Saturday, August 13, 2016

1860 – 1875 in Kentucky

     In researching my ancestry I noticed that some individuals and families moved from Kentucky to other states during the Civil War (IL, IN, MO, AR & TX) and in the decade following the end of the Civil War; sometimes a family would have multiple moves. This movement was usually because families were seeking work and some sort of financial stability due to the bad economy in Kentucky during and immediately after the Civil War.  Some of these families returned to Kentucky but some did not.

After the Civil War:

     The end of the Civil War found Kentucky in a terrible plight. The conflict had left behind its toll of physical destruction as well, for crops had been lost, livestock taken, and property destroyed. There were 89,000 fewer horses, 37,000 fewer mules, and 172,000 fewer cattle in Kentucky in 1865 than at the start of the war. The amount of land under cultivation had declined drastically. Despite wartime inflation, land values in places like Lexington decreased one-fourth between 1862 and 1872. A soldier returned to one Kentucky town and was welcomed by "neglected farms .... roads and paths overgrown with weeds, and almost no business of any kind being carried on." But that sense of economic setback could be - and would be - easily overcome, for in truth Kentucky had not suffered as greatly as the states farther south. The commonwealth thus emerged from the conflict hobbled, but strong enough to move ahead, to grow rapidly, even to take a leadership role in a region where other states had much greater handicaps and devastation to overcome. More damaging than the economic costs was the war's effect on the psyche of the populace. So much of what had once been was no more. The optimism that drove settlers to frontier Kentucky now seemed a rare commodity. 

     The return to peacetime normalcy, often called Reconstruction or Readjustment, proved a formidable challenge. In 1865, Kentucky faced a number of problems: federal military rule had to be ended; the economy had to be revived; labor problems accompanying the emancipation of the slaves had to be resolved; and the freed Negro had to be integrated into the state's political, economic and legal systems. Although the state was spared the trauma of secession and the subsequent necessity of readmission to the Union, because of Kentucky's slave interests the years immediately following the war were as critical to its residents as to those of the Confederate states. Lawlessness and violence abounded in Kentucky during the decades after the war, continuing to the turn of the century and beyond. The suspicion and animosity of the war did not end as soldiers returned home to live, often side-by-side, in continuing hatred. Seething over real and imagined injuries, lawless groups roamed the countryside. Outrages occurred throughout the state; beatings, lynchings, shootings, rape and arson created a dismal picture. 

     As the state's political situation stabilized, public attention turned toward a long overdue reform of the public school system. Between 1861-1865 education was the last thing on anyone's mind; the legislature's one appropriation for schools was based on money confiscated from illegal gambling enterprises and dog fees. With almost one-fourth of all Kentuckians over the age of ten illiterate, the establishment of a state education system proved an enormous task. Schools had to be reopened with public support, and facilities for the children of freedmen had to be provided. Unfortunately, there were few trained teachers, scant facilities for educating them, no school commissioners or boards, and a lack of textbooks. Whether black or white, the Kentucky school child's education was far from ideal. The Common School Report of 1871 described schools as having "leaky roofs, filthy floors, smoked ceilings and walls defaced with obscene images," and the 1874 survey stated that "foul air and feculent odors" prevaded the school buildings. No wonder that schools failed to attract more than 40% of the school age children. The state did not even have an eight-week per annum compulsory school law until 1896. For those who did attend, the McGuffey Readers, the Eclectic Spelling Book, and the American Standard School Series provided instruction in the three R's, spelling, grammar, composition, history, geography, and the laws of health. In 1893, Kentucky history was included in the curriculum.

     The Panic of 1873 stands as the first global depression brought about by industrial capitalism. It began a regular pattern of boom and bust cycles that distinguish our current economic system and which continue to this day. While the first of many such market "corrections," the effects of the downturn were severe and, in 1873, unexpected; the Panic of 1873 spanned from October 1873 to March 1879. Numbers fail to convey the depth of the economy distress. Average wages fell by nearly a quarter. Thousands of American companies defaulted on over a billion dollars in debt, nine out of 10 U.S. railroad concerns failed, and the country faced double-digit unemployment for over a decade. The worst effects of the downturn (unemployment, homelessness, malnutrition) were concentrated in the industrial sectors, but every region suffered and the economy continued to sputter. The long-term effects were quite noticeable from today's perspective. While the northern U.S. economy raged like a furnace from 1840 to 1860, averaging over six percent annual growth per year, the country's overall economic productivity fell by over 24 percent during the two decades that followed the Panic of 1873.

Hartford Herald 1875

      The first issue of the Hartford Herald was published January 6, 1875 – it is listed as “Volume 1, Number 1.”  The publisher was John P Barnett & Co, Hartford, and the editor was Wallace Gruelle.  It was a four page newspaper with the front page largely a reprint of a popular book titled Maria Saxonbury, authored by Mrs. Henry Wood; plus short articles from out-of-state newspapers, a few bad jokes and an article from the Detroit Free Press titled The Model Wife (not exactly political correctness).  Page 2 was “News of the Week” and was national and international news for the past week. Page 3 was local and regional news (one story on page 3 was titled “The Trouble at the Render Coal Mines”). Page 4 was dedicated to agricultural news. Advertisements were sprinkled throughout the four pages. An annual subscription was $2.00.

     I have spent a few hours reading all 52 issues from 1875 and I have picked out a few things that I found interesting.  The following is from February 3, 1875 (sorry the two photos don't line up very well):






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