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Biography of Joshua Cates

A remarkable character and an energetic business man was Joshua Cates. Few now living remember him personally, or that he was once an influential citizen of the county. He was no common man in anything, not even in his eccentricities and peculiarities, for these were his most charming characteristics. It is said that he bore a strong resemblance to Napoleon Bonaparte, and that he was as great a man in his way as the little Corsican Lieutenant. He was not learned in the books, but he was rich and original in intellect, and rough sometimes in his speech, but still noble in a rugged way. He was as indifferent to fine dress as he was to the opinions of the world at large. He moved everything by his own prompting, and was as busy and energetic as the day was long. He did not eat or sleep like other people, but only indulged in these necessities (or luxuries) when nature compelled it, and whenever and wherever the feeling overtook him. He rarely sat down to his own table (or for that matter to any one else’s) but took a lunch in his fingers and went about his business, and when sleep overcame him, like Sancho Panza blessing its inventor, he lay down and slept, whether in his own house, on his own grounds, or by the roadside, and when exhausted nature was restored, he arose and resumed his work. Joshua Cates was a native of South Carolina, and came to Christian County when its capital was the puniest of villages. One of his peculiarities was, and in this he...

Biography of Hon. Robert P. Henry

The son of a Revolutionary soldier and the representative of a distinguished family was Robert P. Henry. He was born in 1788 in Scott County, Ky., where his father, Gen. William Henry, had settled among the first in that region. He graduated in Transylvania University at Lexington, and studied law with Henry Clay. In 1809 he was admitted to the bar, and the same year was appointed Commonwealth’s Attorney for the district. He served in the war of 1812 as aid to his father, with the rank of Major. In 1811 he married Miss Gabriella F. Pitts, of Georgetown, Ky., and some years after the close of the war of 1812 he removed to Christian County, where he continued to reside to the end of his life. Soon after he came to Hopkinsville he was appointed Commonwealth’s Attorney, a position he filled with ability. He was elected to Congress from this district in 1823, and re-elected in 1825. As a member of the Committee on “Roads and Canals ” was instrumental in obtaining the first appropriation ever granted for the improvement of the Mississippi River. While in Congress he was appointed a Judge of the Court of Appeals, an honor he declined. He died suddenly before the close of his second congressional term, and before he had hardly reached the prime of life. As a lawyer, Mr. Henry was positive in his positions when taken. He rapidly gained a practice, which steadily increased until he entered the political field. He was a good pleader, and his address to a jury was always clear, logical and often eloquent. His mental...

Biography of Gov. John M. Palmer

John M. Palmer was born in Scott County, Kentucky, September 13, 1817, and soon after his birth his father, who had been a soldier in the war of 1812, removed to Christian County, where lands were then cheap. John M. is still remembered by many of the old citizens as a bright, intelligent boy, fond of reading, and who lost no opportunity to improve his mind. He received such education as the new and sparsely settled country afforded, and in 1831 his father removed to Illinois. Shortly after a college was opened at Alton on the “manual labor system,” and in the spring of 1834 young Palmer entered the institution, where he remained for eighteen months. He commenced the study of the law in 1838, and the next year was admitted to the bar, when he opened an office at Carlinville. In the early years of his professional life he mingled in local politics more or less. In 1843 he became Probate Judge; in 1847 he was elected to the Constitutional Convention and in 1852 to the State Senate. His father, although a strong Jackson Democrat, was opposed to slavery, and removed to Illinois to escape its influences, like many others of similar ideas. In 1854 John took ground in opposition to the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and when the Nebraska question was made a political issue, he declined a nomination to the Senate at the hands of the Democracy. When the civil conflict broke out, he was among the first to offer his services, and was made Colonel of the Fourteenth Illinois Volunteers. He rose to the...

Biography of Hon. Rezin Davidge

Among the early practitioners at the bar of Christian County, none surpassed in profound legal attainments Rezin Davidge. He was a brilliant and forcible speaker, an excellent judge of law, and a faithful and conscientious attorney. Strength of mind and purity of purpose were his leading traits. In his profession of the law, these made him a great chancery lawyer, no doubt one of the ablest the county knew in the early period of its history. In that branch of the law practice, that sometimes requires scheming and cunning diplomacy, he was neither great nor very successful, a proof that his nature was faithful and just, and that his integrity of mind was better adapted to the equity courts. Judge Davidge was a native of Maryland, born in Baltimore County about the year 1770, and came to Kentucky soon after its admission into the Union as a State. He died in Hopkinsville, at ninety-seven years of age, and sleeps in the beautiful cemetery adjacent to the city. He came of a noted and wealthy family, and received all the educational advantages afforded by the infant Republic, with a finishing course in Europe. Thus his mental cultivation had been extensive, and his reading of a wider range than the average young man was able to obtain. In early life he served as midshipman in the United States Navy, and distinguished him-self as a gallant young officer. He had read law before his visit to the old country, and after a stay there of a year or two, enjoying the advantages of wisdom derived from such men as Pitt and Fox,...

Biography of Hon. Ninian Edwards

The eminent character of this gentleman requires more than a passing mention, in fact, a sketch of the early courts and bar of Christian County would be imperfect without an extended notice of him and his many public services. He has left a record in two States that time cannot efface. As a lawyer, jurist and statesman he was pre-eminently great. For nearly forty years he devoted his best energies to the service of his country, wielding an influence exceeded by few of his day and time. At the period when Judge Ninian Edwards lived his most active life, the surroundings were such as we know little or nothing of now except by tradition. The pioneer people were rough, rude, simple, sincere, honest, warm-hearted and hospitable. In the young State were the two extremes, the rude simplicity, and the gifted, brilliant children of genius, and amid these surroundings Judge Edwards trod his pathway of life, the pure politician, lawyer and statesman. He was born in 1775, in Montgomery County, Md. His father, Benjamin Edwards, was a native of Virginia, and a man of considerable prominence, having served in the Maryland Legislature, in the State Convention which ratified the Federal Constitution, and also represented his State in Congress from 1793 to 1795. Ninian Edwards graduated in Dickinson College, Pennsylvania. He studied law and medicine, and practiced the former with great success. He came to Kentucky in 1794, and devoted some time to the improvement of a farm in Nelson County, located by his father, and on which his father’s family settled in 1800. He was elected to the Kentucky Legislature in...

Biographical Sketch of William B. Blackburn

One of the first resident lawyers of Hopkinsville, and one of the able men of the State, was William B. Blackburn. He came from Woodford County about 1799, a young lawyer just admitted to the bar. He remained four or five years, and during his stay made his home in the family of Bartholomew Wood, the pioneer of Hopkinsville. What his success was while practicing law here is not known, as there is no one here now who knew him then, and it is only through Col. Buckner, of Louisville, who served in the Legislature with him many years later that any facts of him have been obtained. He finally returned to Woodford County probably about 1803, and for years was a prominent lawyer and politician there. He served in the Lower House of the Legislature from 1804 to 1816 inclusive, with the exception of 1808-09-10; and from 1825 to 1828 inclusive. He served in the Senate in 1818-20, 1822-24, and 1832-34, and was an active member throughout his long term of service. He was a brother to Dr. Churchill Blackburn, of Covington, Kentucky, and a cousin of Edward M. Blackburn-the father of ex-Governor, and of Senator Joe Blackburn. He died about 1842 at his home in Woodford...

Biography of Hon. Benjamin Shackelford

But few men of his day and time, a period when judges held office during good behavior, occupied the circuit bench longer than Judge Benjamin Shackelford. For thirty-six years-more than the average of human life-he presided over the Circuit Court of this judicial district. And during that time fewer of his decisions were reversed by the higher courts than of any judge, perhaps, in the State. Although making no parade of it, Judge Shackelford possessed in a full measure that absolute incorruptibility that insures purity in the administration of the law. His judgments were always distinctly marked with impartiality and even-handed justice. He believed in those fundamental principles embodied in our organic law-that every person ought ” to obtain right and justice freely, and without being obliged to purchase it,” and that he ought ” to find a certain remedy in the laws for all injuries and wrongs which he may receive in his person, property or reputation.” More endorsing than a monument of granite are the impartial acts of such a man. The questions discussed in the thirty-six years he was upon the bench are of the utmost importance, and are such as would naturally be expected to arise in that formative period of a rapidly growing State, and especially in one that has risen to the proportions of an empire in itself. He rests from his labors, but his name still lives, and is a synonym of official integrity, purity and honesty. Judge Shackelford remained upon the circuit bench until the adoption of the new Constitution of the State, which made the office elective. He was a...
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