Friday, April 21, 2006

Berea Elections in 1901

The election for governor in 1899, which culminated in Republican charges that Democrats had stolen the race and the assaination of candidate William Goebel, created a climate of political mistrust and suspicion that affected the 1901 local elections in Berea. The controversy arose when the Berea town council nominated S.E. Welch Jr., a prominent Republican and business leader, as its new police judge, but the Deomocratic governor, J.C.W. Beckham, appointed Democrat H.C. Kinnard.

Outraged by this action, Republicans in Berea chose a straight Republican ticket for the fall elections. In the past, though Berea was a Republican bastion in Madison County, the town elections had customarily been nonpartisan. John L. Gay withdrew from the madistrate's race and filed for police judge. Wm. J. Tatum agreed to run for marshal. W.R. Gabbard, S.E. Welch Jr., T.J. Osborne, J.W. Stephens, and Josiah Burdette ran for town council. As a result, a rival caucus met and nominated a nonpartisan slate consisting of both Democrats and Republicans: E.T. Fish for police judge; Hiram Richardson for marshal; and Jas. Stigal, L.V. Dodge, J.J. Branaman, R.G. Ramsey, and R.W. Todd for town council.

The Berea Citizen worried that this partisan reaction to the Governor's appointment was "an unfortunate game of 'tit for tat.'" The paper wrote that the trouble had begun when "some mischievous person" had incited Governor Beckham to appoint a Democrat for police judge who had not been nominated by the town council. The Citizen observed that "this tyranny" had consigned Berea "to a state of anarchy for several months" and prophesied that a hudge amount of good will would be needed to see Berea through the next election in peace.

Hard feelings seemed inevitable as the two slates traded charges in speeches and letters to the paper. On November 5, 1901, the entire Republican slate was elected by a wide margin. John L. Gay went on to serve as police judge until 1909 when he was elected the first mayor of Berea, a position he held for 48 years. The anarchy predictated by the Citizen was a mere shadow of the violence that surrounded the Goebel election and assasination, but the suspicion and mistrust felt by many Republicans in Berea was real, and the appointment by Governor Beckham was viewed as an act of tyrany. Many in Berea viewed the selection of the police judge as an exercise of political sovereignty.

See Klotter, James C., William Goebel: The Politics of Wrath, The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 1977, 79-80; Klotter, James C., Kentucky: Portrait in Paradox, 1900-1950, The University of Kentucky Press, Lexington, KY, 1997, 52; The New York Times, 1Feb1900, p6; Ibid, 22May1900, p5; Berea Citizen, 23May1900, p1, 5; 25Apr1901; 16May1901; 30May1901; 11Jul1901; 3)ct1901; 7Nov1901; 17Oct1901; 24Oct1901; and 31Oct1901.


Blogger LBryant said...

Reading about the issues that resulted from the 1st democratic governor elected in Kentucky was interesting. A life time Berea resident ( Laura Howard Huff Barrett ) was the niece of J. Howard that was one of the 3 accused assasians and actually spent 7 years in jail ( until a republican governor was relected and pardoned him )

5:18 PM  

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