THE HEIRLOOM LIFE: The Matheny Farm – Where time stands still
Published 1:04 pm Thursday, November 30, 2017
Story and photos
by Melanie Hutti
Backroad drives through Lincoln County always lead me to a few pit stops for pictures and moments of appreciation for the beautiful rural area that I call home. If you take a short historic drive down these roads, you will often find that they were once primary roads, given the sideline when newer highways were built. The road to my home, near Cedar Creek Lake, is no exception. It was part of the Wilderness Road, which has a long history itself, but for now we will focus on a structure that has commanded my attention since I first moved to this location.
The Matheny Farm appears to have come out of a story book, with a lovely farmhouse, towering windmill, and a two-story barn that caught my eye with every drive home. Built in the early 1880’s by Elsie Chapel Eaton, originally from Pennsylvania, it is one of the first “bank barns” built in Kentucky. This style allowed the loft and the first floor, built on a slope, to both be on ground level. Horses were raised on the farm, with themed weather vanes left to tell their story. Over the years, the family owned Belgian work horses, two named “Kate” and “Grey”, who were champion “pullers”. A dairy operation was started in the 1950’s, raising Jerseys and Brown Swiss. The remnants of this work can still be seen today in the lower barn, where David (distant nephew of Elsie Eaton) and Barbara Matheny, the current owners, care for their cattle today. The barn is supported by large walnut trees, cut from the property during its construction. Below the walnuts, carved limestone rocks support the foundation.
Though the exterior of the barn may be worn from weather, the interior stands sturdy and strong, a testament to the craftsmanship of its builders. Several outbuildings, including a smokehouse, remain on the property, with each one telling a story from the past. One relative recalls finding an escaped convict in the hay loft of the barn, which was quite the surprise for a young boy feeding cattle. The prisoner had escaped from Sing Sing in New York, and was wanted all over the Eastern United States. He was detained on the farm by local police, yielding stories that live on in this area today. At one point, the farm was lost to a forfeited promissory note, issued to a help a friend, and then bought again by the same family as a gift for a loved one.
Passed down from one generation to the next, this Pennsylvania bank barn serves as just one example of the history and beauty that can be found in Lincoln County on an afternoon drive, just one more example of living The Heirloom Life.