Print of Frankfort, KY, drawn by C. Foster, 1840, Liberty Hall Historic Site Collections
Our “Glorious Little Stream”
Liberty Hall is not pictured in this 1840 view of Frankfort, but rivers figured in Brown family history in many ways. John Brown’s Frankfort land bordered the Kentucky River and in 1800, he purchased a ferry to transport visitors to South Frankfort. Four years later, he bought 3400 acres in Owen County along the Kentucky River that later became the fruit plantation operated by several generations of Browns.
Brown family letters record the river’s impact on daily life. In 1818 John observed that steamboats were bringing “a great variety of luxuries of other climates heretofore unknown to our citizens who will soon view them as necessities of life.” A few months later he worried about beef and pork awaiting shipment spoiling because the weather was warm and river was not “boatable.”
The Browns also reported on river disasters, like the 1831 fire on the steamboat Sylphthat prompted Mary Watts Brown to encourage her mother to travel by land. In a later letter to the wife of her nephew, Margaretta Brown described the collapse of a bridge in Frankfort that killed several travelers.
Although they did not experience boat accidents first-hand, Brown family members commented on their travels by river. Orlando told a cousin that an 1834 steamboat trip to Pittsburgh was sometimes rough, but the company was interesting. In 1836, sixty-three-year-old Margaretta wrote that fears, hard mattresses, and close quarters had kept her from sleeping more than two hours a night on steam and canal boats.
These and other stories about the Browns and the river will be featured in the tour of Liberty Hall for the river boat tours on September 26-28. For more about this experience on the river Orlando Brown dubbed “our glorious little stream,” see Programs and Events.
History & Collections
This portrait of John Preston Watts Brown I (1815-1850) was recently donated by John P.W. Brown VI. John Preston Watts Brown I was the son of Dr. Preston Brown. Preston was John Brown’s brother.
The oil on canvas painting dates to ca. 1837-1842 and was passed down in the Brown family. Although, unsigned, the artist attributed to the painting is Washington Bogart Cooper (1802-1889).
The donor’s father John P.W. Brown (1928-2017) wished that the painting be donated to Liberty Hall. We are very happy to acquire this lovely portrait.
Programs & Events
River Cruise & History Tour
Seats are still available for September 26-28. A significant portion of your ticket price is tax-deductible. The full day excursion begins with a tour of Liberty Hall focusing on the Browns connection to the river, with a locally-catered lunch at Blue Wing Landing, the 1850’s home built by Mason Brown as the family’s summer retreat.
Brown Bites Lecture Series
The second lecture of the year was August 5 and featured Estill Curtis Pennington, author of the forthcoming book, Matthew Harris Jouett (1788-1827): his life and work. Guests enjoyed a box lunch inspired by 19th-century cookbooks in the Senator John Brown Library and learned about portrait artists who painted in ante-bellum Kentucky.
Did You Know?
Paul Sawyier Painted Here
Did you know that Paul Sawyier created paintings of the Liberty Hall garden and the Orlando Brown House? His friendship with Brown family members may have been one of the reasons. On September 9 Plein Air Painters of the Bluegrass will be painting at some of Sawyier’s favorite spots around Frankfort. Also, Frankfort KY Rocks! will be painting rocks. For details, find them on Facebook by clicking here
September 9 – Plein Air Painting at Liberty Hall – 2-5 p.m.
September 26, 27 & 28 – River Boat Cruise History Tours – 8:30-5:00 p.m.
Find Out More
To get more information on programs, events, or Liberty Hall Historic Site, please visit our website atwww.libertyhall.org or follow us on social media.