Clara Von Gruenigen

This collection began with the Kentucky Oral History Commission’s effort to establish oral history programs in each of the state’s 120 counties. County libraries worked with local volunteers to collect interviews. Since 1987, county oral histories have been generated primarily by recipients of technical assistance grants from the commission that provide training and equipment to volunteer interviewers. Interviews donated by independent researchers are also included. Original collection held at Kentucky Oral History Commission/Kentucky Historical Society Access copies available at Lincoln County Public Library. Authorization must by granted by KHS to use or publish by any means the archival material to which the Society holds copyright.



February 11, 1977 


Ms. Matheny:  The following is an unrehearsed interview with Mrs. Clara Von Gruenigen, the secretary of the Stanford Garden Club, by Elsie C. Matheny, President of the Stanford Garden Club, for the Kentucky Bicentennial Oral History Project.  The interview was conducted in the Kentucky Utilities building on February 11th at 3:30 p.m. 

(Tape goes off, then back on) 

Mrs. Von Gruenigen:  The Stanford Garden Club was organized in 1930…’33 or ’34, I don’t exactly remember, in the home of Mrs. T.W. Pennington in the spring.  There were only a few women there, and I want to like to give you all the members that were members of the club from the very beginning.  Alright, I shall give you the names of the women.  There are 66 women that have been members at one time or another of this club.  Miss Susan Woods was the first President…Miss Susan Woods, Mrs. T.W. Pennington, Mrs. C.R. Coleman, Mrs. E.R. Coleman, or Mrs. Earl Coleman, Mrs. Alfred Pence, Mrs. J.L. Beasley, Miss Patty Alcorn, Mrs. Kelly Francis, Mrs. Roland Von Gruenigen, Mrs. Harry Baughman, Miss Annie McKinney, Mrs. E.C. Walton, Mrs. J.H. Woods, or called Mrs. Jim Woods, Mrs. C. Hayes Foster, Mrs. W.H. Warring, Mrs. J.N. Menifee, Mrs. W.C. Shanks, Miss Margaret Warren, Miss Charlotte Warren, Mrs. S.F. Matheny, Mrs. O.F. Floyd, Miss Bess Hill, Miss Lucille Dudderar, Mrs. William Severance, Mrs. Morrison Bright, Miss Annette Warring, Miss Levisa Harris, Mrs. Henry Baughman, Mrs. W.G. Morgan, Mrs. Alfred Pence, Sr., Mrs. Ben Gaines, Mrs. James Williams, Jr., Mrs. Clayton Morrow, Mrs. Joe Grimes, Mrs. Bernard Camenish, Mrs. Richard Camenish, Mrs. J.H. Wright, Mrs. William Matheny, Mrs. Armon Hisle (sic), Mrs. Heath Severance, Mrs. Fred Hellock (sic), Mrs. Welby Burgin, Mrs. James Blackabee, Mrs. Charles Hicks, Mrs. Julian Wright, Mrs. Earl Butcher, Mrs. Ben Jennings, Mrs. Howard  Frisbee, Mrs. Arch Walker, Mrs. William Dudderar, Mrs. Joe T. Embry, Mrs. Cabel Francis, Mrs. Edward Bowling, Mrs. Andrew Bell, Mrs. George Reed, Mrs. Guy Hart, Mrs. Richard Ferguson, Mrs. Harris Rhodes, Mrs. Clyde Young, Mrs. Giles Stephens, Mrs. Harry Mercer, Mrs. Ransom Hobbs, Mrs. Calvin White, Mrs. Frank Goode, Mrs. A.H. Pence, Jr. and Mrs. Richard Cooper.  Now, that’s 66 women that have been interested.  Now, 22 of these women have died in the meantime.  I’ll read that to you, if you’re interested.  Miss Susan Woods, Mrs. T.W. Pennington, Mrs. C.R. Coleman, Mrs. Earl Coleman, Mrs. Alfred Pence, Mrs. J.L. Beasley, Miss Patty Alcorn, Mrs. Harry Baughman, Miss Annie Mckinney, Mrs. E.C. Walker, Mrs. J.H. Woods, Mrs. C. Hayes Foster, Mrs. W.H. Warring, Mrs. W.C. Shanks, Mrs. O.F. Floyd, Miss Margaret and Charlotte Warren, Mrs. Richard Camenish, Mrs. J.H. Wright, Mrs. Armon Hisle, and Mrs. G.N. Menifee and Mrs. Richard Cooper.  Now, I’m sure that…I don’t think it’s important to read all the names that are still active.  Of course, all of these women have served…at one time or another, have withdrawn for some reason.  Some have moved away and some have not been interested.  I don’t want to read all that.  The club, as I said, was organized in the early 30’s.  We’ve only had 11 presidents.  Miss Susan Woods, Mrs. O.F. Floyd, Mrs. W.G. Morgan, Mrs. Menifee, Mrs. Von Gruenigen, Mrs. Welby Burgin, Mrs. Ben Gaines, Mrs. A.H. Pence, Sr., Mrs. George Reed, and Mrs. Joe Grimes and Mrs. S.F. Matheny.  Those are the presidents that have served.  We’ve only had six secretaries.  When I asked …Mrs. Morgan is our historian, and I asked her about some things, and she said, well, Clara, it looks like you’ve been doing this all the time.  I said, oh, surely not.  Then, when I looked over it, I have 36 yearbooks.  This is one of the very first ones.  I’ll let you see it after while, but 36 of them.  And, sure, enough, there I was, secretary.  The first secretary, Mrs. J.L. Beasley, then Mrs. Von Gruenigen, Mrs. E.C. Walton, Mrs. Howard Frisbee, Mrs. Richard Ferguson, Mrs. Julian Wright and Mrs. Earl Butcher.  We didn’t have any yearbooks until 1939.  This is the very first one.  This was formed in 1939 through ’41 and ’42.  Mrs. Floyd wrote this all out in her…it’s all in handwriting, all of it, and this was the very first one.  And, the president was Mrs. Woods, and vice president, Mrs. Floyd, third vice president Mrs. William Severance, secretary, Mrs. Von Gruenigen and treasurer, Miss Patty Alcorn.  You may see these if you like.  Oh, the first flower show we had was in 1940, and it was at the Methodist Church, and these are the women that served on committees; the general chairman was Miss Susan Woods, staging and properties, Mrs. Pence, Mrs. Beasley and Mrs. Foster; publicity and hospitality, Mrs. Coleman, Mrs. Francis and Mrs. Dudderar; entries and Judges, Mrs. Von Gruenigen, Mrs. Henry Baughman, Miss Annie McKinney; seals and prizes, Mrs. Ferdinand Matheny, Mrs. Severance and Mrs. Earl Coleman; and schedule was Mrs. Floyd, Miss Bess Hill and Mrs. Jim Woods.  Then the next one we had was in 1941.  And, it was more or less the same.  These are our programs that we had at that time.  And, at that time, we had…there was some…two black women came to bring exhibits and they had gorgeous flowers.  Well, some of the rest of them didn’t like it much because they got almost all the blue ribbons, I think.  But, it was all very nice.  Well, anyway…let me see…our first constitution was…wait a minute, I’m off here, somewhere…oh, our club was federated October…September 1954.  And, we talked very much and debated whether we wanted to be federated or not, and finally we decided after all those years.  And, Roland said, well, I’ll take you down there, and we went…had to go to the Dupont Lodge at Cumberland Falls to accept the charter.  So, that was in 1954.  I do not have the charter.  I don’t know, really, where it is.  This is a copy of our first constitution, which we had in 1945.   

Ms. Matheny:  All right. 

Mrs. Von Gruenigen:  I have some pictures, also, that I would like to show you.  I have a copy of all the shows that we’ve had.  We specialized in daffodils and we had quite a few.  Of course, we had a lot of daffodil shows.  We tried one time to have a standard show and that was in 1958; failed, didn’t materialize as one.  We had three judges from Lexington.  I only remember Mrs. Hopper…Mrs. Ray Hopper.   

Ms. Matheny:  Uh huh (yes).  

Mrs. Von Gruenigen:  You probably know her. 

Ms. Matheny:  Uh huh (yes). 

Mrs. Von Gruenigen:  I don’t remember the other two.  And, they were, at that time, learning to be flower judges.  Well, we have to write out everything for them, you know, and so and so, and then we found out it wasn’t really a standard show.  Now, Dr. Wright and Mrs. Wright, she was chairman at that time, and they really worked.  It was up at the high school.  We tried to have everything that we could possibly have; worked hard…oh, my gracious, we just had everything up there, but still we didn’t …our schedule wasn’t as it should have been.   All right, now, I want to show you some pictures here, and be careful with them, really.  We used to have lovely daffodils.  I’ll pass these around so everybody can see.  Here is another picture of the members of the garden club and it has no date, and I suggest that everybody put dates on everything you fix or ever think about doing. 


Ms. Von Gruenigen:  Down where?  I think that’s…there they are, that was it.  After we became federated, we got the Kentucky Bulletin, which has been very helpful.  We have really been more community minded than we were at first.  At first, we had just worked with our little gardens and we didn’t try to do any community work.  We didn’t do anything but stuck after our own little things.  Well, anyho, I want to tell you about the most beautiful garden party I reckon was ever in Stanford anywhere.  It was up at the Warrens.  Miss Margaret and Miss Charlotte and Miss Asbury and all of them were there.  It was in their yard, in May…I’m sure Ms. Matheny remembers that…the hostess’ were dressed in these long dresses, and just gorgeous, and, yes, with big hats, that’s right 

Ms. Matheny: Had the big hats on. 

Ms. Von Gruenigen:  Big hats, yes; and everything…the waiters and waitresses were dressed just as they should be.  The refreshments were…ice, you know that, they had sent in from Louisville, you know, they were in the form of flowers.  I think mine was a rose, and somebody else said they had something else.  This was really beautiful.  And, I told…I seen Miss Asbury not long ago, and I mentioned it to her, and it pleased her, because she remembered, she was there too, of course.  That was a lovely party.  Well, it wasn’t very long after that, then they decided that they weren’t interested in the garden…they were interested in the horticulture part, but not the program part.  And, I remember they gave us a program one time, after they had been to Alaska, and Miss Margaret said when they went up there, they saw how beautifully those delphinium grew, so tall, that they decided that they’d never grow anymore because theirs never grew like that.  So, they changed their minds about it.  Well, anyways, during…several years ago, we used to have plant sales, and we had little sales, trying to make some money, but…oh, the best thing that we’ve had in the last year or so was that house tour.  We made quite a little bit at that.  But, KU has always been wonderful at helping us, you know, sponsoring and helping, home outdoor Christmas decorations and so forth.  I want to just give you a few subjects of the first garden clubs; designing gardens, greens for Kentucky gardens, soilless garden; Miss Annie McKinney had the program.  None of us had ever heard of a soilless garden, and it was very, very interesting.  And, we had the views…and this was also…we still should do it, really, plant more native trees for your landscape.  Mr. Elliott was here at one time and he suggested that, and it really has worked wonderfully well, and I think we should do that more often.  Well, of course, I could go on and on and on.  I don’t know how long I’m supposed to talk, but I could just go on and on, because I have all this material, and boy, I’ve had a good time reading…this one here has been really helpful; the 25th anniversary of the garden club, and all the presidents are listed in here.  Mrs. Wallace was one of the first presidents, and she gave her home as the headquarters for the state garden club in Paris.  Some of us went over there last summer, and it was a handsome home and wasn’t she an attractive woman. 

Ms. Matheny:  Well, Mrs. Camenish, we certainly have, Mrs. Von Gruenigen, we certainly have enjoyed this program, and thank you very much. 



Scroll to Top