17 years, Hassfurder still vigilant
loyal friend has kept his promises
after inheriting Payne Hollow;
weighs options for future preservation
PAYNE HOLLOW, Ky. (November 2005) In his 1974
book titled, Payne Hollow: Life on the Fringe, Harlan Hubbard
tells how he came to settle down in this narrow, rocky valley beside
the Ohio River in Trimble County. He was trying to decide how to end
his book as he speculated about what might be said of him and his home
years after he was gone.
IN Edition Cover
Perhaps I shall not write a definitive ending, either
of the book or of our occupancy of Payne Hollow, Hubbard wrote.
It may be written by a bulldozer swooping down to wipe out this
remnant of wilderness in the name of progress, or we might simply drift
away with the ever passing river, leaving Payne Hollow to work out its
future destiny without us.
Some memory of our stay here will possibly remain and we may become
a legend of Payne Hollow, distorted by time and repetition. In a distant
future, someone may relate, if anyone will listen to him, how his grandfather,
as a small boy, used to go down into Payne Hollow when it was still
a wilderness. There on the riverbank, in a house which they had made
out of rocks and trees, lived a couple all by themselves. They planted
a garden, kept goats, ate weeds and groundhogs and fish from the river,
which in those days was full of fish. They never had to go to a store.
The man worked with axe and hoe, without machines. He painted pictures
of the old steamboats and made drawings of the life they lived.
Three decades after that book was published, people are
still recalling memories of their visits to Payne Hollow how
they traveled either by boat or by foot, hiking down a mile-long path
that takes them from their bustling lives into a simpler, serene world
below. Even today, 17 years after Harlan Hubbards death, Payne
Hollow offers visitors a magical experience with the sort of life they
may envy but admit they could never have for themselves.
Hubbards Homestead: Payne Hollow. A slide show
presentation and Q&A by Payne Hollow owner Paul Hassfurder
on the tools and lifestyle used by the late Trimble County, Ky.,
couple, Anna and Harlan Hubbard. Hassfurder will conduct a Q&A
afterward. 6 p.m. at the Madison-Jefferson County Public Library
auditorium, 420 W. Main St., Madison, Ind. Call (812) 265-2744
to register for this free event.Feb.
11, 2006: Authors Wendell Berry and Don Wallis. The authors
will discuss Harlan Hubbard and Payne Hollow. Also featuring the
Hubbard art collection of Bob Canida of Madison, Ind. from 10
a.m. - 7 p.m. that day. Authors speak from 6-7 p.m. at the Trimble
County Public Library, Main Street, Bedford, Ky. Free. Sponsored
by the Trimble County Arts Council. (502) 732-0345.
2006: David Bishop and Paul Hassfurder. Bishop, a Northern
Kentucky University professor, and Hassfurder, owner of Payne
Hollow, will speak and present a slide show on Payne Hollow and
Harlan Hubbard at the Trimble County Public Library, Date TBA.
Sponsored by the Trimble County Arts Council and the Kentucky
Humanities Council. The Council seeks local collectors who want
to display their Hubbard artworks for this special occasion. (502)
As the memories fade for those who once traveled here
or simply enjoyed reading Harlans books and viewing his artwork,
younger generations are growing up never having known anything about
the homesteading couple or their legend.
I had never heard of the Hubbards or Payne Hollow before taking
this class, and I dont think anybody else in the class had either,
said Kim Teeter, 18, of George-town, Ky., who was among a group of seven
Northern Kentucky University honors students who journeyed to visit
Payne Hollow by foot Oct. 4 as part of their Utopias class
I like it here, said student Loren Fishman, 20, of Columbus,
Ohio. Seeing it for real makes life here seem more attainable
than when reading about it. It seems so romantic.
NKU philosophy professor David Bishop led the group and says such places
are important because they illustrate just how far society has developed
from those simpler times when man could live more in touch with nature
Bishop himself lives in a somewhat remote area of Boone County, Ky.,
in a rustic home made from a barn that once stood in Switzerland County,
But we are in no way close to living like the Hubbards. Im
too much of a sports fan and could not do without watching sports on
television, he admits. Bishop occasionally makes presentations
on Utopian lifestyles, including the one the Hubbards experienced at
Jesslin Frohlich, 24, a 2003 Hanover College graduate
and Bishops stepdaughter, accompanied the group to Payne Hollow.
You can read about this place and think you understand it, but
you really cant appreciate what it would be like to live here
until you actually come here and see it. I couldnt do it, but
I appreciate that someone did.
The Hubbards created this idyllic place in 1952 and lived there for
nearly 40 years, subsisting off the land, foraging for scrap materials
and putting them to good use. They labored with their bare hands and
primitive tools to keep heat in their fireplace and put food on their
table. They did it all gracefully, however, combing the beauty of their
natural surroundings with classical music and literature, and their
devotion to each other.
Anna Hubbard died in 1986, and Harlan died two years later, at age 88.
The couple had no children or close living relatives, except for nieces
and nephews. So in his will, Harlan left his 60-acre property in Payne
Hollow including the rustic home and studio to
Paul Hassfurder, who had worked for the Hubbards for 71/2 years and
had become close to Harlan in his latter years of life, especially after
Today, Hassfurder, 56, divides his time between Payne Hollow and his
home just across the Ohio River in Madison, Ind. And after 17 years
of ownership, Hassfurder has retained the integrity of Payne Hollow,
much like it appeared when the Hubbards lived there.
But as the years go by, many Hubbard loyalists wonder what will ever
become of Payne Hollow? Or what should become of it?
becomes a personal mission
Ever since Harlan Hubbards death, Paul Hassfurder
has wrestled with the dilemma of owning a piece of history. Harlan chose
to leave Payne Hollow to Hassfurder because they both agreed he was
the type of person who could continue living there in a similar fashion
as the Hubbards. Hassfurder himself admits he can never fully live like
the Hubbards, but he has managed to continue making Payne Hollow a home
in his own way. The problem for him is, everyone else still
regards it as the home of Anna and Harlan Hubbard.
by Don Ward
and Anna Hubbard's tombstone lies on a hill near their home
in Payne Hollow.
Im trying to carry it forward in my own way.
But its my home, and even though the Hubbard touch is everywhere,
its not a shrine or a museum.
Robert Rosenthal, a philosophy professor at Hanover College, has been
taking groups of students down to Payne Hollow for 30 years. He knew
the Hubbards well and he has become close friends with Hassfurder over
the years. He sympathizes with Hassfurders situation but also
realizes the historical significance of Payne Hollow and the need to
The future of Payne Hollow is all up in the air right now,
Rosenthal said during an October interview at the college. The
crucial factor is, what does the owner want to do? Thats ultimately
Pauls decision to make, and I know hes wrestled with this
for some time. He feels an obligation to Harlan to preserve it, while
also making it his home. I dont envy the difficult position hes
Rosenthal, 67, for years has been a sort of intermediary between Payne
Hollow and the outside world. He is the main contact for the loose collection
of people known as The Friends of the Hubbards, which formed two years
after Harlans death in 1988, and has even published a few newsletters
over the years for the group.
Rosenthal was the primary organizer of the Harlan Hubbard Centennial
Celebration, held in January 2000 at Hanover College to mark what would
have been Harlans 100th birthday. The day-long event featured
several speakers, including noted Kentucky author Wendell Berry, who
wrote one of the definitive books on Harlan Hubbard. In all, The Friends
of the Hubbards have sponsored three events but have been inactive since
the 2000 Centennial Celebration.
Rosenthal said as he nears retirement, he has often thought about pursuing
a personal goal of helping Hassfurder preserve Payne Hollow from deterioration
or possible loss to future development.
He has had preliminary discussions with Hassfurder and officials of
the newly established Rivers Institute at Hanover College about possibly
creating a non-profit organization that could raise private donations
for use in maintaining the property. Money could also be used to pay
Hassfurder enough to live there full time without him having to leave
to take various jobs in town, as he does now.
Rosenthal said such a nonprofit entity, if created, would allow for
fund raising, open the door to possible educational and cultural programming
by Rivers Institute or Hanover College, and let Hassfurder retain ownership
and live there. He added that several Friends of the Hubbards
already have indicated they would be willing to donate money or materials
to such an organization for the sake of preservation.
by Don Ward
view through the barn looking at Harlan and
Anna Hubbards house in Payne Hollow.
Were not talking about turning Payne Hollow
into a tourism site because that would destroy the very nature of the
place. We could have programs here at the college and maybe take small
groups over to Payne Hollow on an occasional basis, Rosenthal
explained. Its something Ive thought a lot about but
have not done anything to pursue it. But I think this is something that
is likely to fall to me, if it is to ever happen, and Im not afraid
to take it on. But it would require Pauls willingness to explore
Rosenthal praised Hassfurders efforts to make Payne Hollow a livable
place. Paul has done a marvelous job, given his limited economic
resources. And he does a nice job of interpreting the story of Payne
Hollow to visitors effectively, I think, and he wants to continue doing
But hes a single person; he needs external income. And hes
a social person. It would be difficult for anyone to live alone there.
The place needs work; it needs basic maintenance. No one wants want
it to become a sort of hunting lodge or fall into disrepair. The question
is, how do you go about preserving it with respect to Pauls wishes
and property rights?
Rivers Institute officials said they had not gotten far enough in discussions
with either Rosenthal or Hassfurder to comment on the issue. Their new
executive director, Dennis Wichelns, only took over at the institute
last June after having moved to the area from California.
When asked about the idea of forming a nonprofit entity to support preservation
efforts at Payne Hollow, Hassfurder said he had not discussed it to
any great length with anyone and was not willing to sign anything
unless he fully understood its ramifications to his rights as the owner.
Its my home; its where I live, even though evidence
of the Hubbards lives may be everywhere.
Hassfurder said he has agreed to talk to Rivers Institute at some
point, but that no meeting had yet been scheduled.
I dont really think much about the future of Payne Hollow,
I think about living there now, Hassfurder said. Its
not something Ive made any plans for way out in the future.
up to expectations
Although he still receives many calls and letters from
people wanting to visit Payne Hollow, Hassfurder said he does not actively
seek out visitors. Im not wanting to promote it as a place
that is open year-round as a constant tour home.
Yet, they still come some seeking a glimpse into the past or
to relive their early experiences of visiting the Hubbards when they
were alive. Others are just curious to see what is left of the Hubbards
existence there. And to try and imagine if they could live like that
and be happy.
by Don Ward
Hassfurder showing students
past articles written about Payne
Hollow and the Hubbard's.
Its sort of like your grandmother died and
left you her house. You move your stuff in and start living there, but
all her stuff is still there, Hassfurder said. And in his case,
grandmas friends keep showing up at the door.
In the same Hubbard fashion, Hassfurder invites them in, shows them
around and tells them stories about life in Payne Hollow.
Fall is a busy time of the year for me because thats when
most people want to come down to the house, he said. It
takes a lot of work for me to get ready. There are lots of chores to
In summer, many visitors arrive by boat. While most visits are pre-arranged
with Hassfurder, many still come unannounced. They walk around the property
and along the river and come into the house to view the loosely bound
scrapbooks of photos and then sign their names in Hassfurders spiral-bound
notebooks, much like the visitors did when the Hubbards resided there.
Some walk just below the house to pay their respects to the Hubbards
themselves whose ashes are buried on the hillside, marked by a crude
Ive always felt it was a very magical place, said
Bob Canida, a Madison, Ind., dentist who owns perhaps the largest private
collection of Hubbard oil paintings, at least 25. When you walk
in through that portico in the art studio and enter that other world,
to me its like magic dust has been sprinkled on me. It was a world
created by Anna and Harlan a simpler type of living that was
a magical place to be. I was transformed every time I went down there.
Canida and his wife, Charlotte and two children, Christy and Ben, spent
many days at Payne Hollow, visiting the Hubbards and helping with the
chores. When Harlans cancer finally ran its course in 1988, he
spent his final days lying in bed in the Canidas front living
room, which has a beautiful view of the Ohio River.
Canida believes Hassfurder has done a good job in his stewardship of
the Hubbard legend over the years, while also trying to make it his
home. Pauls really tried to maintain the integrity of that
place, Canida said. But its a simple dwelling and
I dont know how much longer it will last, just timber on dirt.
No matter what type of upkeep you try to do, its got a finite
Hassfurder tries to explain his emotional attachment to the place but
struggles to find the right words. He cites a passage in Don Wallis
book, Oyo: An Ohio River Anthology, where Harlan describes
in a journal entry how rare it is to meet someone who can appreciate
and understand why he has chosen to live this way.
Harlan wrote: Of all the people who visit us, from the towns and
the farms, not one has a true understanding of why and how we live here.
Will that person ever come who will understand us, honor us for what
we really are, and respect our way of life?
Hassfurder cites this reference in Wallis book as a description
of himself. I believe I am that man.
by Don Ward
collection of books
that once belonged
to Harlan Hubbard.
In Louisville author Wade Halls 1996 book that resulted
from three interviews with Harlan Hubbard between June 1992 and August
1987, Hubbard mentions Hassfurder by name as the logical heir to Payne
Id like to have somebody get it who would enjoy it and live
here and keep it up, Hubbard said. It would take a special
kind of person like me, but Im not sure Ive met him yet.
A few years ago at Hanover College, we met a young artist and
carpenter and farmer someone much like me Paul Hassfurder.
He may be the right person, though Ive made no commitment. He
has been kind to Anna and me and helped a lot with the chores around
the place. He may be the man for this place. Im not interested
in making any money on it. If Paul is the right person, Ill give
it to him.
Even to this day, Hassfurder cherishes the special bond he forged with
Harlan Hubbard over those seven years of working together, up until
prostate cancer took his life on Jan. 16, 1988.
Hubbard debated his options of what to do with Payne Hollow as he neared
death. He told Hall during their 1987 interview that at one time he
had considered giving the property to a conservancy, similar to the
one Kentucky author Jesse Stuart arranged before his death to develop
a house museum.
But I dont think that could be done here because you cant
have a museum out in these woods, Hubbard said. It would
be hard to get to and too expensive to keep up.
Over the years since his death, Payne Hollow has become a relic of the
Hubbards past, both physically and figuratively.
It is still remembered fondly by those who experienced it while the
couple was living, and it is still visited by those who would like to
preserve that legacy or rediscover that magical place even
if it means simply journeying there and sitting for a while on the porch
of the Hubbards house under the shady trees along a remote stretch
of the Ohio River.
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