Off the beaten path, Morgantown and her courthouse have an interesting past

Butler County Courthouse – Morgantown, Ky.
I rolled into Morgantown on an oppressively hot summer afternoon. The courthouse square was almost completely empty when I parked my car and did my usual walk around. 
Morgantown is another one of those communities for which you have to have a reason to go. It’s not along any major interstate or four-lane highway. Butler County only makes itself known to the casual visitor to Kentucky through the brief stretch of the Western Kentucky Parkway that just barely nicks the corner of the county.

Carpenter’s Kentucky Courthouses entry on this courthouse raises more questions than it answers. This present courthouse is the third such building on this cite, but appears to have undergone some considerable renovation since Mr. Carpenter profiled it in his book.  The original building was dedicated in 1975, but this building used to have a cupola, complete with a clock, and the wings on the side were just a single story. Somewhere along the line, the second story was added and the cupola was replaced. Anyone out there know the story? [ed. note: According to the Doyan Courthouse Survey, the Butler County courthouse was extensively renovated in 1998.]

Regardless, the building pictured above, or some iteration of it, replaced a beautiful Italianate two story courthouse that was demolished in 1974. [ed. note: that Italianate, second courthouse served from 1873 until its demolition.]

Morgantown may have originally been known as Funkhouser Hill, after founder Christopher Funkhouser, who donated the land for a proposed county seat. It is unknown for whom the town is named. Possible theories include a hunter named Morgan, or the first child born there (Daniel Morgan Smith who was born December 14, 1811).

To give you an idea of what early 20th century life was like in Morgantown, the first hard-surface roads in Morgantown weren’t built until the 20’s. As a river town, this modern innovation wasn’t felt necessary until 1917 when the Green River froze and the town was left without contact from the outside world for two months.

A sign on the courthouse lawn tells the interesting story of Butler County native William Taylor,  a Republican who was declared winner of the 1899 governor’s race in Kentucky over William Goebel. The Democrats contested the election, and the bitterness over this election led to Goebel being shot, declared governor, and upon his death Goebel’s successor being named governor. For 160 days, Taylor served as governor, two-thirds of that time unofficially, with Kentucky being split between two functioning state governments. After courts decided against Taylor, he moved to Indiana and practiced law and became president of an insurance company.

Am I the only one who finds that story really, really sad?