Historical Marker #49 at Constitution Square in Danville commemorates the site of Kentucky's earliest district court sessions.
Before 1792, Kentucky was part of Virginia. Therefore, ten years before statehood, Virginia law created the Kentucky District Court (May 1782). The court first met in Harrodsburg in March 1783, but it soon traveled to several stations around Kentucky before meeting in Danville on March 14, 1785.
The Danville site was likely chosen because of the community's proximity to various pioneer stations and the town's location on the Wilderness Road. Walker Daniel and John May, both of whom served as officers of the court, were named "to employ persons to build a log Courthouse, large enough for a Courtroom in one end and two jury rooms in the other on the lower floor, and a prison of hewed or sawed logs no less than nine inches thick."
Several of Kentucky's early prominent citizens were involved with the Kentucky District Court. These included Samuel McDowell, John Floyd, and George Muter, who were the court's first judges. Walker Daniel, the man for whom Danville is named, was the prosecutor and John May served as the court clerk. All five men were noted leaders in pioneer Kentucky. Floyd and Daniel were both killed in fights with Native Americans.
According to historian George Chinn, the court "could try cases involving treason, felonies and misdemeanors, with certain exceptions. Its powers extended to common law and equity. It was also responsible for the establishment and regulation of warehouses for flour and hemp." Many of the early cases involved settling marriage disputes and charges of "retailing spirituous liquors without a license."
The court met in Danville until 1792, when the Court of Appeals was organized.
The marker reads:
Kentucky District Court sessions
held here March 14, 1785, until
Court of Appeals set up in 1792.
Created by Virginia statute on
May 6, 1782, the court first met in
Harrodsburg on March 3, 1783. Later
meetings at Low Dutch Station and
John Crow's Station before moved
here. Samuel McDowell, John Floyd,
George Muter, first judges; Walker
Daniel, prosecutor; John May, clerk.
This marker was erected in 1980.