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Holt Homecoming

Saving history rewards our culture.

After almost two decades of a rural community’s campaign to save a unique piece of American history linked to President Abraham Lincoln, Judge Joseph Holt’s beloved Kentucky home is now undergoing phase 1 exterior renovation.

Holt was Lincoln’s Judge Advocate General (JAG) during the Civil War and was famous across the nation, particularly for his part in the trial of the president’s accused assassins.

Renovation of Holt’s 6,225-square-foot mansion began in April and is expected to be at least partly completed by the Holt Home Community Day on September 27, 2014. Moldings are being replaced and reconstructed and an addition not original to the pre-Civil War structure has been removed. Other updates will include soffit/trim/crown and fascia replacement along with rough carpentry sheathing along with painting, a new roof, lightning protection, and the brick-tuck pointing redone.

To champion such a project, the Friends of the Holt Home have been involved in grant writing and a variety of fund-raising and promotional events. The Friends group is a nonprofit organization that works in a cooperative agreement with Breckinridge County government. The Holt Home and surrounding 19.5 acres were acquired by the County Fiscal Court in 2008.

For the first time, the public will be able to view exterior renovation for the historic home at the 6th Annual Holt Home Community Day. Activities of the day include Elizabeth D. Leonard, Colby College associate professor of history, as guest speaker. A specialist in 19th century U.S. history and Civil War women’s history, Dr. Leonard is the author of Lincoln’s Forgotten Ally, a 2011 biography of Judge Holt.

Her book about Holt is the second biography about the Breckinridge County native. Lincoln’s Advocate, by Susan B. Dyer, Friends of the Holt Home president, was published in 2009.

The 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Community Day program will include period music, living-history presentations, and a visit from members of the Thomas Holt family. Thomas was the brother of Joseph Holt.

Dr. Leonard, John J. and Cornelia V. Gibson professor of history, has taught at Colby since 1992. She has written three other books on the Civil War: Yankee Women: Gender Battles in the Civil War, All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies, and Lincoln’s Avengers: Justice, Revenge, and Reunion after the Civil War.

Remarks and greetings will be provided by Breckinridge County Judge Executive Maurice Lucas and exhibits will include the Kentucky Historical Society’s mobile museum and learning lab. Also on hand will be the 9th Michigan Volunteer Infantry, the Fort Knox Army Band Quintet Dragon Brass, members from the Fort Knox Judge Advocate’s Office, the Kentucky Home Guard Band, and the Guilderoy Byrne Band.

Others include the 12th Regiment Colored Heavy Artillery, Larry Elliott portraying Abraham Lincoln, Judge Kelly M. Easton portraying Joseph Holt, storyteller Dr. Judy Pierce, and Grind with the Wind, Genuine European Organ Grinder, Ted Guillaum.

The Holt Home was constructed circa 1850 during the time of Judge Holt’s national service in Washington from 1857-1875. The Breckinridge County native served as Commissioner of Patents (1857), Postmaster General (1859), and Secretary of War (1860) under President James Buchanan before being named Judge Advocate General by President Lincoln in 1862.

The Holt Home is located at 6205 Highway 144 in Hardinsburg. Additional information is available at or by calling (270) 756-2269 or (270) 756-2573.

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