The Way Forth

Rachel Grimes – piano, voice
Joan Shelley – voice, guitar, banjo
Nathan Salsburg – guitar, voice
Scott Moore – violin, voice
Charlie Patton – cello, voice
Aaron May – bass, voice
Stephen Webber – narrator

The independent and contrary nature of Kentuckians is entertaining and familiar, and I admit to having a life-long fascination with colorful stories of this beautiful, complicated place and its people. A deep dive into a trove of family photos, letters, and lore prompted a more personal examination of the stark truths that lie beneath our celebrated history. I followed up by asking my parents and family members to share more memories and key details, and then researched aspects of the history of Madison and Lincoln counties.

Inspiring stories of hard-working, loving families prevailed, while a silent theme also emerged:  the systematic prohibition of the rights of women, indigenous peoples, enslaved and subsequently freed African-Americans, for the deliberate purpose of amassing wealth and the exploitation of resources. Guilt, deceit, cruel irony, and grief are revealed in some of the most intimate details. How obvious were these transgressions in their day and time? Did generations of my grandmothers imagine a different future than what they were subjected to or benefited from? Did they ever manage to have sway over the outcomes, and how did they accomplish that? Through humor or music or physical beauty or deception? I also found many encouraging examples of a spirit of self-determination and a desire for a culture of fairness and equality for all. One main question flows through The Way Forth:  can the thorny Wilderness Trace become a peaceable path forward? Though relics of the violent, old-world patriarchy are still visible, the human infrastructure for a loving and healthy collective grows every day.

Got Ahold of Me

Possessed by painful, unresolved emotions from another time and place, with a plea to the aggressors to stop the fighting and begin to love

Postcard from Paulina

Going back in time - a postcard written by Paulina Lackey, the sister of my great-great- grandmother, to her niece Pauline Grimes - a snapshot of the pace and tone of life in 1888

Sisterhood of Man

A refrain from the voices of women of Kentucky - of the frontier, of the Cherokee Nation, and of today - demanding freedom from the grip of domination

Red House School

My maternal grandmother Margaret Ruth Baldwin Leedy began her education in a rural one room school house, and later taught in Madison, Harlan, and Lincoln Counties. She completed her education in stages, while working and raising a family. This text is excerpted from a writing assignment from Eastern KY University in 1964 when she finally returned to complete her Bachelor’s degree.

The Hysterical Society

A romp through the names of people and places that play a part in the storyline: family members, slaves of those family members, places of origin and of settlement, and the waters that flow through the land. The chorus is the old time fiddle tune “Cumberland Gap”. The title refers to how my paternal grandmother Dorothy Susan Newland Grimes used to jokingly refer to the Lincoln County Historical Society, of which she was a member and President.

Nowhere on Earth

A personal account of a recent drive-by visit to the beautiful place where my father was born in Preachersville, Lincoln County

There Is No Other

A woman recalls a life-long marriage, through the phases of the young, middle, and later years

The Spells

The narrator enters and tells of an Aunt’s struggles with the memory of a traumatic episode

For So Long

A sentiment of the current generation on the emotional legacy of the patriarchy and its manifestation in their family

Dix River Doxology

An ode to the Dix River in central Kentucky, a major tributary to the Kentucky River, with a melody from the traditional Christian hymn of praise known as the Doxology

Bill of Sale

John Newland, my 4th great-grandfather, was the grandson of a German immigrant. John's grandfather, Johann, came to Virginia as an indentured servant in 1734 and served four years as a cordwainer. John's father, Abraham, having benefited from a Revolutionary War land grant in Madison County, became wealthy enough to pass on land to his sons, including John, who in 1824 purchased a woman, Susan, and her three children: Ann, Jane, and Henson for $775. As was the common, hideous practice, slaves had no legal last name and therefore very little written history or record exists. This lament grieves this horrible truth from our past with a promise of "No more".

End of Dominion

A dive into the arc of the white settlement of Kentucky, from the perspective of a modern-day male narrator, a bombastic orator, a preacher, a letter from a distant nephew, a man and a woman observer. A female chorus outlines the cycle of the rise and fall of the practice of dominion over other people, animals, and the land: Fortitude, servitude, plenitude, gratitude - Certitude, pulchritude, rectitude, decrepitude. Contains excerpts from family papers, wills, letters, memorabilia, newspaper clippings, and historical events including the establishment of Fort Boonesborough, the Gold Rush of 1849, the Civil War, Christian evangelism, and an unsolved murder.

A New Land

A hopeful wish for today and for the future of our state with lyrics from the Simpson/Hayes family reunion newsletter, Sara Katherine Simpson Jones:

And with the roots of the past, we shall shake the branches of the future