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Program 1119

1. St. Thomas Log House
2. Laurel Gorge
3. Horse Lick Creek
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Nelson County

For more information:
Bishop Flaget Log House, Saint Thomas Parish, 870 Saint Thomas Ln., Bardstown, KY 40004, (502) 348-3717

Producer, editor: Charlee Heaton
Videographers: Amelia Cutadean, Prentice Walker, Frank Simkonis
Audio: Anne Deck, Chuck Burgess

Catholic Connections

Bishop Flaget Log House

Kentucky was an epicenter of a fundamentalist religious revival in the early years of the 19th century, and the state is generally thought of as part of the Protestant Bible Belt. But the Catholic Church also has a long, rich history here. To begin this edition, we explore a little of that history while checking in on the restoration of the Saint Thomas Parish’s Bishop Flaget Log House in Nelson County.

Kentucky’s earliest white settlers included at least a sprinkling of Catholics. A schoolteacher and a doctor who arrived at Harrodsburg in 1775—each the state’s first in their respective professions—were Catholic. Ten years later, a group of 20 families who had journeyed together from Maryland founded several communities in what would become Kentucky’s true Catholic stronghold: the rolling farmlands of what are now Nelson, Marion, and Washington counties.

In 1792, a missionary priest named Benedict Joseph Flaget, who had left the tumult of Revolution-era France for the uncertainties of the American frontier, celebrated a Mass in Louisville while en route to his posting in the wilds of Indiana. Kentucky got its first permanent priest the following year, when Stephen Badin began riding his circuit (extending from Tennessee to Michigan) from a base at St. Stephen’s in Marion County.

Within just a few years, the population of American states and territories west of the Alleghenies had grown sufficiently large that officials in Rome decided to subdivide the American diocese. In 1808, it was split into four units, headquartered in Boston, Philadelphia, New York ... and Bardstown. Flaget was named bishop of the new Bardstown diocese, responsible for a vast territory that stretched from the Alleghenies to the Mississippi River and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes. Arriving at his new post in 1811, he took up residence in the log house at St. Thomas. Built in 1795, it was located on a 400-acre farm that had been willed to the Roman Catholic Church by Edward and Ann Howard. Flaget would live there until 1819, when he moved into the town of Bardstown at the completion of its St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral.

A seminary was also founded at the St. Thomas farm (it closed in 1869), and it was the site of the founding of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth order of nuns in 1812. Other Catholic social service organizations established in the area include the Sisters of Loretto and the Dominican Sisters of Springfield. Flaget also welcomed the group of monks who founded the Abbey of Gethsemani in Nelson County in 1848.

In 1841, the seat of the diocese was transferred to Louisville. There Bishop Flaget presided over the beginning of construction at the Cathedral of the Assumption, which now ranks as one of the country’s oldest cathedrals. Today Louisville is the seat of an archdiocese, headed by an archbishop who oversees Church affairs in Kentucky and Tennessee, and remains one of the South’s most heavily Catholic urban areas. And the jurisdiction Flaget once administered from the St. Thomas Log House has been divided into nearly 30 dioceses.

See also: We visited the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Kentucky Life series premiere, Program 101; the Abbey of Gethsemani in both Program 105 and Program 909; and a member of the Sisters of Loretto who paints religious subjects in Program 104.

Elliott County

For more information:
• Laurel Gorge Cultural Heritage Center, P.O. Box 653, Sandy Hook, KY 41171, (606) 738-5543
• Elliott County Extension Service, (606) 738-6400

Producer, videographer, audio, editor: Brandon Wickey

History, Natural and Human

Laurel Gorge

If you’ve watched Kentucky Life for any time at all, you know that host Dave Shuffett is a dedicated outdoors lover. This time around, he takes his trusty walking stick to Laurel Gorge in Elliott County, near where Laurel Creek joins the Little Sandy River. There the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are working together on a plan to preserve a six-mile stretch that’s long been a favorite spot for hiking, fishing, and just enjoying the scenery. The sandstone cliffs of Laurel Gorge, 300 feet high in places, also shelter a variety of rare species.

The preservation project is being balanced with an effort to make the gorge more amenable to visitors. Volunteers have been working for several years to build new trails, including sections that are handicap-accessible, and a lodge opened in 2002. It’s all part of a long-term economic development effort spearheaded by the Elliott County Tourism Development Council. After an extensive review of the area’s liabilities and assets, local leaders developed a plan to boost Elliott’s economy by capitalizing on its strengths—which include some of Eastern Kentucky’s prettiest scenery.

Another strength identified in the plan is Elliott County’s rich Appalachian heritage. On his visit, Dave also tours the newly opened Laurel Gorge Cultural Heritage Center, where interpretive displays and volunteers dressed in period clothing educate visitors about the area’s past and present.

Watch This Story (10:27)

Rockcastle County

For more information:
Horse Lick Creek from the U.S. Forest Service

Producer: Joy Flynn
Videographer: Brandon Wickey
Editor: Jim Piston

Horsing Around

Horse Lick Creek

This edition ends with a pictures-and-music filler offering more lovely scenery, this time from Horse Lick Creek. This 16-mile-long tributary of the Rockcastle River meanders through parts of Rockcastle and Jackson counties and is known for its many varieties of mussels. The surrounding 40,000-acre bioreserve, 15,000 acres of which is in the Daniel Boone National Forest, is managed cooperatively by the U.S. Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy, the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, Jackson County, and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. The region was designated one of “America’s Last Great Places” by the Nature Conservancy in 1992.

Watch This Story (2:14)

SEASON 11 PROGRAMS: 1101110211031104110511061107
110811091110: Wild and Scenic Kentucky11111112

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