Glen Willis

Historical Marker #1444 in Frankfort notes the location of Glen Willis, the former residence of Willis Atwell Lee and Humphrey Marshall.

Leestown, just about a mile north of present-day Frankfort, was the first community established in Franklin County. Leestown was located where a buffalo trace crossed the Kentucky River, and was named for surveyor Hancock Lee, who first came to the area in the summer of 1775 with his brother Willis Lee. Hancock Lee was killed by Native Americans in 1777, and Leestown was virtually abandoned for a time thereafter.

Before his death, Hancock Lee willed his nephew Willis Atwell Lee an acre of land at Leestown on which to build a home. In the 1790s, Lee constructed a double log cabin and bestowed the name "Glen Willis" to the structure. Lee eventually added a significant amount of land to his initial acre.

In 1815, a story-and-a-half brick home replaced the old log Glen Willis. Neighbors, Col. Richard Taylor and Harrison Blanton, soon constructed handsome brick homes nearby, too. In 1834, Willis Atwell Lee died of typhoid at age forty-nine. He had served as clerk of the Kentucky state senate for a number of years. The Lees continued to live at Glen Willis before moving into Frankfort.

Glen Willis was purchased by Humphrey Marshall in 1832. Marshall was a Revolutionary War veteran, noted politician, and historian. Marshall had served in both the Kentucky legislature and the U.S. Senate before moving to Glen Willis. His outspoken political attacks on opponents and his unpopular anti-religious sentiment made him an easy target for his enemies. In 1809, while a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives, Marshall fought a duel with fellow representative Henry Clay. In the duel, Clay's bullet grazed Marshall's stomach, but Marshall wounded Clay in the thigh. At that point the men agreed to cancel the fight.

After his political career, Marshall turned to writing. He published a Federalist newspaper in Frankfort and wrote a book on Kentucky's history. After retiring from public life in the 1820s, Marshall suffered a stroke that left him partly paralyzed. He lived with his son in Lexington where he died in 1841. Marshall was buried at Glen Willis, but his grave was not marked.

Glen Willis was expanded to three stories after Marshall's death by its next owner, Henry Harrison Murray. The grand old home still stands today.