Today, we are please to welcome guest author Adam Curtis, a trustee with the Ulysses S. Grant Homestead Association in Georgetown, Ohio.
In the spring of 1823, a short, stubborn man drove a buckboard wagon down the muddy roads of southern Ohio. The small hamlet he crossed into, Georgetown, was slated to be the county seat of Brown County, a jurisdiction only four years old. In the wagon were $1,100 in cash, a small bundle of furniture and possessions, the man’s wife, and their eleven-month-old baby boy. Buying a plot of land for fifty dollars, the man built a tannery along the swift-running Town Creek, and then a brick home across the street. That small boy would later grow into an accomplished painter, renowned horseman and, among other things, 18th President of the United States.
At the end of his life decades later, the man known by his friends as ’Lys would write of Georgetown: “this place remained my home.” For seventeen years, the longest he lived anywhere, the young general and statesmen hung his hat along the log homes and steamboats of the Ohio River.
Since 1970, the US Grant Homestead Association, along with the Ohio History Connection, has worked to preserve and commemorate the town that the young general knew during his early years. Georgetown and Washington, D.C., are equal as the only places in the world to have two statues of Grant, and every April, the Association marks his birthday with the three-day celebration of Grant Days.
Visitors are able to see and tour the boyhood home of ‘Lys, recently reopened after a year-long renovation by the Ohio History Connection. Inside are period-correct furnishings and displays, including original furniture carved by his father, Jesse Grant. From the windows to the floor, everything in the home is hand-made and accurate to how it would have looked in the 1820’s and 30’s.
In the parlor, an animatronic “Grant” tells anecdotes from his boyhood, including the story of the stone. When ‘Lys was 13, a local doctor had commissioned a massive slab of creek rock to be cut as a step for his new house. It proved to be too large for any local teamster to move, until the young general carefully hoisted it to the underside of a wagon, and carried it to where is sat until 1907. That stone can today be viewed at the homestead, just off the back sidewalk.
The tannery still stands across the street, but it is not open to the public. The OHC and Association only recently acquired the site, and restoration is still in its early stages.
South of the homestead stands the Dutch Hill school, the two-room schoolhouse that Grant attended as a boy. Restored to how it would have looked to students in the 1820’s, tours are available with the homestead.
Regularly staffed and open year-round, this year will mark the 21st annual Grant Days celebration. Other events are held throughout the year, including a lecture by former NPS Chief Historian Ed Bearss in March, presentations by Grant and his generals in September, and traveling displays throughout the year.
For more information or advice on visiting, visit usgrantboyhoodhome.org.