Who's Old Kentucky Home is it really? [Louisville newbie]


I coordinated a wedding last weekend at My Old Kentucky Home in Bardstown. The wedding was held there specifically because the groom is a civil war re-enactor and has a bit of an infatuation for Abraham Lincoln. Being from New York, I had never been to My Old Kentucky Home State Park. The first time I went was anti-climatic —the visitors center and grounds are prettier than the home itself. Nevertheless, I complimented Lincoln's home to the groom. He giggled at me. Apparently, My Old Kentucky Home is not Lincoln's home at all (this was very confusing, considering the couple had a Lincoln impersonator at their wedding). So who's home is it, or was it?

I asked around and everyone told me it was Stephen Foster's. Who's that? He wrote the song, "My Old Kentucky Home," which is most famously played at the Kentucky Derby just before the race. He also wrote "Oh Susanna!" I did some research and it actually isn't Stephen Foster's home at all; it belonged to his cousins, the Rowans. Actually, there is no evidence that Stephen Foster ever visited the home, but he did receive letters from his sister Charlotte, who lived there for extended periods of time. Foster lived in Pennsylvania. Originally, the song was titled "Poor Uncle Tom, Good Night" (substitute "Poor Uncle Tom" for "My Old Kentucky Home" in the chorus). It was changed in 1853 because Foster did not want to be associated with Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

So basically, the state song of Kentucky, that brings tears to the locals eyes, was written by a man from Pennsylvania who never visited Kentucky and was originally about a slave called "Uncle Tom." Now that is something to be proud of!

Photo by local artist Terry Chandler

Maggie moved to Louisville from Buffalo, NY in Dec. 2009. She has also lived in London, Chicago, and Louisiana.  Find out more about her business Weekend Wedding Warrior, LLC and her private counseling practice.