The Gables

"The Gables"
Where Annie Fellows Johnston wrote “Two Little Knights of Kentucky;”
where she met the Craig family, who served as models for many of the “Little Colonel” characters;
and which she later purchased, after making Lloydsboro Valley her home

The Gables is believed to have been built around 1895 by Maria Dillingham Bakewell,
sister-in-law of famous naturalist, John James Audubon.
Above the front door is a stained glass window bearing the Latin inscription,
“Parva Sed Apta” – Small But Sufficient.

From the post-office door, looking across the road to a grassy ridge beyond, one could see the big inn that the year before had been turned into a home for old Confederate soldiers. Farther on was the wide green slope of the churchyard, and the little stone church with its ivy-covered belfry. The manse stood just behind it. Next to that was the cottage with the high green gables and diamond-shaped window-panes, where the Waltons had lived one summer while their new house was being built. And next to the cottage was the new house itself, set away back in the great grove of trees which gave to the place the name of "The Beeches." 

Annie Fellows Johnston, 
In The Little Colonel at Boarding School (1903)
Chapter V

Annie Fellows Johnston describes this Dutch Colonial home with its “diamond-shaped window panes and high green gables” in several of the “Little Colonel” stories. However, she never mentions who lives in the charming cottage located between the Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church and The Beeches, across Central Avenue from gates of Edgewood.

In real life, it was Annie Fellows Johnston herself who lived here for a time in the late 1890s and again, for a short period after returning to Pewee Valley from Arizona and later Texas. It was while living here that she first became acquainted with Edgewood’s owners, the Craig family – matriarch Annie and her three talented daughters, Fannie Craig, Mary Lawton and Louise Culbertson, all destined to become characters in the “Little Colonel” stories (Miss Allison, Mrs. Walton and Aunt Elise). It was here, too, that she first became familiar with the Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church, which she later joined after making Pewee Valley her permanent home. And, it was here, in the “blue room” on the second floor, according to local tradition, that she authored the third book in “The Little Colonel” series, “Two Little Knights of Kentucky.”

Mary Lawton also lived in The Gables in fact as well as fiction while she was building The Beeches. In 1911, Annie Fellows Johnston purchased The Beeches from her long-time friend and two years later, purchased The Gables for use as a guest cottage and as rental property. Some of the people who lived in the cottage over the many years that Annie and her stepdaughter Mary owned it, included:

  • Peyton H. Hoge, II, along with his wife, Blanch Weissinger Smith Hoge, and their infant son, Peyton, III (See Home of Peyton Hoge.)
  • Eugene and Mary Ella ("Minnie Mo") Malone, their widowed daughter Laura, and Laura's fraternal twins, Laura and Herbert. Several decades before they lived in the guest cottage, Mary Ella made cameo appearances in the "Little Colonel" stories as Mrs. Mallard, the mother of Katie Mallard (in real life, Kate Malone, Mary Ella's oldest daughter), one of the day pupils at Lloydsboro Seminary and a chum of the Little Colonel's in the novels.
  • The Fred Gisiger family who rented The Gables from Mary Johnston in preparation for the birth of their first child, Fred H. Gisiger, who was born there on February 2, 1940.
  • J. Chilton “ChiChi” Barnett, an amateur historian and owner of an antique shop specializing in whiskey containers located on the site of the old railroad station. His collection of whiskey jugs is now housed at the Oldham County History Center and the library bears his name.
  • Frank and Dorothy (Hughlette) Conn, and their sons James and Steve, who rented The Gables from 1951 until Mary Johnston’s death in 1966, at which time they inherited the property from her. It was owned by the Conn family until Frank’s death in 1998.

According to Steve Conn, the house was originally white with forest green trim, as shown in the photo below.

The Gables in 1936

In “35 Landmark Homes of Pewee Valley,” a walking, cycling, driving or horseback tour booklet published in 1994, author Ann H. Montgomery describes the close relationship between Mary Johnston and the Conn family:

The Conns were very good friends of Miss Mary’s (step-daughter of Annie Fellows Johnston), who was living next door at The Beeches when they came to Pewee. Miss Mary and Annie Fellows Johnston had resided at The Gables before moving next door. As Dot Conn says, “Miss Mary fell heir to them, and they to her,” and they looked after her until her death…She and her huband, Frank, both enjoy reminiscing of times gone by…They told of the time Miss Mary called breathlessly to say her coal stove had blown up! Indeed it had; the top was in another room and Miss Mary was covered with black coal dust, but still was able to humorously comment, “I look like I’m going to the Minstrels!”