Maysville, KY – a surprising little town

Today’s port call was Maysville, Kentucky, a town of about 8800 residents. It took us about 12 hours to sail there from Cincinnati; our tour buses took an hour to cover the distance by road.

Maysville was the third town where we were greeted by people from the local tourist board; they were enthusiastic and brought gifts (well, small tote bags filled with literature about the town). Diane and I took separate tours today; she went to the Old Washington section of town and saw historical sites (the first Post Office west of the Alleghanies and the location where Harriet Beecher (not yet Stowe) saw a slave being beaten, to name just two).

I took the downtown tour, which began with a trip to the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center. It has three distinct sections. One focuses on regional history and is filled with artifacts like this “National Currency” note issued by a local bank less than 100 years ago; I hadn’t known that banks were still authorized to issue currency as late as 1935 until today.

The Kathleen Savage Browning Miniatures Collection was the second section I visited; Kaye Browning has been traveling the world and collecting (or commissioning) 1/12-scale miniatures for more than 40 years. There’s a model of Spencer House (Princess Diana’s ancestral home), recreations of rooms like a Shaker Retiring Room, and much much more. It would be easy to spend a whole morning looking at the collection.

The final section of the museum was the Old Pogue Experience, devoted to the history of Bourbon in Mason County, with special attention paid to the Old Pogue Distillery, which was Bourbon Distillery No. 3 in Kentucky and is once more owned by the original family. I took advantage of the chance to taste their Bourbon and Rye; I thought the Rye was smoother, but I’d drink the Bourbon quite happily, too – if someone else was buying (it’s $110/bottle if you can find it).

Our other stop for the day, the Russell Theatre was just a couple of blocks away, so I walked (it also gave me a chance to visit an ATM!). I ran into our driver just outside the theatre and he asked if I could go with him to the nearby Underground Railroad sites and take his photo there; I was happy to do so. The first site we walked to was Phillips’ Folly; it’s a large house built in 1831, and claims to have hosted escaping slaves on their way to freedom – it’s a private residence and not open to the public. The other site was a long block uphill; it’s the National Underground Railroad Museum, which is a documented Safe House on the Underground Railroad – it’s open to the public, but only on certain days, not including today.

We walked back to the theatre and I joined the tour, already in progress. The theatre was saved from destruction in 1995; the restoration process has been very slow (there still is no HVAC, only fans), but it is being used on a regular basis for shows and movies and other events.

No day in Maysville would be complete without mentioning Rosemary Clooney, who was born in Maysville and is buried there. She chose the Russell Theatre to premiere her hit movie, “The Stars Are Singing” in 1953 (and broke its segregation rules to have her childhood best friend Blanche Chambers sit with her on the main level).

I would have liked to spend more time in Maysville, but we steamed away just before noon for another long stretch on the Ohio, heading to Marietta, Ohio. This afternoon, we had a talk on the Taft Family Dynasty in Ohio Politics, and this evening, there’s a murder mystery. Right now, we’re sitting on our balcony enjoying the river; we just went past Ironton, Ohio.