From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Jefferson Davis and the Mennonites

Seen in Fairview, KY


Old Highway 68, west of Fairview, KY
Jefferson Davis Monument in background

Horse-drawn vehicles are a common sight in Fairview, KY. The area around this rural village has been heavily settled by Mennonites. Two Mennonite churches and several Mennonite schools (that I know of) are located within a five mile radius -- evidence of the large population.

Mennonite commerce at Fairview

The Fairview Produce Auction (a Mennonite cooperative) brings heavy Mennonite and Amish traffic to Fairview in spring, summer, and fall. Most of the produce growers are Mennonite and Amish farm families. Many of the farmers come to the auction in horse-drawn wagons loaded with boxes of tomatoes, bags of sweet corn, and heaps of melons. Others pull a trailer behind a tractor or hire a pickup truck.

Across from the auction grounds, a Mennonite lady has opened a discount grocery. She sells dented cans and out-of-date goods, but she also has a small selection of bulk goods -- several types of flour, common spices, yeast, etc. In the back of the store, she has a little deli counter. I'm not sure if she has more Deutsch customers or English; the two worlds overlap at the Pennysaver Market.

On the northern edge of Fairview, at the intersection of Britmart Road and Highway 68, an enterprising Mennonite family has opened a nursery. It's popular with folks from neighboring towns because it's on a major highway. They enjoy driving out in the country and visiting a Mennonite nursery without fear of getting lost.

Jefferson Davis Monument at Fairview

And then there's Fairview's other big attraction -- the Jefferson Davis Monument, a 351-foot concrete obelisk that commemorates the birthplace of the President of the Confederate States of America. It was a project of the Daughters of the Confederacy. Construction began in 1917, and the monument was finally completed in 1924.

Jefferson Davis was born in Fairview in 1808, in a log cabin near the present site of the monument. The actual site of the cabin has been occupied by the Bethel Baptist Church for many years. In fact, Jefferson Davis visited the church in 1886 and presented it with a solid silver communion salver and chalice. 

The Jefferson Davis State Historic Site occupies about 19 acres in the middle of Fairview. Visitors can ride the elevator to the top of the monument, see an interpretive video and exhibits, and visit the gift shop. The park has beautiful mature shade trees, two large picnic shelters and a nice playground. It's a popular site for family reunions on summer weekends.

On the first weekend of June each year, the birthday of Jefferson Davis is celebrated with Civil War reenactments at the monument. The participants (and a significant number of observers) wear garb of the mid-19th century, especially hoop skirts and Civil War military uniforms. Southern belles can enter the Miss Confederacy contest.

Jefferson Davis Days is a curious event in a curious little town, and the tourists who stumble upon it and also encounter the Mennonites must think Fairview a very curious place indeed.

Related posts:
The Glory of Fairview, KY
Jefferson Davis Monument, Fairview, KY
Seen at Fairview, KY
Pennysaver Market at Fairview, KY
Mennonites and Amish in Christian County, KY

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

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