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The History of Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve

The History of Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve

By Christy Rybka

Many years ago, the land that is known today as Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve was once a part of the Edmund Taylor tract of 1793. This land, which was part of the 490 acre tract, was desired because of its many springs and the road which Indigenous people and wild animals created through it, making it an ideal place for settlement.

After part of the land was sold to Enich MacGruder’s sister, whose name is not known, in 1803, she and her husband, Alonzo Camp, built the springhouse using locally quarried limestone and used the springhouse to store meat, dairy, and produce before the invention of refrigeration. If you visit the springhouse today, you can still find the same spring that flowed beneath the springhouse in 1803 flowing there now!

After building the springhouse, Alonzo and his wife built a log cabin which is still standing today underneath Mahan Manor.

In 1813, Alonzo and his wife sold the property to Francis Snowden, who then passed on the land to his son, Richard, in 1838. In 1854, Richard sold the land to a man named John Henshaw, who conveyed the property to Richard’s cousin, Samuel Snowden, in 1876. After Samuel died in 1899, he passed on the land to his son, Samuel B. Snowden, who then passed it on to his wife, Julia, after his death in 1920. One year later, Julia Snowden finally sold the property to L.L. Creasey, who then gave the land as a wedding gift to his daughter, Virginia Lee Creasey, after she married her husband, Howard Mahan on March 26th, 1921.

Virginia, who was born to Leslie Lee (L.L.) Creasey and his wife, Virginia Watcher Creasey, was born on February 2, 1898. Born and raised on a farm in Covington, Kentucky, Virginia was a lover of plants, animals, and wildlife from childhood. Later in life, Virginia became an active member of the Kentucky Humane Society where she passionately supported the work of the Animal Rescue League.

Before Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve became what it is today, Virginia and Howard lovingly named their new home “Hill O’Content Farm” and used the land, which was mostly pastureland, to raise horses.

In 1927, Virginia and Howard remodeled the log cabin by covering the logs with clapboard and adding an extension. Today, visitors can tour the Mahan Manor and see exactly what it looked like when the Mahans lived there in the 1920’s!

Where there are now forests, fields, and hiking trails, Virginia’s horses used to graze and run freely. Even the Frog Pond, which is now home to many frogs, turtles, and dragonflies at Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve, was once a watering pond for Virginia’s horses!

One of Virginia’s horses, who she lovingly named “Bob Boy,” became a famous, award-winning saddle horse, winning a total of twenty-five awards by the year 1929! Because of Bob Boy’s success, his home, Hill O’Content Farm, and his owner, Virginia Creasey Mahan, began to attract fame and attention.

In 1931, SPUR Magazine featured an article about Hill O’Content Farm, written by Wilf P. Pond. After waking up on Hill O’Content on the day of the Kentucky Derby, Pond wrote:

“To no end of persons all over this great country, on a certain day in May, the outstanding thing in the whole world is the running of the Kentucky Derby on the historic Churchill Downs course. But in and around Louisville at that same day there were other things. Awakening at Hill O’Content… a song poured from the silver throat of a mocking bird high up in one of the maples of the wide spreading lawn…”

Mr. Pond continued by writing about the cardinals, canaries, and blue birds at the beloved Hill O’Content Farm, which was home not only to Virginia, Howard, and their horses, but also to many birds and wild animals.

However, Virginia was not only known for raising award-winning horses, but was also an accomplished writer. Virginia wrote about her love for horses in several magazines including SPUR Magazine and Saddle & Bridle. In her article, “The Thrill of Raising Horses,” which she wrote for SPUR Magazine in 1929, Virginia wrote, “I have loved horses ever since I can remember anything.” Raising horses on Hill O’Content Farm was not just a hobby for Virginia, but a passion.

Before her death, Virginia shared her dream of turning Hill O’Content Farm into a nature preserve where visitors could enjoy the peace, quiet, and beauty of nature on her historic 168 acre home. After Virginia’s death in 1975, Howard turned her dreams into a reality by establishing Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve on their beloved Hill O’Content Farm. Although Howard died in 1984, his work which turned Virginia’s dreams into a reality lives on at Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve, where the beauty of their historic 168 acre home is now open to the public, free of charge, just as Virginia dreamed it would be.

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