fine stock. On account of it
the great streams of colonization flowing from the North towards the
South, and flowing from the Atlantic seaboard towards the West, have
divided and passed around Kentucky as waters divide and pass around an
island, uniting again on the farther side. It has done the like for the
highways of commerce, so that the North has become woven to the South
and the East woven to the West by a connecting tissue of railroads,
dropping Kentucky out as though it had no vital connection, as though it
were not a controlling point of connection, for the four sections of the
country. Thus keeping out railroads, it has kept out manufactures, kept
out commerce, kept out industrial cities. For three-quarters of a
century generations of young Kentuckians have had to seek pursuits of
this character in other quarters, thus establishing a constant draining
away from the State of its resolute, vigorous manhood. Restricting the
Kentuckians who have remained to an agricultural type of life, it has
brought upon them a reputation for lack of enterprise. More than all
this has that great barrier wall done for the history of Kentucky. For,
within a hundred years, the only thing to take possession of it, slowly,
sluggishly overspreading the region of its foot-hills, its vales and
fertile slopes--the only thing to take possession of it and to claim it
has been a race of mountaineers, an idle, shiftless, ignorant, lawless
population, whose increasing numbers, pauperism, and lawlessness, whose
family feuds and clan-like vendettas, have for years been steadily
gaining for Kentucky the reputation for having one of the worst
backwoods populations on the continent, or, for that matter, in the

But for the presence of this wall the history of the State, indeed the
history of the United States, would have been profoundly different. Long
ago, in virtue of its position, Kentucky would have knit together,
instead of holding apart, the North and the South. The campaigns and the
results of the Civil War would have been changed; the Civil War might
never have taken place. But standing as it has stood, it has left
Kentucky, near the close of the first century of its existence
as a State, with a reputation somewhat like the shape of its
territory--unsymmetric, mutilated, and with certain parts missing.

But now consider this wall of the Cumberland Mountain from another point
of view. If you should stand on the crest at any point where it forms
the boundary of Kentucky; or south of it, where it extends into
Tennessee; or north of it, where it extends into Virginia--if you should
stand thus and look northward, you would look out upon a vast area of
coal. For many years now it has been known that the coal-measure rocks
of eastern Kentucky comprise about a fourth of the area of the State,
and are not exceeded in value by those of any other State. It has been
known that this buried solar force exceeds that of Great Britain. Later
it has become known that the Kentucky portion of the great Appalachian
coal-field contains the largest area of rich cannel-coals yet
discovered, these having been traced in sixteen counties, and some of
them excelling by test the famous cannel-coal of Great Britain; later it
has become known that here is to be found the largest area of
coking-coal yet discovered, the main coal--discovered a few years ago,
and named the "Elkhorn"--having been traced over sixteen hundred square
miles, and equalling American standard coke in excellence.


Further, looking northward, you look out upon a region of iron ores, the
deposits in Kentucky ranking sixth in variety and extent among those to
be found in all other States, and being better disposed for working than
any except those of Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama. For a hundred
years now, it should be remembered in this connection, iron has been
smelted in Kentucky, been and been an important article of commerce. As
early as 1823 it was made at Cumberland Gap, and shipped by river to
markets as remote as New Orleans and St. Louis. At an early date, also,
it was made in a small charcoal forge at Big Creek Gap, and was hauled
in wagons into central Kentucky, where it found a ready market for such
purposes as plough-shares and wagon tires.

Further, looking northward, you have extending far and wide before you
the finest primeval region of hard-woods in America.

Suppose, now, that you turn and look from this same crest of the
Cumberland Mountain southward, or towards the Atlantic seaboard. In that
direction there lie some two hundred and fifty thousand square miles of
country which is practically coalless; but practically coalless, it is
incalculably rich in iron ores for the manufacture of iron and steel.
You look out upon the new industrial empire of the United States, with
vast and ever-growing needs of manufactures, fuel, and railroads. That
is, for a hundred miles you stand on the dividing line of two distinct
geological formations: to the north, the Appalachian coal-fields; to the
south, mountains of iron ores; rearing itself between these, this
immense barrier wall, which creates an unapproachable wilderness not
only in southeastern Kentucky, but in East Tennessee, western
Virginia, and western North Carolina--the largest extent of country in
the United States remaining undeveloped.

But the time had to come when this wilderness would be approached on all
sides, attacked, penetrated to the heart. Such wealth of resources could
not be let alone or remain unused. As respects the development of the
region, the industrial problem may be said to have taken two forms--the
one, the development of the coal and iron on opposite sides of the
mountains, the manufacture of coke and iron and steel, the establishment
of wood-working industries, and the delivery of all products to the
markets of the land; second, the bringing together of the coals on the
north side and the ores throughout the south. In this way, then, the
Cumberland Mountain no longer offered a barrier merely to the
civilization of Kentucky, but to the solution of the greatest economic
problem of the age--the cheapest manufacture of iron and steel. But
before the pressure of this need the mountain had to give way and
surrender its treasures. At any cost of money and labor, the time had to
come when it would pay to bring these coals and ores together. But how
was this to be done? The answer was simple: it must be done by means of
natural water gaps and by tunnels through the mountain. It is the object
of this paper to call attention to the way in which the new civilization
of the South is expected to work at four mountain passes, and to point
out some of the results which are to follow.


On the Kentucky side of the mighty wall of the Cumberland Mountain, and
nearly parallel with it, is the sharp single wall of Pine Mountain, the
westernmost ridge of the Alleghany system. For about a hundred miles
these two gnarled and ancient monsters lie crouched side by side,
guarding between them their hidden stronghold of treasure--an immense
valley of timbers and irons and coals. Near the middle point of this
inner wall there occurs a geological fault. The mountain falls apart as
though cut in twain by some heavy downward stroke, showing on the faces
of the fissure precipitous sides wooded to the crests. There is thus
formed the celebrated and magnificent pass through which the Cumberland
River--one of the most beautiful in the land--slips silently out of its
mountain valley, and passes on to the hills and the plateaus of
Kentucky. In the gap there is a space for the bed of this river, and on
each side of the river space for a roadway and nothing more.

[Illustration: CUMBERLAND GAP.]

Note the commanding situation of this inner pass. Travel east along Pine
Mountain or travel west, and you find no other water gap within a
hundred miles. Through this that thin, toiling line of pioneer
civilizers made its way, having scaled the great outer Cumberland
wall some fifteen miles southward. But for this single geological fault,
by which a water gap of the inner mountain was placed opposite a
depression in the outer mountain, thus creating a continuous passway
through both, the colonization of Kentucky, difficult enough even with
this advantage, would have been indefinitely delayed, or from this side
wholly impossible. Through this inner portal was traced in time the
regular path of the pioneers, afterwards known as the Wilderness Road.
On account of the travel over this road and the controlling nature of
the site, there was long ago formed on the spot a little backwoods
settlement, calling itself Pineville. It consisted of a single
straggling line of cabins and shanties of logs on each side of a
roadway, this road being the path of the pioneers. In the course of time
it was made the county-seat. Being the county-seat, the way-side
village, catching every traveller on foot or on horse or in wagons,
began some years ago to make itself still better known as the scene of
mountain feuds. The name of the town when uttered anywhere in Kentucky
suggested but one thing--a blot on the civilization of the State, a
mountain fastness where the human problem seems most intractable. A few
such places have done more to foster the unfortunate impression which
Kentucky has made upon the outside world than all the towns of the
blue-grass country put together.

Five summers ago, in 1885, in order to prepare an article for HARPER'S
MAGAZINE on the mountain folk of the Cumberland region, I made my way
towards this mountain town, now riding on a buck-board, now on a horse
whose back was like a board that was too stiff to buck. The road I
travelled was that great highway between Kentucky and the South which at
various times within a hundred years has been known as the Wilderness
Road, or the Cumberland Road, or the National Turnpike, or the "Kaintuck
Hog Road," as it was called by the mountaineers. It is impossible to
come upon this road without pausing, or to write of it without a
tribute. It led from Baltimore over the mountains of Virginia through
the great wilderness by Cumberland Gap. All roads below Philadelphia
converged at this gap, just as the buffalo and Indian trails had earlier
converged, and just as many railroads are converging now. The
improvement of this road became in time the pet scheme of the State
governments of Virginia and Kentucky. Before the war millions of head of
stock--horses, hogs, cattle, mules--were driven over it to the southern
markets; and thousands of vehicles, with families and servants and
trunks, have somehow passed over it, coming northward into Kentucky, or
going southward on pleasure excursions. During the war vast commissary
stores passed back and forth, following the movement of armies. But
despite all this--despite all that has been done to civilize it since
Boone traced its course in 1790, this honored historic thoroughfare
remains to-day as it was in the beginning, with all its sloughs and
sands, its mud and holes, and jutting ledges of rock and loose bowlders,
and twists and turns, and general total depravity.

It is not surprising that when the original Kentuckians were settled
on the blue-grass plateau they sternly set about the making of good
roads, and to this day remain the best road-builders in America. One
such road was enough. They are said to have been notorious for
profanity, those who came into Kentucky from this side. Naturally.
Many were infidels--there are roads that make a man lose faith. It is
known that the more pious companies of them, as they travelled along,
would now and then give up in despair, sit down, raise a hymn, and
have prayers before they could go farther. Perhaps one of the
provocations to homicide among the mountain people should be reckoned
this road. I have seen two of the mildest of men, after riding over it
for a few hours, lose their temper and begin to fight--fight their
horses, fight the flies, fight the cobwebs on their noses, fight

Over this road, then, and towards this town, one day, five summers ago,
I was picking my course, but not without pale human apprehensions. At
that time one did not visit Pineville for nothing. When I reached it I
found it tense with repressed excitement. Only a few days previous
there had been a murderous affray in the streets; the inhabitants had
taken sides; a dead-line had been drawn through the town, so that those
living on either side crossed to the other at the risk of their lives;
and there was blue murder in the air. I was a stranger; I was innocent;
I was peaceful. But I was told that to be a stranger and innocent and
peaceful did no good. Stopping to eat, I fain would have avoided, only
it seemed best not to be murdered for refusing. All that I now remember
of the dinner was a corn-bread that would have made a fine building
stone, being of an attractive bluish tint, hardening rapidly upon
exposure to the atmosphere, and being susceptible of a high polish. A
block of this, freshly quarried, I took, and then was up and away. But
not quickly, for having exchanged my horse for another, I found that the
latter moved off as though at every step expecting to cross the
dead-line, and so perish. The impression of the place was one never to
be forgotten, with its squalid hovels, its ragged armed men collected
suspiciously in little groups, with angry, distrustful faces, or peering
out from behind the ambush of a window.

A few weeks ago I went again to Pineville, this time by means of one of
the most extensive and powerful railroad systems of the South. At the
station a 'bus was waiting to take passengers to the hotel. The station
was on one side of the river, the hotel on the other. We were driven
across a new iron bridge, this being but one of four now spanning the
river formerly crossed at a single ford. At the hotel we were received
by a porter of metropolitan urbanity and self-esteem. Entering the
hotel, I found it lighted by gas, and full of guests from different
parts of the United States. In the lobby there was a suppressed murmur
of refined voices coming from groups engaged in serious talk.
As by-and-by I sat in a spacious dining-room, looking over a
freshly-printed bill of fare, some one in the parlors opposite was
playing on the piano airs from "Tannhäuser" and "Billee Taylor." The
dining-room was animated by a throng of brisk, tidy, white young
waiting-girls, some of whom were far too pretty to look at except from
behind a thick napkin; and presently, to close this experience of the
new Pineville, there came along such inconceivable flannel-cakes and
molasses that, forgetting industrial and social problems, I gave myself
up to the enjoyment of a problem personal and gastric; and erelong,
having spread myself between snowy sheets, I melted away, as the butter
between the cakes, into warm slumber, having first poured over myself a
syrup of thanksgiving.

The next morning I looked out of my window upon a long pleasant valley,
mountain-sheltered, and crossed by the winding Cumberland; here and
there cottages of a smart modern air already built or building; in
another direction, business blocks of brick and stone, graded streets
and avenues and macadamized roads; and elsewhere, saw and planing mills,
coke ovens, and other evidences of commercial development. Through the
open door of a church I saw a Catholic congregation already on its
knees, and the worshippers of various Protestant denominations were
looking towards their own temples. The old Pineville, happily situated
farther down the river, at the very opening of the pass, was rapidly
going to ruins. The passion for homicide had changed into a passion for
land speculation. The very man on whose account at my former visit the
old Pineville had been divided into two deadly factions, whose name
throughout all the region once stood for mediæval violence, had become a
real-estate agent. I was introduced to him.

"Sir," said I, "I don't feel so _very_ much afraid of you."

"Sir," said he, "I don't like to run myself."

Such, briefly, is the impression made by the new Pineville--a new people
there, new industries, new moral atmosphere, new civilization.

The explanation of this change is not far to seek. By virtue of its
commanding position as the only inner gateway to the North, this pass
was the central point of distribution for south-eastern Kentucky.
Flowing into the Cumberland, on the north side of the mountain, is Clear
Creek, and on the south side is Strait Creek, the two principal streams
of this region, and supplying water-power and drainage. Tributary to
these streams are, say, half a million acres of noble timber land; in
the mountains around, the best coals, coking and domestic; elsewhere,
iron ores, pure brown, hematite, and carbonates; inexhaustible
quantities of limestone, blue-gray sandstone, brick clays; gushing from
the mountains, abundant streams of healthful freestone water; on the
northern hill-sides, a deep loam suitable for grass and gardens and
fruits. Add to this that through this water-gap, following the path of
the Wilderness Road, as the Wilderness Road had followed the path of the
Indian and the buffalo--through this water-gap would have to pass all
railroads that should connect the North and South by means of that
historic and ancient highway of traffic and travel.

On the basis of these facts, three summers ago a few lawyers in
Louisville bought 300 acres of land near the riotous old town of
Pineville, and in the same summer was organized the Pine Mountain Iron
and Coal Company, which now, however, owns about twenty thousand acres,
with a capital stock of $2,000,000. It should be noted that Southern men
and native capital began this enterprise, and that although other
stockholders are from Chicago and New England, most of the capital
remains in the State. Development has been rapidly carried forward, and
over five hundred thousand dollars' worth of lots have been sold the
present year. It is pleasant to dwell upon the future that is promised
for this place; pleasant to hear that over six hundred acres in this
pleasant valley are to be platted; that there are to be iron-furnaces
and electric lights, concrete sidewalks and a street railway, more
bridges, brick-yards, and a high-school; and that the seventy-five coke
ovens now in blast are to be increased to a thousand. Let it be put down
to the credit of this vigorous little mountain town that it is the first
place in that region to put Kentucky coke upon the market, and create a
wide demand for it in remote quarters--Cincinnati alone offering to take
the daily output of 500 ovens.

Thus the industrial and human problems are beginning to solve themselves
side by side in the backwoods of Kentucky. You begin with coke and end
with Christianity. It is the boast of Pineville that as soon as it
begins to make its own iron it can build its houses without calling on
the outside world for an ounce of material.


Middlesborough! For a good many years in England and throughout the
world the name has stood associated with wealth and commercial
greatness--the idea of a powerful city near the mouth of the Tees, in
the North Riding of Yorkshire, which has become the principal seat of
the English iron trade. It is therefore curious to remember that near
the beginning of the century there stood on the site of this powerful
city four farm-houses and a ruined shrine of St. Hilda; that it took
thirty years to bring the population up to the number of one hundred and
fifty-four souls; that the discovery of ironstone, as it seems to be
called on that side, gave it a boom, as it is called on this; so that
ten years ago it had some sixty thousand people, its hundred and thirty
blast-furnaces, besides other industries, and an annual output in
pig-iron of nearly two million tons.

But there is now an English Middlesborough in America, which is already
giving to the name another significance in the stock market of London
and among the financial journals of the realm; and if the idea of its
founders is ever realized, if its present rate of development goes on,
it will in time represent as much wealth in gold and iron as the older

In the mere idea of the American or Kentucky Middlesborough--for while
it seems to be meant for America, it is to be found in Kentucky--there
is something to arrest attention on the score of originality. That the
attention of wealthy commoners, bankers, scientists, and iron-masters of
Great Britain--some of them men long engaged in copper, tin, and gold
mines in the remotest quarters of the globe--that the attention of such
men should be focussed on a certain spot in the backwoods of Kentucky;
that they should repeatedly send over experts to report on the
combination of mineral and timber wealth; that on the basis of such
reports they should form themselves into a company called "The American
Association, Limited," and purchase 60,000 acres of land lying on each
side of the Cumberland Mountain, and around the meeting-point of the
States of Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky; that an allied association,
called "The Middlesborough Town Company," should place here the site of
a city, with the idea of making it the principal seat of the iron and
steel manufacture of the United States; that they should go to work to
create this city outright by pouring in capital for every needed
purpose; that they should remove gigantic obstacles in order to connect
it with the national highways of commerce; that they should thus expend
some twenty million dollars, and let it be known that all millions
further wanted were forthcoming--in the idea of this there is enough to
make one pause.

As one cannot ponder the idea of the enterprise without being impressed
with its largeness, so one cannot visit the place without being struck
by the energy with which the plan is being wrought at. "It is not
sufficient to know that this property possesses coal and iron of good
quality and in considerable quantities, and that the deposits are
situated close together, but that they exist in such circumstances as
will give us considerable advantages over any competitors that either
now exist or whose existence can in any way be foreseen in the near
future." Such were the instructions of these English capitalists to
their agent in America. It was characteristic of their race and of that
method of business by which they have become the masters of commerce the
world over. In it is the germ of their idea--to establish a city for the
manufacture of iron and steel which, by its wealth of resources,
advantages of situation, and complete development, should place
competition at a disadvantage, and thus make it impossible.

It yet remains to be seen whether this can be done. Perhaps even the
hope of it came from an inadequate knowledge of how vast a region they
had entered, and how incalculable its wealth. Perhaps it was too much to
expect that any one city, however situated, however connected, however
developed, should be able to absorb or even to control the development
of that region and the distribution of its resources to all points of
the land. It suggests the idea of a single woodpecker's hoping to carry
off the cherries from a tree which a noble company of cats and jays and
other birds were watching; or of a family of squirrels who should take
up their abode in a certain hole with the idea of eating all the walnuts
in a forest. But however this may turn out, these Englishmen, having
once set before themselves their aim, have never swerved from trying to
attain it; and they are at work developing their city with the hope that
it will bring as great a change in the steel market of the United States
as a few years ago was made in the iron market by the manufacture of
Southern iron.

If you take up in detail the working out of their plan of development,
it is the same--no stint, no drawing back or swerving aside, no
abatement of the greatest intentions. They must have a site for their
city--they choose for this site what with entire truthfulness may be
called one of the most strategic mountain passes in American history.
They must have a name--they choose that of the principal seat of the
English iron trade. They must have a plant for the manufacture of steel
by the basic process--they promise it shall be the largest in the United
States. They want a tannery--it shall be the biggest in the world. A
creek has to be straightened to improve drainage--they spend on it a
hundred thousand dollars. They will have their mineral resources
known--they order a car to be built, stock it with an exposition of
their minerals, place it in charge of technical experts, and set it
going over the country. They take a notion to establish a casino,
sanitarium, and hotel--it must cost over seven hundred thousand dollars.
The mountain is in their way--that mighty wall of the Cumberland
Mountain which has been in the way of the whole United States for over a
hundred years--they remove this mountain; that is, they dig through it a
great union tunnel, 3750 feet long, beginning in Kentucky, running under
a corner of Virginia, and coming out in Tennessee. Had they done nothing
but this, they would have done enough to entitle them to the gratitude
of the nation, for it is an event of national importance. It brings the
South and the Atlantic seaboard in connection with the Ohio Valley and
the Lakes; it does more to make the North and the South one than any
other single thing that has happened since the close of the Civil War.

On the same trip that took me to Pineville five summers ago, I rode from
that place southward towards the wall of Cumberland Mountain. I wished
to climb this wall at that vast depression in it known as Cumberland
Gap. It was a tranquil afternoon as I took my course over the ancient
Wilderness Road through the valley of the Yellow Creek. Many a time
since, the memory of that ride has come back to me--the forests of
magnificent timbers, open spaces of cleared land showing the
amphitheatre of hills in the purple distance, the winding of a shadowy
green-banked stream, the tranquil loneliness, the purity of primeval
solitude. The flitting of a bird between one and the azure sky overhead
was company, a wild flower bending over the water's edge was friendship.
Nothing broke rudely in upon the spirit of the scene but here and there
a way-side log-cabin, with its hopeless squalor, hopeless human inmates.
If imagination sought relief from loneliness, it found it only in
conjuring from the dust of the road that innumerable caravan of life
from barbarism to civilization, from the savage to the soldier, that has
passed hither and thither, leaving the wealth of nature unravished, its
solitude unbroken.

In the hush of the evening and amid the silence of eternity, I drew the
rein of my tired horse on the site of the present town. Before me in the
mere distance, and outlined against the glory of the sky, there towered
at last the mighty mountain wall, showing the vast depression of the
gap--the portal to the greatness of the commonwealth. Stretching away in
every direction was a wide plain, broken here and there by wooded
knolls, and uniting itself with graceful curves to the gentle slopes of
the surrounding mountains. The ineffable beauty, the vast repose, the
overawing majesty of the historic portal, the memories, the
shadows--they are never to be forgotten.


A few weeks ago I reached the same spot as the sun was rising, having
come thither from Pineville by rail. As I stepped from the train I saw
that the shadowy valley of my remembrance had been incredibly
transformed. Some idea of the plan of the new town may be understood
from the fact that Cumberland Avenue and Peterborough Avenue,
intersecting each other near the central point of it, are, when
completed, to be severally three and a half or four and a half miles
long. There are twenty avenues and thirty streets in all, ranging from a
hundred feet to sixty feet wide. So long and broad and level are the
thoroughfares that the plan, as projected, suggests comparison with
Louisville. The valley site itself contains some six thousand available

It should be understood that the company owns property on the Tennessee
side of the gap, and that at the foot of the valley, where a
magnificent spring gushes out, with various other mineral springs near
by--chalybeate and sulphur--it is proposed to establish a hotel,
sanitarium, and casino which shall equal in sumptuousness the most noted
European spas.

As I stood one day in this valley, which has already begun to put on the
air of civilization, with its hotel and railway station and mills and
pretty homesteads, I saw a sight which seemed to me a complete epitome
of the past and present tendencies there at work--a summing up of the
past and a prophecy of the future. Creeping slowly past the station--so
slowly that one knows not what to compare it to unless it be the
minute-hand on the dial of a clock--creeping slowly along the Wilderness
Road towards the ascent of Cumberland Gap, there came a mountain wagon,
faded and old, with its dirty ragged canvas hanging motionless, and
drawn by a yoke of mountain oxen which seemed to be moving in their
sleep. On the seat in front, with a faded shovel-hat capping his mass of
coarse tangled hair, and wearing but two other garments--a faded shirt
and faded breeches--sat a faded, pinched, and meagre mountain boy. The
rope with which he drove his yoke had dropped between his clasped knees.
He had forgotten it; there was no need to remember it. His starved white
face was kindled into an expression of passionate hunger and excitement.
In one dirty claw-like hand he grasped a small paper bag, into the open
mouth of which he had thrust the other hand, as a miser might thrust his
into a bag of gold. He had just bought, with a few cents, some sweetmeat
of civilization which he was about for the first time to taste. I sat
and watched him move away and begin the ascent to the pass. Slowly,
slowly, winding now this way and now that across the face of the
mountain, now hidden, now in sight, they went--sleeping oxen, crawling
wagon, starved mountain child. At length, as they were about
disappearing through the gap, they passed behind a column of the white
steam from a saw-mill that was puffing a short distance in front of me;
and, hidden in that steam, they disappeared. It was the last of the
mountaineers passing away before the breath of civilization.


Suppose now that you stand on the south side of the great wall of the
Cumberland Mountain at Cumberland Gap. You have come through the
splendid tunnel beneath, or you have crawled over the summit in the
ancient way; but you stand at the base on the Tennessee side in the
celebrated Powell's River Valley.

Turn to the left and follow up this valley, keeping the mountain on your
left. You are not the first to take this course: the line of human ants
used to creep down it in order to climb over the wall at the gap. Mark
how inaccessible this wall is at every other point. Mark, also, that as
you go two little black parallel iron threads follow you--a railroad,
one of the greatest systems of the South. All along the mountain slope
overhanging the railroad, iron ore; beyond the mountain crest, timbers
and coals. Observe, likewise, the features of the land: water abundant,
clear, and cold; fields heavy with corn and oats; an ever-changing
panorama of beautiful pictures. The farther you go the more rich and
prosperous the land, the kinder the soil to grains and gardens and
orchards; bearing its burden of timbers--walnut, chestnut, oak, and
mighty beeches; lifting to the eye in the near distance cultivated
hillsides and fat meadows; stretching away into green and shadowy valley
glades; tuneful with swift, crystal streams--a land of lovely views.

Remember well this valley, lying along the base of the mountain wall. It
has long been known as the granary of south-west Virginia and east
Tennessee; but in time, in the development of civilization throughout
the Appalachian region, it is expected to become the seat of a dense
pastoral population, supplying the dense industrial population of new
mining and manufacturing towns with milk, butter, eggs, and fruit and
vegetables. But for the contiguity of such agricultural districts to the
centres of ores and coals, it would perhaps be impossible to establish
in these remote spots the cities necessary to develop and transport
their wealth.

Follow this valley up for a distance of sixty miles from Cumberland Gap
and there pause, for you come to the head of the valley, and you have
reached another pass in the mountain wall. You have passed out of
Tennessee into Virginia, a short distance from the Kentucky border, and
the mountain wall is no longer called the Cumberland: twenty miles
southwest of where you now are that mountain divided, sending forth this
southern prong, called Stone Mountain, and sending the rest of itself
between the State line of Kentucky and Virginia, under the name of the
Big Black Mountain. Understand, also, the general bearings of the spot
at which you have arrived. It is in that same Alleghany system of
mountains--the richest metalliferous region in the world--the northern
section of which long ago made Pittsburgh; the southern section of which
has since created Birmingham; and the middle section of which, where you
now are, is claimed by expert testimony, covering a long period of years
and coming from different and wholly uninterested authorities, to be the
richest of the three.

This mountain pass not being in Kentucky, it might be asked why in a
series of articles on Kentucky it should deserve a place. The answer is
plain: not because a Kentuckian selected it as the site of a hoped for
city, or because Kentuckians have largely developed it, or because
Kentuckians largely own it, and have stamped upon it a certain excellent
social tone; but for the reason that if the idea of its development is
carried out, it will gather towards itself a vast net-work of railways
from eastern Kentucky, the Atlantic seaboard, the South, and the Ohio
and Mississippi valleys, which will profoundly affect the inner life of
Kentucky, and change its relations to different parts of the Union.

Big Stone Gap! It does not sound very big. What is it? At a certain
point of this continuation of Cumberland Mountain, called Stone
Mountain, the main fork of Powell's River has in the course of ages worn
itself a way down to a practical railroad pass at water-level, thus
opening connection between the coking coal on the north and the iron
ores on the south of the mountain. No pass that I have ever seen--except
those made by the Doe River in the Cranberry region of North
Carolina--has its wild, enrapturing loveliness; towering above on each
side are the mountain walls, ancient and gray and rudely disordered; at
every coign of vantage in these, grasping their precipitous buttresses
as the claw of a great eagle might grasp the uttermost brow of a cliff,
enormous trees above trees, and amid the trees a green lace-work of
undergrowth. Below, in a narrow, winding channel piled high with
bowlders, with jutting rocks and sluice-like fissures--below and against
these the river hurls itself, foaming, roaring, whirling, a long cascade
of white or lucent water. This is Big Stone Gap, and the valley into
which the river pours its full strong current is the site of the town. A
lofty valley it is, having an elevation of 1600 feet above the sea, with
mountains girdling it that rise to the height of 4000--a valley the
surface of which gently rolls and slopes towards these encircling bases
with constant relief to the eye, and spacious enough, with those opening
into it, to hold a city of the population of New York.

This mountain pass, lying in the heart of this reserved wilderness of
timbers, coals, and ores, has always had its slender thread of local
history. It was from a time immemorial a buffalo and Indian trail,
leading to the head-waters of the Cumberland and Kentucky rivers; during
the Civil War it played its part in certain local military exploits and
personal adventures of a quixotian flavor; and of old the rich farmers
of Lee County used to drive their cattle through it to fatten on the
pea-vine and blue-grass growing thick on the neighboring mountain tops.
But in the last twenty-five years--that quarter of the century which has
developed in the United States an ever-growing need of iron and steel,
of hard-woods, and of all varieties of coal; a period which has seen one
after another of the reserve timber regions of the country thinned and
exhausted--during the past twenty-five years attention has been turned
more and more towards the forests and the coal-fields in the region
occupied by the south Alleghany Mountain system.

It was not enough to know that at Big Stone Gap there is a water-gap
admitting the passage of a railway on each side at water-level, and
connecting contiguous workable coals with ores; not enough repeatedly to
test the abundance, variety, and purity of both of these; not enough to
know that a short distance off a single vertical section of coal-measure
rocks has a thickness above drainage level of 2500 feet, the thickest in
the entire Appalachian coalfield from Pennsylvania to Alabama; not
enough that from this point, by available railroad to the Bessemer steel
ores in the Cranberry district of North Carolina, it is the shortest
distance in the known world separating such coke and such ores; not
enough that there are here superabundant limestone and water, the south
fork of Powell's River winding about the valley, a full, bold current,
and a few miles from the town the head-waters of this same river having
a fall of 700 feet; not enough that near by is a rich agricultural
region to supply needed markets, and that the valley itself has a
natural drainage, delightful climate, and ideal beauty--all this was not
enough. It had to be known that the great water-gap through the mountain
at this point, by virtue of its position and by virtue of its relation
to other passes and valleys leading to it, necessitated, sooner or
later, a concentration here of railroad lines for the gathering, the
development, and the distribution of its resources.

From every imaginable point of view a place like this is subject to
unsparing test before it is finally fixed upon as a town site and enters
upon a process of development. Nothing would better illustrate the
tremendous power with which the new South, hand in hand with a new
North, works with brains and capital and science. A few years ago this
place was seventy miles from the nearest railroad. That road has since
been built to it from the south; a second is approaching it from a
distance of a hundred and twenty miles on the west; a third from the
east; and when the last two come together this point will be on a great
east and west trunk line, connecting the Ohio and Mississippi valleys
with the Atlantic seaboard. Moreover, the Legislature of Kentucky has
just passed an act incorporating the Inter-State Tunnel Railroad
Company, and empowering it to build an inter-State double-track highway
from the head-waters of the Cumberland and Kentucky rivers to Big Stone
Gap, tunnelling both the Black and Cumberland Mountains, and affording a
passway north and south for the several railways of eastern Kentucky
already heading towards this point. The plan embraces two double-track
toll tunnels, with double-track approaches between and on each side of
the tunnel, to be owned and controlled by a stock company which shall
allow all railroads to pass on the payment of toll. If this enterprise,
involving the cost of over two million dollars, is carried out, the
railroad problem at Big Stone Gap, and with it the problem of developing
the mineral wealth of southwest Virginia and south-east Kentucky, would
seem to be practically solved.

That so many railroads should be approaching this point from so many
different directions seems to lift it at once to a position of
extraordinary importance.

But it is only a few months since the nearest one reached there; and,
since little could be done towards development otherwise, at Big Stone
Gap one sees the process of town-making at an earlier stage than at
Middlesborough. Still, there are under construction water-works, from
the pure mountain river, at an elevation of 400 feet, six miles from
town, that will supply daily 2,500,000 gallons of water; two
iron-furnaces of a hundred tons daily capacity; an electric-light plant,
starting with fifty street arc lights, and 750 incandescent burners for
residences, and a colossal hotel of 300 rooms. These may be taken as
evidences of the vast scale on which development is to be carried
forward, to say nothing of a steam street railway, belt line, lumber and
brick and finishing plants, union depot, and a coke plant modelled after
that at Connellsville. And on the whole it may be said that already over
a million dollars' worth of real estate has been sold, and that eight
land, coal, and iron development companies have centred here the
development of properties aggregating millions in value.

It is a peculiarity of these industrial towns thus being founded in one
of the most beautiful mountain regions of the land that they shall not
merely be industrial towns. They aim at becoming cities or homes for
the best of people; fresh centres to which shall be brought the newest
elements of civilization from the North and South; retreats for jaded
pleasure-seekers; asylums for invalids. And therefore they are laid out
for amenities and beauty as well as industry--with an eye to using the
exquisite mountain flora and park-like forests, the natural boulevards
along their watercourses, and the natural roadways to vistas of
enchanting mountain scenery. What is to be done at Middlesborough will
not be forgotten. At Big Stone Gap, in furtherance of this idea, there
has been formed a Mountain Park Association, which has bought some three
thousand acres of summit land a few miles from the town, with the idea
of making it a game preserve and shooting park, adorned with a rambling
club-house in the Swiss style of architecture. In this preserve is High
Knob, perhaps the highest mountain in the Alleghany range, being over
four thousand feet above sea-level, the broad summit of which is
carpeted with blue-grass and white clover in the midst of magnificent
forest growth.



Suppose once more that you stand outside the Cumberland or Stone
Mountain at the gap. Now turn and follow down the beautiful Powell's
Valley, retracing your course to Cumberland Gap. Pass this, continuing
down the same valley, and keeping on your right the same parallel
mountain wall. Mark once more how inaccessible it is at every point.
Mark once more the rich land and prosperous tillage. Having gone about
thirty miles beyond Cumberland Gap, pause again. You have come to
another pass--another remarkable gateway. You have travelled out of
Kentucky into Tennessee, and the Cumberland Mountain has changed its
name and become Walden's Mountain, distant some fifteen miles from the
Kentucky State line.

It is necessary once more to define topographical bearings. Running
north-east and south-west is this Cumberland Mountain, having an
elevation of from twenty-five hundred to three thousand feet. Almost
parallel with it, from ten to twenty miles away, and having an elevation
of about two thousand feet, lies Pine Mountain, in Kentucky. In the
outer or Cumberland Mountain it has now been seen that there are three
remarkable gaps: Big Stone Gap on the east, where Powell's River cuts
through Stone Mountain; Cumberland Gap intermediate, which is not a
water-gap, but a depression in the mountain; and Big Creek Gap in the
west, where Big Creek cuts through Walden's Mountain--the last being
about forty miles distant from the second, about ninety from the first.
Now observe that in Pine Mountain there are three water-gaps having a
striking relation to the gaps in the Cumberland--that is, behind
Cumberland Gap is the pass at Pineville; behind Big Stone Gap and beyond
it at the end of the mountain are the Breaks of Sandy; and behind Big
Creek Gap are the Narrows, a natural water-gap connecting Tennessee with

But it has been seen that the English have had to tunnel Cumberland
Mountain at Middlesborough in order to open the valley between Pine and
Cumberland mountains to railroad connections with the south. It has also
been seen that at Big Stone Gap it has been found necessary to plan for
a vast tunnel under Big Black Mountain, and also under Pine Mountain, in
order to establish north and south connections for railroads, and
control the development of south-east Kentucky and south-west Virginia.
But now mark the advantage of the situation at Big Creek Gap: a
water-gap at railroad level giving entrance from the south, and
seventeen miles distant a corresponding water-gap at railroad level
giving exit from the south and entrance from the north. There is thus
afforded a double natural gateway at this point, and at this point
alone--an inestimable advantage. Here, then, is discovered a third
distinct centre in Cumberland Mountain where the new industrial
civilization of the South is expected to work. All the general
conditions elsewhere stated are here found present--timbers, coals, and
ores, limestone, granite, water, scenery, climate, flora; the beauty is
the same, the wealth not less.

With a view to development, a company has bought up and owns in fee
20,000 acres of coal lands and some seven thousand of iron ore in the
valley and along the foot-hills on the southern slope of the mountain.
They have selected and platted as a town site over sixteen hundred acres
of beautiful valley land, lying on both sides of Big Creek where it cuts
through the mountain, 1200 feet above the sea-level. But here again one
comes upon the process of town-making at a still earlier stage of
development. That is, the town exists only on paper, and improvement has
not yet begun. Taken now, it is in the stage that Middlesborough, or Big
Stone Gap, was once in. So that it should not be thought any the less
real because it is rudimentary or embryonic. A glance at the wealth
tributary to this point will soon dispel doubt that here in the future,
as at the other strategic mountain passes of the Cumberland, is to be
established an important town.

Only consider that the entire 20,000 acres owned by the Big Creek Gap
Company are underlain by coal, and that the high mountains between the
Pine and Cumberland contain vertical sections of greater thickness of
coal-measure rocks than are to be found anywhere else in the vast
Appalachian field; that Walnut Mountain, on the land of the company--the
western continuation of the Black Mountain and the Log Mountain of
Kentucky--is 3300 feet above sea, and has 2000 feet of coal-measures
above drainage; and that already there has been developed the existence
of six coals of workable thickness above drainage level, five of them
underlying the entire 20,000 acres, except where small portions have
been cut away by the streams.

The lowest coal above drainage--the Sharpe--presents an outcrop about
twenty feet above the bed of the stream, and underlies the entire
purchase. It has long been celebrated for domestic use in the locality.
An entry driven in about sixty feet shows a twelve-inch cannel-coal with
a five-inch soft shale, burning with a brilliant flame, and much used in
Powell's Valley; also a bituminous coal of forty-three-inch thickness,
having a firm roof, cheaply minable, and yielding a coke of over 93 per
cent. pure carbon.

The next coal above is a cannel-coal having an outcrop on the Middle
Fork of Big Creek of thirty-six inches, and on the north slope of the
mountains, six miles off, of thirty-eight inches, showing a persistent
bed throughout.

Above this is the Douglass coal, an entry of forty feet into which shows
a thickness of fifty inches, with a good roof, and on the northern slope
of the mountains, at Cumberland River, a thickness of sixty inches. This
is a gas coal of great excellence, yielding also a coke, good, but high
in sulphur. Above the Douglass is an unexplored section of great
thickness, showing coal stains and coals exposed, but undeveloped.

The uppermost coal discovered, and the highest opened in Tennessee--the
Walnut Mountain coal--is a coking variety of superior quality,
fifty-eight inches thick, and though lying near the top of the mountain,
protected by a sandstone roof. It is minable at a low cost, admirable
for gas, and is here found underlying some two thousand acres.

As to the wealth of iron ores, it has been said that the company owns
about seven thousand acres in the valley and along the southern slopes
of Cumberland Mountain. There is a continuous outcrop of the soft red
fossiliferous, or Clinton, iron ore, ten miles long, nowhere at various
outcrops less than sixty inches thick, of exceptional richness and
purity, well located for cheap mining, and adjacent to the coal beds.
Indeed, where it crosses Big Creek at the gap, it is only a mile from
the coking coal. Lying from one to two hundred feet above the drainage
level of the valley, where a railroad is to be constructed, and parallel
to this road at a distance of a few hundred feet, this ore can be put on
cars and delivered to the furnaces of Big Creek Gap at an estimated cost
of a dollar a ton. Of red ore two beds are known to be present.

Parallel and near to the red fossiliferous, there has been developed
along the base of Cumberland Mountain a superior brown ore, the
Limonite--the same as that used in the Low Moor, Longdale, and other
furnaces of the Clifton Forge district. This--the Oriskany--has been
traced to within ten miles of the company's lands, and there is every
reason to believe that it will be developed on them. At the beginning of
this article it was stated that iron of superior quality was formerly
made at Big Creek Gap, and found a ready market throughout central

Parallel with the ore and easily quarriable is the subcarboniferous
limestone, one thick stratum of which contains 98 per cent. of carbonate
of lime; so that, with liberal allowance for the cost of crude material,
interest, wear and tear, it is estimated that iron can here be made at
as low a cost as anywhere in the United States, and that furnaces will
have an advantage in freight in reaching the markets of the Ohio Valley
and the farther South. Moreover, the various timbers of this region
attain a perfection seldom equalled, and by a little clearing out of the
stream, logs can be floated at flood tides to the Clinch and Tennessee
rivers. To-day mills are shipping these timbers from Boston to the Rocky

Situated in one of the most beautiful of valleys, 1200 feet above
sea-level, surrounded by park-like forests and fertile valley lands,
having an abundance of pure water and perfect drainage, with iron ore
only a mile from coke, and a double water-gap giving easy passage for
railroads, Big Creek Gap develops peculiar strength and possibilities of
importance, when its relation is shown to those cities which will be its
natural markets, and to the systems of railroads of which it will be the
inevitable outlet. Within twenty miles of it lie three of the greatest
railroad systems of the South. It is but thirty-eight miles from
Knoxville, and eight miles of low-grade road, through a fertile
blue-grass valley, peopled by intelligent, prosperous farmers, will put
it in connection with magnetic and specular ores for the making of
steel, or with the mountain of Bessemer ore at Cranberry. Its coke is
about three hundred miles nearer to the Sheffield and Decatur furnaces
than the Pocahontas coke which is now being shipped to them. It is
nearer St. Louis and Chicago than their present sources of supply. It is
the nearest point to the great coaling station for steamships now
building at Brunswick. And it is one of the nearest bases of supply for
Pensacola, which in turn is the nearest port of supply for Central and
South America.

No element of wealth or advantage of position seems lacking to make this
place one of the controlling points of that vast commercial movement
which is binding the North and the South together, and changing the
relation of Kentucky to both, by making it the great highway of railway
connection, the fresh centre of manufacture and distribution, and the
lasting fountain-head of mineral supply.


Attention is thus briefly directed to that line of towns which are
springing up, or will in time spring up, in the mountain passes of the
Cumberland, and are making the backwoods of Kentucky the fore-front of a
new civilization. Through these three passes in the outer wall of
Cumberland Mountain, and through that pass at Pineville in the inner
wall behind Cumberland Gap--through these four it is believed that there
must stream the railroads carrying to the South its timbers and coals;
to the North its timbers, coal, and iron; and carrying to both from
these towns, as independent centres of manufacture, all those products
the crude materials of which exist in economic combinations on the

It is idle to say that all these places cannot become important. The
competition will be keen, and the fittest will survive; but all these
are fit to survive, each having advantages of its own. Big Stone Gap
lies so much nearer the East and the Atlantic seaboard; Big Creek Gap so
much nearer the West and the Ohio and Mississippi valleys and the Lakes;
Cumberland Gap and Pineville so much nearer an intermediate region.

But as the writer has stated, it is the human, not the industrial,
problem to be solved by this development that possessed for him the main
interest. One seems to see in the perforation and breaking up of
Cumberland Mountain an event as decisive of the destiny of Kentucky as
though the vast wall had fallen, destroying the isolation of the State,
bringing into it the new, and letting the old be scattered until it is
lost. But while there is no space here to deal with those changes that
are rapidly passing over Kentucky life and obliterating old manners and
customs, old types of character and ideals of life, old virtues and
graces as well as old vices and horrors--there is a special topic too
closely connected with the foregoing facts not to be considered: the
effect of this development upon the Kentucky mountaineers.

The buying up of the mountain lands has unsettled a large part of these
people. Already there has been formed among them a class of tenants
paying rent and living in their old homes. But in the main there are
three movements among them. Some desert the mountains altogether, and
descend to the Blue-grass Region with a passion for farming. On
county-court days in blue-grass towns it has been possible of late to
notice this peculiar type mingling in the market-places with the
traditional type of blue-grass farmer. There is thus going on,
especially along the border counties, a quiet interfusion of the two
human elements of the Kentucky highlander and the Kentucky lowlander, so
long distinct in blood, physique, history, and ideas of life. To less
extent, the mountaineers go farther west, beginning life again beyond
the Mississippi.

A second general tendency among them is to be absorbed by the
civilization that is springing up in the mountains. They flock to these
towns, keep store, are shrewd and active speculators in real estate, and
successful developers of small capital. The first business house put up
in the new Pineville was built by a mountaineer.

But the third, and, as far as can be learned, the most general movement
among them is to retire at the approach of civilization to remoter
regions of the mountains, where they may live without criticism or
observation their hereditary, squalid, unambitious, stationary life. But
to these retreats they must in time be followed, therefrom dislodged,
and again set going. Thus a whole race of people are being scattered,
absorbed, civilized. You may go far before you will find a fact so full
of consequences to the future of the State.

Within a few years the commonwealth of Kentucky will be a hundred years
old. All in all, it would seem that with the close of its first century
the old Kentucky passes away; and that the second century will bring in
a new Kentucky--new in many ways, but new most of all on account of the
civilization of the Cumberland.



And Other Kentucky Tales and Romances. By JAMES LANE ALLEN. With
Illustrations. Post 8vo, Cloth, Ornamental, $1 50.

    A careful perusal of the six tales here printed reveals and
    emphasizes a rare talent and a power in romantic fiction which are
    as rare as they are acceptable.... Our native fiction can show
    nothing finer in its way than these beautiful Kentucky stories,
    which are all the better for having a Southern flavor, and
    picturing an ideal side of Southern life.--_Hartford Courant._

    The stories of this volume are fiction of high artistic
    value--fiction to be read and remembered as something rare, fine,
    and deeply touching.--_Independent_, N. Y.

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    than in this work, and for tenderness of touch and pathetic
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    tales there is a delicious spice of romance, while the artistic
    taste in which they are told makes them models of good story
    telling.--_Observer_, N. Y.

    Very charming stories.... "Two Gentlemen of Kentucky" is an
    especially delightful sketch.--_N. Y. Sun._

    In these stories Mr. Allen has given us some tender and touching
    work, which is characteristic and unhackneyed, and of which the
    individual flavor is most refreshing. There is, too, a power in
    these tales which touches the reader.--_Boston Courier._

    All the stories are unusual in character, scene, and treatment,
    and all will repay careful reading.--_San Francisco Chronicle._

    With the temperament and sympathies of the idealist, Mr. James
    Lane Allen combines the fidelity to detail usually associated
    only with the strict adherent of realism in art, and the result
    is--for the reader somewhat satiated with the outpourings of
    conventional story-writers--a series of entirely new and grateful
    sensations.--_Boston Beacon._


[Illustration: hand]_The above work is for sale by all booksellers, or
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     AS WE WERE SAYING. With Portrait, and Illustrated by H. W. MCVICKAR
     and others. 16mo, Cloth, Ornamental, $1 00.

    So dainty and delightsome a little book may it be everybody's good
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    before the mind and make their angles flash out new and hidden
    meanings.--_Critic_, N. Y.

    OUR ITALY. An Exposition of the Climate and Resources of Southern
    California. Illustrated. 8vo, Cloth, Ornamental, Gilt Top and
    Uncut Edges, $2 50.

    Mr. Warner is a prince of travellers and sight-seers--so genial,
    so kindly, so ready to be pleased, so imperturable under
    discomfort, so full of interpretation, so prophetic in hope....
    In this book are a little history, a little prophecy, a few
    fascinating statistics, many interesting facts, much practical
    suggestion, and abundant humor and charm.--_Evangelist_, N. Y.

    A LITTLE JOURNEY IN THE WORLD. A Novel. Post 8vo, Half Leather,
    Gilt Top and Uncut Edges, $1 50.

    The vigor and vividness of the tale and its sustained interest are
    not its only or its chief merits. It is a study of American life
    of to-day, possessed with shrewd insight and fidelity.--George
    William Curtis.

    STUDIES IN THE SOUTH AND WEST. With Comments on Canada. Post 8vo,
    Half Leather, Gilt Top and Uncut Edges, $1 75.

    A witty, instructive book, as brilliant in its pictures as it is
    warm in its kindness: and we feel sure that it is with a patriotic
    impulse that we say that we shall be glad to learn that the number
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    THEIR PILGRIMAGE. Richly Illustrated by C. S. REINHART. Post 8vo,
    Half Leather, Gilt Top and Uncut Edges, $2 00.

    Mr. Warner's pen-pictures of the characters typical of each
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    satire, when there is any, is of the mildest, and the general tone
    is that of one glad to look on the brightest side of the cheerful,
    pleasure-seeking world.--_Christian Union_, N. Y.


[Illustration: hand]_The above works are for sale by all booksellers, or
will be sent by the publishers, postage prepaid, to any part of the
United States, Canada, or Mexico, on receipt of price._


Transcriber's Note:

Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation are as in the original.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Blue-Grass Region of Kentucky - and other Kentucky Articles" ***

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