Pulaski County Fact Book II

Chapter 1 Introduction

The town of Somerset, Pulaski County, Kentucky began when the nineteenth century was one year old. Thomas Jefferson had just become the third president of the United States as a result of the historic election of 1800, when he and Aaron Burr had received the same number of votes. Jefferson was elected by the House of Representatives and Burr became vice-president since he had received the second largest number of votes.

In national politics, Republicanism had replaced the Federalists’ philosophy and the theory of strict interpretation of the Nation’s Constitution had begun to influence political thinking.

General James Garrard, second governor of Kentucky, had been re-elected for another term, and Alexander S. Bulitt had been elected the first lieutenant-governor of the State under its new constitution. The first constitution had contained no provision for this office.

The population of Kentucky in 1800, was 220,955. The leading town in the State was Lexington with 1,795 people, followed by Frankfort with 628. The census takers returned twenty-nine towns with a separate enumeration. Louisville with fifth with 359. There were 41,082 persons of color who were either free or slaves.

The portion of Kentucky which became Pulaski County in 1798, lies in the south central part of the state along the Cumberland River, on tier of counties lying between it and the Tennessee line, and is bounded on the north by Lincoln and Rockcastle Counties; on the east by Rockcastle and Laurel; on the south by McCreary and Wayne, and on the west by Ressell and Casey. It is drained by the Cumberland and Rockcastle Rivers, and by South Fork, White Oak, Buck, Pitman, and Fishing Creeks. The surface of the county is rolling with relief ranging from 130 to 400 feet. The elevations range from 600 to 1,325 feet above sea-level. The soil is varied with red clay predominating in most sections. There are many springs throughout the county and salt exists in small quantities along Fishing Creek. According to tradition sale was being produced at the old salt wells along that creek during the war between the States.

There are a few scattered areas of timberland in the county and about 1,000 acres of the Cumberland National Park Forest (now Daniel Boone National Forest) are in the southern part. The timber is largely hardwood and includes white oak, poplar, maple, beech, black pine, yellow pine, cedar, and walnut.

The natural features and resources were so well distributed over the county that one section was hardly more attractive to settlement than another. The streams and springs determined largely the location of each early settlement.

Pulaski County was created out of parts of Green and Lincoln Counties by the General Assembly, December 10, 1798. It came into being in answer to the petitions from the people of Lincoln and Green who lived so far from their respective county seats of Stanford and Greensburg that it was difficult for them to get into the county seats to carry on necessary business. Poor roads was another reason that prompted them to seek a nearer seat of government. The act passed by the Assembly outlined the boundaries of the county extending from the mouth of Rockcastle River and Buck Creek to the east; to the Tennessee line on the south; west to the Green River Knob and north to the new line established between Lincoln and the newly created county. Later McCreary was to be formed out of the southern part of the county along the State line.

The Assembly named the county in honor of Count Joseph Pulaski, the distinguished Pole, who after attempting in vain to restore the independence of his own country, came to America and assisted the Continental Army in its struggle for freedom against the tyranny of George III, spending his last two years fighting as a brigadier-general in the American Revolutionary Army. He was mortally wounded at the battle of Savannah, October 9, 1799, and died two days later. Americans have honored him by giving his name to seven counties, fifteen towns, twenty-three streets, four avenues, one place, one pike, and two alleys.

The Act creating the county provided for the county and quarterly sessions courts. "The Quarterly Sessions Court shall be held on the fourth Tuesday in the month of July, October, January, and March in every year and the County Court… on the fourth Tuesday in every month…"

Provision was also made for Justices of the Peace to be commissioned and that these should meet at the home of Thomas Hansford on the first day after the formation of county. After having taken the oath as required by law these officers were to elect a sheriff and to select a place which they "deemed most central and convenient to the people." Then they were to proceed to erect the public buildings at the elected place, and until these buildings could be completed, the two courts were to meet wherever it seemed proper.

The exact location of the home of Thomas Hansford cannot be defined. According to the first tax list taken in Pulaski County, Thomas Hansford listed the following property: 100 acres of land of second rate on Pitman Creek, one horse and one slave. How Hansford came into possession of this land could not be determined. On June 8, 1799, Hansford became a member of the Sinking Creek Baptist Church, and also served as its pastor. Later in April 1801, he secured twenty-five acres of land "in addition to the quantity he hath already acquired under Act of Assembly encouraging and granting relief to settlers south of Green River." This land lay along Sinking Creek and joined the land of William Dodson and John Given. Most of the land belonging to Hansford lay on the waters of Pitman Creek two miles northeast of Sinking Creek.

The first meeting of the county court was held at the home of Thomas Hansford on June 25, 1799. A commission of peace from Governor James Garrard directed to Samuel Gilmore, Robert Modrel, John Francis, Nicholas Jasper and Bazil Meek constituted them Justices of the Peace in the County Court of Pulaski County.

Samuel Gilmore took the oath of fidelity to the Commonwealth, the oath of office, and the oath to support the Constitution of the United States and then administered the same oaths to the others.

Samuel Newell was then sworn in as the first sheriff of the county. William Fox was appointed County Clerk, Samuel McKee took oath as the first county surveyor, and Charles Newell was granted an earmark for his livestock. The Court then adjourned until "the next court in course" which was to meet at the home of Henry Francis. This scheduled meeting of the court came on August 27, 1799. Francis’ home continued to be the meeting place of the courts until the courthouse in the county was completed. Henry Francis was quite a landholder and was prominent among the early leaders in the county. He was at one time county jailer and the first jail was located near his home. He was tried in the first court of the Quarter Session for "retailing spiretts" without a license.

William Fox, the first county clerk, lived in a one-room log house near Sinking Creek. He was the county clerk from his appointment June 25, 1799, until he resigned March 16, 1846. During these forty-seven years he built at least two other homes, both of brick, and at his death owned twenty-one town lots. After the county seat was chosen Fox kept a tavern for several years there, the first tavern in Somerset. After his resignation in 1846, his son became county clerk for a time. William Fox died October 19, 1855.

His six children were – Fontaine Fox, William McKee Fox, Amanda Goggin, Jane Pickering Caldwell, Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, and Sophia Ann Kindrick. His will, which may be found in the Pulaski Court House, is a most interesting document which divided his enormous property, slaves, and livestock among his children.

William Fox was buried in the cemetery which at one time belonged to his estate, but after his death, it became the City Cemetery. The Fox family reserved a part of the grounds for the family graveyard. Some graves on a part of the lot are said to be graves for Fox’s slaves. These are marked with pieces of stone but have no other identification.

A white stone shaft marks the spot where this pioneer was laid to rest and has the following epitaph which is barely legible:

  • Erected in memory of William Fox. Born in the state of Virginia, Hanover County, March 1, 1770. Died In Somerset in the State of Kentucky, October 19, 1855. Clerk of Pulaski County and Circuit Courts From June 25, 1799 until 1845. An impartial, public officer, faithful citizen, a kind friend, an affectionate Husband and parent and an honest man….
  • His wife was buried by his side.

    Samuel Newell, the first sheriff of the county was never a resident of the county seat. He served only temporarily and was succeeded by James Hardgrove who was the first sheriff of the county commissioned by the governor of the state. Hardgrove was a farmer and never resided at the county seat.

    Samuel Newell was sheriff in 1799

    Samuel Gilmore 1800

    Robert Modrel 1801

    Nicholas Jasper 1802

    Bazel Meek 1804

    Nicholas Jasper 1805

    Jessee Richardson 1806

    John James 1807, 1808

    Ralph Williams 1809

    Edward Prather 1810

    John Newby 1810

    Joseph Ervine 1811, 1812, 1813

    Samuel Tate 1814

    Ralph Williams 1815, 1816

    Samuel Tate 1817

    Hugh Logan 1818, 1822, 1836

    Joseph Porter 1836

    John Newby 1837

    John Warren 1837

    Samuel Tate 1842

    Robert Modrel 1838

    John Adams 1840

    These sheriffs were commissioned by the court. A Voting District was in existence in 1854. It was the Somerset District and extended to Fishing Creek.

    Chapter Two



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