Public Buildings of Todd County, Kentucky

The general description of the first court house is contained in the order of the County Court quoted on a preceding page. Maj.. Gray undertook his part promptly, pushing it forward with great vigor. He made the brick on the public square, and completed it early in 1821. The finishing of the inside was delayed some time for lack of funds, and was not finally completed until September, 1822. The first story was devoted to the court, and the upper story to a large room which served the various purposes of jury room, Masonic lodge room, etc. The county officers kept their records where it was most convenient, the Clerk of the Court being allowed to ” keep his office anywhere in the bounds of Elkton.” In the latter part of 1822 it was ordered by the court that the building of a “brick clerk’s office,” on or near the south-west corner of the square, be let to the lowest bidder. The specifications required a building one story high, 20×40 feet in dimensions, with two chimneys, two doors, two windows in front and two in the back, a plank floor, and a door in the partition which divided the long room into two apartments. This building was accordingly erected on the site of E. Girth’s store, and held all the county offices. With sundry repairs these buildings sufficed for the uses of the court and county until about 1835. The court house was inconvenient in many respects, a good many repairs were required, and the coviction that these difficulties could best be met by a new structure finally gained expression in an order of the court in November, 1834, providing for a new court house. By this order Finis E. McLean, John Bellamy, Hazel Petrie, Thompson M. Ewing and Willis L. Reeves were appointed Commissioners to contract, superintend and receive the new building. The present structure was the result. The old court house was torn down and the new structure erected upon its site. It was “built on honor.”‘ Each of the four sides was assigned to a workman of approved skill, and a premium offered to the one who should erect the best wall. All did well, as the walls now attest, but the builder of the west wall is said to have won the prize offered. As origin-ally constructed the court room occupied the lower floor. The entrance was in the eastern side, which opened into a vestibule, from which the upper story was gained by means of the stairs still remaining, and the court room by a doorway leading directly west of the main entrance. Opposite the door on the west side of the room, in a niche, the back of which was formed by a large window, was situated the bench,” while immediately in front were the ordinary furniture and belongings of the ” bar,” divided from the auditorium by railing. On either side of the bench,” the corners were partitioned off to serve as petit jury’ rooms. The upper story was left in one large room for the use of the grand jury, the County Court, and public gatherings. In November, 1856, the Clerk’s office building was ordered renewed. A new site was chosen, and the structure standing on the west side of the square, north of the Russellville and Hopkinsville road, was erected. It was not built, however, until 1860, and cost the county some $2,000. During the four years following, the vicissitudes of war bore heavily upon the court house. Soldiers were frequently quartered in it, and by 1865 it was in a rather dilapidated condition. It was declared unfit for the use of the court, which held its sessions in the Masonic lodge building. Some repairs were made, but in 1871, the subject of repairs again came up, and an agitation for a more economical use of the capacity of the building, as well as a more convenient location of the county offices, was begun. It was accordingly decided to thoroughly repair the court house, and unite the offices and court room in one building, if it could be done for the sum realized from the sale of the “Clerk’s office.” This was found to be practicable. The court room with its old arrangement intact was transferred to the upper story; a hall was extended through the lower story from east to west, and another entrance made at the west end, and a series of office rooms made on either side of the hall. A new cupola was placed upon the structure, and neat furniture placed in the rooms, the whole cost being met by the proceeds of the sale of the outside office building. The structure is now reasonably convenient and neat. It lacks, however, an important feature which must sooner or later be supplied, i. e., fire-proof vaults for the official records. The building stands upon a slight eminence in the center of the village and commands a fine view of the four roads leading out from the public square to the four cardinal points. Its outer walls, though built nearly fifty years ago, scarcely betray the age of ten years, and bid fair to last for many years to come. It has no architectural beauty, and is only saved from a rather ” squatty ” appearance by an abnormally developed cupola placed upon the roof. A fastidious taste might demand something more of adornment in the surroundings of this temple of justice. Soon after the present structure was erected a plain board fence inclosed a small plat of ground circumjacent to the building, which was then sown with blue grass. The fence gradually wore out, and the green sward, attracting such stock as ran loose in the streets, presented a scene that aptly suggested the idea that justice had turned to agricultural pursuits. In 1841 the “enclosure ” was paved, fenced again, and a little later a row of black locusts was planted to ornament the margin. This fence has long since disappeared, but the brick pavement, with its broken stone curbing and the locusts still remains. The latter, topped,” and their lacerated trunks covered with a tuft of foliage like an ill-fitting wig on a bald head, are more useful as hitching posts and for sign boards, than ornamental as shade trees. The future has better things in store in this direction. A row of fine maples has been set out, which in the next quarter century will draw about the decaying building the shielding mantle of their delightful shade.

The Todd County, Kentucky Jail

There is little of romance connected with this class of buildings anywhere, and none in Todd County. The victims whom its rude strength has sequestered from society have been the most prosaic sort of criminals, and nothing remains to the chronicler of its history, save that it was and is not. The old log jail was located on ” Trading Alley,” and was secure as any of its more pretentious successors. It was built according to the plan set forth in the order made at the first session of the court, and was finished in November, 1820. A ” stray pen ” was built near it and completed at the same time. This jail served the public until 1827, when a brick structure was erected on the same lot, but in front of the old jail. This still remains, the connecting link between the irrecoverable past and the later result of country architecture. The first brick jail was erected at a cost of $1,000, and like its predecessor ” payed its way to obscurity.” In 1869 the present brick jail was erected at a cost of $11,000, in the southern part of town, the con-tractor being W. A. McReynolds. This building is reasonably secure, is provided with improved fixtures and has been broken by few prisoners. Under the present Constitution the jailor is elected, and is remunerated by fees paid for the board and care of prisoners-those imprisoned on a charge Of felony by the State, and those imprisoned on a charge for misdemeanors by the county. At times these fees have reached a very large sum, but the present official’s lines seem to have been laid in ways of peace, and the fees for last quarter were only three dollars and sixty cents.

The Todd County, Kentucky Poor-House

During the earlier years of the settlement of Todd County there was little need for any public provision for the support of indigent persons. All were poor, but the poor lived in abundance. A good and comfortable support was to be had for the seeking, and no drones were allowed in that early hive of workers. When misfortune in the guise of accident or disease visited the pioneer, there was no lack of willing hands to plow out the corn or harvest the crops free of charge. With the development of the community, however, social ties became relaxed, and the necessity of an older community demanded some other arrangement for the care of the unfortunate. In November, 1829, the establishment of a poor-house was projected, and in 1830 a hundred and fifty acres were purchased of George Kirkman, on which was a log-house. This has since been “weather-boarded,” and sundry cabins built near it for the use of the residents of the farm. In 1856 it was proposed to sell the farm, but only about forty acres were disposed of and the farm, consisting of 110 acres, is still owned by the county. The number thus supported by the county has not been large, the present number being almost entirely made up of indigent blacks. At first the poor were maintained by some family in the neighborhood, for which the County Court appropriated a reasonable compensation. This method is still continued to some extent, especially in the case of the whites of this class. The cost of maintaining the poor-house is adjusted yearly by a contract with the keeper, who receives a stipulated price per week for the board and care of each pauper in his care. For the farm he pays a certain rental agreed upon. The first year the keeper received $143.50; this year the keeper receives the use of the farm free.

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