Kentucky Stories and Tips

Visiting 4 Courthouses in the Afternoon

Clark County Courthouse Photo, Winchester, Kentucky

My wife was finished with teaching school and home by 11:15. The car was packed and a haircut was the only requirement that had to be completed before we were on the road. The trim took what seemed like an hour to accomplish and in 20 minutes it was over. Once again, we were off heading eastward on I-64.
We’d been on this stretch of the interstate many times in our visits to various parts of the Commonwealth and today was no different other than the cloudy skies were with us. The forecast was for rain and as we drove darker clouds began to move in from the southwest. By the time we arrived in Winchester, KY it was raining.
Winchester is the county seat of Clark County. There are 120 counties in Kentucky and my wife and I have been to many of them photographing the courthouses. Winchester is also home to Ale-8-One, which has been bottled here since 1926 and very unique to this region of the state. It’s also home to a historic site named Holly Road, which was built in 1814 by James Clark, the 13th governor of the state.
The courthouse was easy to spot as we entered the historic part of town. It has a steeple in the center with a clock on top. It’s white in color and construction was started in 1853 with completion in 1855 and is a colonial design. It has been through two renovations, the first in 1938 with a grant from the Works Progress Administration, and the second in 1978.
Daniel Boone came here often with results from his many land surveys that he performed and recorded. Another famous person, Henry Clay, began and ended his legal carrier here as a jury lawyer.
This section of downtown has elevated sidewalks, which were common over 100 years ago and the lampposts have 5 globes on them. There are small, quaint shops along the street and restaurants scattered about. Right across from the courthouse is a small hot dog eatery which was emitting a wonderful aroma. A visit here takes one back to a slower pace of life and there is much to see and do.
The rain came and between showers I was able to take some photos. Then we were back on I-64 for a short drive and then onto the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway. This 4 lane road is divided in the center and leads into the center of the eastern part of the state. As you travel along the road, mountains begin to appear on all sides, which in the Fall can be spectacular.
Our destination was Stanton, KY which is the county seat of Powell County. This is where the Red River Gorge begins, which is known for it’s hiking and rock climbing. As we entered town, the rain was on and off and the sky was still overcast. Stanton has a population of 3029 with an average income of $13,521, well below the national poverty level.
The courthouse was not hard to find and was made of brick and built in 1978 and is one story and very modern in appearance. Like many of the older courthouses we’d seen, this one had a clock on a tower too.
Out front there was a water fountain and a statue of Woody Stephens, the famous horse trainer who won many Kentucky Derbies and who was from Stanton. Across the street was a War Memorial honoring all the branches of service to our country. As the rain returned we headed out of town.
Forty minutes later, we were in Frenchburg, KY, the county seat of Menifee County and the weather was clearing up. The courthouse is a combination of the old and the new, joined together into one structure. The old portion was completed in 1928 and resembles a Gothic tower and is topped by a colonial cupola. We entered through the old portion and spoke to the security guard at the door who allowed us to roam around the building, take photos and even go into the main court room, which was dark and not in use.
Across the street, on the corner of the busy intersection was a small Corner Café where we had coffee, tea with an order of onion rings and cheese sticks. The waitress’ small 4 year old daughter came up and sat with us. She said that her friend "got’s a pool" and asked if we wanted to go swimming. Her grandfather was at a table in the corner and he was telling a story about some man who was released from prison and went back to using drugs, which are rampant in this part of the state. The story went on and we learned that his wife was upset with him and shot him twice, the second shot to insure that he was dead. The people we met were friendly in this small town, and work is hard to find for those growing up and entering the work force. Many are lucky to graduate high school. Drugs are very much a part of the lives of these people and there are billboards along the small roads with phone numbers where help can be found. You can only hope and pray that the little children, like the girl we met, are able to grow up and have a bright future.
Our final destination was Mount Sterling in Montgomery County. When we arrived the sun was out and we went to the courthouse before going to our hotel. The courthouse was built in 1960 and is a modern colonial design with columns in front. It is made of red brick and the prettiest we’d seen today. There have been six courthouses in the city since the county was founded. During the Civil War the Union Army used it as a headquarters and the Confederate forces burned it in 1863.
The city is also home to Ruth Hunt Candy, the official candy of the Kentucky Derby. The city was founded in 1792 and there are many buildings here well over 200 years old. It is a city that you can walk around and feel safe as the sun sets.
We checked into the Fairfield Inn for the night. Our room was on the first floor and the layout was like all the Fairfield Inns.
We went to dinner at Terry and Kathy’s on Main and enjoyed a good country meal. It is a favorite of the local people. As we ate, we overhead people talking about the local high school football team and learned that they were playing at home against Clark County.
What a coincidence! We started the day off in Clark County and ended it in Montgomery County and the two teams were playing each other. Our waitress gave us directions to the game and for $5 per person we entered towards the end of the 1st quarter. Montgomery County was behind 12 to nothing. We watched the game as the sun set and the sky went through all sorts of pink and red colors. I imagine a lot had to due to the clean air. If you’ve never been to a small town and watched the local team play, you have to at some point in life.
The fans were separated by the players on the field and there was plenty of action and excitement to keep you pulling for the home team. As half time approached, the band congregated in the end of the field where we were watching the game and prepared for the halftime show. The members of the band were also kids, trying their best at what they were doing, just like the players on the field.
Many of these small towns have nothing to do in the evening other than follow their local team, which they do with much enthusiasm. We left at half time and learned later on that Clark County won 41 to 19.
On our drive back to the Fairfield Inn, we felt different than when the day started. There was a sense of peace in each of us and between us. Even though we were going from town to town, trying to beat the rain, we actually slowed down and lost what stress we’d been allowing to form within us. That night sleep came easily as well as dreams of what all we’d seen, and this was just the start of the holiday weekend.

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