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Purchase lawmakers get the heave- ho out of KY General Assembly

     On this date in 1862, the Jackson Purchase was virtually unrepresented in the General Assembly.

     All of the region’s House delegation had forsaken Frankfort for the Confederates. So had one senator.

     Only Sens. John L. Irvan of Murray and Samuel H. Jenkins of Blandville remained in the Unionist-majority legislature. Irvan was a member of the Southern Rights or secessionist party. Jenkins had been a Southern Rights man but went over to the Union side.

     Meanwhile, on Sept. 22, 1861, Union Home Guards in Harrodsburg arrested Rep. George W. Silvertooth of Fulton and Hickman counties, Irvan and another Southern Rights senator on their way home, according to Lewis and Richard Collins’ old History of Kentucky. Leaders of the legislature dispatched a delegation to secure their release.

     But the Unionists soon became less charitable toward the Southern Rights minority, notably those who comprised most of the Purchase delegation in the capital city.

     Unionists were not pleased to learn that State Reps. W.R. Coffee of Ballard County, Daniel Matthewson of Calloway, Silvertooth, A.R. Boone of Graves, J.C. Gilbert of Marshall and John Quincy Adams King of McCracken County had all participated in the creation of a rump Confederate “government” for Kentucky behind Rebel lines in Russellville in November, 1861. Also present at the "Russellville Convention" were Sen. John M. Johnson of Paducah and one other secessionist lawmaker.

    Johnson was a physician. On Sept. 20, 1861, he had feigned sickness to get a leave of absence, ostensibly to go home to Paducah, according to the fiercely pro-Union Louisville Daily Journal. Instead, he sneaked off to Confederate-occupied Bowling Green, Kentucky's Rebel "capital."

    "The doctor is growing like Falstaff in more ways than one, and in obesity and falsehood particularly," the paper claimed. The only larger "scoundrel of a rebel in Kentucky" was the also portly Rebel Gen. Humphrey Marshall, "who has the advantage by avoirdupois, though not perhaps in heart."

    Anyway, toward the end of 1861, the Union majority General Assembly began to consider expelling the secessionist minority. Coffee saved the Unionists the trouble of booting him out; he resigned his seat on Dec. 6.

     The House expelled Matthewson, Silvertooth, Boone, Gilbert, Adams and a trio of other secessionists in absentia on Dec. 21. The senate ousted the absent Johnson on Feb. 15.

     Boone rebounded politically after the war. He was elected circuit judge in 1868-1874.

In 1874, First District voters elected him to Congress as a Democrat, and he served two terms. Afterwards, he went to a London conference on behalf of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. “He extended his travels through Europe, and returned to his native land with a mind well stored with information of other countries and people and governments,” according to Battle, Perrin and Kniffen’s old Kentucky: A History of the State.

 -- Berry Craig is a professor of history at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and is the author of True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bombast, Bourbon and Burgoo, Hidden History of Kentucky in the Civil War, Hidden History of Kentucky Soldiers and Hidden History of Western Kentucky. The books are being sold to raise money for scholarships at WKCTC. They are available by contacting Craig by phone at (270) 534-3270 or by email at berry.craig@kctcs.edu.


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