In a small town in Kentucky ...
The Monroe family lived in a small but comfortable cabin on the Monroe family farm, called Jerusalem Ridge, overlooking Rosine, Kentucky that had been in the family since 1801. The top of the actual ridge is about a mile from the home place; Bill called the Ridge "the most beautiful place in the world" The youngest of eight children he was left home while his big brothers went to town. He used to go up on ridge with his dad and Uncle and listen to the fox hounds run at night. Here he would hear stories about the old ways and listen to the ancient sounds of Uncle Pen's fiddle.
This beautiful, peaceful, and majestic setting is where Bill, Charlie, and Birch Monroe grew up and learned the roots of what was to eventually evolve into what we know as bluegrass music. Their formative years on Jerusalem Ridge, the sounds and sights of nature, the honest, backbreaking farm work and logging, the trials and tribulations, the joys and the heartaches, all provided a rich source of subjects and material which became the inspiration for many of Bill's songs and firmly established his legacy as the Daddy of Bluegrass Music.
Bill's mother died when he was nine and his father passed away when he was sixteen. Hard times in the late 1920s eventually drove the rest of the Monroe family north to Indiana to seek employment, but Bill stayed behind for two years and lived with Uncle Pen, his mother's brother. These two years form his sixteenth until his eighteenth year proved to be the most crucial to Bill's musical training thanks to the intense musical experience with Uncle Pen in his log cabin. Jerusalem Ridge, his precious ancestral farm, was lost 35 years later due to medical bills that had accrued while Betty, Charlie's wife, battled cancer. Bill attempted to buy the farm back as soon as he learned that a local businessman had suddenly ended up with the farm, but these negotiations and several later attempts at negotiation all fell through. So, Bill settled for occasional pilgrimages to his own home from 1965 until his death in 1996.
Thirty-six years after Jerusalem Ridge was lost Campbell Mercer and several local folks formed The Bill Monroe Bluegrass Music Foundation, dedicated to promoting and preserving the music, the birthplace of the music, and the legacies of the Monroe brothers and the people who influenced them as they were growing up. The Foundation was originally called the Bill Monroe Foundation and then the Monroe Brothers Foundation. Mercer and the foundation embarked on an ambitious plan to buy and preserve the 930-acre Monroe family farm and build a museum and amphitheater in Rosine and on Jerusalem Ridge where traditional bluegrass music could be played. Thus was born The Rosine Project.
In 2001, Mercer left his veterinary practice and farm in London, Kentucky, and moved his family to Rosine to become Executive Director of The Bill Monroe Bluegrass Music Foundation (also known as the Jerusalem Ridge Foundation) whose first priority was to save Monroe’s deteriorating childhood home on Jerusalem Ridge two miles west of town. The five-room wooden structure was painstakingly restored to its 1918 glory and now is filled with family heirlooms and mementos from Monroe’s illustrious 70-year musical career.
Though there have been many challenges, The Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Music Foundation continues to flourish, and support continues to grow for its plans to restore Jerusalem Ridge and the Monroe home place to its original splendor, and to preserve its historic significance in American cultural history into the future.
Today, there are ten dedicated individuals who make up the board of the Foundation. In addition, there are twenty wonderful local people who give tours of the birthplace of bluegrass music seven days a week. During the Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Celebration, the number of volunteers grows to almost three hundred. But there is much more to do and we need your help too!