"Tanglewood" Its History

its History

Where Rob Moore professes his love to the Little Colonel
a Lloydsboro (Pewee) Valley Landmark
Go to Tanglewood in the Little Colonel Stories

Tanglewood’s exterior as it appears today.

According to the Statement of Significance submitted by Historic Pewee Valley to the National Register of Historic Places:

Tanglewood is a rare example of a nineteenth century house whose building date and specification are well documented in a newspaper advertisement for the sale of the house. On July 30, 1869, in Louisville’s “Courier-Journal,” appears the following ad:

             For Sale – in Pewee Valley – “Hillside Cottage” and 10 acres ground – lies immediately 
            on the Railroad adjoining St. James Episcopal Church and within a 5 minutes walk of the 
            depot. The house is being built and will be ready for occupancy August 10, is Swiss in 
            style and contains 10 rooms, has all requisite closets with storerooms and cellar. Must be 
            seen to be appreciated. Will take good low-priced unimproved city property in part 
            payment. Apply on the premises to John F. Dickson, Trustee. 

The ad …establishes that the house was built on speculation. A deed search indicates that the property was purchased in February, 1869 by Louisa Dickson, wife of John F. Dickson, and in April was sold to Jonas H. Rhorer and Charles B. Cotton, two Pewee Valley residents who were involved in a great number of local land transactions during the late 1860s and 1870s. The property, still identified as Rhorer’s on Beers and Lanagan’s 1879 map of Pewee Valley, was exchanged back and forth between Rhorer, Cotton and several other business partners during the 1870s before being sold as a result of Rhorer’s extreme financial difficulties. Nothing is known of J. H. Turner, the 1884 purchaser of the property. Turner and his family owned the house until 1911, making them the longest owners until the present resident, who has owned the property since 1951. 

The name “Tanglewood” has been associated with the house at least since the turn-of-the-century, when Annie Fellows Johnston used it to name this property, which figures prominently in several of her Little Colonel books… on the 1879 Beers map, the name “Tanglewood” appears on the property immediately north of the present day Tanglewood, suggesting that the name had an earlier origin.

Research conducted in 2003 by University of Kentucky archeologist Jay Stottman traces the estate’s name to the early 1820s when the land was owned by the Souther family, who came to Kentucky from Culpepper, Virginia. The following genealogical information on the Southers was supplied by Richard Dennis Souther of the Souther Family Association in Honolulu, Hawaii:

  • Henry Souther (October 1, 1775- Nov 15 1843) married Anna Wilhoit Souther (1776-January 25, 1861) on February 26, 1801 in Madison County, Virginia. The couple owned 10 slaves and had eight children:
    • Amelia Souther (February 28, 1802-April 24, 1862) buried in Floydsburg Cemetery in Crestwood.
    • Elizabeth Souther (December 28, 1804.- December 17,1877) who married to Thomas Oglesby. She is buried in Floydsburg Cemetery.
    • Michael Souther (February 26, 1806 – December 29, 1859) who married Catherine Clore (March 11, 1812-February 15, 1872), daughter of Solomon and Roseanna Clore, on September 21,1830 in Oldham County. Both are buried in Floydsburg Cemetery.
    • Louesa Souther (September 4, 1808 – January 12, 1874) who married Charles Calloway Isaacs (October 12, 1808 – January 12, 1874) on January 29, 1835 in Oldham County. They are buried in Floydsburg Cemetery.
    • Henry Isaacs Souther III (April 1, 1810 – April 13, 1842)in Oldham County, KY. He married Nancy Tandy on November 7, 1837 in Carroll County, KY. He is buried in Floydsburg Cemetery.
    • Julia Ann Souther (November 4, 1814 –February 22, 1900) who married Zachariah Gibbs Head on September 16, 1834 in Oldham County. She is buried in Floydsburg Cemetery.
    • Catherine Souther (May 17, 1819 - ?), who married William Henry Fields on November 27, 1839 in Oldham County, KY.
    • William Souther (March 28, 1822- ?) who married Elizabeth M. Walton on October 19, 1852 in Boone County, KY.

Henry and Anna Souther’s oldest son, Michael, also settled in Pewee Valley and was the first owner of Beechmore, which served as the model for the home of Great Aunt Sally Tyler in the “Little Colonel” stories. The couple lost four children while living there and buried them somewhere on the property in a small family cemetery. Though Stottman’s extensive excavations never determined where the cemetery was originally located, the headstones that once marked their graves have survived and are pictured below.

​The headstones of Michael and Catherine Souther’s first four children.
 The names and dates on the markers are:
William H. Souther (September 2, 1848 – September 9, 1849)
George Anna Souther (July 18, 1840-August 8, 1849)
Roberts M. Souther (February 13, 1835- December 18, 1838)
Guy Souther (June 26, 1837- August 21, 1849)


Stottman believes the headstones were moved at some point after Catherine Souther sold the family farm and moved to Brownsboro, where she was residing at the time of the 1870 census. Before Michael died in 1859, the couple had two more children: Ida Michael (February 5, 1853 - ? ) and Mary C. (August 21, 1855 – October 21, 1860). Mary is buried with her parents in Floydsburg Cemetery. Only Ida survived to adulthood. She married Marcus Edmund Speer on April 22, 1869 in Oldham County and eventually settled in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Ida Michael Souther Speer at about age 40, (left).
With her husband, Marcus Edward Speer 
on their 50th wedding anniversary in 1919, (right)

No trace is left of Henry and Anna Souther’s home on Tanglewood’s property. When the current owners rerouted the driveway, they uncovered many shards of white china decorated with tiny blue flowers. The shards were located near the site of a small cabin that had belonged to an African American family (Robert and Arlene Carr were living there in the late 1940s, according to Louise Herdt Marker) and was still standing when the Gleasons bought Tanglewood in 1951. Whether the china and cabin were remnants from the Souther era is unknown.


Central Park

For a time, the residents of Pewee Valley used the front portion of the 16 acres now associated with Tanglewood as a public park, marked as Central Park on the 1879 Beers & Lanagan map. This park may have been Annie Fellows Johnston’s model for “Taylor’s grove” mentioned in Chapter VII of “The Little Colonel’s House Party,” when the girls were each given horses and ponies to ride during their stay in Lloydsboro Valley:

They were all ready to start, so we went galloping down to Judge Moore’s after Rob, and the five of us raced all over the valley till nearly lunch-time. It was grand. The dust flew, and people ran to the windows when we went by, as if we had been a circus.

We did have a sort of circus when we passed by Taylor’s grove. A Butchers’ Union had come out from town for a big picnic, and they had a brass band with them. It struck up a waltz just as we reached the grove, and Joyce’s pony, Calico, began turning around and around as if he had lost his senses. Joyce screamed and threw her arms around his neck, frightened almost to death until Rob called out that Calico was dancing, and for her to hang on and see what he would do. What he did was to stand on his hind legs and dump Joyce off into the middle of the road.

This old pump on Tanglewood’s present grounds once served as the City Drinking Well,
according to research done by the Gleasons.


The Proverbial “Handwriting on the Wall”

During a recent renovation, clues to the people who once dwelled in the 1869 villa were uncovered beneath layers of wallpaper on the plaster walls. Jonas, Sam and McKee Barclay signed a wall on May 18, 1879.  They were the grandchildren of Jonas H. Rhorer – the land speculator shown as Tanglewood’s owner on the 1879 Beers & Lanagan map.  

According to “The Biographical Encyclopedia of Kentucky,” J.M. Armstrong & Co., 1878, Cincinnati, Ohio, Bowling Green native Thomas P. Barclay married Jonas Rhorer’s daughter, Louisa, on April 28, 1864 two years after moving to Louisville. He spent his first year in Louisville working as a cashier at the Savings-Bank of Louisville and probably met his future father-in-law there. Louisville’s 1859 City Directory lists Jonas H. Rhorer as treasurer of the Louisville Savings Institution between Main and Market on Fifth Street. A year later, Barclay established a manufacturing company which later became known as the Kentucky Bell Factory at 310 E. Main Street in Louisville. The company manufactured plows and stock bells.  

The Thomas Barclay family is listed in both the 1870 and 1880 censuses as living in the Rollington area, presumably in Tanglewood. Thomas and Louisa had six children in 1880: Jonas, 15; Samuel, 13; McKee, 10; C. Julia, 7; Thomas, 5; and Louise, 2. 

By the 1900 census, the family was living in Baltimore Ward 17, Baltimore City, Maryland and Thomas Barclay, now 60, had the title “Reverend.” His wife, Louisa, was still living and there were several children in the household: Thomas P, 25; Louisa, 22; and Melvin, 18. The family may have been forced to vacate their home in Pewee Valley – and flee the Louisville area entirely, for that matter -- in the wake of a huge financial scandal involving Jonas Rhorer and the Louisville Savings Bank. The scandal is mentioned briefly on page 8 of the document, “Suburban Development in Pewee Valley, 1851-1935,” submitted to the National Register of Historic Places in the early 1990s, which notes that Rhorer was forced to surrender all his property to the Savings Bank of Louisville in 1879 and that the bank itself failed the same year. 

Rhorer’s name was attached to seven Pewee Valley houses between the 1860s and 1870s and he was also partial owner of other properties through a “Building Association,” which was constructing houses – such as Tanglewood – on speculation. “Clearly,” states the National Register for Historic Places submission document, “a lot of the bank’s money must have been tied up in Pewee Valley real estate.”

The Turners purchased Tanglewood in 1884 and owned it until 1911, during Pewee Valley’s “Little Colonel” era. Signatures of A.M. Turner and Henry M. Turner were also found on Tanglewood’s walls during recent renovations, as well as the signatures of several Butlers. According to the 1910 census, Harry Turner and his wife Clara were living in the house with their 13-year-old daughter Mary. Little else is known about the Turner family. As far as we can ascertain, Annie Fellows Johnston didn’t use the Turners as models for characters in her “Little Colonel” tales.



Recent History & Lore

After the Turners sold Tanglewood, the house changed hands many times. Research done by the Gleasons shows past owners included the Rubels, Dr. Allen, the Christmans, the Youngs, Dr. John Casper, the Swinneys and the Tinsleys. The Gleasons purchased it from the Tinsleys in July 1951.

Like nearly every historic home in Pewee Valley, there is a suicide associated with Tanglewood. On June 4, 1947, Stuart Marshall Swinney took his own life there. He was 50 years old and suffered debilitating health problems. For several years after his death, his wife, Nell Hudson (Wilson) Swinney, took in boarders before selling the property to the Tinsleys. Among those who rented apartments from her were Dot Stackhouse Douglas (now Matthews) and her first husband, Les; and Louise “Sis” Herdt Marker and her husband, Louis “Bud.”

One of the stories that has circulated about Tanglewood for years is that during Prohibition, gin was concocted in the second floor bath tub in the base of the tower. Barrels of the libation were supposedly rolled down its wooden staircase, wreaking havoc on the spindles.

Above, Tanglewood’s stone entrance gate and sign. Did it once have a "Great Gate" like the one Annie
Fellows Johnston described the entrance to Green Acres?
Below, the barn built by the Gleason family, which has owned the estate since July, 1951.
For many years, the donkeys and miniature horses they raised were a familiar sight
to Pewee Valley residents.

Return to Tanglewood in the Little Colonel Stories

- Page by Donna Russell