Dr. Ken Carstens Receives Fellowship Grant from Monticello Foundation

Dr. Ken Carstens, professor emeritus and adjunct professor in the department of history at Murray State University, recently received notification that his research proposal, “Thomas Jefferson’s Gardens: Using Historical Records and Field Methods to Recreate the Gardens of Jefferson’s Friends and Colleagues, George Rogers Clark and William Croghan at Locust Grove Historic Home, Louisville, Kentucky,” was funded by the Robert H. Smith International Center for Studies at Monticello.

Monticello, located near Charlottesville, Va., was the home of Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, writer of the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, Secretary of State during George Washington’s presidency, minister to France, and vice president under John Adams. A man of many interests beyond government–historian, philosopher and plantation owner–Jefferson chose to be remembered for two things: as the framer of the Declaration of Independence and the founder of the University of Virginia.
A colleague of Gen. George Rogers Clark (Clark spent his final days at the Locust Grove home in Louisville), Jefferson maintained copious notes about his formal and subsistence gardens at Monticello tended by Jefferson’s slaves. Carstens will be given full access to Jefferson’s original handwritten notes and garden diagrams, as well as access to archaeological data compiled by Monticello archaeologists who have employed technological tools called flotation machines to study the ethno-botanical plant remains from Jefferson’s gardens.

Carstens’ graduate advisor at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., Dr. Patty Jo Watson, invented the original flotation device that is now used as the standard for most archaeological field studies. Carstens and Watson collaborated on the testing of the machine.

Carstens plans to use the Monticello information by applying it to the yet-to-be studied gardens at Locust Grove, a contemporary 1790 “Virginian” Upper South plantation located a few miles east of downtown Louisville. He is an advisor to the board of directors of the multi-million dollar Locust Grove home.

Locust Grove is a slave-built, brick Georgian style home built for the William Croghan family. Croghan was married to Clark’s younger sister, Lucy. When Clark’s right leg was amputated in 1809, and he could no longer care for himself, he was invited to move into the Croghan residence where he spent the remainder of his life, dying on Feb. 13, 1818. In his earlier days, Clark was a fierce and successful fighter in the American Revolution. Known as the “Hannibal of the West” for his military feats, Clark is buried in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.

Locust Grove is open to the public seven days a week with special lecture series and various period historic events. Recently, Carstens was the keynote speaker for the opening of the new $900,000 museum exhibit hall featuring the history of the Ohio Valley and the life of George Rogers Clark. For more information on Locust Grove, including a calendar of events, and bookstore and gift shop information, go online at www.locustgrove.org.

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