The first court held in the new county convened on the 21st day of March, 1797. Present-Jacob Barnett, Moses Shelby, Hugh Knox, Jonathan Logan and Brewer Reeves, gents, Presiding Justices of the county. They organized for business, and appointed John Clark Clerk, and Charles Logan Sheriff. The first business that came before court was the presentation of a deed by Young Ewing from Peter Tardwin and brother, which was ordered ” to be certified.” The next ‘item disposed of was, ” that James Henderson be appointed Commissioner of Tax for the present year, 1797.” The third act of the court was the issuing of a writ to James Shaw to view and condemn a mill site on Big Eddy, and the fourth, one to Robert Cravens for the same purpose, on the Barren Fork of Little River. The monotony of the proceedings was then broken, by granting a license to Obadiah Roberts ” to keep a public house.” The next entry upon the records is as follows:
“Ordered that Moses Shelby, Jonathan Logan, Brewer Reeves, Young Ewing and Joseph Kuykendall, gents, or a majority of them, meet at the house of Capt. Wood, where Col. Starling now lives, on the first Friday in April next, and proceed to view the most suitable and convenient place for the seat of justice for Christian County, and make a return to our next court.” After another writ or two regarding mill sites, the court adjourned.
The next term convened July 18, 1797, and the first business was the reports on the mill sites ordered ” viewed and condemned,” at the last term, which were ordered to, be recorded; also the issuing of writs to view and condemn other mill sites in various parts of the county, which, though very thinly populated, as we have seen, covered a large extent of territory. The last will and testament of James Davis was presented and ” ordered to be certified.” Mrs. Deborah Davis was appointed “to the safe keeping of the estate of the said James Davis, deceased,” and it was ordered ” that Moses Shelby, Jonathan Logan, Brewer Reeves, George Bell and James Davis appraise the estate of James Davis, deceased.” A deed from Peter Tardwin and brother to James Davis was sworn to and ordered ” to be certified.” Several other deeds were disposed of in the same manner.
The next entry is as follows: “Ordered that James Richey, George Robinson, Sr., Samuel Kinkeade, Julius Saunders, James Decon, Charles Staton and James Kerr be appointed, to view the most nearest and best way from James Waddleton’s, on the Bigg Eddy to the bigg spring on Lewiston, from there to the Clay-lick settlement, and report the same to our next court.” The next” order ” is for the Surveyor of this county to meet the Surveyor of Logan County on the 8th day of August, in order to run the boundary line between the said counties agreeable to law, etc . Young Ewing then presented his commission from the Governor as head Surveyor for Christian County, and entered into bond, with Joseph Kuykendall as security. The next business was an order to the Sheriff, to “summon Jacob Barnett and Hugh Knox to attend at our next court to proceed to view the most suitable place for the seat of justice, in order to erect the public buildings,” and then court adjourned.
The third term of the court was held Aug. 15, 1797, and, after disposing of some unimportant business, the following were established as ” tavern rates :” Dinner, 1s. 6d.; supper, 1s.; breakfast, 1s.; bedd, 41/2d.; grain per gallon, 9d; pasturage for 12 hours, 6d; horse to hay 12 hours, 1s.; whisky per gallon, 12s. The latter commodity seems to have been about as high then as now, but it is probable that the purity of the article made in those primitive days would offset the Government tax of the present day.
Locating the Seat of Justice – Following the establishment of uniform prices for tavern-keepers, comes the entry regarding the location of the county-seat, as follows:
“Ordered, that the seat of justice be first at the Sinking Fork of Little River; and that Young Ewing, Jonathan Logan and Samuel Hardin, gents, or a majority of them, do meet at the place fixed upon as the seat of justice, and proceed to view the most suitable place in order to erect public buildings as follows, to-wit: To let the public buildings, one cabbin 20 feet square. one jail 14 feet square, and the logs hughed 1 foot square, and one pair of stocks, and make report to our next court.” From the above entry it will be seen that the first officers of the county were not perfect in their orthography, but considering their educational facilities, they no doubt deserved as much credit for their learning as we do, with our greatly increased advantages.
At the next term of court, held November 21, 1797, it proceeded “to appoint a place to affix the seat of justice, and, after deliberating thereon, do appoint and determine on the land whereon Bartholomew Wood now lives; therefore ordered, that the seat of justice be fixed at the said Wood’s, he having agreed to give five acres of land for public buildings, timber for building the same, and half of the spring.” Thus was the seat of justice located, and to the credit and good business sense of the people be it said, it still remains upon the original site-the handsome and enterprising little city of Hopkinsville. Though efforts were at first made to remove it to other points, they failed, the majority always standing up for the old location.
An interesting item, culled from the old records of the court, is the following ” statement of the county levy for the year 1797 :”
|To the Clerk for the expense of fees||5 0 0|
|To the Sheriff for the expense of fees||7 10 0|
|To the State’s Attorney||15 0 0|
|To Young Ewing for surveying County line||14 12 0|
|To persons for building a court house and jail||30 0 0|
|To John Clark for the expense of the Commissioners’ book and one minute book furnished||3 18 0|
|To Peter Carpenter, 1 old and 1 young wolf scalp||11 0|
|To Henry Wortman, 1 old wolf scalp||8 0|
|To Benjamin Couns, 1 old wolf scalp||8 0|
|To Abraham Hicks, 1 old wolf scalp||8 0|
|To Henry Clark, 1 old wolf scalp||8 0|
|To James Lewis, 1 old and 1 young wolf scalp||11 0|
|To David Smith, 1 old wolf scalp||8 0|
|To John Clark, 1 young wolf scalp||3 0|
|To Abraham Stewart, 3 old wolf scalps||1 4 0|
|To W. Wallace, 3 old wolf scalps||1 4 0|
|To Joseph Kuykendall, 2 old wolf scalps||16 0|
|To James Elliott, 1 old wolf scalp||8 0|
|To Benj Garris, 9 old wolf scalps||3 12 0|
|To John Roberts, 1 old wolf scalp||8 0|
|To George Hardin, 1 old wolf scalp||8 0|
|To Benj Hardin, 1 old wolf scalp||8 0|
|To Joab Hardin, 1 old wolf scalp||8 0|
|To Bat Wood, 2 old wolf scalps||16 0|
|To Peter and John Shaffer, 3 old wolf scalps||1 4 0|
|Total||90 1 0|
It was ordered ” that the Sheriff pay the above amounts to the several individuals, and that he have credit for 388 Tiths at 4s. 6d. each.” In the year 1800, the tithables had increased to 592, and “the county levy for the same year was fixed at 62i cents.”
For faithfully and truly assessing the property of the people, the Commissioner of Tax, as he was called, was bound up in the following iron-clad manner:
“Know all men by these presents that we Benj. Campbell and Young Ewing are held and firmly bound unto James Garrard Esquire, Governor of Kentucky and his successors in office for the time being in the penal sum of Two thousand. dollars. the payment whereof well and Truly to be made to the said Governor or his successors in Office. We bind ourselves our heirs executors Administrators &C Jointly and Severally firmly by these Presents Sealed with our Seals and Dated this 20th day of January 1801.
“The Conditions of the above Obligation is Such that Benj. Campbell hath this day been appointed Commissioner of the Tax for the district of the County of Christian by the Justices thereof. Now if he shall well and Truly execute the Office of Commissioner in Taking in a correct List of Taxable property from each person Subject to Taxation in his said District. and make out the Several Alphabetical books as is required by Law & Transmit them to the several persons as is Entitled to them by Law. and agreeable to Law. and shall in Other Cases well and Truly execute the said Office of Commissioner agreeable to Law. and in the Time Prescribed by Law. then this Obligation to be Void Else to re-main in full force and Virtue. Signed sealed Delivered in the Presents of the Court.”
Attest “Benja Campbell [Seal]
“John Clark.” Young Ewing ” [Seal]
At the term of court held December 14, 1801, we find the following on record: ” Ordered that John Clark be allowed for boarding and finding and attending upon Francis Leofftus when sick 27 days the sum of $10.00
For Keeping a stead horse, drenching and doctoring of him When foundered 69 days 12.00
For wriding 3 days on Leofftus’ business 3.00
For paying the doctor 10s. for wriding 1.67
For finding for the doctor 50
For all my trouble in burying of him, finding plank, getting the coffin made and for liquors and victuals furnished at the burying, the sum of 17.00
Such is the character of some of the business which came before the County Court for the first few years after the organization of the county.
Court of Quarter Sessions
At the period when the county was formed, the Court of Quarter Sessions answered in the place of’ our Circuit Court of the present day, and was held by two or three Justices, who were men perhaps more “learned in the law” than the Justices of the County Court. The first term of the court of Quarter Sessions for Christian County was held ” at the court house in the town of Elizabeth” on the 17th day of February, 1801, the Hon. Adam Lynn and Hon. Samuel Hardin, Justices presiding. Solomon Brunts or Brents (the records are indistinct) was admitted as an attorney. A Grand Jury of Inquest” was impaneled and sworn. The record is a little torn and worn, and some of the names are gone. Those remaining and distinguishable are as follows: James Thompson, Foreman; Thomas Vaughn, James Lockard, William Stroud, Sr., William Cravens, Edward Taylor, Henry Wolf, etc. The records are so imperfect and faded, that but little could be gleaned from them of any interest.
The Circuit Court
The Court of Quarter Sessions was succeeded, in 1803, by the Circuit Court, in accordance with an act of the Legislature. The first term was held in Christian County March 28, 1803. Hon. Samuel Hardin and Hon. James Wilson presented their commissions from James Garrard, Governor, as Assistant Judges, and were sworn in by John Campbell, Justice of the Peace. The records inform us that ” they took their seats, and the Sheriff opened court.” Young Ewing was appointed Clerk pro tempore, and entered into bond, with Samuel Caldwell and Rezin Davidge, as securities, and took the required oath.
Rezin Davidge, Samuel Caldwell, Matthew Lodge, James H. McLaughlan, John A. Cape, Robert Coleman and James H. Russell produced their licenses, and were sworn in as attorneys at law in this court.
It was then “ordered that Rezin Davidge be appointed Attorney for the Commonwealth to this court.” The first case was, ” The Common-wealth, plaintiff, versus Matthew Lodge, defendant, for profane swearing.” The result of the suit was, the defendant was fined five shillings and costs. The second case was, John Tadlock versus William Daniel and James Dillingham for debt.
The Grand Jury for this court was as follows: Samuel Bradley, Fore-man; Isaac Stroud, William Husk, Hugh Johnson, John Wilson, William Cravens, Benjamin McClendon, Bartholomew Wood, John Weldon, Peter Thompson, Daniel Bristow, William Stroud, James Barnett, Thomas Martin, Thomas Vaughn, Isaac Hayes, John Caruthers and Joseph Stark-ley, ” who being impaneled and sworn, and having received their charge withdrew from the bar to make up their presentments.”
Several unimportant cases were then disposed of, and the ” records of the late Court of Quarter Sessions, was received into the Circuit Court from John Clark, late Clerk of said Quarter Sessions Court.”
The Grand Jury returned a number of indictments against different individuals, mostly for ” profane swearing by God,” and were then dismissed. The court then proceeded to try the same, and in most of the cases fined the delinquents five shillings and costs.
Young Ewing was appointed Treasurer of the court, and after a few more unimportant cases for debt and other trivial offenses, court adjourned.
The next term was held June 27, 1803, the Hon. Ninian Edwards (afterward Governor of Illinois) Judge and Hon. Samuel Hardin and James Wilson, Assistant Judges. The first entry in the records at this term is, ” The Hun. Ninian Edwards voting for John Gray, by the votes of the two assistant Judges, ordered that James H. McLaughlan be appointed Clerk of this court until next term.” He was then sworn in, entered into bond with Rezin Davidge and Young Ewing as his securities in the sum of $3,000. Young Ewing was sworn in as Deputy Clerk. The court continued for three days and then adjourned. The next term was held, beginning September 26, 1803, and continued four days. The next term commenced March 12, 1801, Hon. Ninian Edwards, Judge, and Hon. Samuel Hardin and James Wilson, Assistant Judges. James McLaughlan presented a certificate of qualification from the Court of Appeals, and was appointed permanently Clerk of this court. He entered into bond of £1,000 with Rezin Davidge, Young Ewing and John Campbell as securities. March 29, 1803, Matthew M. Gooch was admitted as an attorney, and at the June term, 1803, Rezin Davidge was again appointed Attorney for the Commonwealth. At the March term, 1804, Henry Davidge and John Campbell were admitted as attorneys. At the same term William Wallace was admitted. The next term commenced June 11, 1804, and for the first time the name of Hopkinsville appears in the records. Hitherto it had appeared as the ” Town of Elizabeth,” ” Elizabeth Town ” and ” Elizabeth,” being entered in the records in these three different ways. At this term William Featherston, Christopher Thompson and John Gray were admitted as attorneys, and after a four days’ term court adjourned. The next term began September 10, 1804, Ninian Ed-wards Judge. At this term Joshua Crow, Henry Toulman and Samuel Work, were admitted as attorneys. Court adjourned after sitting four days. The next term commenced March 11, 1805, and lasted five days. Alney McLean was admitted as an attorney, and John Campbell was appointed Attorney for the Commonwealth.
But if the reader has had enough of these early court proceedings the writer has, and the subject will be dropped. These extracts have been made in contrast to the voluminous proceedings of the present courts, and to illustrate the growth and progress of the county. The greater part of the business then and a large majority of the cases were trivial, and consisted mostly of profane swearing, cases of debt, drunkenness, riot, trespass, assault and battery, etc., etc. Even back at that date the records are kept in a neat and excellent style. The writing is plain, smooth and almost as easily read as print. Christian is to be congratulated upon the perfect, complete and unbroken records in both the County and Circuit Clerk’s offices, and for her kind and accommodating clerks, who are the very perfection of gentlemanly courtesy.