Beckham’s Counties, pt. 4: New County Fever

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

Olive Hill Bank. The Courier-Journal, February 14, 1904, section 4, page 3.

The governor had the honor (and power) of appointing Beckham County’s first county officials, who were to hold office until the following fall’s election. As was to be expected, they were mostly Democrats.

J.W. Lusby, who had much to promote Beckham County in print, was made County Attorney. This was convenient in more than one sense for Lusby had ceased to edit The Herald after it merged with the Carter County Bugle at the turn of the year.

Many responsibilities had to be transferred between the surrounding counties that had lost parts of their domain to Beckham County, including twenty-nine post offices.

Campaign promises fulfilled, W.B. Whitt returned to Olive Hill to be greeted with a hero’s welcome. There was a brass band, a cannon salute, and several back-patting speeches.

The Courier-Journal, in an enthusiastically promotional profile, stated that Olive Hill had lost just one citizen since Beckham County was formed. Apparently, the sheriff of Carter County, George Jacobs, had moved east in order to keep his job.

Back in Frankfort, Whitt introduced a bill for the county to be assigned to the appropriate legislative and judicial districts. Another politician elected on the Beckham County ballot, V.B. King, happened to be on the House’s Legislative and Congressional Redistricting Committee.

Opposition continued to be bold, if temporarily toothless. The Louisville Evening Post called Beckham County a “political monstrosity” and the Paducah Register referred to the means of its creation as a “fool legislature bill”.

There were reservations even from some Democrats.

Congressman James N. Kehoe, future president of the Bank of Maysville, fought (and failed) to keep Beckham County out of his 9th District. This was because he knew that after the new county’s appointed officials were replaced through election, it would be by Republicans.

Meanwhile, far on the other side of the state, in Fordsville, near Owensboro, there was talk of seceding from Ohio County and taking some of Hancock, Daviess, Grayson and Breckenridge with them.

Another bill was proposed in order to create a Thorne County out of parts of Pulaski, Wayne and Whitley Counties. Olive Hill might have been spared the indignity of a name change, but the prospect naming something after William P. Thorne remained.

Senator J. Campbell Cantrill, Republican from Georgetown, introduced the Thorne bill on February 19th. It was subsequently referred to the senate committee on rules. Days later, in a near unanimous vote, the senate passed it.

But trouble was brewing for Beckham County. On March 3rd, the Courier-Journal reported that the “Typographer’s Bureau of the Post-office department” didn’t know just where to place the new county on its map.

That same day, C.V. Zimmerman, the assistant cashier at the Olive Hill Bank, sued over Beckham County’s very existence.

Zimmerman, facing a seventy-five dollar fine from the county court, did not believe the new county was constitutional or that he should be subject to its oversight. He sought an injunction to prevent Beckham County Judge C.C. Brooks from acting in that capacity.

The case was sent to the Court of Appeals after Circuit Court Judge S.G. Kinner sided with Beckham County. Carter County officials, who had attempted to become party to the suit with Zimmerman but had been denied by Kinner, likewise appealed.

It appeared the fate of the new county would be decided from the same locale in which it had been conceived.

On the 11th, the Republican State Central Committee decided not to allow Beckham County to have delegates at the state convention that year since no votes had ever technically been taken there.

Chairman C.M. Barnett, who for unrelated reasons would retire from that position in May, further stated that they held “the act creating the county unconstitutional.” Both the decision and the sentiment greatly upset Republicans in Beckham. 

They called together a mini-convention of their own and wound up sending C.B. Waring and W.J. Rice to Louisville to beseech the State Central Committee for representation. The request was denied. The committee elected to wait until Zimmerman v. Brooks was settled.

As for Thorne County, the House did not take the bill for its establishment as smoothly as had the senate. In early March, they adopted a resolution to advance no bills within four days of the session’s end. Lt. Gov. Thorne reportedly took this as an attempt to stall the bill indefinitely.

But that particular paranoia was unfounded. On March 14th, the Kentucky House of Representatives passed two bills indicative of the times. One was to erect a monument to the memory of William Goebel and the other was to create the new county of Thorne.

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Sources

Governor appoints county officials. “Officers Appointed For Beckham County.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), February 12, 1904. Page 3. Accessed May 7, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119281947/. Behind paywall.

Lusby quits The Herald. Lusby, J.W., ed. “Three Years Ago the 13 of Last October the First Issue of the Herald.” The Herald (Grayson, Kentucky), December 25, 1903. On microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky).

29 Post Offices in Beckham County. Rennick, Robert M. “The Post Offices of Beckham County, Kentucky.” La Posta: A Journal of American Postal History, July 1988, 33-42. Available at Special Collections Research Center in Margaret I. King Library (University of Kentucky). Great, expansive article focused on post offices but also one of the better Beckham County histories.

Sheriff George Jacobs. Lowe, Sherry. “Carter County Elected Officials.” Carter County, Kentucky Genealogy & History Research Website. Accessed May 12, 2019. https://kycarter.com/main_links/officials.html. Jacobs’ identity, although not his address, further confirmed through newspaper reports.

Sheriff Jacobs moves East. 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. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119283002/. Behind paywall.

Bill for Beckham’s districts. Menefee, S.W., ed. “”Race Segregation”.” Kentucky Advocate (Danville, Kentucky), February 19, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 7, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/237417193/. Behind paywall.

V.B. King on House Legislative Committee. “Chairman of the House Committee Are Tipped.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), January 11, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 7, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119273054/. Behind paywall.

Louisville Evening Post calls Beckham Co. “a political monstrosity”. Davis, Thomas A., ed. “Political Pickings.” The Public Ledger (Maysville, Kentucky), February 25, 1904. Accessed May 7, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/68359230/. Behind paywall.

Paducah Register calls Beckham Co.’s creation “a fool legislature bill”. Adams, W.Q., ed. “Two New Counties Needed.” Owensboro Weekly Inquirer (Owensboro, Kentucky), February 02, 1904. Page 4. Accessed May 7, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/375358247. Behind paywall.

James Kehoe, as Maysville Bank President. Briney, Russell, ed. “James N. Kehoe of Maysville Dies of Illness at 84.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), June 14, 1945. Page 10. Accessed May 12, 2019. http://www.newspapers.com/image/107131545/. Behind paywall.

Beckham ultimately in Kehoe’s district. “Beckham County: More Facts and Observations About Its Public Servants, Etc.” Mt. Sterling Advocate (Mt. Sterling, Kentucky), February 24, 1904. Page 6. Accessed May 7, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7wdb7vnw7n_6.

Kehoe attempts to keep Beckham Co. out of his district. “Making Plans.” Owensboro Daily Messenger (Owensboro, Kentucky), February 10, 1904. Page 3. Accessed May 7, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/376112405. Behind paywall.

Fordsville interested in new county. Menefee, S.W., ed. “Another New County Scheme.” Kentucky Advocate (Danville, Kentucky), February 19, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 7, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/237417193. Behind paywall.

Thorne County bill. Rosser, and McCarthy, eds. “A Bill to Create Another County Out of Three Big Ones Proposed.” Evening Bulletin (Maysville, Kentucky), February 06, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 7, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/71200766/. Behind paywall.

Senator Cantrill introduces Thorne County bill. Meachum, Charles M., ed. “Senator Cantrill has introduced a bill creating Thorne county . . .” Hopkinsville Kentuckian (Hopkinsville, Kentucky), February 19, 1904. Page 4. Accessed May 9, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt744j09wz7c_4.

Thorne County bill referred to committee. Menefee, S.W., ed. “”Race Segregation”.” Kentucky Advocate (Danville, Kentucky), February 19, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 7, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/237417193/. Behind paywall.

Senate passes Thorne County bill. “Ripper Bill Passed In Senate By Strict Party Vote.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), February 26, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 9, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119286236/. Behind paywall.

Typographer’s Bureau troubles. “Can’t Locate Beckham County.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), March 03, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 9, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119288214/. Behind paywall.

Zimmerman sues Beckham County. “Will Be Tested: Constitutionality Of Act Creating Beckham County.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), March 04, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 9, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119288449/. Behind paywall.

Zimmerman’s $75 dollar fine. Wolfford, George. “Beckham County.” In The Kentucky Encyclopedia, edited by John E. Kleber. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1992. Pages 65-66.

County Judge C.C. Brooks. “Beckham County: Some Facts and Observations About the Men Who Will Preside Over Its Interests.” Mt. Sterling Advocate (Mt. Sterling, Kentucky), February 17, 1904. Page 3. Accessed May 9, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt731z41sm89_3.

Judge Kinner. Conley, M.F., ed. “Judge Kinner: Death of Prominent Jurist at Catlettsburg.” Big Sandy News (Louisa, Kentucky), July 11, 1913. Page 1. Accessed May 12, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt71ns0kts1g_1.

Kinner rules for Beckham County. “Demurrer Sustained To Zimmerman’s Plea.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), March 05, 1904. Page 7. Accessed May 9, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119288819/. Behind paywall.

No Beckham County Republican delegates. “Call Issued: Republican State Central Committee To Meet.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), March 11, 1904. Page 6. Accessed May 9, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119290784/. Behind paywall.

Republican Committee Chairman Barnett retires. Rosser, and McCarthy, eds. “Ernst Elected Chairman.” The Evening Bulletin (Maysville, Kentucky), May 05, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 13, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/71208058. Behind paywall.

Beckham County Republicans’ mini-convention. “Beckham County Republicans Are Hot.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), March 13, 1904. Page 15. Accessed May 9, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119291480/. Behind paywall.

Waring and Rice sent to Louisville. “To Demand Representation: Committee From Beckham County to Attend Committee Meeting.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), March 16, 1904. Page 5. Accessed May 9, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119292545/. Behind paywall.

State Central Committee denies request. “Convention Will Be Held In Louisville May 3.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), March 17, 1904. Page 8. Accessed May 9, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119292885/. Behind paywall.

House Resolution to take up no bills within four days of end. Fisher, Frank M., ed. “Still Wasting Time.” The Paducah Sun (Paducah, Kentucky), March 07, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 9, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7x959c6z54_1?

House passes Goebel Monument and Thorne County bills. “Monument Assured.” The Twice-A-Week Messenger (Owensboro, Kentucky), March 15, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 9, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/375563697/. Behind paywall.

Beckham’s Counties, pt. 3: Two Bills From Olive Hill

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

William B. Whitt’s portrait. The (Grayson) Tribune, January 4, 1904. Page 2. Available on microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky).

William B. Whitt had been influential in Carter County even before he became state senator. In private business, Whitt had been president of Olive Hill Bank and owned a stone quarry that employed many in that same town.

In 1899, he had been a delegate to the Democratic state convention and that same year he had campaigned enthusiastically for William Goebel in Carter County.

Along with Lewis Gearheart and W.J. Rice, who happened to be cashier for the Olive Hill Bank, Whitt had been one of the proponents sent to petition the General Assembly for what became L.C. Prichard’s bill in 1902.

The following year, entering politics himself, the election for the 35th District senate seat came down between Whitt, a Democrat, and Nathan Barrett, a Republican. The primary issue was the creation of a Beckham County, which Whitt was for and Barrett was against.

Although, as previously established, it was a partisan issue at heart, for some Olive Hill’s independence from Grayson was apparently more important than obeying the typical rules of party line politics.

“Do you favor the new county?” asked Herald editor J.W. Lusby, “If so, vote for Whitt and King.” The King was V.B. King, like minded in regards to the Beckham County question, fellow Democrat, and candidate for representative.

That same issue, The Herald printed a letter from an anonymous Republican who wrote that he was voting for Whitt despite his party, in favor of the new county. “We are tired of having them fellows there at Grayson tell us how to vote,” he said.

The Herald received letters of support from stone quarry workers and foremen, assuring readers that Whitt hadn’t made political support a condition of continued employment and further defending him from allegations of bad behavior during a strike the prior year.

It would be Beckham County that carried the day. W.B. Whitt won his Senate race by over 500 votes and V.B. King was likewise sent to the House of Representatives. Another attempt at creating a new county out of the western half of Carter was all but guaranteed.

But it would be a mistake to assume everyone in Carter County wished to lose its western half. In April 1903, the county Fiscal Court had ordered another survey. The Herald theorized it was an effort to get ahead of another attempt to splinter off Olive Hill.

Still, when William B. Whitt went to the state capital it was with a clear mandate, and a draft of a bill in his pocket. Eight days into the legislative session, on January 13th, 1904, he introduced Senate Bill №55.

The bill would not only create Beckham County but also established Olive Hill as its county seat, divide the county into five magisterial districts, and also create a three-member board of commissioners to set up “necessary public buildings”.

Further, the governor would appoint the initial county government, whose members were to serve until the following election.

The bill met with immediate criticism. The Louisville Herald attacked the Beckham County bill with most of the same objections that would eventually lead to the county’s dissolution. On January 20th, on the senate floor, Whitt defended his bill from Senator Cox.

William H. Cox, an influential Republican from Maysville who would later serve as Lieutenant Governor under Augustus E. Willson, alleged the new county would be less than 400 square miles in size, which would make it smaller than required by the state constitution.

In words Republican newspapers across the state would soon echo, Cox also opposed the bill because Beckham County, he believed, would soon become “just another pauper county.”

However, it was Whitt’s argument that won. The bill passed the senate by either 29 to 5 or 26 to 6. On January 29th, the House of Representatives also went for the bill.

In what was perhaps the same spirit as naming Beckham County after the governor, Mason County Representative Virgil McKnight proposed renaming Beckham’s county seat from Olive Hill to Thorne Hill, in honor of lieutenant governor William P. Thorne.

McKnight was getting carried away. Whatever the merits of naming a county after Beckham, he had been governor since 1900, and Thorne had been lieutenant governor for a little less than two months.

McKnight’s proposal was defeated but the bill for the creation of Beckham County was sent to the governor’s desk. His sense of modesty was apparently undisturbed. With the stroke of a pen, J.C.W. Beckham let the county that had been named after him into law.

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Sources

Whitt as bank owner. “News Banks: So Far This Month Forty-Four Have Been Established In The South.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), April 24, 1901. Page 5. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/118776140/. Behind paywall.

Whitt’s stone quarry. Fisher, Ira P. “To Whom It May Concern:.” The Herald (Grayson, Kentucky), October 09, 1903. Microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky). Letter to the editor. Ira P. Fisher, the letter writer, is my great-great-great-great uncle.

Whitt at 1899 Democratic state convention. “Big Crowds: Politicians Throng the Hotel Lobbies.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), June 21, 1899. Pages 1, 4. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/30725761/. Behind paywall. Whitt listed under Willard section on page 4.

Whitt for Goebel. Whitt, W.B. “An Open Letter.” The Democrat (Grayson, Kentucky), October 27, 1899. Page 3. Microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky). Letter to the editor.

Whitt’s influence in Prichard’s bill. “The citizens in and about Olive Hill are very enthusiastic over the proposed new county.” Carter County Bugle (Grayson, Kentucky), January 17, 1902. Page 4. Microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky).

Whitt vs. Barret. “Success to Him.” Mt. Sterling Advocate (Mt. Sterling, Kentucky), September 16, 1903. Page 1. Accessed May 2, 2019. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt776h4cpr6h_1.

Whitt for new county, Barret against. “William B. Whitt, of Olive Hill, Nominated for Senator by Democrats.” Mt. Sterling Advocate (Mt. Sterling, Kentucky), August 19, 1903. Page 5. Accessed May 2, 2019. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7m901zf32n_5.

“Do you favor the new county?” Lusby, J.W., ed. “Do You Favor the New County?” The Herald (Grayson, Kentucky), October 23, 1903. Microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky).

V.B. King. Lusby, J.W., ed. “We Have Here Heretofore Remarked . . .” The Herald (Grayson, Kentucky), October 16, 1903. Microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky).

Letter from Republican. Republican. “Dear Sir.” The Herald (Grayson, Kentucky), October 23, 1903. Microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky). Letter to the editor.

Quarry workers defend Whitt. 58 Quarry Workers. “To whom it may concern:.” The Herald (Grayson, Kentucky), October 16, 1903. Microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky). Letter to the editor.

Foremen defend Whitt. Kiser, U.S.G., and G.W. Sammons. “For the benefit of those concerned.” The Herald (Grayson, Kentucky), October 16, 1903. Microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky). Letter to the editor.

Union workers defend Whitt. Wingfield, Claude, Lewis White, and B.H. Rutledge. “Dear Sir:.” The Herald (Grayson, Kentucky), September 25, 1903. Microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky). Letter to the editor.

Whitt wins Senate race. “Whitt Elected Senator.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), November 06, 1903. Page 2. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119030042/. Behind paywall.

King wins House race. Lusby, J.W., ed. “A bill to establish the New County.” The Herald (Grayson, Kentucky), December 04, 1903. Microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky).

Carter County Fiscal Court survey. Lusby, J.W., ed. “Fortifying To defeat the New County move.” The Herald (Grayson, Kentucky), April 17, 1903. Microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky).

Whitt with draft of bill in pocket. 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. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119283002/. Behind paywall.

Whitt introduces bill. “In Vast Volumes: Bills Pouring down in Steady Streams on Both Houses.” The Paducah News-Democrat (Paducah, Kentucky), January 13, 1904. Page 6. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/501601362/. Behind paywall.

Senate Bill number. “Work of the Kentucky General Assembly.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), March 19, 1904. Page 2. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119293241/. Behind paywall.

Details of Whitt’s bill. Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky Passed at the Regular Session of the General Assembly Which Was Begun and Held in the City of Frankfort on Tuesday, the Fifth Day of January, One Thousand Nine Hundred and Four. Louisville, KY: Geo. G. Fetter Company, 1904. pgs. 27–30. Available as Ebook on Hathi Trust Digital Library.

Louisville Herald criticizes bill. Davis, Thomas A., ed. “The Louisville Herald makes such an exhaustive exposition of the illegality of the act . . .” The Public Ledger (Maysville, Kentucky), January 26, 1904. Page 2. Accessed May 7, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/68359117/. The Public Ledger quotes The Louisville Herald. Behind paywall.

Whitt debates Cox. Meachum, Charles M., ed. “Passes House. New Capital Bill Appropriating a Million Dollars.” Hopkinsville Kentuckian (Hopkinsville, Kentucky), January 22, 1904. Page 5. Accessed May 2, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7bvq2s5r21_5.

Cox, future Lt. Governor. Bidwell, William E., and Ella Hutchinson Ellwanger, eds. Legislative History and Capitol Souvenir. Vol. 1. Frankfort, KY, 1910. Page 29. Accessed May 2, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7j3t9d5d9d_29?

“Pauper county” “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.

Bill passes by. “Cantrill Bill Adopted.” Mt. Sterling Advocate (Mt. Sterling, Kentucky), January 27, 1904. Page 3. Accessed May 2, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7gb56d3d0v_3.

Houses passes bill. McIntyre. “Legislative Happenings.” Kentucky Advocate (Danville, Kentucky), January 29, 1904. Page 3. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/237417081/. Behind paywall.

Virgil McKnight of Mason. “Mason County.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), November 04, 1903. Page 3. Accessed May 9, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119029620/. Behind paywall.

Thorne, lt. governor for less than two months. Burgher, J.E., ed. “Beckham’s Inauguration.” The Clay City Times (Clay City, Kentucky), December 10, 1903. Accessed May 9, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7gf18scd8c_1.

Thorne Hill defeated. “County of Beckham.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), January 30, 1904. Page 1. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/376111026/. Behind paywall.

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.

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Sources

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. http://genealogytrails.com/ken/elliott/county_events.html.

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. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt780g3gzk6j_1.

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. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119283002/. 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. https://www.newspapers.com/image/71063102/. 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. https://www.newspapers.com/image/186560710. 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. https://www.newspapers.com/image/237470936. 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. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7sf7665v7b_4.

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. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7vmc8rdb2m_3.

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. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7s1r6n1t0j_3.

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. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7gxd0qt683_1.

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. https://www.newspapers.com/image/118842823/. 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. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7s4m919j6x_2.

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. https://www.newspapers.com/image/118856547/. 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. https://www.newspapers.com/image/71065840/. 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. https://www.newspapers.com/image/118860164/. Behind paywall.

Beckham’s Counties, pt. 1: The Running Mate

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

William Goebel’s monument at Frankfort Cemetery.

There were three attempts to name a county after Kentucky Governor J.C.W. Beckham between the years 1902 and 1906. The first in Northeastern Kentucky, the second in western Kentucky, and the third, and only successful effort, in the new state of Oklahoma.

These efforts would seem to suggest that John Crepps Wickliffe Beckham was a particularly popular politician. However, in the case of the two Kentucky areas, at least, he just happened to governor when longstanding movements for self-determination gathered up steam.

It also must be noted that Beckham was only governor in the first place because he had been the running mate of William Goebel, and Goebel had only been sworn in as governor after he was mortally wounded by an assassin.

Kentucky had been dominated by the Democratic Party, of which Beckham and Goebel were members, throughout the decades that followed the Civil War. In fact, the state didn’t elect its first Republican Governor until 1895.

In 1899, the man who gained the Democratic party’s nomination for governor was William Goebel, a German-American attorney from Kenton County who had built up a smooth, if controversial, political machine fighting for reform against the railroad monopolies.

Goebel had made preparations, perhaps even unethical ones, for his governor run.

In 1898, while president of the state senate, Goebel had pushed through a bill establishing a statewide election board consisting of three members chosen by the legislature who would in turn choose election officials throughout the rest of the commonwealth.

The legislature was then controlled by Democrats and, critics argued, so would be the election board. This effectively meant that any contested election, whether local or statewide, would become prejudiced towards the Democratic candidate.

In 1899, after winning the Democratic party’s nomination through a rather cutthroat act of political acumen, and with Beckham likewise selected as nominee for lieutenant governor, Goebel was set to face Republican candidate William S. Taylor in the General Election.

It was close.

The results were so contested that on a county-by-county basis the decisions of Goebel’s pet State Board of Election Commissioners was to have the final say. However, as James C. Klotter notes in William Goebel: The Politics of Wrath, Goebel had not prepared for the “possibility that the commissioners might be honest.”

They chose Taylor instead.

However, the same election bill that had created the Board of Election Commissioners in the first place had also given the General Assembly the power to contest election results. A committee mostly made up of Democrats would decide the matter.

Fearing a stolen election, a swarm of armed Republican “mountaineers” descended on Frankfort in mass protest. Perhaps, as many alleged in the aftermath of the shooting, it was one of these partisans who shot William Goebel on January 30th, 1900.

The candidate from Kenton County was mortally wounded. Republican William S. Taylor, who was sitting governor at least in theory, called in the militia and attempted to move the legislature to London for reasons of both political and physical safety.

However, with the spirit of martyrdom and further violence in the air, the Democrats in the General Assembly managed to swear in the slowly dying Goebel. This action seized the governorship right out from beneath Taylor’s coattails.

The ensuing constitutional crisis would outlast William Goebel, who finally perished on February 3rd. It was only after a series of appeals that went all the way up to the Supreme Court that his running mate J.C.W. Beckham truly became governor.

As for William S. Taylor, who had been governor of Kentucky for mere weeks, he fled the state. He feared prosecution for a rumored role in William Goebel’s killing, which he always denied.

Beckham, at thirty-one was the youngest governor in Kentucky history, was an attorney from a prominent Bardstown family. He was the grandson of a former governor: Charles A. Wickliffe. Before becoming Goebel’s running mate, he had been speaker of the state House.

Beckham was a more moderate governor than Goebel would likely have been. The late Kenton Countian had campaign upon being vividly against the powerful railroad lobby, but, once in office, Beckham was fairly conciliatory towards them.

In another move that eased tensions, Beckham turned against Goebel’s controversial election law, which critics, both Republican and Democrat, saw as unethical. It was repealed in 1900, two years after its passage.

William Goebel’s assassin would never be definitively proven but the shadow of his death hung over Beckham’s subsequent administration, and the repeated attempts to name a county after him.

The first effort to create a Beckham County would come from Olive Hill, and like most things in Kentucky politics, in the end it came down to a matter of Democrats versus Republicans.

*

Sources

Kentucky dominated by Democrats after Civil War. Klotter, James C. William Goebel: The Politics of Wrath. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1977. Pages 12–13.

First Republican Governor. Walton, W.P., ed. “Bradley, Elected Governor of Kentucky by Nearly 20,000.” Semi-Weekly Interior Journal (Stanford, Kentucky), November 08, 1895. Page 2. Accessed May 23, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7d513tvz6s_2.

Goebel against railroad monopoly. “Goebel on the Issues: Opening Speech at Mayfield of the Democratic Nominee for Governor.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), August 13, 1899. Page 16. Accessed May 23, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/30196524. Behind paywall. Illustrative speech.

Goebel election board. “Goebel Election Law.” In The Kentucky Encyclopedia, edited by John E. Kleber. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1992. Page 378.

Goebel secures Democratic nomination. Klotter. 56–63.

Beckham secures Lieutenant Governor 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.

Election board choses Taylor. Klotter, 86–92.

Legislative committee to decide election. Klotter, 92–96.

“Mountaineers” in Frankfort. “Marched Up The Hill And Down: Taylor’s Army of Intimidation Started Back To Their Homes.” Owensboro Daily Messenger (Owensboro, Kentucky), January 26, 1900. Page 1. Accessed May 23, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/375580682/. Behind paywall.

William Goebel is shot. Moore, Paul M., ed. “Deplorable: Attempted Assassination of Senator Goebel Before the Capitol.” The Bee (Earlington, Kentucky), February 01, 1900. Page 1. Accessed May 23, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7xwd3px11r_1.

Taylor calls in militia. Harrison, Lowell H. “Goebel, William.” In The Kentucky Encyclopedia, edited by John E. Kleber. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1992. Pages 377–378.

Democrats swear in Goebel as governor. Klotter, 102–104.

William Goebel dies. “Complete Is The Work of the Assassin: Gov. Goebel Is Dead.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), February 04, 1900. Accessed May 23, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/30729139. Behind paywall.

Supreme Court confirms Beckham. Klotter, 112–114.

Taylor flees. Harrison, Lowell H. Kentucky’s Governors. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1985. Updated Edition. “William Sylvester Taylor”. Pages 131–133.

Beckham’s grandfather, Charles A. Wickliffe. Morton, Jennie C. “Mrs. Julia Wickliffe Beckham.” Register of Kentucky State Historical Society 11, no. 33 (September 1913): 51–55. Accessed May 27, 2019. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23367247. Obituary of Beckham’s mother.

Beckham as Speaker of the House. Powell, Robert A. Kentucky Governors 1792–2000: Portraits of Kentucky’s Chief Executive from 1792 up to and including the Election of 1999. Tampa, FL: Silverhawke Publications, 2001. Page 69.

Beckham and railroad lobby. Burckel, Nicholas C. “From Beckham to McCreary: The Progressive Record of Kentucky Governors.” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 76, no. 4 (October 1978). Accessed July 4, 2019. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23378562. Pages 292–293.

Beckham turns against election law. Burckel. 290.

Repeal of Goebel election law. “Goebel Election Law.” In The Kentucky Encyclopedia, edited by John E. Kleber. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1992. Page 378.

Goebel’s killer unknown. Harrison, Lowell H. Kentucky’s Governors. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1985. Updated Edition. “William Goebel”. Pages 135–136.