Dinsmore History Visits Rotarians

by Pat Moynahan on September 7, 2016

DinsmoreFLORENCE – When people ask Barbara Bardes what period of history the Dinsmore Homestead in Burlington depicts, she says “150 years.”

Visitors to the home, built in 1842, will find an accumulation of personal possessions, household goods and letters accumulated by the Dinsmore family over the century and a half the single family owned the 700-acre farm. A descendant of the family was buried in the cemetery on the hill there as recently as 1994.

“The history is not confined to one period,” said Bardes, the chairperson for the Dinsmore Homestead Foundation. “The furniture and household goods are all original. It’s a living history museum.”

Bardes entertained the Florence Rotary Club on Monday, August 21, with tales of colorful Dinsmore family members and their connections to the rich and famous, including George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt and Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

James Dinsmore purchased the land and moved his family from Louisiana in 1838. A partner in a sugar plantation in the bayou state, he apparently didn’t like slavery, didn’t like the flat land and didn’t like the prospect of contracting yellow fever there.

“He brought slaves, mostly women and children, from Louisiana although he wasn’t in favor of slavery,” Bardes said. “He supported the Union (in the Civil War) and emancipated his slaves.”

Dinsmore had three daughters, two of whom died at young ages. The oldest daughter, Julia Dinsmore, raised two nieces and ran the farm for more than 40 years after her father died in 1872.

Julia Dinsmore worked in the fields along with the hired hands, and wrote in a journal at the end of every day, according to Bardes. The journal provides a running history of life in the late 19th century.

“She was a real survivor … a woman alone running a farm in Boone County,” Barnes said.

The Dinsmore Homestead Foundation purchased the home and 30 acres of land to preserve the site in 1987. The foundation offers a number of educational programs for scouts and school children as well special Kentucky Derby, Halloween and Christmas events.

Martha Munro Ferguson Breasted, who was instrumental in the transfer of the property to the Dinsmore Homestead Foundation, asked to be buried in the cemetery. Her body was cremated and her ashes buried in the same grave as the woman who cared for her as a child growing up in the Dakota territory.