Memories of Payne Hollow

Hubbards left their mark
on many people who visited them

By Don Ward

PAYNE HOLLOW, Ky. January 2000 – I remember petting the goats. And Anna playing the piano as Harlan accompanied her on the violin.

Don Ward

Don Ward

I remember the books that lined the walls of their small dwelling and wondering how they all got there. I saw paintings in various stages of development and the art studio where Harlan worked.

I remember touring the garden and watching the barges churn by on the nearby Ohio, their long dull roar supplying the background to Harlan’s seemingly weary voice as he talked.

I remember how old our hosts looked. But to me, everyone looked old, since I was only a kid at the time, a fourth-grader who had just hiked over the hill with my Milton (Ky.) Elementary School class to visit the Hubbards.

That was around 1969, and I later learned that I was only one of hundreds of other visitors who had descended the mile-long path over the hill to visit Payne Hollow. By all accounts, visitors were greeted with graciousness and respect, two words that are often mentioned by those describing their experiences with Harlan and Anna Hubbard.

For many native Trimble Countians, the Hubbard story has elicited a sense of pride. But as new generations have grown up, sadly, many are unfamiliar with the couple or their story, despite the books, videos, an audiotaped interview and even one painting on hand at the Trimble County Public Library in Bedford.

Fortunately, the Hubbard story is one that many in the Ohio Valley have sought to keep alive. For the Hubbards, though they lived for 40-plus years a solitary life in the narrow valley along the river, touched many lives.

And during this particular year (2000), which marks 100 years since Harlan Hubbard’s birth, many fans of the Hubbards’ lifestyle, organic farming and cooking techniques, or Harlan’s art and journal writings, are coming together to celebrate the undying spirit with which the couple endured without electricity, plumbing or running water.

As we embark on the new millennium, there’s a lesson in there for all of us. The only problem is, finding what aspect we can fit into our busy lives – lives that seem to become more technologically complicated, rushed and stressful with each passing year.

Who wouldn’t appreciate the simple lives that the Hubbards once had at the foot of the hill? Yet, who among us could give up the modern conveniences and live in such a way today?

Even campgrounds have hot showers and firewood for sale at the general store.

So this year, let us simply celebrate in some small way the spirit of Harlan and Anna Hubbard. Maybe read one of his journal collections. Or take a walk alone in the woods. Or spend an evening with the television off and the lights down low and read a book.

Lord knows, we can’t afford his paintings.

The Hubbard spirit of living is deep within every man, for it tugs at the very essence of man’s dependence and reverence for nature. What artist or writer hasn’t dreamed of being alone in the woods with his thoughts and a pen or paintbrush in hand?

Harlan Hubbard made his dream come true and spent the rest of his life pursuing his passions.

But for a man who sought seclusion deep in the woods of Trimble County to paint, write and live off the land, he sure drew a crowd.