Home of Governor Bradley

Historical Marker #699 denotes the gothic revival-style house that was built in the 1850s by Allen A. Burton, a Lancaster Attorney and Lincoln’s minister to Columbia. The marker is no longer on the property on which the house of William Bradley stood, as the house was demolished in 1985.

William Bradley is perhaps most known for his surprising election as the first Republican Governor of Kentucky. Born in Garrard County in 1847, Bradley’s family moved to Somerset while he was still a child. Although Bradley went to school and gained an education, he did not go to college but rather studied law under his father. In 1861, at the start of the Civil War, Bradley ran away twice to join the Union Army despite only being fourteen years old at the time. It was because of his age that his father was able to secure his release both times.

In 1865, Kentucky law at the time stated that aspiring lawyers had to wait until they were twenty one before being able to take the bar exam. Despite not having a college education, Bradley was given permission by the Kentucky Legislature to take the exam when he was only eighteen, on the contingent that he was judged competent by two circuit judges. After passing, Bradley joined his father’s office in Lancaster. Bradley’s political ambitions were thwarted at almost every election because of his Republican status.

In a predominately Democratic state, Bradley’s time as Kentucky’s Governor was a difficult one. The Senate was controlled by the Democrats and the House by the Republicans, creating a weak, deadlocked administration augmented by infighting and being counteractive. Much of Bradley’s term saw the Governor trying to curb the violence in the eastern part of the state and the Tollgate Wars in the central areas, advocating on behalf of African-Americans to criminalize and reduce mobs and lynching, and trying to pass legislation that went largely ignored by the General Assembly, particularly when the Democrats took control of both chambers in 1898.

At the end of his term, Bradley lost his bid for a Federal senatorial seat but won it in the 1908 election. Unfortunately, he died in 1914 before his term ended. He is buried in the Frankfort Cemetery.