(Home of Judge Moore and Rob Moore)

Oaklea, built 1857, burned 1905
The original Oaklea, built 1857, burned 1905 and was rebuilt in a different style

In the “Little Colonel” stories, Oaklea was the summer home of Judge Moore, his daughter, Mrs. Moore; his grandson, Rob Moore, and occasionally Rob’s cousin, Anna Moore. While Oaklea is mentioned in most of the books that take place in Lloydsboro (Pewee) Valley, its most memorable scene occurs in Chapter XIV, “The Royal Mantle,” in “The Little Colonel’s Knight Comes Riding ,” when the Little Colonel drops in to obtain a recipe needed for the Shelbys’ golden wedding party. The visit stirs memories of her childhood friendship with Rob and proves that he regards her as much more than a friend.

So that is how it came about that late that afternoon, Lloyd opened the great iron gate at Oaklea, and  following the familiar path under the giant oaks, reached the house to which she had long been a stranger.

Rob’s dog, a fine Gordon setter, came out with a boisterous barking, but seeing who it was, leaped up, licking her hands and wagging a friendly welcome. It seemed as if Rob ought to be somewhere near. Everything about the place suggested him. A familiar wide-brimmed gray hat lay on the hall table, his riding-whip beside it. Up-stairs whither the coloured maid led her, there were other reminders of him: Indian clubs and a tennis racquet in a corner of the hall, and a cabinet holding the various collections that had been his fads from time to time.

“Come in here, dear,” called Mrs. Moore from the depths of a sleepy hollow chair. “I’m too tired to move, so I knew you’d excuse my sending down for you to come up-stairs.”

It was Rob’s room into which she was ushered. Mrs. Moore held out both cordial hands without rising, and drew her down for a kiss.

“Rob’s coming home to-night,” she explained, “so of course everything had to be swept and garnished for so grand an occasion, and I’ve nearly used myself up making things fine in his honour.” Her eyes filled with tears. “It’s the first time he’s been away since the dear ‘Daddy’ left us, and I had no idea four weeks could be such an age. I’m so excited and happy over his coming that I can scarcely talk about it calmly. But you know what a dear good son my ‘Robin Adair’ is to me, so you can make allowances for a fond mother’s foolishness.”

It was some moments before Lloyd had an opportunity to make known her errand, apologizing profusely for putting her to any exertion when she was so tired.

“Oh, it’s no trouble,” answered Mrs. Moore. “I think I know right where to put my hand on the book in father’s room. I’ll step across the hall and see.”

Left to herself Lloyd gave a shy glance around the room, remembering the time when it had been a familiar playground, but now she had an embarrassed sense of intruding. Many an hour she had spent romping in it while Mom Beck and Dinah gossiped by the fire. They had had their menagerie and lions’ den in that curtained alcove. Here on the hard-wood floor between the chimney-corner and the window they had chalked the ring for their marble games. She leaned over and examined the floor at her feet with a smile. Those were undoubtedly the dents that their top-spinning had left. Mom Beck had told them at the time, no amount of polishing could ever wipe out such holes.

The little tin soldiers that used to stand guard on the window-sill had given place to other things now. The rocking-horse that had carried them such long journeys of adventure together had been stabled for years in the attic at The Locusts. College trophies and pennants hung on the walls. A rifle and a shotgun stood in the corner where a wooden gun and a toy sword used to stay. The low table and the picture books had given place to a massive desk and rows on rows of heavy volumes bound in leather.

Then she recognized several things belonging to a later period. There was the shaving-paper case she made him the day he bought his first razor. She had been so proud of the monogram she burnt into the leather. It looked decidedly amateurish to her now. On the leather couch among its many cushions was the pillow she had embroidered in his fraternity colours and sent to him while he was at college.

Between the front windows where the desk stood, and just above it, ran four long rows of photographs set in narrow panels. Most of them were group pictures, the first dating back to the time of her first house-party, and ending with some that had been taken the week of Eugenia’s wedding. It was like a serial story of all their good times, and hastily changing her seat she leaned her elbows on the desk for another look. But the nearer view revealed something that she had not seen at the first glance. She was the central figure of every group. It was her face that one noticed first, laughing back from every picture.

Abashed at her discovery, she scuttled back to her former seat, but not before her quick glance had showed her another photograph on the desk, in a silver frame. It was the last one Miss Marks had taken of her, in her commencement gown. She did not know that Rob had one of them. She had not given it to him.

Mrs. Moore called out something to her from across the hall, and as she turned to reply she faced still another picture of herself, this one in an old-fashioned silver locket swinging from the side of the mirror. It was the Princess Winsome with the dove. She was afraid to look any further. She felt like an eavesdropper, for, the very walls were calling out to her those words of  Rob’s that she had been trying for weeks to forget: “ All my life seems to have been a growing up for this one thing --- to love you! “

She sprang up with the impulse to leave the room, to get away from these telltale voices that she had no right to listen to. But just then Mrs. Moore came back with the book.

“You can copy it here at the desk,” she said, laying out a sheet of paper and Rob’s big heavy-handled pen. She did not sit down while Lloyd wrote the few lines, but stood with her hand on the back of the chair till she had finished. Then she said with an amused smile, “I want to show you something funny, Lloyd. I came across it this morning while I was looking over some old things of Rob’s. It’s your first piece of needlework. You made it over here one rainy day under Mom Beck’s instructions. It’s so long ago I suppose you’ve forgotten, but I remember that Rob tried to make one too, and stuck his fingers so often that he cried and gave it up, and you gave him yours to comfort him.”

Opening a box which she brought from some drawer, she took out a sorry little pin-cushion. All puckered and drawn, its long straggling stitches scarcely kept in place the cotton with which it was stuffed. The faded blue silk was streaked and dirty as if it had been used for a foot-ball at some stage of its existence, and the pins that formed the crooked letter L had rusted in their places. But that it was accounted something precious, one could see from the way in which it was tied and wrapped and carefully put away in this box by itself.

It was a relief to Lloyd to find that Mrs. Moore did not attach any significance to the fact that Rob thus treasured her old gift. She only laughed and said he was like her in that regard. She couldn’t bear to throw away anything connected with his childhood. Only that morning she had come across the little blue shoes that he had learned to walk in, and nearly cried over them, they recalled so plainly those happy days.

Later, in Chapter XV, “’As It Is Written in the Stars’ and Betty’s Diary,” the Little Colonel becomes the mistress of Oaklea, after she and Rob are wed in a simple October ceremony at Lloydsboro Valley’s little stone church:

…The judge is radiantly happy and Mrs. Moore has been as sweet and considerate about everything as if Lloyd were really her own daughter. She wants Lloyd to take the place as mistress of the house just as she did when she went there a bride. She and Rob's father didn't take a wedding journey, but went straight home to Oaklea to spend their honeymoon, and she was so pleased when she found that Lloyd and Rob wanted to do the same. She and the judge waited just long enough to welcome them home to-night, and then took the train for Alabama to visit some of her people. They have long been wanting to make the trip, and so chose this time…

…It is only a step over to Oaklea, so she went away in her bridal gown and veil. I'll never forget the picture she made as she stood there in the moonlight, waiting for the carriage to drive up for them, or the adoring look in Rob's eyes as he turned to lead her down the steps. Somehow it makes the tears come crowding up in such a mist I can hardly see to write.

In real life, Oaklea was owned by Judge Peter Brown Muir and was one of Pewee Valley’s earliest county estates. The first home on the site was constructed in 1857 by journalist Edwin H. Bryant and supposedly included a ball room. This was the Oaklea Annie Fellows Johnston wrote about in the early “Little Colonel” books.  A very dark photo of the original Oaklea is shown above, was taken from the book, “The Land of the Little Colonel,” published by Mrs. John S. (Katie) Smith in 1974.

In 1905, Oaklea was destroyed by a fire and replaced by the Colonial Revival-style home pictured below. The second Oaklea was supposedly built on the first’s foundation and some of the original antebellum outbuildings remain on the 20-acre grounds. It was in this rebuilt version of Oaklea that the Little Colonel spent her honeymoon in “The Little Colonel’s Knight Comes Riding,” published in 1907.

Judge Muir’s grandson, Muir Semple, the real-life model for the fictional Rob Moore, never lived in Oaklea. However, he often visited his grandfather and was a dear childhood friend of Hattie Cochran, the real Little Colonel.