Memories of Rolling Mills Farm
by Ronella Stager, Columnist
Aug 15, 2012 | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“You can’t go home again” is a phrase that came to my mind a week ago when my son, David and my daughter-in-law, April gave me a rare treat. It was to be “my” day. We had an early breakfast at my favorite little restaurant near Kentucky Lake. From there we went to the Rolling Mills Estates for a drive round the hills and down the hills looking at all the beautiful new homes.

The special part of this drive is both sweet and sad. The original farm which my parents owned was called The Rolling Mills Farm. The farm was an obsession of my father who had lived there as sort of caretaker for the 6,000 acres which was owned by a Mr. Helfrich in Evansville, Indiana. Daddy moved from the farm in 1937 to work for the state of Kentucky but he dreamed of owning the part of the property which was the farm part, comprised of 800 acres. Several years later, he managed to buy that acreage and farmed it until he finally had a heart attack and couldn’t work. Eventually the Corp of Engineers literally took the farm for a song leaving my parents without the land and the money which should have been theirs. Ours was just one case among thousands when the dam was impounded and people had to move from the area.

As we drove around all the newly built roads on property which was so familiar to me, I could only think of my poor father and his dream. The home where we lived and the big barn are no more. There is no sign of any building ever having been there. The giant trees in our old yard are long gone. The lane going out to the main road is under water and there are boats in dock along that space. There is nothing but water where the barn once stood, where Mama milked her cow and where Daddy’s big Tennessee Walking horse and his companion and the mules had stalls. The corn crib is just a memory.

Our father was sent to Washington by farmers from several counties to lobby the Corp of Engineers for a high dam which would at least reimburse the farmers for land they ruined. And that is the dam which was built.

The only place which I could really relate to is the little grave yard where my paternal grandmother was buried. She asked that her body never be moved so there it is among the few others. The monstrous three story brick mansion, which was called the Hillman mansion and where my grandparents lived at one time, burned many years ago and even the foundation and basement, which I remember, are no more.

The eighteen acres which the Corp of Engineers left and which my mother later sold is now called The Rolling Mills Estates. Many of the homes are built along the high bluff which the Corp didn’t want.

I realize that our family is just one family among hundreds and hundreds of families that were forced to leave their homes of several generations to make way for the new impounded lake and for progress. Our father’s grand obsession cost him his health and eventually his life and nearly killed my mother and certainly I had no great attachment to that broken down house and the hardships of living where we couldn’t even stay at home to go to high school. However, there was a bittersweet feeling when I saw all those beautiful homes along “our” bluff and all over the hillsides.

The most spectacular thing about all the homes was their landscaping. So enough of the bittersweet sadness of seeing the old Rolling Mill. The other side of the coin, so to speak, is the beautiful landscaping. The homes along the hill behind where our old house once stood are homes built very close together but I assumed that the back yards went all the way down to the water. It is sort of a bay on one side and the lake on the other. The long row of houses had small but beautiful front yards. I don’t think I ever saw such roses. There were all colors and sizes and gorgeous shrubs, some blooming shrubs and some ornamentals. I had the thought at one time, “This is the exact location of the hog lot where the farrowing houses with all the sows and little pigs were”. Who would ever have thought that someday all that would be beautiful homes and flower gardens. At the tip of that bluff or hill stands a three story log home with water on all three sides. What a dream of a location. It is in the exact place where a little cabin once stood, and which I can remember as almost fallen down, where my parents lived when they first married.

I kept thinking how amazed Mama would be if only she could know that the steps she took every day would look like this in 2012. She would remember that once, up on the hill behind those beautiful homes and gardens, bobcats would call to one another and rattlesnakes denned and copperheads would get into the corn crib at the barn and the big red deer had paths going around the hill on their way to fat cornfields. And I will bet she would wonder at it all. But I also know that Daddy once envisioned a place like that someday, even if not in his lifetime.

Then we went all through Cannon Springs but that is for another day.

If one of those residents of Rolling Mill Estates reads this column, I would love to hear from you.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632.
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