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Program 818

1. the William Whitley House
2. artists-in-residence at Bernheim
3. eagle watching at Reelfoot Lake
Season 8 Menu

Lincoln County

For more information:
William Whitley House, 625 William Whitley Road, Stanford, KY 40484-9752, (606) 355-2881

Producer, editor: Joy Flynn
Videographer: Brandon Wickey
Audio: Charlie Bissell

Historic Horseman

William Whitley House

As a patriotic veteran of the Revolutionary War, William Whitley hated all things British. So in 1788, when the renowned frontier “Indian fighter” laid out a horse racing track on his Kentucky property as part of a barbecue celebrating a victory over the Chickamauga, he decided to break from Old Country traditions. Since the English built turf tracks, he went with clay. And since English horses ran clockwise, he decreed that his would run counterclockwise. To this day, all American racetracks follow his lead.

Whitley left his mark in many other ways, too, as this visit to his homestead in present-day Lincoln County shows. He and a brother-in-law were early explorers of Kentucky who helped build the “station” that became the town of Stanford. He accompanied George Rogers Clark on his northwest campaign against the British and their Native allies. He was well known as a protector of travelers and a genial host (his house was located right on the Wilderness Road), and he served a term in the Kentucky House of Representatives shortly after statehood. He also continued his military career as a lieutenant colonel in the Kentucky militia, fighting several more battles against the local tribes. And when America and the British faced off again in 1812, he volunteered—at the age of 64. The next year, he led a charge against a force commanded by Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames, and both Whitley and the great Native American warrior were killed.

Sportsman’s Hill, the Whitley family home, is now a state shrine. The house itself holds the architectural distinction of having been the first brick home built in Kentucky. But its elegant exterior conceals several features reflecting the perils of frontier life, including a secret staircase leading to underground passages to be used in case of Indian attack.

Whitley County, formed five years after William’s death, was named in his honor. Whitley City, the seat of McCreary County, probably is, too, though possibly once removed: It may have been named for the county. William Whitley himself is buried in Ontario, Canada, near the site of the fatal battle of 1813.

Bullitt County

For more information:
Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, State Highway 245, P.O. Box 130, Clermont, KY 40110, (502) 955-8512

Producer: Connie Offutt
Videographer: Mike Blackburn

Art, Naturally

Artists-in-residence at Bernheim Forest

Beauty both natural and man-made abounds in our next segment, a visit to Bernheim Forest and Arboretum for a look at its artists-in-residence program.

This private park, which straddles the Bullitt-Nelson County border, was established by Isaac W. Bernheim, a German Jewish immigrant and a classic American success story. Bernheim came to the United States shortly after the Civil War; settled in Paducah, where he worked as a peddler and a bookkeeper; and then started a distillery (shortly relocated to Louisville) that eventually made him a small fortune. He then gave a good deal of that fortune back, funding a college library building in Cincinnati, a wing of Louisville’s Jewish Hospital, and the forest that now bears his name.

When Bernheim purchased the land in 1928, it was hardly wilderness. But over the next few decades, much of it was allowed to return to a more natural state. Meanwhile, other sections were landscaped by the architectural firm founded by Frederick Law Olmsted according to his principles of harmony with nature. Bernheim Forest, in fact, was the company’s last large project in the Louisville area; earlier, Olmsted himself had overseen the creation of Louisville’s spacious and lovely city park system.

After more than two decades of letting nature take its course (with a little human help), Bernheim Forest was opened to the public in 1950. Its more than 10,000 acres encompass scenic drives, a world-renowned arboretum, and walking routes ranging from garden paths to wooded hiking trails. More than 300,000 people visit each year, many of them participating in educational programs. Art is also an important component of Bernheim’s mission—a component of which its founder, who commissioned several works of public statuary, would surely approve.

Fulton County

For more information:
Reelfoot Lake State Park, Route 1, Tiptonville, TN 38079, (731) 253-7756, (866) 836-6757

Producer: Dave Shuffett
Videographer: Michael Follmer
Editor: Dan Taulbee

Wingin’ It

Bald eagles at Reelfoot Lake

Benjamin Franklin is reputed to have argued for the turkey, but most people would agree that the bald eagle is a fitting symbol of America. By the 1970s, this majestic bird had also become a powerful symbol for the growing environmental movement, as its numbers plummeted because of habitat loss and pesticide-induced weakening of its eggs. When the Endangered Species List came into being in 1973, the bald eagle topped the list.

In the late 1990s, though, the news got much better. Thanks to conservation and anti-pollution measures, the eagle had made a comeback, and in 1995 its status was officially downgraded from “endangered” to “threatened” in the contiguous states. By 2007, the species had recovered and was removed from the list entirely.

One of the places that comeback has been staged is Western Kentucky, where abundant wetlands located along the Mississippi Flyway have long been a haven for birds of all kinds. In this segment, host Dave Shuffett and canine companion Sadie go eagle watching at Reelfoot Lake.

They had plenty of company on this February visit. The lake is also a destination for flocks of humans, who come to marvel at the eagles as well as wading birds. Formed in the great New Madrid earthquakes of the 1810s, Reelfoot is a shallow lake that’s partly in Fulton County and partly in Tennessee, located in a wildlife refuge on the Kentucky side and a state park on the Tennessee side. Several hundred eagles usually spend the winter in the region, and some have even settled down year-round. Though Kentucky went 40 years—from 1949 to 1989—without any eagle hatchings, a couple of dozen eaglets now are born in the state each year. In the spring of 2002, a nest with babies was even reported much farther east, at Laurel River Lake.

Kentucky Life previously visited Reelfoot Lake in Program 210 to meet a man who built “stump jumper” boats for traversing its shallow waters.

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

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