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CAROLYN CRABTREE: This is Carolyn Crabtree. I'm at the McDowell House and Apothecary Shop interviewing Carol Senn, who is the Executive Director of the McDowell House. Today is August 17th and the time is about 2:07. Carol, thank you for coming and doing this or for being here to do this. I'm just here to ask you some questions about your job and about the McDowell House, whatever you'd like to share with us.


CRABTREE: And I guess we'll start out with how long have you been working here?

SENN: I have been here since I was a senior in high school in 1971. I was here through 1975, was gone for about 4 ½ years, and I've been here ever since.

C: Now what was your job in the beginning?

S: I was a tour guide.

C: And you just moved up?

S: Dorothy Bell Hill was the director when I came here and she came over to 1:00Danville High School and told them she was looking for a student in history, who might be interested in being a tour guide and they suggested she talk to me, and I started out giving tours and then when I came back, I was just a tour guide. Then the assistant director got sick and left and I took over her position and when Susan Nimocks resigned, I became the executive director.

C: So when was that? What year, do you know?

S: Not without looking it up, I don't. I really don't. Probably, maybe about 1992 or '93 but I, I actually would have to look it up.

C: Ok, that's fine. What exactly does your job entail here?


S: It's changed a lot over the years. We do so much more grant writing now, fund-raising. I spend the majority of my time at the computer, keeping in touch with people, finding grant opportunities, working with our friend's list, staying in touch with our board members about things that are going on, working with any restoration projects that we have going at the time.

C: Now, who is actually in charge of the McDowell House?

S: There is a Board of Managers. Dr. Charles Martin is the chairman and it's a non-profit organization.

C: So is it under the care of the Kentucky Medical Association?


S: It used to be a part of Kentucky Medical Association. It's run now by its own board and it's under the title of McDowell House Museum, Inc. We still get financial support from KMA but have no affiliation with them.

C: Ok. What is your favorite part of the job?

S: You know that's hard to say. Every day is different; we have people from all over the country and all over the world. The sad thing is I rarely get to see those people anymore because I'm involved doing so many other things. I guess the part I really have enjoyed always the most is working with the restoration part. It's a real hassle a lot of times but you just learn so much from the 4:00workmen, from the architect, from people like Jim Thomas who's on our board and we can talk to about restoration projects and my dad was a carpenter, a master carpenter, so I've always had kind of that interest. In another life I would've liked to have been an architect. Girls didn't do that when I was going to school.

C: They didn't. Well, how long has the restoration been going on here at the McDowell House?

S: Well, there've been different phases of restoration. When I first came back here in '75, no that's not right, in '82-'83, there was work going on. There hadn't been a roof put on in several years, the paint was peeling all over the walls, just lots of problems, and at that point the House had received a grant about a year before from the Kentucky Heritage Council for a historic 5:00structure's report and some insulation and roofing. So that was the first big restoration project in many years and then, course we did things along the way like painting and that kind of thing. But this new phase of restoration, we actually started raising money for it in 2000 and the work, planning stages started in 2002.

C: And that restoration involved what?

S: The phases that we've addressed, so far, have been geo-thermal heating and air, painting the outside, truly scrapping it and painting it correctly, replacing damaged boards and so forth, trying to solve the water problems in the cellar. We've suffered water damage several times. We've lost two furnaces, any 6:00number of things, because of water that would rise in the cellar; and so in looking at it, they tried to determine where all the water was coming from and as it turned out the gardens were actually sloped towards the house so water ran that direction, so all the slope was changed. Brick drains that had been put in during the WPA restoration that would not have been appropriate for that time were actually just letting water run right down the drains right into the foundation. So all those were taken up; then a new handicap ramp was put in. The brick sidewalks were repaired. We did a complete paint analysis of the house, a chemical paint analysis which was done by John Walsh, who is just one of the 7:00premiere paint analysis people in the country. And we did an updated historic structure's report.

C: Ok. What future plans do you have for restoration?

S: We have to have a new roof. Our roof is in bad shape. We actually have estimates now on a wood shingle roof and a cooper roof. We had looked at a copper roof two years ago and it was about $150,000; there was no way we could afford it. Copper has gone down drastically in price so we're looking at about $55,000. And that roof would have about a 150 year life span to it, so that's what we're trying to raise money for right now is the roof. And all of the masonry in the brick part of the house, it's very bad; the mortar is completely 8:00gone in some places. Water is leeching through and that's going to be another $50,000 to have all of it repointed, and so those are our two most pressing projects right now.

C: Now the roof -- if you put a copper roof on it will that cause problems with the historical accuracy of the building?

S: It should not. It may be a tad later, but even Jim Thomas says that it should be fine.

C: Really?

S: And Jim's kind of our go-to person; if he's good with it, we figure it's ok.

C: Now how old do you think the house, or do you know how old the house is?

S: The brick part of the house was built between 1792 and 1795. The front part was built between 1803 and 1804. And then this office that we're sitting in was 9:00built in 1820.

C: Ok.

S: The apothecary shop, we know Dr. McDowell purchased it in 1797 and he'd already been practicing here for a couple of years, so we don't know exactly when it was built, but before 1795.

C: Alright, what was this office used for when it was first built?

S: He sold the apothecary shop in later years of his life and added this office. It looks like it's all one building, but it's not. The apothecary is actually a totally separate building and as far as we've been able to determine he wasn't in good health the last few years of his life so he built like a private office over here and didn't do all of the apothecary like he had done before; he just saw patients.

C: Now he had a home out in the country called Cambus Kenneth.

S: Cambus Kenneth.

C: Do you know when he purchased that or had he had that all along?


S: He had that probably 20 years. That was his summer home. He saw patients out there; in the old ice house it would have been cool and quiet. That's actually where he passed away in 1830.

C: Now for historical salvation here, can't think of the right word, where is Dr. McDowell buried with his wife?

S: He is buried at McDowell Park by the Presbyterian Church on Main Street.

C: Has he always been buried there?

S: He was buried at Traveler's Rest, which was the home of the Shelbys.

C: Uh huh.

S: And in early 1870s the Kentucky Medical Association moved his gravesite to 11:00Main Street into McDowell Park, and his wife was moved there, also. There had been a lot of vandalism out at the cemetery at Traveler's Rest, so they were moved here and a monument put up.

C: Now tell us a little bit about the history of the McDowells and the House and anything you'd like to tell us.

S: Ok. Alright, well, Ephraim was born in 1771 in Rockbridge County, Virginia. He came to Kentucky when he was about thirteen. His father was appointed a land court judge in Kentucky. The court was held in Harrodsburg the first year and then moved to Danville. We don't know for sure where Ephraim studied until he went back to Virginia to study with Dr. Alexander Humphreys. Most physicians of that time apprenticed with another doctor for anywhere from six month to two 12:00years and had no formal training and then they went out and put a shingle up and they were a doctor. Dr. Humphreys suggested that McDowell and Samuel Brown, who were both exemplary students of his, go to the University of Edinburgh for formal training. That was the seat of medical learning at the time, and so, they went. Ephraim was limited somewhat by finances; his father gave him a set amount of money and told him to be very careful with this. There is some controversy as to why he left Edinburgh when he did. Some say it was because he ran out of money; others say that Dr. Humphreys was accused of killing someone and McDowell knew the circumstances, knew that had not happened, and that when he heard about 13:00it he came back to testify at the trial. It could have been either one. What we do know for a fact is that he left without getting his degree; but again, very few physicians had a degree anyway. But he did return and he never got a medical degree except an honorary degree from the University of Maryland. But he was still one of the best trained physicians west of the Allegheny Mountains. When he came back to Danville, he opened his practice in the apothecary shop. In 1802 he married Sarah Hart Shelby, the daughter of Isaac Shelby, the first governor of Kentucky. They had nine children, but only five lived to adulthood, one boy and four girls. Of course, he's so famous because of the surgery he performed on Jane Todd Crawford in 1809. It was the removal of a 22 ½ pound ovarian tumor. 14:00Her doctors in Green County had thought she was expecting twins, but when she never delivered, they summoned Dr. McDowell and he realized that she wasn't pregnant at all but had this ovarian tumor. Told Mrs. Crawford that there was nothing he could do to help her and she begged him to do what she could and he said, "Well, I can do an experiment if you will come to Danville." And he left her to decide what to do and came home and a few days later she followed him on horseback, three days in the middle of winter with, we believe, just a servant, that her husband stayed home with the kids. And they arrived here about a week before Christmas, and on Christmas Day 1809, he took a kitchen table up the back stairs, put her on the table, and he had no anesthetic. He didn't know about antisepsis; he made a nine inch incision and he removed the tumor. He said that she recited Psalms and sang hymns during the operation. He must have done a lot 15:00of the right things but for reasons he didn't know, like it was just a clean house. He washed his hands; he bathed the intestines before he put them back into her abdomen, which would have gotten rid of a lot of the infection. It was cold so that would have helped. If she had been in a hospital she most certainly would have died because physicians just went from one patient to the next without washing their hands because they didn't know about germs. Five days later she was up making her bed and 25 days later she got on her horse and went home and lived another thirty-two years to the age of seventy-eight. Dr. McDowell lived until 1830, when he died of what we believe was appendicitis.

C: Now he had done some operations for appendicitis at times, right?

S: No, he had done bladder stones.

C: Oh, ok.

S: He did over thirty bladder stone operations without a single fatality. One 16:00was on James K. Polk when Polk was seventeen. And then he did several more of the ovariotomies with two fatalities. He wrote nothing about the surgery until several years later. He always said that he did not want to give butchers/barbers, because many surgeons were actually barbers at the time, a procedure that they could just cut people up and not really know what they were doing. And he wanted to be sure that it wasn't a fluke; that it really would work again and again, so he wrote nothing until several years after the surgery and then he sent a report to the Eclectic Repertory in Philadelphia and then in 1829 he wrote a letter to a young medical student, whose father was a professor at Centre, and asked him to write and explain to his son how the surgery was 17:00performed and all because a lot of his son's colleagues just didn't believe that this surgery had been done and done on the frontier.

C: Now there is a lot of controversy about it and also the stories/ rumors here that people were outside waiting to kill him if she died and all that sort of thing. Do you know any--

S: Makes a great story.

C: Isn't it truth?

S: Makes a good story. We have no evidence at all that that was the case. First of all, his brother was a sheriff, so he probably wouldn't have let it happen. Second, he was a well respected man in the community, he was married to the governor's daughter, and he had asked people going to church to pray for he and his patient. They would have been in church having church services.

C: Now I also know that Mrs. McDowell was reprimanded for having a dance here 18:00and that sometime after that point she helped to start the Episcopal Church. Is that true?

S: That is true.

C: Was it because she was upset by the Presbyterian Church or what was the problem, do you know?

C: That we don't know for sure. I'm sure she was not happy with being reprimanded because she had had a dance for the young people in the community. And you know McDowell gave property for different things. He gave property for the Episcopal Church. He had been on the Board of Trustees at Centre and the original founding board at KSD. So he was involved in the community, so I we really don't know for sure why they would have switched to the Episcopal Church.


S: Ok. The Apothecary Shop, did he make his own medicines or did he get those through other people?

C: Most physicians made their own medicines. A lot of times that would be one of the jobs of one of the apprentices, to learn to mix the medicines. He probably grew some of his own herbs; he would have gotten herbs probably from Shaker Village. By 1820 Lexington could get anything Philadelphia had, so things that he needed shipped in, he could've gotten there. They mixed their own medicines; they had pill makers that they made their own pills with. Lots of medicines were given in liquid form and they might have ten, twelve, fifteen different herbs in them. A lot of times you would bring your own little glass bottles with you if 20:00you came to get medicine, and you could walk in and just say I want so and so. You didn't have to have a prescription. And a lot of times the doctor wasn't there; an apprentice would be there but the doctor would be out making house calls because he may be gone a week at a time to travel, you know, fifty, a hundred miles to see a patient.

C: Were these medicines things he was aware of long before he was a doctor? I mean, were they things that people used just growing up on the frontier?

S: It would be both. It would be both.

C: Did he learn any of this in Edinburgh, when he went to Scotland?

S: We know he took several like chemistry classes, so he would have learned the combining of different drugs, herbs, but a lot would have been just good homemade remedies.


C: What we call holistic medicine today?

S: Yes.

C: Pretty much?

S: Yes.

C: He had assistants, apparently, who helped him. Did he have an assistant when he did the surgery on Jane Todd Crawford?

S: Yes, there was a Dr. McKenney; there was his nephew James.

C: Now didn't James also marry one of the Shelby girls? Or am I mistaken?

S: Now I'm not the genealogist, you'll need to ask Alberta the genealogy.

C: Ok.

S: When you interview her ask her the genealogy.

C: Ok. What about Dr. Samuel Goldsmith over there?

S: He was also one of the assistants and--

C: Did he assist in that surgery?

S: Yes, he was one of the assistants. And it was not unusual; if you go back to like some of the Advocate -- well it wasn't the Advocate Messenger, but the original daily, the original Danville paper, and you go back at Centre to some 22:00of the very early records, you'll see different notices that were put in the paper by Dr. McDowell and there'd be a new partner. Or you'll see an ad for someone who had been an apprentice of McDowell's and he would go out on his own and it would say "Apprenticed under Dr. Ephraim McDowell."

C: Now he evidently had a pretty good reputation even away from here if James K. Polk came from Tennessee, right?

S: Correct.

C: To have surgery from him.

S: Right. In fact one of the ovariotomies that he performed was on Judge Overton's wife who was one of Andrew Jackson's best friends.

C: In Nashville?

S: In Nashville, and they owned the property next to The Hermitage. And McDowell was summoned there to see Mrs. Overton and he removed the same type of tumor from her.


C: Ok, was it successful?

S: It was successful.

C: Where would you find information on these various surgeries from him, by him?

S: Well, the Eclectic Repertory, for one. McDowell wrote very little, or if he did we've never found a lot of the writings, but from that, there are some records that we have read like through The Hermitage, James K. Polk's letters have come. He actually wrote two letters to McDowell; we've gotten those from Polk biographers and so forth to see those. But there's really very, very little written.

C: He just did his job, right?

S: He just either did his job or they were lost, one of the two.

C: Ok. Now, his children and his family -- were there very many doctors who came 24:00-- did any of his children become doctors?

S: Only one son lived to adulthood. And the kind of the family line about that was that William Wallace could not stand the sight of blood so he would not have made a very good physician. So, no, none of the children were physicians, none of the son-in-laws were. Now there were some nephews.

C: The controversy between him and James that came up, would you like to describe that a little bit?

S: Again, a lot of that is just legend or speculation. No one really knows if there was a lot of discord there.

C: People tend to play that up, don't they?

S: Again, it makes a great story.

C: How is it that so many of these stories have come from this, that haven't been documented?

S: Well, some came from a book by Mary Ridenbaugh, who was one of Dr. McDowell's 25:00granddaughters. She never knew her grandfather; her mother, if I'm not mistaken, died fairly young. But she wrote this biography of her grandfather. And it could be, you know, some of the things that she put in there could have been stories that had been passed down, but she never really knew him. She never got to talk to him, so we're not sure where some of these come from but that's where some of the little innuendos and all have followed. And then, anytime you have tour guides giving tours and before things are -- like years ago before there was a 26:00lot of research done -- I will never forget like Monny McCord, and you never knew Mrs. McCord but she was quite a character and she had been a docent here for a number of years. And if she didn't know the answer she would just make up a good story and so, she passed that on when she'd tell the story. She just, if she wasn't sure, she'd just go ahead and make up something that sounded good. And that was before, you know, we had, now we have docent's manuals that are based on research and we expect our docents to give a very accurate accounting.

C: Right.

S: But it was pretty different forty years ago when the house was first opened and, you know, didn't have a lot of people giving tours and there was really no historic research involved.

C: I know that this building was also a part of the black business community 27:00before it was restored. What are some of the ways this building has been used over history?

S: Just about anything you can think of. McDowell died in 1830; the house was sold around 1840. It was the home of a Centre College president; it was a Methodist parsonage. Then it was purchased by the Weisiger family, one of the wealthiest families in town and it became slum and tenement property. It was a barbershop; it was a rooming house; it was a "fancy" house. At one time there were about 12 families living in the house.

C: Really?

S: They had added on to the back porch, you know, covered it over. They had added rooms onto the Apothecary Shop in the back. In 1919 or 1920 when August 28:00Schachner came through, he's one of McDowell's biographers, when he came and toured the house, there were like ten families living in it. The lady who took him through offered to pull a piece of the railing on the stairway off to give him as a souvenir; she said people did that frequently when they came to the house. And what we call the operating room, when the house was bought for restoration in 1935, had about three to four feet of ashes in it. They would, instead of carrying the ashes from the fireplaces upstairs, downstairs, they just pitched them into the operating room and there are burn marks on the floor.

C: I wonder how in the world the House wasn't burned to the ground.

S: It is absolutely a miracle because you can just see the big scorch marks under the rug in the operating room. And it was just full of trash, refuse, ashes.


C: Are there pictures of this?

S: There are a few pictures, but not of the trash and all. It was after it was cleaned out. The WPA took before and after pictures of the restoration of each room, and we do have those that visitors can see.

C: Do you have them here?

S: Yeah. They're in a book right here that visitors can see.

C: Ok.

C: You mentioned Dr. Weisiger. I mean, you mentioned the Weisiger family. I read recently that their home was over where the Kentucky School for the Deaf is located and that it was used eventually as the school for the black deaf children. I believe there was a Dr. Weisiger in that family, but he would have been later than Dr. McDowell, is that right or do you know?


S: I would assume so. I don't know, but I would assume so, because they didn't buy this house until probably the 18- probably the late 1850s, 1860s.

C: OK. What was their intention to use the house?

S: We don't know.

C: We don't know?

S: We don't know.

C: Now, I also know there was a Dr. Polk in this community right here close by, who was also a doctor during the Civil War, but he was here very early. Do you know if he had any connections to Dr. McDowell at all?

S: Not that we're aware of and, of course, McDowell didn't practice as much after 1820. He wasn't really in good health so from 1820 on he wasn't practicing a whole lot.

C: How long did he actually practice medicine?

S: Well, he returned from Edinburgh in 1795.

C: Ok.

S: And practiced until his death in 1830, but just not as much after 1820.


C: Is there anything else you would like to tell us and share with us about your work; about the House?

S: Well, I guess a couple of things. One is, you know, there are lots of historic homes which are historic just because they're old. It doesn't necessarily mean that anything of importance happened other than the fact that people live there; I mean that's important, but no particular event happened. This house is important because of what happened here, not just that it's an old house. I think that's a real distinction.

C: Right.

S: I guess the other is that it's kind of funny so many of the people that work here come here and it's gonna be a summer job or it's gonna be something while you're in school or somebody comes to volunteer and they're gonna volunteer for 32:00a summer or whatever. There's something about the House that seems to have a real hold on a lot of people, you know, and they stay. Never once would I have thought that thirty something, forty years later that I would still be doing this. But there's something about the story and what it meant to all modern abdominal surgery, particularly women's surgery, you know, and that it is such a story and the fact that it would not have happened in a major city.

C: Why is that?

S: You know, on the frontier people did what they had to to survive. They experimented, they tried things; only the hardy survived anyway. In Boston, physicians were being hanged for even considering to do dissection of cadavers. 33:00You didn't examine a female patient. You asked her what was wrong with her, and she gave you a symptom and you doctored from that, you know. But on the frontier you did what you had to to survive and he would probably have never, in a metropolitan area, attempted something like this. They would've hanged him perhaps there, you know. Because of all the infection in hospitals, she would have died if she'd been in the hospital. It's just that true pioneering spirit. I mean, how many women would get on a horse and ride sixty miles with at tumor resting on the saddle horn? It took a pioneer woman to do that.

C: Now why do you think he stayed in Danville instead of going back to Virginia or somewhere where he would have probably been more wealthy?


S: Oh, it was his home. It was his wife's home, you know. Now he had brothers and family in Virginia. They were older when his father came here and they stayed in Virginia, but this had been his home from the time about thirteen. He had several brothers here. His father was here; of course Mrs. McDowell's family was between here and Frankfort. I assume it was home.

C: His mother's family, or his wife's family?

S: No, his wife's. I'm sorry, his wife's family. So it was home. And he could've been wealthier I guess in Virginia, but he didn't do too badly here.

C: No he didn't.

S: He did not do badly here. You know, this house, when it was built, most home in Danville would've been a log cabin. This was quite a nice home; and then to 35:00have a summer home, also. He had connections with Transylvania; he taught medical students from Transylvania.

C: I was gonna ask you about Transylvania. Did it have any influence on him in his work?

S: From what we have been able to learn there were medical students from Transylvania who would come here to study anatomy with him, like on a private basis. Course that's how he learned anatomy in Edinburgh was through John Bell and that was not through the University; it was private lessons. So Transylvania students came here and learned the same thing. There would probably have been quite a bit of travel between here and Lexington.

C: But yet is seems he did not go to Transylvania to do any lecturing. Is that correct?

S: No; no I think the students came here to learn anatomy but, it would have not been that unusual for a student to travel from Lexington here. It would've been 36:00a long trip.

C: But would it be a group of them come together, or just two or three at a time?

S: Probably, probably two or three at a time. And Samuel Brown, who was his old partner in Edinburgh, was a professor at Transy so that would have been a connection.

C: Now Samuel Goldsmith also went there for a while, didn't he?

S: I believe so.

C: As a lecturer?

S: I believe so.

C: And then [Goldsmith] went to Louisville?

S: Um hmm. Right.

C: How many biographies have been written about Dr. McDowell?

S: Dr. Laman Gray who was our chairman of the board -- I should say Dr. Laman Gray Sr., who was our chairman of the board for several years, wrote a biography. Dr. August Schachner wrote one in 1921. He was the first physician who tried to save McDowell House and spent many years trying to do that. Um, there's one called Pioneer Doctor, and then Mrs. Ridenbaugh's book.


C: Also, there's been a video done about this, right?

S: There was a video; it was actually done by PBS.

C: Is that still available?

S: It's available; we can get a copy of it. It's kind of difficult because you have to go through PBS and all that. Then we've done a video here ourselves of the tour of the House with the story, and it's available.

C: How do you choose your docents? I mean, do they volunteer mostly or are they people that you have gone out and sought to come here?

S: Both. You know, sometimes, usually in the spring, we'll put a little blurb in like the Chamber Newsletter and in the newspaper saying that we're looking for volunteers for the summer months if they'd like to meet people and give tours. 38:00We've had people come that way. Then sometimes I'll know somebody that's retired and say, "Wouldn't you like to do this?" We get them different ways, but even the docents, they all have to fill out applications, just like it's for employment and if we don't know them personally, we do reference checks and so forth.

C: How many do you have working here?

S: Right now we have about seven, and then we have staff, too.

C: How many staff people work here?

S: There's myself; Alberta Moynahan, who's the assistant director; Anna Ingram, who is our administrative assistant; and Lauren Clontz, who is our education director. And then we have some weekend -- couple weekend employees.

C: Well, I can't think of anything else right now I'd like to ask, unless you have something else you'd like to tell us.


S: You can always come back,

C: I will. Thank you very much.

S: Thank you for coming.

C: Let's talk a little bit more about the restoration of the building. You said the WPA did quite a bit of the restoration.

S: The house was purchased in 1935 by the Kentucky Medical Association for $15,000; it was valued at about $1,500. They had been trying to buy it from the Weisigers for years and finally Mr. Weisiger passed away and his sister donated $5,000 of the $15,000 price and so KMA bought the house. It was given to the state of Kentucky because for WPA restoration or whatever it had to be a government owned entity so the WPA, and for those who don't know what that was 40:00it was the Works Progress Administration, did the majority of the restoration work. Now, none of these people were restoration architects; there wasn't such a thing at that time so they did the best they could. There are a lot of things that today we would do differently, but it's pretty amazing what they were able to accomplish in as bad a shape as the house was.

C: Ok, you have a beautiful garden in the back; who keeps that up for you?

S: David, my husband David Senn, does; of course. He's a landscaper; he doesn't have much choice as far as doing this. But we also have some board members and a committee who come in. David does the big heavy stuff, the mowing and all that, but Barbara Hulette volunteers as far as weeding. Dr. Chris Jackson, they have a 41:00couple of friends who help. Then the Danville Garden Club does the medicinal herb garden.

C: How long has that garden been there?

S: The formal garden was originally put in in 1820; when they added this office they changed the front door out. It's in the circle and cross pattern, which means that life goes on after death. It was allowed, obviously when it was a slum area, to grow up and just get in terrible shape, so the majority of it had to be redone during the restoration and after the restoration.

C: During the WPA restoration?

S: Yes, uh huh.

S: And of course it's still an ongoing project. I mean, we lost several tree limbs with the ice storm this year; damaged one or two trees enough that we're probably going to have to take them out. It it's just an ongoing project all the time.


C: There is an old well, the thing over there.

S: There is. It probably was a cistern at some point, but as of right now, it's a well.

C: Can you still get water from it?

S: You could if you had the bucket and all that. There is still water in it. It's we think about 30 feet deep.

C: Oh, it's one of the wells that you would have to--

S: Right.

C: Dip a bucket down into it.

S: Right. Right.

C: It's not a pump.

S: No. But it may have been then, we don't know, but there's no evidence.

C: I know at the McClure House there is a pump over there that still works 'cause we used it to water flowers. There is a monument in the back, isn't there?

S: There's actually two. There is a monument that is in honor of Jane Todd Crawford, his patient, and then in the brick wall there is the marker from Dr. McDowell's first grave out at Traveler's Rest. It was brought here and put in 43:00the wall for safe keeping.

C: Ok, so maybe that's caused-- I know there's been a little bit of confusion about where he is buried.

S: And that may be why.

C: And it's also confusing to people sometimes when they see that, I think. The monument to Jane Todd Crawford -- do you ever have people ask you if that's where she's buried?

S: The kids particularly; and she's actually buried in Graysville, Indiana, which is where -- She and her husband moved to Indiana a few years after the surgery, and her husband actually became a representative in Indiana and then one of her sons was a minister there and she was living with him when she passed away.

C: Is it true that one of her sons was also a mayor in Louisville?

S: Correct. For about two years.

C: Ok. Now why is it that the buildings around the McDowell House have not kind of moved in on McDowell House. Is it because the property itself is protected?


S: Well, their original site would have been about double the size of this now.

C: Really?

S: Yes, so there has been some property lost. But, of course, this was purchased in 1935 when this was all just a slum area. The property was really worth nothing per se, so--

C: But you haven't lost any since that time.

S: But we haven't lost any since then, no.

C: Which direction would the property have gone?

S: A little bit to the south and to the west.

C: Ok.

S: Under Dr. Spoonamore's parking lot.

C: Is that where it was?

S: We keep trying to get him to dig it up.

C: Ok. Oh, the kitchen, I was going to ask you about the kitchen. Was the kitchen part of the restoration that was done by the WPA?

S: Yes, the kitchen -- they knew it had to be the kitchen when they went in to 45:00start the restoration.

C: They couldn't tell it was the kitchen?

S: But there was no fireplace there. So I guess they pecked on the brick walls and all, and they probably heard a different sound and they started taking the brick wall out that would be on the north side of the room and behind it was the original fireplace with a lot of the cooking utensils bricked up behind it.

C: That's amazing.

S: It is amazing. It was a dirt floor. For some reason that we don't know they put a brick floor in.

C: Who did the brick floor?

S: The WPA. We've never had enough nerve to tear it back out because of the dirt that would be tracked through the house and everything.

C: Right.

S: But it would have been a dirt floor when the McDowells lived here.

C: Now you have a very unusual door. I know in your interpretation you tell us 46:00about the big door in the back.

S: A casket door. Of course there were no funeral homes. When someone passed away the body was laid out at home and people came and visited and sat 24 hours a day with the body. And so there was a door often in homes, particularly nicer homes, that a casket could be carried through. It was wide enough to allow the casket and pallbearers.

C: Were any members of the family ever -- did any of them ever die in this home?

S: We don't know, but we would presume since they lost four children, we would presume that some of those children did pass away here.

C: Now, where are their children buried?

S: Ah, Traveler's Rest I believe. But you might confirm that with Alberta.

C: Ok. Alright, thank you.


S: We have a few pieces of McDowell china that actually belonged to them. The majority of the McDowell china was actually broken several years ago. There were two brothers who were like I guess great-great-grandsons. And they were both about 5 ft. tall as adult men. And very petite gentlemen, just the sweetest, kindest, people and they came to several of the McDowell reunions. And one of them brought us a cup and saucer one time when he came to the reunion. And finally he told the story of what had happened to a lot of the family china; it had passed down to his mother and father and his mother asked him to get china 48:00out of the china cabinet and they had always been told to always get a stool or a ladder or whatever to get it, but he decided that he didn't have to do that and so he just kind of climbed up and reached and he pulled the china cabinet over and broke a huge part of the family china. And this was about an 80 year old man telling us this story then. And he was still embarrassed by it, you know. And so, some of the pieces we have have chips or they're a cup that is missing a handle or whatever but that's what happened to a lot of the family china.

C: You have a ledger here that came from an old building or something that you display that shows some of the signatures.

S: It is from a store in Danville, like 1819, 1820. Many years ago, some people who painted the house probably in the early 70s -- we found out years later they 49:00just painted around the furniture, they didn't move the furniture and paint behind it. So, yeah -- so in the mid-eighties Sonny Bodner and his crew had come in to paint the house. And, obviously, they moved the furniture to paint and behind the secretary in the library was this big ledger. We have no idea how long it had been there, where it had come from and it is from a Danville store.

C: You don't know the name of the store?

S: Some of the front pages are missing.

C: Really?

S: But there are several places where you can see signatures of Dr. McDowell and Mrs. McDowell where they went in and purchased thread or gloves or--.

C: Really?

S: It would have been like a dry goods store. But yeah that was quite a find 50:00behind the secretary.

C: When did you find it?

S: It was in the mid-eighties and the thing was that so much of the furniture and all, when the House was first opened, you know, inventory consisted of a scrap of paper pitched in the drawer somewhere. That was something that I worked on in the early eighties was trying to do an inventory of the House, and do it according to museum standards. And we had volunteers who came in and helped us catalogue everything and we're now getting all of that on computer in PastPerfect. Alberta has worked on it quite a while. Anna's doing a huge amount of it now. She's actually been putting all of it in. It's been a real interesting process.


C: Ok, now you can continue with what you were talking about.

S: But doing inventory has been very interesting. The people who first worked here, worked here out of the goodness of their hearts, but they had no historic background. Nobody knew what it was to actually keep inventory records or anything. So it's been a real interesting process over the years of sorting through all these scraps of paper, trying to call people that you think gave something, and we've done a pretty good job of getting a handle on a lot of it.

C: Have you?

S: We actually printed an inventory book several years ago that lists the furniture in the house and who gave it, the people we know and a 52:00description. Course now, when anything comes to the House there's acquisition forms the people fill out. They're given tax benefits; there's a ledger that everything's put in, and then it's photographed. Everything in the house pretty much is photographed now. It's on the computer and Anna's been working on the books and all now.

C: Has she?

S: Yes, so we have a pretty good record now of what is here but it's been quite a job. And of course, those are the kind of things that always come last because you've got all these pressing day to day things that have to be done, so you do those when you have a few spare minutes. But Anna's been doing a lot of good work on that and she can tell you a lot about the inventory.

C: What about the Apothecary Shop the jars and things that you received there? How did those get here?

S: Those were given to the House by -- well, the apothecary shop was not 53:00restored until the 1950s. It was bought by the Kentucky Pharmaceutical Society in 1955. George Grider was president of that and then he was president of the International Pharmaceutical Society and he did a lot to get them to help purchase the apothecary to have it restored and then it was given to McDowell House. But Pfizer Laboratories actually purchased a collection from a gentleman named Sydney Bloomberg, who'd been collecting apothecary ware for years and they purchased the entire collection and the stipulation was that it would never be broken up, and they gave it to the House.

C: The whole collection's here?

S: The whole collection, yes.

C: That's wonderful.

S: And we've had people from the Smithsonian here who will tell you that it is the best collection anywhere in the country, other than at the Smithsonian.

C: Really? How old is that collection? I mean, how old are those?


S: Some of them date back to the sixteenth-seventeenth century.

C: Really?

S: Some of them are eighteenth century.

C: Well, I really appreciate knowing some of these things. I've never really known as much about it as I should have. I think I know about it, probably like a lot of people. We think we know the McDowell House, but we really don't.

S: Just wait until you talk to Alberta.

C: I bet that's true. I'm looking forward to that.

S: Just wait 'til you talk to Alberta. She's our real genealogist and historian. I just spend too much time now doing the fundraising.

C: Well, thank you again. I appreciate your doing this.

S: Sure, anytime.