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

Tanglewood’s grounds, rather than the picturesque 1869 Swiss-style country villa, were mentioned most frequently by
Annie Fellows Johnston in the early “Little Colonel” stories.  Photo, c. 1990, from “Historic Pewee Valley,” now in the
Oldham County Historical Society’s collection

Tanglewood is the setting for two of the most romantic scenes Annie Fellows Johnston ever penned for the “Little Colonel” stories.

In Chapter XVI of the “Little Colonel At Boarding-School,” Betty , Lloyd, Allison, Kitty, Malcolm and Keith McIntrye, Rob Moore and the “Little Captain” Ranald Walton roam Tanglewood’s grounds in search of Christmas greenery and mistletoe. That outing leads to Malcolm’s proposal to Little Colonel Lloyd Sherman by the stile of the St. James Episcopal Church, located next door to Tanglewood.

In Chapter XIII of “The Little Colonel’s Knight Comes Riding” Rob and Lloyd take an April walk through Tanglewood that ends with Rob professing his love for the Little Colonel, much to her distress:

…If the roads were dry enough by the end of the week she and Rob intended to take a long tramp through Tanglewood in search of wild flowers… Lloyd loved the woods like an Indian, and one of the most satisfactory things about Rob's companionship was that he enjoyed them in the same way. Often they tramped along, scarcely saying a word a mile, finding the vibrant silences of the wood better than speech, and their mutual pleasure in them sufficient...

April came in with a week of sunny days which hurried everything into luxuriant leafage and bud. When Rob came over one warm day for his usual Sunday afternoon walk, the whole world seemed so near the verge of bursting into full bloom that the very air was aquiver with its half-whispered secrets. Faint delicious odours stole up from the moist earth and the green growing things that crowded up out of it. Even the old locusts, conscious of a hidden wealth of sweetness which was soon to make a glory of their gnarled branches, nodded in sympathy with all that was young and riotous.

There were so many things to discover near at hand that Lloyd and Rob sauntered about the place first, before starting farther afield.…Lloyd, happy over every tiny frond she found unfolding itself in the fern bed, and every yellow dandelion that added its mite of gold to the young year's coffers, was so absorbed in her quest that she did not notice any difference in Rob's manner.

He walked along beside her, saying little, but with the same air of repressed eagerness that the whole April day seemed to share, as if like the locusts, he too was conscious of some inner wealth of bloom, some secret happiness whose time for sharing with the spring had not yet come. Once when he answered her enthusiastic discovery of a snowdrop with only an absent-minded monosyllable, she glanced up at him curiously. There was such a light in his eyes and such an unwonted tenderness in his expression that she wondered what he could be thinking about.

Across the pasture they went, down through the orchard where the peach-trees were turning pink and the clusters of tiny white plum buds were already calling the bees, and around again to the beech-grove at the back of the house. It was a sweet flower-starred way, and Lloyd, bubbling over with the spirit of the hour, began to hum a happy little tune. Suddenly she stopped short in the path, turning her head slightly with the alert motion of a young fawn.

"What is it that smells so delicious?" she demanded. "It's almost heavenly, it's so sweet." Then after another long indrawn breath, "I'd think it was lilies-of-the-valley if it were any place but out heah on the edge of the wood-lot. They couldn't be way out heah. It must be some rare kind of wild flowah we've nevah discovered."

Leaving the path, they both began searching through the underbrush, pushing aside the dead leaves, and stooping now and then to examine some plant that did not seem entirely familiar.

"I'm positive it's a white flowah," declared Lloyd, closing her eyes and drawing in another breath of the faint, elusive fragrance. "Only a white flowah could have such an ethereal odah. It makes you think of white things, doesn't it? Snow crystals and angel wings! Oh, they are lilies-of the-valley!" she cried the next instant, stooping over a bed of green from which Rob was raking the dead leaves with a stick.

"And don't you remembah now," she cried, her eyes like eager stars as she recalled the incident, "we planted them heah ourselves, yeahs ago. I remembah digging up a whole apronful of some thrifty green things out of the flowah bed undah yoah mothah's window and lugging them ovah home all the way from Oaklea. You planted them in this place for me, because we thought we'd build a playhouse heah, but aftahwards we changed our minds and built it by the grape-vine swing."

"It seems to me I do have a faint recollection of something of that sort," Rob answered. "I know I had a row with Unc' Andy once for digging up some of his pet borders and transplanting them over here, but I didn't know they were lilies."

"I suppose we didn't know because we nevah happened to wandah this way aftahward when they were in bloom," she continued, seating herself beside them and parting the thickest sheaths of green to reveal the perfect white flowers hidden away among them. Throwing aside her hat, she bent over to thrust her face into their midst, revelling in the purity and exquisite fragrance.

"There's nothing like them!" she exclaimed, so intent on the beauty of the tiny white bells that she did not see the expression. with which Rob was looking down on her. There was a likeness between the two, he was thinking, the white-gowned girl and the white, white blossoms. They seemed spiritually akin. She touched one of the racemes softly.

"It's a miracle, isn't it!" she said in a low, reverent tone.

"A miracle that anything so sweet and white and perfect can suddenly come into being like this. It must have made those old lily bulbs wondah at themselves the first time they unfolded and woke up to find that such a heavenly thing had happened to them, --- their hearts filled with this unearthly beauty and sweetness. Don't you suppose it made the whole world seem different, that they're not yet done wondering ovah the surprise and joy of it?"

She said it with a shy side-glance as if half-afraid he would laugh at such a childish fancy. Then she looked up startled, at the unexpected intensity of his answer.

"I know it made the whole world different," he said in such a strange exultant voice that she hardly knew it for Rob's. Dropping to one knee beside her he singled out one of the lilies just beginning to burst from its sheath, and folded it close shut again in its green leaves.

"Look!" he said in the same exultant voice. "That's the way I've been for years, with something hidden away in my heart, unrecognized at first, then its sweetness only half-guessed at. And I kept it hid, and I thought never to tell you. But this morning in church it happened to me, this miracle of blossoming. I was sitting looking at you as I've done a thousand times before, and all of a sudden it came over me, just as sweet and unexpected as the bursting of these lilies, the knowledge that life is dear and the world beautiful because you are in it. I think I've always held the thought of you in my heart, Lloyd, but it has come to such full flower now, dear, I couldn't hide it from you long, even if I tried. It seems to me now that all of my life must have been a gradual growing up for this one thing --- to love you! "'

In the very last volume of the “Little Colonel” series, “Mary Ware’s Promised Land,” Phil Tremont marries Mary Ware and buys her a home in Lloydsboro Valley. The house, “Green Acres,” was described in Part 2, Chapter VIII:

"Green Acres is just across the road from Oaklea. The grounds don't make you think of a big, stately park as Oaklea does. It is more countrified. But it is the dearest, most homelike, inviting old place that one can imagine. I had been there several times with Lloyd and Mrs. Sherman, and remembered it as a real picture-book sort of house, with its low gables and quaint casement windows. I remembered that it had a garden gay as Grandmother Ware's, with its holly-hocks and prince's feathers, its marigolds and yellow roses; and that it had mint and sage and all sorts of spicy, savory things in some of its borders. But I didn't know half of its charms. Now, after two months, I am just beginning to discover the extent of them.

[LEFT:  Newlyweds Phil and Mary (Ware) Tremont arrive at their new Lloydsboro Valley home.
Illustration by John Goss from “Mary Ware’s Promised Land.”
(Just a side note: The real-life Little Colonel was herself married in Oct. 1912, the same year Promised Land was published.)]

"When a family has owned a place for three generations, as the Wyckliffes did Green Acres, and have spent their time making it livable and lovable, the result leaves little more to be wished for. The hillside that slopes down from the back of the house has a small orchard on part of it and a smaller vineyard on the other, but both quite ample for our needs. Down at the bottom a little brook trickles along from a cold spring, and watercress and forget-me-nots grow along its edges. The apple trees are in bloom now…

"When we came only the early wildflowers were out, but all the knoll between the gate and the house looked as if there had been a snowfall of anemones and spring beauties. It isn't possible to put into black and white the joy of that first home-coming. We walked up from the station, and when we went through the great gate and heard it click behind us, shutting us in on our own grounds, we turned and looked at each other and laughed like delighted children. It was as if we had reached that land that we used to sing about, where

No wonder they named the place Green Acres!

"We left the wide driveway that winds around the hill to the house, and took the little path that leads straight up to it under the trees. The footpath to peace, Phil calls it.

"There was smoke coming out of the kitchen chimney, for Lloyd and Mrs. Sherman had been in the secret and had helped Phil as industriously as the two genii of the Bottle to get everything ready…

"And there was May Lily installed in they kitchen as temporary cook, and perfectly willing to stay if I wanted her. As if there could beg any question as to that! If there was anything needed to make it seem more homelike than it already was, I found it when we started out to explore the back premises. A fussy old hen, with her feathers all fluffed out importantly, was clucking and scratching for a brood of downy yellow chickens, just out of the shell. Old Mom Beck had sent them over as a wedding present, May Lily said.

"When we had been all through the orchard and down to the spring, and had discovered the rows of currant ,and gooseberry bushes at the end of the garden, Phil said in a careless off-hand way that we might as well take a look through the barn….

"The last surprise of the day was the housewarming. Everybody had stayed away till then, to let us have time to 'spy out the land and possess it.' Lloyd and Rob were the first to come over, then Gay and Alex Shelby. They have just gone to housekeeping in the Lindsey cabin. Every old friend in the Valley came before the evening was over, and gave us a royal welcome, as warm and heartening as the blaze which we started in the big fireplace. When the Colonel went away he quoted from the Hanging of the Crane,

"Oh, fortunate, oh, happy day 
When a new household has its birth 
Amid the myriad homes of earth.'

"He said that Green Acres had always been the synonym for whole-souled hospitality, but that we had even surpassed its best traditions.

Some locals believe that Annie Fellows Johnston’s model for “Green Acres” was Tanglewood. Others think the house might have been the property marked “Tower Hill” on the Little Colonel game board. The description of the house itself – “a real picture-book sort of house, with its low gables and quaint casement windows” – is only partially applicable to Tanglewood. The location – “just across the road from Oaklea” – applies equally well to both. Tanglewood’s current owners say a creek runs through the property several places at the bottom of a hill and that in the 1950s, there were remnants of an old orchard near the creek, just as Mary Ware Tremont described in her “Good Times Book.” However, Annie Fellows Johnston also wrote that a single family – the Wyckcliffes – had owned Green Acres for three generations. Tanglewood, as you will learn from the history of the house, changed hands many, many times.

It seems odd that Johnston wouldn’t have called the house Tanglewood, since she mentioned it by name in many of her previous books; however, she was not above reusing and renaming models for her stories. Good examples include the Lawtons, who started out as the Dudleys in “Two Little Knights of Kentucky” and became the Waltons in “The Little Colonel’s Holidays.” Louise Cleland also appears in the books twice, first as Mrs. Clelling in “The Little Colonel at Boarding-School” and in later stories, as Mrs. Bisbee.

We’re reserving our opinion about the real-life model for Green Acres until we complete the research on Tower Hill. But in the meantime, rest assured that this house was indeed the Tanglewood of the “Little Colonel” stories. And though a century has passed since “The Little Colonel’s Knight Comes Riding” was published, pink lilies of the valley still perfume its wooded grounds when spring comes to the Valley.

A side view of Tanglewood from St. James Episcopal Church. This is the view of the house Lloyd Sherman
and Malcolm McIntyre would have glimpsed from the stile -- minus the new red brick addition on the back.

Continue to The History of Tanglewood

- Page by Donna Russell