We often walk with ghosts on a daily basis. They are there with us on the sidewalks of our lives. They haunt the dark places of the day. They whisper to us as we pass certain buildings where the windows often seemed from another time and space.
These ghosts care not for our thoughts but rather stand guard over their own secrets as if to taunt we mere mortals into scratching through their yesterdays. They smile in the mist of what has been and we call it history.
Today, I walk a certain sidewalk in Clinton, Kentucky that has been corrupted by the ravages of too many late evening thunder storms or mid winter ice storms. Now, all that is left of this once proud 50 feet of concrete and skilled artisan labor is broken and falling into concrete failure.
The pathway has crumbled into dust and loose mortar. The retaining wall is leaning at a 45 degree angle, slowly reaching out for that perfect rendezvous with space, weather, and time, before it tips over.
Yet, this wall and its sidewalk stand guard, as best as they can over the comings and goings of spirits, both human and ghost to the entrance of the old Jewell House on Clay Street.
This is the place I stand before approaching a stately two story clapboard wooden house, with full wraparound outside porches, upstairs and downstairs, framed with gingerbread trim.
We now call this house the Van Slambrouck Home. Tom and his wife, Reena, have undertaken to restore the old mansion to its earlier glory. They have done much work on the old home place, where once Ramer B. Jewell was born. He later married Virginia.
This is my connection. Virginia Jewell.
For many years during the 20th Century, she was the leader in Clinton for championing the arts, writing local history and making all she came into contact with feel as if she had known you her entire life.
However, on this day, standing looking at the old house, fully understanding just how much Virginia Jewell must have loved seeing this house as part of the historic fabric called Old Clinton.
I remembered how much local history I learned from Miss Virginia. Many times Virginia would ride along with me and give me her special tour- recounting the importance of houses and buildings to the history of not only Clinton, but the entire Jackson Purchase.
It was in special places like the Van Slambrouck house and many others that she took inspiration and solitude. She loved this place called Clinton and worked hard to bring new ideas, lead community visions, edit a newspaper, write poems and books.
Some old timers in these parts say “Miss Virginia gave a part of her spirit to help shape the soul of Clinton.”
Maybe the old timers are right. What if Miss Virginia’s spirit does sometimes visit the near by woods just out clear sight when the light of day is weak?
It is a nice feeling to think that the legend of Virginia Jewell’s creativity may have blossomed in this setting of wooden mansion and shadows from the nearby woods.
Editor's Note: What Ivan calls the "Jewel House" is on the historic register as the Watson House (see related story)