Sunday, November 30, 2008
Governor William Owsley Home: Pleasant Retreat
Located on US 27 in Lancaster,Garrard County.
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.
Source: Kentucky Life KET