Frankfort Heritage Lecture Series

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The Frankfort Heritage Lecture Series explores themes in Frankfort and Franklin County cultural history - the big, small, and tangential - including the people, places, events, industries, and organizations that shaped our community and environment. The series also includes topics in historic preservation such as architecture, archaeology, public policy, and more.

Registration opens one month prior to each event. For more information, contact Diane Dehoney at (502) 352-2665 x108 or

Sponsored by the Frankfort Heritage Week Coalition and PSPL.

Stuart Sanders

Photo of Stuart Sanders

When the popular musical Hamilton showcased the celebrated duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, it reminded twenty-first-century Americans that some honor-bound citizens once used negotiated, formal fights as a way to settle differences. During the Civil War, two prominent Kentuckians—one a Union colonel and the other a pro-Confederate civilian—continued this legacy by dueling. At a time when thousands of soldiers were slaughtering one another on battlefields, Colonel Leonidas Metcalfe and William T. Casto transformed the bank of the Ohio River into their own personal battleground. On May 8, 1862, these two men, both of whom were steeped in Southern honor culture, fought a formal duel with rifles at sixty yards. And, as in the fight between Hamilton and Burr, only one man walked away.

Anatomy of a Duel: Secession, Civil War, and the Evolution of Kentucky Violence (2023) examines why White male Kentuckians engaged in the "honor culture" of duels and provides fascinating narratives that trace the lives of duelists. Stuart W. Sanders explores why, during a time when Americans were killing one another in open, brutal warfare, Casto and Metcalfe engaged in the process of negotiating and fighting a duel. In deconstructing the event, Sanders details why these distinguished Kentuckians found themselves on the dueling ground during the nation's bloodiest conflict, how society and the Civil War pushed them to fight, why duels continued to be fought in Kentucky even after this violent confrontation, and how Kentuckians applied violence after the Civil War. Anatomy of a Duel is a comprehensive and compelling look at how the secession crisis sparked the Casto-Metcalfe duel—a confrontation that impacted the evolution of violence in Kentucky.

Stuart Sanders is the Director of Research and Publications at the Kentucky Historical Society, where he oversees the agency’s library, the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, the historical markers program, the America250KY Commission, and the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition. Before coming to KHS, Stuart worked to preserve and interpret Kentucky’s largest Civil War battleground as the executive director of the Perryville Battlefield Preservation Association. He has served a number of roles KHS, including managing KHS’s outreach efforts, administering multiple statewide commissions, and communicating the relevance and value of Kentucky history. He is the author of five books and has been a staff member since 2005.

Daniel J. Phelps

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This presentation will be an overview of the various types of fossils found in Kentucky, discussing specimens from the Late Ordovician (450 million years ago) to the Pleistocene (ending about 12,000 years ago). There will be numerous fossil specimens on display before and after the talk. The public is encouraged to bring in local fossils for identification.

Daniel J. Phelps is a native of Lexington and a retired environmental geologist with degrees from the University of Kentucky. Besides his environmental work, he has been employed as a petroleum and coal geologist. Additionally, Dan has taught part-time in Kentucky’s Community College system.

In 2021, the Paleontological Society – the world’s leading scientific organization devoted to studying invertebrate and vertebrate paleontology, micropaleontology, and paleobotany – awarded Phelps the prestigious Strimple Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in paleontology by someone who does not make a full-time living from paleontology. In 2017, the National Center for Science Education awarded Phelps the Friend of Darwin Award, conferred annually to those whose outstanding contributions support the goals of NCSE. Phelps is founder and president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society.

Freddie Johnson

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Freddie Johnson shares the life history of a young boy growing up in an environment surrounded by legends in the world of bourbon. Join us as he creates a narrative allowing you to enjoy this journey while leaving footprints in bourbon history!

Johnson is a third-generation employee at Buffalo Trace Distillery and serves as its Distillery VIP Visitor Lead. Born in Paris, KY (Bourbon County), he spent some of his early childhood summers in the mountains of Breathitt County with his maternal grandfather who was a coal miner and friend to the moonshiners. The family moved to Frankfort, KY when he was five. Freddie enjoyed hunting, fishing and hanging out with his paternal grandfather, Jimmy Johnson Sr., and father, Jimmy Johnson Jr., at what is now known as Buffalo Trace Distillery.

He was in the middle of a successful career as a network/operations engineer in Atlanta, GA when he put all of it aside to fulfill a promise made to his father, Jimmy, more than 20 years earlier. He had promised his father that he would work at the Distillery during his lifetime so they could say they had three generations of the Johnson family that worked at Buffalo Trace.  Freddie took early retirement and moved back to care for his father and brother. Jimmy got him a job as a tour guide at the Distillery in 2002 but Freddie has been in and around the Distillery since he was five years old.

Freddie weaves together his childhood memories with the Distillery’s rich history as his entertains thousands each year in various tours around Buffalo Trace. One of the Distillery’s most popular and highly sought-after tour guides, Freddie is the recipient of the 2015 ROSE (Recognition of Service Excellence) Award, the 2017 Lexington (KY) Hospitality Award and was inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2018.

Registration begins August 1.

James M. Prichard

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Frankfort occupies a unique place in the annals of the Civil War. In 1862, it became the only loyal state capital to be occupied by Confederate forces during the war. In 1864 the capital was attacked by elements of Morgan's raiders in a sharp action in which Governor Thomas E. Bramlette and other state officials took an active part. This talk will cover the major events and colorful episodes that occurred in Frankfort during the great conflict.

James M. Prichard is a historian and public speaker who resides in Louisville. He received his B.A. and M.A. in History at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. Following his tenure as Research Room Supervisor at the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives (1985-2008), he worked in the Special Collections Department at the Filson Historical Society in Louisville from 2013 to 2022. In addition to writing the Frankfort Heritage Press book Embattled Capital: Frankfort During the Civil War (2014), he has contributed essays to the following scholarly works: Virginia at War1863Confederate Generals in the Western Theater volumes 2 and 4, Kentuckians in GrayKentucky EncyclopediaThe Encyclopedia of Louisville, Biographical Dictionary of the Union, Heidler’s Encyclopedia of the American Civil War, The World Encyclopedia of Slavery, and Confederate Generals in the Western Theater, as well as Civil War Times, North and South, and True West magazines.

Registration begins September 1.

Sylvia Sousa Coffey

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One of the most dramatic but little-known episodes in our state history – a seventy-year battle fought nationwide and in every state, finally won with nary a shot fired. Come and enjoy learning about the strong, determined Kentucky women who did their part to attain the vote for one-half the population.

Sylvia Coffey is the co-founder of the Kentucky Women’s History Alliance – the nation’s first state chapter affiliate of the National Women’s History Alliance, the founder of the Woman Suffrage Centennial Celebration and co-founder of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Chorus with Nancy Atcher. A folk/dance teacher originally, Sylvia also worked for Kentucky State Government for nearly twenty years, played stand-up bass with a band that played Celtic and Anglo-American tunes regionally, and has participated in the development of two week-long dance schools, the Capital City Historical Dancers and Musicians, The Pridefull Ball (Without Prejudice), and the local dance troupe – The Glitterbugs.

Registration begins October 1.

Dr. William "Drew" Andrews

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The rivers and streams around Frankfort have not always flowed in their present courses. This presentation will use new digital resources to examine the landscape evidence for the ancient shifts and changes in the local stream valleys that have sculpted the Frankfort landscape.

Dr. Drew Andrews is the Acting Director of the Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS), where he has worked since 1996. Most recently, he was the Head of the Geologic Mapping Section of KGS. With expertise in geographic information systems (GIS), geomorphology, and geologic mapping, William is also an adjunct assistant professor of geology at the University of Kentucky's Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

A life-long Kentuckian born in Frankfort, William received his Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from the University of Kentucky, is a member of the Geological Society of America, serves on the US National Committee for the International Union of Geological Sciences, and is licensed as a professional geologist in Kentucky.

Registration begins November 1.

Past Presenters

Dr. Gwynn Henderson

After laying to rest the myths that continue to circulate about Kentucky’s ancient Native Peoples, this presentation will discuss Native history prior to the arrival of non-Native people, paying particular attention to information collected from Franklin County’s archaeological sites.

Tressa Brown

American Indian communities have been in Kentucky for more than 11,000 years. When Euro-Americans settled here, Shawnee, Cherokee, and Chickasaw, among others, already lived here. Myths and misconceptions about American Indian people permeate many sources of information.

Dr. Drew Andrews

The rocks under our landscape play a critical role in defining the shape and the characteristics of the land we live on. Landforms, streams, resources, and natural hazards are all related to the geology of an area.

Christopher T. Hall

Audiences are in for a treat as they sit back and listen to a candid discussion about the discipline of archaeology and what it tells us about our own history.

Mack Cox

The first of two short lectures will explore early Frankfort furniture dating from about 1795 to 1820. The second documents decorative inlay in early Kentucky furniture from the same period.

Dr. Richard Taylor

Bourbon enthusiasts worldwide are familiar with Col. E. H. Taylor, Jr. for his reputation as the founding father of the modern bourbon industry. However, the Taylor family's influence on Frankfort can trace its roots back to the earliest pioneer days of Kentucky.

Roda Ferraro

Keeneland Library's traveling exhibit, The Heart of the Turf: Racing's Black Pioneers, highlights the lives and careers of 80 African American horsemen and women from the mid-1800s to today.

Howard W. Cox

A fresh examination of the life and crimes of the highest-ranking federal official ever tried for treason and espionage, American Traitor examines the career of the notorious Gen.