Owensboro, KY

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Early History

Owensboro, the County seat of Daviess County, is located on the south bank of the Ohio River, at what was known to the early keel and flat-boat men as the Big Yellow Banks. The name was given because of the deep yellow color of the river bank, composed of yellow clay, extending about six miles along the river, and from ten to twenty feet above the highest floods in the Ohio. The site was selected as the County seat in 1815, by Commissioners appointed by the first County Court, held in April of that year. The survey of the first plat of the town extended from the Ohio River and a ravine on the north, to Fourth Street on the south, and from Lewis Street on the east to Walnut Street on the west. The survey and plat thereof was completed by Captain James W. Johnson, the first County Surveyor, on the 23rd day of March, 1816, and approved by the Commissioners and Court with the name of Rossboro, and ratified by the agent and owners of the land, George Hanley being agent for Ross and other proprietors. Later the name was changed to Owensboro, in honor of Colonel Abram Owen, formerly of Shelby County, Kentucky. Colonel Joseph Hamilton Daveiss and Colonel Owen were both officers serving under General W. H. Harrison at the bloody battle with the Indians under Tecumseh at Tippecanoe, now Indiana, but then Indiana Territory. Both fell in the thickest of the fight. The County had already received the name of Daveiss, and the old settlers, some of whom had been in the same battle in which Daviess and Owen were killed, determined, as a mark of respect, to link the names of the two together for all time to come. They had been associates and friends in life, fell together in battle, and it was appropriate that their names be joined after death.

The old name of "Yellow Banks," however, still clung to the place, and the town was hardly known by any other name, even by the citizens, until about 1839 or 1840. The post-office bore the name of 'Yellow Banks' up to the time of 1837 or 1838. In 1833, the population was scarcely 200 all told, and not a single church edifice or organization. The increase in population was small until 1850. A branch of the Southern Bank was located in Owensboro about that time. The power of the Trustees had been enlarged by Legislative action, and those officials began to drain and improve the streets. The action of the Trustees, and the fact that the Bank was one of the institutions of the place, gave assurance that there was some money in town, and seemed to infuse new life into the citizens, even the old fogy part of the population, which had been averse to enterprise. Improvements began to be made. Better houses were commenced, new-comers poured in and a steady growth was maintained until 1861, when the war put a stop to all enterprise and public improvement. The population decreased, and not until 1866 did improvements begin again or was an increase of population noted. A moderate but perceptible degree of progress and growth has continued until now in 1875, when the population is estimated at about 8,000.

Owensboro contains churches of the following denominations: Baptist, Cumberland Presbyterian, Catholic, Methodist, Southern Presbyterian, Northern Presbyterian, Christian or Campbellite, Baptist, Episcopal, German Catholic, German Lutheran. The above have been named in the order of their establishment. There is also a colored Baptist, and a colored Methodist church. All, except two, of the houses of worship, are substantial brick structures, with a capacity of seating over one half of the entire population. There are three banks-the Deposit Bank, Planters' Bank, and Savings Bank. The public schools are two in number, each with a full roll of professors and teachers. The school buildings are large and commodious brick edifices, with a capacity for 900 to 1000 pupils. The Catholic Sisters have a female school with about 100 pupils, and the Vaughan Female Seminary, of which Mrs. E. S. Phillips is proprietress, is an institution richly meriting the patronage of the community. There are several other private schools in the city, altogether accommodating from 1000 to 1100 pupils. There are also one or two schools for colored children. Prominent among the other institutions of the city are sixteen stemming and prizing tobacco establishments. The smallest has a capacity for handling 600,000 pounds, whilst several of the largest have each a capacity for handling 2,000,000 pounds of tobacco each season. All of the together have a capacity of almost 20,000,000 pounds. There are also two planing mills, one furniture factory, a wheel, hub, and handle factory, chair factory, stave and barrel factory, with quite a number of wagon and carriage factories, blacksmith shops, carpenter shops, cabinet shops, etc.

In the "professional" class of the community is numbered twelve or thirteen physicians, some of them quite eminent in their professions. About thirty practicing lawyers constitute one of the strongest bars in the State. Merchants, grocers, and all the trades are well represented.

County Organization

Daviess County was formed in the year 1815. The County received its name from General Joseph H. Daveiss, whose residence for some years was on the Ohio River above Owensboro. The name should have been spelled "Daveiss," but through a mistake in enrolling the bill during its passage through the Legislature, the name was spelled "Daviess," and from that time down this way has been adopted of spelling the name of the County.

The following embraces the persons who have filled the various official positions in enumeration with the government and organization of the County:

Judges of the Circuit Court
Henry P. Broadnax 1815-1822
Alney McLean 1822-1842
John Calhoon 1842-1851
John P. Devereux 1851
Jesse W. Kincheloe 1851-1856
James Stuart 1856-1867
James L. Johnson 1867
George W. Williams 1867-1870
Martin H. Cofer 1870-1874
James Stuart 1874-1880
Lucius P. Little 1880-

Besides these, special Judges were appointed at various times, among whom were John. H. McHenry and George H. Yeaman.

Clerks of the Circuit Court
George Handley 1815-1827
Horace Allen 1827-1832
John S. McFarland 1832-1845
William B. Wall 1845-1856
John P. Thompson 1856-1862
Ward Payne 1862
Joseph Thomas 1862-1868
M. L. Ogden 1868
John P. Thompson 1868-1872
Joseph Thomas 1872
John G. McFarland 1872-1874
Frank F. Conway 1874

The first Clerk, George Handley retained his position until April 1827, when he resigned the duties of the office. Horace Allen, who had previously acted as Deputy, became Clerk. Allen died while in office and was succeeded by John S. McFarland, who resigned the position October, 1845. John P. Thompson also died while server as Clerk.

Sheriffs of Daviess County
Charles Y. Duncan 1815-1821
William Glenn 1821-1823
John Piles 1823-1825
Remus Griffith 1825-1827
J. Leman 1827-1829
Warner Crow 1829-1831
John Daveiss 1831-1833
R. C. Jett 1833-1835
S. Hawes 1835-1837
E. McCreery 1837-1838
R. C. Jett 1838-1839
William Newton 1839-1841
William B. Baird 1841
Joseph M. Potts 1841-1843
John G. Howard 1843-1845
Henry Dugan 1845-1847
Abner Lee 1847-1849
C. D. Jackson 1849-1851
Thomas Landrum 1851-1855
Joseph G. Harrison 1855-1859
John Locke 1859-1863
Joseph G. Harrison 1863-1866
W. H. Perkins 1866-1868
H. W. Scott 1868-1872
W. H. Perkins 1873-1874
H. W. Scott 1874-1876
J. H. Gates 1876-1878
Ed. C. Davis 1878-1882
A. B. Miller 1882
County Judges
Thomas W. Watkins 1850-1854
George H. Yeaman 1854-1858
A. G. Botts 1858-1866
George W. Triplett Elected in 1866-'70-'74
H. W. Scott 1879

In 1788, when this portion of Kentucky was Nelson County, it was represented by John Steele and Matthew Walton, in the convention which ratified the present Constitution of the United States.

Of the earliest justices of the peace, we mention the names of John Calhoon, and eminent lawyer and great man; John Daveiss, who was acting in 1818; and Warner Crow, who had the office at least from 1818-1823.