Marker #1283, Johnston’s Inn, 5 mi. W. of Paris, KY US 460
Historical Marker #1283 marks Johnston’s Inn, illustrated on Filson’s first map of Kentucky in 1784 as a two story, block figure. It is the oldest house in Bourbon County. It is located on Filson’s map on the original road from Limestone [Maysville] to Lexington near the middle fork of Coopers Run.
The land was first owned by Captain Thomas McClanahan from a French and Indian War land grant. His daughter Peggy married Captain Robert Johnston in 1769; they ran the inn together, which was the “Cap’n Johnston’s” located at Johnston’s Cross Roads. In 1799 the inn was passed on to their son, Captain William Johnston. A visitor, Fortescue Cummings/Cummins, wrote in his Western Traveler in 1806 that he had seen as many as fifty covered wagons (Conestoga) in the front wagon-yard at one time.
In 1832, Joseph Helm Clay purchased the property, named it Rosedale, reared his family there, and it became Clay’s Cross Roads. Three Clay daughters died in the 1854 cholera epidemic and were buried in the graveyard, south of the house. For many years to the present time, there are stories about the unsettled spirits of these three girls, disturbing the peace of the residents. After their illness and deaths, the house was white washed or painted white, and it stayed that way until 1982 when it was stripped and restored to the original brick.
The old place left the Clay family in 1956 and enjoyed some restoration. In 1982 it was sold again and benefitted from more restoration so that today it is in near perfect condition. After 231 years of living, it is difficult to discern what portion may have been altered and when.
Inside there is a bar at the entrance hall with many wall cabinets. To the left is the 30’ x 18’ dining room, the ball room, with an enormous fireplace at the north end. The interior woodwork is walnut; the door knobs are brass; the floors are blue ash; and the old kitchen, later attached, is still in use with its original fireplace for cooking and warming.
Johnston’s Inn is on the National Register of Historic Places.
J. Winston Coleman Jr., Stage-Coach Days in the Bluegrass, Louisville, KY: The Standard Press, 1935.
Kentucky, A Guide to the Bluegrass, American Guide Series, W.P.A., sponsored by the University of Kentucky, New York: Harcourt Brace and Co., 1939.
Walter E. Langsam and William Gus Johnson, Historic Architecture of Bourbon County, Kentucky, Paris, KY: Historic Paris Bourbon County, 1985.
Filson’s Map of Kentucky. After a trip to KY in 1783, John Filson made this map with trails, rivers, and some early settlements, or stations. In this segment of Filson’s map, Johnston’s Inn is labeled “Capt. Johnston” on Coopers Run, a tributary of the South Fork of the “Hingston,” downstream from “Ruddles St.” [Ruddles Station].
The Clay daughters’ gravestones in the side yard of Johnston’s Inn.