Editor’s note: This story was prepared by Jacobs Hall Museum Staff at Kentucky School for the Deaf.
Danville’s Anaconda Club, founded in 1839, held its first official meeting at the Second Street home of John Adamson Jacobs, superintendent of the Kentucky Institute for the Tuition of the Deaf and Dumb, now Kentucky School for the Deaf.
The Anaconda Club is the oldest organization of its type west of the Allegheny Mountains. Originally organized as the Danville Political and Social Club, with a membership of eight, the club expanded to 12 and then 14 members. It was an outgrowth of an 1839 Danville Lyceum series open to the public.
It became a private political and social club, where a member read a paper that then was discussed by all members present. As time passed, the dining aspect of the event expanded.
Calvin Morgan Fackler in “Early Days in Danville” reported the name “anaconda” was coined by a state legislator who declared the Danville group, “like anacondas, gorged themselves every two weeks and became stupefied.”
A menu printed in the May 21, 1914, edition of KSD’s “The Kentucky Standard” indicates when KSD Superintendent Augustus Rogers was host, the menu consisted of 21 dishes. The older girls assisted in the kitchen and served the repast in the Girls Building (Jacobs Hall).
The female reporter pronounced it a “nightmare!”
Here was the menu: fruit cocktail — grapefruit, oranges, pineapples and maraschino cherries; baked fish; creamed potatoes, beaten biscuits; braised spring chicken; new peas; asparagus toast; cauliflower; pineapple fritters; rolls; coffee; nuts; stuffed tomatoes; peppered wafers; olives; strawberries; ice cream; coconut cake; coffee; candy; and cigars.
When Jacobs Hall Museum volunteers learned Jacobs was a co-founder of the club, and the museum owns the original Jacobs family china, Sevrés “Old Parisian,” used at the 1839 dinner, museum staff and club members decided to hold a commemorative dinner at Jacobs Hall Sept. 15.
The 2011 dinner was limited to nine of the 21 dishes served in 1914, but included Ann Frances Jacobs Cheek’s special pound cake. Logan M. Cheek, a direct descendant of John A. Jacobs. provided the recipe as well as information for this article. He says, “Jacobs was widowed at the age of 43 in 1849. His daughter, ‘Miss Frances,’ then 21 years old, took over the household duties of raising her younger siblings and serving as her father’s hostess for Anaconda meetings, while Jacobs home-schooled her, until she married Rev. Samuel Best Cheek in 1851. She may have continued with her hostessing at the Anacondan dinners until Jacobs remarried Nancy Hann in 1853, and perhaps even after that.”
We can assume also that “Miss Frances” had her special cake cooked up and served to the KSD students on special occasions when she was serving as KSD’s matron.
So, even without “Miss Frances,” her cake and the Anaconda Club have made a return appearance at KSD.