Pulaski County Fact Book II
Chapter 8. Various Social, Educational and Financial Developments

The social life in the early history of Somerset was very much the same as any other pioneer town of the frontier. The problem of roads and transportation limited the social gatherings to small groups and to short visits among the neighbors. There were the weddings, of course, followed by the dances and the parties given in honor of the bride. Hunting was a form of recreation enjoyed by the men. Quilting "Bees" were favored by the women and older girls.

The first settlers in Somerset brought with them their strong religious convictions and the church was among the first of the social institutions. It would be difficult to determine just how much influence the church had on the social life of a frontier community such as Somerset. Perhaps the amount of influence can be determined in the wholesomeness of the spiritual and social life of the community.

Although taverns were numerous in the early years of Somerset, they never became public nuisances, but their existence in Somerset may have influenced the townspeople to be so bitterly opposed to the saloons in later years when such institutions were legal. The taverns did afford a place for the men of the community to gather and discuss the current problems.

Information regarding the first newspapers in Somerset is very limited. Available information reveals that there was a newspaper being published as early as 1852, when the Somerset Gazette was authorized as a public newspaper by an act of the Kentucky General Assembly. The Gazette was published by John G. Bruce, and consisted of four pages with six columns. The texture of the paper was of an excellent quality, for the copy which is in existence is in a good state of preservation. The heading of this paper states that it was "A paper devoted to Politics, News, Science, Literature, Agriculture, Education, Amusement, and the Markets." The copy dated February 21, 1855, indicated that the publisher was intensely interested in the general welfare of the community and the Commonwealth. There were articles on the question of Infidelity and Temperance. The editor was a strong and unflinching friend of temperance and took an active part, through his paper, in favor of the Great Temperance Reform of that time in Kentucky. Resolutions adopted by the Sons of Temperance, recognized John G. Bruce as an advocate of temperance. These resolutions were signed by T. Hansford, L. Parker, J. Vickery, J.G. Lair, E.D. Porch, and J.S. Dutton Committee.

Advertisements in this paper were of firms in Nashville, Tennessee, and a few business houses in Lexington and Louisville had advertised their goods in this Somerset paper. Nashville was more accessible than the two Kentucky towns because of the Cumberland River. River boat schedules for steamboats Monticello and the Republic between Nashville, Waitsboro and Point Isabel (Burnside) were printed in this paper. There was a United States Mail Line stagecoach between Somerset and Stanford. The coach left Somerset at five o’clock in the morning and arrived in Stanford at three o’clock in the afternoon of the same day. The return trip was made the following day with the coach leaving Stanford at five in the morning and arriving in Somerset at three in the afternoon. Three trips were made each way during the week.

An interesting and unique advertisement was by M.L. Locke, and Marshall Key, importers of China and Queensware from potteries in England.

Other advertisements which indicate a variety of business interests and establishments were: John D. Mayhew and Robert Woodcock – Boot and Shoe Manufactory at Vickery Corner; Walder’s Daquerrean Gallery, now open at Stewart’s Building south side of the Public Square; J.W. and S.M. hail and Co., dress goods, bonnets, trimmings, hardware, groceries, feathers, ginseng, beeswax, wool, and socks.

There was another newspaper being published in Somerset in the 1850s. This was the Somerset Democrat. This paper was published by White, Barron and Company. Collins says this paper was published R.S. Barron and Company some time between 1850 and 1860. For some reason the Gazette and the Democrat did not survive the War between the States, for in 1867, the Somerset Morning Herald was being published by R.S. Barron.

Some time before 1870, Barron was publishing The Reporter, for it was about that year that W.C. Owens bought the paper and kept it until about 1876, at which time Joseph B. Rucker assumed publication and continued to do so until his death at the hands of an assassin on September 19, 1892. Following the death of Rucker the paper was edited by John S. VanWinkle from Danville, Kentucky. He continued to publish The Reporter until it was purchased by Flavius Josephus Campbell from W.P. Walton, owner of the Interior Journal of Stanford. Campbell changed the paper to the Somerset Journal, which continued to remain a Democrat paper as The Reporter had been before it. Campbell died in 1908, and the paper was published for a time for his son-in-law, who sold it to Woodson May and Robert Brown. Cecil Williams begin publishing The Times, another Democrat paper, in 1908. Williams purchased May’s interest in the Journal and combined it with The Times. Later he bought Brown’s interest and became sole owned of the Somerset Journal. Williams continued to edit the paper until his death in 1942. His wife, Mae Berry Williams, then became the owner and editor. The Journal was said to be one of the best weekly newspapers in the state.

About 1870 or 1880, the first Republican newspaper in Somerset was begun. Information as to who owned the paper was not available, but W.B. Morrow says his father wrote the editorials for this paper after 1880. At first it was the Pulaski Republican. In 1885, The Republican was being edited by A.A. Lewis, who later sold the paper to William B. Hansford. Hansford edited the paper until 1910, when he retired after thirty-five years with The Somerset Republican. His son continued to edit the paper until he sold it to William F. Schooler January 17, 1919. Later Schooler sold The Commonwealth to R.M. Feese, who in turn, sold it to George Joplin Jr., of Danville, in 1926. Joplin was the owner and editor until his death. The Commonwealth has won several prizes as a weekly newspaper. The Commonwealth and Journal, weekly publications, merged in January 1966, becoming The Commonwealth-Journal, a daily paper for public reading.

There were other newspapers published in Somerset, but very little information could be found about them. Some people remembered The Paragon, The Mountaineer, The Thousand Sticks, The South Somerset Observer, The Enquirer, The Lake Cumberland Bugale, and The Republic.

These various newspapers possibly have done much to mold the political thinking of the Somerset people. Politics in Somerset are taken seriously just as they are in Pulaski County. The town is predominantly Democrat, while the county is Republican with a strong Democrat faction. City Hall is usually controlled by the Democrats and the courthouse is a Republican stronghold. This political cleavage is quite pronounced and the court was often so close that it took the two newspapers to satisfy the political sentiments, even though both papers were published in the same plant but under separate editorship.

The Somerset Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution was founded in February, 1929, by Mrs. L.N. Taylor with fourteen charter members. Its outstanding achievement was the erection of a memorial in the Somerset Public Square which bears the names of Revolutionary Soldiers who helped settle and develop the town and Pulaski County. The Chapter has indexed various Pulaski County Records, located the graves of many of the Revolutionary Soldiers, and awarded prizes to girls of outstanding citizenship in Kentucky. Additional educational contributions of the Chapter go to the support of five DAR schools throughout the United States. Among these are the Hindman Settlement School, Hindman, Kentucky, and Bacon College in Oklahoma, the only Indian college in the United States.

The Scout movement has long been a tradition in Somerset. In 1912, through the efforts of the Rev. J.B. Parks, pastor of the Presbyterian Church, a Boy Scout troop was organized. This group was not chartered, as there was no setup for chartering Scout troops at that time. In 1921, the Rev. Charles H. Talbot of the Presbyterian Church organized troop II. In 1924, a charter was granted this troop comprised of boys in the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches. Luther Tibbals followed the Rev. Talbot as leader.

Much credit and honor go to Chester Kaiser for his work with Boy Scouts in Somerset. From 1922 until his death in 1957, he devoted much of his time and talent toward this work; and his influence has been far-reaching. His troop, 79, during his lifetime and in the years that have followed, has received many honors including national recognition.

It is of special interest locally that Mrs. Myra Greeno Bass, a resident of Burnside, Kentucky, may have organized the first troop of Boy Scouts in America. She, while traveling in England, learned of the new Scout Movement planned by General Sir. Baden-Powell. In 1908, two years after moving to Burnside, she and her husband William Bass, encouraged fifteen local boys to meet in their home for the purpose of organizing a scout-like group, calling themselves The Eagle Troop. They outlined and followed a program similar to the one set up in the Badin-Powell handbook. This group disbanded in 1913, but when in 1960 the Boy Scouts of America celebrated their 50th anniversary, to the Burnside residents it was the 52nd anniversary, and at each end of the town there are signs which say, "Welcome to Burnside, Kentucky, the birthplace of Boy Scouts of America."

The first continuing Girl Scout movement in Somerset was started by Miss Ruby Berkeley, Deaconess of the First Methodist Church, who organized a troop in 1925. During the 50th anniversary of Girl Scouting in America, Mrs. Jennie Rachel Morrow Catron received recognition as the only one of the original members living in Somerset at the time. She is now Service Unit Chairman for Pulaski County and a leader in one of the sixteen troops in the county. These troops represent a membership of about 275 girls.

Through the generosity of General J.J.B. Williams, a building a South Maple Street was donated for the purpose of a Young Men’s Christian Association, which was established in 1965.

The history of Somerset’s banks began when the General Assembly of Kentucky chartered forty-six banks in as many towns in the state January 26, 1818. The bank at Somerset was to be "denominated" the Farmer’s Bank of Somerset, with a capital of $100,000 to be divided into 1,000 shares at $100 each. A few months later on February 10, 1819, the charter was repealed.

On November 29, 1819, a branch of the Bank of the Commonwealth was chartered in Somerset and was called the Somerset Branch of the Farmers Bank. It remained in business until after the War between the States. It was located on Main Street near the Public Square. The president of this bank was Cyrenius Wait; the cashiers were John B. Curd, John G. Lair, and William F. Goggins. The Board of Directors were B. Goggins, William Owens, A.J. James, S.M. Hail, William War and J. Vickery.

The third bank to attempt to serve the people of Somerset and Pulaski County was the Deposit Bank of Somerset, approved by a committee named in an Act of the Kentucky General Assembly to incorporate the bank on February 12, 1866. On May 27, 1871, William Woodcock resigned as president of this bank and W.H. Pettus was unanimously chosen to succeed him.

The First National Bank of Somerset was organized in December, 1870, with Samuel Newell as president. Its capital amounted to $51,350. The deposits for the first day were $21,978.68. This bank went into voluntary liquidation in 1888. A new charter was granted the bank and Samuel Newell remained as president. In 1890, J.M. Richardson became president and served until 1937, when he was succeeded by Joe Gibson, who was president until his death in 1939. He was succeeded by Richard G. Williams. The total resources of the First National Bank at the end of 1950 amounted to $8,025,824.24.

The Somerset Banking Company began its career in 1865, with George M. Wait as president. It operated successfully until 1901. In that year a Federal charter was applied for but was not granted. After this the bank went out of business. The Somerset Banking Company was absorbed by the Farmers National Bank which was organized May 27, 1901, and opened its doors for business on July 9 of that year. Its first president was John S. Cooper. Its total earnings for the first year of its operation was $2,027.92. At the close of 1950 the total resources of this institution stood at $4,289,158.62.

In April, 1952, the Farmers National Bank and the First National Bank merged. At the time of the merger J.T. Wilson was president of the Farmers Bank and R.G. Williams was president of the First National Bank. After the merger, R.G. Williams became president of the newly organized First and Farmers National Bank, a position which he held until 1961. He was followed by J.T. Wilson. At the close of 1966, the total resources of this institution stood at $24,383,118.94.

The beginning of educational development in Somerset was on April 29, 1801, when Robert Modrel and James Hardgrove were appointed agents for the county in surveying the land granted the county by the state for the endowment of a seminary. This land was to be sold and the proceeds used to establish and maintain the Somerset Academy or Seminary. On December 18, 1800, the General Assembly passed an act appointing as Trustees of this "Summerset Academy," William Fox, Robert Modrel, and Jesse Richardson. The permanent location of this academy was to be within or near the limits of Somerset.

The information pertaining to this institution does not indicate just when it was actually established, but apparently it was in operation as early as 1822, for on February 4, 1822, Fontaine Fox became the bonded treasurer of the Somerset Academy. On February 21, 1849, A.J. James, Hiram Gregg, and James M. Richardson were appointed commissioners to make settlement in relation to the buildings of the Somerset Academy, to repay them and to do all that was necessary for the welfare of the institution. The commission was to report to the county court on the third Monday in March, August, and November in each year. A resolution was recorded November 24, 1859, which states that the members of the Pulaski County Court that endorsed the high school "now taught" in Somerset by Messrs. Burdette, Woolford, and Simpson," as being worthy of public confidence and that the Pulaski County Court would use its best efforts to promote and sustain the school.

Apparently this institution met the educational demands of the people of Somerset until 1866, when the Masonic Lodge established the Masonic College. This school was located on the site occupied by the present high school. It served the community for a good many years until the creation of the Somerset Graded School System in 1889. On April 26, 1886, a petition drawn up by Senator Shadoan for the establishment of the Somerset Graded School was approved by the legislature. The first high school building was finished in 1892. This building burned in 1902, and was replaced with a larger plant. From time to time as the increase in population demanded, other buildings have been added to the system.

Chapter Nine

Last Update Thursday, 27-Dec-2012 13:39:03 EST

County Coordinator

County Coordinator:  Gayle Triller
Copyright © 2015 by the KYGenWeb Team. All
rights reserved. Copyright of submitted items
 belongs to those responsible for their authorship or
creation unless otherwise assigned.