Canoeing in Bourbon County, Kentucky Military History, and More!

By Leslie Potter | 10/23/17 10:30 AM

Latitude Arts Community; Kayaking Bourbon Co; Webster Co. Coal Mine Disaster; Camp Zachary Taylor

Kentucky Life visits Latitude Arts in Lexington. Setter Ridge Outfitters in Paris provides water recreation for all. The town of Clay marks 100 years since the worst mine disaster in Kentucky history. Camp Zachary Taylor in Louisville was part of the U.S. effort in World War I.


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Latitude Artist Community
Tucked away in Lexington’s Warehouse Block, (includes National, Walton, and N. Ashland avenues) Latitude Arts is fostering creative expression through visual art.

“At Latitude, our mission and our vision is that we serve all people with an emphasis on those who have an intellectual and developmental disability,” says Baylee Sexton, Community Division Director of Latitude Arts. “The atmosphere here is pretty peaceful. Everybody has their own art project of their choice and their own medium of choice.”

Current members of the Latitude Arts community range from age 21 to almost 70. The diversity of ages and backgrounds of artists creates a varied range of artwork produced, as each individual artist is informed by their own history.

“One thing that we see here is a lack of ego,” says Sexton. “They’re just more interested in being able to be part of other people’s lives and just to be simply creative.

“A lot of people will do things that you see in pop culture, like cartoon characters or superheroes,” adds Sexton. “Then we have several people who just like to draw portraits. It might be self-portraits or portraits of people in their lives or a musician they love. And then there’s also a few artists who are expressive in different ways, in more of an abstract, impressionistic way.”

One of Latitude’s artists has gained international notoriety in the art world for her distinct style.

“Beverly Baker chooses to be expressive with her alphabet and her numbers and her names,” says Sexton. “She continuously goes over them until she fills her page with her name and letters until its completely black. She’s had her first solo show in Lexington at Institute 193, and that show traveled up to New York City, which is amazing. She’s possibly the most famous person I know!”

“It was beautiful and quite intense with an expressionism to it. I really loved it,” says Maïa Ferrari, Creative Director at Institute 193, of Baker’s artwork. “She’s well-known internationally, so I’d heard of her from Paris. She was shown by all kinds of European galleries in art fairs. In the meantime, she has a very small recognition in her home state of Kentucky. That’s what strikes me the most. People from Paris knew of her, and people from Lexington never heard of her.

“The density and the movement of the ball point pen on the page almost reminded me of German expressionism,” Ferrari says. “The surface of the paper is so subtle and the lights on it make the work shine. The colors are changing, and suddenly depending on how you look at it you see some red, some green, some blue. But it’s always hard to [interpret], especially when the artist is non-verbal and cannot speak for the work. So I feel people might see something different in it depending on their own references.”

Institute 193 is one of several locations around town that showcase Latitude artists’ work. Third Street Stuff has a permanent exhibit with rotating pieces from Latitude. Nearby home furnishings shop Mulberry and Lime has also hosted a display, as has Chevy Chase restaurant The Sage Rabbit. The work is often available for purchase, and 100 percent of the purchase price goes to the artist.

“What I’d like for Latitude is to continue this mystical, magical vibe, but in a larger facility,” says Sexton. “Possibly even a gallery space for the community to come and be supportive and witness the artwork that’s created in this creative space.”

Setter Ridge Outfitters
To get away from it all and enjoy Kentucky’s wilderness and farmland, you’ll want to get out on the water. Setter Ridge Outfitters in Paris offers canoe and kayaking day trips for people of all ages and experience levels.

Setter Ridge is located at the south fork of the Licking River at Hinkston and Stoner Creeks, providing ample opportunity for water recreation for a few hours or all day.

“Once we put you in the water, there’s no time limit,” says owner Jay Schweitzer. “We run a nine-mile trip, a six-mile trip, and we’ll pick you up at the other end.”

The area is ideal for beginners, families with kids, or anyone looking for an approachable excursion.

“[The water depth is] three to six feet, and a few nice little rapids. It’s all Class I water so there’s nothing that you’d have to be intimidated by, and right below those rapids is where you catch a lot of smallmouths.”

Schweitzer says that some first-timers are a bit cautious at first, but it doesn’t take long for the fun of canoeing and kayaking to win them over.

“You would not believe when we first start talking to them, they’re really intimidated,” says Schweitzer. “But by the time we pick them up it’s a whole different person. They don’t want to stop, they love it, and they’re coming back. We get a lot of return customers.

“On our trips, you won’t see any houses,” Schweitzer adds. “It’s all farm country and woods. If you want to come out and see nature, this is it.”

As for the name of the business, Setter Ridge comes from one of the Schweitzer family’s other passions: dogs. The family raises Llewellin Setters, a type of English Setter, and sends them all over North America.

Webster County Coal Mine Disaster
2017 marks 100 years since the deadliest coal mining disaster in Kentucky history. An explosion at the No. 7 mine in the heart of the Western Kentucky coal field ended the lives of 62 miners.

In August of 1917, the mine was operating with a novice crew for several reasons.

“Most young Webster County men had signed up for the draft in June of 1917,” explains Roxie Rhea, Secretary of the Webster County Historical Society. “A lot of the local men had gone on to work at other mines. The strike was in progress. A lot of men came up from the south to work in local mines.”

The strike had people on edge. Shots had been fired into the mine, and the company had installed floodlights and a machine gun at the entrance. The West Kentucky Coal Company brought in men from out of state to work in the mine, and most of them had no prior mining experience.

At the end of the day on August 3, a canvas curtain was left out of place, allowing gas to accumulate at the coal face. On the morning of August 4, a worker’s open-flame lamp ignited the gas, resulting in the deadly explosion.

The explosion killed 62 men, 51 of them African American. Many of them had just arrived in town a few days before and could not be immediately identified. West Kentucky Coal buried nearly 30 of these men in unmarked graves on company property.

“It’s very sad because I feel that probably a lot of those people’s families probably never knew what happened to them,” says Steve Henry, County Judge Executive for Webster County. “They got on a train headed for Kentucky, a chance to make a living, and were never heard from again.”

“One of the people I met when I was a younger person was Miss Jessie Dalton,” says Dennis Williams, Administrator of the Rock Springs Baptist Church Cemetery. “She lived up here at the time this explosion occurred. She used to tell us boys stories about the history of this area…she had told us that her family had stood in the yard of their house and watched as the wagons had brought the bodies up. She actually witnessed that and told us about it as children. I just hate to see these guys make the ultimate sacrifice and not be remembered for it.”

In honor of the centennial of the No. 7 Mine tragedy, the community is working to document and preserve the unmarked graves and ensure that the story is not forgotten.

Camp Zachary Taylor
When the United States entered World War I, a key training camp was established in Louisville and named for one of Kentucky’s native sons.

“Camp Zachary Taylor was established in the summer of 1917 here in Louisville,” says Jim Holmberg, Curator of collections at the Filson Historical Society. “It was one of the major cantonments that was established as part of the US’s entry into WWI. It was named in honor of Gen. Zachary Taylor, who was a hero of the Mexican War, and president of the United States, briefly.

“Louisville was chosen for Camp Zachary Taylor because it had all the requirements that the government said were needed,” Holmberg explains. “It had close vicinity to a major city. It had transportation. It had infrastructure that could be extended and it had the city leadership that really pushed for it.”

The camp filled a need that arose when the U.S. joined the war effort. Prior to that time, there weren’t military training camps in the U.S., says Kenneth Maguire, Historian at Camp Zachary Taylor.

“The main purpose of the camp was to train men for the Army,” says Maguire. “They would teach them drilling, they would teach them military instructions, shooting rifles…pretty much all aspects of military life.”

One of the changes that came about in the military during WWI was the adoption of a physical training program. Soldiers at Camp Zachary Taylor were among the first to experience the program.

“They had several professional athletes that the army had commandeered. Some of them were boxers,” says Maguire. “They’d have these boxers show them how to do calisthenics.”

There are other historically important events that took place in and around Camp Zachary Taylor. The 814th Pioneer Infantry, a division of African American enlisted men in America’s segregated Army, was organized and trained at the Camp Taylor before being deployed overseas in October of 1918. Writer F. Scott Fitzgerald trained at the camp, and referenced it in The Great Gatsby. The camp was also instrumental in bringing foreign-born soldiers into the U.S. military.

“In the Civil War, there was a bill passed that a soldier of different nationality could join the army, and after completing service he could then apply for citizenship,” says Maguire. “In 1918 they amended it again [so that] immediately upon enlistment you could apply for citizenship. In late 1918 there was a wave of foreign-born nationals who came to Camp Zachary Taylor.

“There was this large elm tree that created a good amount of shade, so they would place the men under the tree and conduct these ceremonies to swear them in,” adds Maguire. The tree became known as “the naturalization tree” for its role in the ceremonies.

“In the fall of 1918, they began swearing in these soldiers who were foreign born,” says Holmberg. “In October alone, over 4000 were sworn in, eventually representing 17 nations.”

As for the tree itself, Holmberg says it was struck by lightning and no longer exists. A marker stands in its place. But in 1921, the same year Camp Zachary Taylor closed, the naturalization tree was inducted into the tree hall of fame, according to an article in the New York Tribune.

After the war ended, the U.S. Army made the decision to close the camp.

“Camp Zachary Taylor will be best remembered for its contribution to the World War I effort that America made,” says Holmberg. “Over the life of the camp, some 250,000 men passed through here. Some 150,000 trained. Some of these men ended up staying in Louisville, marrying Louisville girls. It was a major economic boost for Louisville at the time.”