Children at Ashland

Ashland for over 200 years has been a magical place for children to play.  From Henry Clay’s own children and grandchildren to his son James and Susan’s ten children, to his granddaughter Anne Clay McDowell’s girls, the estate’s young occupants delighted in their surroundings.  And it was not only the Clay children who grew up at Ashland: generations of African American children of enslaved and employed parents, too, lived out their young lives there.  There are also accounts of local children who later became famous visiting and playing at Ashland—from Mary Todd (during Henry Clay’s time) to George Clooney (born May 6, 1961 in Lexington).

Here are images of some of the children who called Ashland home or playground.

Henry Clay’s grandson who spent many of his formative years at Ashland, Henry Clay III (1833-1862), with Clay’s wife Lucretia.
Detail of a popular print of Henry Clay’s Ashland, depicting children at play in front of the mansion.
Three of Henry Clay son James and Susan’s children in front of the new Ashland, c1856.  From left, probably Thomas “Tommy” (1853-1939), Lucretia “Teetee” (1851-1923), and Lucy (1844-1863).
James and Susan’s son (either James “Jimmy” 1846-1906, John 1848-1872, or Henry “Harry” 1849-1884) and pet dog in front of new Ashland, c1856.

Henry Clay’s great-granddaughter, Madeline McDowell (1872-1920), was a young girl when the family moved to Ashland in 1883.

Madeline (right) at Ashland (c1890), pointing children’s attention to the camera.
Two children in front of Ashland’s smokehouse and chicken coop during the McDowell era.
Henry Clay great-great grandson Billy McDowell in Ashland’s conservatory.
More McDowell great-grandchildren children at Ashland, from left: William Brock Jr, Henry Clay McDowell Brock, and Alice Dudley McDowell, 1917
Children on the back terrace at Ashland with Aunt Mag (Magdalen Harvie McDowell 1829-1918), in chair.
Three sisters, daughters of Ashland employees during the McDowell era: Marie, Antoinnette, and Blanche Knight, and their “playground supervisor” Myrtle Hummons, 1917 family photo on the front lawn at Ashland.
Long-time McDowell employees, Agnes and Bob Holton, with children at Ashland.
Bob Holton with a McDowell child on the grounds at Ashland.
And Agnes Holton with a McDowell child on the grounds at Ashland.
The 1921 celebration of Madeline McDowell Breckinridge’s life brought scores of children to Ashland’s back lawn. Her sister Clay great-granddaughter Nannette (1859-1948) hosted an annual lawn party for the children of Lexington’s Lincoln School in memory of Madeline, who had founded the school.
Ashland has long sponsored educational programs for children.
Girls awaiting teatime at Ashland.
Kate the Cow has been a favorite of children at Ashland’s Family Farm Day
Holidays at Ashland have often been memorable times for children, such as an Easter Egg hunt in 2001 (photo, Herald-Leader).


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