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By Jimmie Earls
Sun Staff Writer
Hugh L. Grundy, 93, of Springfield, has enjoyed a career in aviation that has taken him around the world. But whether he was in Hong Kong, New York City, Cairo, Shanghai or Los Angeles, the place he would rather be was his family’s plantation right here in Washington County.
“In all my travels I have never seen a place more peaceful than right here,” said Grundy. “They say you can’t go home, but here I am.”
The plantation is approximately 1,000 acres of lush countryside where the Grundy family has continuously operated a farm in some form, from the original self-sustaining homestead where George and Elizabeth raised beef and grew tobacco and vegetables, to the dairy farm on the property currently operated by Joseph Tapp.
The Kentucky Historical Society dedicated a historical marker on Sept. 4 for the portion of the plantation that still remains in the Grundy family. The Grundy family has a place not only in the history of Washington County and Kentucky, but in the United States as well.
George and Elizabeth Grundy fled Berkeley County, Va., in 1780 during the Revolutionary War. They settled in the wilderness frontier of Virginia at the time called Kaintuckee. This frontier became the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 1792, the 15th state in the union. The Grundy’s son, Samuel, remained on the farm and expanded it.
Felix Grundy, another son of George and Elizabeth, left the farm and gained prominence as a criminal lawyer and politician. He practiced law in Springfield, took part in the Kentucky constitutional convention in 1799, served Washington County in legislature from 1800-02 and was named Chief Justice of Kentucky in 1807. He soon resigned as Chief Justice and moved to Tennessee where he served as U.S. Senator from 1829-1838 and U.S. Attorney General from 1838-1839.
Hugh Grundy, a descendant of George and Elizabeth and the plantation’s current owner, became a celebrated aviator after earning his pilot’s license in Louisville around 1930. He most notably served as the president of Air America, a covert airline operated by the United States Central Intelligence Agency that flew secret missions around the world delivering food, ammunition and supplies to anti-Communist fighters in Laos, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian territories from the early 1950s to the early 1970s. Air America also flew regular commercial flights, transporting passengers and cargo, but the revenue generated from those flights supported the classified missions. Hugh’s wife Frankie never knew the true nature of her husband’s work until he was openly honored by the CIA for his service in 2001.
After Air America ceased operations after the collapse of South Vietnam, Grundy returned to the U.S., working in Miami, Fla., until he retired in 1984, returning to his family home in Washington County.
“I’ve owned this farm for more than 50 years and lived on it for the last 25, so I’m glad to be back,” added Grundy.
The Grundy Plantation is the 17th location in Washington County to be recognized by the Kentucky Historical Society with a marker. The society commemorates historic sites, events and personalities throughout the commonwealth.
“I think it’s important that we have this marker to show our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren what Kentucky’s agricultural heritage has meant to this state,” said James E. Wallace, executive director of the Kentucky Historical Society Foundation.
There are more than 2,000 markers across Kentucky. Each sign is made from cast aluminum and costs anywhere from $2,075 for a sign with the same text on each side, to $2300 for a sign with different text on each side. That cost includes the construction of the sign, placement and dedication ceremony. The initial funds for the markers come from private donations, but once the signs are erected, they become state property and are maintained by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Missing or damaged signs are replaced if transportation funds are available. To receive a sign, a location must undergo an application process and meet strict criteria.
With the placement of the new marker on the family plantation, the Grundy family can be assured that their place in local, state and national history is firmly and perpetually rooted.