The year before the David Waite trial, both the defense attorney John Jolliffe and U.S. District Court Judge Humphey H. Leavitt had been involved in the legal struggle concerning Margaret Garner.
That tragedy began on January 26, 1856, when, in the middle of a blizzard, seventeen slaves escaped Boone County, Kentucky via sleigh.
After crossing the Ohio River, the fugitives split into two groups. One group successfully escaped to Canada. The other party, consisting of Margaret Garner, her four children, her husband Simon, and his parents, was more ill-fated.
Margaret and her children were owned by Archibald K. Gaines while Simon and his parents were owned by Gaines’ neighbor John Marshall. Gaines and one of Marshall’s sons tracked the slaves to the Cincinnati home of a free black man named Joe Kite.
After receiving warrants from United States Commissioner John L. Pendery, a posse including Gaines, Marshall and Deputy Marshal John Ellis, among others, went to forcibly seize the fugitives.
Simon and the slave catchers exchanged gunfire but the home was inevitably breached. Once she realized they were bound to be dragged back into bondage, Margaret Garner fatally slit her three-year-old daughter’s throat and attempted to kill her other children.
She was stopped.
As Samuel May, Jr. wrote in The Fugitive Slave Law and Its Victims, “The woman avowed herself the mother of the children, and said that she had killed one, and would like to kill the three others, rather than see them again reduced to slavery!”
The fugitives were taken before Commissioner Penderey. Margaret and the other adult slaves claimed to have previously been in Ohio with permission from their masters. This was an integral claim, and one that reflects on the Waite case, as well.
Cynthia Griffin Wolff explains in her article “‘Margaret Garner’: A Cincinatti Story”:
For many years, the Cincinnati courts had consistently ruled that slaves who had been taken by their masters to live in the free state of Ohio were “emancipated” by virtue of their residence in the jurisdiction of that state.
Margaret was indicted by a jury for murder. This indictment, however, did not displease her because having to stay in Ohio for a murder charge would keep her, and her three remaining children, out of the slave state of Kentucky.
John Jolliffee and James Gitchell represented the fugitives while their status was determined by Commissioner Pendery. They were no doubt hopeful that either the murder charge or the previous trips to Ohio would sway him.
But, in the end, Commissioner Pendery refused to release Garner into the custody of the Hamilton County Sheriff. Simon and his parents were sent back into slavery while Pendery attempted to send Margaret and the children back, as well.
A legal question of jurisdiction went before Judge Humphrey H. Leavitt, who later would preside over the Waite case. After Gaines promised to make Margaret available for any murder trial that followed, Judge Leavitt decided violation of the Fugitive Slave Act trumped murder.
He ordered Margaret given to Gaines.
A last ditch effort was made to keep the Garner children in Ohio. John Jolliffe alleged the children had been detained illegally by the marshal before Probate Court Judge JohnBurgoyne.
Burgoyne seems have been as disposed to favor anti-slavery forces as Leavitt seems to have been disposed to favor slavery forces. Burgoyne went so far as to declare the Fugitive Slave Act null and void for its suspension of habeas corpus. He had Marshal Ellis arrested.
But Leavitt quickly had him freed. Then he allowed the Garner children to be taken back to Kentucky with Margaret.
Once he had them again, Archibald Gaines wasted little time in selling Margaret Garner and her children downriver. In a further twist of the cruel knife, the steamboat Margaret Garner was put on reportedly crashed, sank, and took one of her remaining children with it.
Facing much outrage over how he had betrayed his word, Archibald Gaines managed to bring Margaret back to Covington, Kentucky, across the Ohio from Cincinnati, and had her jailed there. But he apparently had no intention of actually letting her go back north.
When deputies from Ohio went across the river to take custody of Margaret Garner for her daughter’s murder, they found that she had been taken away the night before. The Cincinnati Gazette reported that Margaret Garner was sent south to New Orleans to a slave market.
Afterward, in May 1857, Archiabld Gaines, slave owner, and John Jolliffe, slave lawyer, crossed paths in Covington. Gaines, hurling racist abuse, gathered a mob and assaulted the attorney. They very well might have killed Jolliffe if marshals hadn’t intervened.
Such violence did not sway John Jolliffe or intimidate him into inaction. By next November, he was back at court defending David Waite for allegedly violating the Fugitive Slave Act.
Technically, slavery only existed in Rowan County, Kentucky for nine years. This is because the county was formed in 1856 and, in 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment closed the loophole in the Emancipation Proclamation that allowed slavery to exist in border states.
Of course, slavery had been entrenched in the areas that eventually became Rowan County, most recently sections of Fleming and Morgan Counties, from well before its creation. Likely, from before even statehood itself.
Slave census population numbers are illustrative. In 1850, Fleming County had 2,137 slaves while Morgan County, which was less populated, more mountainous and thus less suited to large-scale agriculture, only had 187.
Ten years later, Rowan County, which took from Fleming County its furthest eastern portion, held 142 slaves. Its enslaved population very well could have been 150, if, four years prior, one slave family hadn’t escaped.
A Family Escapes
On September 12, 1856, a black man named Lewis, his wife, and six children – three boys, three girls – owned by a slave owner named Squire B. Million, left Rowan County, crossed the Ohio River, and sought refuge in the home of David Waite.
Waite, an abolitionist, lived with his wife and children in the vicinity of Blue Creek, near Rome, in Jefferson Township, in Adams County, Ohio. Rome was a riverside village that straddled the Ohio River, facing, on the other side, Lewis County, Kentucky.
As anti-slavery attorney John Jolliffe later put it, David Waite “gave them [Lewis and family] such accommodation at his house as he would have given to any other traveler.”
While David Waite was clearly an unofficial conductor on the underground railroad, much of his subsequent defense circled around the notion that he did not, in fact, know that Lewis and his family were fugitive slaves.
Within days of their arrival, after learning of their presence there, Squire B. Million met with Lewis at David Waite’s home. He intended to bring his slaves back to Kentucky. He would later claim that Lewis agreed to go back with him.
However, the next day, when Million returned, the slaves were gone. Lewis and his family fled to Canada, where they could get beyond the reach of the long arm of slavery, and the terrible grasp of the Fugitive Slave Act.
The Fugitive Slave Act
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 had been a clear concession to the southern slave states. To make extradition easier, and to bypass northern abolitionist interference, the Act established the office of slave commissioner before whom matters of escaped slaves could be examined.
The commissioners were vested with the authority to remand so-called fugitives back into slavery.
The Act further dealt with abolitionists and others who would aid fugitive slaves in their escape. Anyone found guilty of assisting or harboring fugitive slaves would be subject to a one thousand dollar fine and up to six months in jail.
According to Emmett D. Preston in “The Fugitive Slave Acts in Ohio”, about the Act, “It is said that more slaves were seized and returned to slavery during the first year of its existence than had been carried back during the preceding half century.”
An associated problem only grew worse. Slave catchers, who were more or less professional kidnappers, routinely seized freed black people, dragged them before federal slave commissioners, and upon the flimsiest of evidence, got them sent south into bondage.
Unfortunately, due to the rampant racism of those times, black people, free or enslaved, were not permitted to testify in their own defense.
Ohio held a complicated mixture of opinions regarding slavery. Its southern half leaned towards supporting the rights of slave states while its northern half leaned toward curbing the excesses of the institution. Vocal abolitionists were rarer. Still, many were against the 1850 Act.
The Trial of David Waite
In late October 1857, at their opening session, in Cincinnati, District Judge Humphrey H. Leavitt addressed the grand jury for the Southern District of Ohio.
Leavitt outlined his thoughts on the Fugitive Slave Law. He instructed that in order for someone to be found guilty for harboring someone, “there must have been a knowledge that the person escaping was a fugitive slave . . .”
With that in mind, the grand jury soon indicted David Waite for violating the Fugitive Slave Act. He was arrested at his home by U.S. Deputy Marshals B.P. Churchill and John C. Elliot. Apparently, there was some talk of staging a rescue in Adams County but none came.
On Saturday, October 31st, Judge Leavitt set David Waite’s bail at one thousand dollars. James Puntenney and John K. Stout “went upon his bond.”
James Puntenney, who would soon prove himself intimately involved with the affair, was another Adams County stop on the underground railroad. His family, pioneers in the area, were, in general, “very active” and “all original Anti-slavery . . .”
John K. Stout’s father Obediah had been perhaps the first white settler in Greene Township, which just south of David Waite’s Jefferson Township, bordering the Ohio. John Stout owned a fine farm on the edge of riverside Rome.
Simultaneously, David Waite was being sued by Squire B. Million for $8,000 in damages in civil court. It is unclear how those proceedings went.
As for the criminal case, David Waite managed to secure for his defense the well-known anti-slavery lawyer John Jolliffe. Jolliffe, who was based in Cincinnati, had often argued Fugitive Slave Act cases before Judge Leavitt.
The trial of David Waite began on Monday, November 9th, 1857 with jury selection. District Attorney Stanley Matthews reiterated the charges from the indictment while defense attorney John Jolliffe outlined his argument.
The slaves, Jolliffe told the jury, had knowingly been sent into Ohio by Squire Million because he wanted to get them beyond the reach of debt collectors. Million’s brother had provided them with a written pass granting them permission to travel.
David Waite had “merely entertained” the slave family in his kitchen, and, so far from thinking them fugitives, had even sent word to Million about where the slaves were.
Only after Million had realized that the slaves couldn’t be taken from him to pay for his debt, since they were technically the property of his wife, had he gone to Adams County to retrieve them. Or so Jolliffe alleged.
Court adjourned until nine o’clock the following morning, November 10th.
Taking the stand, Squire B. Million testified that the slaves in question had escaped on or about September 12th, 1856, while Million had been away in Flemingsburg. After learning of their absence, he had offered a two hundred dollar reward for each slave returned.
Million denied the debt angle. He claimed “there was no judgment or execution against [him] at the time; had paid all for the negro Lewis, except $300.” He had never permitted Lewis to go to Ohio before and knew nothing of his brother previously coming to Ohio with the sons.
Million said that William Shaw, David Waite’s brother-in-law and next-door-neighbor, had stayed with him for several days after the slaves had escaped. Shaw was apparently there under the guise of looking for land to buy.
Eventually, though, Shaw had told Million where his slaves were.
Some five days after the enslaved family’s abscondence, Million and Shaw had gone north to David Waite’s home. Million claimed that he soon convinced Lewis to return to Rowan County. However, he left the slaves there for the evening, and found them gone the next day.
Million told the court that another Kentuckian had told Waite that Million would sell Lewis if he got him.(This was the implied motive for helping them escape. It was common, cruel practice for slave owners to separate slave families by selling them off to different buyers.)
After Million left the stand, Charlotte Ham also testified on behalf of the prosecution. She lived with the Millions but it is unclear whether she was a relative or a servant.
(The 1850 Fleming County census shows a nine-year-old girl named Eliza Jane Ham living with Squire and his wife, with other Ham households around, and seventeen year old Charlotte Ham in the nearby home of Harrison Hankins.)
Charlotte told the jury that Lewis and his family had left after supper while Mr. Million was away from home. Ham said that no one noticed the slaves were gone until the next morning.
The defense called their witnesses next. Taken together, their version of events is markedly different than Squire Million’s and provides a more vivid, if not necessarily one hundred percent accurate, portrait of the slave family’s journey northward.
George Petit operated a ferry on the Ohio River, most likely in Lewis County. Lewis and family had arrived at Petit’s ferry with a white man after sundown. There they waited, presumably making camp, until dawn.
The next morning, Sunday, September 14th, Petit took the black family over. Apparently, only then did he think to ask Lewis if he had a pass permitting them to travel freely.
Lewis did not have one but easily could get one. Petit took him back to the Kentucky side where the white man who had come with them waited. That man wrote a pass permitting Lewis and family to travel freely and signed it Million. He also gave Lewis his coat.
William Shaw testified thereafter. He claimed he went to Rowan County to find Squire Million upon David Waite’s behalf. He told Million where his slaves were. Waite, Shaw said, wanted to double check that the slaves were indeed free, as they had “represented themselves.”
Shaw had asked Million, “what course was to be followed if the slaves were in danger.” (Presumably, from slave catchers.) Million, or so Shaw claimed, told him that the slaves should be taken away if such danger came.
Shaw also gave Million a letter from Lewis and received a dress from Mrs. Million to give to Lewis’ wife.
Squire Million had asked Shaw to take him to David Waite’s house, “so that he could furnish clothing for the children.” Shaw agreed. Along the road they met a man named Waller who had seen the slave family going north. Million told Waller that he had set his slaves free.
Along those same lines, according to Shaw, Million later told Shaw’s wife why he had sent his slaves north: to avoid debt execution.
Shaw further stated to the court that he had seen Lewis and family upon their initial arrival at David Waite’s home. They had come north with two horses and some furnishings. Furthermore, “there was no effort to conceal the slaves; they went about the usual farm work . . .”
District Attorney Stanley Matthews cross-examined the witness.
William Shaw told that Squire Million had spoken to Lewis several times after Shaw brought Million to Waite’s home. Shaw claimed no knowledge of when the slaves had left. He denied that he owned the wagon the slave family had gone further north to Canada in.
Shaw admitted that he had warned Waite to “have nothing to do with running the slaves off . . .” However, Shaw continued to assert that Million had told his wife he wanted to take the slaves back for “he had learned that his wife’s property could not be taken to pay his debts . . .”
The next witness, J.G. Sanders, alleged that he saw Lewis and his family while in Vanceburg, which is the county seat of Lewis County. Sanders claimed there was a white man who presented himself as Million traveling with the black family.
But, clearly, the man Sanders saw was not the same person as the Squire B. Million who sat across from him in the courtroom.
James Puntenney, who had earlier stood for Waite’s bail, testified then. He admitted that he first met the slaves the day they crossed the Ohio on George Petit’s ferry. He believed them to be free, seeing as they had a pass for themselves as well as for “a sorrel mare and a horse.”
Puntenney allowed the black family to stay the night in his barn. Lewis mentioned he was interested in finding a farm to rent. Puntenney’s son had just such a farm to let. The next day, Puntenney went to see him but found out the rental house wouldn’t be free for at least two weeks.
That was a long time to have to sleep in a barn. Thus James Puntenney went to David Waite’s home and asked him if the black family could stay in Waite’s kitchen until Puntenney’s son’s farm house was free.
Under cross-examination by Matthews, Puntenney testified that his wagon had not left his home the night the slaves fled from David Waite’s. He further stated that John Cox, a laborer who worked for Puntenney, had borrowed his horses that night.
A subsequent defense witness, William M. Jaynes, told the court that he overheard Squire B. Million telling several other men that he “intended the slaves should come to Ohio.”
District Attorney Stanley Matthews called forth two more sympathetic witnesses.
James Blue, who, like Charlotte Ham, also lived with Squire Million, confirmed that the slaves initially left Rowan County while Mr. Million was gone, and that Million had offered rewards for their return.
Under cross-examination by Jolliffe, Blue promised that Million had not tried to go after the slaves until he learned from Shaw where they were. He stated under oath that he had not heard Million tell Lewis that he should go away while Million was in Flemingsburg.
Samuel Montgomery was called next. He testified simply that he had seen Squire Million while he was in Adams County and had been told by Million that he was going to see a lawyer to ask for legal advice about his slaves.
Afterward, Squire Million took the stand again. Million claimed to have never had a private conversation with William Shaw, even though Shaw had stayed at his home. He had neither told Shaw nor his wife that he had sent his slaves to Ohio on purpose. He did not authorize his brother or anyone else to take the slaves to the ferry or to give them a written pass.
John Jolliffe was allowed to cross-examine Squire Million. Million told him that the Waller he and Shaw had met on the road had told them where the slaves were. Million further said that Mrs. Shaw had told him, about his slaves, “Let the poor things go.”
In short, Squire B. Million entirely denied that he had allowed his slaves to cross over into a free state on purpose. As the Cincinnati Daily Enquirer put it, Million and the defense witnesses “flatly contradict each other.”
Both the prosecution and the defense finished presenting their evidence by noon. The court went into recess until two in the afternoon. Thereafter, the attorneys presented their closing arguments.
District Attorney Stanley Matthews asked the jury to find David Waite guilty for harboring fugitive slaves. Waite, Matthews argued, had known they were fugitives from the start. He had further “aided and abetted in their escape . . .”
Defense attorney John Jolliffe heartily disagreed. He asked the jury to find David Waite not guilty because Lewis and his family were in Ohio with their master’s permission. He further stated that there was no evidence Waite had helped the slaves escape from his house.
Judge Humphrey H. Leavitt had a clear history of acting favorably to slave owner interests. The outcome of the Margaret Garner case, as well as the Addison White affair, which was a literal battle of overlapping jurisdiction, make that clear.
Yet Leavitt still instructed the jury to find David Waite not guilty if they believed he believed the slaves had permission to be in Ohio. As The Marysville Tribune paraphrased, “slaves coming thus to free soil are enfranchised as soon as they arrive . . .”
The jury entered deliberations. The Anti-Slavery Bugle reported their initial ballot as eight for conviction and four for acquittal. At six o’clock that evening, they were dismissed for the day.
The next morning, each ballot went nine for conviction and three for acquittal. At eleven o’clock, the jury told Judge Leavitt that they had not agreed upon a verdict and would not be likely to do so. They were hung.
John Jolliffe attempted to have his client retried as soon as possible. He told the judge that he had new evidence which would “throw much light on the issue.” Judge Leavitt, however, refused to try the case without District Attorney Stanley Matthews at hand.
Instead, a second trial for David Waite was set for December 22nd, “the third Tuesday of December”, with James Puntenney and John K. Stout again standing good for his one thousand dollar bond. That second trial does not seem to have ever taken place.
The Trial of James Puntenney
However, also on November 11th, Squire B. Million filed charges with United States Commissioner George M. Lee against James Puntenney for violating the Fugitive Slave Act. Deputy United States Marshal B.P. Churchill arrested James Puntenney.
That same day when Waite’s neighbor William Shaw filed charges against Squire B. Million for committing perjury. Shaw alleged that, in the courtroom, after jury deliberations began, he overheard Million admit aloud he had given his slaves permission to come into Ohio.
There, claimed Shaw, “was an agreement that the negro should return, or the master should come after him, as soon as some pecuniary troubles were ended.”
Deputy Marshal Churchill arrested Million upon Shaw’s word the same day he arrested Puntenney upon Million’s word.
Squire B. Million was arraigned before Commissioner Lee at three o’clock in the afternoon of November 11th. He was represented by Judge Spooner. John Jolliffe served as prosecution.
William Shaw repeated his allegation that he had heard Million admit he had sent his slaves to Ohio in Judge Leavitt’s courtroom.
Called next, James H. Hall, who operated a flatboat on the Ohio River, testified to having had a conversation with Million the day before wherein Million had told him just how Lewis came to be in Ohio.
Supposedly, Million had sold Lewis, but Lewis, perhaps to stay with his family, had desperately wanted to be bought back. Million had done so with a hefty loan he seems to have been unable to repay. Lewis had taken his family north to avoid being resold.
William M. Jones, who had testified in Waite’s trial for the defense, now reiterated his claim that, when Million had been in Adams County looking for his slaves, he overheard him say he consented for the slaves to come to Ohio.
In the end, Puntenney had clearly incriminated himself with his testimony but Million’s crime was secondhand. Commissioner Lee dismissed his charges and postponed the case against Puntenney for November 18th.
Puntenney’s bail was set at either five hundred or one thousand dollars.
The trial of James Puntenney provides several more details about the flight of the enslaved, if the testimony is to be trusted. John Jolliffe defended James Puntenney, while Hunter Brooke stood as prosecutor.
One little wrinkle in the case is that during Puntenny’s trial Squire Million claimed that he had heard his slaves were at Puntenney’s before he learned they were at Waite’s. This seems unlikely unless he learned of their presence from someone other than William Shaw.
David Waite’s niece stated under oath that James Puntenney was not at her uncle’s house on the night that Lewis and his family disappeared.
She further gave September 17th as the date the slaves fled. (Cincinnati Daily Enquirer must have been mistaken when they wrote 1857 in their reporting. It is very unlikely that Lewis and his family stayed with David Waite for over a year. Other newspapers give 1856 instead.)
Other defense witnesses, including Waite’s neighbor William Shaw along with J.S. Rose, Joseph Newman, John and Francis Piatt, Joseph and William Montgomery, and Austin Mellis all claimed that they had heard Squire Million say the slaves were in Ohio with his permission.
Some of them alleged it wasn’t Million who sent the slaves north but Million’s brother with Million’s permission. Either way, if the many defense witnesses were to be believed, Lewis and family were not, in fact, fugitive slaves when they crossed the river.
For the prosecution, Joseph Cross testified that he went to James Puntenney on September 17th in order to tell him that Million was at Waite’s house, and that the Million intended to retrieve his slaves. Cross claimed he went to Puntenney upon David Waite’s behalf.
Waite apparently wanted Cross to enlist Puntenney’s aid in helping Lewis and his family escape from Million.
John Cox, the laborer who worked for Puntenney and who Puntenney previously testified had borrowed his horses the night Lewis and family escaped, also appeared for the prosecution. He stated that Punteney had him drive a wagon to Waite’s with Puntenney’s son John.
Together, they picked up Lewis and his family and took them north.
Commissioner Lee apparently placed more trust in Miss Waite and the other defense witnesses than he did in the word of Cross or Cox.
He ruled there was good evidence James Puntenney had not been at David Waite’s house the night in question and also that there was no reason to believe Puntenney knew that Lewis and family were fugitives.
Despite admitting that it was improbable that Million had been so ignorant of the law as to send his slaves to Ohio willingly, Commissioner Lee ultimately seemed to buy that line of thinking.
Whoever had given Lewis and his family a travel pass had also provided David Waite and James Puntenney with a helpful legal buffer.
Commissioner Lee declared that it wasn’t unreasonable for Puntenney and Waite to have thought the slaves were there with their master’s wishes. Lee added that “Million was a very unintelligent man, and his recollections so confused that he did not probably remember . . .”
James Puntenney was thus acquitted.
The prosecution had also wanted to examine James’s son John Punteney, who also faced trial for violating the Fugitive Slave Act. However, John Jolliffe objected to examining the younger Puntenney in the absence of Squire B. Million.
Million had apparently gone home to Kentucky.
With his trial date moved, John Puntenney paid $500 bail and promised to appear before the Commissioner again on Friday, November 20th.
However, that trial did not occur then, “owing to the non-arrival of witnesses considered important by the defense.” It is unclear whether it was postponed or whether the charges were dropped. It is quite probable that Squire B. Million did not care to reappear in Ohio.
Perhaps no further news, which so far I have found, means good news for Waite and the Puntenney’s. Still, in David Waite’s case, at least, it appears that either his court costs or his legal bills, or a combination of both, left him in rather serious debt.
In a 1894 letter to researcher Wilbur H. Siebert, P.N. Wickerham, an Adams Countian, said Waite “was broken up” in defending the suit. Edward O’Conner Purtee, who studied under Siebert and had access to his research, later described Waite as “virtually bankrupted.”
David Waite died in 1864, one year before the last enslaved people in the border states were finally emancipated.
James Puntenney died on May 7, 1890, on his farm on Stout’s Run in Adams County. His son John Puntenney later moved to Portsmouth, Ohio. In 1895, in a return letter, John’s nephew George H. Puntenney told Wilbur H. Siebert to write to his uncle. George Puntenney said that both James and his brother S.W. “were brothers of my father and did run off n——.”
After his first wife Jane died in 1869, Squire B. Million appears to have married the same Charlotte Ham who testified on his behalf during the Fugitive Slave Act trial. She might have been his brother’s widow. Squire died in 1873.
Humphrey H. Leavitt, who had previously been a state legislator and United States Congressman, continued serving as a federal judge in Ohio until he resigned in 1871. He died in Springfield, Ohio two years later.
John Jolliffe, who “in every possible way showed his detestation of slavery”, moved from Cincinnati to Washington City, Ohio after the Civil War. In 1868, his Washington City law office caught fire and was put out. In its aftermath, Jolliffe died of illness.
Lewis, his wife, and their six children are unfortunately lost to the anonymity of history. They make up eight of an estimated total 20,000 enslaved African-Americans who, in the decade before the Civil War, escaped to freedom in Canada.
Lewis and family’s escape on September 12, 1856. Haldeman, W.N., and Durrett, R.T., eds. “U.S. District Court. – The trial of David Wait . . .” Louisville Daily Courier (Louisville, Kentucky), November 12, 1857. Page 3. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119190182/ Available digitally through Newspapers.com.
David Waite, living in Blue Creek.1850 Federal Census, Ohio, Adams, Jefferson. “David Wait”. See also 1860 Federal Census, Ohio, Adams, Jefferson. “David Waite”.
Waite gives Lewis accommodation as he would any other traveler. Bailey, G., ed. “Fugitive slave cases are plentiful in Cincinnati.” The National Era (Washington, D.C.) November 19th, 1857. Page 3. http://www.newspapers.com/image/339121882/ Available digitally through Newspapers.com.
Lewis and family’s ultimate escape to Canada. Faran, James. J., ed. “The Case of David Wait – Charged with Harboring Fugitive Slaves in Adams County, Ohio.” Cincinnati Daily Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio), November 11, 1857. Page 3. Available on microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky).
Judge Leavitt instructs grand jury. Thoburn, D. “U. States District Court – Judge Leavitt’s Charge to the Grand Jury – The Slave Law”. Belmont Chronicle (St. Clairsville, Ohio). October 29, 1857. Page 1. https://www.newspapers.com/image/78679263/ Available digitally through Newspapers.com.
Marshals Churchill and Elliott arrest David Waite. Robinson, Marius R., ed. “Our Infamous Union!” The Anti-Slavery Bugle (Salem, Ohio), November 14, 1857. Page 2. https://www.newspapers.com/image/80609228/ Available digitally through Newspapers.com.
Rumors of a rescue attempt. Starbuck, C.W., ed. “Daniel Waite, of Adams County, Having Been Indicted . . .” Cincinnati Daily Times. November 2, 1857. Page 3. Available on microfilm at the Main Library of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
October 31st, the dayWaite’s bail is set. “Arrested For Harboring Slaves.” Cincinnati Daily Gazette. November 2, 1857. Page 2. Available at Main Library of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Amusingly, the Daily Gazette mistakenly said Million was from Dearborn County, Kentucky, which does not exist. It also misprinted his last name as William.
Puntenney and Stout go upon Waite’s bond. see above Robinson, Marius R., ed. “Our Infamous Union!” The Anti-Slavery Bugle (Salem, Ohio), November 14, 1857.
Puntenney, underground railroad conductor. see above P. N. Wickerham to Wilbur Siebert
Puntenney family “very active” in abolition movement. see above William Hill to Wilbur Siebert
Puntenney family “all original Anti-Slavery” Caldwell, J.A. “The Puntenney Family” Caldwell’s Illustrated Historical Atlas of Adams County, Ohio. Neward, OH: J.A. Caldwell. Page 59
John K. Stout, about. Caldwell, J.A. “John K. Stout” Caldwell’s Illustrated Historical Atlas of Adams County, Ohio. Neward, OH: J.A. Caldwell. Page 29
Million sues Waite in civil court. “The Indictment for Harboring Slaves.” Cincinnati Daily Gazette (Cincinnati, Ohio). November 10, 1857. Page 2. Available on microfilm at the Main Library of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
Details of Waite trial. see above “The Indictment for Harboring Slaves.” Cincinnati Daily Gazette
Details of Waite trial, Million in Fleminsburg. see above Faran, James. J., ed. “The Case of David Wait – Charged with Harboring Fugitive Slaves in Adams County, Ohio.” Cincinnati Daily Enquirer
William Shaw, Waite’s brother-in-law. see above “The Indictment for Harboring Slaves.” Cincinnati Daily Gazette
William Shaw, also Waite’s next-door neighbor.1850 Federal Census, Ohio, Adams, Jefferson. “William Shaw”. See also 1860 Federal Census, Ohio, Adams, Jefferson. “William Shaw”. Both census list Shaw as Waite’s next door neighbor.
Million’s testimony, regarding William Shaw’s visit. see above “The Indictment for Harboring Slaves – Trial Under Fugitive Slave Law.” Cincinnati Daily Gazette
Million’s testimony, regarding seeing Lewis in Adams County. see above Faran, James. J., ed. “The Case of David Wait – Charged with Harboring Fugitive Slaves in Adams County, Ohio.” Cincinnati Daily Enquirer
Charlotte Ham in 1850 Census.1850 Federal Census, Kentucky, Fleming, Division 2. “Harrison Hankins”. Charlotte listed at bottom of Hankins’ household. Squire Million’s household further up on the same page.
Ham’s testimony, regarding Million being away. see above Faran, James. J., ed. “The Case of David Wait – Charged with Harboring Fugitive Slaves in Adams County, Ohio.” Cincinnati Daily Enquirer
Petit & Shaw’s testimony. see above “The Indictment for Harboring Slaves – Trial Under Fugitive Slave Law.” Cincinnati Daily Gazette
“what course should be taken if the slaves are in danger” see above Faran, James. J., ed. “The Case of David Wait – Charged with Harboring Fugitive Slaves in Adams County, Ohio.” Cincinnati Daily Enquirer
Shaw gave letter from Lewis to Million. see above “The Indictment for Harboring Slaves – Trial Under Fugitive Slave Law.” Cincinnati Daily Gazette
Shaw got dress from Mrs. Million for Lewis’ wife. see above Faran, James. J., ed. “The Case of David Wait – Charged with Harboring Fugitive Slaves in Adams County, Ohio.” Cincinnati Daily Enquirer
Shaw’s testimony, regarding taking Million to Adams County. see above “The Indictment for Harboring Slaves – Trial Under Fugitive Slave Law.” Cincinnati Daily Gazette
J.G. Sanders testimony. see above Faran, James. J., ed. “The Case of David Wait – Charged with Harboring Fugitive Slaves in Adams County, Ohio.” Cincinnati Daily Enquirer
Puntenney’s testimony. see above “The Indictment for Harboring Slaves – Trial Under Fugitive Slave Law.” Cincinnati Daily Gazette
More of Puntenney’s testimony. see above Faran, James. J., ed. “The Case of David Wait – Charged with Harboring Fugitive Slaves in Adams County, Ohio.” Cincinnati Daily Enquirer
John Cox, as laborer who worked for Puntenney. Faran, James. J., ed. “The Slave-Harboring Case in Adams County – Jas. J. Putney Acquitted”. Cincinnati Daily Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio). November 19, 1857. Page 3. https://www.newspapers.com/image/32017684/ Available digitally through Newspapers.com.
Puntenney’s testimony, regarding Cox borrowing horses. see above “The Indictment for Harboring Slaves – Trial Under Fugitive Slave Law.” Cincinnati Daily Gazette
Testimony of William Jaynes, James Blue, Samuel Montgomery, and Squire Million (again). see above “The Indictment for Harboring Slaves – Trial Under Fugitive Slave Law.” Cincinnati Daily Gazette
Million and defense witnesses “flatly contradict each other” see above Faran, James. J., ed. “The Case of David Wait – Charged with Harboring Fugitive Slaves in Adams County, Ohio.” Cincinnati Daily Enquirer
Matthews and Jolliffe’s closing arguments. see above “The Indictment for Harboring Slaves – Trial Under Fugitive Slave Law.” Cincinnati Daily Gazette
Marysville Tribune quote. McBratney, Samuel, ed. “At the present session of the U.S. Circuit court . . .” The Marysville Tribune (Marysville, Ohio). November 18, 1857. Page 1. https://www.newspapers.com/image/325419469/ Available digitally through Newspapers.com.
Jury’s initial ballot. “Harboring Slaves” The Anti-Slavery Bugle (Salem, Ohio). November 28, 1857. Page 1. https://www.newspapers.com/image/80609253/ Quoting the Cincinnati Gazette. Available digitally through Newspapers.com.
Jury dismissed at six o’clock. see above Faran, James. J., ed. “The Case of David Wait – Charged with Harboring Fugitive Slaves in Adams County, Ohio.” Cincinnati Daily Enquirer
The next morning ballots. see above “Harboring Slaves” The Anti-Slavery Bugle (Salem, Ohio)
Hung jury. Boardman, J.L., ed. “The jury in the case of David Wait . . .” The Highland Weekly News (Hillsborough, Ohio). November 19, 1857. Page 3. https://www.newspapers.com/image/70781610/ Quoting the Cincinnati Gazette. Available digitally through Newspapers.com.
Judge Leavitt refuses retrial without Stanley Matthews presence. see above “Harboring Slaves” The Anti-Slavery Bugle (Salem, Ohio)
Second trial for Waite set for December 22nd.U.S. vs. David Waits, case #31. Record Group 21 U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio, Order Book, 1803 to 1938, volume 3. Pages 171, 173-175. In National Archives at Chicago.
Million files charges against Puntenney and Shaw files charges against Million. see above “Harboring Slaves”. The Anti-Slavery Bugle. The Anti-SlaveryBugle reported September 20th as the date Putney harbored Million’s slaves while The National Era reported September 26th. The 20th seems more likely.
Million’s examination before Commissioner Lee. Faran, James J., ed. “Squire B. Million Arrested.” Cincinnati Daily Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio), November 11, 1857. Page 3. On microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky).
Puntenney’s bail, as $500. see above Bailey, G., ed. “Fugitive slave cases are plentiful in Cincinnati.” The National Era
Puntenney’s bail, as $1000. “Squire T. Million, who was charged with perjury . . .” Cincinnati Daily Times (Cincinnati, Ohio). November 12, 1857. Page 3. Available on microfilm at the Main Library of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
Puntenney’s trial, Million’s claim he thought his slaves were with Puntenney initially. “The Fugitive Slave Case – Another Arrest – Aiding to Escape.” Cincinnati Daily Gazette (Cincinnati, Ohio). November 19, 1857. Page 2. Available at the Main Library of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
Testimony of David Waite’s niece, William Shaw and other defense witnesses. see also “Harboring Slaves.” The Anti-Slavery Bugle.
Testimony of Cox and Cross and acquittal of Puntenney. Faran, James. J., ed. “The Slave-Harboring Case in Adams County – Jas. J. Putney Acquitted”. Cincinnati Daily Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio). November 19, 1857. Page 3. https://www.newspapers.com/image/32017684/ Available digitally through Newspapers.com.
John Puntenney’s trial postponed (or cancelled). Faran, James J., ed. “The Slave-Harboring Case in Adams County.” Cincinnati Daily Enquirer(Cincinnati, Ohio), November 21, 1857. Page 3. Available on microfilm at William T. Young Library (University of Kentucky).
Waite “virtually bankrupted” Purtee, Edward O’Conner. “The Underground Railroad from Southwestern Ohio to Lake Erie.” PhD diss., Ohio State University, 1932. Page 113. Available digitally through the Wilbur H. Siebert Underground Railroad Collection at Ohio History Connection.
David Waite, death in 1864.Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 08 August 2019), memorial page for David Waite (16 May 1807–8 May 1864), Find A Grave Memorial no. 40744302, citing Drake Cemetery, Blue Creek, Adams County, Ohio, USA ; Maintained by Debbie J (contributor 46890655).
James Puntenney, died 1890. Evans, Nelson W., and Emmons B. Stivers. A History of Adams County, Ohio. West Union, OH: E.B. Stivers, 1900. Pages 668-669.
Squire B. Million marries Ham, dies in 1873. Wimmer, Nellie Million. Millions of Virginia and Kentucky. Portage, MI: Wimmers’ Unlimited, 1999. Page 16. Available at the Martin F. Schmidt Research Library in the Kentucky History Center at Frankfort, Kentucky.
A seven part essay about three efforts to name a county after Kentucky’s 35th Governor.
Land west of the Mississippi River was officially designated Indian Territory in 1825. After 1830, the Indian Removal Act was used to force most members of the so-called Five Civilized Nations (Chickasaw, Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole) from the southeast.
The established range of the territory shrank over time as its land grew more and more attractive to white settlers. States formed up from and around it. In 1854, the northern half split off to become parts of Kansas and Nebraska.
Indian Territory was even more dramatically changed in 1889, when the Land Run opened up the Oklahoma District for white settlement. Migrants from all over the country flocked to claim their 160 acres of public land as homesteaders.
Moves for statehood sprung up immediately thereafter. The Organic Act of 1890 made a proper Territory out of Oklahoma District. As Linda Wilson writes, before then the “American Indians generally opposed federal attempts to organize them as a territory or a state.”
However, by 1890, they were outnumbered in their own territory, as well as politically disadvantaged. The Oklahoma Enabling Act of 1906 paved the way for combined statehood for both Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory. They would become simply Oklahoma.
Any new state requires new counties. But the Oklahoma constitutional convention called for dozens and dozens of new counties. It was under these circumstances that it became relatively easy to name a county after pretty much anyone.
Among the delegates to the constitutional convention was a Kentuckian named David Hogg. He happened to be a fan of Governor Beckham. Apparently, Hogg was holding out against the creation of what became Beckham County until he was given the honor to name it.
This may be folklore. A later newspaper report gives the credit to naming Beckham County, Oklahoma, to another delegate named J.B. Harrison.
Regardless, Beckham County was created along with the rest of the state of Oklahoma on November 16, 1907. It sat and still sits on the Oklahoma-Texas border. At its creation, it had a population of 10,000.
Despite protests from Elk City, and at least partially through the efforts of merchant George C. Whitehurst, the town of Sayre was chosen as the county seat.
Whoever he was, the delegate who had gotten Beckham County its name wasn’t alone in his origins. There were enough Kentuckians in Sayre for a Kentucky Club to be organized there in 1910. Anyone who hailed from the commonwealth was invited to belong.
In 1916, J.C.W. Beckham, then United States Senator, had his portrait sent to the Oklahoma county named after him. The portrait was placed in the county courthouse in Sayre. The senator was invited to visit his namesake but it’s unclear (to me) if he ever did.
Today, Beckham County, Oklahoma has a population estimated to be over 21,709 persons. It has doubled in population since 1907. Despite being in what was once Indian Territory, its demographic breakdown is predominately white and only 3.4% Native American.
Ironically – and there is no evidence that this is more than a coincidence – one of the smaller communities in Beckham County, Oklahoma just so happens to be named Carter.
As for the county’s namesake, John Crepps Wickliffe Beckham served as governor of Kentucky until 1907. He had first succeeded the murdered William Goebel, then won a special election in the aftermath of that assassination, and finally won re-election by regular means.
He would lose a United States senate primary nomination only to later win the senate seat in 1914 against August E. Willson, the Republican who had succeeded him as governor. He failed to win re-election in 1920 and ran for governor again in 1927 only to lose there, as well.
Tidying up old business, in 1912 Governor James B. McCreary signed resolutions from both the House and the Senate allowing the Globe Printing Company to sue Kentucky for reimbursement for printing done on behalf of Beckham County.
Memories must have been short. In 1904, when the company must have taken on the Beckham job, the state attorney general had sued Globe Printing Company, alleging that they had artificially inflated costs in their capacities as state printers.
That lawsuit ultimately went in favor of Globe Printing Company but it is unclear how the 1912 one turned out.
There would only be one more Kentucky county created after the dissolution of Beckham County in 1904. McCreary County was established in 1912 from Wayne, Whitley and Pulaski Counties. It was born under very familiar circumstances.
The same area was where ill-fated Thorne County had been proposed in 1904. Proponents argued the people there were too far from their current courthouses. And, continuing the tradition, it was named for then-sitting governor James B. McCreary.
McCreary County was Kentucky’s 120th County and its last. However, there would be later attempts made. In 1916, the state senate tabled a bill to create a county out of part of Pike County that was to have been named after then governor Stanley.
In both the 1924 and 1926 legislative sessions there were bills introduced to establish a Fields County. It was to have been named for then governor William Jason Fields. Fields happened to be from the part of Carter County that briefly had been Beckham County.
Fields County was to have been cobbled together from sections of Whitley, Knox, Laurel, Pulaski and even McCreary Counties. However, neither bill for its establishment ever made it out of committee.
Even as late as 1929 there was yet another move by Olive Hill in the old power struggle in Carter County politics. That year there was a special measure on the ballot proposing moving the county seat to Olive Hill from Grayson. It failed to pass.
In 1968, the Kentucky Historical Society and the Kentucky Department of Highways placed a historical marker in Olive Hill about the short-lived Beckham County. It stands there to this day.
Oklahoma Constitutional Convention. Niblack, Leslie G., ed. “Boundary Lines Fixed; Report Is Adopted.” The Guthrie Daily Leader (Guthrie, Oklahoma), December 21, 1906. Page 1. Accessed June 1, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/68291244/. Behind paywall. List of counties.
David Hogg,delegate, responsible for name. Beatty, Michael A. County Name Origins of the United States. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2001. Page 412. Entry “Beckham County”.
Hogg got to name county as concession. “County Named For Beckham.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), January 26, 1913, sec. 3. Page 10. Accessed June 1, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119281850. Behind paywall.
J.B. Harrison, credit for county name. “How Oklahoma Counties Were Named: Divisions of State Were Formed By Cutting And Patching.” The Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), April 20, 1919, sec. C. Page 9. Accessed June 1, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/448681775. Behind paywall.
Beckham County created. Kennemer, Lynn. Elk City: Rising From the Prairie. Elk City, OK: Western Oklahoma Historical Society, 2007. Page 44.
Population of 10,000. “Beckham County.” The Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), March 10, 1907. Section: New State Edition. Page 1. Accessed June 1, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/440961787/. Behind paywall.
Whitehurst, role in Sayre as county seat. Stafford, R.E., ed. “Secured County Bid.” The Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), January 11, 1907. Page 2. Accessed June 1, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/440948593. Behind paywall.
Sayre chosen as county seat. Stafford, R.E., ed. “Two-Thirds Vote Is Required To Change.” The Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), January 17, 1907. Page 2. Accessed June 1, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/440948593. Behind paywall.
Sayre Kentucky Club. Tillman, H.F., ed. “”A Kentucky club has been organized at Sayre . . .”” Haskell News (Haskell, Oklahoma), May 12, 1910. Page 6. Accessed June 1, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/33737378/. Behind paywall.
Senator Beckham sends portrait to Beckham County. Hedden, J.W., Jr., and G.B. Senff, eds. “Beckham Portrait: Painting of a Kentucky Senator Graces Walls of Oklahoma Courthouse.” Mt. Sterling Advocate (Mt. Sterling, Kentucky), June 20, 1916. Page 2. Accessed June 1, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/71085988/. Behind paywall.
Beckham’s later political career. Harrison, Lowell H. “Beckham, John Crepps Wickliffe.” In The Kentucky Encyclopedia, edited by John E. Kleber. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1992. Page 65.
1904 Globe Printing Company lawsuit. “State Sues To Recover Nearly $25,000 From the Globe Printing Company.” The Twice-A-Week Messenger (Owensboro, KY), December 16, 1904. Page 1. Accessed July 5, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/376010181/. Behind paywall.
1904 lawsuit decided in printing company’s favor. Fisher, Frank M., ed. “Printing Case Decided.” The Paducah Sun (Paducah, KY), February 05, 1906. Page 3. Accessed July 5, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/71204226. Behind paywall.
McCreary County. Perry, L.E. McCreary Conquest: A Narrative History. Whitley City, KY: L.E. Perry, 1979. Pages 47-51.
1916 bill for new county. Kaltenbacher, Will S. “One County Created While Three Efforts Fail.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), December 23, 1917, sec. 2. Page 4. Accessed July 4, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119501632. Behind paywall.
Would’ve been named for Governor Stanley. Moore, Paul M., ed. “Kentucky and New Counties.” The Bee (Earlington, Kentucky), February 08, 1916. Page 1. Accessed July 4, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/529685597. Behind paywall.
Governor Fields. “Former Gov. Fields, Democratic Political Figure, Dies at 79.” The Owensboro Messenger(Owensboro, KY), October 22, 1954. Page 1 & 14. Accessed July 5, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/375737996/. Behind paywall.
1924 Fields County bill. “Rules Committee Votes To Kill “Fields County”.” The Owensboro Messenger (Owensboro, KY), March 12, 1924. Page 1. Accessed July 5, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/376077802/. Behind paywall.
1926 Fields County bill. Colt, C.C. “”Ripper” Bill Gets Approval of Committee.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), February 26, 1926. Page 1 & 10. Accessed July 5, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/107827801/. Behind paywall.
Carter County votes on moving county seat. “Carter To Vote On Moving County Seat.” The Sun-Democrat (Paducah, KY), November 04, 1929. Page 4. Accessed July 5, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/501594390. Behind paywall.
Olive Hill’s Beckham County
Crawford, Byron. “A Short Course on history of Beckham County.” The Courier-Journal, (Louisville, Kentucky), March 16, 1984, sec B. Page 3 & 5. Accessed July 7, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/109703599/. Behind paywall.
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).
The William T. Young Library at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY has many useful newspapers for the topic on microfilm including J.W. Lusby’s The Herald (Grayson) and several other Carter County newspapers.
Klotter, James C. William Goebel: The Politics of Wrath. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1977.
Special thanks to Steve Middleton, documentarian, instructor, and musician, who provided tremendous help with researching this essay. From Olive Hill, he is in a very talented old time music band named The New Beckham County Ramblers.
Also thanks to my dad who made sure to point out the historical marker in Olive Hill when I was a little boy.
A seven part essay about three efforts to name a county after Kentucky’s 35th Governor.
Halfway across the state, on December 29th, 1905, citizens in the town of Fordsville decided not only to take the general idea of a new county from the failed experiment of Beckham but to repurpose its name, as well.
A survey for their new county was commissioned and Ohio County Representative Charles Beard had been converted to the cause.
TheHartford Republican further stated that “Gov. Beckham is very much in favor of the scheme because he wants a county named for him and he thinks he sees three more votes for himself in his race for United States Senator two years hence.”
Much more critically, the Mayfield Monitor wrote that it was an effort to “perpetuate the memory of the first Governor of Kentucky who used his pardoning and appointing power to increase his personal influence with corrupt politicians in order that he might defeat the will of the people and gratify his own ambition.”
However, as was the case in Olive Hill, the movement for the new county clearly predated Beckham’s ascension to the Governor’s Mansion.
In November 1893, The Breckenridge News printed that a petition for the creation of a new county from parts of Ohio, Daviess, Grayson, Breckenridge and Butler counties, with Fordsville as its seat, was to be presented to the General Assembly.
Talk of the new county picked up energy in December 1895. The next month, The Courier-Journal said “petitions have been signed by a majority of the voters in the respective areas to be formed into the new county.” Fordsville’s new county would lean Republican.
One year later, in 1897, the Owensboro Daily Inquirer printed a fairly negative article on the effort to create a new county around Fordsville. The points it made against the idea could have been quite fairly used against the effort in Olive Hill, as well.
Referring to the average citizen in the areas affected, Inquirer editor W.Q. Adams wrote that:
Most of the people there are poor, and while they are remote from their court houses they have little or no business there and hope for less. The building of a new courthouse and jail and other necessary improvements would cost them a great deal of money and many of them say the benefits would not at all compensate them for the outlay. Many of them do not go to their county seats once in five years, and great numbers of them can be found who have reached middle age and who have never been there on legal business.
Almost ten years later, on February 9th, 1906, Republican Representative Charles Beard introduced a bill into the House for the creation of another Beckham County based around Fordsville.
The sense of deja vu in regards to the name of the county appears to have confused even one newspaper.
The Breckenridge News, whose editor obviously should have known better, mistakenly reported:
A similar bill became a law last session, but on account of an error in fixing its boundaries it was declared unconstitutional. In fact, it is said that the boundary lines fixed in the bill would extend the county into the State of Indiana.
The House Committee on Kentucky Statues agreed to hold a hearing for the Beard’s Beckham County Bill on February 17th. Delegates for and against the idea rushed to Frankfort from the Fordsville area to make their case.
The pro-Beckham County faction, led by Hardinsburg attorney Claude Mercer and former Ohio County attorney W.H. Barnes, presented a survey of their ordering along with a 2,000 name strong petition for the county’s creation.
Opponents, including Senator W.W. Tabb, Senator Richard Owen, and Representative George Litsey also spoke.
Tabb, whose effigy would be burned in 1908 in Hardin County for voting for J.C.W. Beckham for United States Senate, insisted the counties this new Beckham County was to be taken from were pauper counties and that Beckham County would become one, too.
H.P. Taylor, Vice President of the Bank of Hartford was another figure against the proposal. He told the Statutes Committee that he had not known “how the county was to be formed to be formed until he came to Frankfort and saw the map.”
Tensions were so high during that committee meeting that when the opposition requested permission to take a look at the signatures on the petition, Representative Beard insisted they could only if they examined it right in front of him.
At the following meeting of the Kentucky Statutes Committee on February 20th, the anti-Beckham County faction, led by Senator Owen, H.P. Taylor, and former Butler County senator Nat T. Howard showed up with a survey of their own.
As the The Courier-Journal said, “they came loaded with maps, affidavits and remonstrance.”
Taylor and his associates tried to show that the proposed new county would cut off six miles from Daviess County, run too close to the Ohio County seat of Hartford, and be less than the constitutionally required 400 square miles in size.
They further alleged, with affidavits sworn, that half the names of the petition the pro-Beckham force had previously presented had been falsified.
W.H. Barnes, who was for the creation of Beckham County, said that H.P. Taylor was only against the bill because he was an attorney for the Illinois Central Railroad, and would lose jurisdiction over part of Ohio County if it was made.
The Courier-Journal reports a rather testy exchange between ex-County Attorney Barnes and ex-Senator Howard:
“I have no interest in this bill,” said Mr. Barnes, “because I am not a County Judge, County Attorney, or anything else. I am only plain Mr. Barnes.”
“Your interest in the bill is the hope that you will be made the County Attorney of the new county,” said Mr. Howard.
“And your interest is in keeping your district from becoming Democratic,” responded Mr. Barnes to Mr. Howard.
Meanwhile, another bill for the creation of Thorne County near the Tennessee border was proposed by Representatives Richard Rose and Mike Freeman. It was not expected to pass.
Concerning Fordsville, after arguments for and against the creation of this new Beckham County, a vote was taken on the bill by the Kentucky Statutes Committee.
It was evenly split, with Representatives Claybrooke, McKnight, Litsey and Morris against it, and Redwine, McLean, Dawson and Rose for it. The next morning, on the 21st, McLean and Redwine switched sides.
The following day, the Owensboro Daily Inquirer reported that the Kentucky Statutes Committee had decided “to postpone action upon it indefinitely.” The bill would advance no further.
It is unclear how Senator W.B. Whitt felt about the effort to repurpose the name Beckham County for the Fordsville area. What is clear is that he had not quite given up trying to get Olive Hill’s version of a Beckham County created. Perhaps the competition spurred him onwards.
On March 13th, 1906, The Courier-Journal reported that early in the session Senator Whitt had introduced yet another bill pertaining to his Beckham County.
This bill sought to circumvent the size requirement by giving enough of Carter County to Lewis County that if a new county was made from both of them all three would have enough square mileage to be considered constitutional.
A separate bill served as a potential backup plan. It would allow towns of considerable size further than ten miles from the county seat to serve on a sort of rotating courthouse circuit, forcing the original county seat to share the honors.
It seems Whitt would have settled for the second bill if he couldn’t have gotten the first, such was the desire for Olive Hill to be out from under the thumb Grayson. Apparently, they would have preferred sharing power with Vanceburg instead.
The courthouse bill was reported to have intrigued Representative Beard as a potential fix for his problem in Fordsville. However, even though Whitt’s bill passed the House of Representatives on March 12th, it seems to have gone no further.
From 1872 to 1904 there had been at least three bills introduced in the General Assembly to make Olive Hill the seat of a new county from the western portion of Carter County, not to mention countless more resolutions, petitions, and entreaties.
However, all those decades of political maneuvering came to naught. Olive Hill is still part of Carter County. Expanding further, there is not a Beckham County in the state of Kentucky today.
But there is one in Oklahoma.
Fordsville citizens commission survey. Smith, C.E., ed. “A New County: Plans on Foot To Form Another Beckham County.” The Hartford Republican (Hartford, Kentucky), December 29, 1905. Page 1. Accessed May 18, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7g1j977n6c_1.
Mayfield Monitor criticizes idea. “Political Serfdom.” Owensboro Daily Messenger (Owensboro, Kentucky), January 06, 1906. Page 4. Accessed May 18, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/376071795/. Behind paywall. Quoting the Mayfield Monitor.
1893 petition. Babbage, John D., and V.G. Babbage, eds. “Want a New County.” The Breckenridge News (Cloverport, Kentucky), November 01, 1893. Page 1. Accessed May 18, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt705q4rkr9q_1?
1895 new county idea. Casey, A.J., and George E. Bridges, eds. “That New County.” Owensboro Daily Inquirer (Owensboro, Kentucky), December 06, 1895. Page 4. Accessed May 18, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/375245008/. Behind paywall.
1896 petition. “Those interested in forming the new county . . .” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), January 30, 1896. Page 4. Accessed May 18, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/32476322/. Behind paywall.
1897 Owensboro Daily Inquirercritique. Adams, W.Q., ed. “A New County: An Effort Being Made To Establish One Around Fordsville.” Owensboro Daily Inquirer (Owensboro, Kentucky), November 17, 1897. Page 1. Accessed May 18, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/375204567. Behind paywall.
Breckenridge News gets the details wrong. Babbage, John D., and V.G. Babbage, eds. “At Last Introduced: Bill Creating Beckham County Has Found Its Way Into The House.” The Breckenridge News (Cloverport, Kentucky), February 14, 1906. Page 1. Accessed May 18, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7r7s7hrv1d_1.
Claude Mercer. “Claude Mercer Succumbs; Was Prominent Lawyer.” St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, Florida), September 30, 1945. Page 2. Accessed May 18, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/314850550. Behind paywall.
W.H. Barnes. Matthews, Heber, ed. “Democratic Officials – Took Office Last Monday.” The Hartford Herald (Hartford, Kentucky), January 08, 1902. Page 2. Accessed May 18, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/186557229. Behind paywall.
Pro-Beckham County faction presents survey and petition. “Beckham County Bill.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), February 17, 1906. Page 6. Accessed May 18, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119147905/. Behind paywall.
Senator Tabb effigy burned. Frost, Stanley, ed. “Burned in Effigy.” The Citizen (Berea, Kentucky), January 23, 1908. Page 7. Accessed May 18, 2019. Kentucky Digital Library. http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7xsj19mt0h_7.
H.P. Taylor, Vice President of the Bank of Hartford. Bank of Hartford Ad. The Ohio County News (Hartford, Kentucky), April 11, 1906. Page 3. Accessed May 18, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/215002619/. Behind paywall.
Nat. T. Howard. “For State Senator: The Hon. Avlis Bennett Wants To Succeed Capt. Nat Howard.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), November 23, 1902, sec. 3. Page 1. Accessed May 19, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/118923648/. Behind paywall.
Anti-Beckham County faction survey. “Battle Royale Between Third and Fourth Districts Over Butler.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), February 21, 1906. Page 2. Accessed May 19, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119148263/. Behind paywall.
Allege the pro survey was falsified. “Six Miles of Daviess County Would Be Cut Off For Beckham County.” Owensboro Daily Messenger (Owensboro, Kentucky), February 21, 1906. Page 1. Accessed May 18, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/376078756/. Behind paywall.
Barnes and Howard exchange / Another Thorne County bill. “Battle Royale Between Third and Fourth Districts Over Butler.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), February 21, 1906. Page 2. Accessed May 19, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119148263/. Behind paywall.
Beckham County bill postponed. Adams, W.Q., ed. “Beckham County Put To Sleep.” Owensboro Daily Inquirer (Owensboro, Kentucky), February 22, 1906. Page 1. Accessed May 19, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/375327793/. Behind paywall.
W.B. Whitt’s courthouse bill. Platt, Brainard. “Clears Way: House Passes Bill Making Beckham County Possible.” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), March 13, 1906. Page 4. Accessed May 27, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119149765/. Behind paywall.
A seven part essay about three efforts to name a county of Kentucky’s 35th Governor.
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.
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 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?
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, 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.
A seven part essay about three efforts to name a county after Kentucky’s 35th Governor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A seven part essay aboutthree efforts to name a county after Kentucky’s 35th Governor.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.