Washington, KY Old Court House

Washington KY Court House

Mason County’s first courthouse located in Washington, which had been established as a town in 1786 by an act of the Virginia Legislature. Made “of brick and stone,” the building was opened on 26 October 1796. On the outside of the building, in an area called “publick grounds,” there was a section fenced off for “stray pens” where lost or stray livestock were placed for owners to identify and recover. Another outdoors section was the pillory or whipping post where culprits received 20 lashes as punishment. After 115 years, lightning struck the courthouse (Friday, 13 August 1909) and burned the building.

The August 13, 1909 Public Ledger's article states "what yesterday was one of the most venerable and celebrated public buildings in the United States is this morning but a smoking mass of embers. During this morning's storm about 6 o'clock the quietude of the people of Washington was broken and the whole village startled by a flash of lightning, followed by a crashing peal of thunder, and in a few seconds it was seen that the bolt of heaven had found a "shining mark" and that the beloved old Washington Courthouse, after 115 years of dignified public service, had answered the call of time and history, and, wrapped in a pall of smoke, its noble timbers and staunch floors, which had reverberated with the matchless eloquence of Thomas Corwine, T. F. Marshall, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and scores of other noted world statesmen, became food for the flames and a sacrifice to the remorseless call of nature and destiny. "The old Washington Courthouse" we can truthfully say, was known the world over, and pictures of the venerable structure, whose modest steeple- "a pencil in the sky" - was prominent from Maine to California, was the historic pride of Washington, Mason county and old Kentucky. The building was built of limestone and erected in 1794 by Louis Craig, the pioneer Baptist Minister, who was a charter member of the early settlers of Kentucky. Washington remained the capital of Mason county from 1792 until May, 1848, - 56 years - when the county seat was moved to Maysville.

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