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Program 805

1. old growth in Blanton Forest
2. the Rob Morris House
3. fall colors at Natural Bridge
Season 8 Menu

Harlan County

For more information:
Blanton Forest State Nature Preserve, P.O. Box 102, Whitesburg, KY 41858, (606) 633-0362
• For more about the ongoing fund-raising campaign, visit the Blanton Forest page at the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust web site.

Producer, videographer: Gale Worth
Editor: Esther Reed

Among the Tall Timber

Blanton Forest

In a patch of forest in extreme southeastern Kentucky, near where the first white settlers entered the state, it is possible to walk among some of the same trees that greeted those pioneers. Blanton Forest, an old-growth stand on the southern slope of Pine Mountain in Harlan County, has trees that tower more than 100 feet tall and date back hundreds of years.

The 2,350-acre forest was spared from the logging that has resculpted most of the Appalachian highlands by landowner Grover Blanton, a local store owner who resisted offers to sell his land to timber companies in the early 20th century. His daughters inherited the forest and honored their father’s wish to keep it intact. Then, in 1992, Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission biologist Marc Evans came across the land while exploring the area. Realizing what an ecological and historical treasure it represented, he started a campaign to buy the forest and turn it into a state nature preserve, thus protecting it permanently. The Blanton Forest State Nature Preserve—Kentucky’s largest—opened to the public on October 21, 2001.

Blanton Forest is the largest section of old-growth forest in Kentucky and the 13th largest in the United States. A fund-raising campaign is under way to buy surrounding acreage as a protective buffer zone.

Our tour was taped in 1995 (it previously aired on just the second-ever episode of Kentucky Life, Program 102), with Evans himself as guide. He shows Off the Beaten Path author Zoe Strecker around and talks about the ecological importance of old-growth forest. Its beauty and majesty, though, speak for themselves.

The preserve is located on KY 840 (Watts Creek Road) near the small town of Keith in southern Harlan County.

Oldham County

For more information:
• Rob Morris House, 110 Washington St., LaGrange, KY 40031, (502) 222-0248
Order of the Eastern Star General Grand Chapter

A Star’s Home

The Rob Morris House

Our next stop is in Oldham County, at the LaGrange home of 19th-century Masonic leader Dr. Rob Morris. As a father, Morris wanted to extend the benefits of belonging to a fraternal organization to his daughters. So he founded the Order of the Eastern Star, a fraternal and service organization open to Master Masons and women related to them. It is the world’s largest such organization that is open to both sexes, with 15,000 chapters and millions of members worldwide. Morris laid out its structure and codified its rituals in Mississippi in 1850, while homebound after an accident, then traveled the world lecturing about it over the next decade.

A native of New York who had also lived in several other places, Morris settled down in Kentucky in the mid-1850s and spent his last 30 years at the LaGrange house. He became a leader among Kentucky Masons, serving as the state’s Grand Master in 1858-59. And during the Civil War, he was president of the Masonic University, also located in LaGrange. The Grand Lodge of Kentucky had taken over the school, founded three years earlier as the Funk Seminary, in 1844. The Masons expanded the course offerings and began offering four-year college degrees as well as high school-level preparatory training. The Masonic University operated until 1873, but then declining enrollments (caused by the war, as well as several cholera epidemics) forced a return to high school status. The school was closed after the main building burned to the ground in 1911.

Morris himself lived until July 1888. A prolific writer, he authored more than 300 Masonic articles and poems. In 1884, he was named Poet Laureate of Freemasonry—only the second man to hold that title, after immortal Scottish poet Robert Burns.

Powell County

For more information:
Natural Bridge State Resort Park, 2135 Natural Bridge Road, Slade, KY 40376-9999, (606) 663-2214, reservations (800) 325-1710

Producer, videographer: Brandon Wickey

Fall Foliage

Autumn scenery at Natural Bridge

To end this episode, we circle back to the theme we started with: Kentucky’s natural beauty. This video postcard is from Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Powell County.

SEASON 8 PROGRAMS: 801802803804805806807808
809: Simple Pleasures and Hidden Treasures810811812813

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