Joseph Holt Mansion

Retail Price: $34.95

On a Sunday afternoon in 1997 while driving along State Highway 144 near Stephensport, Kentucky, Susan Dyer and her husband passed the Joseph Holt Mansion and her life changed forever. Originally built in the 1850s with some features dating to the 1870s — once part of Holt’s 10,000-acre estate — the home had been vacant for more than 50 years and deteriorated due to time, the elements, and lack of upkeep.

Joseph Holt Mansion tells the story of Susan’s tireless efforts to save the Holt mansion, initially by bringing awareness to the historical importance of Judge Joseph Holt and the Holt home to the people of Breckinridge County, Kentucky. Although told it couldn’t be restored, Susan began a campaign to restore the mansion to its former glory. Joseph Holt Mansion describes Susan’s “never say never” attitude and the thousands of hours spent in fund raising, grant writing, and leading the charge along with other volunteers and public officials to save the Holt mansion.

Judge Joseph Holt was born in Breckinridge County in 1807 and was buried in the Holt Family Cemetery east of the mansion in 1894. The mansion was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Read Joseph Holt Mansion and learn the story behind the efforts to restore a true piece of Kentucky heritage.

Susan Dyer receives the Award of Distinction

Award of Distinction: The Award of Distinction is given to an individual who has made a significant contribution to state and local history as a volunteer, board member, or member of an organization. The award was given because of the wonderful work of the Joseph Holt Home.

Susan Dyer

In 1997, Susan Dyer, a middle school social studies teacher, stopped in front of an abandoned 19th-century mansion in her native Breckinridge County. This had been the home of Joseph Holt, an influential Kentucky Unionist and Abraham Lincoln’s judge advocate general who prosecuted those who conspired to assassinate the sixteenth president.

Susan later told Kentucky Living magazine, “As I stood there and gazed upon this beautiful home, I could feel the sadness of the home, and I knew there was much history surrounding the place. I just felt the history needed to be reclaimed and retold.”

And reclaim it, she did. Thanks to her tireless efforts, the Joseph Holt House has now been preserved and is open for tours and events.

While Susan will always give credit to others for this preservation project’s success, her vision and tenacity made it happen. The former Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission co-chair, Tommy Turner said, “I guarantee you it would never have happened without Susan pushing it. She has talked to everyone from the White House on down…and has spent countless hours and countless dollars, I’m sure, out of her pocket, to make this come about.”

Susan has also worked to host community events at the Holt home and has created many partnerships to raise awareness about the property. This includes having the US Army JAG Corps celebrate their 248th birthday at the house and more. She also wrote the book Lincoln’s Advocate: The Life of Judge Joseph Holt to raise awareness about Holt’s story.

Susan worked actively with the Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, and, in 2023, she and the Friends of the Holt Home were awarded the Ida Lee Willis Memorial Foundation Grassroots Preservation Award.

A KHS staff member said working with Susan was always wonderful because of her dedication, kindness, sense of humor, and willingness to build friendships with everyone she encountered. An added benefit, he said, was that when you worked with Susan, a chocolate cake would always arrive in the mail a few days later. And those chocolate cakes were incredible.

While her cakes alone deserve an award, we are pleased to present Susan Dyer with the Award of Distinction for her work to preserve the Holt House and her dedication to the history of Breckinridge County. Congratulations.


U.S Army JAG Corp celebrates 248th birthday at National Historic Place in Breckinridge County


The Ida Lee Willis Preservation Foundation

Grassroots Preservation Award

May 17, 2023

Recently, one of Breckinridge County’s own Susan B. Dyer and the Friends of the Holt Home, Inc. received The Ida Lee Willis Memorial Foundation Grassroots Preservation Award in Maysville, Kentucky on May 17.

The purpose of the foundation is to recognize and honor worthy historic preservation efforts of all sizes across the Commonwealth.  Since the foundation’s beginning they have done this by sponsoring Kentucky’s signature preservation awards each year to highlight outstanding projects, service, and commitment. Nominations for the awards are invited from the public, reviewed by a panel of judges representing the foundation, state agencies and affiliated nonprofits. The awards are presented at an annual ceremony each May recognized as National Historic Preservation Month.

Each year many individuals, businesses, organizations, and local governments make significant contributions to preservation of Kentucky’s heritage. Through rehabilitation of an important building or structure, advocacy, investment of time or resources, or a lifetime commitment to encouraging and promoting historic preservation in the Commonwealth, all demonstrate an understanding of and appreciation for value of preservation and reusing Kentucky’s historic resources and protecting archaeological sites.

Since 1979 the Ida Lee Willis Foundation was chartered in honor of Ida Lee Willis, the first state historic preservation officer and director of the Kentucky Heritage Commission known today as the Kentucky Heritage Council/ State Historic Preservation Office.

Joseph Holt Home website

Save the Judge Holt Home facebook page


LTG Charles Pede, 40th TJAG Visits Holt Home


Susan Dyer receiving a medal from LTC Charles Pede, 40th TJAG on his visit to the Holt Home

The Judge Advocate General of The United States Army shaking hands with Susan Dyer. Work continues to make the home a National meeting place!


Photo credit Judy Nottingham and the Breckinridge County- Herald News

Meade County RECC article


Proceeds from the sale of this book will also help other communities and organizations preserve their history through Our American Heritage Project, a non-profit organization.

“Preservation of the Holt Home is a triumph of commitment, perseverance and passion. A gold standard for others.”

-Byron Crawford, Kentucky Living Magazine

“Joseph Holt has been a misunderstood and forgotten hero in America and Kentucky. Our hope is to get this great man’s story told.”

-Dwight D. Butler, former Kentucky State Representative

“Susan Dyer’s decades-long journey to restore the historic mansion of a historic Kentucky figure is a story of dedication, perseverance, and a willingness to overcome. It’s also a how-to account for any restoration enthusiast.”

-Ed Ford, author

“Every community should be so lucky to have an individual such as Susan Dyer. Susan has worked tirelessly to see the Holt house, an important piece of history and link to Lincoln heritage, saved for future generations. Her efforts have taken her from the courthouse to the statehouse to the US Capitol seeking funds and recognition for preservation and restoration. What a joy it is to see her work pay off! As simply a residence, this home is a magnificent piece of history in itself representing an era of Kentucky’s past that should not be forgotten. Yet the rich history associated with Joseph Holt and his intertwining with Lincoln makes it all the more special. If only those walls could talk! Thanks Susan for making Kentucky’s and our nation’s heritage a bit richer!”

-Judge Tommy Turner, ALBC commissioner and Co-Chair, Kentucky Lincoln Bicentennial Commission 

Book Details
Author: Susan Dyer
Pages: 160 pages
Product Dimensions: 8.5x11
ISBN: 978-1-948901-06-2
Cover Type: Hardcover
Case Quantity: 12
Guest speaker for the Hometowner’s Club Cecilian Bank,

Joseph Holt Mansion: Saving and Restoring the Home of Lincoln’s Judge Advocate General will be available for signing after speaking.
Prospect Point Cecilian Bank
2920 Ring Road
Elizabethtown, KY 42701

March 13, 2019 10:00 am-4:00 pm

Barnes and Noble Elizabethtown

Susan B.  Dyer will be signing her new book Joseph Holt MansionSaving and Restoring
the Home of Lincoln’s Judge Advocate General
1980 N. Dixie HWY
ElizabethtownKY 42701

March 30, 2019 12:00 pm-4:00 pm

SOKY Book Fest 2019

 Susan B. Dyer will be signing Joseph Holt Mansion: Saving and Restoring the Home of Lincoln’s Judge Advocate General
Knicely Conference Center
Western Kentucky University
2355 Nashville Road
Bowling Green, KY 42101

April 27, 2019 9:00 am-3:00 pm

Guest Speaker for the Meade Co. Historical & Archaeological Preservation Society

Meade County History Museum
281 Oakland Road
Brandenburg, KY 40108
Susan will be speaking prior to the presentation on WMMG , 93.5 radio about her newest book Joseph Holt MansionSaving and Restoring the Home of Lincoln’s Judge Advocate General from 11:00 a.m.- 12:00 noon ET in Brandenburg and will sign books from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m.  before the meeting at the Meade Co. History Museum.

June 10, 2019 6:00 pm-

Have any questions or want to get in touch?