My Love for Lancaster Kentucky & The Governor Owsley House

I love historic homes. One in particular has captured my heart, The Governor Owsley Mansion, also known as “Pleasant Retreat”. A few years ago we catered an event at this beautiful home. Not too long ago I gathered a list of historic homes to visit, Pleasant Retreat was at the top. Upon arrival my heart was broken, the home was closed. Hopefully soon it will get some new love and attention. This crown jewel of Garrard County is calling my name…

Pleasant Retreat

A Pleasant Retreat: Located in Lancaster. When William Owsley began building it in the early years of the 19th century, he was a young, up-and-coming lawyer. During the time he and his family lived in the home they called Pleasant Retreat, he was elected to two terms in the Kentucky House of Representatives; named to the state Court of Appeals, where he served for 15 years; and sent back to the House and then to the Senate. He and his wife, Elizabeth, also raised six children. And the house, a three-story brick structure in the Federal style, grew with the family and with its patriarch’s political ambitions.

Owsley moved his family to Frankfort around 1834, when Gov. James T. Morehead named him secretary of state. Soon Owsley himself was being talked about as a possible gubernatorial candidate. In 1843, he even had a new county named for him.

Nominated for governor by the Whigs in 1844, Owsley won a close election against a hero of the War of 1812. But the former occupant of Pleasant Retreat found life in the governor’s mansion not nearly as pleasant. Though he became known as a champion of public education (the one cause for which the fiscally conservative Owsley seemed willing to spend money), he drew controversy for the way he handled the selection and provisioning of volunteer companies for the Mexican War; for pardoning Delia Webster, who had been convicted of aiding and abetting runaway slaves; and for a bitter and very public dispute with his own secretary of state over political patronage. Leaving the governor’s office in 1848, he said, caused him “no emotions of regret.”

Gov. Owsley spent his retirement in Boyle County, where he died in 1862. Meanwhile, succeeding owners of Pleasant Retreat expanded it still further. Today it is open to the public for tours, and visitors can see portraits of the Owsley family as well as two other governors from Garrard County. Another outstanding feature is the dining-room wallpaper. Hand-painted in France, it depicts a large-scale stag hunt. Credit:KET

Owsley Family: Owsley Family Historical Society

Gov. Owsley spent his retirement in Boyle County, where he died in 1862.  During that time his daughter & son in-law, Amelia & Simon H Anderson took over the family home.  As noted in “Deed Book M, Deeds Recorded January 1836 to October 1838” On page 285, it reads as follows:

Deed of 26 July 1837 from William Owsley and Elizabeth, his wife, of Franklin Co. to Simeon H. Anderson, of Garrard Co. For $4500.00, about 300 acres in Garrard Co. about 1/2 mile south of Lancaster lying on the west side of the road leading from Lancaster to Stanford, now occupied by Anderson, as a residence, and for many years previously occupied by Owsley. The land is known by the name Pleasant Retreat. No witnesses. Reg. 26 July 1837.

Application for National Register of Historic Places, Credit Pat Ballard via wiki 

Historical Sketches of KentuckyEmbracing Its History, Antiquities, and Natural Curiosities, Geographical, Statistical, and Geological Descriptions with Anecdotes of Pioneer Life, and More Than One Hundred Biographical Sketches of Distinguished Pioneers, Soldiers, Statesmen, Jurists, Lawyers, Divines, Etc 

The Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, Volume 3, Issue 7

Find a Grave Facts:

Birth: Mar. 24, 1782
Virginia, USA
Death: Dec. 9, 1862
Boyle County
Kentucky, USA

Kentucky Governor. Born in Virginia, he moved with his family to Kentucky in 1873. Obtaining a good education, he taught school, became a deputy surveyor, had a legal practice, was a Deputy Sheriff and served as adjutant of the 26th Regiment of the Kentucky Militia. He was a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives (1809-11, 1831), was a judge on the Court of Appeals (1812-28), a member of the Kentucky State Senate (1832-34) and Kentucky Secretary of State, (1834-36). In 1844, he was elected as a Wing the 16th Governor of Kentucky, serving until 1848. During his tenure, funding was increased for public education, the state’s deficit was reduced and troops were raised for service in the Mexican War. After his term, he retied to his farm near Danville, Kentucky, until his death at age 80.j (bio by: John “J-Cat” Griffith)

Family links:
William Owsley (1748 – 1819)
Catharine Bolin Owsley

Elizabeth Gill Owsley (1788 – 1858)*

Amanda Owsley Rodes (1805 – 1885)*
Amelia Gill Owsley (1806 – 1847)*
Almira Owsley Goodloe (1809 – 1892)*

Ann Owsley Middleton (1772 – 1847)*
Nudigate Owsley (1780 – 1851)*
William Owsley (1782 – 1862)
Mary Owsley Pearl (1783 – 1855)*
Patience Owsley Baughman (1786 – 1845)*
Thomas Owsley (1792 – 1889)*

*Calculated relationship

Bellevue Cemetery
Boyle County
Kentucky, USA

Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Feb 13, 2003
Find A Grave Memorial# 7182048

KDL Archives

Asset Detail:

farra owsley house pic

National Register of Historic Places for Garrard County Parks Architectural Resources Archive

The Garrard County Historical Society received a second grant from the Kentucky
Heritage Council in the Spring of 1984 to prepare a multiple resource area
nomination for the county. From the Hi sites which were surveyed, 45 exhibited
significant architectural or historic merit to be nominated to the National Register.
Sites previously listed on the National Register in Garrard County include the
following: Camp Dick Robinson-1977, Carrie Nation House-1978, Pleasant Retreat or
Governor Owsley House-1975, John Floyd house-1975.
In 1983, the Federal Stone Houses of Garrard County were listed on the National
Register as part of a thematic nomination for the Bluegrass Area. These sites
include the following: xhe James Smith-Tanyard, The Michael Wallace House, The
John Arnold House, The Proctor House, The King Thomas House,John Leavell Slave
Quarters, and the Jennings-Lackey House. Early pioneer stations in Garrard County
are currently being mapped under a Kentucky Heritage Council Grant. Fourteen sites
have been identified thus far, and include the following stations: George Adams,
Samuel Bell, Humphrey Best, Zophar Carpenter, Gilbert’s Creek, Downing, William Grant,
James Hogan, John Kennedy^”William Kirtley, William Miller, Scott and James Smith….

The structures found to exhibit architectural or historic merit were_ primarily Federal, Greek Revival, or Vernacular log construction…

Garrard County & the Civil War: During the Civil War, Garrard County was not the scene of any major battles. Camp Dick Robinson, however, was established on the Lexington Road as the first Union Recruiting Station South of the Ohio River. The town of Bryantsville was the rendezvous point for Bragg f s Forces after the Battle of Perryville. From here Smith and Polk retreated through the Cumberland Gap.

Owsley House Historical Marker




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