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Vaucluse: Spencer County's great treasure

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By Tom Watson

 On a rise just north of Taylorsville, above the intersection of Yoder-Tipton Road and Kentucky 55-155 stands the Jacob Yoder home that was originally called “Beechland,” but was renamed “Vaucluse” by Yoder’s son-in-law, Frenchman David Roselle Poignand.

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Before continuing, it might do well to explain that Vaucluse is pronounced something like VAW-CLOOZ’ and Poignand sounds like PAW-YAH’ in French, although Spencer Countians most often pronounced it PON‘-YERD. Vaucluse was a wine-growing region of France and the Knox Brown family said that it was also the name of Poignand’s home in France. Miriam Blackburn Brown, Knox Brown Jr’s wife, said there was also a possibility Vaucluse got its name from a horse farm by the same name in the Lexington area.
Yoder named the place “Beechland” because of the large number of beech trees on his property, especially along Wolf Run Creek that empties into Brashears Creek.
Yoder was a captain for our side during the American Revolution. His grandparents were Swiss and his parents were Dutch immigrants to this country. Jacob Yoder made a name for himself by taking the first load of trade goods down the Mississippi River to New Orleans on a flatboat. In 1785, Yoder settled in Bardstown where he married Mary Mossman in 1793, but he learned that village life was not what he wanted and decided to become a farmer.
He bought 4,000 acres of Shelby County land on the northeast side of Brashears Creek and in 1803, began construction of a two-story, 13-room house. The acreage was part of the territory out of which Spencer County was formed in 1824. Clay taken from the hole dug for the basement of Yoder’s house was used to make the bricks that became the walls of the structure. The project kept Yoder’s many slaves busy for three years.
The Yoder’s first daughter, Elizabeth, was 10-years-old when the house was built and their second daughter, Mary, was born there in 1810. Mary Mossman Yoder died in 1830 and Jacob met his maker April 7, 1832. The first iron grave tablet west of the Alleghenies was sent from Cincinnati by Yoder’s friend, Captain Joseph Pierce, and placed over Yoder’s burial site in the family cemetery that is visible from Kentucky 55-155 at Yoder-Tipton Road. The cemetery is surrounded by a stone wall. A single marker on the hillside just below it is dedicated to the many slaves who lived, worked and died at Vaucluse.
There are estimates of as many as 100 slave burials on the hillside.
Elizabeth Yoder married Frenchman David Rozel Poignand of Boston, Mass., and continued to call the house “Beechland.“ It isn’t known exactly when Poignand changed the name of “Beechland” to “Vaucluse,” but Jacob Yoder apparently did not approve of his daughter’s marriage to the Frenchman nor the name change for his home.
The family story is that the old captain sat on the back porch and whittled while the ceremony was being conducted inside the house.
Jacob and Mary Yoder’s daughter, Mary (b, Jan. 26, 1810; d. March 15, 1881), married Mason Brown, who distinguished himself as a lawyer and judge. Mason and Mary Brown were the parents of Knox Brown, who married Adeline “Addie” Crittenden Watson of Frankfort, the granddaughter of Gen. Green Clay, who was the father of Cassius Clay of Whitehall.
Knox Brown was the grandson of John Brown, Kentucky’s first senator. Knox Brown and Addie bought Vaucluse and moved in during 1906 when their son Knox Brown Jr. was 12. Knox Brown Jr., who was born July 19, 1884, and died Nov. 23, 1970, was the great grandson of Jacob Yoder. He married Miriam Blackburn July 9, 1838. She continued to live at Vaucluse and died April 30, 1983. Knox Brown Jr. and Miriam were the parents of a boy and a girl.
Joe Brown and his sister Mary Jane (Marcum) grew up in Vaucluse. Joe is a U.S. attorney in Nashville and teaches law at Vanderbilt. And if you wonder what happened to Yoder Poignand – he was killed by a train at the Main Street crossing in Taylorsville Aug. 28, 1908, at the age of 74.
Yoder Poignand never married and was living at the Spencer House in Taylorsville. Shortly before his death, he had given the knoll property to the citizens of Taylorsville if they would promise to build a school on top of the natural formation.
Resident John Speed challenged Yoder Poignand to put the offer in writing, and he did. The school was named after Poignand.