(click picture for an
In fact as well as fiction, Clovercroft was the home of prize-winning
photographer Katie Marks/Kate Matthews, who
spent her lifetime recording the Valley’s people, places and gracious
lifestyle through the lens of her camera.
The home, according to Land of the Little Colonel, privately
published in 1974 by Mrs. John S. (Katie) Smith, was built by M. M. Rohrer
in 1866 and, just as Annie Fellows Johnston describes, was located at the
corner of 146 and Ashwood (now Ash) Avenue next door to the fictional
Lloydsboro Seminary, in real life the
Kentucky College for Young Ladies. In the late 1880s, it was purchased
by the Matthews family.
Kate Matthews’ parents, Charlotta Ann Clark Matthews (above)
and her husband Lucien, purchased Clovercroft in the late 1880s
when the family moved to Pewee Valley from Indiana.
Kate Matthews photo from "Historic Pewee Valley."
Kate Matthews’ great-great niece, Marjorie Fletcher Thompson, spent a
great deal of time at Clovercroft visiting her Aunties Kate, “Flissie,”
(Kate’s niece, Felice Matthews Guttenberger) and Bet (Kate’s niece and
Felice’s sister, Elizabeth Feagin, who, during a visit to Pewee Valley
when she was a child, met Annie Fellows Johnston and became the authoress’
model for Betty) – and watching “Rin Tin Tin” on
their television – while she was growing up at Pewee Valley’s
Peace Farm during the
1940s and 1950s. She remembers that the front door opened into a large
hall with an imposing staircase that led to the four bedrooms on the
second floor and then climbed to the third floor tower, where her Aunt
Kate’s photography studio was located. “I was never allowed in the tower,”
she recalls. “I was told there were bees up there that would sting you to
On the left, at the front of the house, was the music room with an
organ or upright piano and grand piano, where Kate’s divorced sister,
Jesse Matthews Joy, gave local Pewee children piano lessons for many
years. Jesse’s bedroom was in back of the music room.
This picture of Marjorie Fletcher Thompson as an infant, from her private
was taken in Clovercroft’s music room. The grand piano is to the left in a
The bookcases were on the hall wall.
On the right was the sitting room, shown in the photo
below. “It was furnished with old oriental carpets and antiques, such as a
Belter couch and chairs,” she recalls.
Kate Matthews with her
nephew, Hollywood producer and screenwriter Charles Brackett,
standing before Clovercroft’s sitting room fireplace,
from the Kate Matthews clipping file at Louisville Free Public Library’s
Main Branch on York Street
The dining room was located at the end of the hall and had a large table.
“When my family would go there to eat dinner, the three Fletchers and the
three aunties barely took up half the table,” she says. Behind the dining
room was the kitchen.
Thompson attended many teas at her aunties’ home, similar to the one
pictured below. “They observed all the formalities, dressed for tea and wore
white gloves,” she remembers. “They were very proper and always set the
table correctly, from the placement of the silver, salad dishes and soup
bowls to the candle arrangements.” One aspect of dining at Clovercroft
Thompson fondly recalls is the oyster soup. “Aunt Fliss always dropped a
pearl into mine,” she reminisces.
Mom Beck, The Walton's and the
Little Colonel at a tea at
Florence Dickerson wrote the following vignette, called “Christmas at
Clovercroft” for the December 1975 edition of the
the Pewee. It illustrates very well what life was like at the Matthews
family home during the holiday season:
Christmas at “Clovercroft,” the Matthews’
spacious family home, was always a very exciting and festive time of
year. Weeks before the day there was an air of secrecy and much went on
behind closed doors for everyone was making gifts. No one would even
give a hint so that the recipient of each gift could be completely
Although the Matthews usually did not
have a Christmas tree, the house was carefully decorated. Hemlock and
holly were cut from the trees on the property and Kate, the
photographer, would drive her pony cart into the woods and gather cedar.
By the day before Christmas all the pictures, sconces and fireplace
mantels were framed with evergreen boughs. The stairway to the second
floor was twined with garlands and greens and even the gateposts had
their holiday decorations.
Christmas eve the Matthews would go
caroling to the houses of all their friends. Each year they and the
neighbors stopped at Mr. Frank
Gatchel’s to hear him read Dickens’ “Christmas Carol.”
The night before Christmas, whenever an
adult awakened from his sleep, he jingled sleigh bells. This was to the
delight of the children because they believed it to be Santa Claus going
about visiting the homes in Pewee.
The year that Aunt Jay (Jesse Matthews
Joy) returned from Berlin was the most exciting Christmas. She had been
abroad studying piano with Thedor Leschetizky, the renowned teacher.
When the doors to the parlor opened, there was a magnificent grand
piano, a gift from her father.
Another year the husband of one of the
granddaughters who lived in the East brought a radio. No one was to know
about it until Christmas morning, so in the middle of the night he
managed to open one of the parlor windows and put this marvel of the age
on a table amid holly and hemlock decorations. Everyone was ecstatic
when the radio, one of the first in the community, was revealed.
When Grandfather Matthews (Lucien Jex)
was unable to plan any unusual gifts, he would give everyone a gold
coin. A marble top table was draped with velvet and the coins arranged
on this. Grandmother Matthews always received the largest gold piece and
the others received one of less value down to the youngest members of
the family who were given the smallest.
Before the day of pre-tied bows and rolls
of Christmas paper, gifts were wrapped in original designs. The gifts,
too, were original endeavors, beautiful handmade creations, embroidery
or paintings. Kate very often gave a photograph, one that was especially
apropos. The gifts were not opened until Christmas morning and then
there was much ceremony. It was a tradition that if you were to say
“Christmas gift” to anyone, they were to give you a gift, although you
were not required to give them one. Since much thought and preparation
had been made for this occasion, no one was overlooked and there was a
gift for everyone. The poems that accompanied the handmade remembrances
were as cherished as the gift, and these were read aloud before the gift
Often during the holidays friends
gathered in the parlor to hear the Matthews’ music and to sing the
Christmas songs they liked so much. Jay played the piano or organ;
Florence, the piano; Edwin, the violin; and Kate, the violin. ‘Tis said
that Kate never played the violin very well and some would sing a big
“off key,” but all joined in heartily.
A typical Clovercroft Christmas dinner menu included Cornish hens, wild
rice stuffing, artichokes and mushrooms, cranberry port mold, individual
plum cakes flambé, hot rolls, coffee and well chilled Chablis. Recipes for
this dinner can be found in “History by Food: Recipes and Stories About
the Food and Families of Oldham County, Kentucky,” copyright 2006 by the
Oldham County Historical Society. The cookbook also includes the following
recipe for Mrs. Jesse Joy’s Jelly Cookies:
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
3 egg whites
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup sweet milk
Drop cookie batter by teaspoonful on
greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees. When cookies are done and
still warm, spread small amount of favorite jelly on one cookie and
place other cookie on top to make a sandwich. Sprinkle with powdered
sugar while still warm.
After Kate Matthews died in 1956, Thompson says that Bet and Fliss left
Pewee Valley and headed to Macon, Georgia, where Bet had family.
Clovercroft was then sold and shortly thereafter burned to the ground
around 1959 or 1960. It was rumored that arson was the cause of the blaze.
Marjorie Fletcher Thompson as a child standing at Clovercroft’s gate.
The photo is in her private collection and was taken by her Great-Great
Aunt Kate Matthews.
Clovercroft’s gate during
the Little Colonel years
with the walk along Ashwood (Ash) Ave.
Another photo by Kate Matthews
page by Donna
Read more about Kate
Matthews, her life, her photos and her career
What's New? Biography of Annie Fellows
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The Little Colonel (link to U. Penn))
Knights of Kentucky
The Little Colonel's
The Little Colonel's
The Little Colonel's Hero
The Little Colonel
The Little Colonel in
Colonel's Christmas Vacation
The Little Colonel, Maid of
The Little Colonel's
Knight Comes Riding
Mary Ware, The Little Colonel's
Mary Ware in Texas
Mary Ware's Promised Land
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The People & Characters:
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Aunt Allison, The
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Jack Ware, Mom Beck,
Walker, Katherine Marks,
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Their Final Resting Places
The Places: In Pewee (Lloydsboro) Valley:
Where it all began, The Locust,
The Little Colonel's Cottage,
The Railroad Station,
Post Office, Churches,
The Haunted House at Hartwell Hollow,
Minor Places In Old Louisville:
Mansion, "Home of a Hero"
The Cuckoo's Nest (Indiana), In Arizona:
Camelback Mountain &
Hole-in-Rock, In Texas:
The Little Town of Bauer (Boerne),
The Barnaby Ranch,
The Gate of the Giant Scissors
Letters from Annie
Fellows Johnston and "Mrs Walton"
Cooking with The Little Colonel
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