William Leavy Part Six

PART SIX: A MEMOIR OF LEXINGTON AND ITS VICINITY

With Some Notice of Many Prominent Citizens and Its
Institutions of Education and Religion

By WILLM. A. LEAVY

Continued from the April [1943] Register

Source: Register, Kentucky State Historical Society, Volume 41, Number 136, July 1943, pages 250-260. This is the sixth of eight Register articles containing a transcription of a photocopy of the original William Leavy manuscript located in Special Collections, Transylvania University, Lexington, Fayette, Kentucky. 

NOTE: Page numbers and headings of the manuscript appear in parentheses as in original copy. Pages 1-23 are in Part 1. Pages 24 - 37 are in Part Two., 38 - 62 in Part Three, 63-82 in Part Four, 83-113 in Part Five, 114-123 in Part Six, 124-163 in Part Seven, and 164-208 in Part Eight.

In any delineation of Lexington and its vicinity the account would be evidently imperfect to omit speaking of "La Chaumiere des Prairies," and its princely proprietor Col. Meade. David Meade was of the highly respectable and wealthy family of Meade of the State of Virginia. He located himself on the spot a farm of Three hundred acres in Jessamine County about nine miles from Lexington on the Clay's Mill road, which he made purchase of the tract as he informed me of Andrew McCalla in the year 1795, who had settled upon it, but on this sale immediately moved to Lexington, where he established his Drug Store or Apothecary Shop—His advertisements of his farm "for Sale" minutely described, may be seen in "Stewart's Kentucky Herald" July 1795, in Lexington Public Library 1874. This place he has rendered celebrated from peculiarly elegant culture in the landscape garden, and from his boundless liberality in the entertainment of his friends and all strangers of respectability who came to Lexington. Col. Meade by his cultivated taste and liberality opened and continued to the Society of Lexington an elegant enjoyment—for many years; and no similar one has been partaken by its people after his day. The example however illustrative and rare has had no imitator since. There is now no "Chaumiere" and no Col. Meade.

The garden has been no longer kept up. Hemp or some other profitable crop of a thrifty farmer takes place of the elegant landscape garden, and its throng of well dressed company enjoying its grounds. Though it may be that his family along with the plodding calculation of Interest and Profits may have looked upon the devotion of so much time and means including the labour of his farm hands as a prodigal waste; yet I doubt not, beside the employment itself, the delight of his life, he saw a happiness in the reflection that he had contributed for so many years—beside its social aspect—to the innocent and elegant enjoyment of a large society, thus brought the most at least to a new source of pleasure and of elegant recreation.

Rt. Rev. Bishop Meade and Richd. K. Meade, Minister to Spain, long resident of the city of Philadelphia were his near relatives. His early education was in England, at the celebrated School of Harrow; but graduated I think at William and Mary College in his native state. He knew all of the distinguished men of Virginia, and most of her best families—He early acquired a taste for the beautiful in landscape; and sold an estate on the James River in Virginia which he had greatly improved, "Haycock," before selling out to remove to Kentucky.

In place of seeking large crops in the farming of his neighborhood, it was a matter of wonder then, and a singular admiration of his neighbors, that he employed a large part of his force of probably no less than thirty hands in carrying out his plans of laying out, planting, sowing, harrowing and mowing his lawns, and walks. To this matter he always gave his personal attention and direction;—not so many hands toward the last, though he was constantly extending his grounds, as in the earlier part of his work. It was his happiness to see and entertain polite company, and the respectable strangers they might bring with them, and to welcome them to the enjoyment of his walks and varied landscape. Being so long a ride from town, whoever came were expected to dine with him. He had his exercise, employment and walks from an early hour, but always retired and dressed for dinner. He was courteous to all; and I have often sat to table with fifteen or twenty individuals at a time, he always carving at the head of his table, and most commonly a fine ham.

NOTE.—The dwelling and grounds and the bulk of the farm lying on the South eastern side of the road. A small porter's lodge of stone adjoining the gate with a stone inscription over the gateway "La Chaumiere du Prarie" a handsome wood lot on the opposite or western side of the road forming a part of the trail.—The land in cultivation is high, and well located and of the first quality. In less than half a mile's ride through the open ground you come to the residence and farm buildings embosomed in a handsome grove of native forest trees mostly of the Sugar Maple. The buildings framing the residence of the venerable proprietor were wooden and unpretending rooms erected at different periods—they were but tolerably comfortable at his purchase, the best additions, including the large dining room, made at different times by himself—an octagon parlour of brick on the east having entrance from the dining room was a handsome addition made in the latter period of his life. A picturesque view of a neighboring cottage is had from a ______ in the eastern side of the grounds—the boundary a rural fence of Stone Pillars and wooden rails; and on the Southern side a distant view of a farm house adds to the charm of the scenery. The western walks were varied, some walks consisting of copses of underwood, young cherry trees, plumbs, lilacs, &c. and in situations the tulip poplars and other handsome forest trees were plant'd by himself or under his direction.—

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He was a man of polished manners and address, venerable in his appearance, and the type of the Old Virginia or English gentleman. I enquired of him how he happened to light upon so beautiful a situation for his purpose and culture, he replied that there was scarcely any farm in our beautiful blue grass region but could be made to develop as much of the beautiful as his. After I had known him long on another occasion I asked, suppose in the lapse of a few years it should come to pass that some farmer should become the possessor of Chaumiere, and run the plow over the beautiful grounds? It would stir up my ashes in the grave! he replied.

He was familiar with most subjects of historical and popular interest, and found leisure to read and keep up with the literature of the day. Dr. Holley and his Lady—the advanced students of the college—the professors of the college, Col. Dunham and the young ladies under his charge at his respectable Female Academy, were welcome visitors, and Col. Meade used to say he was never better pleased than when he saw a large company of young ladies dressed in white walking over his lawn and round his walks—Those travelled members British Parliament, Earl Stanley, or Darby & Messrs Denison & Labouchere while on visit to Lexington & Transylvania about the year 1825 came to see him and Chaumiere.

One or two walks from the large lawn, which had a southern exposure, turned off to the right, and led down with a not very rapid descent to a Noble Spring which gushed out from a rather precipitous clift, and ran off to the west—near that you find to the North a beautiful little lake, with an island or two in it, supplied by a small stream these are so connected with the walks as to have a surprising or enchanting effect to the visitor. The walks in variety, bordered with variety of Shrubbery and forest trees all connected with and extending from the lawn are all laid out on the Southern side of the Mansion the door opening upon the scene; and the noble border of native forest trees, which you can see on approaching the house on the Northern side all furnish scenes of vivid beauty and all the more striking as you cannot but see that the hand of culture and taste has shaped it to what you find it. [MARGIN NOTE—The second or third proprietor of Chaumiere after Col. Meade Capt. Carter erected a handsome brick residence upon it & resided upon it for some years. It has recently become the property of George W. Headley by gift of his Uncle Mr. Shivery an old acquaintance of mine. George W. is brother of Hamilton Headley 1874]. A small sink of depression in the lawn had been finished with the smoothest grass, he said it was a dimple in the cheek of nature. Col. Meade told me he always preferred daughters to sons. He was happy in his own:

One daughter was married to Judge Byrd, judge of the U. States Circuit court of Ohio; another to the Hon. Wm. C. Creighton, member of Congress, Chillicothe, Ohio, who had at least two very lovely daughters whom I had the pleasure of knowing before their marriage. Another daughter was married

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to the Hon. Saml. H. Woodson, member of Congress from the Lexington district. His residence is at Nicholasville, but many years deceased; one of his sons Meade Woodson is the present governor of the state of Missouri, another son Judge Tucker Woodson the oldest has been repeatedly a member of the Legislature from Jessamine, is within a few days deceased much respected in his county. Col. Meade's oldest son David died single and early. His other son Richard has repeatedly been a representative in the state Legislature is now living in Oldham County.

His expenses were considerable , and he drew bills on Virginia from year to year, for some length of time. He dealt largely with us; I always found him punctual and honorable, I bought for his order a set of curtains hangings, carpet &c for a new octagon parlous he had erected, which gave him satisfaction. He lived to the age of eighty-five or more and his faculties well preserved. I had many notes from him in the latter period—his handwriting was perfect, and in a remarkable character. He sent for me and desired me very much to consent to be the executor of his estate, he wished above all that some friend in whom he could confide should see that the support and comfort of Mrs. Meade should be faithfully attended to. I excused myself from this charge from the prospect before me in my own family needing my first duty in similar important trusts. His thoughtful regard for her however was not needed for her decease preceded his.—His affairs were looked after by an amiable and worthy gentleman, and distant connexion Mr. J.H. Randolph, and by his son Richard.

COL. MEADE & GRAFF VON PHUL
Mrs. Meade was a very amiable lady domestic in her character, mild and gentle in her manners. Among the special friends whom they always welcomed was miss Maria Von Phul, and her brother Grant who was Deputy Postmaster first with his brother in law John Jordan and afterwards for a number of years with Capt. John Fowler. They were polite educated people, the former often accepted Mrs. Meade's invitation to pass a few days with her at a time; the latter often administered to the gratification of Col. Meade by supplying him with such books as he was pleased to read. Here I feel inclined to pause and reflect for a moment on one of the most affecting incidents of my life. The autumn of 1819 closed the labors of my friend, Von Phul in the post office, and while I was gone to Huntsville, Alabama on business, the most affecting fatal period as it issued to him was transpiring. The previous season I had met with his friend Rev.

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John [Breckinridge?] in Philadelphia—he had just come from Princeton, where he had been preparing himself for the ministry. He enquired of me how I had left our friend Von Phul, and requested me when I returned to give his love to him, which I did—it went to Von Phul's heart, and he wrote him a letter. They had before been intimate, but a short time before B. went to Princeton for some cause or other they had a falling out; Breckinridge was very high mettled, and they ceased to speak. V.P. told him in his letter he knew that a true change of heart could only have led him to send that message by me; and he now sought earnestly that instruction from him which maketh wise to Salvation Breckinridge gave him the best instruction he knew how to give, a free communication and correspondence ensued, accompanied with a diary hence forward by V.P. of his religious feelings. He immediately left Lexington for St. Louis, where his brother Henry resided as a Merchant, probably made a call on his sisters where they resided in Illinois. In returning from his trip it was believed he put a period to his existence in Louisville, by drowning himself in the river. This happened before my return. I soon after met with his friends & correspondent J.B. who gave me briefly his history, from their reunion, and showed me some of the letters and diary of our friend. It was a melancholy contemplation B. had furnished him with Edwards on Religious Affections, it did not seem to suit his case. In one of his letters or the early part of his diary he mentions, before starting to St. Louis he paid a visit to "Chaumiere" went to the romantic spring; and other familiar scenes, and that he could not help repeating to himself the familiar lines of Cowper entitled the Shrubbery, written in affliction,

Oh, happy shades—to me unblest!
Friendly to peace, but not to me!
How ill the scene that offers rest,
And heart that cannot rest, agree!

This glassy stream, that spreading pine,
those alders quivering to the breeze,
Might soothe a soul less hurt than mine,
And please, if anything could please.

But fixed, unalterable Care
Forgoes not what she feels within,
Shows the same sadness every where,
And slights the season and the scene.
For all that pleased in wood, or lawn,
While Peace possessed these silent bowers,
Her animating smile withdrawn
Has lost its beauties, and its powers.

The saint or moralist should tread
This moss-grown alley musing slow;
They seek like me the secret shade,
But not like me to nourish wo!
Me fruitful scenes and prospects waste
Alike admonish not to roam;
These tell me of enjoyments past,
And those of sorrows yet to come.

 

VON PHUL & LANDSCAPE GARDENING
A religious gloom and melancholy seemed to settle upon him and finally in a moment of frenzy led him to despair. Thus passed away one of the most lovely spirits I have ever known, and one whose loss I deeply deplored. Grant Von Phul was a man of the finest feelings, of education , and a delicate and cultivated taste: I saw much of him for a few years before he died, he often took his evening coffee with us, at our home in Mill street and Main, and was often with me in my library room, and repeatedly turned to that picture in my elegant edition of the Classical Essayists in the 3d volume in the Tattler which represents Steele's first emotions of sorrow in being taken in the arms by his mother at the loss of his father—probably because it reminded him of his own early desolation. In our evening walks together he has often repeated whole poems of Milton and Cowper.—Requiescat in peace.

(See. p. 119 Henry Von Phul.)

The love of the beautiful in landscape which leads to Landscape Gardening belongs to an advanced state of Society, where wealth and easy circumstances are combined with a cultivated taste. There is no wealthy Wm. Hamilton near Lexington the proprietor of the beautiful country seat on the Schuykill near Philadelphia to send for our Mr. Beck the Landscape painter then in Baltimore to draw and paint views of his beautiful "Woodlands," as he painted for Col. Hart and other views of the Olympian Springs at Mudlick, and of the Falls at Louisville. The stiff forms of art, walks and terraces, and statues, and straight lines, have given place to a better taste. Lord Marlborough's Blenheim has been celebrated, so has the extravagant display of Brikford, The Leatown of Shenstone were much visited by the poet's friends, and the Poet Alexr Pope at Twicheham though on a very small scale had probably given one of the finest specimens of the art in his day. the design of the Prince of Wales Garden at Carlton

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House was evidently borrowed from the poet's at Twickenham. There was a little of affected modesty in the latter, when he said that of all his works he was most proud of his garden. And yet is was a singular effort of art and taste to impress so much variety and scenery on a spot of five acres. The passing through the gloom from the grotto to the opening day, The retiring and again assembling shades, the dusky groves, the larger lawn, and the solemnity of the termination at the cypresses leading up to his mother's tomb, were managed with exquisite judgment; and though Lord Peterborough assisted him "to form his quincunx and to rank his vines," these were not the most pleasing ingredients of his little perspective. Walpole says "Miller's description of Eden is a warmer and more just picture of the present style than Clyde Lorraine could have painted from Hagley or Stourhead, and adds Recollect that the author of this sublime vision had never seen a glimpse of anything like what he has imagined; that his favorite ancients had dropped not a hint of such divine scenery; and that the conceits in Italian gardens, were the brightest originals that his memory could furnish. But his intellectual eye saw a nobler plan so little did he suffer by the loss of sight. It sufficed him to have seen the materials with which he could work. The vigour of a boundless imagination told him how a plan might be disposed that would embellish nature, and restore art to its proper office, the just improvement or imitation of it."

Note to p. 118
Henry Von Phul
older brother of my friend Graaf as a partner of Wm. Smith moved to St. Louis in 1811, (p. 90) where he became a very successful and wealthy merchant. I perceive he had been a Clerk and Salesman for Thomas Hart Jr. after the failure of his brother in law John Jordan in 1807. 8-9. He died at his residence in St. Louis Septr. 8th 1874 in the 90th year of his age the oldest merchant in St. Louis. He was interred with every mark of respect by the Merchants and leading men of Saint Louis, and his six sons were his pall bearers. Ky. Gazette Sept. 12, 1874—Behold the Providences attending the life & death of these two brothers.

(120) REV. MR. BADIN AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN LEXINGTON
The Rev. Stephen Theodore Badin a native of France the first Pioneer Catholic Priest and Missionary in the Western states came to Kentucky in the year 1793 lodged with my father who was the first house of a Catholic he had lodged in in the state as he informed me himself. He established the first Catholic church in Lexington. It was a two story log building in a 50 or 64 foot lot front on N.E. side of Main Street, a corner lot, the first lot above the old Baptist Grave yard;—Not as Mr. Ranck erroneously states, "in a corner of the lot on which The First Baptist Church is now located" an alley separates them—Dr. Snedeker's infirmary is exactly on the site of the old log Catholic Church.—Here the Catholic population which was small in Lexington in the early days continued to worship until the erection of their first new brick church built in the year 1811 on Winchester Street. Father Badin was the principal raiser by subscription of the means for the building of the new church, Subscriptions commenced in 1810. My father was much the largest subscriber for the building. His subscriptions obtained for this building were principally from Citizens unconnected with the church. Meeting was not held oftener in the Catholic Church here for many years than about once every three or four weeks—the same minister most commonly officiated in the church in Scott County. The Society was numerous and wealthy there, though now very much reduced by deaths and removals; and a much larger and more costly building was erected there about or near the same time of this in Lexington. Mr. Badin was more frequently the preacher than any other. He seemed to possess a most happy constitution, adapted himself to society, was talented, learned and good humored. Though a very strenuous, some would say bigoted Catholic, he mingled with and was esteemed by his fellow citizens generally—though by no means intemperate he enjoyed a convivial glass of wine at table. He was a very laborious missionary and wonderful founder and builder of churches in Kentucky, and elsewhere.

Mr. Ranck in his history page 190 seems to have procured some authentic and minute information concerning Mr. Badin and the Catholic Church in Lexington.

The statement for which he quotes Dr. Davidson is strange to me and I think bordering on the marvelous,—especially for such an incessant and laborious preacher Missionary as he was—"A little hut was his home; he ground his own corn with a hand-mill, and once had to go several days without bread"—Mr. B. was very intimate at my father's I never heard of anything of the kind. Mr. Badin baptized me in infancy and always manifested an extreme partiality for me as long as he lived. He lodged at our house in the country on his last visit to Lexington, or the last but one. he died in 1853.

(121) CATHOLIC CHURCH
Beside Mr. Badin the Catholic Church enjoyed the services of several engaging ministers from time to time. Rev. G.A.M. Elder the principal founder of St. Joseph's College at Bardstown—Rev. Mr. Montgomery an amiable gentleman and talented preacher afterwards settled in the State of Ohio Rev. Mr. McMahon an esteemed and excellent priest for a number of years and the very learned and talented Dr. Kenrick, afterwards R.C. Archbishop of Baltimore, widely known and esteemed through the U States and the catholic world. I must say here what always seemed to me in the private intercourse as well as the pulpit ministrations that I never saw so much learning and talents so free from ostentation and combined with so much naiveti and childlike simplicity of character. Rev. Mr. Whelan was one of the last priests known to me after Mr. McMahon.

The large brick church, St. Peters, on limestone street, was built mainly through the enterprise of rev. Mr. E. McMahon in the year 1837—and the elegant and large New Catholic Church of St. Paul's on Short Street below Broadway by Father Bekkers in 1865; the cornerstone being laid by the Rt. Rev. G.A. Carroll Bishop of Kentucky 12th November 1865, and dedicated by Archbishop Purcell, October 18th 1868.—These buildings and the large crowds which throng them and the St. Catherine's Female Academy, near the 2d church, established in the year 1834, shows the rapid increase and growth of the Catholic church in Lexington of late years.

Behold the increase. When first visited by father Badin in 1793, I feel sure there were not half a dozen Catholic families in the place; when the first brick church was occupied in 1811 or 1812 there did not exceed a dozen; I think I can enumerate them—there were the families of Simon Hickey, father of the Judge Thos. M. Hickey, of Thomas Tibbatts, and his interesting family father of Thos, Tibbats, Esq., attorney who married a daughter of Genl. James Taylor of Newport, Wm. Leavy, Cornelius Coyle, Mr. Stickney from the East a druggist whose lady was remarkable for her fine musical powers as a singer, Mr. McCoy, powder maker and his large family, male and female, Walter Connel & family, G. Geohegan and his family. I am pretty certain there were not fifty members in the church. Soon after St. Peters church was erected in 1837, it is said the church numbered a thousand members, and now in both the large churches I suppose the Catholic population of Lexington is not less than fifteen hundred—

(122) YEARS 1788-'92
Periods, Incidents and Events memorable in the history of Lexington. On the 1st September 1788 a very short time before my father landed first with his cargo of Goods at Limestone, a party of Indians waylaying the main road from Lexington to Limestone, fired on some wagoners near the Blue-Licks, killed one of them, scared away the rest, and took the horses. This fact occasioned my father and his companions to determine by turns armed to watch the wagon with their goods during the night; Robt. Holmes, George Anderson and I think Cornelius Coyle and Robert Parker were of the number—but all passed along to Lexington without interruption. No other molestation of a wagon occurred on this road. Goods from this period were all hauled to Lexington in road Wagons at a reasonable rate.

Pack horses for goods were never used on this road and only by private families from Virginia & elsewhere in their removals in 1783 & 4 and seldom since. Three years after, in March 1791 occurred the sanguinary and victorious defence by Capt. Wm. Hubbell of Scott County descending the Ohio river in a family boat with a party of nine men against a strong party of Indians a most thrilling account of this adventure from the mouth of Mr. Hubbell is given in the Western Review of August 1819, There were half a dozen boats at the same time with him, yet three of his party were killed, three badly wounded, and though himself wounded in the action after repeated assaults heroically beat them off, by guns and billets of wood, and escaped with his boat, although Capt. Greathouse and his party, in a separate boat, in sight of Hubbell's was captured by these Indians, and men woman and children tied to trees, and whipped to death. The same party of Indians having on the Sunday preceding cut off a detachment of men ascending the Ohio, from Fort Washington, at the mouth of Licking, and had killed with their tomahawks without firing a gun 21 or 22 men of which the detachment consisted. These were among the last of the Indian atrocities.—Yet a remarkable instance of a singular and heroic defense in the year 1792 from an assault of a party of Indians, who had been committing many depredations on Elkhorn, by a Mrs. Cook, on the banks of the Elkhorn.

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Her husband and his brother were killed in the conflict, she maintained her ground in one of the cabins—preserved it from their attempts at burning and shot one of the Indians. The interesting relation of the particulars shews, in her, great presence of mind, as well as bravery, the facts are given by Mr. Hunt in his Western Review of January 1820 was precisely as I have heard them related years before its publication by my father.

Col. James Trotter from Augusta county, Virginia was a citizen eminent for the high estimation in which he was uniformly held as a public spirited and benevolent man efficiently lending his support for a long career to the best interests of the community. In our early history of town and county Col. Trotter's career was one of usefulness and honour. He was elected a delegate on two several occasions from Fayette County to a State Convention held at Danville held in May 1785 with a view to seeking to obtain the organization of Kentucky into a separate state to enjoy equal privileges with the other states, and in after years as a Senator to the state Legislature. Col. Trotter had command of a division of 300 men in the memorable defeat of General Harmar in Oct. 1790.

He resided one mile from town on the Tate's Creek road south in a two story brick building yet standing a quarter of a mile from the road most of the beautiful woodpasture yet standing on the roadside—greater part of his farm is now owned at present by Mr. Wm. Berry. His three sons are all now deceased—Genl. James Wilkinson came to Lexington from the city of Philadelphia as a mercantile adventurer in the month of February 1784 not 18 months after the battle of the Blue Licks—conspicuous for his talents and address he became a prominent citizen in commercial and political life during his residence which continued for some years. He early extended his commercial enterprise to the City of New Orleans, and when my father met him there in the fall of 1788 or 1789 having descended the river with a small cargo of produce found he had ingratiated himself in the favour of the Spanish governor of the city Genl. Miro having as believed an engagement to supply Tobacco to the Spanish Government. He noticed Wilkinson's deportment in the Catholic Church conforming to the manners of its members and after the service was over asked my father how he had behaved during the service and was gratified to hear my father's very favorable opinion—as he knew him to be a catholic. Another anecdote illustrating his wonderful address came to his knowledge a friend of his living in the neighborhood of Lexington had loaned Wilkinson money which on making a call at his house to ask its return he was so graciously received by him that in place of urging its return he was before he left his presence induced to increase the loan. In the State Convention of Augt. 1785 he acted a leading part and prepared an Address to the General Assembly appealing to the patriotism and magnanimity of the parent commonwealth. He was conspicuous also in the more memorable convention of 1788 in which were assembled many of the leading men of Kentucky. He was appointed Lieutenant Col. under Genl. Charles Scott in an expedition against the Indians in 1791 and as a commander and Public Officer for a long public career closing only as a Brig.-Genl. in the War of 1812. From Fayette County to these Conventions besides Col. Trotter and Genl. Wilkinson the following members some of them distinguished in our Annals, were elected Col. Saml. McDowell, Genls. Levi & Robert Todd, Judge Caleb Wallace, Judges Muter & Sebastian, Benjn. Logan, Harry Innes, Christopher Greenup, afterwards one of the early Governors of the Commonwealth, Col. James Garrard, who was afterwards a Governor of the State, Col. Robert Patterson, Edward Payne and others.

(To be continued).

Transcribed January 2002 by pb

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