The History of Four Lexingtons
Review of the City's Growth From Infancy to the Present
By E.V. Tadlock
Source: The (Lexington, KY) Morning Herald, 02 February 1902
Men come, men go, but "time, the tomb-builder," halts not as each succeeding generation lays its dead in sepulchres digged by those they know not. The history of Lexington is the history of two distinct cities and peoples. Of the first Lexington we know nothing other than it was the seat of a powerful and populous people. Who they were, when or how they came here, how they lived, how long they stayed or how they went away, no one knows.
That they were here, that they were numerous, that they enjoyed a condition of civilization superior to that of the Indians, who succeeded them, we do know with absolute assurance. All else is a matter of conjecture. Mayhap when Achilles fought and Memnon sang, or even Tubal Cain wrought his brasses, this people tracked the wild deer through the forests or battled against the Emperor of Mound Builders of the Mississippi Valley, or the Great Mogul of the Cliff Dwellers of Colorado.
The meager history of this people is written in the mounds, circumvallations and sepulchres easily distinguishable to the early settlers of this country and in the earthen vessels, flint weapons and copper ornaments plowed up in the fields and digged from their mounds.
Ashe, an adventurer and traveler writing in 1806, says:
"Lexington stands on the site of an Indian town, which must have been of great extent and magnificance, as is amply evidenced by the wide range of its circumvallatory works and the quantity of ground it once occupied."
This affirmation is substantiated by the research of Prof. Rafinesque, of Transylvania University, who was considered the highest authority on the mounds and reliques of the Mississippi Valley. A well, evenly walled with stone--a domestic convenience unknown to the Indians--curiously wrought earthen vessels, ornaments of copper and a lead mine, bearing traces of having been anciently worked, are discoveries indicating the former presence of a race considerable advanced in the arts of civilization. Stone pyramids were discovered, says an early writer, built in a way differing from those of any Indian tribe, and containing human skeletons. A mound, about six feet high, on Spring street, between Hill and Maxwell streets, upon being leveled, was found to be composed of three different kinds of earth. In it was a strangely shaped earthen vessel and partly burned sticks of wood. The mound was supposed to have been used as an altar. The tradition of a large cavern, said to be situated under Lexington, is probably based upon the report of a sepulchre discovered in 1776.
Three years before any permanent settlement had been effected, the curiosity of a party of hunters, probably from Boonesborough, was aroused by a heap of unusual looking stones in the woods where the city now stands. Removing those they came to others of peculiar workmanship, which concealed the entrance to an ancient catacomb, formed in the solid rock, fifteen feet below the surface, and described by the historian Ranch (sic) as follows:
"They discovered that a gradual descent from the opening brought them to a passage four feet wide and seven feet high, leading into a specious apartment, in which were numerous niches, which they were amazed to find occupied by bodies, which from their perfect state of preservation, had evidently been embalmed." During six succeeding years of rapine and murder, the cave was devastated by both whites and Indians, and almost all vestiges of the mummies, said by Ranck to be "probably the rarest remains of a forgotten era that man has ever seen," were destroyed. After hostilities had ceased, the cave was re-visited and surveyed. It proved to be three hundred feet long, one hundred feet wide and eighteen feet wide. For over a century this cave has been lost, and is today not less a mystery than Moses' grave on Nebo's Mount. The measurements and description of the circumvallation, together with those of other ancient monuments in the vicinity, as made by Prof. Rafinesque, are quoted at length in Ranck's History of Lexington, but are too lengthy for this article.
The main circumvallation, located about two and a half miles from Lexington in an easterly direction, appears in shape to have been an irregular polygon of seven unequal sides, and to have been in circumference something under a mile. The height and width of the wall are irregular, averaging about twelve feet in breadth and three in width. The wall, made of dirt thrown up from the ditch, was probably sixteen feet in breadth throughout and four feet high, while the ditch was deeper and narrower. Numerous other mounds and circumvallations, of lesser size, existed in various parts of the vicinity. They are now, however, for the most past, obliterated. In 1846 a ditch on the, at that time, estate of C.C. Moore, was still deep enough to hide a man on horseback. An ash tree cut, in 1845, from a wall enclosing ten acres of land on what was then known as the Meredith place, proved to be four hundred years old. Many of the numerous mounds were opened and found to contain copper hatchets and trinkets, supposed to have been ornaments, also flint arrow-heads and pieces of charcoal, together with other articles, the uses of which are food for conjecture. No inscriptions of any kind were found.
Numerous and diverse theories have been advanced as to who and what these beings were, how they came here, and how they went away. One, from their mummies, supposes them to have been related to the Egyptians: another believes them contemporaries of the Piets. Most probable, however, is the theory which declares them identical with the Alleghawians, or progenitors of the Aztecs. The temples and other relics of that ancient race, as described by Humbolt, strangely resembles those formerly found in the vicinity of Lexington. Disagreeing in all else, the theorists unite in the one opinion that this strange race, together with the inhabitants of Mexico and the Mississippi Valley, were a race distinct from the Indians, who succeeded them, and by whom they were probably destroyed.
Conjecture as we may, the truth is sealed up in the book of fate, to be opened only at the judgment day, when the curious may read of things stranger than the Arabian Nights, of struggles more fierce and weird than those of Baeowulf. Mystery of mysteries, thou art indissolubly commingled with the dust of Lexington.
After this race had been exterminated by the conquering Indians, the devastated territory was called "Kantuckee," meaning "dark and bloody ground." There is a tradition among the Indians to the effect that Kentucky is full of the souls of a strange people which had been long ago destroyed by their ancestors. To them it was ever a spirit land, a place of superstition and awe. While hunting parties visited and war bands fought in its bounds, no tribe ever made Kentucky their permanent home.
For the sake of perspicuity, the history of the present Lexington may be divided into three points. 1. The pioneer era extending from the discovery of the site of the city in 1775 to its incorporation in 1832; 2. mediaeval or middle Lexington , inclusive of the years from 1832 to 1872; 3. modern Lexington, or the city of today.
The first known visit of white men to the site of Lexington was in 1775. "In that year," says Gen. Robert McAfee, in his history of the war of 1812, "Robert Patterson, Simon Kenton, Michael Stoner, John Haggin, John and Levi Todd, and others took possession of the north fork of the Kentucky river , including Lexington." On the 5th of June the party spent the night at a spot afterwards occupied by what was known as the Headley Distillery and near the old Frankfort road, almost opposite the Lexington Cemetery. They viewed with wonder and delight the prospect of a land unrivalled in beauty of scenery, fertility of soil and abundance of game.
Assisted by the hunters, William McConnell erected a cabin on the camping ground, prepatory to entering claim for four hundred acres of land, offered by Virginia to any person who should clear a piece of land, erect a cabin and raise a crop of Indian corn. In naming the projected settlement York and Lancaster were rejected, and Lexington greeted with cheers. Although fought more than a month before, the news of the glorious battle of Lexington had just reached the pioneer settlements, and for that historic event was christened the rude cabin of McConnell, which gave to Lexington her name.
The Revolution was now well on and with it began an era of bloodshed and terror. The Indians, fresh from the horror of Plans of Abraham, swarmed through the land in bands more fierce than vandals, more ruthless than the hordes of Genghis Khan. The pioneers were compelled to cease from penetrating the wilderness, and seek the sheltering fort and blockhouse. Although the wilderness of Kentucky, formerly a part of Fincastle county Virginia, had on December 7, 1776 been formed into "Kentucky county," the forces of the "Old Dominion" were of no avail to the settlers, who were left to fight bravely their own battles against overwhelming odds. To venture into the woods was hazardous, to attempt the cultivation of a crop, certain death. So it was that the winter of 1777 opened with the additional agony of starvation. Harrodsburg, Boonesborough and Logan's Fort were each attacked in rapid succession, and at a time, too, when the fighting forces of Kentucky numbered only one hundred and two men, which, however, was fortunately doubled by the arrival of Colonel Bowman with one hundred riflemen from Virginia. The unspeakable sufferings of the winter passed, spring brought new hope to the hearts of the settlers through the masterly strokes of that splendid soldier, George Rogers Clark, against the posts of Kaskaskia and Vincennes. The baffled Indians at length retired, and the settlers once more ventured forth to possess the land.
In March of 1779, Robert Patterson, leader of the party that had erected the McConnell cabin, was ordered from Harrodsburg to establish a garrison north of the Kentucky river. The party of twenty-five men reached its destination after the expiration of a month. They encamped upon the site of a beautiful spring, where they erected a blockhouse. This blockhouse, erected in 1779, was succeeded in 1780 by a frame structure. In 1807 the frame was displaced by what was in that time a splendid two-story brick, which, in 1871, gave place to the four-story iron front, now known as the Carty building, on the corner of Main and Mill streets. Upon completion, the block house was occupied by Col. Robert Patterson, John Maxwell, James Henderson, William and Alexander McConnell, and James and Joseph Lindsay, who prepared and raised a crop of corn on ground now occupied by Cheapside, the court house and part of Main street. During the year 1779 immigrants flocked to Kentucky, but only a few of the boldest dared venture to Lexington. The fort coming gradually to be a place of importance, assumed the shape of a parallelogram, the sides being formed by the walls of the cabins, and the ends defended by stockades of sharpened stakes, set in the ground, and about ten feet in height. Within the enclosure, which was large enough to shelter not only the settlers, but the stock, was another row of cabins. The one gate was on the side, extending from the block house on Carty's corner, to about the center of West Main street, at a point between Mill and Broadway streets. Ranck says, "The station embraced and enclosed a part of Main street between the two streets just named, and a good portion of the ground now occupied by business houses on East Main street, included between the same streets." The same historian gives interesting sketches of Colonel Patterson and his companions, who erected and first occupied the block house at Lexington. In this short article all word regarding them, interesting as it might be, must be left unsaid.
During this season of peace, immigration to Kentucky, principally from North Carolina, rapidly increased. A number of families, of whom the Bryants were the most prominent, in the fall of 1779, established Bryant's Station. A buffalo trail, leading from that place close to Lexington, was cleared and by means of it frequent and convenient communication between the two posts was maintained.
Late in September of 1779, a party under the leadership of Colonel John Grant, of North Carolina, established Grant's Station, five miles beyond Bryant's Station, in a direction toward the present town of Paris. The unremitting hostilities, however, of the Indians, rendered life so unendurable that in 1780 the entire party returned to Virginia. But to take the place of those who left, new settlers came, and at their coming, the wilderness was changed. Their rifles cracked, and the elk, deer, bear and buffalo laid down their bones to bleach on an hundred hills. The keen blade, swath by swath, leveled the canebrake, under the reverberating stroke of their axes crashed the primeval maple; ash and oak that had bared their boughs to the winter blasts of centuries, the mute and stoic witnesses of barbaric carnage in which the curdling war-whoop gave echoing reply to the tremulous death groan. A few short years, and the places which had known the Indians--the places where he had strung his bow, fought his battles, perchance wooed his Minnehaha, but where he had never smoked his peaceful pipe or made his home--would soon know him no more for ever. Kentucky, Kentucky, thou was bought fresh from the Creator's hand by the priceless blood of matchless men. Who can conceive the stupendous gloom, the inexorable majesty of thy primeval splendors? Where the Milton that can describe thy glories; who the homer that will sing thy deeds, braver than those of Achilles or Hector, who on immortal canvas will blaze the lurid flame of thy cabin homes? All the traditions of the Anglo-Celtic race, the weird and terrific struggles of Beowulf, the knightly valorous deeds of "Arthur's Table Round," have been enacted in thee, thou daughter of adversity and mother of men.
The respite of the winter of 1780 ceased with the coming of spring. The Indians again infested the country, and neither life nor property were safe. Anxiety and hardships was the daily portion of the settler. By turns the men watched, hunted, planted and plowed; while the women milked, cooked, spun and wove. Their clothing was of deer skin and homespun. Their household furniture consisted of such articles as could be fashioned with an ax and hunting knife. Their table utensils were of wood. A knife and fork were luxuries enjoyed only by the few. But beneath the deer skin shirt and home-spun gowns beat hearts as brave and purpose as true as patriot ever owned.
The spring of 1780 marked an era in the history of Lexington. The frequency and severity of the Indian depredations rendered life a burden. One day in June the woods surrounding the fort were discovered to be full of Indians. The settlers gathered into the fort with the expectations of a long and desperate siege, but were greatly surprised when, after burning out-standing cabins and destroying crops, the savages disappeared, driving the cattle and horses before them. Their astonishment was greatly increased as was their relief on hearing the distant report of artillery. The conduct of the Indians on this occasion has never been satisfactorily explained. Whether the English Commander, Colonel Byrd, became disgusted at the ruthless mode of warfare, or whether he feared the falling of the Licking river would delay his return is not known. Whatever the explanation, to this remarkable conduct is probably due the preservation of Lexington. Following upon the heels of the retreat, Col. George Rogers Clark led a retaliatory expedition and was so successful that no large bodies of Indians threatened Kentucky during the whole next year. Although the Indians failed in their original purpose, they succeeded in inflicting untold suffering upon the settlement. By destroying the crops and cattle, they left nothing for sustenance during the terrible winter that succeeded, probably the most rigorous in the history of the State. Snow and ice covered the ground without thaw from November to March. The accumulated snow became almost impassable to both man and beast, and rendered doubly difficult the task of the hunter who ventured forth to slay such animals as had survived the cold and famine. Bread stuffs failed before winter had hardly begun. The cattle starved to death and were eaten, and only a stinted supply of deer's meat, carefully husbanded, served to preserve the flickering flame of existence until spring brought relief. No more terrible season of suffering is recorded in history. Not even the unspeakable privations endured by the pilgrim fathers during the winter succeeding their landing at Plymouth Rock exceeded this season of living death.
During November of this year (1780) Virginia formed Kentucky into the three counties of Jefferson, Lincoln and Fayette, the latter being named in honor of Marquis de Lafayette, the friend of Washington and patron of American liberty: the organization of the county was not, however, completed until the next year.
In this year also, the first burial place was established. The settlers who had been killed by the Indians were laid to rest on what was then called "the first hill," and later the Baptist Church yard, on Main street. During the cholera scourge of 1833, tier upon tier of victims were interred in this burying ground, which has never been used since. The second graveyard in point of age was that of the McConnells, opposite the present Lexington Cemetery. The Catholic Cemetery, on Winchester street, was established something over seventy years ago.
Indissolubly knit with the history of Lexington is that of her schools. Many of her pioneers were men of education and culture, and furnished, as it were, the germ from which sprang the educational enterprises that have made famous the name of Lexington. As early as 1780 the fort had its school taught by John McKinney and in the same year Transylvania University was chartered by the Legislature of Virginia. Shortly after the close of the Revolution, a log house was built on the present side of Cheapside. It was in the building that McKinney had his famous fight with the wild cat, which James Lane Allen had embodied in his "Choir Invisible."
In 1787 Isaac Wilson established the Lexington Grammar school. In this school Latin, Greek and the different branches of the sciences were taught. Rates of tuition were four pounds, payable in cash or produce. John Davenport, the following spring, opened the first dancing school. In 1788, Transylvania Seminary was opened, and from that day to this, education had never lagged, nor educational institutions ceased to be a leading factor on the civic life of Lexington.
Transylvania University was the first regular educational institution founded in the West. In 1780, the Legislature of Virginia passed a law devoting eight thousand acres of land in Kentucky, escheated from British subjects to the endowment of a public school for the purpose, says the bill, "of promoting the diffusion of useful knowledge even among its remote citizens, whose situation in a barbarous neighborhood and savage intercourge might otherwise render unfriendly to science."
The school was incorporated in 1783 under the style of "Transylvania University--meaning the backwoods"--and at the same time was endowed with twelve thousand additional acres of land. This new endowment was, however, lost to the University after Kentucky had become a State by the legislative repeal of the measure of escheat. The original eight thousand acres were sold for thirty thousand dollars, which was invested in the stock of the Bank of Kentucky. Twenty thousand dollars of this money was also lost upon the withdrawal of the charter of that bank.
The first meeting of the board of trustees was held at Crow's Station, Lincoln County, November 19, 1783. At this meeting Prof. John Todd donated the library which formed the nucleus for the present one. The Seminary was opened in February, 1783 at the house of Rev. David Rice, a Presbyterian minister, and graduate of old Nassua Hall, now Princeton University, near Danville. This divine was largely instrumental in establishing both Transylvania University and its subsequent rival, Kentucky Academy. The University was in 1787 further endowed by the Legislature of Virginia with one-sixth of the Surveyors fees in Kentucky. This enactment was, however, repealed in 1802. The first building for the Seminary, a plain one-story brick, was erected on what was known as college corner, facing Second street with Third street in the immediate rear. Upon the Seminary's removal, another teacher was added. In 1794 a controversy arose over the election of Harry Toulnim, a Baptist minister, as both the Baptists and Presbyterians claimed control, and the latter withdrew, establishing Kentucky Academy. Trouble was finally adjusted by the union of the two institutions in 1798. Rev. James Moore was the first man to preside over the consolidated institutions. In 1799 law and medical departments were added. Colonel George Nicholas was the first professor in the law department, which has probably never been excelled in point of faculty by any institution of equal size and length of existence, during the entire history of the nation. Its chairs have been filled by such lights as Henry Clay, James Brown, John Pope, William T. Barry, Jesse Bledsoe, John Boyle, Daniel Meyer, Charles Humphrey, George Robertson, Thomas A. Marshall and A.K. Woolley.
The Medical department was first headed by the distinguished Dr. Samuel Brown, and early became and long continued a worthy member of the great University of which it was a part. To follow these colleges through their long and vicissitudinous career would be a task impossible for so brief an article.
In 1817, through the liberality of certain citizens, Henry Clay among them, a handsome new building was erected on the college lawn, which was itself improved and beautified. Dr. Horace Holly, of Boston, was called to be the third President. By him the institution was thoroughly reorganized and placed upon a footing which, as it had never been equalled before, has never been excelled since. "At this time," says Historian Ranck, "there was probably no college library in the United States superior to that of Transylvania University." Handsome donations of rare books were received from the British Government, and also even private individuals, among others Edward Everett.
Despite the University's unparalleled success, the unitarian views of President Holley aroused such bitter antagonisms, that in 1827 he was forced to resign.
Although a heavy blow, the resignation of Dr. Holley did not discourage the trustees who, in April of 1877, laid the corner stone of the median building, on the site of the present city library.
In June of 1828, Rev. Alva Woods, President of Brown University, acceded to the Presidency. Dr. Woods was a Baptist minister. He was President but two years, when he resigned. During Dr. Woods' administration, the main college building, together with the law and society libraries, were destroyed by fire.
The fifth President of Transylvania was Rev. Benjamin O. Peers, an Episcopal minister, who died after two years. This brings us to the year 1832, in which Lexington was incorporated, and concludes the first or pioneer division of the article so far as the University is concerned. During the fifty-five years of its existence, it had grown from an obscure school, having but one teacher, to an opulent university, with a large and distinguished faculty, a numerous student body and a reputation that was not national only, but international.
Clark's successful expedition prevented any formidable Indian invasion during the year 1780, but small bands continued to harass, and encounters with the savages were frequent and often times fatal. Several captures and well nigh miraculous escapes are recorded of this period.
In this year the first county trustees were elected. The board consisted of Robert Patterson, Levi Todd, Henry McDonald, David Mitchell and Michael Warnock. Their first resolution was "to inform the court of Fayette county that, if they should deem Lexington a proper place for holding courts in the future, the sum of 30 pounds in gold or silver, or the value thereof, in continental currency, will be granted by the trustees for public buildings." At the same meeting it was also ordered that the town be laid off in lots, "the in-lots to contain one-third part of an acre each, and that they be granted to each free male person above the age of twenty-one years, and each widow. A number of lots, not less than thirteen, were also ordered reserved for public uses. For some unknown reasons the work was not completed until nine months after the meeting. It was during this summer that the organization of Fayette county was perfected. Governor Jefferson, of Virginia, appointed John Todd Colonel, Daniel Boone Lieutenant Colonel and Thomas Marshall surveyor. John Maxwell was chosen Coroner and Levi Todd County Clerk. The justices of the county court were successively Sheriffs until the law was changed in 1792.
In December, 1781, "the proposition of the trustees in the matter of the appropriation for the erection of public buildings was accepted. For some time the court met in one of the cabins in the stockade. After two years a log house was erected on the corner of Main and Broadway, on the spot now occupied by Williams' drug store. In 1788 a small stone court house was erected where the present one now stands. The office of the County Clerk, together with most of the court documents, were destroyed by fire on the night of January 31, 1803. A commission of nine men was appointed by the Governor to enquire into the claims of those injured by the destruction of the records. The rapid growth of the town, together with the fire disaster, necessitated the erection of a large brick building in 1806. Ranck, writing in 1872, says: "About the year 1814 it (the court house) was remodelled and the town clock was put up, and now altogether constitutes the venerable disfigurement at present so unpleasantly prominent upon the public square and so disgraceful to the county. The court house can boast of nothing but its associations. Its walls have echoed to the voices on Clay, Barry, Bledsoe, Crittenden, the Wickliffes, Menifee, R.J. and John C. Breckinridge, Thomas F. Marshall and a host of other distinguished men, both living and dead." On the 26th of December, 1781, the town trustees adopted a plan for the town, and disposed of the lots as laid off in it to the citizens. The list of those securing lots, too long for publications, contains many names now prominent and influential in the affairs of Lexington.
Returning to the early years of settlement, the year 1782 was one of intense anxiety. The Indians were mustering under those white savages, Simon and James Gurty (sic) and McKee to make one final and desperate attempt to regain their hunting ground. Following this news came the report of Estill's defeat. Then the Indians themselves appeared in small bands, and death followed in their wake. At this time Lexington and Bryant's Station were the most exposed posts in all the West, and consequently against them were directed the first and most determined movements of the savages. The garrison of Lexington consisted of about sixty effective men who enjoyed over the defenders of Bryant Station the advantage of a never failing supply of water. The men in Bryant's Station numbered about forty-four. The story of the attack on the station on the morning of the 14th of August, the stratagem of the wiley savages, the heroic conduct of the women, the attempted rescue from Lexington, the apt though inelegant reply of Aaron Reynolds to Simon Girty, the crestfallen retreat of the baffled Indians, the pursuit, the counsel of Boone, the ambuscade and the disastrous battle of the Blue Licks are facts of history familiar to every child and too lengthy to relate in this sketch.
While all this was transpiring, the Legislature of Virginia passed a law entitled, "An act to establish a town at the court house in the county of Fayette," and the following trustees were appointed: John Todd, Robert Patterson, William Mitchell, Andrew Steele, William Henderson, William McConnell and William Steele. The news of this act came at a time when the town was bowed to the ground with heart-rending grief. Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because they were not, is a touching description of the stricken town at this period. No more heroic were the matrons of ancient Sparta than the women of pioneer Lexington. Well has the poet written of them:
"The mothers of our forest land,
But the triumph of the Indians was of short life. George Rogers Clark, that "bolt of chain lightening," gathered about him a thousand mounted riflemen, many of whom were from Lexington, and with the expedition and ferocity born of vengeance, literally annihilated five of the Chillicothe towns, and as no quarter had been shown to the victims of the Blue Licks, so none was given to those of Chillicothe. The spirit of the red man was broken, his best efforts had rebounded upon himself: no more, for all time, was Kentucky to be menaced by large and powerful war bands, though for years to come the rifle, tomahawk and scalping knife of the skulking savage rendered the State in deed and in truth a dark and bloody ground.
The same marked the coming to Lexington of John Filson, who taught a school and subsequently, in 1784, wrote the first history of Kentucky. "This man did no little toward securing the establishment of Transylvania University. In this year, also, Thomas Marshall, county surveyor, opened a land office and there began what Ranck terms "a calamitous scramble" for land.
The 20th of January, 1783, saw the close of hostilities between the United States and England. It was likewise the beginning of a period of growth and prosperity for Lexington. Relieved of the fear of the Indians, the settlers began to build without the stockade, and to enter with zest into the cultivation of the ground. This is precisely the Lexington of "The Choir Invisible"--the Lexington freed from the blighting influence of a nameless fear--the Lexington bursting from the confining influences of its former self and rejoicing as a strong man to run a race--confident in a consciousness of strength--strong in a new born hope.
The first cabin built without the fort was the log school house on Cheapside, in which John McKinney, that same year had the famous fight with the wildcat. The alarm roused by the noise of the struggle caused the settlers to rush into the fort, thinking that the Indians were about to attack. This was the last time the settlers ever assembled for the purpose of protection, and the old fort, which had resisted so many savage foes, surrendered at last to the resistless march of the army of civilization.
By 1874 (sic)  Lexington had assumed the appearance of a frontier village. Although obstructed by stumps and roots, and in bad weather almost impassable, Main street had extended considerably beyond the walls of the fort. There was a one-story log school house, but no church had as yet been built. Greatly to the delight of the female portion of the inhabitants, Gen. James Wilkerson established a dry goods store--the second one in Kentucky. The goods were brought from Philadelphia to Pittsburg by wagon, from there by flatboat to Limestone, now Maysville, and then to Lexington on pack horses.
The settlers began to find time for relaxation. Their amusement consisted of horse and foot races, rifle practice, dancing and "long bullets," all of which is described in "The Choir Invisible." A great hubbub was aroused by the preaching of a man named Galloway, a disciple of Tom Payne, to the effect that Virginia had no rights to the Territory of Kentucky, which ought to be taken possession of by Congress. At the instance of his preaching many prepared to take possession of their neighbors' property under an act of Congress, which he assured them would be passed. The man was arrested, but no law was known by which he could be punished. A forgotten law of Virginia was finally found, which inflicted a discretionary penalty of tobacco upon the propagator of "false news, to the disturbance of the good people of the colony." Gallway was quickly tried and a fine of a thousand pounds of tobacco imposed. He was finally released upon promise to leave the State, which condition he accepted with alacrity.
The paramount political question of the day was the separation from Virginia. The advocators of the move were headed by Gen. James Wilkerson while the anties were lead by Colonel Thomas Marshall.
The story of Lexington would be incomplete without a word about the churches. In the struggles of her pioneer days "the sword of the Lord and the sword of Gideon," fought side by side: nor since has the preacher and the church become a less important factor in her "up-risings and down-sittings."
In 1784 the Presbyterians, at that time the most numerous of the denominations of the colony, built on the southeast corner of Walnut and Short streets the first log church, and Rev. Adam Rankin, of Augusta county, Virginia, was called to the pastorate. This church was first known as "Mount Zion," but later as Mr. Rankin's church." A strife was at this time rife throughout the whole Presbyterian Church over Psalmody. One faction advocated the literal Bible version; the other would use only the revision of a certain Dr. Watts. Mr. Rankin was an anti-Watts man and immediately set to work to eliminate that version then in use by the congregation. This caused dissension and the church divided. In 1789 Mr. Rankin was arraigned before the Presbytery of Transylvania, charged with having "debarred from the table of the Lord such persons as approved Watt's Psalmody." The trial did not take place until April 1892 (sic), when he protested against the proceedings and withdrew then from the church, carrying the larger part of the congregation with him and retaining possession of the property on Walnut and Short streets. Mr. Rankin and his adherents, in May, 1793, united with the Associated Reform Church, which connection they preserved for twenty-five years. At the expiration of that time they broke away and became independent. After Mr. Rankin resigned in 1825 the church rapidly declined and died a natural death. The portion of the church disagreeing with the Rev. Mr. Rankin took the new and partially completed building on the corner of Short and Mill streets. This building, begun before the division was completed, says Ranck, mainly through the efforts of "Robert Patterson, John Maxwell, James Trotter, Robert Megowan, Robert Steele and other members of the church. James Welsh, of Virginia, was called to the pastorate, in which capacity he served until 1804. The pulpit, during the vacancy, was supplied by Rev. James Blythe, President of Transylvania University, and others.
In 1807 Rev. Robert M. Cunningham, of Pennsylvania, became pastor. Under his administration the old church property was disposed of and a new building erected on the corner of Second and Broadway. In July, 1817, the church was struck by lightning, while services were in progress, and two ladies were killed. Mr. Cunningham resigned in 1822 and was, in 1823, succeeded by Rev. Nathan Hall, of Garrard county, Kentucky. He it was who instituted the great revivals of 1828, which, to use the words of Ranck, "gave the finishing blow to infidelity that had been only too prevalent in Lexington." In 1815 the Second Presbyterian Church was founded.
Although the pioneer church of the State, the Baptists were the second to erect a building in Lexington. Bands of them met from house to house as early of 1786. Their first minister was Elder Lewis Craig. In 1789 the congregation erected a log building on the spot which has gone down in history as the old Baptist burying ground.
Like the Presbyterians, the Baptists had their troubles. In 1799 Arianism crept into the flock and was a fruitful bone for contention until subdued by Elder Gano, successor of Louis Craig. This trouble was hardly hushed before the "Emancipation" schism rent the church with the doctrine that slave holders should be debarred from the communion, and the peace was only restored with the withdrawal of the "Emancipators." By this controversy the church was greatly weakened and declined until 1817, when prosperous times again restored it to its original strength. At this time the chapel of Transylvania University was used as a meeting place. Steps were soon taken, however, and a building was erected on Mill street, opposite the college lawn. To the pastorate, Dr. James Fishback was called.
"In 1826," says Ranck, "the influence of the religious movement headed by Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell caused the introduction of a resolution into the First Baptist church to change the name to "the Church of Christ," which was advocated and opposed by two different factions, which had then formed in the church. After a prolonged discussion, the party favoring the resolution swarmed out, under the leadership of Dr. Fishback, and organized the "Church of Christ" and worshipped in a building known as statesman's office on Short street, between Upper and Limestone. The church was eventually dissolved. Many of the congregation went back to the First Baptist Church and the remainder connected themselves with the body now known as the Christian Church.
Dr. Fishback was succeeded by Jeremiah Varden, who remained in charge until 1831.
Seventeen and eighty-seven was the year of ratification of the constitution. Upon this occasion Fayette was represented in the Virginia convention by Humphrey Marshall and John Fowler. In December of this year a number of public spirited gentlemen, at least half of whom were from Lexington, established a society known as the Kentucky Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge. The second convention, which met at Danville in 1785, recognized the need of a government independent of Virginia, and to the end that there might be a unanimity of opinion among the people, decided to establish a newspaper. In 1786 John Bradford upon the assurance of public patronage, agreed to establish a newspaper, which promise he fulfilled, the first number of the "Kentucke Gazette" appearing in 1787. "It was a quaint little brown thing, about the size of a half sheet of common letter paper- subscription price 18 shillings per annum, advertisements of moderate length three shillings." A full and very interesting account is found in Ranck's history of Lexington.
Lexington comes by her passion for racing legitimately. It is an inherited trait. As early as 1787 the commons, now Water street, became the public race course, but not until racing on Main street had been forbidden by the town trustees. In 1789 the Gazette published notices of purses to be given in the races. In 1809 the Lexington Jockey Club was organized.
"The present Kentucky Association was organized at Mr. Keene's inn, July 29, 1826, by about fifty of the most prominent turfmen of Central Kentucky. The object of this association was "to improve the breed of horses by encouraging the sports of the turf." The first track was the "Williams track," opposite the present cemetery. this track was used until 1828, when the track at the east end of Fifth street was bought of John Postlewaite.
An early frequenter of the course of this period says, "We can recollect when nothing but an old post and rail fence enclosed the track; the judges' stand stood at the cow pens, and the grand stand was an old rickety building, with eight steps. Admittance to the course was free. We recollect seeing Woodpecker, sire of Grey Eagle, run."
Lexington celebrated the Fourth of July for the first time in 1788. At one p.m. a large company of ladies and gentlemen assembled at the tavern of Captain Thomas Young and partook of a sumptuous repast, after which they responded to toasts. The toasts were all upon political subjects and reflected the conditions and ambitions of the time. An ode, composed by a Lexington gentleman, was sung to the tune of "Rule Britannia," the entire company uniting in the chorus, which was:
"Hail Kentucke, Kentucke thou shalt be
The song gave expression to the invariable longing of the people for a government independent of Virginia.
In this same year (1788) Cincinnati was settled by a company from Lexington, the site being owned by two Lexington men.
Freemasonry in all the territory west of the Allegheny Mountains had its commencement at Lexington in Lodge No. 25, established November, 1788 by the Grand Lodge of Virginia, Daviess Lodge was established in 1812 and was named for Colonel Daviess, who fell in the battle of Tippecanoe. The first grand hall was erected in 1824 on Walnut street, at a cost of between $25,000 and $30,000. In this hall it was said that General Lafayette was received by the Lexington Masons in 1825. The hall was used as a hospital during the cholera scourge of 1833.
Lexington has been the house, not of orators and statesmen only, but of artists. Without making mention of their work, a few of the distinguished painters who have at sometime or other made Lexington their home are as follows: William West, 1788; Asa Park, died 1827; Mr. Beck, 1800; John Neagle, 1818; Chester Harding, 1819; Louis Morgan, 1830; Oliver Frazier, died 1854; Joseph Bush, died, 1797; General Thomas H. Price, who painted as late as 1875. Besides these, others, more or less celebrated, have visited Lexington.
The history of the Methodist Church begins with 1789, when a small band of worshippers first assembled in a dilapidated log cabin on the corner of Short and Deweese streets. Francis Paythress was the pastor. "In 1803 the church at Lexington was detached from the circuit and organized into a station," the first in Kentucky. In 1811 Dr. Cloud succeeded the pastorate. The peculiarities of this man awoke dissension and the church divided. The seceding portion continued an independent church for a number of years. But the congregation, together with its pastor, eventually returned to the Methodist Church. After the withdrawal of Dr. Cloud the church languished until 1820, when under the pastorate of Edward Stevenson, it revived and in 1822 erected a $5,000 building between Upper and Limestone.
Perhaps no church in the city can point to a longer succession of good and great ministers. Among them may be mentioned Bishop Kavanaugh, a native Lexingtonian; the widely known Peter Cartwright, the "wonderfully eloquent" Moffit; Bishop Henry B. Bascom, of whom Henry Clay said, " He is the greatest natural orator I ever heard."
In 1856 a dispute arose concerning the power of the church, and following the example of the other churches, the dissenting faction withdrew and erected the present library building on the corner of Church and Market streets. After a separate existence of eight or nine years, the churches united and lived together happily ever afterward.
"The Lexington Light Infantry, of glorious memory," was organized in the same year (1789). Under its gallant leader, Gen. James Wilkerson, it participated in many notorious victories and defeats. "It was led in successful campaigns against the Indians" shared in the disastrous defeats of Harmar and St. Clair; bore a gallant part in the victorious campaign of 'Old Mad Anthony' Wayne, and in 1792 escorted Governor Shelby of Lexington, the, at that time, capitol of Kentucky. The Light Infantry was among the first companies to volunteer in the war of 1812. In the terrible massacre of Frenchtown the company lost more than half its members, either killed, wounded, or captured. Their brilliant uniforms rendered them especially conspicuous targets, to which fact is due the heavy mortality than attended them.
In 1790 came John Pope to Lexington. He was for years the leading antagonist of Henry Clay, and of him Ranck says that had he possessed "the same passionate determination and the same fiery and never relaxing ambition of Mr. Clay, there would have been two Clays in a State without room to hold them."
The pillory and stocks were still the favorite mode of punishment in Lexington in 1790. Imprisonment for debt was still practiced. The jail was of logs. A large jail was erected in 1797 and was burned in 1819. Another one was built the next year.
The first regular fire company was organized in 1790 and was known as the Union Fire Company. Buckets alone were used. Prior to this every citizen was required to respond to the alarm with a bucket of water from his own well.
In 1791 wooden chimneys were prohibited by order of the board of trustees. A survey was also made of Lexington. This same year General Wilkerson organized an expedition for the chastisement of the Indians, which resulted successfully. The last man killed by the Indians in the vicinity of Lexington was shot and scalped in the spring of 1792. The last convention at Danville was held the same year, and the first constitution of Kentucky was adopted to go into effect the following June.
The fourth of June, 1792, Governor Shelby, his staff and the members of the Legislature made a triumphal entry into Lexington. During the session of the Legislature, which lasted twelve days, the government of the State was organized. At this time Lexington was the largest town in the State, the number of inhabitants being about one thousand.
The year 1793 witnessed the removal of the capitol to Frankfort, a measure which aroused the indignation of Lexingtonians and has ever since been a source of regret to them. "Lexington was," says Ranck, "in 1793 a perfect type of the Virginia town of that period. The grand old customs and distinguishing features of the Mother of States and statesmen, then impressed upon Lexington by her children, are happily not yet extinct." In the summer of this year was founded the Democratic Society of Lexington, with John Breckinridge as its president. The leading characteristic and aim of this society was hostility to Federalism. The members wore tri-colored, while the Federalists wore black cockades. Political spirit was at a tension perhaps never before or since equalled. Mr. Breckinridge was one of Lexington's most distinguished citizens. He served in the Legislature, as United States Senator, as Attorney General of the United States under Jefferson.
Although less widely known to fame, Lexington has produced inventive geniuses second to none. The year 1793 witnessed the construction and successful navigation of the first steamboat ever built. The fact is well attested and has never been questioned. The investor, Edward West, also patented a nail cutting machine which had a capacity of 5,320 pounds in 12 hours. The invention was sold for $10,000. The models of both the nail cutting machine and steamboat were unfortunately destroyed when the British burned the National Capitol during the war of 1812.
Nathan Burrows, another ingenious Lexingtonian, in 1796 invented a machine for cleaning hemp. The same man also invented a process for the manufacture of mustard, which took the premium at the London Exposition.
John Jones, at the beginning of the last century, invented a speeder spindle and a device for sawing stone which, says Ranck, "were caught up by Eastern imposters."
Dr. Samuel Brown, of Transylvania University, introduced vaccination in Lexington while the first experiments were in progress in New York and Philadelphia. Passing several minor, though useful and important inventions, Thomas Harris Barlow was the pre-eminent mechanical genius of Lexington and ranks among the first of the world. His first work of note was a locomotive, constructed in 1827, which would ascend a grade of eighty feet to the mile with a heavily laden car attached. He constructed a circular track upon which the engine operated successfully. This was the first locomotive built in Western America. Harris also invented a successful self-feeding nail and tack machine and later a rifle percussion cannon that has been extensively followed by subsequent inventors. The last and greatest work of this genius was the planetarium, an instrument of remarkable complexity and precision, which represented with great accuracy the evolution of the planets. The first planetarium made was purchased for Transylvania University. The instrument is now used in nearly all the first class universities. At the World's Exposition in Paris it was awarded a medal of the first class.
The Lexington postoffice was established in the year 1794. In this same year, also, Father Bodin began his labors, which resulted in the establishment of the Catholic Church.
The first measures for the establishment of the public library, the oldest institution of its kind, probably, in the West, were taken in 1795.
The Episcopal Church dated from 1796, when, under the Rev. James Moore, who later served as president of Transylvania University, a small congregation was organized in a dilapidated frame house, which stood on the site of the present Cathedral. A brick building was erected in 1808. Mr. Moore was succeeded by Rev. John Ward, and he by Dr. George T. Chapman. Under the pastorate of the last named gentleman the little brick gave way to a large and "more churchlike edifice." The improper structure of the building rendered it early insecure and this fact greatly retarded the growth of the church. In 1830 Rev. Benjamin Bosworth Smith became rector.
In 1797 the Lexington Immigration Society was organized, and to its efforts was due the location of many good citizens in this county.
Lexington possessed a place of amusement as early as 1797. A theatrical performance was given in the court house in 1798. "Macbeth" was played at the "Hotel Theatre" in 1812. Usher's Theater was built in 1816. In 1832 the Masonic Hall was used for theatrical purposes.
In 1797 Henry Clay came to Lexington and, to use his own words, "I established myself, without patrons, without the favor of the great or opulent, without the means of paying my weekly board, and in the midst of a bar uncommonly distinguished by eminent members."
Lexington's unexampled opposition to the odious Alien and Sedition law of John Adams' administration gave rise in the year 1798, to the resolutions opposing and condemning it, offered by John Breckinridge in the Legislature. In this year John Bledsoe came to Lexington, who, next to Henry Clay, was the most eloquent man in Kentucky.
The first street improvement in Lexington was in 1799, when a portion of Main street was paved. At this time the inhabitants numbered about two thousand. The first bank chartered in Kentucky was the Lexington Insurance Company, in 1801. In 1805, Aaron Burr visited Lexington, and in this same year the trustees of the city forbade the keeping of pet panthers. In 1807 William W. Worsley and Samuel R. Overton established the Kentucky Reporter.
The name of Dr. Dudley of Transylvania University should not be overlooked. During these years he was making a reputation which later became world-wide. This distinguished man performed operations which were incredible to the surgeons of Europe.
Lexington greeted the news of the declaration of the war of 1812 with parades and illuminations. Six companies from the city and county made early response and did valuable service. Probably in the entire history of the city no more touching sight has ever been witnessed than Lexington's farewell to her departing soldiers; and well was it a touching scene--a fit introduction to the awful grief following the slaughter of Frenchtown; a grief that was surpassed only by a desire for vengeance. At the trumpet's call all Lexington responded. Five more companies were organized, making eleven companies in all that went from Fayette county to participate in the war. But an ill omen seemed to overshadow the troops of Lexington, and these last were soon to participate in a disaster scarcely less heartrending than the slaughter of Frenchtown.
In March of 1814 the spotted fever carried off the citizens at the rate of eight or twelve a day. The same year Amos Kendall came to Lexington and was employed as a tutor in the family of Henry Clay. This man became one of the greatest Democratic leaders in the West and served as Postmaster General under Andrew Jackson.
The Second Presbyterian Church, first known as the Market street church, was founded in 1815. Its first pastor was Rev. James McChord. Mr. McChord was a man of great intellect, scholarly attainments and oratorical powers of high order. This church, like all the rest of the early churches of Lexington, suffered a season of disruption and Mr. McChord resigned. Rev. John Breckinridge, son of Attorney General Breckinridge, succeeded to the pastorate. Revs. John C. Young and Robert Davidson successively occupied the pulpit until 1832.
The Eastern Kentucky Lunatic Asylum was founded in 1816.
In 1823 political spirit was rife in Lexington. The town divided into two factions, known as the "new court" and "old court." Incident to this division occurred what is known as the brickbat war. The two parties lined up on opposite sides of the street and, tearing up with picks and crowbars the bricks with which the streets were paved, hurled them at each other with great violence. After this pleasing diversion had been indulged in for an hour or more, and many broken heads had resulted, R.K. Breckinridge and Charles Hunt, the recognized leaders of the warring factions, marched arm in arm between the belligerents, each waving a white handkerchief. This action of the young men quelled the disturbance and, although excitement was some time in abating, open conflict did not again break out.
Another anecdote of this time too good to be lost is the story of Robert Wickliffe's election treat. In compliance with the custom that compelled successful candidates to treat, Robert Wickliffe, Sr., placed a barrel of punch in the middle of Limestone street before what is now Sayre Institute. A radical member of the opposing party, afterwards known to fame as "Dr." Napper, surreptitiously dropped some tartar emetic into the barrel. The scene that ensued beggars description. As a result of this prank, no general treat was afterwards given in the interior of Kentucky.
Probably the grandest gathering ever seen in Lexington was on May 16, 1825, when Lafayette was the city's guest. The ceremonies and pageantries of the occasion were of the most imposing nature, and neither time nor expense were spared in paying honor to the hero for whom the county was named.
The year 1826 witnessed the birth of the religious denomination, the members of which call themselves "Christians," or "The Church of Christ." Two feeble religious bodies had for some time existed in Lexington. They had been brought to occasional notice by the "new notions" they professed. One body was presided over by Barton W. Stone, and the members called themselves Christians. The other met in a house on Spring street and called themselves "Disciples." They held the views preached by Alexander Campbell, who had visited Lexington two years before. The "Christians" and "Disciples" concurred in most of their beliefs and warm feelings of friendship existed between them." The "Stoneites " were careful not to make immersion a test of religion, but received universally Christians from all denominations. This fact served to prevent the immediate union of the two bodies. By 1831 the "Christians" had gathered sufficient strength to erect a church on Hill street, which was dedicated October 16th. On January 1, 1832, the Christians and Disciples by appointment assembled at the Hill Street Church and united upon "the ground that the Bible was the only rule of faith and practice; that all should enjoy the right of private judgment, and that the opinions of ecclesiastical leaders should not be allowed to disturb the peace of the church." The united congregation agreed upon the name "Christian" by which the sect has since been known. The growth of this church was rapid and steady.
In solemn and impressive ceremonies the citizens gave expression to their grief at the death of the three great patriots, Jefferson, Adams and Shelby.
A public meeting was held October 30, 1829, to discuss plans for improvement of the public highways. The McAdam system was adopted, and work on Broadway and Limestone streets was begun shortly afterward.
To Lexington belongs the honor of having constructed the first railroad in the West, and the second in America. It was chartered under the name "Lexington and Ohio Railroad," January 27, 1830. The original estimate of the cost was one million dollars, seven hundred thousand of which was promptly subscribed by the citizens of Lexington. The "corner stone" was laid on Water street, near the corner of Mill, during October of 1831. The cars were originally drawn by horses. The first steam locomotive built in America operated over this road. It was invented by Thomas Barlow in 1827 and was constructed by Joseph Bruin. Both inventor and constructor were Lexington men. The first train started January 24th, 1835, and the first through train arrived from Frankfort, the following December.
In 1832 Lexington was incorporated, and the 12th of January of that year the Mayor and officers took the oath of office. With this event closes the first, or pioneer, period of the city's history. During the sixty-seven years that intervened from the discovery of the site of Lexington by the band of adventurous pioneers under Robert Patterson to the incorporation of the city in 1832, the greatest changes, the most momentous events had transpired. The land had been redeemed first from the Indians and then from the forest. A solitary log cabin in the unbroken wilderness had given place to a stockade, the stockade to a log fort, the fort to a pioneer village and the village to a cultured and opulent city. Lexington was now one of the most favored towns in the great "empire of the West," and was moreover distinguished in many ways. Probably no city of equal size, during equal length of time, in all the annals of the world's history ever produced a larger number of supremely great and illustrious men. Their name is legion. They were not confined to any one avocation, but were distributed among all. They include statesmen, orators, lawyers, ministers, scientists, artists and inventors, each of whom, had it not been for the transcendent effulgence of Henry Clay, would have shown (sic) out as a great and central luminary. But eclipsed as they were, we remember them only as Congressmen, Senators, Cabinet members and perhaps vice presidents without realizing, much less appreciating, their true greatness and goodness.
The period which closes with the year 1832 is the most eventful and therefore the most interesting of the city's history. To that period has been devoted so much of space because not only of the interest, but of its importance, that the remainder of the story must necessarily be curtailed and only the more important events briefly chronicled.
The middle period, including the years between the incorporation of Lexington in 1832 and 1872, at which time the city was beginning to recover from the prostration of the Civil War opened unfavorably. About the first of June the Cholera made its appearance and in less than ten days fifteen hundred people were stricken and dying at the rate of fifty a day. Terror seized the citizens, all who could fled the town, and those that remained were paralyzed with fear; communication with the outside world was broken off, and the farmers of the county were compelled to see their crops rot in the fields through lack of hands to harvest them. Business ceased, the markets were empty and famine would have been added to pestilence but for the heroic activity of the authorities. "The streets were silent and deserted by everything but horses and deadcarts, and to complete the desperate condition of things, three physicians died, three more were absent from the city, and of the rest scarcely one escaped an attack of the disease. The dead could not be buried, nor could coffins be had to half meet the demand. Many victims were confined to trunks and boxes or wrapped in the bedclothes upon which they had just expired, were placed in carts and hurried off for burial without a prayer being said and no attendant but the driver. The graveyards were choked. Coffined and uncoffined dead were laid at the gate in confused heaps to wait their turn to be deposited in the long shallow trenches, which were hastily dug for the necessities of the occasion.
The Fourth of July found the plague abating and the people on that day met in the churches and mingled their thanksgiving and praise with their tears. In one month more than five hundred people had died. The Orphans' Home, which exists to this day, was established to care for the orphans made by the scourge. Sobered and chastened, the people were in a favorable frame of mind for the four months' revival that followed. Four hundred members were added to the churches, and its influence was felt for years afterward.
In 1834 St. Catherine's Academy was moved to Lexington. In the same year the first city school was established, more especially for the benefit of those left destitute by the scourge. The popularity of the public schools rapidly increased, and they became to be patronized by rich and poor alike.
The Northern Bank was established in 1835, and the same year Joel T. Hart settled in Lexington. This remarkable man began his career by building stone walls and chimneys. He was twenty-five years old when he found work in the marble yard in this city. A young sculptor from Cincinnati, Cleavinger by name, discovered him and started him in his life work. Hart visited England and Italy, where he was appropriately honored. He executed many famous busts and statues, the most famous of which, "The Triumph of Chastity," deplorable to relate, was destroyed at the burning of the Fayette Court House in 1897. Aside from his distinction as a sculptor, Mr. Hart was also an inventor, poet and philosopher.
Odd Fellowship began in Lexington May 6, 1837, only eighteen years after the establishment of the order in America. October 4, 1845, Covenant Lodge was established, and the third lodge, Merrick, No. 31, was organized eleven years later.
Richard H. Menifee, one of the most remarkable characters the State has produced, settled in Lexington in 1839. Through a childhood of indescribable poverty and suffering, he rose to a manhood of richest success. Having defeated Henry Clay and Wickliffe in a case of great magnitude, and in doing so achieved his life-long ambition; he died at the early age of thirty-two with a smiling world of unlimited possibilities before him.
The year 1840 saw Lexington recovered from the retrogression following the cholera scourge. Seven turnpikes approached the city, and six stage lines led to as many cities. Six publications were issued from her presses, ics[?] were in existence. One million three hundred thousand dollars and one thousand men were employed in the hemp manufactories. The total capital invested in wholesale and retail business, manufactories and banks was estimated at $14,000,000.
During 1843 and many years afterward Thomas F. Marshall was connected with the bar of Lexington. In speaking of him a biographer says: "Tom Marshall fought more duels and said more good things than any great man of his day."
The call for volunteers for the Mexican War was made May 11, 1846, and Lexington responded with two companies, commanded by Captains Beard and Clay. The Lexingtonians took their usual prominent part, and the depleted ranks that came marching home after the war was over were eloquent testimony to their reckless bravery. The citizens had the bodies of those slain brought back and interred in the Lexington cemetery. The touching ceremonies of this occasion inspired O'Hara to write that martial requiem, "The Bivouac of the Dead."
A telegraph line was established between Lexington and Louisville in 1848. On the 25th of June, 1850, the cemetery was dedicated. All ___uders, societies and students attended in procession. The dedicatory sermon was preached by R.J. Breckinridge.
The population in 1850 numbered around eight thousand. In this year the new constitution was ratified.
Lexington voted $200,000 March 27, 185_ to the Lexington and Danville Railroad. The first train ran from Lexington to Paris December 22, 1853. Years elapsed before work was begun on the Lexington and Maysville Railroad.
In January of 1852 the Lexington and Big Sandy Railroad Company was incorporated. The project was abandoned for a while until Lexington and Fayette county came to the rescue, and on March 2, 1872, twenty years after the charter was issued, the first rail was laid on Water street.
Henry Clay died in Washington City June 2, 1852. The news was immediately conveyed to Lexington and the city put on mourning. A citizens' meeting was held and committees were appointed to draft resolutions to make arrangements for the funeral and to visit Washington and accompany the body home. It is estimated that the concourse assembled to pay honor to the dead numbered fully one hundred thousand. It is unnecessary to state that this was the largest number of people ever assembled for like purposes in Lexington.
In 1853 the gas plant was established. In 1854 Sayre Institute was organized.
"Old King" Solomon, the ne'er -do-well, whom the cholera scourge converted into a hero and whose pathetic story is so beautifully related by James Lane Allen in his "Flute and Violin," died November 27, 1864, and was mourned by the entire city.
The Lexington Rifles were organized in 1857. John H. Morgan was Captain.
On the Fourth of July, 1857, the corner stone of the Clay monument in the Lexington cemetery was laid with ceremonies scarcely less imposing and less largely attended than the funeral itself.
The population of Lexington in 1860 numbered nine thousand, five hundred and seventy-two.
The Lexington Chasseurs, one of the most noted of Lexington's military companies, was organized by 1860. The majority of its members fought through the Civil War on one side or the other.
On the night of Dec. 18, 1861, the handsome amphitheater on the grounds of the Kentucky Agricultural and Mechanical Association was destroyed by fire.
The banking house of Grinstead & Bradley was established in 1863.
Gen. John H. Morgan, "the Marion of Kentucky," was treacherously murdered at Greenville, Tenn., September 4, 1864. His body was first interred at Abingdon, Va., then at Hollywood cemetery, Richmond, Va. The remains were finally brought to Lexington and interred in the city cemetery April 17, 1868.
The First National and the City National Banks were established in 1865. The Centenary Methodist Church was established the same year.
On August 17, 1869 occurred a total eclipse of the sun.
The population of Lexington in 1870 is estimated at about 17,500. The Fayette National Bank was organized in 1870 and in the same year the Daily Press was established.
The Broadway Christian Church was organized in 1871.
In the latter part of January, 1873, the Legislature granted right of way to the Southern Railroad.
The year 1872 closes the second or middle period of Lexington's history. The forty years elapsing from the incorporation of the city were years of intense activity. Although less interesting, because less unusual and less thrilling than those of the pioneer period, they were in no wise less full or less important. The development of the city was in every way, despite the blighting influence of the cholera scourge and the disruption caused by the Civil War, rapid and substantial. At its incorporation the inhabitants numbered something less than five thousand; in 1872 there were more than seventeen thousand. More rapid than the increase of population had been the augmentation of industry and wealth. By way of demonstrating what this progress had really been, a quotation from the summary of Ranck might not be amiss:
"The city contains eighteen churches, twenty schools, four colleges, one University, eight newspapers, one library, three railroads, thirty physicians, forty-five lawyers, five hemp and bagging factories, nine carriage factories, twenty livery stables, eight banking houses, ten hotels, thirty-five drinking saloons, twenty-one boot and shoe establishments, fifteen confectionaries, one hundred and twenty-five groceries, twenty-two dry goods houses et cetera ad infinitum."
Through lack of space as well as through deference to the reader's patience, this article had already degenerated into an incomplete chronicle of the main events, without mention of the lesser happenings, which are, nevertheless, of both interest and import.
In dealing with this last period it will be impossible to detail the various steps through which the city has arrived at its present condition of greatness. Suffice it to say that during the thirty years elapsing since 1872 all those features that go to make up a modern city--the water works, electric lights, street cars. telephones, efficient fire, police and detective departments, free postal service, hospitals, the opera house, and the beautiful new court house, together with a thousand smaller things--have one by one been added.
Satisfactory as the city's past has been, the future seems to hold promise of yet mightier progress. The great system of interurban railways that are soon to radiate from Lexington in every direction will make her the trade and monetary center of one of the wealthiest and most fecund districts in the world. The recent discoveries of oil and gas in the contiguous mountain territory may mean that Lexington is to become a great oil market. Whatever the significance of all this, the prospects of the city were never so bright, and the hopes of her citizens never so high.
Every citizen of Lexington should read the history of his city. Few more fascinating stories can be found in all literature. This fact is just now being realized by the writers of fiction, who are availing themselves of the beautiful and oftimes stirring field it offers. But as nature is most beautiful when unmarred by the artifices of man's hands, so the story of Lexington is best told as it really happened; and not until it is so read can the reader appreciate the strenuous effort and suffering that gave to the present generation so rich, so beautiful an inheritance. Beautiful, glorious Lexington, there is not one foot of her ground that has not been dignified by the tread or consecrated by the lifeblood of some noble, illustrious man. What a theme for contemplation for her people, a theme that should render them better men, more patriotic citizens.
Transcribed by pb, April 2000