Then & Now: Impeachment in Kentucky

If you’ve followed local news in Kentucky the past few days, the word “impeachment” has come up more than once. It was front page news in Wednesday’s news. (August 31, 2016). That’s because of a news story out of Jessamine County. I’m not going to go into the issues on this site because there are plenty of news sites covering the story du jour. Let’s just say that Kentucky is living up to its hype as the place where “politics [are] the damnedest.”

Let’s instead look at the historical side of impeachment in Kentucky. In 1991, the Legislative Research Commission published an Informational Bulletin entitled Impeachment in Kentucky “designed to assist future legislatures in conducting impeachments, and to provide the public with a look into the process itself.”

Section 68 of Kentucky’s 1891 Constitution provides that the “Governor and all civil officers” are subject to impeachment. Throughout the history of the Commonwealth, however, there have been only four impeachments. These are there stories.

Thomas Jones, Surveyor of Bourbon County

In 1803, the surveyor of Bourbon County was impeached by the Kentucky House of Representatives. This incident was long lost to history until it was discovered in 1991 by then-professor John Rogers of the University of Kentucky College of Law who was acting as Special Advisor to the House Impeachment Committee in the Burnette case (described below). Professor Rogers is now Judge Rogers of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In his capacity as surveyor, Jones helped to establish land boundaries for private citizens and government entities alike. He served an important role and his errors would result in litigation for decades. His charge of impeachment was “for overcharging the state for work done, for failure to perform his duties, and for surveying the wrong tracts of land.” 
After approved by the House, the articles of impeachment were transferred to the Senate for trial. During the trial, Jones resigned his position though the Senate proceeded with the charges and ordered him “perpetually excluded from office.” 
The case is particularly unique because it remains the only incident where a jury was empaneled to determine evidence for a legislature during a U.S. impeachment trial.

“Honest Dick” Tate, State Treasurer

“Honest Dick” Tate
An important lesson: if you are the treasurer of an organization, don’t take the money. “Honest Dick” apparently struggled with this lesson.
And although he had earned a reputation of honesty amongst his colleagues while serving in the general assembly. In 1867, he left the General Assembly to run for the office of State Treasurer.
In those days, there were no term limits for the position and “Honest Dick” “faithfully” served the Commonwealth as treasurer for over two decades.
That is, until he absconded most of the state’s treasury in March, 1888. He was impeached and tried in abstentia later that year being found guilty of four counts. 
Neither the funds nor Tate were ever seen again. When he abandoned both his post and his family, he did so aboard a train bound for Cincinnati. Later, his daughter received post cards from her father over the years with postmarks bearing the locales of San Francisco, Japan, Brazil, China, and British Columbia (Canada). It was reported that Tate died in China in 1890. 

Judge J.E. Williams – McCreary County

All in 1916: the citizens of McCreary County charged that their local judge executive “had committed numerous acts of misfeasance and malfeasance as county judge.” The House voted to impeach, 48 to 45. In trial before the Senate, however, Judge Williams was acquitted. 
Conviction requires a vote of two-thirds of the Assembly and apparently the evidence was not sufficient. The Informational Bulletin speaks to why such a high burden exists: “[impeachment] is a several of the inherent power of the people in a democratic society to choose those who govern.” It’s worth noting that 19 states also afford the people in a democratic society to recall their elected officials and that Kentucky is not among that body of states.

Ward “Butch” Burnette – Commissioner of Agriculture

In 1991, state Agriculture Commissioner Butch Burnette was convicted in Franklin Circuit Court of theft by deception.

According to his obituary in 2000, Burnette “served 49 days of a one-year sentence for a 1990 theft conviction for payment to a secretary before she actually began working. He was fined $1,500 in that case and $5,000 for an unrelated theft conviction involving charter flights taken at state expense after Mr. Burnette was elected in 1987 but before he took office in January 1988.”

The House adopted a single article of impeachment citing the conviction for a “theft of funds belonging to the Commonwealth.” Hours before the Senate commenced its trial, the Agriculture Commissioner resigned and the proceedings were terminated.

Will there ever be a fifth impeachment proceeding in Kentucky? Perhaps. But the stories of the first four are a fascinating part of the Commonwealth’s history.

6 in September: The Most Popular Posts

Though there were only four new Kaintuckeean posts from September, there was a lot of strong traffic out of the archives. Below are the six most popular posts from September.

Griffith Woods

Griffith Woods. Author’s collection.

The 745 acres of Harrison County land provides the purest glimpse of what Europeans first saw when the entered the Bluegrass region. This is what the land looked like when the Native Americans lived here. Griffith Woods is a cooperative effort between the Nature Conservancy, the University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission. Originally called Silver Lake Farm, the area features some venerable trees that are more than 300 years old.


A #DemolitionWatch Update

Fritz Farm. Fayette County PVA

One post from September helped to catch readers up on the many demolitions that have occurred around Lexington over the past couple months. Significantly, the circa 1875 farmhouse at Fritz Farm near the corner of Nicholasville Road and Man-O-War was demolished to make way for the future mixed-use development known as The Summit at Fritz Farm.


Lost Lexington at the University of Kentucky

This post was a promotional post for an event I had at UK’s Singletary Center to speak about my book, Lost Lexington. What made the event more special was that it was the inaugural event in the Hemenway Writing Center Speaker Series! It was a great event with a great group of attendees who asked some great questions!


3,849 Images from Lexington’s Past

Cadets along Main Street. UK Libraries. 

UK Libraries unveiled a new collection which included some incredible photographs from Lexington’s past. The photos, digitally extracted from dry plate, silver nitrate glass negatives, date from ca. 1898-1918.


Riverside Historic District

Audubon Statue at the Point. Michael Monks

A guest post from the archives, written by Michael Monks of, is about the Riverside Historic District in Covington. This treasure includes eight blocks along the Licking River beginning at the confluence with the Ohio River. Architecture of the “Greek Revival, Federal, Queen Anne, High Victorian, Gothic, Italianate, and French Second Empire styles” can be found here.


Silas Baptist Church

Like many churches in the region from both the Baptist and Disciples of Christ traditions, Silas Baptist draws from the heritage of the Traveling Church which was founded in Virginia in 1767.  This July 2010 offers image and text from the on-site historic marker with a little extra insight on this oldest continuously running church in Bourbon County.

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Regional Look to Blue Grass Trust’s 11 Endangered List

Photographs of Select Sites on the Blue Grass Trust’s Eleven in Their Eleventh Hour List

Each year, the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation assembles a list of historic central Kentucky properties which are threatened. For the 2015 edition of the “Eleven in Their Eleventh Hour” list, the BGT has looked primarily beyond Fayette County to sites across 11 central Kentucky counties.

The list of counties largely resembles those included in the 2006 World Monument Fund’s designation of the Inner Bluegrass Region. The Blue Grass Trust included Madison County on its “11 Endangered List” while omitting Anderson County. All Kentucky counties, however, have “at risk” structures and deserve the attention of preservationists.

The BGT’s list is a great step toward recognizing that preservation can and should occur throughout Kentucky and not only in our urban cores. The 14 structures within the 11 counties also reflect that theme.

According to the BGT, “the list highlights endangered properties and how their situations speak to larger preservation issues in the Bluegrass. The goal of the list is to create a progressive dialogue that moves toward positive long-term solutions. The criteria used for selecting the properties include historic significance, lack of protection from demolition, condition of structure, or architectural significance.”

The sites are listed below.

Bourbon County – Cedar Grove & John T. Redmon House 

Both Cedar Grove and the Redmon House are architecturally significant houses from the early 19th century. The circa 1818 John & John T. Redmon House has a steep roof more often found in Virginia than Kentucky and has lost its original one-story wings. Though both buildings are vacant, they have undergone partial renovations recently and the BGT believes these structures could be still restored.

Boyle County – Citizens National Bank & Dr. Polk House

Mostly empty for two-plus years, the Citizens National Bank building at 305 West Main Street in Danville was built in 1865 with a double storefront that housed First National Bank of Danville and a drug store. Bank-owned and listed for sale, a demolition (or partial demolition) of this structure could affect adjacent structures with which the building shares walls.  Dr. Polk House at 331 South Buell Street in Perryville sits across from Merchants’ Row and is arguably the historic landmark most in need of restoration in the downtown. Built in 1830 as a simple Greek Revival house with two chimneys and two front doors, the structure was purchased by Dr. Polk in 1850. A graduate of Transylvania University, he was the primary caretaker of wounded from the Battle of Perryville and his 1867 autobiography details the gruesome battlefield.

Dr. Polk House in Perryville, Kentucky. Photo courtesy of the BGT.

Clark County – Indian Old Fields 

Indian Old Fields in Clark County was the location of Eskippakithiki, the last known Native American town in what became Kentucky. Located on Lewis Evans’ 1755 map of Middle British Colonies, this highly important site was significantly impacted during construction of a new interchange (which opened September 2014) for the Mountain Parkway crossing KY 974 near the center of the Indian Old Fields.

The Kentucky Heritage Council noted in 2010 that “’Indian Old Fields,’ is a historic and prehistoric archaeological district of profound importance,” with 50 significant prehistoric archaeological sites identified within 2 kilometers of the interchange. These sites cover the Archaic Period (8000-1000 BC), Woodland Period (1000 B.C. -1000 AD) and Adena Period (1000-1750 AD), with several listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These include villages, Indian fort earthworks, mounds, sacred circles and stone graves. The site also has substantial ties to the famous Shawnee Chief Cathecassa or Black Hoof, Daniel Boone, and trader John Finley.

With the new $8.5 million dollar interchange now open, there are significant concerns that these sites with be under threat from pressure to further develop the area.

Fayette County – Modern Structures 

The Blue Grass Trust’s 2014 “Eleven in Their Eleventh Hour” focused on the historic resources at the University of Kentucky. Many of those included on the list (and most of those demolished) were Modern buildings designed by locally renowned architect Ernst Johnson. Research into Johnson’s work by the BGT and others such as architects Sarah House Tate and Dr. Robert Kelley was joined with education and advocacy programming focused on his architecture and legacy as a master of Modernism. This research and programming led to other efforts by the Blue Grass Trust, namely working to educate the public on the historic value of mid-century architecture.

In our continued education and advocacy effort surrounding these structures, the Blue Grass Trust lists Fayette County’s mid-century Modern architecture as endangered. Often viewed as not old enough or not part of the traditional early fabric of Lexington and surrounding areas, the Modern buildings of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s are being substantially and unrecognizably altered or demolished. It is important to recognize that buildings 50 years of age are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, a length of time deemed appropriate by the authors of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 for reflection on an era’s importance. Read more from the Kaintuckeean’s earlier post on the People’s Bank branch on South Broadway.

People’s Bank in Lexington. Photo by Rachel Alexander.

Franklin County – Old YMCA & Blanton-Crutcher Farm

Both the Old YMCA in downtown Frankfort faces potential demolition and the Blanton-Crutcher Farm in Jett are slowly deteriorating from neglect and both structures are worth saving. The 1911 Old YMCA at 104 Bridge Street in Frankfort, designed in the Beaux Arts style by a a Frankfort architect, was a state-of-the-art facility featuring a gymnasium, indoor swimming pool, bowling alley, meeting rooms and guest quarters. While a local developer is hoping to transform it into a boutique hotel, there is also a push by the city of Frankfort to demolish this structure. If saved, this could be a transformative project in our capital city. 

The Blanton-Crutcher Farm in Jett includes an architecturally and historically significant circa 1796 house built by Carter Blanton, a prominent member of the Jett farming community. In 1831, Blanton sold the farm to his nephew, Richard Crutcher, the son of Reverend Isaac Crutcher and Blanton’s sister, Nancy Blanton Crutcher. The 1974 National Register nomination for the farm notes: “The Crutchers were excellent farmers. Three generations of the family farmed the land and made improvements on the house until 1919 when the property was sold. It has remained a working farm with a large farmhouse, at its center, that has evolved over 180 years of active occupation.” In the 1880s, Washington Crutcher significantly increased the size of the house, turning it into the Victorian house that stands today (although the porches were removed due to deterioration and other modern features have been added).

Harrison County – The Handy House aka Ridgeway 

The Handy House, also known as Ridgeway, is located on US 62 in Cynthiana, KY. The nearly 200-year-old house was built in 1817 by Colonel William Brown, a United States Congressman and War of 1812 veteran. The farm and Federal-style house were also owned by Dr. Joel Frazer, namesake of Camp Frazer, a Union camp during the American Civil War. In the 1880s, the house underwent significant renovations by W. T. Handy, the owner from 1883-1916 and for whom the house remains named.

The Handy House checks almost every box when it comes to saving a structure: an architecturally and historically important house in good enough shape to rehabilitate, a listing on the National Register of Historic Places, qualification for the Kentucky Historic Preservation Tax Credit, and a group, the Harrison County Heritage Council and a descendant of the original owner, willing to take on the project. Unfortunately, the Handy House is jointly owned between the city and the county. County magistrates voted to tear it down, and the city opted not to vote on it with the hopes that the new council will come to a deal with the Harrison County Heritage Council, which has offered to purchase and restore the house as a community center. Read more from the Kaintuckeean’s earlier post on Ridgeway.

Jessamine County – Court Row 

Completed in 1881, Nicholasville’s Court Row is located right next to the Jessamine County Courthouse. Italianate in design and largely unchanged exterior-wise, Court Row is one of the most significant and substantial structures in downtown Nicholasville.

In a broad context, the listing of Court Row is a comment on the status of all the historic resources in downtown Nicholasville. Several threats exist that are culminating in drastic changes to the fabric of the town. Foremost, Nicholasville failed in 2013 to pass its first historic district, an overlay that would have encompassed the majority of the downtown and helped to regulate demolition and development. Then, within the past month, two historic structures were demolished, including the Lady Sterling House, an 1804 log cabin very close to the urban core. Additionally, Nicholasville is on the ‘short list’ for a new judicial center, the location of which has yet to be determined but will almost certainly have an effect on the downtown. Together, these threats present the potential for the loss of significant portions of Nicholasville’s charming downtown.

Madison County – Downtown Richmond 

Preservation has had a lot positive movement in Richmond. The Madison County Historical Society is active; the beautiful Irvinton House Museum is city-owned and the location of the Richmond Visitor’s Center; and the downtown contains a local historic district. Like most local historic districts (also known as H-1 overlays), though, the Downtown Richmond Historic District protects historic buildings and sites that are privately owned. That means that city- and county-owned sites are exempt from the H-1 regulations.

The potential damaging effects of this can already be seen. In February 2013, downtown Richmond lost the Miller House and the Old Creamery, two of its most historic buildings. Both were in the Downtown Richmond Historic District and on the National Register of Historic Places. Owned by the county, the buildings were demolished with the hopes of constructing a minimum-security prison on the site that would replicate the exterior façade of the Miller House, according to Madison Judge/Executive Kent Clark. There are several other historic sites in the urban core that are owned by either the city or the county, leading to worry about the state of preservation in Richmond’s downtown.

Mercer County – Walnut Hall

Built circa 1850 by David W. Thompson, Walnut Hall is one of Mercer County’s grand Greek Revival houses. A successful planter and native of Mercer County, Thompson left the house and 287 acres of farmland to his daughter, Sue Helm, upon his death in 1865. In 1978, Walnut Hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places along with two other important and similar Mercer County Greek Revival houses: Lynnwood (off KY Highway 33 near the border of Mercer and Boyle Counties) and Glenworth (off Buster Pike).

The James Harrod Trust has notified the Blue Grass Trust that the house may be under threat of demolition, as it is owned by a prominent Central Kentucky developer known to have bulldozed several other important historic buildings.

Scott County – Choctaw Indian Academy 

Located in Blue Springs, KY, off Route 227 near Stamping Ground, the Choctaw Indian Academy was created in 1818 on the farm of Colonel Richard M. Johnson, who served as Vice President of the United States under Martin Van Buren (1837–1841). The Academy was created using Federal funding and was intended to provide a traditional European-American education for Native Americans boys. (It was one of only two government schools operated by the Department of War – the other being West Point.) Originally consisting of five structures built prior to 1825, only one building – thought to be a dormitory – remains. By 1826, over 100 boys were attending the school, becoming well enough known to be visited by the Marquis de Lafayette in 1825. The school was relocated to White Sulphur Springs (also a farm owned by Colonel Johnson) in 1831. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Read more about the site from the Kaintuckeean’s earlier post on the Choctaw Indian Academy.

Remaining structure of Choctaw Indian Academy. Photo by Amy Palmer.

Woodford County – Versailles High School 

 Located on the corner of Maple Street and Lexington Pike in Versailles, the Versailles High School is a substantial structure built in 1928. The building operated as a high school for 35 years before becoming the Woodford County Junior High in 1963, operating as a middle school until being shuttered in 2005. After 77 years of continuous operation, the building has been empty for nearly 10 years.

With no known maintenance or preservation plan, concern exists that the historic Versailles High School will deteriorate from neglect and, ultimately, be demolished.

You can learn more about the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation on its website,

Plaques Make Historic Properties Stand Out

The Blue Grass Trust’s plaque program makes historic properties in central Kentucky easily recognizable, but they aren’t the only markers that tell the story.

Of course, homes on the National Register can (but are not required to) have plaques indicating their inclusion. But driving through central Kentucky, I’ve found at least two other organizations with plaque programs committed to raising funds for the sharing of local history.


Do you recognize these community plaques? They are from the Historic Paris/Bourbon County, Inc. and the Shelbyville Historic Society designating local Shelby County Landmarks.

Can you think of other local plaque programs?

A Plain Marker Alludes to Rich History for Duncan Tavern in Paris

Historic Marker for Duncan Tavern  – Paris, Ky.

I’m amazed at how much information we now fit into the roadside markers with great care being taken to sentence syntax, etc. In its early days, however, the program might simply list a few notable facts about a person or place being memorialized. This was the case with Duncan Tavern in Paris, Ky. Reads Marker #93:

Duncan Tavern
Built 1788
Gathering Place of Pioneers
Shrine, Museum, Library.
Restored by
Kentucky Daughters of the
American Revolution.
That’s all folks!

But if you simply bear it and must know more, (and you should, because Duncan Tavern – formerly the Goddess of Liberty – was a hotbed of political activity in Kentucky’s early days) read on!

If you have been to historic Williamsburg, Va., you know the import of the local tavern in colonial America. I think of all the taverns near Virginia’s colonial government seat, where our nation’s founders would gather to discuss the issues of the day.

When Kentucky was divided by Virginia from its original three counties, one of the earliest new counties was Bourbon County. Its seat has always been Paris (originally chartered as Hopewell, Va. [*]). Thirty-three counties have been carved from Bourbon’s original borders. Needless to say, people traveled long distances to visit the county seat of Paris. And these individuals needed a place to stay and to eat.

The Goddess of Liberty, the original name of the Duncan Tavern, was the gathering place for Kentucky’s earliest leaders, including Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, Peter Houston and Michael Stoner. [*]

The three story tavern was constructed in 1788 by Maj. Joseph Duncan. According to the Kentucky Encyclopedia, the architecture is remarkable given that most structures of the day in Paris were log buildings. According to at least one account, the tavern towered over the 20′ x 30′ log courthouse below. [*]

So while it may have a plain marker, its history is remarkable.

NoD: Hopewell Presbyterian Church

Hopewell Presbyterian Church
Hopewell Presbyterian Church, Paris, Ky.

Hopewell Presbyterian is one of the oldest church congregations in Bourbon County first holding service in 1785 and being officially recognized by the Transylvania Presbytery in 1787. Fire twice caused the church to be rebuilt, most recently in 1904.

You might recall that Paris was originally charted as Hopewell; this church remains one of the few reminders of the community’s original name. The church remains an active congregation with weekly services. Additional pictures are available on flickr.

No Destination: Paris, Kentucky & the French

Kentucky's French Connection
Flag of the Fleur-de-Lis, Paris, Ky.

Several months ago, I debated with a family member Kentucky’s French connections. They believed there were few, if any, connections. Then I began the list. The Governor’s Mansion (Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon). The Capitol (grand staircase modeled after that in the Paris Opera). Louisville (named after King Louis XVI). Versailles (no explanation necessary).

Our famed export, bourbon, is named after the House of Bourbon which was the noble line which ruled France for a couple centuries prior to losing their heads in the French Revolution. Also drawing this name is Bourbon County, of which Paris (again, no explanation necessary) is the county seat.

Flying in Paris is the flag bearing three fleur-de-lis which is the the modern French coat of arms.

Anyway, there is a strong Franco-Kentucky connection. And its strongest point is in Paris.

No Destination: Jacob Spears

Jacob Spears Marker, Bourbon Co., Ky.

My biggest mistake in driving with no destination was going down the road next to the above marker, not recognizing the “stone castle” and completely missing the Jacob Spears distillery. Fortunately, you can see someone else’s pictures here. From historic marker 2295:

Named after Bourbon Co. because of quantity and quality of whiskey produced within its borders. Made from a fermented mash of at least 51% corn, with less wheat, rye, or barley, yeast and limestone water. Distilled at no more than 160 proof and aged in charred oak barrels. In 1964, Congress recognized bourbon as a distinctly American product. 

(Reverse) Stone Castle, 1 mile south, built 1790 by Thomas Metcalfe for Jacob Spears. A Pennsylvanian who settled in Paris, he was innovative farmer & one of first distillers of bourbon whiskey. Still standing on this farm are a springhouse and a storehouse for his bourbon whiskey. It is the most complete distiller’s complex still in existence today.

In fact, it was Jacob Spears who first used the term “Bourbon” to describe his whiskey. Now, I think I’m sufficiently inspired to go sip some Makers 46.

No Destination: Eades Tavern

Eades Tavern, Paris, Ky.

Duncan Tavern, though Paris’ most famed tavern, is not Paris’ oldest. Eades Tavern is just a few doors down High Street and is just a few years older. The two taverns, opened just six years apart, were great competitors for a number of years vying for the right to sleep and board the area’s guests. Historic Marker #1824 reads:

This log building lined with adz-hewn cherry was built as a tavern. In 1795 it became first post office in Paris. Thomas Eades then served as tavern owner and postmaster. Robert Trimble had home and law office here before becoming U.S. Supreme Court justice, 1826. It became site of Lizzie Walker’s private school. Listed on National Register of Historic Places, 1973.

Justice Trimble represented the Paris area in the Kentucky House of Representatives and served as chief justice on the Kentucky Court of Appeals; he is buried at the Paris Cemetery. He was appointed to the Supreme Court by President John Quincy Adams to fill the “Kentucky vacancy” and upon recommendation of Secretary of State Henry Clay. Yes, that’s right – there used to be a “Kentucky seat” on the Supreme Court!

No Destination: Site of Fairfield

Site of Fairfield
Site of Fairfield, Bourbon Co., Ky.

US-27 between Paris and Cynthiana is filled with historic markers. At each sign, I dutifully pull over to explore.  Historic Marker #82, Site of Fairfield:

One mile northeast. Built by James Garrard, second Governor of Kentucky, 1796-1800; reelected 1800-04. Bourbon County’s first court held here, 1786. Near here, Mt. Lebanon, Kentucky’s earliest Governor’s mansion.

Mt. Lebanon was actually Gov. Garrard’s residence, constructed by him in 1782 on the Stoner Fork of the Licking River. He is buried at Mt. Lebanon. Fairfield was Gov. Garrard’s son’s home and was adjacent to Mt. Lebanon. Many Garrard family members – a major family in Kentucky’s history – claimed Fairfield as their birthplace.