Louisville Magazine

FEB 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 2.19 99 HISTORY Grimes and a painting of her great-great- great-great-grand- mother Nancy J. "Nannie" Willis Arnold. For her "folk opera," e Way Forth, Rachel Grimes reached back into the long-ago past, and into the near past of her own lifetime, to hear voices that the chroniclers of history have missed, voices that have traditionally not been heard — women, native Americans, African-Americans. One day, Grimes came upon a historical marker in Boonesborough, the state's first pioneer settlement, on the Kentucky River north of what today is Richmond. e sign included the names of all of Boones- borough's founders in 1775, including "a Negro woman." "Who was she?" Grimes found herself wondering. What life did she live? What were her dreams, her expecta- tions? What role did she play in such a his- torically important event as the founding of Boonesborough? Missing Pieces Composer Rachel Grimes uncovers a Kentucky history hidden by prejudice and neglect. By Bill Doolittle Grimes talked with historians and read between the lines of old texts to learn that the woman might have been named Dolly, a female slave of one of the men on the trek into Kentucky. Grimes and others believe Dolly gave birth to the first child born in Kentucky, with no record of who the father might have been among the men of the settlement, all white. "ere's just a general lack of historical material oriented to any- one but men," Grimes says. "at's kind of a main theme for me, that pioneer women were not published. ey didn't have a lot of diaries. ey weren't written about. But there were as many women at that time as there were men." Grimes notes she is not a scholar or a his- torian. But she has done a lot of digging. "It takes a lot more work to find information about indigenous people — about slaves, about women, about poor people — be- cause the people who had access to publish- ing and recordkeeping were a small number of the elite," says Grimes, who was born and raised in Louisville and now lives in a restored old house in Carroll County, about a 40-minute drive northeast from Louis- ville. All of her work comes to life as e Way Forth, which is a history in songs, with an accompanying movie she has collabo- rated on, to be presented by the Louisville Orchestra Feb. 23 at the Kentucky Center's Whitney Hall. (e Louisville Ballet is also on the program with a performance of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring. It's all part of LO director Teddy Abrams' ongoing "Festival of American Music.") For one song, "Red House School," Grimes tells a story of life in the one-room schoolhouse where her maternal grand- mother, Margaret Baldwin Leedy, once taught. e Red House School was just up the road from Boonesborough, and the building is still there, though boarded up. e audience will see an image of it in the accompanying film, projected silently above the orchestra. Grimes says her grandmother kept a journal about her teaching experiences that eventually reached book-length. "A true life of education in rural Kentucky," Grimes says. Her grandmother taught her entire adult life but always took classes at nearby Eastern Kentucky University, counting up the credits until one day, finally, she donned a cap and gown and graduated from college at age 61. Grimes' research into the life of the slave Dolly led her to a descendant named Frederick Hart, an African-Amer- ican who fought alongside white men in the War of 1812. (More Kentuckians, by the way, fought in that war than from any other state.) Hart married Judith Brown, of Frankfort, and their son, Henry Hart, became a prominent musician, working his way into Ohio and eventually marry- Continued on next page

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