October 16, 1800, the Grand Lodge of Kentucky was organized in Lexington and eventually moved to Louisville. Prominent Kentucky Masons included: John C. Breckinridge, Cassius M. Clay, the Crittendens, John Hunt Morgan, Beriah Magoffin, Robert Worth Bingham, A.B. Chandler, George Rogers Clark and Henry Clay who was Grand Master from 1820-21.
January 29, 1801, Judge John Rowan (27) and Dr. James Chambers (34) attended the same card game in Bardstown at Duncan McLean’s Tavern. Drunk and rowdy the two came to blows after several spirited games of 21 and thus began of Kentucky’s most famous duels. Two days after the card name, Chambers formally challenged Rowan. Rowan’s second was George Bibb, later a U.S. Senator & Treasury Secretary and Chambers chose Major John Bullock. They met five days after the card game to duel. Terms were to stand 10 paces, turn and fire with dueling pistols. They were instructed to act as gentlemen, observe the code and act only as instructed. First round: both missed and it was agreed to have a second attempt. New pistols were provided and in the second round, Chambers was mortally shot. The duel captivated the commonwealth and was tried in the courts and press, after it was viewed as a murder to many locals. The case was dropped, the rumors ceased and John later expressed remorse. Fourteen years later Judge Rowan built Federal Hill, My Old Kentucky Home and in 1825 he took the U.S. Senate oath of office to represent Kentucky. Ref: 21
August 9, 1803, John Kennedy started the first regular stage coach line in Kentucky, running from Lexington to the Olympia Springs in Bath County by way of Winchester and Mt. Sterling. It was advertised to leave Lexington at 4:00 am and arrive at the springs the same day for 21 shillings.
May 30, 1806, at Harrison’s Mill on the Red River, one of Kentucky’s most important duels was fought. Andrew Jackson and Charles Dickinson, two Tennesseans, crossed the state border to settle their differences over a horse bet. The men stood eight paces apart and then turned and fired. Dickinson was a well-known sharpshooter and Jackson felt his only chance to kill him would be to allow himself enough time to take an accurate shot. Thus he calmly allowed Dickinson to fire into his chest. The bullet lodged in his ribs, but Jackson hardly quivered, calmly leveling his pistol at Dickinson. But when the trigger was pulled the hammer of his gun only fell to the half-cocked position and did not fire. According to dueling etiquette, this should have been the end of the duel. Jackson, however, was not finished with Dickinson. Re-cocking his pistol, he aimed and fired, striking Dickinson dead. The bullet which remained in his body, left the future President a perpetual hacking cough, caused him persistent pain, and compounded the many health problems that would beleaguer him throughout life. But Jackson never regretted the decision. “If he had shot me through the brain, sir, I should still have killed him.” Ref : 21
January 19, 1809, Henry Clay and Humphrey Marshall held their famous duel just across the Ohio River from Shippingport, Kentucky. On the first shot, Marshall missed and Clay lightly grazed Marshall’s stomach. On the second shot, Marshall missed again and Clay’s pistol misfired. Marshall’s third shot lightly wounded Clay in the thigh, while Clay missed Marshall entirely. Clay insisted that they should both take another shot, but Marshall declined on grounds that Clay’s injury put him on unequal footing with his adversary, and the matter was ended. Ref: 21
August 24, 1812, Governor Isaac Shelby took the oath of office again to become the 5th Governor of Kentucky. Because the U.S. declared war on Great Britain in June of 1812, Shelby decided to enter the race less than a month before the election. Shelby was mocked because of his age (he was almost 62), calling him “Old Daddy Shelby” however he won by more than 17,000 votes. Preparations for the War of 1812 dominated Shelby’s second term. On the state level, Shelby revised militia laws to make every male between the ages of 18 and 45 eligible for military service; ministers were excluded from the provision. Seven thousand volunteers enlisted, and many more had to be turned away. Shelby’s confidence in the federal government’s war planning was shaken by the disastrous Battle of Frenchtown in which a number of Kentucky soldiers died. Upon Shelby’s leaving office in 1816, President Monroe offered him the post of Secretary of War, but he declined because of his age. In 1817, Shelby received the thanks of Congress and was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his service in the war.
January 22, 1813, a combined British and Indian force attacked an American militia who were retreating from Detroit. The “Battle of Frenchtown,” also known in the history books as the “Battle of River Raisin” was a tremendous loss of American lives, especially Kentuckians. Only 33 men of some 700 men escaped the battle. Over 400 Kentucky frontiersmen were killed in this battle of the War of 1812.
October 14, 1816, George Madison became the first Kentucky Governor to die in office. In ill health, Madison was overwhelmingly elected in August in part due to his distinctive service in three wars. Madison traveled to Blue Lick Springs, at the time in Bourbon County, for his health soon after the election, but was too weak to return to Frankfort for the inauguration or his duties as Governor. The oath of office was administered on September 5, 1816, at the springs, where he also passed, forty days later.
October 19, 1818, Kentucky gained 2,000 square miles with the Jackson Purchase. The agents were the U.S. and the Chickasaw Indian Nation. Representing the U.S. were the aging Isaac Shelby, Revolutionary War hero and twice Kentucky governor and Gen. Andrew Jackson, later the U.S. president. The Chickasaws were represented by Levi and George Colbert, Chinubby (the Boy King), and Tishomingo. It now includes eight counties. A series of massive earthquakes in 1811-12 caused drastic changes to the topography; the most spectacular resulted in the formation of Reelfoot Lake. The New Madrid Fault is still a threat.
January 21, 1819, Centre College was founded by the Kentucky State Legislator. When the state relinquished authority to the Presbyterians, Kentucky stipulated: “The college shall at all times be conducted upon liberal, free, and enlightened principles, and no student shall be excluded in consequence of his religious opinions, or those of his parents, guardians, or relatives,” and “No religious doctrine peculiar to any one sect of Christians shall be inculcated by any professor in said college.” During the presidencies of Morrill (1982-88) and Adams (1988-97), the percentage of alumni donating funds to the college exceeded any other college or university in the U.S. Centre’s alumni include; two U.S. vice-presidents, U.S. chief justice, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as congressmen, governors, and leaders in education, business, law, journalism, and medicine.
July 2, 1819, President James Monroe, accompanied by General Andrew Jackson, arrived in Lexington while touring the country. During a four day stay he spoke at Transylvania, given a large banquet at Mrs. Keen’s Postlethwait’s Tavern and was entertained by Governor Isaac Shelby among other dignitaries.
November 2, 1820, the city of Franklin was incorporated. Throughout the 1820’s, famous duels took place at Lincompinch, near Franklin which is situated on the KY/TN boarder in Simpson County. Lincompinch is an ancient dueling ground within the disputed triangle between Kentucky and Tennessee (Black Jack Corner). Today, Franklin is home to Kentucky Downs, one of five horse racing tracks in Kentucky. The population of the fourth-class city was 6,553 in 1970; 7,738 in 1980; and 7,607 in 1990.
November 7, 1825, around two o’clock in the morning, Jereboam Orville Beauchamp a young southern Kentucky lawyer knocked on Colonel Solomon P. Sharp’s door in downtown Frankfort and plunged a dagger deep into Sharp’s chest. This would become known as the “Kentucky Tragedy” or “Beauchamp-Sharp Tragey.” The central figure was Anna Cooke Beauchamp. Anna had been an admirer of Sharp until Sharp denied being the father of her still born child. Later, Anna began a relationship with Cooke, and agreed to marry him on the condition that he kill Sharp to avenge her honor. Anna and Jereboam married in June 1824 and 17 months later the tragedy occurred. Sharpe was a prominent figure in Kentucky politics as a Representative, Congressman and Attorney General. The morning of the scheduled execution Anna and Jereboam attempted suicide in his cell with a knife. Anna survived and Jereboam was loaded on a cart to be taken to the gallows and hanged before he could bled to death.
July 7, 1826, Orville Beauchamp was hanged to death in Frankfort after being convicted of stabbing to death KY legislator Solomon P. Sharp; the crime is known as the Beauchamp–Sharp Tragedy. The morning of the execution, he and his wife, Anna, attempted a double suicide by stabbing themselves with a knife she had smuggled into prison. She was successful; he was not. Beauchamp was rushed to the gallows before he could bleed to death. Two men supported Beauchamp as the noose was put around his neck. He asked for a drink of water, and the band to play “Bonaparte’s Retreat from Moscow”. At his signal, the cart moved out from under him, and he died after a brief struggle. Following Beauchamp’s earlier instructions, the bodies of Jereboam and Anna were arranged in an embrace and buried in the same coffin. A poem written by Anna was etched on their double tombstone.
March 3, 1828, John Carpenter Bucklin was sworn in as Louisville’s first mayor, one month after the state legislature passed Louisville’s city charter. Per the terms of the charter, an election was held and the top two candidates were presented to the governor, who then chose one to serve a 1-year term. Bucklin would serve six 1-year terms. The powers of the mayor were somewhat limited in the early charter, not even giving the mayor a vote on the more powerful City Council (except to break deadlocks). During his tenure, he successfully argued for the establishment of the first public school in the city (and state). He also dealt with a devastating flood of the city in February 1832, and pushed for the draining of many of Louisville’s early ponds. He was a Unitarian, his pastor called him: “so complete a skeptic that he will believe nothing he has not seen or touched. He thinks the sciences of chemistry, geology, anatomy, geology, etc., are all humbug.” John Bucklin is buried in Cave Hill Cemetery.
August 25, 1828, Robert Trimble’s term on the United States Supreme Court came to an abrupt end when he passed away at the age 55. Between 1813 and 1817, Trimble served as a district attorney, and developed a reputation for dogged legal research and energetic prosecution. In 1817, when President James Madison commissioned Trimble to serve alongside his friend, Thomas Todd, as judge of the federal district court of Kentucky, he quit his law practice. In 1826 President John Quincy Adams elevated Trimble to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace Todd. He was buried in the Paris Cemetery. Trimble County is named in his honor.
August 26, 1828, Thomas Metcalfe became the 10th Governor of Kentucky. Joseph Desha, the outgoing governor, refused to believe that his party had lost the election. He disliked Metcalfe not only due to his party affiliation, but also because of his occupation as a stonemason, which he believed was too low a calling for a governor. Metcalfe’s opponents made slights on the quality of his stone work and his views on the Old Court-New Court controversy. When told about these charges, Metcalfe remarked “They may say what they like about my views, but the first man that dares to attack my character, I will cleave his skull with my stone hammer, as I would cleave a rock.” As word of this remark spread, Metcalfe was given the nickname “Old Stone Hammer.” Despite his threats to remain in the governor’s mansion until the legislature convened, Desha respected the will of the people, and left the residence on September 2, 1828.
October 9, 1829, a famous Lexington duel between proslavery Charles Wickliffe and Lexington Gazette editor and anti-slavery George J. Trotter occurred shortly before nine o’clock on the Scott/Fayette border. The duel has its roots in the acquittal of Charles Wickliffe for the murder of Thomas R. Benning, editor of the Kentucky Gazette. Wickliffe shot Benning during a disagreement over editorials, which criticized his father, politician Robert Wickliffe. Henry Clay acted as Wickliffe’s lawyer during his trial. Later that same year, Wickliffe challenged the new editor of the newspaper, George J. Trotter, to a duel over articles questioning the fairness of the trial. At the duel each fired: Trotter’s bullet grazed Wickliffe’s hip and Wickliffe missed. “I demand a second fire,” Wickliffe demanded sharply. “Sir, you will have it with pleasure,” replied Trotter. 15 minutes later the duelist fired again and again Wickliffe missed, while Trotter’s bullet inflicted a mortal wound. As Wickliffe lowered himself to the ground, he was asked if he was satisfied and he replied, “I am sir, I am unable to fire again.” Ref: 21
October 21, 1831, the beginning of constructing Kentucky’s first railway, the Lexington and Ohio Railroad, was marked with a grand parade that begun in front of Transylvania and ended at Water Street near the corner of Mill Street where a corner stone of the rail was laid by Gov. Metcalf, who also drove the first spike. The train cars were driven by horses for a long time.
August 15, 1832, Governor Metcalfe rode the first stretch of the Lexington and Ohio Railroad, a mile and a half, and everyone marveled that one horse could pull 40 passengers. By the following March, 6 more miles had been completed going towards Frankfort.
January 31, 1833, Maysville, the county seat of Mason County, was incorporated. When the steamboat was invented, Maysville’s future was assured, and the population increased with trade on the river. The Maysville Eagle, the town’s first newspaper, reported that Charles Wolfe, son of Pennsylvania’s governor, was the first mayor. A cholera epidemic in 1833 took the lives of several citizens, including the new mayor. Maysville became and remains one of the three largest burley tobacco markets in the world and at one time was among the largest hemp markets. In 1990 the oldest family-owned business was a cotton factory, dating from the 1840s. The city retains a great number of antebellum homes that give a good idea of how a nineteenth century river town looked.
January 31, 1834, the Lexington and Ohio Railroad reached Frankfort for the first time and a grand ball was held in the Phoenix Hotel in Lexington. The steam engine used, was invented by Thomas Barlow, a Lexington native. The mechanic who constructed the locomotive, Joseph Bruen was also a Lexington native. Their strange looking contraption broke down frequently and was incapable of carrying heavy loads. Horses were used again until engines were brought from the East.
November 17, 1834, William Lee Davidson Ewing, from Paris, became the 5th Governor of Illinois when Governor John Reynolds resigned from office. Ewing was president of the senate at the time. His term lasted less than a month but a year after leaving the governor’s office, Ewing was appointed to the U.S. Senate till 1837. Governor William Lee D. Ewing is buried at the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.
August 30, 1836, James Clark took the oath of office to become Kentucky’s 13th Governor. Clark served in all three branches of Kentucky’s government. As circuit court judge he struck down a debt relief law in the case of Williams v. Blair on the basis that it impeded the obligation of contracts. His decision was unpopular with the legislature, so they tried first to remove him from office but failed. Second the legislature tried to abolish the court creating Kentucky’s infamous Old Court-New Court Controversy. Clark’s most significant accomplishment as governor was securing the creation of a state board of education and the establishment of public schools in every county in the state. James Clark died in office with less than a year to serve.
May 5, 1841, Lexingtonians, Cassius Clay and Robert Wickliffe, Jr. met on the “field of honor” Locust Grove Plantation near Louisville to duel. Pistols at 30 feet (10 paces) were used, two rounds fired, but no injuries. Ref: 21
September 22, 1842, Illinois State Legislature Abraham Lincoln met Illinois State Auditor James Shields on the field of honor to duel. The duel was fueled by published letters written by Lincoln and Mary Todd attacking Shields for his politics and his pursuit of women. Lincoln was upset that in August of 1842, the Illinois State Bank went bankrupt and announced that it would no longer accept its own paper currency from private citizens looking to pay off debts. Lincoln set the parameters for the duel. It was to be fought with large cavalry broadswords, in a pit, divided by a board which no man could step over. In creating such parameters, Lincoln aimed to disarm his opponent using his superior reach advantage and avoid bloodshed on either side. The day of the duel the combatants met at Bloody Island, Missouri. As the two men faced each other, with a plank between them that neither was allowed to cross, Lincoln swung his sword high above Shields to cut through a nearby tree branch. This act demonstrated the immensity of Lincoln’s reach and strength and was enough to show Shields that he was at a fatal disadvantage. With the encouragement of bystanders, the two men called a truce.
November 4, 1842, on a Friday evening, Abraham Lincoln (33) wed Mary Todd Lincoln (23) in the front parlor of Mary Todd’s sister Elizabeth home, in Springfield, IL. About 30 relatives and friends, all hastily invited, attended the ceremony which was conducted by Episcopal minister Rev. Charles Dresser. James Matheny, 24, was asked by Lincoln to be best man on the day of the wedding! Neither Mary’s nor Abraham’s parents attended. Mary wore a muslin wedding dress that belonged to her sister Frances with a pearl necklace but no veil. The wedding ring’s inscription read “A.L. to Mary, Nov. 4, 1842. Love is Eternal.” The couple honeymooned at Globe Tavern, a very ordinary two story Springfield boardinghouse made of wood. The couple were married for 23 years.
November 15, 1843, the Campbell-Rice debate on the comparative religious beliefs of the Christian Church and Presbyterian denominations took place in Lexington at the city’s largest venue, Main Street Christian Church. Henry Clay, who was between terms in the U.S. Senate and living at his Ashland estate, agreed to serve as moderator in the debate. J.M. Sandusky, a prominent Missouri lawyer formerly of Lexington, remarked, “I should have thought Clay could have made a much better judge of a horse race or good whiskey than a religious debate.”
January 10, 1846, Lafayette Shelby, grandson of Kentucky’s first governor, shot and killed Henry M. Horine in front of the Phoenix Hotel, where both attended a drinking party. Henry Clay got Lafayette a mistrial and the citizens of Lexington were outraged. Lafayette fled to Texas, never to be heard of again.
July 25, 1848, Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville was dedicated. The 296 acre Victorian era National Cemetery and arboretum was acquired in various tracts from adjoining land owners over a period of thirty years. Within the grounds, known in the mid 1800’s as the “city of the dead”, are sixteen miles of paved roads, five lakes, and one quarry. As of 2012 there have been over 130,000 people interred on the grounds, and there is ample room for burial of many more citizens. Cave Hill was named for the cave on the east bank of the main lake below the Administration Office. A few of the burial sites include: George Rogers Clark, Muhammad Ali and Colonel Sanders.
July 31, 1850, Governor John Jordan Crittenden resigned to accept President Millard Fillmore’s appointment as Attorney General, making John L. Helm the 18th Governor of Kentucky. Governor Helm would go on to be the 24th Governor as well.
September 2, 1851, Lazarus Whitehead Powell became the 19th Governor of Kentucky. As governor he gave Kentucky one of the top educational systems in the South, improved Kentucky’s transportation system and vetoed legislation that he felt would have created an overabundance of banks in the Commonwealth.
June 29, 1852, Henry Clay died of tuberculosis in Washington, DC at the age of 75, while serving as a U.S. Senator representing Kentucky. Befitting Clay’s status as one of the most respected and influential political figures of his time, his body was placed in the Capitol rotunda, making him the first person in American history to lie in state, in the United States Capitol. Impressive ceremonies were held in Washington, New York, and other cities as Clay’s body traveled for the last time back to Ashland in Lexington. Upon arriving home, Clay’s body remained overnight while Lucretia kept watch. The next morning, after a memorial service on the front lawn, the funeral cortege left Ashland. Storefronts along the way were elaborately draped in black, all businesses in Lexington closed, all traffic was halted, and silence was ordered as the procession passed. Clay’s body was then interred in Lexington Cemetery. Today, one of Lexington’s most recognized landmarks is the towering figure of Henry Clay standing high above the Cemetery looking over the city, toward Ashland.
August 27, 1854, one of Kentucky’s deadliest F2 tornadoes struck in Louisville at 12:12 PM. Eighteen of the 25 deaths at Louisville occurred in the destruction of the Third Presbyterian Church. Many women and children were killed in the church, the youngest victim being nine years old. A mother and her three children were discovered grouped in death. In another spot a father lay dead with the mother mortally wounded, their young child placed beneath them unhurt, protected by the forms of its parents. This deadly storm touched down near the intersection of Jefferson and Twentieth Streets, unroofing 21 buildings at the German Protestant Orphan Asylum. The Louisville Daily Courier described the storm as “a whirlwind revolving leftwise.” 100 people were injured during this 2 mile funnel with a path width of 800 yards.
August 6, 1855, a Kentucky election day, was known as Bloody Monday due to anti-immigrant sentiment. It was one of Louisville’s darkest days in its history. Rumors were started that foreigners and Catholics had interfered with the process of voting. The American Know-Nothing Party formed mobs, positioned themselves at various polling places and later drifted into Irish Catholic neighborhoods, where bloody rioting broke out. During the course of the day, two large riots erupted in the city. The first riot took place in the German district at 4 p.m., which was located in the First Ward on the east end of Louisville. The second riot occurred from 6 p.m. until midnight in the Irish district, in the Eight Ward in the western section of town. Although the official death toll was listed as 22, some estimates place the number much higher.
September 4, 1855, Charles Slaughter Morehead became the 20th Governor of Kentucky. Governor Morehead was the only governor from the “No Nothing Party”. This party arose in response to an influx of migrants, and promised to “purify” American politics by limiting or ending the influence of Irish Catholics and other immigrants.
January 27, 1856, on the coldest winter in 60 years Margaret Garner, pregnant with her fifth child and her husband decided to gather their children and escape enslavement to Cincinnati from Kentucky along with several other slave families. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, the family had stolen horses and a sleigh from their owner, Mr. Marshall, and crossed the frozen river on the night of January 27. Once in Ohio, they sought refuge at a former slave’s home. The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act enabled the owners to seek a warrant for their return to Kentucky. When the U.S. Marshals enter the hideout, Mrs. Garner killed her daughter instead of returning her to slavery. She did not want any of her children to return to slavery but the Marshals refrained her from further action. Margaret Garner was born a slave in Boone County.
April 7, 1856, the first home of Louisville Male High School opened. Male is the oldest high school in Kentucky one of the 80 oldest in America. Male was known originally as “High School.” After other high schools were established in the years following, the school was named “Louisville Male High School.” The first two graduates in 1859 were Lewis D. Kastenbine (who later became a physician in Louisville) and James S. Pirtle (later became a prominent Louisville judge). The first football game was played in 1893 (Male vs. Manual) with Male beating Manual 14-12. This marked the beginning of what is today the oldest high school rivalry in America.
August 30, 1859, Beriah Magoffin became the 21st Governor of Kentucky. Magoffin served during the early part of the Civil War and adhered to a states’ rights position, including the right of a state to secede from the Union, and he sympathized with the Confederate cause. Nevertheless, when the Kentucky General Assembly adopted a position of neutrality in the war, Magoffin ardently held to it, refusing calls for aid from both the Union and Confederate governments. Unable to provide effective leadership due to a hostile legislature, Magoffin agreed to resign as governor in 1862, provided he could choose his successor.
November 6, 1860, Kentuckian and Republican Abraham Lincoln defeated Kentuckian and Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, and Constitutional Union candidate John Bell for the U.S. Presidency. The split between Northern and Southern Democrats over slavery secured the election for Lincoln. Months following Lincoln’s election and before his inauguration in March 1861, seven Southern states, led by South Carolina succeeded. Lincoln’s election did not entirely cause the Civil War but the election was one of the primary reasons the war broke out the following year. Lincoln captured slightly less than 40 percent of the national vote, but he won a majority in the Electoral College, with 180 electoral votes. Bell won Kentucky’s 12 electoral college votes by winning 66,058 (45.2%) of the popular vote: Breckinridge 53,143 (36.3%), Douglas 25,651 (17.5%) and Lincoln 1,364 (.9%). Video
February 18, 1861, Jefferson Davis is inaugurated provisional President of the Confederate States of America in Montgomery AL. In his inaugural speech he addresses the reasons he believes to be the causes of succession and his hopes for peace and prosperity between the CSA and the USA. The New York Times responds: “his bragadocia and threats are the subject of ridicule, and excite no fear here. It is only tending to strengthen the anti-compromise feeling. His inaugural address, or that part of it which is received here to-night, but not yet made public, takes strong ground against reconstruction and compromise, and partakes more of the air of a military dictator than the head of a peaceful Republic. The Border-State men denounce Davis and his bombast without stint.” Immediately after his inauguration, Davis sent a peace commission to Washington. Lincoln, committed to preserving the Union at any cost, refused to see the emissaries of the Confederacy. In early April, Lincoln dispatched armed ships to resupply the federal garrison at Ft. Sumter. In response, Davis ordered the April 12 bombardment of the fort. The Civil War had begun.
April 12, 1861, The Civil War Began.
May 16, 1861, Kentucky Declaration of Neutrality was a resolution passed by the Kentucky Legislature declaring Kentucky officially neutral in the Civil War, the only state to do so:
Considering the deplorable condition of the country and for which the State of Kentucky is in no way responsible, and looking to the best means of preserving the internal peace and securing the lives, liberty, and property of the citizens of the State; therefore, Resolved, by the House of Representatives, that this State and the citizens thereof should take no part in the civil war now being waged, except as mediators and friends to the belligerent parties; and that Kentucky should, during the contest, occupy the position of strict neutrality. Resolved, that the act of the governor in refusing to furnish troops or military force upon the call of the executive authority of the United States under existing circumstances is approved.
There was the North, there was the South and then there was Kentucky.
May 28, 1861, under direction from President Lincoln and after Kentucky’s declaration of neutrality, the Federal government set up the Military Department of Kentucky, encompassing the area within 100 miles of the Ohio River. A native Kentuckian, Major Robert Anderson, of Fort Sumter fame, was given command. Placing native Kentuckians in various commands obscured the Federal government’s purpose – control of Kentucky’s strategic areas. Federal officers soon began recruiting Kentuckians, across the Ohio from Louisville, at Camp Jo Holt. Encouraged by victory in the August state elections, Major General Bull Nelson set up Camp Dick Robinson, in Garrard County, close to the Kentucky Central Railroad, and began to raise an army. This resulted in widespread panic; rumors circulated that Lincoln would send mobs of armed blacks into the state. Governor Magoffin regarded Camp Dick Robinson a flagrant breach of neutrality; sending a letter of protest to Washington. Lincoln brushed aside Magoffin’s objections; refusing to remove the troops; justifying his lack of action by stating that he couldn’t find, in Magoffin’s “not very short letter,” any indication that he entertained “…any desire for the preservation of the Federal Union.”
September 3, 1861,Confederate Major General Leonidas Polk ordered a Confederate invasion of Columbus, KY., a port town on the Mississippi River. Its high bluffs and railroad terminal made it a valuable military post. Two days later, Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant responded by occupying Paducah and then Smithland. Because the Confederates invaded first, they were branded the aggressor. Although Governor Magoffin called for both sides to leave Kentucky, the Unionist legislature only asked the Southerners to withdraw. Historians call Polk’s decision a major blunder because there was no reason to invade, all pretenses of neutrality were now gone, Kentucky’s allegiance was with the North, at least officially.
September 7, 1861, the Kentucky State Legislature, angered by the Confederate invasion four days earlier, ordered the Union flag to be raised over the state capitol in Frankfort, declaring its allegiance with the Union.
October 21, 1861, the Battle of Camp Wildcat, aka, Wildcat Mountain took place in northern Laurel County, what is now the Daniel Boone National Forest. It was one of the earliest battles in America’s Civil War and the second one fought in Kentucky. The Confederates occupied Cumberland Gap and the Union Army established a camp at Wildcat Mountain, to obstruct the Wilderness Road passing. Total causalities were 78 total (US 25; CS 53). The Battle of Camp Wildcat is recognized as the first Union victory of the Civil War when the Confederates retreated back to Tennessee. Video
November 8, 1861, the Battle of Ivy Mountain began in Floyd County. General William “Bull” Nelson, Union commander in northeastern Kentucky, was ordered to break up a large Confederate recruiting camp in Prestonsburg. In what would be the first major clash in eastern Kentucky, the Confederates took up positions at this site, where they waited in ambush. It was considered a win for the Union but the Rebels retreated. There were an estimated 293 total casualties (US 30; CS 263). Video
November 18, 1861, eight months after civil war broke out, confederate delegates from 68 of Kentucky’s 110 counties met at the Clark House in Russellville . Dubbed the “Sovereignty Convention” they passed an ordinance of secession, adopted a new state seal, and elected the first Kentucky Confederate Governor. Bowling Green was occupied by General Johnston’s army, was thus designated as the state capital. President Davis admitted Kentucky into the Confederate States a month later. Due to ongoing military situations, the provisional government was exiled and traveled with the Army of Tennessee for most of its existence.
November 20, 1861, George W. Johnson became the first Kentucky Governor for the Confederate States of America. Johnson served less than a year, when he died at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862. The rebel government had two governors and disbanded shortly after the war.
December 17, 1861, the Battle of Rowlett’s Station, one of the first Kentucky Civil War battles, took place in Hart County. Fighting occurred at a railroad stop in Rowlett and the objective was an iron railroad bridge, hailed as an engineering marvel, over the Green River. With no clear winner in the battle, the Union did stay in control of the bridge but the Confederates were able to destroy a large section. The casualties were estimated around 131 total (US 40; CS 91). Two more Civil War battles were fought over the control of this vital supply link. The significance of the “Battle for the Bridge” is celebrated each September during the Hart County Civil War Days. Video
August 18, 1862, James Fisher Robertson became the 22nd Governor of Kentucky, chosen by Governor Beriah Magoffin when he resigned the office. Governor Robertson carried out the remainder of Magoffin’s original term. As governor, he drew criticism from the administration of President Abraham Lincoln for opposing the Emancipation Proclamation.
August 29, 1862, the Battle of Richmond began. It was the most decisive and complete Confederate victories in the entire war and second largest Civil War battle in Kentucky. It was part of the Confederacy’s most concerted effort to capture Kentucky, its men and much needed material, for the Southern cause, as well as forcing the Union to retreat out of middle Tennessee and other key Confederate states. The battle took place on and around what is now the grounds of the Blue Grass Army Depot. Gen. William “Bull” Nelson lead the Union with 206 killed, 844 wounded, and 4,303 captured or missing. Gen. Edmund Smith lead the Confederates with 78 killed, 372 wounded, and one missing. The way north towards Lexington and Frankfort was open. Video
September 14, 1862, the Battle and Siege of Munfordville or Battle for the Bridge began in Hart County when Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Army of the Mississippi met Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell’s Union Army of the Ohio. They clashed at Munfordville’s Louisville & Nashville Railroad station and bridge, crossing the Green River. The battle lasted 3 days when the union forces surrendered. Victory allowed the Confederates to temporarily strengthen their hold on KY and impair Union supply lines, however, despite the capture of over 4,000 Union soldiers and stores of supplies, the victory did little for the Confederates other than slow them down. The incident is a good example of how Gen. Bragg had little overall vision for the campaign and instead simply reacted from event to event.
September 25, 1862, a Civil War skirmish in Boone County, at Snow’s Pond, took place, one of two times the North and South fought in the county. The Confederate forces, led by General Kirby-Smith and Colonel Basil Duke, were ordered to slow the Federal forces while moving south. The Confederate forces used Morgan’s Men for support. Less than 600 Confederates were able to invade the troops camped near the pond. The Confederates captured about 65 Union prisoners and left with only two Union soldiers wounded.
September 29, 1862, Major General William “Bull” Nelson from Maysville was murdered by Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis both of the Union Army, in the lobby of the Galt House in downtown Louisville. Nelson was dissatisfied with Davis’s performance in the losing effort at the Battle of Richmond and insulted him in front of witnesses on September 22. Seven days later, in the lobby, Davis demanded an apology and Nelson refused. Davis then flipped a wadded calling card into Nelson’s face and Nelson responded by slapping Davis in the face and called him a coward. Davis then shot Nelson in the heart. Davis was arrested but avoided conviction, due to the shortage of experienced commanders in the Union Army, however the incident ruined his chances for promotion to Major General which he coveted.
October 8, 1862, the Battle of Perryville was fought in Boyle County, Kentucky. It was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War and the largest battle fought in the state of Kentucky. Union Major General Don Carlos Buell led the Army of the Ohio where 845 men were killed, 2,851 wounded and 515 captured or missing (4,241). Confederate General Braxton Bragg led the Army of the Mississippi where 510 were killed, 2,635 wounded and 251 captured or missing (3,396). Even though the Union lost more men it was considered a strategic Union victory because they retained control of the critical border state of Kentucky for the remainder of the war. The battle is also referred to as Battle of Chaplin Hills and or the Battle for Kentucky. Video
December 27, 1862, Elizabethtown was captured by General John Hunt Morgan. Morgan drove his confederate soldiers up the Louisville & Nashville Turnpike (now US Hwy 31W) and arrived at Union controlled Elizabethtown. Their goal was to disrupt the Union supply line via the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, which were wide open. After an exchange of messages with the Union commander were each side demanded the surrender of the other, Morgan made his move. After a little more than an hour, white flags appeared at various windows as the Union troops surrendered without the knowledge of their commander. Each side wrote their own account of the day; one pro-Union account reported widespread looting, some even by Morgan himself. Other accounts give details of Morgan establishing a headquarters and receiving calls not only from old friends, but also from those who had heard of him and wanted to see the “Rebel Raider.” He had just been promoted to Brigadier General on December 11th and was married on the 14th. Picture
July 3, 1863, Oliver P. Rood from Frankfort, captured the Confederate States of America flag from the 21st North Carolina Infantry on the 3rd day of the Battle of Gettysburg. For this he received the Congressional Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism. Mr. Rood, serving in the Union Army, was a Private in Company B, 20th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. On July 2, 1863 Private Rood’s regiment was engaged with Confederate forces in the Rose Woods, and the following morning moved to Cemetery Ridge where they defended the “High Water Mark” during Pickett’s Charge. During that charge, as Union forces fought fiercely to turn back the rebel onslaught, Private Rood captured the flag of Hoke’s Brigade. Rood was one of 63 men who was awarded the CMOH for heroism in the battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1 – 3, 1863.
September 1, 1863, Thomas Elliott Bramlette became the 23rd Governor of Kentucky. Among his accomplishments not related to the war and its aftermath were the reduction of the state’s debt and the establishment of the Kentucky Agricultural and Mechanical College (now the University of Kentucky).
March 10, 1864, Camp Nelson in Jessamine County, high on the Kentucky River Palisades, began to draft blacks for the Civil War. What unfolded over the next ten months was one of the most extraordinary events in the entire Civil War. 57% of all age military black men in Kentucky joined the Army, no other slave state witnessed such a staggering enlistment rate (next were TN & MO 39%). In no other state was black enlistment tied to emancipation than in Kentucky. Even as other slave states moved to eliminate slavery in the war’s final months, Kentucky’s Unionist leaders stood firm in their support of the institution. As a result, joining the Army was the only path to freedom for black men. Although the camp was not a legal refuge, 10,000 African Americans were emancipated from slavery in exchange for service in the Union army. These soldiers sometimes brought their families to Camp Nelson; such refugees totaled 3,060 and were cared for by missionaries. In November 1864, the Union soldiers forced out 400 women and children to leave the camp; the refugees suffered 102 deaths due to severe weather until allowed to return to camp. The illness and death which resulted led directly to the passage of a Congressional Act which freed the family members of the U.S. Colored Troops. Some 1,300 refugees died at Camp Nelson, reflecting the high rate of infectious disease at camps.
March 25, 1864, the small Battle of Paducah occurred. The Confederates under Maj. Gen. Forrest came from Columbus, Mississippi, with a force of less than 3,000 men on a multipurpose expedition (recruit, reoutfit, disperse Yankees, etc.) They arrived in Paducah and quickly occupied the town. The Union garrison of 650 men under the command of Col. Stephen G. Hicks retired to Fort Anderson, in the town’s west end. Hicks had support from two gunboats on the Ohio River and refused to surrender. The confederates destroyed unwanted supplies, loaded what they wanted, and rounded up horses and mules. A small segment of Forrest’s command assaulted Fort Anderson and was repulsed, suffering heavy casualties. Soon afterwards, Forrest’s men withdrew. In reporting the raid on the town, many newspapers stated that Forrest had not found more than a hundred fine horses hidden during the raid. As a result, one of Forrest’s subordinate officers led a force back into Paducah in mid-April and seized the infamous horses. Although this was a Confederate victory, other than the destruction of supplies and capture of animals, no lasting results occurred. It did, however, warn the Federals that Forrest, or someone like him, could strike anywhere at any time. The battle incurred 140 total causalities: US 90; CS 50.
October 28, 1864, the great hog scandal was put into affect when federal commander Stephen G. Burbridge issued a proclamation asking Kentuckians to sell any surplus hogs to the U.S. government. Army agents signed contracts with favored packers, prohibited interstate hog shipments, required permits for citizens to drive swine to market, and then offered a lower price than existing civilian outlets. Farmers, who had to sell to the designated contractors, sustained losses estimated at $300,000 during the month the program was in effect. President Abraham Lincoln soon ordered Burbridge to revoke the order, and the scandal ended.
February 22, 1865, the Agricultural and Mechanical (A&M) College of Kentucky University, was established by the Kentucky State legislature. The name was changed in 1878 to Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky. In 1908 the name was changed to State University, Lexington and in 1960 the name was changed to its present name, the University of Kentucky.
March 4, 1865, President Lincoln gave his second inaugural address to a cold, wet crowd on the capitol grounds, also on this day the Lincolns hosted a levee, their last major social occasion as first couple. At a time when victory over the secessionists in the American Civil War was within days and slavery was near an end, Lincoln did not speak of happiness, but of sadness. As he stood on the East Portico to take the executive oath, the newly completed Capitol dome over the President’s head was a physical reminder of the resolve of his Administration throughout the years of civil war. Chief Justice Chase administered the oath of office. Later that Saturday evening, Mrs. Lincoln’s assistant recalled the occasion when the President came in while attending Mrs. Lincoln. “It was the first time I had seen him since inauguration, and I went up to him, proffering my hand with words of congratulation. He grasped my outstretched hand warmly, and held it while he spoke: “Thank you. We do not know what we destined to pass through. But God will be with us all. I put my trust in God.” He dropped my hand, and with solemn face walked across the room and took his seat on the sofa. I finished dressing Mrs. Lincoln, and she took the President arms and they went below. It was one of the largest receptions ever held in Washington. Thousands crowded the halls and rooms of the White House, eager to shake Mr. Lincoln by his hand, and receive a gracious smile from his wife. The jam was terrible, and the enthusiasm great. The President’s hand was well shaken, and the next day, on visiting Mrs. Lincoln, I received the soiled glove that Mr. Lincoln had worn on his right hand that night.” In little more than a month, the President would be assassinated.
April 9, 1865, Richard Hawes became the second Confederate Governor of Kentucky. Hawes replaced George W. Johnson who died in the battle of Shiloh on April 8. Hawes and the Confederate government traveled with Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee, and when Bragg invaded Kentucky in October 1862, he captured Frankfort and held an inauguration ceremony for Hawes. The ceremony was interrupted, however, by forces under Union general Don Carlos Buell, and the Confederates were driven from the Commonwealth following the Battle of Perryville. Hawes relocated to Virginia, where he continued to lobby President Davis to attempt another invasion of Kentucky. At the end of the war, the Confederate government of Kentucky in exile ceased to exist, and Hawes returned to his home in Paris. He swore an oath of allegiance to the Union, and was allowed to return to his law practice. He was elected county judge of Bourbon County, a post he held until his death in 1877.
June 17, 1865, the President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, awarded Private John Davis, United States Army, the Medal of Honor, for extraordinary heroism on April 19, 1865, while serving with Company F, 17th Indiana Mounted Infantry, in action at the Battle of Culloden, GA., for capture of flag. Pvt. Davis was born and raised in Carroll, Kentucky and is buried in Canon City, Colorado, at the Greenwood Pioneer Cemetery. The picture of the captured flag is provided by Greg Biggs.
March 26, 1866, with the formal duel well into decline and strict Kentucky laws forbidding the practice, Joseph Desha (32) and Alexander Kimbrough (27), meet at the familiar dueling grounds on the Fayette/Scott border a little before 6:00 AM, to settle their differences. Both men were childhood classmates in Harrison County who never cared for each other, both came from respected families and both men were wounded Civil War Veterans, Desha a Confederate and Kimbrough Union. An early February meeting at Cynthiana’s most popular hostelry, where they fist fought, led directly to the duel seven weeks later. One of the pistols used once belonged to Henry Clay. The first round both men missed, the second round Kimbrough fell to the ground bleeding from the hip, Desha narrowly missed a bullet, as it went through his coat. This was the last important affair of honor fought in Kentucky under the strict code of the duello. Desha and his second, traveled to Canada for several years until granted a pardon by a ex-Confederate, then current Kentucky Governor James B. McCreary. Kimbrough recovered at his parents Harrison county farm and eventually moved west, he walked with a severe limp his entire life. Ref: 21
December 1, 1866, the first pedestrians crossed the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge connecting Cincinnati and Covington. 166,000 people crossed it in the first two days. It took ten years for John Roebling, chief engineer, to build the longest suspension bridge in the world at 1,057’ main span. Brooklyn Bridge 5,989’, built by his son, Washington, broke the record when completed in 1883. Electric lighting was installed on the bridge in 1901. Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge in Japan currently holds the record at 12,831’.
January 8, 1867, Kentucky rejected the 14th amendment. The U.S. Congress passed it in 1868. Governor Bramlette opposed it on the grounds that the post-war treatment of the Confederate states was unfair, and the ratification process therefore corrupted. Both the Kentucky House and Senate agreed. Kentucky didn’t ratify the Fourteenth Amendment until over one hundred years later, in 1976. Kentucky was the last of the original thirty-seven states to do so. The 14th Amendment, guaranteed African Americans citizenship and all its privileges. However it was more complicated than just that one issue. The 14th Amendment is one of the most litigated parts of the Constitution, forming the basis for landmark decisions such as Brown v. Board of Education (1954) regarding racial segregation, Roe v. Wade (1973) regarding abortion, Bush v. Gore (2000).
March 20, 1868, the Jesse James gang was credited with getting away with approximately $14,000, when the gang hit the Nimrod Long Banking Co. of Russellville. One person was wounded but there were no fatalities.
January 26, 1869, Morehead, the county seat of Rowan County was incorporated. The workers who migrated to Morehead as a result of the boom-town economy had a disrupting effect on local politics. A shooting during the 1884 election sparked a feud that came to be known as the Rowan County War . The feud ended in a gun battle in front of the Gault House and focused national attention on the town. William T. Withers, a former Confederate soldier from Lexington, felt that education was the only answer to the problem and contributed $500 to found the Morehead Normal School and Teacher’s College, the predecessor of Morehead State University.
March 9, 1869, John C. Breckinridge returned home to Lexington from eight years of exile. Upon hearing that President Davis was captured, Confederate Secretary of War Breckinridge, knew he was highest-ranking former Confederate official still at large. While avoiding capture he journeyed to: Florida, Bahamas, Cuba, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Turkey, Greece, Syria, Egypt, the Holy Land and met with Pope Pius IX in Rome. From Rome, he waited in Canada for assurance President Johnson would issue him a true pardon. Although he resided in Lexington for the rest of his life, he never bought a home there after the war, living first in hotels and then renting a home on West Second Street. John C. Breckinridge, at 36, was America’s youngest Vice President in 1857, a record which still holds today. He later served in the U.S. Senate during the outbreak of the American Civil War and was expelled after joining the Confederate Army. He remains the only Senator of the United States convicted of treason against the United States of America by the Senate.
August 7, 1869, Kentucky was a focal point for a total eclipse of the sun. In Kentucky, the central line of the eclipse ran through Manchester, Mount Vernon, Harrodsburg, and Louisville. Shelbyville was a hub for astronomers. Shelby College, owned the third-best telescope in the nation (bought for $4,000) resulting in the campus being packed with visitors and out-of-state scientists.
October 18, 1869, a dog named Old Drum was killed by a neighbor. Old Drum’s owner sued the neighbor for damages and hired lawyer George Graham Vest from Frankfort, KY to represent him. Vest’s closing arguments known as “a man’s best friend” is one of the most enduring passages of purple prose in American courtroom history. Vest won the case and the jury awarded $50 to the Old Drum’s owner. George Vest graduated from Centre College and from the law department of Transylvania University. The statue shown stands outside the courthouse in Missouri, where the case was heard.
March 15, 1870, Bellevue, situated in the northernmost portion of the Commonwealth in Campbell County, was incorporated. Bellevue was originally land granted to General James Taylor, who was a general in the War of 1812, as well as a pioneer, banker, and statesman. Taylor was one of the wealthiest men in the state of Kentucky. In 1848, his estate was valued at more than $4 million. His mansion remains on East Third Street in Newport. Bellevue, translates from French as “beautiful view,” but it refers—not to the spectacular view of the Cincinnati skyline but—to General Taylor’s family plantation in Virginia, which had derived its name from a nearby creek.
October 30, 1870, Robert Fox, an elderly mortician, his brothers Samuel and Horace Pearce, created the first rebellious civil right act in Kentucky that was later to be heard in court. They entered into a near empty trolley car at Tenth and Walnut on the Central Passenger line outside the Quinn Chapel in Louisville. For black city dwellers, riding a trolley was no ordinary act. It was a challenge to the entire social order. Before long, a cluster of white drivers surrounded the three black men and began kicking them and shouting racial slurs. Then they dragged them off the trolley into the street. A crowd seemed ready to erupt in violence just as three police officers arrived on the scene. The officers quickly arrested the three men for disorderly conduct and hauled them off to jail. They eventually won in a federal court but the civil rights battle had just begun.
May 11, 1871, Robert Fox won a lawsuit in the U.S. district court in Louisville against the Central Passenger Railroad Company for denying him access to its streetcars. It was filed in federal court because the state courts did not allow black testimony. The monetary award was small—$15—but it represented a huge symbolic victory for Louisville’s black community. The day of the ruling and the next day, Louisville witnessed intense and violent demonstrations on their street cars, clogging the streets and wreaking havoc on the city’s public transportation system, culminating with the beating of a black youth, Carey Duncan, who refused to leave a street car. On May 13, a meeting with the mayor and railway officials, blacks refused to accept the offer of segregated cars, and facing economic and political issues, the companies agreed to integrate.
October 7, 1873, Central Colored School in Louisville was dedicated. The school is better known as Central High School was the first school in Kentucky built with public funds solely for educating African-American children. Although public schools existed in 1829 blacks were not privileged to a free education until after the Civil War. The First Baptist Church sang and opened the program with appropriately titled “I waited patiently.” The first day included 27 students, one teacher and one principal. Within three years 1,000 children were attending. Until 1956, Louisville Central High School was the only public high school in the city for African Americans.
The night of January 25, 1875, Zerelda James, a slaveholder and mother of Jesse and James, lost part of an arm and a young son in a raid on her home in Kentucky by Pinkerton operatives. Throughout her life she never surrendered the belief that James and Jessee, were Confederate heroes, not ruthless murderers.
September 4, 1876, Centennial Park was dedicated. Two years later the park was incorporated and the name changed to Benjamin Gratz Park; it was surrounded by a high iron fence and elaborate arched gates. Benjamin Gratz came from one of Philadelphia’s most distinguished mercantile families.
February 20, 1877, High Bridge, connecting Jessamine and Mercer counties at the Kentucky River Palisades is completed. The Railroad Bridge was the first cantilever bridge in the U.S. and is designated a National Civil Engineering Landmark. High Bridge is the tallest bridge above a navigable waterway in North America and the tallest railroad bridge in the world until the early 20th century. President Hayes & Gen. Tecumseh Sherman attended the 1879 dedication. The current bridge was built around the existing structure in 1911 and expanded to two tracks in 1929. In 2005 the state and county jointly reopened a park near the bridge (closed since the mid 1960s) at the top of the palisades above the river. It included a restored open air dance pavilion, playground, picnic area, and viewing platform that overlooks the bridge and river’s edge from the top of the palisades.
September 2, 1879, Luke P. Blackburn became the 28th Governor of Kentucky.
Governor Blackburn was the first physician to serve as a Kentucky Governor.
August 5, 1880, the first Fancy Farm Picnic occurred in Fancy Farm, KY. The men pitched horseshoes or played baseball with stout sticks and a rag ball, while the girls and women visited with each other and caught up on the news. There were many games played for prizes. Former Kentucky Gov. A.B. (Happy) Chandler believes he played an important role in making the Fancy Farm Picnic the important statewide political event it is today. “I guess I was one of the first candidates for statewide office to ever go to Fancy Farm.” Chandler said in a recent telephone interview. “I ended my 1931 campaign for lieutenant governor down there. I won that election and thought Fancy Farm was good luck, so I kept going back.”
September 3, 1880, the James Brothers made off with $1,800 from a stagecoach in Mammoth Cave.
No one was injured. It was the last stage coach robbery made by Jesse.
The Woodland Park Association purchased 110 acres of the former home of James Erwin, son-in-law of Henry Clay. About 480 lots were cut off for sale and 15 acres devoted to Woodland Park in Lexington, KY. A large frame auditorium with twin towers was erected by the entrance and Lake Chenosa provided swimming and boating. This was the principal resort of Lexington. The lake was drained in 1906. Ref: 1
August 3, 1883, The Southern Exposition in Louisville opened. This was a major cultural event in the history of nineteenth century Kentucky and one of the nation’s most significant regional fairs. Illuminated that evening by 4,600 “Edison lights,” the first such fair to be so electrified. President Chester A. Arthur spoke at the opening ceremonies, he praised “the splendid triumph of American genius, activity, and skill which are arranged within these walls.” The Southern Exposition was one of the most successful elaborate regional fairs in national history. After 80 days, the exposition finished its first year with a total attendance of 770,048, one of the most proudly hailed cultural events in the history of Kentucky. It ended in 1887.
January 15, 1886, Daniel Noble of Breathitt County was presented the Medal of Honor for his action in the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War. He served as a landsman (naval recuit) on the USS Metacomet during the battle and on August 5, 1864, he was among the crew of a small boat sent from Metacomet to rescue survivors of the USS Tecumseh, which had been sunk by a naval mine (then known as a “torpedo”). Despite intense fire, the boat crew was able to pull ten Tecumseh men from the water. The exact dates of his birth (1838) and death (1903) are unknown.
June 22, 1887, the end of the Rowan County War between the Martin and Tolliver families came to an end, in downtown Morehead, after a violent shoot out. The shootout began in the early morning as a posse, directed by the Martin Family, hunted down and chased the Tolliver family through the streets of Morehead. One member of the posse died first, then three Tollivers were shot as they fled the city. The war began in 1884 after a hotly contested sheriff election was decided by 12 votes and the murder of an innocent bystander later that day. John Martin (left) and Floyd Tolliver (right) were indicted for that murder. In December of 1884, Martin shot and killed Tolliver while arguing over the court case and the feud was set. Many lives would be lost and or changed over the next three years.
November 9, 1889, one of Kentucky’s most infamous “duels” occurred between two Republican rivals. Colonel Swope and William Cassius Goodloe, two prominent Kentuckians, who had many political disparities over the years. On one particular day, while gathering their mail in the Lexington’s post office, in a chance encounter, the tragedy occurred. As it happened their mailboxes were next to each other. Goodloe accused his rival of obstructing his way. Swope responded with the charge that Goodloe had insulted him by the very act of speaking. In a flash Swope drew his 38 caliber and Goodloe his large dirk. Swope fired twice but Goodloe stabbed him 13 times, killing him on the spot. Goodloe was taken to the Phoenix Hotel where he died two days later from a bullet wound to the abdomen. This made national news. The Chicago Tribune asked what kind of town would drive two well educated men of exemplary character to carry weapons and “rush at each other like savages.” The Courier-Journal retaliated, arguing that certain times arose when it was necessary to face one’s critics and that there is scarcely evidence of greater morality in the North, where material wealth was apparently a measure of success. Ref: 21
February 18, 1890, Ellison Mounts was hanged in Pikeville, ending the Hatfield-McCoy Feud. Thousands of onlookers turned out to witness the hanging, but laws stated that executions could no longer be public. Workers constructed a fence around the scaffold to hide the sight from prying eyes. The hanging took place on the site of the present day University of Pikeville classroom building. Ellison, the supposed illegitimate son of Ellison Hatfield, was said to be the scapegoat and did not fire the shot that killed Alifair McCoy who was running from her burning house with her children. Ellison Mounts last words pointed the blame to the actual shooter, Calvin Hatfield. No one had been sent to the gallows in Pike County for forty years, and after Ellison, no one ever would be again. Calvin and Ellison Hatfield received life sentences for their role. Photo Courtesy of the Pikeville Public Library, the Paul B. Mays Collection.
March 27, 1890, Louisville was hit by one of the most violent and damaging storms recorded in its history. The storm hit at 8:30 p.m. and lasted only about five minutes, long enough to sweep over the downtown area. Ultimately over 100 lives were lost, and many more people were seriously injured. So localized was the path of the storm that thousands of Louisvillians went to bed that night totally unaware that disaster had struck the city. They were informed the next morning by The Courier-Journal headlines, “Louisville Visited by the Storm Demon.” One of the most tragic sites of the storm’s wrath was the Falls City Hall on West Market Street where 50-75 children and their mothers, were taking dancing lessons. The building collapsed, burying about 200 people, many of whom perished. A first-hand account of a survivor at the Falls City Hall said that the first sign of danger was the rocking of the building, then the tornado hit. Thousands worked through the long and terrible night, retrieving the dead and administering to the injured. The next day The Courier-Journal reported the most vivid imagination could not adequately depict the scene of horror at the Falls City Hall.
March 7, 1893, John Griffin Carlisle from Kenton County became the 41st United States Secretary of the Treasury. Carlisle spent most of the 1860s in the Kentucky General Assembly, serving in the House and Senate and was elected Lt. Governor in 1871. He then went on to become a U.S. House Member serving Kentucky’s 6th District and later was chosen House Speaker in 1883. In 1890, Carlisle was appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill the unexpired term of James B. Beck. When Cleveland was again elected to the Presidency in 1892, he chose Carlisle as his Secretary of the Treasury. Carlisle’s tenure as Secretary was marred by the Panic of 1893, a financial and economic disaster so severe that it ended Carlisle’s political career. By 1896, the once remarkably popular Carlisle was so disliked due to his stewardship of the currency that he was forced to leave the stage in the middle of a speech in his home town of Covington due to a barrage of rotten eggs. He moved to New York City, where he practiced law, and died in 1910, at age 75. John Carlisle is buried in Linden Grove Cemetery in Covington.
January 17, 1895, James Alexander Williamson, of Adair County, received the Medal of Honor for his action in the Battle of Chickasaw Bluffs. The Brevet Major General served in the Army from 1861-65 and fought in the following battles: Pea Ridge, Arkansas Post, Vicksburg Campaign, Siege of Vicksburg, Lookout Mountain, Atlanta Campaign and Jonesborough. Post-war he resumed his law practice, headed the Public Land Commission created by Congress and then became President of Atlantic & Pacific Railroad. He is buried in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
December 10, 1895, William O’Connell Bradley, was sworn in as Kentucky’s first Republican Governor. In his first legislative session he wanted to ban the manufacture of cigarettes, outlaw concealed weapons and ban gambling at racetracks and church fairs. Bradley did advance the cause of blacks with his power of pardon and signing an anti-lynching bill. The Republican/Democrat relationship, or lack thereof, was born during his administration. Their pettiness reached to new heights when the Governor’s mansion burned, while waiting for funds to be allocated to make needed repairs. One legislative session ended when the militia rode into Frankfort after the senate failed to elect a U.S. Senator. The father of the Republican Party in Kentucky died while serving as a U.S. Senator in Washington DC.
May 18, 1896, the Plessy vs Ferguson decision was handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices ruled that the “separate but equal” provision of private services mandated by state government is constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. One Justice dissented: John M. Harlan: “The Great Dissenter”, a native of Kentucky and a graduate of Centre College.
March 21, 1897, two men went to the gallows, behind the Newport Courthouses, for the last public hanging in Campbell County, for one of the most gruesome murders that ever happened in Kentucky. The two men were convicted of killing Pearl Bryan, whose body was found headless just behind what is now the YMCA in Fort Thomas, KY. Her body was identified by the tag in her custom-made shoes as she was from a well do to family from Indiana. Her killers tried to perform an abortion on Pearl which went terribly wrong. The case was very popular nationally at the time, provoking citizens to take souvenirs from the crime scene and buy Pearl Bryan “merchandise” from a store near the Newport Courthouse. One report says the trial was “theatrical.” The actual double-hanging was urged to be done hastily due to the threat of a public lynching by friends and relatives of Bryan. Jim Reis, author, historian and well known reporter and columnist for the Kentucky Post, in an article titled “Pieces of the Past,” relates that even during a jail break, the two men remained in their cell in fear of being lynched and were heavily protected until hung.
December 18, 1897, Lewwis Garrard Clarke died a free man in Louisville. His body lay in state at the Kentucky State Capitol on order of Governor Bradley, and he was subsequently buried in Westwood Cemetery in Oberlin, Ohio. Born into slavery he chronicled his 20 years of slavery and escape in “Narratives of the Sufferings of Lewis and Milton Clarke, Sons of a Soldier of the Revolution, During a Captivity of More than Twenty Years Among the Slaveholders of Kentucky, One of the So-Called Christian States of North America” The character George Harris in Uncle Tom’s Cabin was based on Mr. Clarke.
“When I stepped ashore here, I said, sure enough I am free. Good heaven! what a sensation, when it first visits the bosom of a full grown man – one, born to bondage – one, who had been taught from early infancy, that this was his inevitable lot for life.” Lewis Clarke arriving in Canada a free man.
January 12, 1898, Keen Johnson, Kentucky’s 45th Governor from 1939-43 was born in a two room cabin at Brandon’s Chapel in Lyon County in an area that is now part of “The Land Between the Lakes.” He was the only journalist to hold the office. He bought and revived the struggling Elizabethtown Mirror newspaper. He later sold it and used the profits to obtain his journalism degree from the University of Kentucky in 1922. After graduation he became a half-owner of “The Anderson News” in Lawrenceburg. In 1925, he became a partner in the purchase of the Richmond Daily Register and became the paper’s editor and publisher. He continued to publish the Register until he ran for Governor in 1939. When U.S. Senator M.M. Logan died in early October, Governor Chandler resigned, and Johnson became Governor; he appointed Chandler to the vacant Senate seat. In the November general election, Johnson won easily. In his inaugural address, he promised to be “a saving, thrifty, frugal Governor”. He eliminated the state’s debt of $7 million and left the treasury with a surplus of $10 million by the end of his term; where funds were directed to education and the mental and penal systems. It was the first time the state had a surplus since the administration of J. C. W. Beckham in 1903. Johnson achieved the surplus without enacting any tax increases. His administration was also responsible for banning the sale of marijuana.
December 12, 1899, William S. Taylor became the 33rd Governor of Kentucky. He was initially declared the winner of the disputed gubernatorial election of 1899, but the Kentucky General Assembly, dominated by the Democrats, reversed the election results, giving the victory to his Democratic Party (United States) opponent, William Goebel. Taylor served only 50 days as governor.
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