A Visit to Bardstown KY – Bourbon Capital of the World – 5 Things You Must Do

On my recent all-too-brief trip to Bourbon Country and Bardstown, KY, I had time to do a few things that I wanted but I saw so much more that I would love to experience. Luckily for me I live only about 40 miles away so I can go back and do these later. If you are ever lucky enough to find yourself in Bardstown, here are five activities or attractions that you should consider doing.

1. Visit a Distillery or Two. Okay, this is really the only real “must-do” in bourbon country. I only had the time to visit Heaven Hill, the closest distillery to downtown, but there are dozens more distilleries within minutes of Bardstown including the world famous Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark Distilleries. Learn how bourbon is made, the history of bourbon and the surrounding area and sample the goods at the end. What’s not to love.

2. Visit The Old Talbott Tavern. I had lunch at this historic inn and tavern that sits smack on the Courthouse Square. It now operates as a restaurant, hotel and bed & breakfast. It has a very colorful past. Here is a clip from their website:

The old stone reminder of Bardstown’s beginnings still welcomes visitors to the bustling downtown area. Since the late 1700s, the Old Talbott Tavern on Court Square has provided shelter, food and drink to Kentucky travelers.

Talbott Tavern is said to be the oldest western stagecoach stop in America as the westward expansion brought explorers from the east into Kentucky.

According to legend, figures straight from the history books sought lodging here during their travels; as a young boy Abraham Lincoln and his family stayed here, Gen. George Rogers Clark, Daniel Boone, and exiled French King Louis Phillipe and his entourage stayed here, even painting murals on the upstairs walls. There are noticeable bullet holes in the now faded paintings and Jesse James is said to be responsible for them.

Riiiiight. Hey, it’s possible. Jesse James mother lived in my hometown of Brandenburg and I have slept in her bedroom. She wasn’t there at the time. 😉 But that’s a story for another time.

Anyway, if you go to the Old Talbott Tavern, go for the history because the food is just average. Nothing wrong with it but it would definitely not make it onto my Roadfood Blog of places to eat on the road.

Oh, one more thing — it’s said to be haunted. Maybe it’s Jesse.

2. Walk the Courthouse Square and Downtown Area. Bardstown is proud of its history and it have reason to be. It is Kentucky’s second oldest city and has one of the largest collections of late 18th and early 19th century buildings in the Southern United States. There is even a recreation of a frontier village right on the Courthouse Square. I do love reading those little history plaques they put on old buildings.

Across from the Old Talbott Tavern there is a drugstore that still has an authentic lunch counter. If the noon crowd is any indication this would have been a much better choice for lunch though I would have probably had to wait until 3 or 4 pm to get a seat. Next time.

4. Kentucky Railway Museum. See a wealth of old engines and cars from a time when trains ruled the west at Kentucky’s official railway museum. Take a ride through the scenic Rolling Fork River Valley on the dinner train.

5. Abbey of Gethsemani. The center offers displays and a video presentation about monastery life as well as a gift shop with Gethsemani Farms products. The Abbey, founded in 1848 by the Order of Trappist Cistercians, is home today to Trappist monks who open doors to spiritual seekers from all over the world. Pick up some monk-made crafts while you are there including their world renowned cheese.

I wonder if they make beds. Get it? Monkbeds. HA!

There is so much to do in and around Bardstown that it may be best just to make a weekend of it. There are several B&B’s listed on the official site that look good and I saw at least two right downtown on the square. Who wants to drive home after all that bourbon sampling anyway.

Something’s Up With Edgefield – Edgefield, South Carolina

“Are you making all this fuss over me?”

Strom Thurmond

While traveling on business through South Carolina on State Route 19 from Aiken up through Edgefield I came upon a place that was totally unexpected. Each day I would drive through the town on State Route 25 which passes through the town square which reminds me of a cross between the town featured in the movie “Doc Hollywood” and the square in the Spielberg film “Back to the Future” where Marty has to somehow generate 1.2 Jigawatts of energy and channel it into the “Flux Capacitor” so he can get back home.

There were several monuments in the town square and a stately old Courthouse on the North West corner. I kept telling myself that I was going to stop and read what was inscribed on those monuments one day after work. I finally got my chance on the last day that I was there and I discovered a community unlike any other that I have ever visited. I discovered a town where exploration, industry, war, agriculture, slavery, bigotry and feudal honor had been swirling in a vortex seemingly since the founding of the town back in the late 1700’s.

Thinking it would be a short and simple stop on my way back to Aiken after a long week of work, I parked my vehicle at the town square, grabbed my camera and went to quickly read the inscriptions on the monuments. My first stop was the Egyptian type obelisk located in the center of the square. Apparently it was dedicated to the incredible sacrifice the men of the community made during the Civil War.

Another granite marker told of 10 South Carolina Governors that the Edgefield area produced. It struck me as very odd that a tiny town like this could have projected such an influence on the rest of the State by sending so many of its men to the Governor’s mansion. The lawns of this beautiful little town square were so green, trim and neat it seemed as if the greens keeper from Augusta was attending to the details himself.

I walked from the granite “Governor’s” marker over to a bronze statue of a man facing the Courthouse. This statue was of the most famous and influential Governor and State Senator ever to come out of South Carolina – Strom Thurmond. I was now very interested as this little park held some serious significance.

The next stop was the courthouse. Atop the triumphant marble steps of this imposing old structure with white doric columns you have a fine view of the entire town square. I stopped a moment to observe, photograph and appreciate a scene of the south that to me was so foreign, being a westerner and all.

I descended the steps and noticed that there were some historical plaques on the side of the building. One in particular caught my eye and it was an ornate plaque placed in 1919 dedicated to the memory of the men from Edgefield who gave their lives in the First World War. It was very odd to see the names broken down into two categories – white men and colored men. It was a stark reminder of the tangled web of the politics and bigotry of slavery and continued animosity after the great war between the States that is still apparent just beneath the surface in so many parts of the south.

I walked through the portico under the courthouse steps and read a plaque about how a shooting occurred on that very spot taking the life of a man named Bird due to a dispute between locals. Apparently, a man’s name and honor was a huge thing back in the day in Edgefield and if you impugned a man’s honor or reputation, the Code Duello, a set of rules for a duel, would be initiated and you would shoot it out in the street.

The next plaque was quite disturbing as it told the tale of one “Becky Cotton- The Devil in Petticoats” 1765-1807, a beautiful seductress who murdered her husband in a brutal fashion by burying an axe in his head while he slept. According to legend, the all male jury in her trial was so taken with her charm and beauty that they acquitted her even though they had no doubt she committed the crime. Some say she went on to marry twice more and that she killed both of those husbands as well and threw their bodies in Slade Lake.

She was finally killed by her own brother after she was once again acquitted by the jury. The plaque on the courthouse states that the “Devil in Petticoats” was killed by her brother, who was disgusted by her behavior – he crushed her skull with a rock on the courthouse steps and then made his escape on a horse and rode west.

Very creepy yet interesting tale. Later in the day I explored Slade Lake and followed the “10 Governors Trail” which is a paved path from Slade Lake to Main Street that follows the old rail road grade and crosses Highway 25 on an old train trestle. This is a beautiful trail that has a granite marker every tenth of a mile – on these markers you will find information about all 10 Governors who came from the Edgefield area.

As I walked by Slade Lake in the waning golden light of late afternoon I thought of Becky Cotton. I looked down into the murky water and wondered if Becky actually did throw her husband’s corpses in there and if there are such things as ghosts, if they – and Becky still haunted the place.

Continuing on from the Courthouse I walked past the old black smiths shop where locals tell me for over 100 years, the town blacksmith has been on duty. Behind this shop is St. Mary’s Catholic Church and it is a wonderful old grey granite structure. I took a walk through it’s cemetery and noted several graves of confederate soldiers.

I walked back to the town square and noticed a cat inside a store window – lazily sleeping on a rocking chair. There were a bunch of cats just lounging around various places in the town. I looked at another historic plaque on a building just down the walk from the corner store.

This plaque told of the “Booth – Toney” shootout of 1878 where on that very spot, there was a gunfight between these two families that had a blood feud running back to 1869 when Benjamin Booth killed Luther Toney. There were more than 40 shots fired and when the smoke cleared – 3 men lay dead around the Edgefield town square – one in front of the public library.

By this time I was thinking to myself “What is up with Edgefield???” so much violence and fighting in such a small town. I stopped next at the old Tompkins library which houses the Edgefield Welcome Center and Genealogical Society. By this time I was fascinated with the history of the place so I bought several books on the history of Edgefield and one on the history of Company K – 14th South Carolina Volunteers.

I talked with the gentleman there for a bit and then made my way down a back alley to the old Edgefield Pottery building where I heard and exhaustive history of pottery making out of Red South Carolina Clay by the gentleman there who obviously loves his work. Apparently, Edgefield is famous for it’s clay and the pottery that is made from it.

I was hungry by this time so I went over to “Park Row Market No. 1” on the corner of Main street and the Courthouse Square. I ordered up a turkey and pepper jack panini with chipotle sauce and it was outstanding. This building is cool in itself as it housed a general store in Edgefield since 1852 and much of the interior of the place is just as it was back in the day.

It was a warm quiet evening and there was a gentleman playing guitar there and singing. When he dived into Jimi Hendrix’ “Little Wing” pulling off a great acoustic rendition, I knew I was going to stay awhile so I got a brew and elbowed up to a bench on the boardwalk in front of the store and commenced to munching my sandwich and observing the courthouse square as the sun went down.

So much interesting history took place in this tiny well manicured town square. It is impossible to capture it all in this short article and I’m sure if there are any mis-representations, I will hear about it from the Historical Society of Edgefield. Hopefully, the Code Duello will not be initiated as I will gladly correct any mistakes!

As I drove away from Edgefield passing by the peach orchards and pines with Stone Temple Pilots jamming on the radio it was as if I was in Marty’s De Lorean and I was heading “Back to the Future”. If you ever want to get a glimpse of the old south, Edgefield is a most amazing little slice in the up country of South Carolina. It is well worth a visit.

Oxford, Mississippi – The Land of Charm and Elegance

Oxford, also known as Ole Miss, is a land of charm and elegance. It has approximately 19,000 residents who are known to possess Southern culture and hospitality. Most people here are as passionate as authors and will genuinely win your heart that will entice you to stay longer. In fact, this city was quoted as the writer’s haven. It has produced a Nobel Prize-winning author, William Faulkner; and dozens of authors chose to stay and pursue their writing like Josh Grisham, Larry Brown, Cynthia Shearer, Barry Hannah, etc.

Oxford is a lively university filled with a historic picturesque town in Mississippi. It has scenic town square, unique shops and galleries, historic landmarks, excellent restaurants and clubs, and comfortable inns.

The courthouse square, called “The Square”, is the geographic and cultural center of the city. It is known for an abundance of locally owned restaurants, specialty boutiques, and professional offices, along with Oxford City Hall. Recently, The Square has become overpopulated with condos. Hence, Oxford has been considered as a sophisticated little city.

Oxford is also the home of the acclaimed University of Mississippi which plays an integral part in the community, providing cosmic social and cultural activities. Inside the campus is the University Museum which contains the several impressive, permanent collections including the Robinson collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, the Millington-Barnard Collection of 19th century scientific instruments, the personal collections of Mary Buie & Kate Skipwith, and an extensive collection of the work of Theora Hamblett, who is a native Oxonion folk artist. Additionally, it yearly hosts eight to ten temporary exhibits in conjunction with various university departments and the local community.

SEC sports continue to be a major attraction in Oxford-University Stadium, not only for Ole Miss Students and alumni, but for the entire community as well. The stadium is one of the country’s finest places to watch collegiate baseball. Moreover, Oxford plays as the hospitable host to thousands of visitors each year who attend athletic events here from across the nation. Furthermore, Oxford has been a long-time home for football games of tailgate parties. In order not to miss an ultimate Southern experience, you have to plan a day in The Grove to watch a home football game.

Anytime, there’s no shortage of recreational activities and venues available to residents and visitors in Oxford. The city combines a southern lifestyle with the cosmopolitan flair of a college town. Even so, the place is dwelt with friendly and warm-hearted people. Indeed, it is appropriate to quote Oxford as a land of charm and elegance