How Frankfort Was Chosen

Kentucky's Capital City

Five Commissioners Visited Several Possible Locations In 1792

The Lexington Daily Transcript - 1882

In 1792, the House of Representative directed five commissioners, John Allen; John Edwards; Thomas Kennedy; Henry Lee; and Robert Todd to fix upon a place for the seat of government, and to receive grants from individuals therefore, and make such conditions with the grantors of lands on which they should conclude as the most appropriate place for locating the Capital, as should by them seem right and proper, and which should be agreeable and acceptable to the grantors. It may be remarked that the state was then in a poor and financially embarrassed condition, and hence was willing to accept the best offer "in a money point of view."

The commission was organized at Lexington, on August 6th, Mr. Kennedy being made chairman and Mr. Todd clerk. These two and Messrs. Allen and Lee, Mr. Edwards being absent, received an offer of land and a subscription from Legerwood's Bend and one of land adjoining Delaney's Ferry. Next day, the full commission had offers from Louisville, Frankfort, Leestown, and Lexington; and resolving to view the different places, adjourned. On August 8th, they viewed Leestown and Frankfort and the lands adjoining; and on the 9th, the proposed ground at Legerwood's Bend, on that day receiving proposals, in writing, from Frankfort and Leestown. On the 10th they spied out the land at Petersburg; and meeting again at Lexington on the 11th, they resolved to view Louisville on the 3rd of September and meet again on the 7th of that month to enter into contract with parties offering, meanwhile publishing a notice to that effect. Accordingly, on the day appointed Messrs. Kennedy, Todd, Allen, and Edwards met and received proposals from Louisville and Petersburg, and additional proposals from Lexington; but deferring action, formally adjourned till the third Monday in April following. However, on November 30th, Messrs. Kennedy, Todd, Allen, and Lee, Mr. Edwards no longer appearing, met and resolved to advertise a meeting in Lexington on December 5th, "in order to proceed to a final decision on this business," the resolution proceeding to say that "those gentlemen who have proposals to make Lexington, Petersburg, Frankfort, and Leestown will (it is hoped) come forward prepared to enter into contracts." In accordance with this new departure the four met on the day designated and accepted the offer from Frankfort. In the event of the approval of Frankfort as a proper place, Andrew Holmes had agreed to give land; the rents of a warehouse for some years; ten boxes of glass; 1,500 pounds of nails; $50 worth of locks and hinges, and an equivalent of stone and scantling for building. Eight others agreed to give in addition $3,000 in specie; and Holmes appended a proposal to give, in lieu of the stone and scantling first mentioned, sufficient stone to build 1,590 perches of wall, his sawmill carriage, wagon, and two good horses until sufficient scantling should be secured for a State House; also the privilege of taking timber from any part of his tract.

When we consider how cheap both land and timber were in those days, it will be seen that Frankfort did not pay so very much for the location of the Capital there, as she now claims, for all time.

It may be wondered now why any commission could have chosen Frankfort in preference to any other place. It will be remembered that the chief instructions of the committee were not in regard to suitability so much as to the money point of view. The seat of government was simply sold to the highest bidder. It is also well to remember that 90 years ago there were no railways radiating through the state as at present; that there were no pikes, nor good roads of any kind. In consequence, the river was largely used as a means of easy and rapid travel, and a point on the river was then considered the most accessible. Therefore, at the time, and under the circumstances then prevailing, the commission did wisely in choosing Frankfort. Had they to decide now, their decision would be different; and in view of the vast change in circumstances, it is not surprising that the Legislature should begin to consider the advisability of a change.

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