While Jesse Stuart was recuperating from his 1971 heart attack, Mildred Enyart and several of his Greenup County neighbors were planning a surprise for him. The lodge at Greenbo Lake, a state resort park in Greenup County, was nearing completion, but it had not been named. The Greenup Lions Club, along with the Greenup Women’s Club, petitioned Governor Louis B. Nunn to name it after Jesse Stuart, their county’s most famous citizen. Governor Nunn endorsed their proposal, and a dedication ceremony was scheduled at the soon-to-be-named Jesse Stuart Lodge for that July.
Jesse and his wife Deane were spending the summer in Murray, Kentucky, participating in the writers’ workshop there, so they planned to fly into Greenup for the special occasion. Unfortunately, the five-seat Apache dispatched by the governor encountered a violent storm soon after departing Murray. Stuart described what happened:
We never got to the dedication of the Lodge at Greenbo State Park. We got into a storm, flew by instruments and radar. We tried to outfly the storm. Our only landing field was Clarkesville [sic], Tennessee. We came in low – over trees and housetops. And we thanked God. We were lucky.
But Jesse and Deane would have many opportunities to visit in the future. The park, located on Kentucky Highway 1, was only about six miles from their home in W-Hollow. Beginning in 1985, the Jesse Stuart Foundation became a beacon for cultural tourism in northeastern Kentucky. Consequently, the Jesse Stuart Lodge housed Stuart fans from across America. Most of the thirty-six rooms in the Jesse Stuart Lodge feature private patios and balconies overlooking 225-acre Greenbo Lake, which offers good fishing for bass, bluegill, and channel catfish, as well as accommodations for boaters. A marina located a mile from the lodge provides open slips, a launching ramp, and boat rentals. The campground is set up to accommodate recreational vehicles, and there are several miles of hiking trails.
The Jesse Stuart Lodge
Greenbo Lake State Resort Park (GLSRP) has always been a focal point for visitors to Stuart country. Beginning in 1980 and continuing until today, with few interruptions, a Jesse Stuart Weekend, held annually near the end of September, is planned and implemented by the Jesse Stuart Foundation and hosted by GLSRP at the Jesse Stuart Lodge.
Also in the early 1980s, nearby Morehead State University began an annual Appalachian Celebration week. From 1981 to 1985, two of the Celebration’s strongest components were a Jesse Stuart Symposium on campus followed by bus tours of W-Hollow. The tours, provided by the Jesse Stuart Foundation and guided by the late author’s siblings, proved so popular – with both of Morehead’s buses often filled to capacity – that they continued even after the Jesse Stuart Foundation had relocated to Ashland in 1985.
However, the W-Hollow tours declined as the senior members of the Stuart family passed away: Jesse’s oldest sister, Sophia, died in 1987; Jesse’s brother, James, died in 1992; Jesse’s widow, Deane, died in 1993; and Jesse’s sisters, Glennis and Mary, died in 2002.
At that point, the popular tours were revitalized by JSF Board Member David Palmore assisted by JSF Associate Members Bud Vanzant of Kingsport, Tennessee, and James Shoup of Custer, Michigan. Under Mr. Palmore’s leadership and expert guidance, these tours remain a staple of the annual Jesse Stuart Weekend.
The Jesse Stuart Weekend at GLSRP was not scheduled in 2015 because of an electrical fire that closed the Jesse Stuart Lodge. Subsequent roof damage kept the Lodge closed until it was renovated and officially re-opened in May 2017. In recent years, Covid has prompted JSF officials to cancel the Jesse Stuart Weekend in 2020, 2021, and 2022. By 2023, we hope to offer the popular Jesse Stuart Weekend to the public again.
However, we encourage you to visit the Jesse Stuart Lodge and enjoy the good food and hospitality provided by Park Manager Brenda Danner and her staff. Beginning April 1, the Lodge will be open seven days a week. The restaurant will be open for Friday dinner from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm; all three meals on Saturday; and Sunday breakfast and lunch until 3:00 pm. The campground is open all year.
By James M. Gifford
JSF CEO & Senior Editor