A Visit to Boone County in 1890
By: Cathy Collopy, Dinsmore Homestead
Originally published: October, 2007 in the Boone County Recorder
When visiting the Filson Historical Society recently, I came across a neat little story written by Enid Yandell, a Kentucky sculptor who befriended Julia Dinsmore while she attended the Art Academy in Cincinnati. Enid later created a plaster model of Daniel Boone that was set in bronze and now stands in Cherokee Park in Louisville. Less well known is the bas-relief she created of Julia that now hangs in the dining room at the Dinsmore Homestead.
The story Enid wrote is about a visit she made to the Dinsmore home in July of 1890. Although she changed Julia’s name and gender, calling her Mr. Rockwell, the story is obviously about the farm in Boone County. The house was “painted white, with green shutters” and “a big hall ran through the middle, adorned with deer heads, and foxes’ pads and brushes….” “Aunt” Nancy lived “across the ‘lot’” and “Aunt” Susan did the cooking. Both of these women show up constantly in Julia’s letters and journals.
Intended to entertain, the story illustrates the growing divide between rural and urban American at the turn of the century. Although only a few hours away from Cincinnati by steamboat (quicker by railroad), Enid described a county that was isolated from the modern world. She found this quaintly amusing and yet psychologically therapeutic.
On the second day of her trip, Enid visited “Belle View” which, she wrote, was “supposed” to be a town – it had “two stores and a post office, three houses, a church, and part of an unpaved street.” She described one of the stores as a “curiosity.” It was the kind of country store “where you 'ask for the Bible, and the Storekeeper, with a smile, hands you a chapter or two torn out, saying his stock is very low at present.'” Enid characterized Boone farmers as “a lazy lot, working only enough to keep them alive, yet jolly and kind hearted as the day is long.” They did not keep the frenetic pace of city dwellers and their wants were not the same as the grasping materialists who gave the Gilded Age its name.
Alcohol also divided rural areas from urban ones. Enid, used to drinking freely in Cincinnati and Louisville, found a reaction of “horror” in Burlington when she ordered a beer. This disappointment aside, Yandell recommended the rural experience to her readers. “All mankind would be benefited,” she wrote, by such a visit, explaining that it helped to compensate for the “unnatural” life in the city that “dulls all our finer senses and love of nature.” Ms. Yandell described a Boone County that no longer exists – a world permanently altered by subdivisions, highways, and modern technology.