Historical and Biographical
RELIGIOUS HISTORY OF THE COUNTY—EARLY STATE OF SOCIETY—THE BAP
TISTS, THE PIONEERS OF RELIGION IN KENTUCKY AND CHRISTIAN COUNTY
—FIRST CHURCHES AND PREACHERS—EDUCATION—THE PRESENT
SCHOOL SYSTEM—STATE PATRONAGE--ORIGIN OF OUR SCHOOL FUND— EARLY SCHOOLS AND SCHOOLHOUSES—STATISTICS—ILLITERACY—COMPULSORY EDUCATION—THE NEWSPAPER PRESS—ITS ADVANTAGES TO A
COMMUNITY—THE FIRST PAPER IN THE COUNTY—EDITORS AND PRINTERS—IMPROVEMENTS IN NEWSPAPERS—CHRISTIAN COUNTY PRESS, ETC.,
THE subject of Christianity occupies a conspicuous place in the history of every enlightened community, and it is to the credit of our ancestors that they were a God-fearing people. Criminals and fugitives from justice, who hover on the confines of civilization, where there is no law to restrain or govern, except that public judgment that. is crystallized into a resistless force, flee before the light that shines from the Star of Bethlehem as the morning mist disappears before the rising sun. As the Cross advances, the rough and the turbulent recede, keeping pace with the frontier posts. They cannot flourish in a Christian community. infidelity may array itself against the Bible, and its clamors may be loud in the assemblies of the wicked, but it has not the courage to enter the sanctuary of a religious home, and listen to the earnest prayers of pious parents as they point their children to the throne of God.
There were among the pioneers of Christian County, as is the case in all newly settled countries, a rough element, ignorant, vicious and worthless, but this element comprised only a few of the people. Of the majority, their moral deportment was good, and their title to mansions in the skies unquestioned. Scarcely was the nucleus of a settlement formed ere steps were taken to counteract, in some way, the influence of the lawless and evil-minded. This early led to efforts at religious organization and instruction, and often hymns of praise were mingled with the sound of the pioneer’s ax. The earnest teachings of the time were plain and unvarnished, touched with no eloquence save a sincere desire to show men the way to better things by better living. There was more sincerity and less hypocrisy then than now. A recent writer, with much truth, says: “Bigotry and a disposition to worship creeds rather than one Almighty God, do more to bring religion into disrepute than any other cause that might be named. Churches of all denominations agree that there is but one God, one heaven and one hell, but beyond those boundary lines the question of duty diverges widely. Taking a common-sense view of the matter—throwing aside all devotion to denominationalism—there is no reason for strife within the pale of the church. Presbyterians, Catholics, Methodists, Unitarians, Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Hebrews, Baptists and all others are living in the hopes of happiness beyond the great unknown. The church is but the way of getting there, and the destination of all the roads is heaven.” The above would not be a bad motto for some of our modern churches, modern preachers and modern Christians.
The Baptists were the pioneers of religion in Kentucky, and are still the strongest church, numerically, in Christian County. Elder William Hickman, a Baptist, is supposed to have been the first minister of any denomination to proclaim the “good tidings that should be to all people” in the wilderness of Kentucky. As early as 1776 he left his home in Virginia and came to Kentucky, and during his stay devoted much of his time to preaching the Gospel to the people of the scattered posts and stations. But no Baptist Church was formed until 1781, when the Gilbert Creek Church, near where the present town of Lancaster stands, was organized.
The Presbyterians followed close in the wake of the Baptists, and long before the war-cry of the retreating savages had died away on the frontiers of Indiana and Illinois, they had obtained a hold upon the “dark and bloody ground.” Rev. David Rice was the first Presbyterian preacher who came here. He was from Virginia, and emigrated to Kentucky in 1783, locating in what is now Mercer County. The same year Rev. Francis Clark, the advance guard of the Methodists, came and settled in the neighborhood of Danville, followed in 1786 by Revs. James Haw and Benjamin Ogden. As early as 1794 there was an organized Episcopal Church in Kentucky. About the year 1787 Rev. Father Whelan, a Roman Catholic clergyman, came to Kentucky as pastor to the Catholics, who lived principally about Bardstown. He had been a chaplain in the French navy, that served with us during the Revolutionary war, and when the struggle ended he remained in America. Thus the different religious denominations invaded Kentucky, gathered together the lost sheep of the wilderness, and led them into the fold of the Master.
The first religious organization, perhaps, in Christian County, was the old-time Baptists, known familiarly as “Iron-jackets” or “ Hardshells.” A minister of that denomination, named Williams, came here and located in the present Precinct of Hamby about the year 1796—97. He settled on a farm now owned by the heirs of Benjamin Armstrong.
Here, it is said, a church was built as early as 1805, and the small congregation was administered to by Elder Williams. He removed to Missouri about 1815, and the church finally died out. It seems only to have flourished while Williams remained, and now there is not even a ruin to show where the old building stood. There is also a tradition that there was a church of the same denomination organized in the southeast part of the county in the Galbreath and McFadden settlement as early as 1800. As that section was the scene of the first settlement of the county, it is not improbable that there was a church organization there very early. James Davis, the pioneer, is represented as having been a fatalist, or Predestinarian, and doubtless was a member of the old Baptist Church.
Elder Isaac Todevine was one of the pioneer Baptist preachers of Tennessee and Southern Kentucky, and possessed all the peculiarities and eccentricities of the Hardshells. He lived six or eight miles north of Clarksville, a kind of a hermit life with his horse “Snip” and his dog “Pup.” He had no other family, and thought as much of Snip and Pup as if they had been his children. He often preached to the old church, tradition says, in the southeast part of Christian County before the great majority of the citizens now living here were born. Pup always accompanied his master on his preaching expeditions, and sometimes caused the old man some uneasiness lest he might depart so far from his ministerial dignity as to stray off with young and frivolous dogs and he would lose him. It is told of Elder Todevine that he was preaching one day, and had become warmed up in his sermon, when, looking through the window and seeing Pup in a great romp with the other dogs, he stopped short and asked a brother to go and get him, as he was afraid he would stray away and be lost.
Elder Todevine believed in election and predestination, and according to his theology, one not elected from the foundation of the world was as surely lost as though already in the bottomless pit. He dreamed that he would die upon a certain day, and when the appointed day came, he went to bed, told his friends that his appointed time had come, and sure enough died (March 23, 1821) the time indicated in his dream. His name has nearly passed into oblivion, but this mention will doubtless recall it to some of the oldest citizens.
Lorenzo Dow, one of the most eccentric preachers, perhaps, that the country has ever known, unless it was the “ White Pilgrim,” used to sometimes preach in Hopkinsville and Christian County. As early as 1814 he made his appearance in Southern Kentucky and the adjoining part of Tennessee, and at Hopkinsville, Russellville, Clarksville and Palmyra, his strange, weird voice was4 often heard proclaiming the messages of his Divine Master. He was born in Connecticut in 1777, and is said to have been an ordained minister of the Methodist Church. He generally traveled the country on foot, and preached wherever and whenever he could get an audience together; be preached the Gospel pure and simple as he understood it, not for pelf, but solely for the good of mankind. He was a humble, sincere, great pioneer preacher, with fists like a maul and a voice like the roar of a Numidian lion, and thus equipped he went forth upon his mission, made reprobates tremble, women to cry and shout aloud, and many a tough old sinner to fall upon his knees and plead for the pardoning of his sins. Anecdotes and incidents enough have been told of him to make a large volume of themselves. One of these will serve as a sample of the others, and is as follows:
One of his brother preachers was in the habit at the close of every sermon of giving a description of the day of judgment, when at the sound of Gabriel’s trumpet, the Son of Man would appear in the clouds of heaven with all his holy angels, “to judge the quick and the dead,” uniformly adding a description of the alarm and terror that would overwhelm the impenitent sinner. Then changing his description, would picture all the glorious triumphs of the righteous, and with whom he hoped to be found. Mr. Dow, becoming disgusted with his repetition, determined to put a stop to it, and for that purpose engaged a boy famous for his skill in blowing the trumpet, to climb a tree near the church one night where the old brother was to preach, and when he got to the day of judgment and Gabriel’s trumpet, to blow a terrible blast. All worked well; the preacher gave an animated discourse with the usual peroration of the judgment and Gabriel’s trumpet, when the boy, from his perch in the tree-top, with his trumpet gave an awful peal, making the heart of every one in the meeting-house stand still. Leaving hat, saddle-bags and umbrella, the old preacher cleared the pulpit at a single bound, rushed to the door and took to the woods, followed by his terror-stricken congregation. Henceforth, that preacher struck Gabriel and his trumpet out of his sermons.
Lorenzo Dow died in Georgetown, D. C., in 1834. The strange, wandering old herald of salvation has long since realized the hope given him of a futurity on the margin of the “Beautiful River,” where, through everlasting ages, he can sit in the light of holiness.
The Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians came shortly after the “Hardshell” Baptists, and churches of these organizations were soon established in the different settlements. At first their meetings were held in the settlers’ cabins, but as their strength increased rude log structures were put up for religious worship. In time these gave place to better buildings, which have been improved from time to time, as the community grew in wealth, until the county at large, as well as the city of Hopkinsville, can boast of their temples of worship as comparing favorably with those in any section of the State. In the chapters devoted to the towns and election districts every church organization will be written up, so far as their history can be learned, with sketches of Peter Cartwright, John Johnson, Vardeman, Fort, Ross and other old soldiers of the Cross who have passed away.
Education.—No question is of such vital importance to the people as that of education. Nothing for which the State pays money yields so large a dividend upon the cost as the revenue expended upon the schools.
From the humble scene of the teacher’s labors there are shot into the heart of society the great influences that kindle its ardors for activity, which light civilization on its widening way, and which hold the dearest interest of humanity in its hand. The statistics are the smallest exponents of our schools; there are values that cannot be expressed in dollars and cents.
In the early development of Kentucky there were a great many obstacles in the way of general education. The settlements were sparse. and money, or other means of remunerating teachers were scarce, as the pioneers of new countries are nearly always poor. There were no schoolhouses erected, nor was there any public school fund, either State or county. All persons of both sexes, who had physical strength enough to labor, were compelled to take their part in the work of securing a support, the labor of the female being as heavy and important as that of the man, and this continued so for years. In the last place both teachers and books were scarce. Taking all these facts together, the wonder is that they had any schools at all. But the pioneers of Kentucky deserve the highest praise for their prompt and energetic efforts in this direction. Just as soon as the settlements would justify, schools were begun at each one, and as population and wealth increased schoolhouses were built and educational facilities extended.
The Present School System.—A few words of the present school system : The reader doubtless will find it of interest to learn where and when common schools originated. It is just possible, however, that there are some whose opinions will not be the more exalted by a knowledge of the birthplace of the common school system, on the same principle that the ancient Hebrews deemed it impossible for anything good to come out of Nazareth. But there is no reason why a good thing should be condemned on account of its place of origin. The question of educating the masses through the medium of the common schools was agitated as early as 1647 in New England. An act was passed that year to enable “every child, rich and poor alike, to learn to read its own language.” This was followed by another act, “giving to every town or district having fifty householders the right to have a common school,” and to “every town or district having 100 families a grammar school, taught by teachers competent to prepare youths for college.” A writer, years afterward, commenting upon the act, states it to be the first instance in Christendom wherein a civil government took measures to confer upon its youth the benefits of an education. There had been parish schools connected with individual churches, and foundations for universities, but “never before embodied in practice a principle so comprehensive in its nature, and so fruitful in good results as that of training a nation of intelligent people by educating all its youth.” When our fathers, nearly a century and a half later, declared in the ordinance of 1787 that “knowledge, with religion and morality, was necessary to the good government of mankind,” they struck the key-note of American liberty. Science and literature began to advance after the adoption of that ordinance in a manner they had never done before, and the interest then awakened is still on the advance.
The governing power of every country upon the face of the globe is an educated power. The Czar of Russia, ignorant of international law, of domestic affairs, of finance, commerce, and the organization of armies and navies, could never hold under the sway of his scepter 70,000,000 of subjects. With what scrupulous care does England foster her great universities for the training of the sons of the nobility for their places in the House of Lords, in the army, navy and church! What then should be the character of citizenship in a country where every man is born a king and sovereign, heir to all the franchises and trusts of the State and Republic? An ignorant people can be governed, but only an intelligent and educated people can govern themselves; and that is the experiment we are trying to solve in these United States.
State Patronage.—The first steps taken by Kentucky to extend the fostering aid of State patronage to the interests of general education were taken before the close of the last century. On the 10th of February, 1798, an act was approved by the State Legislature, donating and setting apart of the public lands of the Commonwealth 6,000 acres each, for the benefit and support of Franklin, Salem and Kentucky Academies, and for Lexington and Jefferson Seminaries. Similar acts were approved December 21, 1805, and January 27, 1808, embracing like provisions, and extending them to all the existing counties of the State. Within twenty years from the passage of the act of 1798, the following additional academies and seminaries were endowed with the grant of 6,000 acres each: Shelby, Logan, Ohio, Madison, New Athens, Bethel, Bourbon, Bracken, Bullitt, Fleming, Harrison, Hardin, Harrodsburg, Lancaster, Montgomery, Newport, Newton, Rittenhouse, Stanford, Washington, Winchester, Woodford, Somerset, Transylvania, Greenville, Glasgow, Liberty, Rockcastle, Lebanon, Knox, Boone, Clay, Estill, Henry, Greenup, Grayson, Warren, Breckinridge, Caldwell, Henderson, Union, Adair, Allen, Daviess and Pendleton.* An early law of Kentucky pertaining to the subject of education was, “that all the lands lying within the bounds of this Commonwealth, on the south side of Cumberland River, and below Obed’s River, now vacant, etc., shall be reserved for the endowment and use of seminaries of learning throughout this Commonwealth.” The County Courts of the several counties were authorized to have surveyed, located and patented, within their respective counties, or within the above reserve, or elsewhere in the State, 6,000 acres each for seminary purposes, and all such lands were exempted from taxation. Noble as were the grants in purpose and plan, but little actual benefit was derived from them—at least not half the benefit that should have been. Under subsequent unwise acts, the lands were allowed to be sold by county authorities, and the proceeds prodigally expended, and in many cases recklessly squandered. The proceeds from the sale of these lands are in some counties wholly lost sight of; in other counties they remain in the hands of trustees appointed, and forgotten or neglected, by an indifferent public; while in other counties these funds are still held by trustees for their original uses. “But for the want of wise laws and more competent and guarded management,” says Mr. Collins, “a great plan and its means of success for the establishment and support of a system of public seminaries of a high order in each county was rendered an accomplished failure.”
Many laws have been enacted by the State Legislature providing for a general system of public schools, but most of them were so framed as to amount to little, or were altogether impracticable. In December, 1821, an act was passed which provided that “one-half the net profits of the Bank of the Commonwealth should be distributed in just proportions to the counties of the State for the support of a general system of education under legislative direction; and, that one-half of the net profits of the branch banks at Lexington, Danville and Bowling Green should be donated to Transylvania University, Center College and the Southern College of Kentucky respectively.” The fund thus derived amounted to some $60,000 per annum, until the failure, some years later, of the old Commonwealth’s Bank of Kentucky. A recent writer upon our school system makes this very pertinent observation: “It is a singular phenomenon of the history of internal economy of our State, for seventy years, that our main attempts at internal improvements and public education, at State expense and under State superintendence, have been embarrassed or defeated almost wholly, by the misdirection and mismanagement of incompetent legislation.”
The origin of our “permanently invested school fund” was somewhat as follows: By an act of Congress, approved June 23, 1836, that body apportioned about $15,000,000 of surplus money in the treasury to the several older States in the form of a loan, of which the share of Kentucky was $1,433,757. This fund was asked for and received by our State, with the expectation and intention of devoting it to school purposes, although no provision of the law imposed upon the State this obligation; yet, by different acts of the Legislature, the original fund was cut down until only $850,000 was finally set apart as the financial basis of our educational system. This is the history of the origin of Kentucky’s school fund, and for many years the only public school revenue was derived from it, and a portion is still derived from it. By accumulations of unexpended surplus from year to year, and the continual additions of this to the principal, this permanent fund is now about one and a half million dollars. But without going into a discussion of the school system and school laws of Kentucky, it is enough to say, and it is not out of place, either, that her educational system is lamentably deficient, and not to be compared with those of other States of the Union whose natural resources of wealth are much less than Kentucky’s, and whose native intelligence is certainly no greater. There is no reason why the State of Kentucky should not have as good a system of public education as any State in the Union. No other State of like area is richer in natural wealth; none of like population contains more natural genius. The writer, who has spent considerable time in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, and had abundant opportunities for observing their educational systems, and the practical workings of the same, has no hesitancy in saying, that the Committee on Education of the Kentucky Legislature might, in the systems of those States, find food for reflection, and find in them ideas and hints valuable to the system of common schools in our own State. As an example, a recent report of the State Board of Education of Ohio shows the following
The receipts of school moneys for the year $11, 243,210 38
Total expenditures for schools for the year 3,531,885 14
Leaving school fund balance $7,711,325. 24
The following exhibit of Kentucky’s school fund, as shown by the report of the State Superintendent for 1880—81, is in painful contrast to that of Ohio:
Bond of the Commonwealth held by the Board of Education $1,327,000. 00
Stock in the Bank of Kentucky 73,500 00
Total $1,400,500 00
Interest on bond of the Commonwealth at 8 per cent $ 79,620 00
Dividends on Bank of Kentucky stock.... 5,880 00
From all other sources 512,692 50
Total $1,998,692 50
This, by all warm friends of education, must be looked on as a reproach to the great State of Kentucky. With her vast resources of wealth she might as well have a permanent school fund of $10,000,000 as to have the insignificant sum given above. It is not, however, that the people are unfriendly to general education, but owing more to incompetent legislation.
Early Schools and Schoolhouses.—That the people took an interest in education early is evidenced in the fact that as early as 1775 we have an account of a school in the wilderness of Kentucky, seventeen years before it became a State. This school was taught at Harrod’s Station by a Catholic lady, Mrs. Coomes, and is no doubt the first school of any kind ever taught in Kentucky. Transylvania University (of Lexington), the first institution of learning of a higher grade established west of the Allegheny Mountains, was chartered by the General Assembly of Virginia in 1780. As we have already stated, schools were established in the various settlements almost as soon as the settlements were made, and were sometimes even taught in the stations and block-houses when it was not safe to venture beyond their protecting walls. This spirit of education has never flagged among the mass of the people, and it has been to their great disadvantage, particularly to the poorer classes, who are not able to send their children off to the seminaries, academies and colleges, that the system of public schools has not been improved to the extent it has deserved, and should be in every State of the Union. The great prejudice against the common schools is fast dying out in the Southern States, and it is an excellent sign of the “good time coming” that it is so. The wealthiest counties of Kentucky are becoming their best friends, and tax payers are voting levies upon themselves to build schoolhouses, improve the quality, and extend the term of the schools. Tasteful and comfortable houses are being built by scores every year, and a home supply of teachers is being supplied from the best young men and women of the State. Impecunious tramps and shiftless natives are no longer palmed off as teachers. The system has ceased to be an infirmary for the lame and halt and feeble. Incompetents “ to be provided for” no more are pensioned upon the bounty of the school fund. We accept these improvements as an omen of the awakening to the importance of education through the medium of a perfected system of public schools.
Schools of the County.—The following sketch of the schools of the county is by Judge EL A. Champlin, County School Commissioner. The first School Commissioner of Christian County was Enoch A. Brown, father of our present Sheriff, a man of naturally fine intellectual endowments and well educated for that early period. He was appointed about 1845, and served until the sixth of October, 1856, having laid off forty districts. No. 1 was established about 1845, and was located west of Crofton, the boundary beginning at Thomas M. Long’s. No. 2 included what is now Kelly’s Station, and the surrounding country. The Hopkinsville District was numbered 37. All of these forty districts, except some five or six, were located in the northern portion of the county. The common school fund was small, only 5 cents on the $100 of taxable property being levied and collected up to the year 1870. It was insufficient to employ competent teachers, and the result was that schools were not regularly taught. In many of the districts but little interest was manifested by the people. In the southern portion of the county the people relied almost entirely upon private schools, and did not attempt to avail themselves of the benefit of the fund. Prior to the passage of the law giving additional aid to common schools of 15 cents on the $100 only about one-half of the county had been districted.
Under the school law the money set aside to each county and not drawn and used by reason of schools not being taught, went to the credit of the surplus fund, and was converted into bonds or loaned out for the benefit of the respective counties that had failed to have schools. From the examination of the reports of the Superintendent of Public Instruction it appears that the amount to the credit of Christian County is $15,224.36, which pays annually from the interest thereon 15 cents per capita; only three counties derive from this source a larger per capita. Most of the other counties having used the fund and taken greater interest in common schools, derive but a small sum from this source. From the fact that the funds were not used in part it resulted that this county has since 1870 had a larger fund for the benefit of her schools than the other counties except three, as already stated.
In October, 1856, John P. Ritter was elected Common School Commissioner. He was a young man of promise, very well educated, and manifested considerable interest in education. He could do little, however, on account of the indifference of the people as to common schools. About the commencement of the war, James Moore, a very estimable gentleman who had the confidence of everybody, became County School Commissioner. He kept his books with great accuracy, but was unable to visit the different schools on account of his extreme age. He made a good Commissioner, and did what he could to encourage education. Mr. Moore died in the summer or fall of 1870.
In October, 1870, G. A. Champlin, the present incumbent, became School Commissioner. The census of the previous year showed only 2,100 children of the requisite pupil age. The Commissioner proceeded to district the balance of the county and have houses built. In two years the census showed 5,000 children, and has been increasing in numbers every year since, until 6,000 was shown by the last census, with a present number of eighty.four districts. In the meantime the schoolhouses, which were with two or three, exceptions log, and not good at that, have been rebuilt and greatly improved. Schools are taught in every district, except one to three, for a few of the years. The people have gradually taken more and more interest in common schools, and the teachers employed are better qualified than formerly.
In 1881 the people of Hopkinsville established the Hopkinsville graded schools, which have done much to aid and encourage education in the county. The teachers of the common schools throughout the county have gained much valuable information from the improved methods of teaching used by the Principal and teachers of these schools, and they have given a new impetus to the common schools of the county.
In addition to the white schools, the county is divided into forty-one school districts, under the educational system inaugurated for the benefit of the colored people. The State appropriation to the county for colored schools was $2,234.36. The State Superintendent’s report shows the number of colored children between six and sixteen years to be 4,542, and that the colored people have sixteen log schoolhouses, valued at $585, and seven frame buildings, valued at $1,485. It is a fact highly creditable to the colored people that they are taking an interest, that is yearly increasing, in the cause of education.
An extract from the report of Rev. H. A. M. Henderson, while State Superintendent of Public Instruction, is worthy of a place in these pages. He says: “The State plants its right to educate upon the foundation that intelligent citizenship is the bulwark of free institutions. It educates for its own protection. Each free elector holds in the ward of his ballot the measure of the State’s interest. ‘An uneducated ballot is the winding sheet of liberty.’ The principle of sovereignty in a republican government resides in the individual citizen. The expression of the popular will by a majority at the polls, in a fairly conducted election, is but the aggregate expression of American sovereignty. The people, by their votes, determine who shall represent their sovereign will. How to wield this power for good, is the supreme question for the State. An ignorant people, manipulated by corrupt leaders, becomes the worst of all tyrants. The idea that the majority can do no wrong is only equaled by that monstrous political dogma of imperialism: ‘The king can do no wrong.’ Nothing is so wrong as a deluded, demagogue-directed majority. It holds power, and when it determines to run riot over the peace and prosperity of society, a political wolf howls hungry for prey along our highways, and a ravening leopard keeps ward and watch at the crossings of the streets in our towns and cities. No maxim ever embodied a more pernicious error than the trite proverb, ‘The voice of the people is the voice of God.’ This would be true if the people were God-like. This can only be true when intelligence determines public questions, and patriotism executes its verdicts. See what corrupt ignorance, introduced to power, did for the States of the South! Consider what negro supremacy entailed upon South Carolina! Color and latitude work no changes in the capacities of venal ignorance for harm, when intrusted with the reins of power. The greatest crime of the century was the sudden enfranchisement of 4,000,000 of unlettered Africans. Those who perpetrated this outrage upon our republican institutions, did it in the face of all the social science they had propagated. The North had emphasized the doctrine that virtue and intelligence are essential to the perpetuity of the Republic; and yet, in an ill-advised hour of heated passion, rendered hot by the fires of civil war, they made a horde of ignorant slaves the peers of their intelligent masters, and thus provided the conditions that prostrated the South, and subjected its people to the most destroying despotism that ever ground into the dust a free citizenship. The only indemnity for this stupendous wrong, is their education at the national expense. To require the people they impoverished by this act of folly to bear the burden of their education would be a continued piece of injustice which no political casuistry can justify, no species of sophistry disguise, and no maudlin philanthropy dignify with a decent apology.
“But Kentucky has 40,000 white voters who cannot read. Add to these 55,000 enfranchised negroes, and we have 95,000—one-third of our entire electoral population—ignorant of the very means by which to acquaint themselves with the merits of questions submitted for their decision at the polls. Let this mighty census of ignorance increase until it becomes the dominant majority—and grow it would, if left to itself, without State encouragement for its own improvement—and seat itself in power, and we have no reason to expect that Kentucky would escape the same or like disasters that have overtaken and overwhelmed every people that ever dared the fearful experiment.”
Compulsory .Education.—The subject of compulsory education is one that is attracting much attention of late years, and already the Legislatures of many States have passed laws compelling parents and guardians, even against their will, to send their children to school. There is no doubt but a great good would be wrought if the wisdom of the General Assembly could devise some means to strengthen and supplement the powers of Boards of Education, and enable them to prevent truancy, even if only in cases where parents desire their children to attend school regularly, but where parental authority is too weak to secure that end. The instances are not few in which parents would welcome aid in this matter, knowing that truancy is often the first step in a path leading through the dark mazes of idleness, vagabondage and crime. Youthful idlers upon the streets of towns and cities should be gathered up by somebody and compelled to do something. If they learn nothing else, there will be at least this salutary lesson, that society is stronger than they, and without injuring them will use its strength to protect itself. While reform schools are being established for those who have started in the way to their own ruin, and have donned the uniform of the enemies of civil society, it would be heavenly wisdom to provide some way to rescue those who are yet lingering around the camp.
The Press.—The record of the newspaper press of a county, if it has happened to fall into the hands of men competent to make it fully discharge its duty, ought to be the one most important page of a county’s history. One of the greatest things that could always be said of our Nation was, it has a free press. No man has to be licensed or selected by the Government either to print a book or publish a newspaper. It has been circumscribed by no law except natural selection. Any one who wished could start a paper at any time, and say anything he desired to say, barring only an occasional boot-toe and the law of libel. If he chose not to be suppressed, there was no power to suppress him—except a “military necessity,” and once in a great while mob violence. If he was persecuted or thrashed by some outraged citizen, it is not certain but that he always got the best of the difficulty, especially when he would begin to prate about the “palladium of American liberties.” The wisest act of our Government in all its history was the unbridling of the press. It was the seed planted in good soil for its own perpetuity, and the happiness and welfare of its people. To make the press absolutely free, especially after the centuries of vile censorship over it, was an act of wisdom transcending in importance the original invention of movable types. A free press makes free speech, free schools, free intelligence and freedom, and when political storms come, and the mad waves of popular ignorance and passion beat upon the ship of State, then, indeed, is a free press the beacon light shining out upon the troubled waters.
The press is the drudge and the pack-horse, as well as crowned king of all mankind. The gentle click of its type is heard around the world they go sounding down the tide of time, bearing upon their gentle waves the destinies of civilization, and the immortal smiles of the pale children of thought, as they troop across the face of the earth, scattering here and there immortal blessings that the dull, blind types patiently gather, and place where they will ever live. It is the earth’s symphony which endures; which transcends that of the “morning when the stars sang together.” It is fraught with man’s good, his joy, his happiness and the blessings of civilization. By means of the press, the humblest cabin in the land may bid enter and become a part of the family circle such as the sweet-singing bard of Scotland—the poet of Bonny Doon—the immortal Shakespeare, or Byron, “who touched his harp, and nations heard entranced.” Here Lord Macaulay will lay aside his title and dignity, and with the timid children even hold sweet converse in those rich, resounding sentences that flow on forever, like a great and rapid river. Here Gray will sing his angelic pastoral, as “the lowing herd winds slowly o’er the lea, and leaves the world to darkness and to me;” and Charles Lamb, whose sweet, sad, witty life may mix the laugh with the sigh of sympathy, may set the children in a roar as he tells the story of the “invention of the roast pig;” and that human bear—Johnson—his roughness and boorishness all gone now, as in trenchant sentences he pours out his jeweled thoughts to eager ears; and the stately Milton, blind but sweet and sublime; and Pope; and poor, unfortunate, gifted Poe, with his bird of evil omen, “perched upon the pallid bust of Pallas;” and Shelley, and Keats, and Dickens, and Thackeray, and Saxe, and Scott, and Hood, and Eliot, and Demosthenes, and Homer, and Clay, and Webster, and Prentice, and all of earth’s greatest, sweetest and best, are at the beck and call of mankind, where they will spread their bounties before the humblest outcast as munificently as at the feet of royal courts or kings.
The coming of the printer, with the black letter, the “stick,” the ink-pot, “pi” and the “devil “ is always an era anywhere and among any people; in young and fast-growing communities it is an event of great portent to its future, for here, above any other institutions, are incalculable possibilities for good, and sometimes welI-grounded fears for evil. A free press, in the hands of a man aware of the great responsibilities. resting upon him, is a blessing like the discoveries and inventions of genius that are immortal. In the dingy printing office is the epitome of the world of action and of thought—the best school in Christendom—the best church. An eminent divine has truly said, “The local paper is not only a business guide, but it is a pulpit of morals; it is a kind of public rostrum where the affairs of State are considered ; it is a supervisor of streets and roads; it is a rewarder of merit; it is a social friend, a promoter of friendship and good will. Even the so-called small matters of a village or incorporate town are only small to those whose hearts are too full of personal pomposity.”
Kentucky Republican. --The newspaper’s past and present are totally different in many respects. Take the country newspaper of fifty or sixty years ago, and what an institution it was! Its ponderous editorials stagger us even at this distant day as we read them, and its foreign news, from six weeks to three months old, may have been highly entertaining then, but would be considered a little stale now. The editor, too, was a big man. He could no more write a local item, or pen a light article, than he could move Mount Atlas. His editorial thunder was hurled at his political antagonists like battering rams, and his readers were regaled with column after column of dull matter they never read, and could not have appreciated if they did. The Kentucky Republican, the first paper published in Christian County, is a fair sample of the early press. We have seen several copies of it; Mr. Pike has one, the issue of September 15, 1821, and Mr. Meacham, of the South Kentuckian, has the issue of September 21, 1821. Neither of these issues contain a local item, except the advertisements, but each has two or three columns upon the death and funeral of Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Kentucky Republican was established probably in 1820, as the issue of September 15, 1821, is “Vol. II, No. 2.” The name of David S. Patton, a prominent lawyer of the early bar of tire county, appears at the “ mast head” as editor and publisher. It is a four-page, five-column paper; price, “$2.50 in advance, $3 payable at the expiration of the first six months from the time of subscription, or $4 at the end of the year.” It has some three columns on the death of Napoleon Bonaparte, a long article on the “Wonders of Creation,” copious extracts from the National Intelligencer and the New York papers, a column on the failure of the Bank of Missouri, an event then a month old, etc., etc. The nearest approach to a local item is the trial of counterfeiters in Gallatin County. The next issue (September 21) has two columns on “Florida,” a lengthy article on “ The Revolution in St. Jago,” nearly three columns. on the funeral of Napoleon, and numerous other dry extracts from abroad—with no local items. A newspaper filled with dry political articles, scientific essays and philosophical treatises alone would not satisfy us in this fast age. We live fast, and we want the news from the four quarters of the world, as well as what transpires around us, to digest our breakfasts each morning. A sketch of Mr. Patton, the pioneer editor of the county, is given in the history of the bar. Just how long his paper continued we could not learn, but it probably existed two or three years. Samuel Orr was a printer, and worked for Mr. Patton on the Republican, from the time of starting it to the time almost of its discontinuance. Judge Long says he has good cause to remember this, the first paper of Hopkinsville, as the severest whipping he ever received in his life was on account of a neglect of that part of his juvenile duties which required him to go to the office every Saturday and bring the paper home. His father finally reminded him of his dereliction in a substantial manner, that ever after brought the matter vividly to his mind very early on Saturday morning, and that he has not forgotten it to this day.
The few numbers of the Republican which we have seen do not contain anything to indicate the color of its political principles, but from its name it was doubtless of the Jeffersonian school. A couple of brothers— Garrett and Bickham Pitts—finally took charge of the paper, and conducted it for a short time after Mr. Patton retired from its control. Bickham Pitts was a printer, and had learned the art in the Republican office; his brother did the editing, and was a kind of half-way lawyer. They carried on the paper but a short time, and the office passed again into the hands of Mr. Patton.
The Spy.—Livingston Lindsay bought the press and the entire outfit of the old Republican office in 1829, from Mr. Patton, and commenced the publication of a weekly journal called The Spy, which be continued for about two years. Mr. Lindsay then sold out to William R. B. Mills, and accepted a professorship in Cumberland College at Princeton, Ky. He was a young lawyer at the time of his journalistic venture in Hopkinsville, had studied law, and been admitted to the bar in Virginia before emigrating to Kentucky. Eventually, he removed to Texas, where he rose to prominence in his profession, and became Chief Justice of the State, and is still living there—at La Grange. He was a fine writer, as well as lawyer, and still writes well, though an old man now, as is shown by a long communication on his “ Recollections of Hopkinsville and Christian County,” written by request for this work, and from which lengthy extracts are made elsewhere.
Mr. Mills continued the publication of The Spy but for a short time after its purchase from Judge Lindsay. Mills is described as a shiftless, dilatory man, with little or no energy, and his press and printing material were soon seized and sold for debt. This was the end of the second newspaper of the county.
The Hopkinsville Gazette. -- The next paper was launched upon the community under the name and title of Hopkinsville Gazette. It was established by two brothers, John and Alexander C. Goodall from Louisville, who were practical printers, and had learned their trade in the office of the Louisville Journal. A man of the name of Alexander (a printer) came here after the suspension of The Spy, and proposed to start a paper, if sufficient encouragement was offered him. He had nothing, and in order to raise means for the enterprise he canvassed the town and surrounding country for subscriptions, and succeeded in procuring the names of four or five hundred persons. He then went to Louisville for the purpose of buying an outfit, but instead, sold his subscription list to the Goodall Brothers, who came on with the requisite outfit and material, and the result was, they established the Hopkinsville Gazette in the summer of 1834, as a copy we have seen, dated December 12, 1840. is Vol. VI, No. 17. They published it some ten or twelve years with good financial success. Indeed, it is said to have been the only paper that ever made much money here prior to the war. The Goodalls were good printers and thorough business men, and understood conducting a newspaper. They had graduated in a good school—the Louisville Journal—then under the control and management of George D. Prentice, the leader of the Southern press, and they possessed some of his energy and enterprise. John Goodall edited the paper, and also made some pretensions to the law, but he remained only a few years in the editorial liar-ness. when he sold out to his brother and went to East Tennessee, where lie became prominent as a lawyer. A. C. Goodall continued the publication of the Gazette alone. He died many years ago. but his widow still lives here. Chastine Forbes was a printer in the office of the Gazette he is now Superintendent of the Insane Asylum at Little Rock, Arkansas.
The Gazette, like its predecessors. is very barren of local items. but rich in miscellaneous matter and bristling editorials. James Henry, a brilliant young man, and one of the ablest writers of the early press, was long connected with the Gazette in an editorial capacity. He died young. The Gazette was a five-column folio, and its mechanical execution was excellent. It was intensely Whig in politics.
The Green River Whig.—Mr. Goodall sold his paper to Robert Thomas, of Clarksville, who changed the name to Green River Whig. This occurred somewhere between 1844 and 1850. Under its new name and management it continued the sturdy defender of the Whig faith. But how long it existed as the Green. River Whig, the most diligent investigation has failed to find out; probably until 1S51. when another change took place, and another Hopkinsville newspaper was numbered with “the things that were.”
Kentucky Rifle. --Upon the ashes of the Green River Whig arose the Kentucky Rifle, another Whig paper. under the editorship of J. E. Carnes. and himself and J. R. McCarroll publishers and proprietors. The issue of June 7, 1851, is Vol. I, No. 10, which would indicate that it was established about March of the same year. It has a very showy heading of a long rifle (a photograph perhaps of Daniel Boone’s old rifle), with the letters “The Rifle,” hanging upon the barrel, much as Daniel Boone would have hung his shot-pouch upon the deer horn over his cabin door. The Rifle was as intensely Whig as its predecessors. and Carnes hurled his fierce thunderbolts at the Locofocos like blows from a battle-ax. It continued some four or five years, and then—burst—just as many another gun has done before when too heavily loaded. Mr. Games was a brilliant writer and a brilliant man. lie had been editor of the Vicksburg (Miss.) Whig before lie came here, and as a writer was aggressive in the extreme. He was a poet, and frequently, in his leisure moments, used to Give ‘loose fancy scope to range,’ and would reel off some beautiful and touching verses. Many of his poetical effusions are found scattered through the old files of the Rifle. He finally became a Methodist preacher, and was sent to Texas as Superintendent of the Methodist Book Concern.
The Mercury.-- The Rifle was either changed to the Patriot or was sold, and the latter journal started in its place, with S. C. Mercer arid J. R. McCarroll proprietors. It was established about 1855, and in the latter part of 1856 the name was changed to the Mercury. It was an organ of the Know-Nothing, or American party, and was the last. paper in Western Kentucky of that political faith. Its publication was continued until in 1861, when the war put an end to it, and the office and material became a prey to “military necessity,” and the sport of “the boys” in the army. Mr. Mercer is a fine writer, and still a citizen of Hopkinsville, and is well known to the people of the city and the county. He is comparatively a young man, and should not allow his genius
but should return to literary work,
To rust unburnished. not to shine in use,’’
a capacity in which he is a bright and shining light.
The People’s Press.—Some time about 1848—50, Smith & Bronaugh started an opposition paper called the Democrat. About 1851 they sold it to John C. Noble, now of Paducah, and one of the oldest. editors living in Kentucky. Mr. Noble changed the name to the People’s Press, and continued its publication as a Democratic paper, but how long we do not know, nor do we know its final fate. As Christian County was a strong Whig county, it probably starved to death. Mr. Noble is well known throughout Western Kentucky as an able and forcible writer, and an unflinching Democrat of the old school.
Hopkinsville Republican.—George M. Cote, a “ rat” printer from Pittsburgh, started the Hopkinsville Republican in March, 1881. and some six months later sold out to S. C. Mercer-, formerly of the Mercury. and left Hopkinsville unceremoniously. Mr. Mercer continued it a short time, and leased the office to Wallis, Mullen & Kennedy, who changed the name, or rather issued a new paper—the Weekly News. The Republican had been of the same color of politics with its name, but Messrs. Wallis, Mullen & Kennedy made the Weekly News Independent in politics. They published it until the great fire in 1882, when the office was destroyed.
Hopkinsville (Conservative.—This paper was established, in 1868, by Col. J. NI. Dodd, who came here from Henderson, Ky., about that time. Some time in 1876 he changed the name to the Hopkinsville Democrat. The Conservative, true to the principles of its name, was conservative and liberal in politics, but upon its change of title it changed its sentiments and became an organ of the Democratic party. The Democrat was issued until the latter part of 1879, when Col. Dodd leased his office, and the paper was added to the long list of the dead that had preceded it.
The Kentucky New Era.—In 1870 Col. John D. Morris started the Kentucky Yew Era. The reader can hardly imagine what a joy and relief it is to at last come to one paper in the long line that is alive, prosperous and happy. Verily, Hopkinsville has been a newspaper graveyard. and the preceding list is so much like calling the roll of the dead. that the change from the funeral to the festival is inexpressibly pleasant. In June or July of’ 1870 the first number of the Yew Era was issued as a brand-new Democratic paper. The name New Era” was received from the circumstance of the rights (the ballot) having been bestowed upon the man and brother,” and as this formed a new era not only in Kentucky, but in American politics, Col. Morris deemed New Era an appropriate name for his paper about to be launched upon the world. For some time after the New Era was established. Asher G. Caruth, now Commonwealth’s Attorney for the Louisville District, was associated with Col. Morris as editor. They sold the paper, in 1871, to Philip Van Bussum and Robert NIcCarrohl, and in November, 1872 William Feland became the proprietor of it. He changed its politics and made it an organ of the Republican party, with the laudable desire and intention of shedding a ray of light into the Egyptian darkness of the community. A speedy change of politics, however, back to the old Democratic faith relieved the proprietors of the mournful duty of having to “lay away its little slippers,” and of consoling themselves with the reflection that “whom the gods love die young.” In April, 1873, it was purchased by Hunter Wood. the present proprietor, in connection with Walter E. Warfield; the latter gentleman and Samuel Gaines, a writer of considerable ability, were the editors. In September, 1874, Warfield sold out to Mr. Wood, and Gaines was retained as editor up to April, 1SS1, when Col. Morris and James R. Wood became the editors. In about six months Col. Morris retired. and J. R. Wood, who is a brother of the proprietor, has ever since been editor-in-chief. John R. Payne was local editor from April 1, 1881. to October 1. 1882, and business manager to the beginning of the present year (1884), when Henry Wallace succeeded to the position.
The New Era is a large, nine-column folio, and presents an attractive appearance, with every indication of being in a flourishing condition. Its mechanical execution is good, and its editorial and local departments are equal to any paper in Southwestern Kentucky. It is a true blue Democratic paper, and has been since it was established, except the few months referred to above ; it merits the patronage of the party throughout the county.
The South .Kentuckian.—On the 1st of January, 1879, W. A. \Wilgus and William T. Townes leased from Col. Dodd his office, and established the South Kentuckian, the first issue appearing as a New Year’s morning call to the people of Hopkinsville; Charles NI. Meacham, editor. in the following August Mr. Meacham bought Townes’ interest in the lease, and a little later Mr. Wilgus sold his interest in the lease to J. W. Gogin, but on the 1st of January, 1880, it passed back into his hands, and the firm became Meacham & Wilgus. They leased the office from Col. Dodd for the year 1880, and in the fall following purchased it outright. They had commenced with an old press that had been in use for more than thirty years, and type and material well worn. As their means would permit, they have improved their office until they have an entire new outfit, with complete job type and presses, and about a year ago they purchased an improved Campbell power press. Mr. Meacham is the editor, and Mr. Wilgus manages the business.
On the 1st of November, 1883, the South Kentuckian was changed into a semi-weekly, and since that time has continued to show its honest face to its readers every Tuesday and Friday morning. As a semiweekly it is a seven-column, four-page paper, Democratic in politics. Its liberal advertising patronage denotes its thrift, as well as the energy and enterprise of its owners; who deserve well of the public for their efforts to furnish a newsy semi-weekly journal.
This comprises a brief sketch of the Christian County press; of the papers that have lived, flourished and died during the sixty-four years since the first one—the Kentucky Republican—sprang into existence. But the long roll of editors and printers who lived and flourished with them, where are they ? The gifted Patton, the scholarly Lindsay, the brilliant, erratic Carnes, chivalrous Henry, and Goodall and McCarroll and others. Ah, of the many that ye have been, but one remains—tile veteran Lindsay. The hands that guided the magic quill are folded over hearts that prompted jeweled thoughts, and now lie silent and still. Some of a later day survive—Noble, Mercer, Dodd, Starling, Gaines, Caruth, Morris, etc., but they have laid aside the editorial harness, and a younger generation wield their pens. Printers, your careful and busy hands too lie still ! You have melted away like the fonts you distributed, and as with the editors of the early period, another and younger generation fills your places.—.Perrin.
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