The Herald -News, Hardinsburg, Kentucky,  Wednesday, July 27, 1988

copy provided by Phillip Johnson, May 2004

return to Big Spring front page,  return to Stith Valley front page

The Maplewood Mansion ...

A Symbol Of The Dignity Of Its Era

by Betty Jefferies Morris

This beautiful, picturesque old southern colonial mansion in Big Spring is a symbol of the dignity of its era.  The home was built around 1851 by John C. Meador on what was then called the McMurty Square.

On June 7, 1852 Meador sold the home to Singleton Kasey and moved to Marysville, Ca., where he established a livery and teaming business.

After some 10 years in California, Meador returned to Big Spring.  On November 11, 1865, his son McHenry Meador, bought the home from A. W. Kasey, an heir of Singleton Kasey's estate.

The McHenry Meador family lived in the house until February 1883, at which time it was sold to Benjamin Sommers Clarkson.  The Clarksons named the home and grounds "Maplewood" for all the maple trees that stood in the yard. 

chsketch.jpg (131512 bytes)
THIS SKETCH, by Walter H. Kiser of the Courier-Journal,
shows the old Clarkson Home in Big Spring, Ky.  The sketch
was drawn at sometime in the late 1920s or early '30s.  
Sketch courtesy of Robert and Mary Hardaway Griffith. 

Benjamin S. Clarkson was born on December 13, 1840, in Meade County.  His father, James L. Clarkson, was born August 31, 1816, near Petersburg, Va.

When about three years of age, James L. Clarkson came to Kentucky with his parents, the James Fielding Clarksons, and for one year they lived on the Ohio River three miles below Rock Haven.

James Fielding Clarkson was born on April 5, 1874, in Campbell County, Va.  He settled in Meade County and owned a large profitable farm north of Big Spring.

James F. Clarkson's father was Manoah Clarkson, who was also a Virginian and of Scotch or Irish descent.  He, too, was a farmer who later settled and improved Grayson Springs in Grayson County.

James L. Clarkson was married in 1837 to Mary S., Daughter of Jesse P. And Martha Stith Moreman. 

Seven children were born during their marriage: Ophelia (Talbott), Benjamin Sommers, James R., Jesse F., Martha E. (Adams), Mary L. (McCans), and Nancy L. (Clarkson).

On November 5, 1867, Benjamin Sommers Clarkson married Julia Richardson, daughter of Orla C. and Mary Shacklett Richardson of Brandenburg, Ky.

To them five children were born: Gus R., Fannie J., Ben S. Jr., Lydia, and Mary Orla.

B.S. Clarkson Sr. was a farmer and stock farmer.  Through hard work and wise economical decisions, he was the owner of nearly 1,000 acres of improved land in and around Big Spring.

He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and in politics, he was a staunch Democrat.

B.S. Clarkson Jr. lived at Maplewood from birth to 1925.  After the death of their parents, his sisters, Lydia Ackley Clarkson - Kemper and Mary Orla Clarkson Hardaway, bought his part of the estate.

The girls then drew straws to see who would get the house and which on would end up with the farm.  Lydia got the house and part of the farm, and the remainder of the farm went to Mary.

While Lydia lived in the house, she spent a great deal of time and money remodeling the interior.

Distinguishing features of the interior include the frescoed walls and ceilings in the spacious halls, the work of an Italian painter.

Particularly appealing is the decorative art in the second floor hallway, featured by a concave dome in the ceiling. Encircling the dome are eight muses with flowing gowns in various pastel shades.

As one Looks up through the well of the staircase from the lower floor, the dome appears as a picture framed by the rich mahogany banister.

Lydia was very interested in art and collected many valuable pieces while she traveled in Europe and served as a World War I volunteer worker in Paris, France.

Lydia was fascinated with the European way of life, and as a result, she spent each summer there.  She formed a business of organizing tours throughout Europe, Asia and Africa.

During her years, she traveled around the world several times.  On these trips, she bought valuable collectibles such as chandeliers, sconces. rare pieces of furniture, and paintings for her home in Big Spring.  At one time, her collection of art, furniture and other valuables was unmatched by anyone.

Over the years these valuables were dispersed to family members and later, some were sold at auctions. 

Each downstairs room of the home is accented with a beautiful fireplace.  In addition to these three rooms downstairs, there are three large rooms upstairs.  An ell to the dwelling provides a sunroom, bedrooms, kitchen, porch, and what was once the servants' quarters.  There is a large basement under the home that was once used to store vegetables, fruits, ciders, wines, and other perishables.

After Lydia's death in 1937, the home descended to her sister Mary Orla Clarkson Hardaway.  With this inheritance, Mary owned the home and the entire farm.

The Hardaways lived in the home for about 37 years.   They had two sons: Ben C. and Julian R.

At the death of Mary Hardaway, the estate went to her sons, Dr. Julian Hardaway of Danville, Ky., and Ben C. Hardaway of Big Spring.  Dr Hardaway inherited the house and part of the farm.  The remainder of the farm was left to Ben C.  They divided the furnishings in the home.

During the seven years that Dr. Hardaway lived at Maplewood in Big Spring, he spent most of the time remodeling and restoring the home.

The interior, that had once been so elaborately designed and painted, was restored as closely as possible to that which Lydia had paid an Italian painter to design some 50 years before.

Dr. Hardaway spent thousands of dollars before he finished the remodeling and restoration.  After the work was completed , he decided to sell the home and settle in Hilton Head, S. C.

In May, 1978, the home was sold to his niece, Mary Hardaway Griffith and her husband, Robert.  Mary is the daughter of Ben C. Hardaway , now of Fairhope, Ala., a brother to Dr. Hardaway.

The Griffiths also have an apartment in Louisville.  Mary is senior vice-president of the First National Bank of Louisville, and Robert is an attorney in the Louisville law firm of Stites and Harbison. 

They have two sons, Robert Clarkson Griffith, a junior at Carleton College in North Field, Minn.; and William reed Griffith, a senior at Atherton High School in Louisville.

This home has been owned and occupied by members of the Clarkson - Hardaway family for some 105 years; however, unlike many of the other 137 year -old  homes, Maplewood continues to survive and becomes more beautiful and valuable with time.

Information for this article was obtained from Clarkson-Hardaway family records; Kentucky Genealogy and Biography, Volume I, 1970: Neighborhood Sketches - Louisville Courier Journal, date unknown; Breckinridge County Court House records; and Herald - News microfilm. 

chhouse1.jpg (113479 bytes)
THE CLARKSON- HARDAWAY HOME ins much more beautiful today than when it was first built in 1851.  Benjamin Sommers Clarkson bought the home from McHenry Meador around 1883.   The home has remained in the Hardaway family since.  The present owners are Robert and Mary Hardaway Griffith.    Betty J. Morris photo
lydia1.jpg (30940 bytes)
LYDIA ACKLEY CLARKSON-KEMPER owned the beautiful Big Spring home known as "Maplewood," from 1925-1937.  She traveled extensively, especially in Europe.  During the trips she collected art, furniture, and other valuables for the home.  This valuable collection , from all over the world, was unmatched by anyone.  


chdome1.jpg (151192 bytes)

THIS CONCAVE DOME in the ceiling of the second floor hallway of the Clarkson - Hardaway home is encircled with eight muses, their flowing gowns in various pastel colors.   This work was originally done by an Italian painter while the home was owned by Mrs. Lydia Adkley Clarkson-Kemper, daughter of Ben S. and Julia Richardson Clarkson.