Genealogy Ramblings

My Mercer County

Saturday, I started for Lexington to meet my daughter and granddaughter for lunch.  I took US68 from Harrodsburg, even though the Bluegrass Parkway is a quicker trip.  I am at the age where slowing down and enjoying trumps speed every time.

Just outside the city limits fields of corn were on both sides of the road.  We’ve been blessed with abundant rain this summer, and our Mercer County corn can attest to that fact.  A beautiful green color, it was uniform in height, and looked as if it would make a nice bed for a nap.

A field of horses were next, the animals calmly grazing in the morning sun.  Kentucky is known for its horses!

Soybeans were in the next field.  To maximize field usage and crop return the farmer planted up to and between the telephone poles, creating what looked like a scalloped edging – and the same with the corn crop a bit further down the road.

Several historic homes in this area, that of Gabriel Slaughter, governor of Kentucky 1816-1820, and John Adair, governor 1820-1824, are interspersed with smaller homes and farms.  Some of the fields had splotches of a brilliant green mixed in with ‘grass green’, which gave an interesting contrast.

Then Shaker land came in sight.  Long, low stone fences, the beautiful buildings left by Shaker inhabitants long ago.  Cattle and oxen rest in fields divided by those stone fences.  When I first visited Shaker Village years ago, the menus were handwriting in the beautiful scrip of the 19th century.  Their motto was, ‘We make you kindly welcome.’  Neither that menu nor the motto is used today.  That makes me sad.

Ritchey rambles over the entire 3,000 acres of Shakertown; he knows all of it well.  I’m up to the short walks to the waterfall, the cemetery and around the pond, or just in the village.  Other than the beauty, the peace and serenity call me.  This is still a different world from the rush-rush-rush mode in which we live today, even though the last Shaker died about 100 years ago.  Their craftmanship and work ethic is evident in what they left behind.

A small road to the right takes you to Shaker Landing, where the riverboat is docked.  The excursion on the Kentucky River is delightful.  On one trip the captain brought apples for deer.  We stopped at their favorite gathering place and his melodious voice called out ‘Allpples’ several times, but the deer didn’t show – they must have just eaten lunch.

Not far from Shakertown we start our descent down to the Kentucky River.  This is a very winding and curvy two miles.  Your concentration needs to be on driving, but the scenery is breathtaking.  Trees and foliage everywhere, the drop on your right becomes ever steeper until in a 15 MPH curve you see the palisades across the river – tall towers of rock that in summer have some greenery and shrub attached.  Directly above, on the left, is what was the home of Col. George Chinn, who was a Kentucky and Mercer County historian, the author of several books – among other things.

After another half mile of curves, you come to what I call the family tree area.  This is where in the twilight hours vultures come to roost.  Their big black bodies scattered on the tree limbs remind me of a family tree – sometimes as many as 10 or 15 or more in one tree!

Now you can see the river – high, but not as much as earlier this summer.  Just before you make a 90 degree turn to cross the Brooklyn Bridge, on the left is the cave Col. Chinn turned into a small restaurant and store.  Gas pumps outside gave motorists a chance to fill up, and inside you could get a sandwich or hot dog and a drink.  Further back in the cave was supposed to be a gambling room and who knows what else!  Now there is a high fence and the entrance is blocked.

As we cross the bridge you can see the tunnel where the old road was located, beside the one of today.  It’s a little harder to see in summer since it is almost hidden by leaves and bushes.

My grandson, Julian, calls it the stone tunnel and loves for his granddaddy to stop and let him walk though.  Water drips, your voice carries, there are rocks to pick up – what four-year-old wouldn’t find it captivating?  And the view of the river is spectacular.

Across the bridge we have reached Jessamine County, and our story is at the end.  Jessamine County is also beautiful and has its own stories to tell.  I wanted to tell you about my Mercer County, well, one very small portion of it.  Come visit and I will be happy to show you around.  Our entire state is lovely and diverse, and I enjoy visiting all of it.  But Mercer County has my heart.

12 replies »

  1. I was on this same road back in April just as the spring flowers were emerging. It is breathtakingly beautiful. Shaker Village is one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been, and the food there was wonderful. There is something about this part of Kentucky that brings me such joy and peace. Thank you for reminding me—-and sharing your trip.

  2. We love Shaker Village. My McKinney ancestor is listed on the census with the address of Shakertown.

  3. Lovely drive ! As a Slaughter and Lightfoot descendant I was directed to visit Gov. Gabriel Slaughter family cemetery on Shawnee Farm by the farm manager …. Lovely view from there. I did not know that Slaughter and Adair were neighbors ! I wonder whereabouts of the Slaughter home??? No one knows where … If you do know where the Slaughter home, please contact me Thank you

    • I would love to visit that cemetery – but wasn’t sure who to contact. One piece of evidence I have was gleaned taken from the Shaker Journals – ‘May 6, 1855 – Sabbath – John A. Grimes departed this life, a neighbor of ours living on the turnpike road leading to Harrodsburg, where Governor Gabriel Slaughter formerly lived, four miles distant. He has lived there 18 years and is about 75 years of age’.

  4. it is a shame you can no longer tour the buildings as they appear to now be private residences. so why is the park still open? We were there 20 years ago when it was still a working sort of village, all that is gone now.

    • If you are talking about Shaker Village you can tour the buildings. It is no longer a working farm, but they have a few animals and a large garden each year. You can hike the trails. There are also accommodations for those wanting a longer visit.

  5. We visited the Shaker Village area decades ago and your description makes our memories return! Your description of the area is beautifully written. Thank you!

  6. Enjoy reading your daily post. I am a Nashville native and my husband was born in Louisville and lived there until family moved to Nashville in 1955 when Western Electric relocated here. We enjoy visiting Mercer County and visiting the landmarks of my husband’s great grandparents, John Burton Carey and Susan Pinkston. His grandmother, Alpha Carey, married Walter Litsey. His mother, Ruby Litsey was born in Harrodsburg in 1916 and remembers Shakertown. She married Thomas Ollie Cecil who was born in Loretta near St. Rose.

  7. When I was a young boy my brother drove our car through this Boone tunnel on the way to Lexington. He would blow the horn so I could hear the echo sound . Still remember the sound from about 75 years ago

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