Historic Cedar Hill


It was in 1794 that the fame of Washington [Kentucky] as a center of culture and progress stirred the Chambers family of Pennsylvania with a desire to migrate to Kentucky.  The cultural note was accented by the fact that Carolyn Warburton Fitsherbert Keats, whose husband was a relative of the English poet, John Keats, had opened a girls’ school where was taught “all the arts suited to their sex.”  Also there was the Franklin Academy at the head of Duke of Gloucester Street, reminiscent of William and Mary.  John Chambers [Wikipedia] was only fourteen when he came to Washington to live.  Just thirteen years later, when he was only twenty-seven, he had, through his own personal effort, provided for his daily living, secured a good academic education, studied law, and become one of the leading attorneys in a community that boasted the best.  Then, too, he had married twice and built beautiful Cedar Hill for his second wife, Hannah Taylor, of Hagerstown, Maryland.  His rise as an attorney was almost phenomenal.  He was engaged in many of the most celebrated cases of the day and became one of the best known and esteemed men of the state.  William Henry Harrison, John J. Crittenden and Henry Clay were his warm personal friends and visited him at Cedar Hill.

 Through close friendship with William Henry Harrison, and marked ability which President Harrison recognized, was appointed Territorial Governor of Iowa in 1841, a position which he held with distinction.

 Cedar Hill was built on the crest of a hill sloping gently east and west.  The five acre lawn is outlined by towering old cedars, brought from Blue Lick when mere seedlings, in Governor Chambers’ saddlebags.  Ninety-eight of those old cedars are still standing.  The trees are flanked by a moss-grown, fossil ridden stone wall that encloses the grounds on two sides.  The entrance to the grounds is marked by stone pillars that are covered by Virginia Creeper.  The driveway, which curves gracefully up the hill, is banked with yellow lilies. The house has a generous frontage of 56 feet, and there is a beautiful fan light over the front door.  The wide easy stairway that rises from the large entrance hall, has three landings and reaches to the third floor. The stairway has a solid walnut handrail and white banister.  The hall is attractively paneled, the woodwork all white with beautiful old mantels in each room, any one of which would gladden the heart of the builder of today in quest of the best in eighteenth century architecture.  There are six of these lovely old mantels at Cedar Hill, three below and three above stairs. 

There are two large rooms on either side of the entrance hall, each some twenty feet square; beautiful rooms with their lovely mantels and open fireplaces.  No doubt John Chambers built Cedar Hill as a setting for his lovely young wife, for there is love of living in the place.

 His interest having been transferred to Iowa, Governor Chambers sold Cedar Hill in 1848.  It was bought by Colonel Lucian B. Goggin of Virginia, and for the last 93 years it has belonged to the descendants of Colonel Goggin.  In 1905, Lucian Goggin Maltby, a grandson of Colonel Goggin, had the old place restored.

 John Carl Parish tells an interesting bit of history on his life of John Chambers.  He writes: “The thirteenth of April was the day set for a grand Whig gathering at Washington (Ky).  Toward the last of March delegates from various Tippecanoe Clubs met at Washington with John Chambers as chairman.  Detailed arrangements were made for bands, processions, speakers, etc., etc. …” The appointed day fell on Monday.  Daybreak found people on their way.  The whole Whig portion of the county turned out, and large delegations from Louisville, Cincinnati, Covington, Portsmouth, and all other towns along the Ohio River arrived.  They marched, with bands playing and flags flying, the four miles from Maysville to Washington, where they were refreshed on the Court House Square by great kegs of hard cider, the beverage of the Tippecanoe campaign.  The cabin that is now at the gate at Cedar Hill was moved to the square, as a symbolic touch, and from it was served the fatted calf, old ham, fowls, fish and other delicacies, while up at Cedar Hill the sideboard held its usual store of liquor, and in the garden mint grew in fragrant suggestiveness.  Mint borders the creek banks at Cedar Hill.  It has the look of mint that has ancestors.  We strongly suspect that many a cider drinking Whig communed with that mint, but that chapter was not written. 


By Frances Goggin Maltby.  This piece, evidently by an owner, or relative of an owner, of Cedar Hill, appeared in the Summer, 1945 issue of the magazine In Kentucky.  We’ve edited out several paragraphs at the beginning where she tells in general of Simon Kenton settling Washington, etc.  The John Carl Parish book she references above is called, simply John Chambers, and its full text is available on line, or easily available, cheap, on eBay.