Jefferson's Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy

By Boynton Merrill Jr. | Go to book overview

17
LILBURNE ENTERS
PUBLIC LIFE

EVEN THOUGH several aspects of the Lewises' private lives were going badly, Randolph and Lilburne, in the Virginia tradition, began to take part in community affairs. At the beginning of the year Livingston had been divided to form Caldwell County, and the county seat of Livingston was removed from Centerville. At the end of June the circuit court was convened in “a new house prepared for that purpose on the lands of William C. Rodgers.”1 This was the first time the court had met at Salem, a location more than ten miles closer to Smithland and Rocky Hill than Centerville had been. Among those serving on the grand jury at that June term of court were both Randolph and Lilburne Lewis. The foreman of that grand jury was Col. Jonathan Ramsey, one of Livingston's most important citizens. Ramsey was an early resident of the area, having been one of the original county magistrates. A surveyor, it was he who made the first plat of Smithland.2 He was also a lawyer, a member of the state legislature, and a colonel in the state militia. If wealth can be indicated by ownership of slaves, Ramsey, who owned fifteen, was comparatively well off.3 Three other members of that grand jury were magistrates: Obediah Roberts, Edward Lacey, and Moses Shelby, Revolutionary War hero and brother of Isaac Shelby, Kentucky's first governor.4 Also on the grand jury were William Pippin and Thomas Hodge, two men whom Lilburne would meet on another grand jury a few years later. Thomas Champion, also on the jury, had just begun his climb in the official county hierarchy as constable. A resident of Salem, Champion would hold several county jobs in the next few years: keeper of the stray pen, tax collector, “padroller,” deputy sheriff, trustee of Salem, and jailer.5 If Lilburne had not met these men before, he would learn to know them well enough in the future, as he would the circuit court judges and John Gray, the commonwealth's attorney.

In Kentucky a circuit judge was assigned to each of the ten ju

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