HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN COUNTY KENTUCKY
charles m. meacham
A GENERATION OF PEACE
Generation of Peace; State Guards Organized; The Postmasters from 1804 to 1930.
Having lived through the four years of internecine strife, with all of its horrors, the people of Christian County were glad to resume the walks of peace and enter upon a period of peace to be uninterrupted for thirty-three years. This period of quietude was a generation of prosperity and development. The scars of war were removed, the wounds of hate were healed, the people adjusted themselves to new conditions and resumed their favorite occupations of making money and enjoying life. There was development in every line. The stage coach gave way to the railroad train, three or four-story houses began to appear in Hopkinsville. The tallow candle was succeeded in turn by oil lamps, gas lights and electric illumination.
There were more banks, better business houses, larger school houses, improved highways and a growing desire for luxuries as well as necessaries. Progress was in the very air and signs of prosperity were on every hand. This period was to see the advent of the telephone and the bathtub, to take the place of the messenger boy and the wash-bowl, in which but one foot could be washed at a time. And before the century ended, the time came when every new house was built with its bathroom and a new business man called the plumber moved into town and prepared to become a capitalist. Every ten-year census added another thousand to the population of Hopkinsville and Pembroke, Crofton, LaFayette, Gracey, Howell and other populous towns began to have their own banks and bathtubs. The people were not only prosperous, but they were happy as they went about their business of amassing fortunes, playing politics like typical Kentuckians, and patronizing—if they felt like it—the gilded saloons. These replaced the wooden bars, where every brand of liquor was kept in its own barrel behind the counter and was drawn in sight of the thirsty customer who called for a morning nip or his night-cap at closing time. Out in the country, hogs with foreign names replaced the razor-backs, fat cattle from Holstein or the Isle of Jersey sent Old Pied to the butcher shop and high-stepping thoroughbreds took the places of the plugs and sway-backs.
Christian County was a little Kentucky in its own garden-spot, boasting of its “Brave men, fast horses and pretty women.” When Governor Blackburn was given a reception in Hopkinsville in 1882 and three of the city’s beauties smiled him a welcome, the good old Governor returned and told a reporter, “The three most beautiful girls in all Kentucky live in Hopkinsville,” and while he probably said the same of other towns he visited, the old flatterer and philanthropist, hero of the yellow fever epidémic, was not far wrong. He even might have gone further and made it a score or a hundred in the county. Southern Kentucky and the Penny-royal District was then and still is noted for the beauty of its womanhood as well as the speed of its horses and the valor of its men.
For a long time there was to be no war, but the people of the country were of martial stock and it was not long until the minds of the young men began to turn to military matters. A military school had been established in Hopkinsville in 1873 and in it the sons of veterans on both sides were taught the arts of warfare. Kentucky was having mining troubles, occasional race riots and other disorders and found it advisable to maintain a standing army known as the Kentucky State Guards, made up of companies from the different sections of the State. And so it came about that Hopkinsville was called upon to contribute a unit to the regiment from western Kentucky and a company destined to become famous was duly organized.
COMPANY D, FOURTH BATTALION, K.S.G.
This company was mustered into service as State Guards by Major M. H. Crump, of Bowling Green, June 20, 1882, with the following roll:
H. H. Abernathy, Dennis Barbee, Upshaw Buckner, F. W. Buckner,
J. C. Buckner, T. B. Burbridge, George N. Campbell, E. T. Campbell,
John E. Campbell, W. W. Clarke, F. H. Clarke, E. R. Cook, Jr., John W.
Cooper, John G. Ellis, E. L. Ellis, R. B. Ellis, M. L. Elb, T. P. Ennis, W. H.
Faxon, W. S. Feland, C. B. Fuqua, George E. Gary, George W. Gibson,
John R. Green, F. F. Henderson, A. W. Henderson, R. B. Hickman, Bryan
Hopper, R. E. Howell, C. S. Kennedy, George H. Lacy, C. G. McDaniel,
L. H. McKee, J. D. McPherson, G. E. Medley, J. T. Owen, John W. Payne,
James Phelps, H. A. Phelps, Jr., J. B. Richards, J. 0. Rust, W. E. Smith,
J. D. Tandy, Jr., Ben Thompson, C. E. Trice, H. D. Wallace, Bailey Wailer,
J. W. Warfield, J. B. West, J. H. Winfree, F. B. Wooldridge, R. M. Wooldridge.
The officers elected were: S. R. Crumbaugh, Captain; W. E. Smith, First Lieutenant; John R. Green, Second Lieutenant.
This membership of fifty-three was soon increased to sixty-five and the company entered upon a career of triumphs and by the following year had become the best drilled company in the State Guards. Major S. R. Crumbaugh resigned as Captain soon after organization and W. E. Smith became Captain. In August a committee of young ladies took it upon themselves to canvass for funds to purchase a banner for the new company. This was done and the company went into its first encampment at Mammoth Cave in October. On October 8th, the committee of young ladies consisting of Misses Lelia Ware, President; Annie Wailer, Secretary; Lizzie Tandy, Treasurer, and May Ware, Annie Ware, Belle Henry, Lallie Wooldridge and Mattie Stoner went to the cave and the flag was formally presented by Miss Annie Ware and accepted by Captain Smith. Governor Luke P. Blackburn was present.
The following year, the company went to Frankfort to attend the inauguration of Governor Proctor Knott. On that occasion the following drill corps took the highest honors in State competition and was awarded a handsome banner.
Officers: W. E. Smith, Captain; E. Lee Ellis, First Lieutenant; F. H. Clarke, Second Lieutenant; C. E. Trice, First Sergeant; F. W. Buckner, Second Sergeant. Twenty picked men: Pat Ryan, F. F. Henderson, J. H. Dagg, Bryan Hopper, R. H. Holland, Jouett Henry, George Gibson, James Garrity, John Feland, Charles B. Burbridge, Bailey Walier, Henry Abernathy, Tom B. Burbridge, Henry Clarke, Charles Lacy, Frank McCarroll, John E. Campbell, E. R. Cook, Jr., W. T. Cooper, John G. Ellis, John 0. Rust, T. N. Petree, M. L. Elb, J. C. Buckner. Substitutes: Ed T. Campbell, Walton Bryan.
This company maintained its organization for many years, doing service frequently in disturbances in the State and was always a source of pride to the City of Hopkinsville and to the county.
FROM GEORGE BROWN TO EDGAR RENSHAW
Whether the original town of Elizabeth, laid out in 1799, had a post office is in doubt. There was but little need of post offices in those days. The time came a few years later when the question had to be considered and it was found that there was already a post office, or an older town, named Elizabeth Town, in Hardin County. So in 1804, the Legislature changed the name of the county seat of Christian to Hopkinsviile and a post office was established, dating from April 9, 1804.
George Brown was the first postmaster and no doubt he kept the little mail matter that came in somewhere in his store or private residence. Where it was located or how long Mr. Brown served is not known. During the village and small town days, the post office was a mere side line, with nOt as much mail to be handled in a year as must now be distributed every day. There is no local record of the early postmasters, as they succeeded each other for sixty-six years. There was no post office building in the city until it was more than a hundred years old.
In 1870 the town of Hopkinsville ceased to exist and the city of Hopkinsville took its place, with a new charter. Perhaps there had been a building rented for post office purposes a good many years before 1870, but the records are so incomplete that no attempt will be made to enroll the postmasters prior to 1870.
Mrs. Susan Henry Burbridge, widow of a brother of General Stephen G. Burbridge, and a sister of Major William R. Henry, a Confederate officer who died in a Northern prison, was appointed postmistress in 1870, probably the only woman who ever held the position in the county. She was re-appointed in 1874 and 1878, serving until 1882. The post office during most of her service was in a portion of the Mozart Hall building that stood on the present site of Hotel. Latham. It was in rented quarters and there were a few hundred lock boxes. Other patrons called at a general delivery window for their mail. Mrs. Burbridge handled most of the mail herself. She had one assistant, an elderly man named John M. Lambdin, who kept the records and looked after all other business, when Mrs. Burbridge was absent. There was no free delivery and all letters had to be taken to the post office to be mailed.
Just before the great fire of October 25, 1882, Mrs. Burbridge was superseded by John B. Gowen, the aged father-in-law of Hon. Walter Evans, who was prominent in Republican politics at that time and afterwards was appointed Federal Judge for Kentucky. Mr. Gowen had hardly started when the office was destroyed and for a while there was no post office. Indeed there was hardly any place to put one, but finally a small store on West Seventh Street was occupied temporarily until better quarters could be found. Eventually the office was moved to the Moayon Building on the southeast corner of Ninth and Virginia Streets, where it remained until it occupied its own building. In 1884, Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, was elected President and lost no time in turning out Republicans found in office. There was a great scramble for the Hopkinsville post office, but it was given to John B. McKenzie, whose brother was the Congressman from the district and whose cousin, Adlai E. Stevenson, was assistant postmaster general. Mr. McKenzie made a good postmaster, but his tenure of office was just four years.
In 1888, Benjamin harrison, a Republican soldier, was elected President and promptly appointed Major John W. Breathitt in 1889 and he served five years. Major Breathitt was not only a gallant soldier and a good Republican, but was a cousin of the President and his appointment came as a matter of course and gave universal satisfaction, since the Major had been a popular county officer for nearly twenty years. In 1892, the Democrats again elected Cleveland and while the offices again went to the victors, the Major was allowed to serve his term out and a year longer.
On October 6, 1894, William A. Wilgus, who had some years before been connected with one of the Hopkinsville newspapers, took charge of the office and held it four years, when he made way for a Republican. Mr. Wilgus installed a good many improvements in the office, which had greatly enlarged its volume of business.
The McKinley administration came in after the Republican landslide of 1896, and at the end of his term Mr. Wilgus was replaced by his Republican predecessor, Major Breathitt, who served this time from 1898 to 1911. Enfeebled by age, he did not seek a reappointment for a fifth term, but was succeeded by Vincent M. Williamson, another Republican, who served until 1915, when the Democrats had another inning. In March, 1915, Joseph E. Moseley, a Democrat, was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson and reappointed in 1919, serving three years of a second term. President Harding went into office March 4, 1921, and in 1923, Edgar Renshaw, Republican, succeeded him. Colonel Renshaw was reappointed in 1927 and is the present incumbent.
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