Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Constitution Square

We've been by there many times and frequently said "we need to stop here sometime." Years have passed, and we have zipped by again and again. Now that I've begun this blog, I'm less likely to miss things that can be used as blog fodder. We stopped. And we're glad we did.

Constitution Square, in Danville, KY, is a small state park that offers a lot of Kentucky history. Danville is less than 10 miles from Harrodsburg, Kentucky's oldest town, and thus at or near the center of the state's first settlements. Settlers arrived both via the Ohio River to the north and the Wilderness Road through Cumberland Gap to the south. The Courthouse, above, was the site of a series of state constitutional conventions that in 1792 finally resulted in Kentucky being admitted to the Union as the fifteenth state. The original building was erected in 1784-85 as home to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
One of the first actions of the new Kentucky Supreme Court was to have a jail built. The above structure represents the original building constructed in 1785. The building consists of two cells containing basic furnishings.
The Meeting House, built in 1784, served the congregation of Concord Presbyterian Church, reputed to be the first Presbyterians in Kentucky. I've read that many, if not most, of the pioneers who formed the vanguard of the western settlement were Presbyterians. These settlers were frequently left without clergy because the Presbyterian Church insisted on an educated ministry and could not supply the pulpits with ministers willing to accept frontier hardships. Many Presbyterians left without ministers migrated to denominations that were less picky, including my own ancestors. I've always said my ancestors outran the Presbyterian Church.
The Post Office, built in 1792 or before, is the only log structure on the site that is original. The rest were reconstructed in 1942.
Grayson's Tavern, built in 1785, was where many of the men who served on the Supreme Court or in the Constitutional Conventions stayed. It was a natural place for political discussions to take place and it was here that the Danville Political Society formed in 1786 to "plan the course of the empire." The Tavern today houses the Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Across the street from the jail stands the Ephraim McDowell house. It was here on Christmas morning 1809 that Dr. McDowell performed the first successful surgery anywhere in the world to remove an ovarian tumor. Mrs. Jane Crawford thought she was expecting twins, but Dr. McDowell determined she had the tumor instead. The tumor he removed weighed twenty-two and one-half pounds, and was removed without anesthesia or antisepsis, neither of which was known at the time. The patient survived and lived another thirty-two years. These Kentucky pioneers were tough!
Danville is also home to Centre College, founded in 1819 by Presbyterians, and today considered to be a top-50 private liberal arts college.


  1. Thanks for sharing this wonderful bit of history with us. I'd love to visit there myself.

  2. Very interesting post. I'm glad you went.

  3. I'm glad you stopped there too. Fascinating. I shall keep on thnking about poor brave Mrs Crawford. What a Christmas!

  4. What a great place to visit. I'm glad you stopped and shared it with us.

  5. Great history although the surgery story is a little frightening. Many of us lack that degree of the pioneer spirit today.

    Darryl and Ruth :)