HISTORY OF TRIGG COUNTY
I - II - III
RELIGIOUS_SYNOPSIS OF THE CHURCH HISTORY OF TRIGG COUNTY-SOME OF THE PIONEER PREACHERS OF SOUTHERN KENTUCKY-THEIR PECULIAR CHARACTERISTICS - DUDLEY WILLIAMS - REUBEN ROSS AND OTHERS-NUMBER OF CHURCHES IN THE COUNTY-SCHOOLS_PAST AND PRESENT INSTITUTIONS OF LEARNING-TEACHERS-STATISTICS THE PRESS_-CANTON OBSERVER_YEOMAN_CADIZ 0RGAN-THE TELEPHONE AND OLD GUARD-STANDING UPON A SOLID FOUNDATION_CRIME AND LAWLESSNESS_CONVICTIONS AND EXECUTIONS_ OBEY THE LAWS"- TRIGG COUNTY MEDICAL SOCIETY, ETC., ETC.
In the early history of southern Kentucky it was not thought necessary that preachers should be educated men. It was sufficient for them to preach the Gospel from their simple Understanding of the Bible alone.
They have passed away. but they have left behind them the record of a mission well and faithfully performed, and may their sacred ashes repose in peace, in the quietude of their lonely graves until awakened by the archangel's trump in the last great day.
Among the earliest preachers in the county, of whom there is any record or knowledge, was Elder Dudley Williams, a member of the Baptist Church. He was one of the self-appointed missionaries of the frontier who went from place to place, intent only to show men the way to life everlasting. Elders Dorris, Brown and Thomas Ross were also early preachers in the county. They were Baptists, and held religious services from house to house during the early days of the county's history. Elder Reuben Ross was a distinguished preacher of the Baptist Church also, and a man of more than ordinary intellectual acquirements and eloquence. He was a man of generous mind, and co-operated freely with ministers of other denominations. He believed that in "things essential there should be unity," and in things not essential there should be liberty, and in all things charity. He was one of the founders of the Dry Creek Church, near Linton, one of the oldest church organizations in the county, and assisted in the establishment of the Donaldson Creek Church as early as 1814. Another Baptist Church, thought by some to be the first in the county, was formed in the year 1806, at Cerulean Springs. Elders Fielding Wolfe, Reuben Rowland and Peyton Nance, zealous workers in the cause of the Master, ministered to this church for many years during its early history.
Following close in the wake of the Baptists came pioneer missionaries of the Methodist Church, and established flourishing societies in various parts of the county. Later the Christians, or Disciples, as they are more familiarly known, obtained firm footing in the southern part of the State, and in Trigg are several of their oldest and most influential organizations. Thus & population increased, churches sprang up in all the different settlements of the county. At the present time every village and hamlet, and nearly every neighborhood has its church and Sunday-school. There is no lack of religious facilities, and if the people do not walk in the "straight and narrow way" they have but themselves to blame for any short-comings laid up against them. There are in the county at the present time fifteen Baptist Churches, and about the same number of Methodist. The Christians have five organizations; the Christian Union three; the Presbyterians one, and the Catholics one. The above are all white churches. The colored people have several flourishing societies, principally Methodist and Baptist.
Schools.-Scarcely second of the active forces that influence the development of society is the public school ; nothing adds so much to the prosperity of a community, or to its civilization and enlightenment as a thorough system of public instruction, and the cause of education should enlist the hearty support of every citizen irrespective of party affiliations. "The statutes of Kentucky show that the first experiments to extend the fostering aid and care of State patronage to the interests of general education were made nearly three-quarters of a century ago. An act of the Legislature, approved February 10, 1798, donated and set apart of the public lands of the Commonwealth 6,000 acres, for the support and benefit of Franklin, Salem and Kentucky Academies, and for Jefferson and Lexington Seminaries. Similar acts were approved December 21, 1805, and January 27, 1808, embracing like provisions, and extending them to all existing counties of the State."* It would be impossible within reasonable space to trace the course of legislation upon this most important subject of public schools. Almost every session of the Legislature has witnessed the passage of some special or general law in relation to the school interests of the State. The difficulties in the way of the early progress of the system were numerous, and for a time insurmountable. Funds for the pay of teachers and for the erection of schoolhouses were lacking, qualified teachers could not be found, the school districts were sparsely settled, much of the legislation was impracticable, the funds were mismanaged, and more fatal than all, was the strange prejudice entertained by many against popular education under the name of "free schools." Against the various hindrances, how- ever, the system has slowly made its way in spite of hostile judicial decisions, until now, though far from being perfect, and much inferior to the systems of other and newer States, it is accomplishing the great objects for which it was intended.
The early schools of Trigg County, like the whole of Kentucky, were of the commonest kind, and the cause of education for more than a generation was in anything but a flourishing condition. For half a century or more the schoolhouses, books, teachers and manner of instruction were of the most primitive character, and very different from what they are at the present day. The buildings, as a general thing, were very small log structures, with puncheon or dirt floors, and furnished with rude benches made of the split trunks of trees. A wide board fastened to the walls by wooden pins extended around the room, and answered the purpose of a writing desk during certain hours of the day. The apartment was heated by a large fireplace which occupied almost an entire end of the building, and light was admitted through greased paper windows fitted into an opening in the wall. A few of these humble temples of learning-time-worn relics of the early days, are yet to be found in many portions of southern Kentucky-eloquent of an age forever past. The majority of the pioneer schools was maintained altogether by subscription, and it was not until within a comparatively recent period that any substantial good began to be realized from the general system of public instruction. The county is still somewhat backward in the cause of education, and has not made that progress that it should have done, although much has been accomplished during the last decade toward bringing the common schools up to a higher degree of excellence. New and commodious houses have been erected, old houses have been repaired and refitted, better teachers employed, more liberal salaries paid, and many other needed improvements added. There are in the county at the present time fifty-six public schoolhouses, only eighteen of which are framed, the others being log, and the majority of them very indifferent structures. During the school year of 1882 and 1888, 3,543 white and 1,395 colored pupils attended the public schools. Sixty-three teachers were employed, and the sum of $7,500 paid them for their services.
In addition to the public schools there are several private institutions of learning in the county, where the most thorough and systematic instruction is given by competent teachers. The most important of these schools is the Wallonia Institute. There are also excellent private schools at Cadiz, which are more appropriately mentioned in the history of that town.
The Press.-The newspaper is an important factor in American society, and its establishment marks an epoch in the history of a community. In the main, it reflects the character of its constituency; it leads to a union of sentiment and purpose, and thus readers the moral force of society more effective. Hand in hand with the church and the school, it comes in the van of civilization, and society in this age cannot afford to dispense with its power.
Ezekiel Vinson was the first man that had nerve to start a newspaper in this county sway back in the fifties. This was a modest six-column long primer independent local sheet called the Canton Observer, from its having been published at that place. After issuing the paper one year at Canton, Mr. Vinson moved his office to Cadiz, and changed the name of his paper to the (Cadiz Weekly Observer, under which head it made its regular appearance for about two years, at the end of which time T. N. Ingram & Co. became proprietors. Under their management the office was removed to Canton, and J. S. Spiceland secured as editor. Spice-land afterward purchased the office, which was again brought to Cadiz, and the paper in 1857 was merged into the Cadiz Organ. Canton Yeoman.-This was venture number two in the way of newspaper enterprises in Canton. The Yeoman was Democratic in politics, and first made its appearance in 1857 under the editorial management of J. T. Ingram. Not meeting with sufficient patronage at Canton, Mr. Ingram, at the breaking out of the war, moved his paper to Mayfield, where it was afterward suppressed for its outspoken Southern gentleman. The Cadiz Organ was published by John S. Spiceland, and was established about the€ year 1857-58-a seven-column weekly Democratic paper. Spiceland carried it on about two years, at the end of which time he sold out to J. W. Gobin, who several years later merged it into the Trigg County Democrat. Mr. Gobin published the Democrat about nine months, when he sold to C. T. Wilkinson, under whose management it was regularly issued until April, 1882, at which time it suspended. When Wilkinson became proprietor he secured the services of Judge J. H. Wilkinson as editor, who made it the strongest and ablest paper the county had had up to that time. Judge Wilkinson wrote and published a great deal of matter. His facile pen ran smoothly over the paper, and when he cared he could invest his subject in Strong and glowing language. He died in 1882, and in his death the editorial fraternity lost an able and valued member.
A small sheet called the Union Democrat was started at Canton in 1861 by E. C. Spiceland. Thi8 paper was radical in its adherence to the Federal cause, and met with but little patronage in consequence thereof.
Mr. Spiceland published the Democrat but a few months, when it died a natural and easy death.
The Kentucky Telephone. --- The first number of the Kentucky Telephone was issued January 4, 1882. It was established by A. T. Wimberly, one of the present proprietors. It was a seven-column folio until October 27, 1882, when it was enlarged to eight columns, its patronage being such as to demand it. It is a weekly, and in politics Democratic. Matthew Mc-Kinney and A. T. Wimberly were the editors, the former being the principal editor until September 7, 1883, when he resigned. A. T. Wiinberly then took charge of the editorial department, and was sole editor and proprietor until January 1, 1884, when he sold a half interest in the office to Webb Watkins, who was at that time foreman of the printing department. It is now published under the firm name of Wimberly & Watkins, with A. T. Wimberly as editor and Webb Watkins as associate. The business of the paper has been very successfully managed. Its circulation has not been less than 950 since the end of the first year's existence, and it has reached 1,800. It now has a circulation of 1,200. Its advertising patronage is liberal, and everything considered, there is not a county paper in southern or western Kentucky that receives a more liberal patronage than the Telephone.
Old Guard.-This publication, the latest newspaper venture in Trigg County, was established January, 1884. by G. B. Bingham and Matthew McKinney. It is a seven-column folio, Democratic in politics, and under the able editorial management of Major McKinney has already acquired an extensive circulation, which is constantly increasing. The business of the paper is successfully conducted by Mr. Bingham, while as a writer Maj. McKinney is the peer of any newspaper man in Kentucky. The outlook of the Old Guard is very promising, and its friends predict for it a brilliant future.
Trigg County has an able press, and should appreciate it as it deserves. Few counties have two better or more sprightly newspapers. They have prospered through the energy of their owners, and are now upon a solid foundation; their patrons should see that they continue so, by supporting them liberally.
Crime -Notwithstanding the history of Trigg County has been proverbial for its good order and the peacefulness of its population, if we take some other counties as examples her record has been rather a bloody one. It is pretty well conceded now that in most of the counties of Kentucky if a criminal is found guilty and the death penalty affixed, that public sentiment has driven the jury to the finding of the verdict; but if malefactors will take upon themselves the trouble to look into the county records of Trigg, we think they will come to the conclusion that it is not a very favorable location for the perpetration of their murderous designs.
The death sentence has been pronounced seven times since the county has been organized, and there have been five executions. The first was Jerry, a slave of Starkie Thomas, who was arraigned for trial in the Trigg Circuit Court the 7th day of July, 1841. The jury was composed of a lot of stanch old gentlemen, among whom are remembered the following: John H. Prescott, George Grace, John Wallis, Sam Stanrod, Thoma8 H. Young, Alex Wilson, Robert Hawkins, William H. Martin, Z. E. F. Mitchison and William Waldin.
He was prosecuted by Iredel Hart and defended by Cormenius Burnett. He was found guilty, and executed on the 30th day of July, 1841. The day of Jerry's execution drew the largest crowd to Cadiz that has ever been there from that day to this. The bulk of the population not only of this county but most of the adjoining counties all seemed to have been there. Not only the gentlemen but the ladies turned out in full force, and the most refined and cultivated ladies in the county at that. There was considerable sympathy manifested for Jerry, and most likely if such a case had occurred during Gov. Blackburn's administration, he would have been called upon for an interposition of executive clemency. The proof was positive, but there were mitigating circumstances, the introduction of which the law forbade, that gave the finding of the jury somewhat the appearance of a harsh verdict.
The second execution was Minerva, a servant, the property of Mrs. Martha Mayes. Herself and husband, the property of Jane Miller, were tried for arson-the burning of the storehouse of Messrs. Gardner & Ragon. It seems to have been the generally received opinion that George. was guilty, but there was always a doubt in the minds of the people as to the guilt of Minerva, except perhaps the knowledge of her husband's intention to commit the offense. Public sentiment, however, was wrought up to a high pitch, and notwithstanding the testimony was all circumstantial, they were both found guilty. George committed suicide in jail before the day of execution, and Minerva suffered the extreme penalty of the law on the 9th day of February, 1856.
Sol 'Younce was tried and found guilty by a Committee of Vigilance as being a leader in a proposed insurrection of the negroes, and a plot to murder the whites-found guilty, and was executed some time in the spring of 1856. There being no record of this matter kept, we are consequently unable to give the precise date.
Anthony, a slave, the property of R. V. Grinter, was regularly indicted by the Grand Jury and tried for a similar offense, found guilty, and was executed on the 6th day of February, 1857. Anthony had been tried for his life on one occasion previous to this. The first offense was the breaking open and robbing the house of Mrs. Kelly.
The next conviction and sentence was Austin Bingham for murder. He was sentenced to be hung, and the day of execution fixed for the 4th of November, 1859. There was a great effort made both in the trial and after judgment by his attorneys to save his life, and finally Gov. Magoffin was prevailed upon to commute his punishment to imprisonment for life. He died in the penitentiary a few years after.
Andrew Jackson was tried and found guilty of murder, condemned, and executed on April 12, 1860.
John Bridges was tried for murder, and executed on the 30th day of June, 1882.
"Let justice be. done though the heavens fall," is the motto of our people, but they very much hope at the same time that long years may elapse before another crime will be committed in the county that will demand so severe a penalty.
Trigg County Medical Society.-The medical fraternity of the county have formed themselves into an organization known as the Trigg County Medical Society. The society was organized in 1872, any graduate of medicine from a respectable medical college being eligible to membership.
The first officers were Dr. Thomas Jefferson, President; J. S. Lackey, Secretary; and J. W. Crenshaw, Treasurer. Many of the physicians of the county have since joined the society. Dr. J. W. Johnson is President of the organization at this time; J. L. Trice, Vice-President; and J. W. Crenshaw, Secretary and Treasurer. The present membership consists of the following physicians: J. W. Johnson, J. L. Trice, Levi Lindsay, J. W. Crenshaw, T. L. Bacon, A. G. P. Good, William Lindsay, J. W. Cullom, Henry Blane, - Roscoe and J. H. Lackey. The society is yearly growing in interest, and its meetings are productive of much good to the profession in the county.*- County of Trigg Kentucky , HISTORICAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL - EDITED BY WILLIAM HENRY PERRIN - ILLUSTRATED. - F.A. BATTEY PUBLISHING CO. 1884.
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