See what’s on the lesson plan at this 1850s living history museum
Are you smarter than a fifth grader—from mid-1800s frontier Kentucky?
Find out by practicing your three R’s—reading, writing and arithmetic—on the blackboard in the one-room schoolhouse at Mountain HomePlace, a living history museum in Staffordsville in eastern Kentucky. Visitors can also lead the congregation in a hymn at a tiny church; sit down at a loom and weave cloth; watch a blacksmith forge a tool; attend a concert at an outdoor theater; and feed goats, sheep and other farm animals.
Visit this re-created mid-19th century farming community and tour historic structures that were transported to the farm from the surrounding region in the early 1980s to preserve them— including the David McKenzie Cabin, a double pen family dwelling built in 1860. Watch an interpreter in period attire demonstrate how to use the loom or spinning wheel or perform other domestic tasks that would have been on the to-do lists of the pioneers.
“The entire farm represents the way of life of rural Appalachian Kentucky in the 1850s,” says Jeremiah Parsons, executive director of Paintsville Tourism, which operates Mountain HomePlace. “The McKenzie Branch School was the last one-room schoolhouse in Johnson County, used until the 1954-55 school year. The old Fishtrap United Baptist Church is representative of the typical Appalachian church building and hosted services until 1974.”
Although neither the Mountain HomePlace nor the Paintsville Tourism office is served by Big Sandy RECC, they enjoy a great relationship with this cooperative.
“They are always supportive of our efforts and ready to lend a hand when we need it,” says Parsons. “They have helped us with lighting projects at the Mountain HomePlace, among others, and the management and staff are active in attending our community events.”
Also on the grounds is the LeMaster Cabin, the oldest wooden structure on the farm, dating back to the 1830s when it was used as a family dwelling, storage building and corn crib. Today it houses the blacksmith shop. The homey structures are scenically situated within split-rail fencing on the HomePlace’s 27 acres, which encompass gardens, fields and old farming equipment, all set against a sweeping backdrop of the Appalachian Mountains.
“What surprises visitors most are the authenticity of the people, the clever engineering of the buildings and the general way of life of the mountain people in 1850s,” says Parsons.
At the gift shop, find items made through the Mountain HomePlace’s partnership with local artisans, including quilts, jewelry, hand soap, lotion, woodcraft items, artwork, canned and baked goods and more. As an added treat, hear none other than John Boy of The Waltons fame—Johnson County’s own Richard Thomas —narrate the Visitor Center’s video, which discusses the early settling of Kentucky and Paintsville.
Events held at Mountain HomePlace include a Second Saturday Series that meets 10 a.m.–noon to delve into topics like planting and gardening, animal care, birds and flowers, and more. Farm Fun Days take place on the third Saturday of the month in June, July and August and feature a carnival-like atmosphere with train rides, inflatables, DJ, rock climbing wall and games.
Learn about Kentucky’s mountain heritage at the Mountain HomePlace, adjacent to Paintsville Lake State Park. Admission is $5. Hours: 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday, April through October. Watch a PBS Kentucky Life video featuring the Mountain HomePlace and narrated by Byron Crawford here.
745 State Route 2275, Staffordsville
(606) 297-1469/Paintsville Tourism