Political Development of Todd County, Kentucky

THE final act of State authority in forming and organizing Todd County was the location of the seat of justice. Several points, New-burg, Old Elkton and the present site were in competition for the location. The competition was not very active, and there was but little difference in the advantages offered. At Newburg, James Kendall had established a hotel, the ” half way house ” between Russellville and Hopkinsville, and proposed this location as the most central point eligible for the county seat. Old Elkton had the merit of a good start on the banks of the river, but the new site satisfactorily combined the advantages of the others and added the donation of John Gray. The result was inevitable, and on the second day of the first session of the County Court, the State Commissioners appointed for the purpose made the following report :


We the undersigned Commissioners, appointed by an act of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, entitled ” An Act for the formation of the County of Todd, out of the Counties of Logan and Christian,” approved 30th of December, 1819, beg leave to submit the following report: Having in pursuance of the aforesaid act met at the house of James Kendall, on the second Monday in May, 1820, and proceeded to the discharge of the duties assigned us-after a mature and deliberate examination of the different places proposed as sites for the administration of justice at and near the center of said county; we are unanimously of the opinion that the two acres of land laid off and known as a public square in John Gray’s addition to the town of Elkton, in said county, is the most central and eligible and convenient place for the permanent seat of justice for said county. We are therefore of opinion that the permanent seat of justice be fixed on the aforesaid two acres of land which said Gray has this day obligated him-self to convey to the court for the use of the county aforesaid, together with other lots for public purposes, which bond is herewith subjoined as part of this report. Given under our hands this 8th day of May, 1820.


Gray’s bond subjoined was as follows:

I, John Gray, hereby bind myself, my heirs, etc., to the Commissioners appointed by ‘law to fix upon the place for the seat of justice for the County of Todd, and to the justices of the County Court of said county and their successors in office, to make a donation to said County Court for the benefit of said county and sole purpose of erecting the public county buildings thereupon, the public square containing at least two acres of land inclusive of streets and alleys thereupon exhibited, and contained and exhibited upon the within plan for a town circumjacent thereto, which square is on the main road from Russellville to Hopkinsville, on the top of the first eminence on said road west of Elkton, and is bounded as follows, to wit: beginning at the southwest corner of a large brick house lately built by said Gray, on the north side of the said road, and running thence north 1° east, 6 poles to a stake; thence north 85° west, 18 poles to a stake; thence south, 80° west, 16i poles to a stake; thence south 85° east., 21 poles to a stake; thence north 1° east, binding on A. Edward’s brick house, and crossed said road to the beginning: Provided, said Commissioners fix upon that as the most central, convenient and eligible place for a permanent seat of justice for said county; and I also hereby bind my-self as aforesaid to make a donation of two other lots in some suitable and convenient places, one for jail and stray pen to be erected upon, and the other for a public seminary of learning and a public meeting-house or church to be erected upon. Given under my hand and seal, this 8th day of May, 1820. JOHN GRAY.

Accompanying this was a bond by John Gray and Robert T. Baylor, as follows :

This is to certify that we, John Gray and Robert T. Baylor, bind and oblige ourselves, our heirs etc., to the County Court of Todd County or to any other person who may be aggrieved thereby, in the penal sum of $2,000 to open or cause to be opened, in case the Commissioners should fix on Elkton as the permanent seat of justice for Todd County, a road or lane to run southwardly straight with the main cross street from what is known as the public square on the top of the first eminence above Elkton as wide as the said street is, through each of our farms; and I, Robert T. Baylor, hereby agree and bind myself to let a road pass through the balance of my land in same direction. Given under our hands and seals, this 9th day of May, 1820. The above all to be done between this and the 1st day of October next.


On May 8, 1820, pursuant to the act of the General Assembly forming the county, James Glenn, Robert Coleman, Henry Gorin, Edward Shanklin, John Taylor, H. C. Ewing, John S. Anderson, William Hop-per, John Mann, John Gray and Joseph C. Frazer, met at the house of James Kendall and organized the first magisterial court of Todd County. Anthony F. Reade presented the Governor’s commission as Sheriff and was qualified, and James Allen as Coroner. There were two candidates for the position of Clerk, and a spirited contest ensued. Elisha B. Ed-wards was finally elected over Willis L. Reeves by a majority of one vote. Nathaniel Burns and James L. Glenn were then recommended to the Governor as competent surveyors, and the first day’s session brought to, an end. The report of the State Commissioners was laid before the court on the second day, and a sort of ” omnibus bill” passed which provided for the complete equipment of the county. The record is as follows: The Commissioners appointed by the act of Assembly for the formation of Todd County to fix upon a proper or eligible site in said county to erect the seat of justice upon, appeared and delivered their report, etc., which report was read and ordered to be recorded, in which report were enclosed and referred two bonds, one of which given by John Gray, and the other by John Gray and Robert T. Baylor, which were also read and approved and ordered to be recorded. Sheriff objects that there is no jail in the county. The Court proceeded to appoint Archibald Bristow, Roger Burns, Thomas Haddon, Elisha Edwards and Gideon Thompson, Commissioners, who, or any three of them, are hereby authorized, empowered and requested to make out and exhibit a plan for a brick court house, not exceeding 40 feet square and two stories high, upon such part of the public square as fixed upon by the report of the Commissioners appointed by law for that purpose as they may deem most suitable; and that they proceed as soon as possible to conclude a contract with John Gray for the brick work thereof, which he has proposed to obligate and bind himself to complete in the present year, as a donation to said county; and that they proceed also to let out to the lowest bidder the carpenter’s and joiner’s work necessary in the progress of the brick-work and to cover and close the same with all necessary doors, windows, etc., with a square roof, planned and made suitable for a cupola hereafter to be erected, with a plain bench and bar, etc. Said Commissioners are also hereby authorized and requested to proceed as soon as possible to let to the lowest bidder a jail of hewed logs, at least 15 feet square in the clear, with double walls filled in between with flat rocks, the loft and floor of hewed logs, to be built on a bed of rocks 18 inches thick, and the loft filled with rocks, and clapboard roof, strong doors well locked and bolted, iron grate windows, etc. Also a stray pen of posts and rails upon the lot they and said Gray may designate as mentioned in his donation bond for that purpose; which said carpenter’s and joiner’s work of the court house, jail and stray pen are to be paid for, one-half out of the first, and the balance out of the second county levy to be laid for said county, unless the amount necessary for the purpose, or part thereof, can be sooner raised by voluntary subscription, which said Commissioners are hereby requested to open for that purpose, the first to be applied toward paying for the carpenter’s and joiner’s work of the court house. The court then proceeded to lay off four constable districts. The county had heretofore been divided into one district, with a voting precinct at Cash’s store, under the jurisdiction of Christian County, and the eastern portion, belonging to Logan, forming a part of two districts of that county. At the first session of the Todd County Court, therefore, this territory was entirely re-districted and made four divisions, as follows: First District, beginning at the State line at the corner of Todd and Logan Counties, thence with said Logan line northerly to the road leading from Russellville to Clarksville; thence with said road to the crossing of Elk Fork; thence westerly to Henry Mabens, Arch Coulter, John Stephenson and John D. Gorin’s; thence to the Lebanon Academy and Robert Coleman’s mill, leaving each of those persons and places in the Second District; thence with the Hopkinsville road to the Christian County line; thence with said line to the Tennessee State -line and with that to the beginning. The Second District, beginning at the Logan and Todd County line where it crosses the Clarksville road from Russellville; thence with said line to the Russellville and Hopkinsville road; thence with said road to the Christian line; thence with said line to the corner of the First District; thence with the line thereof to the beginning. The Third District, beginning at the sign post near the brick house in Newburg, thence northerly with the road to John Gray’s saw-mill on the Elk Fork; thence up said fork to John Young’s; thence with the road to John Higgins’ storehouse in Raysville; thence a straight line to Hopper’s tan-yard; thence a straight line to William Weir’s on the Muhlenburg line, leaving all said persons and places in the Fourth District; thence with the Muhlenburg line to the corner of Todd and Logan Counties; thence with the line between said counties to the Hopkinsville and Russellville road; thence with said road to the beginning. The Fourth District, beginning at the sign post near the brick house in Newburg, thence northerly with the line of the third district to the Muhlenburg County line; thence westerly with the line of Muhlenburg and Todd Counties to the corner of Todd and Christian Counties; thence southerly with the line of said counties to the Russellville and Hopkinsville road; thence with said road to the beginning.

William M. Terry was appointed Constable of the First District, John D, Gorin of the Second, Jephtha Hollingsworth of the Third, and John H. Shankle of the Fourth. In August, 1820, a Fifth District was formed, its boundaries beginning on the Highland Lick road, where the Logan County line crosses it; thence with said road to the Christian County line; thence with said county line to the Muhlenburg County line; thence with said line to the Logan County line; thence to the beginning. In August, 1823, the Sixth District was formed, but in 1845 it was changed with the following boundaries: Beginning on the road leading from Elkton to Hadensville at John Prewett’s; thence with said road to Hadensville; thence with the Russellville and Clarksville road to the State line; thence with the State line to the line between Logan and Todd Counties; thence with the said Todd and Logan Counties line to where it crosses the road, leading from Russellville to Clarksville; thence with said road to where it crosses the Elk Fork at or near H. Muir’s; thence on a straight line to the beginning, so as to include Judge Prewett. The Seventh District was formed in 1853, but no record of it can be found. It was subsequently changed in outline, and now occupies a triangular space between Districts No. 1 and No. 2, with its voting precinct at Bivinsville. The Eighth District was formed in March, 1872. The record is as follows: Upon petition of a large number of the good citizens, residents of the lower part of District No. 6, in Todd Co., Ky., it is ordered by the Court that an additional justice’s district be and the same is hereby created out of District No. 6, to be known as District No. 8, and bounded as follows, to wit: Beginning at the Elk Fork of Red River, at the Kentucky and Tennessee line; thence up said Elk Fork of Red River to Duck Spring; thence to John Snaden’s, including him; thence to R. L. and T. J. Smith; thence to the line of the Elkton District, at or near C. M. Lowry’s, excluding him; thence with the line of the Elkton District to the Clarksville road, the east boundary line of Trenton District; thence with it to the beginning, and that Hadensville and Guthrie City be the voting places in the district hereby created.” The Legislature of the winter 1883-84 passed a bill authorizing a re-districting of the county and the necessary survey. The provisions of this act it is proposed to carry out some time during the present year, when the number of districts will be cut down to seven. The ” district” is a very indeterminate quantity in the history or business of the county. Under the second Constitution, framed in 1799, it was called a constable’s district, and served generally to apportion the number of these officers. Magistrates were appointed by the Governor, the law requiring simply a competent number.” Under the Constitution of 1850 magistrates were elected from certain sections of the county, and since then these divisions of the county have been known as magisterial districts, the boundaries of which serve to define the jurisdiction of the single magistrate. They are in no way analogous to the townships of the North and Northwest, having no independent organization, and no political or social individuality. But few know where the division line is located, and indefinite as they were originally, they are rendered still more confusing by the ease with which they are varied to suit ‘the convenience or whim of the individual. The County seat and the County Court are the centers of influence and of executive power, and the county revolves about it as the wheel about the hub: a centralized form of government which is utterly inconsistent with the spirit of Kentucky’s famous resolutions of 1798.

History, Politics,

Todd County KY,

Battle, J. H. Counties Of Todd And Christian, Kentucky. Historical And Biographical. F. A. Battey Publishing Co., Chicago And Louisville. 1884. At current time this manuscript consists of only the Todd County section and a few biographies from Christian County.

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