Washington vs Maysville - 1846-1847

A little over 160 years ago there arose a controversy in Mason County that pitted neighbor against neighbor and family against family.
Early in 1847 arose the issue to become all important to Mason County, that of removing the seat of county justice from Washington to Maysville. It is doubtful if any controversy ever held throughout the county created the tension and high feeling brought about by this issue.
Quite naturally it could not be regarded lightly. Bluntly to move the court house from Washington meant the political and active death of the town; to remove it to Maysville, meant proclaiming the importance of that town over it’s adversary – Washington. Washington had been the county seat since 1792.
The contention was at first general, then it became a matter of private war among individuals. And the battle was yet hardly begun.
One popular election was held to determine the sense of the people of the county relative to the removal, this at the annual election of 1846. By the vote it appeared that 1303 votes were in favor of the removal, which did not constitute a majority of the legal voters in Mason County. Following this election petitions were circulated and apparently every voter in the county was represented as favoring the removal. However, an act of the general assembly was procured by the minority, wherein was provided that it should be the duty of the Sheriff and several deputy sheriffs of Mason County at the next annual election to open the regular polls for a vote again relative to the change. The vote was in the hands of the judges of the election, who at the time of the voting the applicant, should ask his opinion concerning the removal and thereby place his vote for or against the move. The red tape connected with this election and the returns for the same would appall even hard boiled election officers of today.
However, the election came and the vote was taken: 1,426 voted to move the court house to Maysville, 1,194 against it. This majority closed the case so far as voting was concerned. But not yet was it ended.
Finally, on Tuesday, January 11, 1847, the bill to change the seat of justice was reported by the Committee of Propositions and Grievances in the Kentucky House of Representatives. Resolving itself into a Committee of the Whole the House on motion of Mr Merriweather, Mr Harrison Taylor, William R, Beatty and Thomas Y. Payne were permitted to discuss the bill. The whole of the day, Payne, Taylor and Beatty did not let the session rest. Beatty, without concluding his speech, giving way for adjournment.
Nest day Beatty concluded his stirring, if somewhat lengthy speech, and Waller began. His speech likewise was not concluded before adjournment at noon. His talk in behalf of the removal finished, the committee then rose and reported the bill to the House. The question being upon ordering the Bill to a third reading Mr McHenry and Mr Deveraux were the principals in opposition to the Bill. Sweeping all else before it, the Bill occupied the every attention of the House for days.
On January 14, a vote was taken on the final passage of the Bill and it was rejected by a vote of yeas 48, nays 52.
Waller saved the day. In the House he moved a reconsideration of the vote that he might introduce a substitute for the original bill, referring the matter for final consideration without subsequent Legislation, to the voters of Mason County, and again the matter went back to the Committee on Propositions and Grievances.
Finally, on the 28th of January, Mr Waller succeeded in securing an amendment so as to require Maysville to express and receive a majority of 150 votes cast at the election. The amendment was passed by a vote of 67 yeas to 30 nays. So did it pass to the Senate, where it came in for a share of debate hardly surpassed in the House. Here Ky of Mason County tried to have stricken out several clauses of the Bill and was successfully opposed by Boyd of Fleming County. And on the 16th of February 1847, came the moment in the Senate when the Clerk reported the Bill providing for the taking of a vote in August next upon removing the county seat. Mr James offered a resolution to lay the Bill on the table, which motion prevailed by a vote of 18 yeas, nays 15. And the struggle was ended. The colorful career of Washington was soon to belong to the realms of romance. Maysville had become the metropolis of Mason County.

Credit Cliff's History of Maysville and Mason County Kentucky

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