Welcome to Franklin County, KY History
Five magistrates were appointed at the September term of the Court of Quarter Session in 1802 to review proposals for building a courthouse. Land had been given by the Legislature and at the May term in 1803, Christopher Greenup, Daniel James and Daniel Weisiger were appointed commissioners to oversee the construction of the courthouse.
In 1806 the first Franklin County courthouse was completed. Located on the southeast corner of Capitol Square, the building was three stories and constructed of brick. The Hiram Lodge had been granted permission to construct the third floor, at their own expense, for use as a Mason Hall. Stone corner post were set and a rail fence was constructed around the grounds.
Franklin Counties first courthouse was the scene of two important trials. On October 15, 1806, The Western World, a Frankfort newspaper accused Aaron Burr and others of conspiring against the United States. Judge Innis convened an extra term of the grand jury, even though he refused a request for a warrant against Burr. The grand jury, after some heated arguments, ignored the charges against Burr.
In early 1826, there was again excitement in the courthouse. Jereboam O. Beauchamp, an attorney from Glasgow, Kentucky, was accused and found guilty of the murder of Colonel Solomon P. Sharp.
The Courthouse had other uses in the community. John "Raccoon" Smith, uneducated and rough around edges, came to Frankfort to preach the gospel. After being turned away from all the churches in Frankfort, John began to preach his sermons in the courthouse to legislators, lawyers and professional men. The Christian Church was organized in the first Franklin County Courthouse, by Philip S. Fall and for a short time church meetings where conducted there.
On December 19, 1831, John H. Hanna, J. Dudley and J. J. Marshall conveyed to the county, a lot located on St. Clair Street. In June of 1832, Gideon Shryock submitted a plan for the new courthouse. His plan was accepted and construction completed in 1835. The Greek Revival courthouse was constructed of stone, quarried from land owned by Phillip Swigert. In the cupola, stood a clock purchased in Philadelphia by the City of Frankfort. The courthouse contained two floors; the first a court room with jury rooms on the second floor. County offices were located in a brick building beside the courthouse. A separate two story brick building located next to the courthouse was owned by the Masons and was used as the county clerk's office. Entrance to the clerks office was gained from the alley behind the courthouse and up a flight of iron stairs.
Over the years the courthouse has been remodeled, however, structural changes to front exterior of the building have been minimal. In 1909, the second floor of the courthouse was raised about three feet. The courtroom was moved to the second floor and the added space on the first floor used for offices of all county officials. The back of the courthouse was extended thirty feet. These fire-proof rooms were constructed of concrete and housed the County and Circuit Court Clerk's offices, In 1927 more renovations were made to the courthouse. And, again in 1949, the office of the County Clerk was again enlarged. Today, the County Clerk's Office is again located in the old two-story building, once owned by the Masons. Completely remolded, entrance is located on Main Street.
In September 1994, the office of the Franklin County Circuit Court Clerk, was the scene of a damaging fire and some current records were destroyed. The fire, later to be discovered as arson, was the act of a local resident hoping to avoid prosecution by burning his court documents. At this time the Franklin County Courthouse under went major renovation, however, still no major changes in the exterior of the building.
History of Kentucky Courthouses, by Elisabeth Headley Garr
History of Franklin County, by L. F. Johnson
Capital on the Kentucky, by Kramer
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