Fancy Farm—isn’t that a quaint name for a town. Allow me to tell you about it. When first settled in 1829, by eleven Roman Catholic families, it was the first Catholic community with the first Catholic church in Jackson Purchase area of west Kentucky. Buried deep in the bible belt it has endured all sorts of adversity but has emerged as one of the most famous “little towns” on earth. It is in the Guinness book of world records for hosting the longest ongoing, largest, one day, outdoor Bar-B-Q picnic in the world—138 years. It annually serves 19-20 thousand pounds of Bar-B-Q mutton and pork. It hosts the political kick-off for the state of Kentucky on the first Saturday of August each year for at least 60 years with TV coverage by C Span, KET, and all local stations. On presidential years, CNN usually offers coverage. It remained %100 Catholic for about 150 years—community population now is roughly %90 Catholic.
In 1935 when I was 2 years old, our local priest persuaded my mother Anna Vatra Courtney Hunt to compile a comprehensive history of Fancy farm which she completed in 1943. She is the official historian of Fancy Farm through that date.Her history was published as part of a 4-volume set compiles by Fredrick Wallis and others titled A Sesqui-Centennial History Of Kentucky. It was in our school library. She traced the beginnings with Lord Baltimore, Cecil Calvert and many other Catholics sailing from England on the Arc and Dove to escape persecution. They landed at where is now Baltimore, MD. Almost all the Catholics in Fancy Farm are direct descendants of those migrants. After years of establishing themselves in Maryland, when Kentucky became a state in 1792, many of those families signed a pact to cross the mountains an risk traveling to Ky. They crossed the mountains in covered wagons to where is now Pittsburgh. From there they floated down the Ohio river on flat-boats and landed at what is now Maysville, Ky. They traveled inland to what was known as Pottinger’s Creek and established the first Catholic church in Ky. After Issac Shelby, the first governor of Ky, and Andrew Jackson negotiated the purchase of Chickasaw land (known as Jackson’s Purchase), and that land was added to the state of Ky, the Federal government opened it up for sale at twelve and a half cents per acre as land grant property. Eleven families including three of my great, great grandparents were the first settlers. They built Saint Jerome Church—it has been rebuilt three times and remodeled several, but is a huge, beautiful Gothic-style structure—the largest thing in town.
As a child, I attended the church-run school, Saint Jerome School for twelve years. We were required to attend mass each morning and our first class was Catholic Catechism. We were taught by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Ky. They were all well educated, great teachers, and strict disciplinarians. Even though the school was church owned and operated, the state paid the teachers salaries. Eventually, all the county schools consolidated (1980s). and the church went out of the education business.
As valedictorian of my senior class, I was awarded a scholarship to Saint Edwards University, Austin, Tx. My Pre-med advisor and biology professor was a Brother Raphael Wilson of “Bubble Boy” fame. After graduating Medical school and completing post graduate training in Orthopedic Surgery, I completed my private practice years in West Ky.—Mayfield and Paducah. I am 87 years old now and have been retired several years.
Many times I have been requested, even demanded to wright a book about life in fancy farm, Ky. I usually discounted it, because writing books can be trying as my previous experience with Wilderness Cry attests. However, in recent years, as I see everyone my age go to the grave, I became keenly aware that history died with them—there was no one to ask. So I sat down an obliged them with Growing Up In Fancy Farm Kentucky. It is educational, historic, nostalgic, and humorous. It is not published to the world-wide market because it would be mainly of interest to locals. However, I have been shocked at the number of people who are from Fancy Farm who, coming out of the wood-work like termites from all over this country, are clamoring for my little book—daily trips to the PO mailing books. If anyone has an interest, just email me, email@example.com, and I will mail it to you—$15 plus $5 first class postage.
Remember, the only way the world can have peace is through the recognition and acceptance of the like-minded idea that the Spirit of God is stamped on everything in existence. Can God be at war with himself? My call for the World-Wide Communion of Spirituality continues incessantly.