Beckham’s Counties, pt. 2: Prichard’s Proposal

A seven part essay about three efforts to name a county after Kentucky’s 35th Governor.

Carter County, Kentucky. Map created by David Benbennick via Wikimedia Commons.

Olive Hill was the second most substantial town in Carter County, which had been formed in 1838 as Kentucky’s 88th county. The relatively early date of its creation plus its amount of siblings at birth should show how prone to balkanization the state has been.

Carter County herself lost two significant portions in her first thirty-one years of existence. In 1860, she gave up some of her northeast to help create Boyd County. Nine years later her southwestern corner became part of Elliott County.

Finally, on February, 10, 1902, state Senator Leander C. Prichard introduced a bill to establish a new county out of the western half of Carter County, along with parts of Lewis and Elliott Counties. Citizens had petitioned the legislature for the formation of the new county.

There had long been a divide in Carter County between east, where political power was concentrated in the county seat Grayson, and west, where the booming fire brick industry expanded Olive Hill’s population from almost 300 in 1900 to over 2,000 in 1904.

Naturally, Olive Hill would have become the county’s seat.

The idea was not new. As early as October 1872, the Interior Journal reported plans to create a new county out of the same counties that Prichard later proposed and with the same seat.

Fourteen years after that, in 1886, a request for a new county went up before the General Assembly.

In July 1897, plans for what would eventually become Beckham County were in the air again. At that time, its supporters were in favor of naming it Olive County.

By the end of that same year, a surveying party set out from the Carter County Courthouse to outline the borders of the proposed county. It may have been the first survey done for these purposes, but it was far from the last.

On January 15th, 1898, The Spout Spring Times reported a bill for the formation of the new county would be introduced that winter. However, a month later, the Public Ledger stated the new county faction would wait until the next session.

Enthusiasm for the idea kicked in again by the end of 1901. On December 27th of that year, a meeting was held in Olive Hill to discuss the matter. This time it was the Courier-Journal that reported that a bill would be introduced the next legislative session.

That bill was L.C. Prichard’s.

By then, the new county was to be named for Beckham. There had apparently been some debate about whether to name the county after the martyred Goebel, but they decided to go with the living governor instead.

Support for and against the idea fell primarily along political lines. Generally, Democrats were for it and Republicans were against it. While the new county would apparently lean Republican, the tradeoff was that what was left of Carter County would become Democrat.

Senate Bill 201, Prichard’s bill for the creation of Beckham County, was referred to the Committee on Revenue and Taxation on February 15th.

During a subsequent survey of Carter County, The [Grayson] Herald editor J.W. Lusby wrote, “parties going around a field like this in opposite directions will likely arrive at the same station unless there be a missing link in a chain and then a mile is quite a distance to vary.”

By early March, the Maysville Evening Bulletin thought Prichard’s bill likely to pass, and even went so far as to criticize competing (and Republican) newspaper Public Ledger over their early proclamations of its defeat.

However, the Ledger would have the last laugh, for although that bill was to be “favorably reported to the Senate”, it would not pass.

Another politician would soon take up the cause.



Carter County formed. Lewis, Jack. “Origin of the County.” Carter County History 1838–1976. pgs. 3–4. Carter County Bicentennial Committee. Book available the Rowan County Public Library (Morehead, Kentucky).

Boyd County formed. “Chapter 288: An Act To Establish The County of Boyd.” In Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Passed at the Session Which Was Begun and Held in the City of Frankfort, On Monday, The Fifth Day of December, 1859, and Ended On Monday, the Fifth Day of March, 1860, 30–35. Vol. 1. Frankfort, KY: J.B. Major, State Printer, 1860. Available as Ebook from Google Books.

Elliott County formed. “Elliott County, Kentucky.” Welcome to Elliott County, KY History and Genealogy. Accessed July 3, 2019.

Prichard’s bill. Fisher, Frank M., ed. “Beckham County: A New One Created with the Governor’s Name.” The Paducah Sun (Paducah, Kentucky), February 10, 1902. Page 1. Accessed May 2, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library.

Citizens petitioned for new county. Lusby, J.W., ed. “Petition For New County.” The Herald (Grayson, Kentucky), January 24, 1902. Microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky).

Olive Hill’s population boom. Johnson, Lewis Y. “Beckham County, The New Baby of Kentucky’s Family of Counties.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), February 14, 1904, sec. 4. Page 3. Accessed May 2, 2019. Behind paywall.

Olive Hill as county seat. Rosser, and McCarthy, eds. “Beckham: Name Selected for a New County to Be Carved Out of Lewis, Carter and Elliott.” Evening Bulletin (Maysville, Kentucky), February 03, 1902. Page 2. Accessed May 2, 2019. Behind paywall.

1872 report. Hilton, and Campbell, eds. “An Effort Is Being Made to Establish a New County . . .” Interior Journal (Stanford, Kentucky), October 04, 1872. Page 2. Accessed May 11, 2019. Behind paywall.

1886 request. Marrs, James R., and Samuel G. Boyle, eds. “The Application for the Formation of Two New Counties . . .” Kentucky Advocate (Danville, Kentucky), February 12, 1886. Page 2. Accessed May 11, 2019. Behind paywall.

1897 plans. Chenault, J.C., and A.D. Miller, eds. “Want A New County.” The Richmond Climax (Richmond, Kentucky), July 14, 1897. Page 4. Accessed May 11, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library.

1897 survey. Conley, M.F., ed. “A Surveying Party Began Work Monday at Grayson Court-house . . .” Big Sandy News (Louisa, Kentucky), December 31, 1897. Page 3. Accessed May 11, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library.

1898 bill speculation. Burgher, J.E., ed. “A bill will be introduced in the legislature . . .” The Spout Spring Times (Spout Springs, Kentucky), January 15, 1898. Page 3. Accessed May 11, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library.

1898 bill postponed. Davis, Thomas A., ed. “The faction in Carter county which has been pushing the scheme . . .” Public Ledger (Maysville, Kentucky), February 24, 1898. Page 1. Accessed May 11, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library.

1901 meeting for new county. “Want to Create a New County.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), December 29, 1901. Page 9. Accessed May 11, 2019. Behind paywall.

Goebel County. Crowe, Robert S., ed. “The citizens of Carter, Rowan and Elliott have petitioned . . .” The Richmond Climax (Richmond, Kentucky), January 29, 1902. Page 2. Accessed May 11, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library.

Democrats for, Republicans against. Lusby, J.W., ed. “New County of Beckham.” The Herald (Grayson, Kentucky), February 07, 1902. Microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky).

Carter County would become Democratic. Lusby, J.W., ed. “The bill to establish the new county . . .” The Herald (Grayson, Kentucky), February 14, 1902. Microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky).

Prichard’s bill referred to committee. “Faint Hope Have Opponents of Local Option Bill.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), February 16, 1902, sec. 4. Page 25. Accessed May 2, 2019. Behind paywall.

Lusby’s witticism. Lusby, J.W., ed. “The surveyors, who were set to work some few days ago . . .” The Herald (Grayson, Kentucky), February 21, 1902. Microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky).

Evening Bulletin chides Public Ledger. Rosser, and McCarthy, eds. “The movement to slice a chunk off Carter . . .” Evening Bulletin (Maysville, Kentucky), March 06, 1902. Page 2. Accessed May 2, 2019. Behind paywall.

Prichard’s bill reported to Senate. “Revenue Bill Has Been Made a Special Order.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), March 05, 1902. Page 1. Accessed May 2, 2019. Behind paywall.

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