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  • Chad Hobbs/Bruce Stith

Exploring the rich history of Meade County's first 200 years

   This Sunday, December 17, 2023, is the 200th anniversary, or bicentennial, of Meade County’s creation. In the coming days, we will share various articles celebrating the county’s birthday, and its rich history. The following piece is the first part of an article written by Meade Countian Bruce Stith. Today’s selection focuses on how Meade County was formed. The second part of the article, which will be released tomorrow, focuses on the man Meade County was named in honor of.

Meade County

Part 1: The creation of a county


As Meade County celebrates its bicentennial anniversary this year, we want to remember how it began.

A map of Kentucky before Meade County's creation when its land made up parts of Hardin and Breckinridge Counties (or in this map's case, Brackenridge).

Meade County was created by an act of the Kentucky legislature on December 17, 1823. It was formed from parts of Breckinridge and Hardin counties and consists of 325 square miles. Its northern border is the Hit River along which it runs for 70 miles. The original boundary between Breckinridge and Hardin counties ran from Big Spring to Wolf Creek. The Act, which consists of one page with 9 sections, stipulates the general borders of the county; where the first county court is to be held (at the home of John Rush), the number of justices for the court (8) and when they are to meet, on the 4th Monday in March, which will be when the Act goes into effect. The Act further stipulates that a county seat be chosen and a courthouse be built with a town laid out by survey.

   The first court was held on March 22, 1824, in John Rush’s house at Buck Grove with the following men present, who produced a commission from the governor of Kentucky, John Adair, that entitled them to serve: Joseph Stith, John H. Trent, William Ditto, James B. Woolfolk, William Garrett, Robt. W. Washington, Joseph Atwell, and William Foushee. They administered oaths to each other and Benjamin Shacklett produced a commission from the governor appointing himself sheriff. Then the court appointed a Clerk, William Fairleigh, who had been an assistant clerk in Hardin County. The county was then divided into three districts and constables were appointed.

   In the next meeting on April 24, Nathan Raitt produced a commission from the governor appointing himself the county surveyor. At this meeting, they decided upon the head of Doe Run as the location of the county seat and is to be laid off in lots and named Claysville. Also at this meeting, Nathan Raitt was directed to survey the county lines. The majority of the court’s time was appointing other surveyors to lay out roads. Jesse Shacklette produced a commission from the governor appointing himself coroner.

   Nathan Raitt reported back in August that the survey was finished. The border of Meade County began at a point on the Ohio River, halfway between the mouths of Salt River and Otter Creek, then SE 8.16 miles to a point on the Salt River-Leitchfield Road, then 4.24 miles to Brushy Fork where it flows into Otter Creek, then 7.77 miles to Big Spring. Then the border runs 24 miles to the lower end of Flint Island on the Ohio River. However, this border is not straight. At about the midpoint, it veers 4 degrees to go around Absalom Carr’s plantation so all of his plantation could be in Meade County. This had been stipulated in the original Act of December 1823. The man must have had some pull.

   By legislative act, the county seat was moved to Brandenburg on January 6, 1825, and the home of Solomon Brandenburg became the new courthouse. The court paid rent to Mr. Brandenburg until the new courthouse was built.

   The first jail was completed in April 1826 on East Hill, and the first courthouse was completed in August 1826. This was the building made of brick for the clerk’s office, with the main building of logs located on the east hill. A second courthouse was built in 1850-51 on the shelf of land above the ferry landing where Solomon Brandenburg had built a tavern. This brick building was torn down 20 years later, and a new brick building was built almost in the same place. This served as a courthouse from 1873 to 1974 (the year it was struck by the tornado that ripped through Meade County and destroyed a large portion of Brandenburg).

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