Richard Taylor

Writer Richard Taylor hands a book to Judy Stratton at the 11th annual Gathering of Authors at the Paul Sawyier Public Library in August. (Photo provided by PSPL)

Having lived in the neighborhood for the past 45 years, it’s safe to say former Poet Laureate Richard Taylor has developed a love of place for an 8-mile stretch of Elkhorn Creek. Next week the Kentucky Historical Society will recognize the Frankfort resident with a KHS Publication Award.

Taylor will be honored for his latest book, "Elkhorn: Evolution of a Kentucky Landscape," which tells the story of the creek from the Forks of Elkhorn to Peaks Mill Road.

“I kayak the creek and became interested in its history — the ruins of the Steadmantown Paper Mill; the Cook Massacre of 1792 (the year of Kentucky’s statehood); the formation and settlement of the Forks; the building of the Macklin Dam; and the art of Paul Sawyier, whose paintings represent the most thoroughly documented representations of any waterway in the state,” the author explained.

The book starts with the historic house Taylor built on land that once belonged to the state’s first federal judge, Harry Innes — who also presided over Aaron Burr’s famous treason trial.

“The book is a personal response to history,” Taylor told The State Journal on Friday, adding he had “gathered material for over half a century and decided it was time to write about Elkhorn if I was ever to.”

The creek holds a special spot in his heart not only for the recreation and history but also for spiritual renewal.

“It is a place of seemingly pristine beauty, unspoiled because its steep slopes make much of it undevelopable,” he said. “It is a place to restore the soul, as countless others have discovered.”

He was notified about the KHS Publication Award, which will be presented at the Kentucky History Awards on Friday, via email about three weeks ago and was delighted with the unexpected news about the book, which received the Thomas Clark Medallion by the Thomas Clark Foundation — a group that supports the publication of scholarly books by the University Press of Kentucky.

Taylor has authored more than a dozen books, including works like “Sue Mundy,” “Girty” and “Earth Bones.” Additionally, he has taught at Kentucky State University and Transylvania University. 

“Taylor deftly uses Elkhorn Creek to tell a much larger story,” said KHS Executive Director Scott Alvey in a press release. “He is a great storyteller and the history of the creek and his love for the area leaps off of the page. We are proud to recognize him for this great contribution to local history.”

The Kentucky History Awards will be at the Old Capitol on Friday at 5:30 p.m. To make a reservation, contact Amanda Higgins at amanda.higgins@ky.gov.

“This book was a labor of love. Since its publication I’ve discovered what (the creek) means to many others,” Taylor added. “It’s one of Kentucky’s treasures.”

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