Bodley House, Fayette County, KY


N.E. Corner 2nd and Market, Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky
Built 1814

Source: Old Houses of Lexington, C. Frank Dunn, typescript, n.d., copy located in the Kentucky Room, Lexington (Kentucky) Public Library.

General Thomas Bodley, after his return from the War of 1812, began to cast about for a suitable home for himself and family, commensurate with his standing in growing Lexington, to which he had contributed no small measure.

He has sold the mansion at High and Upper Streets to Richard Higgins, Sr., in October, 1809 ("the brick house now occupied by Bodley") and soon afterward must have moved to the north side of town.

He bought 99 feet fronting Market Street, a half-block south of here, from Dr. Elisha Warfield, Jr., on which there was a frame house and "a small brick house built by Thomas Bodley for an office." He sold the latter in December, 1813, to Thos. H. Pindell - "the small brick house now occupied by Wm. Cooper" - fronting 33 feet for $3,000 (where apartment house now stands) and later sold him the 66 feet (where the old church stood) with a frame house on it. (Pindell sold the 66 feet to McChord Church in 1815). A deed to the Upper Street in back of the latter in March, 1810 (Henry Purviance) said the 66 feet lot was "now in occupancy of Thos. Bodley."

Thos. H. Pindell had traded some valuable property to Samuel Long, a contractor, to build the house here on the corner of Second and Market Street. As Long built the Robertson house "for two Merino sheep," that story has been confused with the "Bodley House." Long did not build this house for "Merino sheep," nor did General Bodley have the house constructed - he paid Thos. H. Pindell $10,000 outright for it November 5, 1814, and Pindell gave Long a very valuable consideration for building the house.

But let's go back to the earlier history of this corner: Charles Wilkins and wife, Jane, sold the executors of Thomas Hart, Jr., September 1, 1810, "all that lot whereon stands a rope walk now or lately occupied by David Williamson...Beginning at the west corner of the Brick building on the lot at the corner of Market and Second Streets, thence with Second St. south-east 98 feet 6 inches to an alley of 10 feet, thence with said alley north-east 45 poles to Third Street and with the same north-west 98 feet 6 inches to Market Street and with the same south-west 45 poles to the beginning."

Robert B. McAfee, in "The Life and Times of Robert B. McAfee," mentions the brick building that formerly stood on the corner here as the home of his school-mate in Transylvania, John Cape, "whose mother lived adjoining the Seminary lot on the south-east side."

Hart's executors opened Mechanic Street east and west through the tract and sold it off in lots in 1812. Thomas H. Pindell bought the corner lot, extending 168 1/2 feet on Market Street "to the corner of the lot sold John Anderson" and 97 feet on Second Street to the alley.

Pindell was a partner of James P. Parker, and under the firm name of Pindell & Parker they operated the old distillery at forks of Elkhorn in Franklin County, in 1817 (still in operation). He operated a rope walk on High Street, formerly the factory of General Bodley.

As captain of the Fayette Hussars, he inserted the following notice in the Kentucky Gazette March 24, 1825, in preparation for the historic visit of General Lafayette to Lexington:

"FAYETTE HUSSARS, Attention: A meeting of the Company will be held at Mrs. Keen's Inn on Saturday next at 4 o'clock to make arrangements for escorting 'the nation's guest' agreeable to the request of the Governor. A proposition will also be made to change a part of the uniform. By order, THOS. H. PINDELL, Capt. J. WINN, 1st Sergt.

General Lafayette arrived in Lexington Monday Morning, May 16, after having stayed over night "at his lodgings at Mr. John Keen's" ("Keeneland" - still standing on the Versailles Road adjoining Keeneland Race Track).

A lengthy account of Lafayette's viisit, in the Kentucky Gazette says:

"At 10 o'clock, the Bugle of Capt. Pindle's troop of Cavalry, acting as his immediate escort, accompanied by the Woodford troop - Capt. Blackburn, and the Georgetown troop - Capt. Lemon, announced his approach on the Versailles road." 

The account continued: "When General Lafayette, accompanied in his carriage by Colonel Bowman, an old fellow-soldier, approached the right of the procession, General Bodley in the name of the committee placed him under the care of General McCalla, the marshall of the day.

General Bodley an hour or two later was to escort the distinguished visitor past his own home here to Transylvania University, then located in what is today Gratz Park.

"He was accompanied as before," the account says, "by his committees, governors Desha and Carroll and their suites, and escorted by the Cavalry. At the gate of the College green, he was received by the Chairman and Trustees of the University and the President and conducted into the Chapel."

After a notable reception at the University, "he was conducted through Mill Street to Main Street, when the procession was again formed to escort him to the dinner which had been provided for the a beautiful wood-lot at the junction of the two Frankfort roads."

Facing the "College Lawn," the Bodley House naturally was the scene of many colorful occasions engendered by the University. Students who later gained fame in the nation's affairs, boarded here with Gen. and Mrs. Bodley, and members of the faculty visited them.

No house in a group of distinguished dwellings that surrounded the University had more entertaining and gayety than the Bodley home. It was here that Chad ("Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come" - John Fox Jr.) saw the "grand ball."

General Bodley was forced to give up his house at some time during the 1820's, unfortunately. The financial crisis of 1819 had wiped out all his holdings, including his residence.

The old minutes of Transylvania University show that the trustees rented the Bodley "house and lot on the east corner of Market and Second Sts. and also the lot on Wilkins Alley, for $200 per annum" from the Bank of the United States in 1828 for President Alvin Woods, of the University.

The terrible cholera plague took a toll of some 500 within a few weeks' time in the summer of 1833, and General Bodley was among the many prominent victims of that scourge. General Bodley bought back his frame house on Market Street a half block distant (where apartment house now stands) and may have been living here at the time of the cholera plague.

(General Bodley died in June, 1833, aged 61, from the cholera plague, "the same day as Capt. John Postlethwait." His wife, Catherine H. Bodley, after making her will April 20, 1841, "on a visit to Vicksburg, Miss." died a few months later. leaving "a sum sufficient to give my son, George, a good Classical education," and $300 per annum each to her daughters, "Elizabeth and Ellen, as long as they continue unmarried" and $2,000 each after their marriage.)

John Tilford, president of the Northern Bank, bought the home in 1834. He sold it to Daniel Vertner in 1837 (listed in the 1838 Directory here) and Mr. Vertner resided here until his death in 1862.

General Burbridge took over the house for Federal headquarters during the war (directly facing the home of Gen. John H. Morgan, the dashing Confederate chieftain, across the park!) and it was also the headquarters of Gen. Kirby Smith when he occupied Lexington.

During General Burbridge's occupancy, the house served also as a "Newspaper Plant" for the Federals.

The 1864-65 Directory lists besides the Lexington Observer and Reporter, the Mail Bag, printed at the Asst. Adjutant General's office, north-east corner of Market and Second Sts., by Joseph Gravener, John W. Tatham, James Jennison, Dwight Tillinghast, J.W. Thompson and Charles Carroll."

After the War, William A. Dudley and his father, the famous Dr. Benjamin W. Dudley, bought the house and were residing there when both of them died in 1870. 

George W. Jones, later United States Senator from Iowa, lived with General and Mrs. Bodley here in 1825, while attending Transylvania University. Among his classmates were Jefferson Davis, who became the President of the Confederacy; David Rice Atchison, Fayette Countian, who was President of the United States for a day, and Senator Dodge.

General Bodley was Chief Marshall for the ceremonies, held at the Episcopal Church, announced in the Kentucky Gazette July 21, 1826:

"At a meeting of the Town board of Trustees July 19, 1826, Resolutions that public and appropriate manifestation of their respect for the memory of the venerated patriots Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Isaac Shelby, lately deceased" were adopted and "a Committee appointed to make arrangements for funeral procession and a discourse to be delivered."

(President John Adams (in Massachusetts) and Thomas Jefferson (in Virginia) both died July 4, 1826, and Governor Isaac Shelby died July 18 at his home, Traveler's Rest, in Lincoln County).

Hon. Wm. T. Barry delivered the discourse (August 14, 1826) and the general chairman was William Morton.

When General Bodley, in the 1819 financial crisis, had to make a deed of trust to the Bank of the United States, he listed his property as follows: His home at Second and Market Streets, the frame tavern building ("Sign of the Ship") next "to the Jail" on Short Street (and Limestone) "occupied by Luke Usher" (one of Capt. Walker Baylor's old taverns - it burned in December, 1819), lots in Fowler's Garden and other additions, and a business house on Jordan's Row then "occupied by David Cobb's Tobacco Factory."

Transylvania University rented the Bodley House for president Wood, after their fire in 1829, and considerable research was necessary to ascertain where General Bodley had removed his family. He died in 1833 during the cholera plague and the list of victims showed he died in the north-east quarter of the city - "Ward No. 3."

By a stroke of luck, the will of Mrs. Grace Price (who also died during the plague) disclosed that he was residing in 1833 on Main St. in a house that then stood 66 feet from the north-east corner of Main and Walnut Streets.

Mrs. Price owned a house next east (succeeded by new Sears-Roebuck building in part - 42 feet) which she had purchased of Rev. Adam Rankin in 1827. The west boundary was "the south corner of Mr. T.T. Skillman's, on Main St." She also owned two adjoining houses across the street (and resided in one of them) "opposite to Mr. Skillman's printing office". The latter she bequeathed to her slaves, "Lucy, about 18, and Joseph, 2 years of age," and her residence adjoining to her brother, John Walker.

To her brother, William Walker, she devised the house on the north side of Main Street "adjoining the residence of General Bodley and the Estate of E. Warner" (a cabinet shop, now part of Sears-Roebuck frontage).

"The residence of General Bodley" was the Thos. T. Skillman house, fronting 33 to 35 feet on Main Street (same today - "Annex Hotel building). It was the former residence of Benj. Parrish, built in early 1800's by Parrish who operated a tan yard back of the present Lafayette Hotel.

Transcribed by pb October 2002