The Arnow Farm

Harriette and Harold Arnow were writers who met working on the Works Progress Administration Writer's Project in Cincinnati. They dreamed of getting through the Depression as subsistence farmers in Harriette's home area of Eastern Kentucky, writing in their spare time. What dreamers.

They bought 150 acres in the hills of Pulaski County in 1939 and bought chickens, a pig and a cow. The first pictures, above, show the farmhouse as it was in the late 1800s and early 1900s. By the time they owned it, the place was in rough condition.

Like many others in the mountain South, they found farming arduous and precarious. And like many of their neighbors, during World War II, they gave it up and moved to where the jobs were in Detroit.

Harold went back to being a newspaperman. They lived in public housing for a time, raising their two children, Marcella and Tom. Harriette wrote histories and novels set in Kentucky and Michigan: the novels Hunter's Horn and The Dollmaker, published in 1949 and 1954, are her most well known.

The farm remained uninhabited, the old farmhouse deteriorating, the tiny community of Keno depopulated. After Harold died in 1985 and Harriette in 1986, the farm went to Marcella. When she died in England in 2010, the farm came to me—Harold and Harriette's niece. Marcella hoped to preserve the land wisely, and I am trying to follow her wishes.

But thieves have stolen the chimney and roof of the house, and the structure has fallen. A developer put in a gated community across the road. The land is still surrounded on three sides by the Daniel Boone National Forest and Lake Cumberland (an Army Corps of Engineers lake constructed in the 1940s). The pictures above show the ruins of the house, the wild and beautiful land, and the cemetery where Harriette and Harold are buried, along with the Casadas and other local families whose descendents still live in the area.

—Pat Arnow

Many thanks to Wanda Worley, who is a descendant of people who owned the land before the Arnows did. The pictures from the early days of the farm and of the final collapse of the house are hers. She visits and worries about and cares for the land--and for me. And thanks to Toby Wilkins, who actually pulled down the house in April 2011, when it was dangerously tilting.