Pulaski County Fact Book II
Chapter 2 The Founding and Growth of Somerset

 

The second meeting of the Pulaski County Court was at the home of Henry Francis on August 27, 1799, and it, as well as the Quarter Sessions Court, continued to meet there until June 23, 1801. Henry Francis lived on Fishing Creek about seven miles west of the place where the county seat was eventually located. Francis’ 200 acres of land on Fishing Creek had been surveyed June 24, 1799, "by his having a settlement and Certificate Number 810 situated and being in the County of Pulaski and on the waters of Fishing Creek. In the April Court of 1800 it was ordered that "a small log house, it being the house nearest to the house that the court now sets in, be condemned as the jail of this County and Henry Francis be appointed as keeper of said jail.

The first mention of selecting the location of the county seat was made December 24, 1799, when it was agreed by the justices that they should meet at the home of Nicholas Jasper on the second Friday of January, 1800, for the purpose of "viewing the different proposals fixing the seat of justice of the county."

It was ordered that the several officers of the court give due attention to the proposition, but no further note of a specified meeting was available. The matters seems to have been ignored for a time or else no agreement could be reached concerning the location of the county seat. No further reference could be found in the court records until December 23, 1800, when it was decided that on Friday following the fourth Tuesday in January, 1801, the matter was settled as described in the following minutes:

The Court having taken into consideration the business of fixing on the place for erecting the public

Buildings for this County after mature deliberations it is ordered that the permanent seat of justice

For this County is fixed on a tract of land containing 40 acres on this day conveyed by bond to the

County Court of this County on such part thereof as said court shall direct.

Apparently this did not settle the question entirely for on April 28, 1801, the court again took into consideration the location of the seat of justice for it was decided at this time that the place agreed upon at the preceding session be "reestablished."

This location was chosen primarily because of the large spring which was called Sinking Creek Spring since the water flowing from it disappeared into the ground and reappeared at intervals. The spring served as a bountiful source of water. It flowed from beneath a large ledge of rock in a deep ravine. The cool waters of this spring had influenced the building of a church on a small hill overlooking Sinking Creek and perhaps it had influenced a few people to take up lands nearby for William Fox, William Dodson, John Fitzpatrick, and a few other settlers had located on lands in the Sinking Creek area. The little church, which was the second one established in the county, was the Sinking Creek Baptist Church, and was established by some members from the Flat Lick Church located about ten miles east of Sinking Creek. The Flat Lick Church was the oldest in the county having been founded about 1798. From Deed Book II, page 33 comes this information:

This indenture made this 25th day of May 1807 between, William Dodson of Cumberland County of

the Commonwealth of Kentucky of the one part and the United Baptist Church of Sinking Creek in

Pulaski County and State aforesaid of the other part witnesseth that the said William Dodson for and

in consideration of the sum of seven dollars to him in hand paid by the said Baptist Church and

Receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged hath bargained and sold and doth by these presents

  • bargain sell enforeff and confirm unto the said Baptist Church a certain tract or parcel of land containing two acres be same more or less being and lying in the aforesaid county and bounded as followeth (viz) Beginning on the SW corner of the town of Sommerset (sic) on the waters of Sinking Creek in the Pulaski County running thence south 25 degrees west 16 poles (to a stake thence 18 poles) to a walnut thence 12 degrees east 13 poles to a post oak marked thence south 84 degrees east 16 poles to the town line along the said town line 7-1/2 poles to the beginning first mentioned including the Baptist meating (sic) house of Sinking Creek with all the profits of commodities and appurtenances belonging and appurtaining to the said two acres of land to the said United Baptist Church of Sinking Creek and also all the estate rights, title, claim and demand of said William Dodson in law and equity to have and to hold the said two acres of land unto the said two acres of land unto the said Baptist Church. Of the said William Dodson for himself and heirs covenants and agrees to warrant defend said two acres of land to aforesaid Baptist Church of Sinking Creek against the lawful title claim and of himself, his heirs and assigns, Witness my hand and seal the day and year above within. William Dodson (teste-William Fox).
  • The Town Spring, as it was later called, which was such a vital factor in the establishment of the early settlement, has long been a neglected place. The Pulaski County Historical Society is now in the process of restoring this historic area into a Reserve and Park commemorating its being the spot responsible for locating the town site. Dodson had secured this land as a part of a survey made July 25, 1799, on certificate Number 7.

    This land lay on the waters of Sinking Creek. His Deed to the Trustees of Somerset reads as follows:

  • This indenture made this fifteenth day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and two between William Dodson of Granger County and the State of Tennessee of the one part and we the trustees of the town of Somerset and County of Pulaski and State of Kentucky of the other part – witnesseth that the said William Dodson, for and in consideration of one dollar to him hand paid and the benefit of having two lots Nos. 25 and 26, joining the Publick (sic) Square, which the Court House of Pulaski County is to be fixed on the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged by the said Dodson, hath and by these presents doth give grant and bargain, alienate and enforeff and confirm unto the said trustees for the town of Somerset in Pulaski County for the county’s use, forty acres of land in the following course excepting two lots above mentioned, being and lying in the County of Pulaski and waters of Sinking Creek, a branch of Pitman Creek, to wit, pointers red oak white oak and hickory to a stake running thence n. sixty-nine degrees. East 80 poles to a stake, thence north twenty-one degrees, west 80 poles to a stake, thence south sixty-nine degrees, west 80 poles to a stake, thence south twenty-one degrees, east 80 poles the stake first mentioned with all woods ways profits commodities hereditament and appertenances belonging in anywise appertaining excepting the waters, to be in force for the said Dodson and his heirs as any other person, reversion and reversions, remainder and remainders and all the estate right title property claim and demand of him the said William Dodson, his heirs and excepting the two lots above mentioned is not made over by this deed to the court.
  • DODSON TO TRUSTEES: (Deed Book I) Teste A. E. Mills, William Eason, William Dulin, Greenbeery Middleton Lt., State of Kentucky, Pulaski Court.

  • I hereby certify that this indenture was produced to me as clerk to the court of the county aforesaid on the twenty third day of February one thousand eight hundred and two which was acknowledged by Greenbury Middleton a party thereto to be this act and deed and the same has been duly recorded in my office. Atteste Will Fox Court Clerk.

    This indenture made this the 15th day of March in the year of our Lord 1802 between William Dodson of Springer County, State of Tennessee of the one part and we the Trustees of the Town of Somerset and County of Pulaski, State of Kentucky, on the other part witnesseth that the said William Dodson for an in Consideration of $1.00 to him hand paid and the benefit of having two lots Nos. 25 and 26 joining the Public Square, which the Court House of Pulaski County is to be fixed on, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged by the said Dodson, hath and by these presents doth give grant and bargain, alienate, endorse and confirm unto the said Trustees for the Town of Somerset in Pulaski County for the County’s use, 40 acres of land in following courses, excepting the two lots above mentioned, being and lying in the County of Pulaski and Waters of Sinking Creek, a branch of Pitman Creek to wit, Pointers Red Oak, White Oak and Hickory to a stake running Thence N sixty-nine degrees east 80 poles to a stake thence north twenty-one degrees west 80 from a stake thence south 69 degrees west 80 poles to a stake thence south 21 degrees east 80 poles the stake first mentioned with all woods ways profits commodities hereditament and appertenances belonging and in anywise appertaining excepting the waters, to be as free for the said Dodson and his heirs as any other person, reversion and reversions, remainder and remainders and all the Estate, rights, title, property claim and demand of him the said William Dodson his heirs and excepting the two lots above mentioned is not made over by this Deed to the court either in law or equity to have that this indenture was produced to me as clerk to the court of the county aforesaid on the twenty third day of February one thousand either hundred and two which was acknowledged by Greenberry Middleton a party thereto to be his act and deed and the same has been duly recorded in my office. Atteste Will Fox Court Clerk

    This indenture made this the 15th day of March in the year of our Lord 1802 between William Dodson of Springer County, State of Tennessee of the one part and we the Trustees of the Town of Somerset and County of Pulaski, State of Kentucky, on the other part witnesseth that the said William Dodson for and in consideration $1.00 to him hand paid and the benefit of having two lots Nos. 25 and 26 joining the Public Square, which the Court House of Pulaski is to be fixed on, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged by the said Dodson, hath and by these presents doth give grant and bargain, alienate, endorse and confirm unto the said trustees for the Town of Somerset in Pulaski County for the County’s use, 40 mentioned, being and lying in the County of Pulaski and Waters of Sinking Creek, a branch of Pitman Creek to wit, Pointers Red oak, White Oak, and Hickory to a stake running thence N sixty-nine degrees east 80 poles to a stake thence north twenty-one degrees west 80 from a stake thence south 69 degrees west 80 poles to a stake thence south 21 degrees east 80 poles the stake fit mentioned with all woods ways profits commodities hereditament and apperances belonging and in anywise appertaining excepting the waters to be as free for the said Dodson and his heirs as any other person, reversion and reversions, remainder and remainders and all the Estate, rights, title, property claim and demand of him to hold the thirty-nine acres unto the said trustees of Somerset Town for the County’s use forever, unless some other person should establish a better claim than said Dodson either law or equity then the said Dodson is not to be responsible for either the laws or purchase money or any part thereof but the said Dodson doth covenant and agree for him and his heirs that he shall and will warrant and defend the aforesaid land unto the said Trustees and their survivors against the lawful claim and demand of all and every other person or persons claiming under him but not against any other claim claims or claims whatsoever. In witness whereof unto I have hereunto set my hand and seal the day and date above written. Signed, Sealed and Delivered in presence of Sam McNeel, William Dodson.

  • Dodson’s Bond read as follows:

  • Known of men by these presents that we William Dodson, Reubin Hill and Moses Hanks are held and firmly bound unto the Justices of the County Court of Pulaski in the sum of one thousand pounds and for the said sum of one thousand pounds paid to the said Justices and their successors in office, we bind ourselves, our heirs, executors and administrators firmly by these presents – Signed with our hands sealed with our seal and dated 24th day of February 1801.

    The condition of the above obligation is such that the above named William Dodson shall on or before the first day of March 1802 convey to the said County Court forty acres of land to be laid off in a four square manner as the said court shall direct out of a tract of land granted the said Dodson by virtue of his having improved the same agreeable to an act of the General Assembly in that case made and provided and for use of the county by special warranted deed, or as good a title as the state shall make. The said Dodson except one acre of land on which the meeting house stands on and around the same and the said forty acres of land is be laid off when the necessary notices are given according to law into convenient streets and lots. The same Dodson is to have two lots to wit: first choice of lots and the court the next and then the said Dodson the 3rd choice, and the said Dodson is to have the same liberty of the water as any other person, then the above obligation to be void, otherwise to remain in full force, power and virtue. Signed, sealed and delivered in the presents of William Fox and James Hardgrove – by a court held for Pulaski County on Tuesday the 24th day of February 1801 – this bond was acknowledged by William Dodson, Reubin Hill and Moses Hanks parties thereto to be their act and deed and ordered to be recorded. Attest – Will Fox County Court Clerk.

  • The June term, 1801:

  • On motion of the Justices of the County Court of Pulaski County, it is ordered that a town be established on the land granted to them by William Dodson as specified in the bond given to said court agreeably to a plan filed for that purpose as the plan of the town of said county and said town to contain 40 acres of land excepting two lots which the said Dodson reserves for his own use. The said town is to be known and called by the name of Somerset and the said 40 acres of land is vested in Robert Modrel, Nicholas Jasper, Jesse Richardson, John James Sr., and William Barnes as trustees of said town. Whereupon the said Justices entered and acknowledged bond conditioned as the law directs.
  • Some stories say a group of people from Somerset County, New Jersey settled just north of the site chosen for the county seat and agreed to the selection if the court would give it the name of Somerset. Another story states that the name was chosen by some of the influential men in the community who had friends and relatives in Somerset, England.

    It is to be noted here that when William Dodson gave this land to the city, he had removed from Pulaski County and was residing in Granger County, Tennessee. (February 1801) He had appointed his trusty friend, Reubin Hill of Pulaski County to act as his true and lawful attorney.

    Somerset is about 90 miles south of Frankfort, latitude thirty seven degrees three minutes, with an altitude of 879 ft. The day after the site was chosen for the County seat, the Court appointed commissioners to plan the town and arrange the location of the public buildings. These men were Samuel McKee, James Hardgrove, Edward Turner, John Prather, Nicholas Jasper, and William Fox. They were "to let out and superintend the Publick (sic) Buildings… a courthouse, jail, stocks, etc., and a straypen… to lay off the forty acres of land yesterday granted the court by Mr. Dodson into convenient lots, streets, etc., as they think proper." Robert Modrel was added to this commission the same day. However, in the following court meeting the order for the above commissioners was quashed and the following were appointed: Jesse Richardson, Nicholas Jasper, James Hardgrove, Philip A. Sublette, John Prather, and Andrew Russell.

    The forty acres composing the town were divided into eighty lots, of which four was not recorded, "owing to neglect," until January 16, 1820. The plan was simple in design and the streets were well arranged, running north and south and east and west. The accompanying chart shows the original planning and numbering of the lots.

    William Dodson held the lots Nos. 25 and 26 from the formation of the town. The first ones sold were Nos. 35 and 36, on July 23, 1805, to Oliver Sallee and William J. Sallee for $100 for the two lots. About sixty of these lots were distributed as follows by February 25, 1824: William Fox, the most extensive owner, owned Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 35, 36, 37, 38; John Tumbleston 50, 51, 68, 69, 70, 71; John Jasper 31; Philip A. Sublette 34; William Denham 14, 43; Edmond Newby 21, 38; Bosswell Hall 46, 47; Aaron Doss 49; Frances Clare 10, 11, 42, 52, 61; Joseph Porter 45, 48; James Doran 36; Jesse Richardson 52, 53; William Mills 27; Josiah Evans 39, 40, 55, 56, 57, 58, 75, 76; John Sallee 6, 7, 29; Peter W. Clark 41, 54; Daniel Clare 9, 30; Caldwell Stewart 15; John Warren 32, 33` (Deed Book I, p. 228-229)

    On June 24, 1801, the court decided to build a temporary courthouse at the county seat. This court was held at the Baptist meeting house in Somerset, it being the first court held away from Henry Francis’. This courthouse was to be built on lot No. 40. It was constructed by Francis McCowan for the sum of $23.00 and was received by the court on September 22, 1801, that being the first court held there. This first courthouse no doubt was a very crude log cabin for it was designed as being only temporary and built at small costs.

    In less time than a year commissioners were appointed to let out and superintend the building of a brick courthouse. This action was taken August 24, 1802. The following were appointed as commissioners: Robert Modrel, John James, William Barnes, and William Fox. According to traditional information this courthouse was located in the center of the public square. It became the seat of justice in the year 1805. The exact cost of the building was not found except for the woodwork which was 96, 16, shillings, and 6 pence. This courthouse served the county for about thirty years when it seems to been "thrown down" for the county attorney was ordered to prosecute a suite of damages against any person engaging in "throwing down" the courthouse. The new courthouse, it was decided, would be located "fronting Cross St. and Main St. occupying the same ground that the little stone office now does at the corner," which is the site of the present courthouse. This building was completed by the year 1840. In the years 1852 and 1853 extensive alterations determined its permanent form until the fire of 1871 destroyed it.

    The court of May 13, 1812, decided to build "a brick house for a clerk’s office" and ordered that any two men of Tunstall Quarles, Robert Modrel and Andrew Evans be appointed commissioners to let out to the lowest bidder the building of this office. The clerk’s office up to this time had been in the home William Fox, it seems, for 1814 he was voted $60.00 for the use of his house as a clerk’s office. George Allcorn was the caretaker of this building. He seems to have been rather slow at his work for it was not completed until June 1816. It cost altogether $465.00 and was received by the court on May 27, 1816; it was built of stone rather than brick, references to it indicate.

    This "little stone Clerk’s office" served until 1828 when it was declared "entirely too small for that purpose, which is a fact notoriously known to many of the officers of the county."

    The clerk, William Fox, was authorized to procure a suitable house or room to keep the office in, and again the office was moved to his home. The court of May 18, 1835 ordered the sheriff to rent out "the old stone clerk’s office" and Bourne Goggin was appointed on August 16, 1836, to sell the rock lumber, etc., of this little office, since it had to be torn down so the site could be used for the building of the new courthouse of 1840, mentioned above.

    In the year 1835 a larger clerk’s office was completed, being located somewhat to the rear of the little stone office, and just to the rear of the present courthouse. This continued to be used until 1874 when the clerk moved his office into the present courthouse. However, the present office of the county clerk was not assigned definitely until January 23, 1879.

    A jail was built in Somerset in the year 1802 by Reubin Payne and Joel Jackson, which cost $125.00. Philip A. Sublette was appointed the first keeper of this jail. This jail, from all information that could be secured, was located a little to the west of the site of the present jail. Ten acres for prison rules were laid off July 26, 1802, the bounds including the town spring and jail, which extended eastwardly in a square, which would be today the southwest section of Somerset.

    John January was appointed keeper of the jail February 28, 1804, serving until 1812 when John Tummelson was appointed. The jail was constantly under repair from1807 to 1812. The jail bounds were surveyed in 1814 and recorded as follows:

  • November 21, 1814 in the surveyed ten acres of land for the prison bounds in the County of Pulaski and Town of Somerset Beginning on an Elm on the Town Spring Branch near Clares fence then N 69 E 40 p to a stake in the street then N 21 W 40 to a stake in Foxes Hogg lott clost to this fence then S 21 E 40 p to the Beginning including the spring and Publick Bilding.
  • In 1815 William Fox, John Tummelson, Tunstal Quarles, John Newby, John Gibson, Christopher Clonch, and Charles Hayes were appointed commissioners to let out and superintend the building of a new jail and to find a place where the jail was to stand on the public square. This new jail was built by Charles Hayes, was completed December 25, 1820, and received by the court on that date. Built of brick and located on the corner now occupied by the First National Bank, it served the county until about 1869. This jail cost around $1,200.00, and the old jail was sold for $50.

    According to an Act of the Assembly passed February 10, 1798, within three months after the selection of the county seat was fixed the county court should erect a pound "with a good and sufficient fence, gate, lock and key, where all stray horses or mares above two years old, taken within twenty miles of the courthouse, shall be kept on the first day of every court, for three courts successively, after the same is taken up, from twelve to four o’clock the same day."

    The first stray pen was built by William Roberts for the sum of $15.00 and received by the court September 22, 1801. Philip A. Sublette was appointed as the first keeper. A keeper was expected to keep the stray pen in repair, attend the pound meeting during the court days, and carry the key to the pen.

    A new stray pen was built every few years in the county seat. Orders were given for them to be built in each of the following years: 1807, 1825, 1830, 1843, and 1847. These stray pens were built on the public square with the exception of the last one. It was decided September 20, 1847, to locate this stray pen upon a lot of public ground above the town spring rather than on the square.

    An act abolishing the stray pen in Pulaski County was passed by the General Assembly December 9, 1850. Anyone finding a stray, especially a horse, after this date had to place a notice on the courthouse door on three consecutive county court days describing the animal.

    Since the stocks and pillory was a very common method of punishing those who failed to observe the law in our early history, Pulaski County took the matter into consideration very soon after the county sea was located. On June 4, 1801, the court agreed to pay John James, Jr., $38.00 for constructing the stocks and pillory. For some reason James was discharged from the undertaking September 22, and P.A. Sublette was directed to let out the building of them to someone else. A new stocks and pillory was built in 1808, for the levy in that year indicates that Anderson Nunnerly was paid $65.00 for building them. No further information was found concerning them after the above date. Traditional information gives their location on Water Street (South Vine) near the spring.

    The older sections of the town show that the original plan of the town was closely followed, but in later years as the town continued to grow, the builders got away from the old plan and created many short streets that have no outlet.

    The first surveyor of the streets was William Sallee, who was appointed September 26, 1808. He was directed to secure the help of the inhabitants of the town to keep the streets in repair. For some reason, Francis Clare was appointed in his "room" (stead) on February 25, 1811. An interesting ordinance in regard to care of the streets was a court order dated March 27, 1809, which was as follows:

    No persons to show their stations (i.e.) to hitch their horses on the Public Square nor on the Main Street

    or main cross streets in the town of Somerset under the pain of being fined.

    The first increase in the plan of the town was made April 26, 1819, when the court added nine acres and 150 poles of land belonging to Tunstall Quarles, Sam Hayes, Joseph Porter, and Ephraim C. Harris. Another thirteen acres were added on May 21, 1849. This land was on the north side of the town.

    Thus, by 1850 Somerset was approximately one-tenth of a square mile in area with a population of 412. The town had begun to grow and continued to grow slowly but steadily. In 1860, there were 662 people living in Somerset; in 1870, 587; in 1880, 805; in 1890, 2,625. Somerset was incorporated by an Act of the General Assembly February 16, 1888. Its government was changed from the old Trustee System to the Mayor-Council plan of city government. The act of incorporation transferred to the city all rights, property, streets, commons, moneys, and such other possessions of the town. It also defined the corporate limits of the town and laid off into five wards with a councilman to be popularly elected from each ward.

    On March 15, 1888, the voters of Somerset elected Abe Wolfe, Jewish butcher, as the first mayor. The following is a list of mayors and their term of office:

    Abe Wolfe 1888-1890

    Barney Higgins 1890-1892

    James L. Colyer 1892-1894

    T. R. Griffin 1894-1898

    Dr. J. W. F. Parker 1898-1902

    T. R. Griffin 1902-1914

    James L. Waddle 1914-1918

    George Cruse 1918-1922

    W. C. Norfleet 1922-1946

    Andrew Offutt 1946-

    In 1950, Somerset became a third class city. Its population in that year was 7,068. The population was 10,436 in 1970. Its people are widely known for their hospitality industriousness, friendliness, and progressive spirit. Its residents are proud to live in the "Queen City of the Cumberlands."

     

    Chapter Three

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