Beckham’s Counties, pt. 5: Zimmerman v. Brooks

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

Beckham County’s boundaries. The Courier-Journal, April 3, 1904, section 1, page 4.

Greater politics aside, the citizens of the newly made county went ahead with their lives. The first marriage license in Beckham County was issued to John Plummer and Oda Phillips on March 17th, 1904. (There would be twenty three more licenses issued.)

Meanwhile, the confusion the Post Office was having with where to locate Beckham County on its maps went from comical to potentially rather serious. As the Courier-Journal explained:

. . . it was discovered that the line described in the act creating Beckham county runs entirely across Lewis county to the Ohio river, near Romeo, and extends into Adams county, Ohio, about six or seven miles . . . In area the lines as shown by the act take almost one-half of Lewis county, including Vanceburg, which is the county seat.

Initially, it was believed that a great error had been made in transferring the findings of the survey from the initial draft for the county into the official act for the legislature. Subsequent evidence showed that the draft had been flawed from the start. 

Either way, it was an absolute mess. Naturally, Republican newspapers ate it up.

The Owensboro Daily Inquirer wrote, “Lewis County Gives Up Court House to New Fake County.” The Paducah News-Democrat deadpanned, “Ohio declines to be annexed to any portion of the sovereign state of Kentucky – not even for pauper county purposes.” 

Maysville’s Public Ledger, which was close enough in location and far enough in politics to gloat, put forth, “Not much wonder that the topographer’s had trouble in locating Beckham County when several miles of it was over in Adams county, O.”

In related news, the Kentucky Court of Appeals set the date of its hearing for the lawsuit of C.V. Zimmerman against C.C. Brooks, which had now grown to include the county governments of neighboring Carter and Lewis. Arguments were set for April 14th and 15th.

With the complications facing Beckham County no doubt in mind, as well as the fact that Thorne County would lean heavily Republican in demographics, on March 24th, Governor Beckham decided to veto the bill for the county named after Lieutenant Governor Thorne. 

Beckham wrote, in perhaps some irony, “There has been no serious demand upon the part of any people affected by this bill for the creation of a new county . . . and there is certainly no public necessity to justify it.”

Two days later, The Courier-Journal considered that in the scenario where Thorne had been governor and Beckham lieutenant governor, Thorne probably would’ve vetoed Beckham County, as well.

(Coincidentally, in June of 1899, during the lead up to the governor’s race that eventually ended in William Goebel’s assassination, Beckham had won the nomination for lieutenant governor over Thorne.)

On April 2nd, in what might have been desperation, or perhaps denial, Democrats in Beckham County met to prepare a petition for Olive Hill to be chosen as seat for the next state Democratic congressional convention.

Before the Court Of Appeals hearing, William C. Halbert, who along with R.C. Burns represented Carter and Lewis Counties in Zimmerman vs. Brooks, prepared an 82-page brief, or so bragged Public Ledger‘s editor Thomas A. Davis, whose printing house printed it for him.

Included within was yet another survey that Lewis and Carter had ordered. It confirmed the initial survey had been incredibly flawed, and that it had taken more from Lewis County than had been planned, including Vanceburg.

“Armed with his facts and figures”, as the Public Ledger described it, Halbert left for Frankfort on the eve of the first hearing, “prepared to knock the so-called new county out in the first round.”

The trial that would decide whether Beckham County would be allowed to exist or not began.

On April 14th, H.C. Brown, who represented County Judge C.C. Brooks, and Grayson attorney T.D. Theobold, who represented C.V. Zimmerman, presented their arguments.

The opening day’s chief concern was whether or not the creation of Beckham County had left Carter, Elliott and Lewis Counties with less than four hundred square miles of land, as required by law. The taking of Vanceburg was reserved for the 15th.

Beckham County’s defense hinged on the notion that whether or not the county met minimal size requirements, or was even improperly surveyed, the right of the legislative branch to create it outweighed the ability of the judicial branch to rule against it.

In the end, even though the Court decided that mistakes made in the survey should not affect whether the county was constitutional because “taking the act as a whole, there seems to be enough in it to show what was meant”, they decided against Beckham County.

The primary factor seems to have been that of size. Namely, the creation of Beckham County had left Carter, Lewis and Elliott Counties smaller than was allowable by the Kentucky Constitution.

The Court of Appeals thusly reversed the Circuit Court’s decision against Zimmerman and further held the lower court had erred in not allowing Carter County to join in on the initial lawsuit.

Judge J.P. Hobson, who, ironically, in 1900 had written the opinion approving the legality of J.C.W. Beckham’s governorship, now presented the Court’s opinion disapproving the county named after him.

Hobson outlined requirements for the county, or any new county, for that matter, to be considered constitutional:

First – No county from which any part of the territory is taken must be reduced to less than 400 square miles.

Second – The new county must be of not less than 400 square miles.

Third – The boundary line must not pass within less than ten miles of county seat of any county from which a portion of territory is taken.

Fourth – No county from which any part of territory is taken shall be reduced to less than 12,000 inhabitants.

Fifth – New county must contain 12,000 inhabitants.

Judge Hobson concluded, “If any of these conditions are wanting, the act is in violation of the constitution and void.” Specifically, in the initial establishment of Beckham County, Sections 63 and 64 of the state Constitution had been ignored.

As Thomas A. Davis, the editor of Public Ledger put it, “the new county therefore seems to be doomed.”

Technically, however, the decision did not close the matter at once. It meant a new trial in the lower courts would reconsider the issue with the condition that the constitutional requirements of the county be kept in mind.

Yet, for all intents and purposes, and even more so after the Court of Appeals decided not to rehear the case, Beckham County was dealt a terrible blow.

If the opposition to the county’s creation was joyous (“Let this be an end to this kind of nonsense.” – The Owensboro Messenger), then those who had fought so hard for Beckham’s existence were devastated. 

As the much more sympathetic Mt. Sterling Advocate put it, “Great will be the disappointment of many people in Olive Hill and other parts of the new county.”

On May 11th, the Advocate printed an item that illustrates just how small a town Olive Hill was, and just how interlocking its interests were. The Olive Hill Bank, of which W.B. Whitt had been president and C.V. Zimmerman had been assistant cashier, went national.

That same article insisted “Beckham County is a lively corpse.” Supporters believed that the facts of the county’s size and population were in line with the Constitution, and thought that the Circuit Court, upon reconsideration, would have to approve its legality.

In the meantime, the county appears to have existed in a state of limbo. Marriage licenses were issued from Beckham County over the summer but, in late May, school superintendent J.A. Porter surrendered his census of students to Carter County’s superintendent.

The next month, Circuit Court Judge Kinner ordered yet another survey of the area. In perhaps a move for neutrality, George Gibbs of Greenup County was put in charge of said survey. It was expected to take sixty days.

The Mt. Sterling Advocate reported that “the outlook for Beckham County is encouraging.” That, as it turned out, was wildly optimistic.

Once finished, George Gibb’s survey proved once and for all that Beckham County cut Carter and Lewis Counties square mileage into unconstitutional portions. In late October, Circuit Court Judge Kinner had no choice but to reverse his earlier opinion. 

Beckham County was no more.

However, as late as November 24th, 1904, there was land listed in The Courier-Journal for sale in Beckham County. On December 15th, Olive Hill attorney William Wood was apparently telling reporters in Lexington another attempt at Beckham County would be made.

The legal dissolution of Beckham County must have been a dispiriting turn of events for Senator W.B. Whitt. He had been sent to Frankfort upon that single issue and had successfully shepherded its birth only for it be undone by the courts.

Of course, Beckham County’s creation was not all that he had focused on while in the Senate: he had proposed an 8 hour work day, introduced a bill to protect labor from conspiracy laws and promoted much needed roadway restoration.

But there was also no denying that Beckham County was meant to have been his chief concern.

In 1905, the idea of somehow restoring the county that had been lost must have taken a backseat for the senator. Early that year, Whitt, along with the rest of the General Assembly, became embroiled in debate about the establishment of a new capitol building.

In June, typhoid fever took his wife.

When the idea of a Beckham County was next floated, it would be neither by Senator Whitt nor on behalf of Olive Hill.

*

Sources

Plummer and Phillips marriage license. “Beckham County Couple.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), March 20, 1904. Page 9. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119293693/. Behind paywall.

Beckham County marriages. Barker, Charles A. “Beckham County, Kentucky Marriages.” KYGenWeb. Accessed May 27, 2019. http://kykinfolk.com/elliott/beckmarr.htm

Beckham County survey incorrect. “Wiped Out: Seems To Be The Condition of Lewis County.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), March 20, 1904. Page 3. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119293545/. Behind paywall.

Survey error result of transfer? Adams, W.Q., ed. “No County Seat: Lewis County Gives Up Court House To New Fake County.” Owensboro Daily Inquirer (Owensboro, Kentucky), March 20, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/375362992/. Behind paywall.

Survey flawed from start. “Enrolled Bill Found To Be True Copy Of Original Bill.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), March 22, 1904. Page 5. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119294696/. Behind paywall.

“New Fake County”  see above, Adams, W.Q., ed. “No County Seat: Lewis County Gives Up Court House To New Fake County.” Owensboro Daily Inquirer (Owensboro, Kentucky), March 20, 1904.

Ohio “declines to be annexed” “The sovereign state of Ohio declines to be annexed . . .” The Daily News-Democrat (Paducah, Kentucky), March 23, 1904. Page 4. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/501602219/. Behind paywall.

Public Ledger mocks survey mix-up. Davis, Thomas A., ed. “Not Much Wonder That the Topgrapher’s Had Trouble in Locating . . .” The Public Ledger (Maysville, Kentucky), March 24, 1904. Page 2. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/68359340/. Behind paywall.

Carter and Lewis Counties join suit. Davis, Thomas A., ed. “Found It At Last! Beckham County Takes In A Part Of Ohio!” Public Ledger (Maysville, Kentucky), March 21, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/68359326. Behind paywall.

Court of Appeals sets date for Zimmerman case. “The April Term of Court of Appeals.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), March 24, 1904. Accessed May 10, 2019. Page 2. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119295134/. Behind paywall.

Thorne County would have been Republican. Burgher, J.E., ed. “County of Thorne.” The Clay City Times (Clay City, Kentucky), March 17, 1904. Page 2. Accessed May 10, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7d7w674n2v_2.

Governor Beckham vetoes Thorne County. “Vetoed Are Eight More Acts By Gov. Beckham.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), March 25, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119295344/. Behind paywall.

If Thorne and Beckham had been switched. “It is possible that if Lieut. Gov. Thorne had been Governor . . .” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), March 26, 1904. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119295734/. Behind paywall.

Beckham beats Thorne for Lt. Gov. nomination. “Other Races Will Be Settled To-Day.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), June 28, 1899. Accessed June 2, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/30725941/. Behind paywall.

Beckham County Democrats petition for convention seat. “Beckham County Democrats Organize By Electing County and Precinct Chairman.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), April 03, 1904. Page 2. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119298268/. Behind paywall.

Halbert’s brief. Davis, Thomas A., ed. “The Davis Printing House, an adjunct of THE LEDGER . . .” Public Ledger (Maysville, Kentucky), April 12, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 11, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/64272318/. Behind paywall.

Lewis and Carter Counties survey. Adams, W.Q., ed. “Survey Was Wrong: Beckham County Includes Vanceburg Within Its Bounds.” Owensboro Weekly Inquirer (Owensboro, Kentucky), April 12, 1904. Page 5. Accessed May 11, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/375365275/. Behind paywall.

Halbert heads to Frankfort. Davis, Thomas A., ed. “Resurvey Completed: Officials of Lewis and Carter Look Up Beckham County.” Public Ledger (Maysville, Kentucky), April 13, 1904. Page 3. Accessed May 11, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/68359412/. Behind paywall.

Brown represents Brooks, Theobold represents Zimmerman. “Arguing the Constitutionality of the County of Beckham.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), April 15, 1904. Page 2. Accessed May 12, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119302362/. Behind paywall.

Beckham County’s defense. “Invalid the Court of Appeals Decides.” Mt. Sterling Advocate (Mt. Sterling, Kentucky), May 11, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 12, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7qz60bx446_1.

Court forgives survey errors. Zimmerman v. Brooks.” The Kentucky Law Reporter. Vol. XXV – Part II. February 1, 1904 to June 15, 1904, Inclusive. Frankfort, KY: Geo. A Lewis, 1904. Pages 2284-2292.

Court rules against Beckham County. Fisher, Frank M., ed. “Beckham County Gets Black Eye.” The Paducah Sun (Paducah, Kentucky), April 30, 1904. Page 2. Accessed May 12, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt75dv1ckz3w_2.

Hobson’s opinion in Beckham-Taylor Governor fight. “The Latest.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), April 07, 1900. Page 1. Accessed May 13, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/30943292/. Behind paywall.

Requirements for new counties. “Law Cited: Appellate Court Acts In Beckham County Case.” Owensboro Daily Messenger (Owensboro, Kentucky), April 30, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 12, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/376080086/. Behind paywall.

Beckham County doomed. Davis, Thomas A., ed. “Court of Appeals Declares That Beckham County Is Of Unconstitutional Birth.” Public Ledger (Maysville, Kentucky), April 30, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 12, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/68359475/. Behind paywall.

New trial in lower courts. Rosser, and McCarthy, eds. “Beckham County: The Court of Appeals Sweeps It From the Map.” The Evening Bulletin (Maysville, Kentucky), April 30, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 12, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/71207733. Behind paywall.

Court of Appeals will not re-hear case. Davis, Thomas A., ed. “Case Knocked Out: Court of Appeals Declines To Rehear Beckham County Suit.” Public Ledger (Maysville, Kentucky), May 13, 1904. Page 3. Accessed May 12, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/68359525/. Behind paywall.

“Let this be an end to this kind of nonsense.” “The governor vetoed the Thorne county bill . . .” Owensboro Daily Messenger (Owensboro, Kentucky), May 01, 1904. Page 4. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/376080263. Behind paywall.

Disappointment in Olive Hill. “Formation of Beckham County Unconstitutional.” Mt. Sterling Advocate (Mt. Sterling, Kentucky), May 04, 1904. Page 3. Accessed May 12, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7wwp9t305q_3?

Olive Hill Bank goes national. “Olive Hill.” Mt. Sterling Advocate (Mt. Sterling, Kentucky), May 11, 1904. Page 7. Accessed May 13, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7qz60bx446_7.

Beckham County superintendent surrenders school census. “Beckham County Official Surrenders His Books.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), May 22, 1904. Page 5. Accessed May 13, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119313510/. Behind paywall.

Judge Kinner orders another survey. “Olive Hill.” Mt. Sterling Advocate (Mt. Sterling, Kentucky), June 22, 1904. Page 6. Accessed May 13, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7m639k4w0w_6.

George Gibbs, surveyor. Adams, W.Q., ed. “Will Survey Beckham County.” Owensboro Daily Inquirer (Owensboro, Kentucky), July 15, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 13, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/375158919/. Behind paywall.

Mt. Sterling Advocate optimistic outlook. “Olive Hill.” Mt. Sterling Advocate (Mt. Sterling, Kentucky), July 27, 1904. Page 6. Accessed May 13, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt74qr4nmb3h_6.

Judge Kinner decides against Beckham County. Davis, Thomas A. “Contrary To Law: Beckham County Again Declared Unconstitutional in Court.” Public Ledger (Maysville, Kentucky), October 22, 1904. Page 3. Accessed May 13, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/68360271. Behind paywall.

Land still listed for sale in November. “For Sale – By Columbia Finance and Trust Co.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), November 24, 1904. Page 7. Accessed May 13, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119370521/. Behind paywall.

Attorney Wood tells Lexingtonians Beckham County not yet dead.  “Still After Beckham County.” Owensboro Daily Messenger (Owensboro, Kentucky), December 17, 1904. Page 5. Accessed May 13, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/376115440/. Behind paywall.

Senator Whitt, 8-hour day. “In the Senate: Three New Committees Created By Committee On Rules.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), January 15, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 13, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119273912/. Behind paywall.

Senator Whitt, pro-labor bill. “No Right of Injunction.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), February 07, 1904. Page 11. Accessed May 13, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119280430/. Behind paywall.

Senator Whitt, roads. “Proceedings in the Senate: Senate Whitt’s Resolution Laid Over – Other Measures.” Owensboro Daily Messenger (Owensboro, Kentucky), February 13, 1904. Accessed May 13, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/376112848/. Behind paywall.

New State Capitol Building. Fisher, Frank M. “Legislators Want To Move Capitol.” The Paducah Sun (Paducah, Kentucky), January 18, 1905. Page 3. Accessed May 13, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt776h4cpv9x_3.

Typhoid fever kills Mrs. Whitt. Hedden, J.W., and B.W. Trimble, eds. “Deaths.” Mt. Sterling Advocate (Mt. Sterling, Kentucky), June 21, 1905. Page 7. Accessed May 13, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt78gt5fck6m_7.

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