Historical Marker #2605 remembers the Scott County Jail and Jailer’s House located in Scott County, Ky.
Scott County, like many small communities in Kentucky, has a long history. But unlike many areas, Scott County has been able to preserve a number of their historic properties. In fact, the Scott County Arts Consortium and Scott County Tourism have created walking tours to highlight the historic landmarks that remain in downtown Georgetown (the county seat). One of the locations on the walking tour, is the Scott County Jail and Jailer’s House which dates back to 1892.
The Scott County Jail and Jailer’s House housed Kentucky’s former Secretary of State Caleb Powers, in perhaps its most infamous moment. Powers, a Republican, was held at the jail while on trial for the 1900 assassination of Kentucky Governor William Goebel, a Democrat.
In 1899, Goebel and Republican William S. Taylor were locked in a contested election for the governorship of Kentucky. Initially, Taylor won the election by 2,383 votes. Democrats claimed there were voting irregularities in some counties and called for a recount and investigation of voter fraud. They appeal to the Board of Elections, but in a surprise decision, the board ruled 2-1 against the Democrats, stating that the General Assembly had the power to review the election. The General Assembly, under Democratic control, invalidated thousands of ballots, leaving Goebel to be declared the winner of the 1899 election.
On the morning of January 30, 1900, William Goebel was shot while walking across the grounds of the State Capitol (now known as the Old State Capitol). Sworn into office on his death bed, Goebel died on February 3, 1900, thus becoming the only state governor to be assassinated while in office.
The contested election had caused a great amount of tension between Kentucky’s Republican and Democratic Parties.
When Goebel was assassinated, authorities suspected that there was a conspiracy among a number of Republican officials and their supporters. The ringleader was supposedly Republican Kentucky Secretary of State, Caleb Powers. Although tried four times and convicted three time, Powers was ultimately pardoned in 1908. Powers was held at the Scott County Jail because his lawyers were able to secure a change of venue order, removing the trial from Frankfort.
The jail and jailer’s house remained in use until 1991 and is now home to the Scott County Arts and Cultural Center.
The marker was dedicated on November 1, 2019. It reads:
Scott County Jail
The Scott County Jail was built in
1892 and used until 1991. The
jail held Sec. of State Caleb
Powers, who stood trial four
times in connection to the 1900
assassination of Gov. William
Goebel. Powers was eventually
pardoned in 1908. A modern complex
built in Romanesque-Revival style,
it had steam heat, running water,
Scott County Jailer’s House
Home to the family of the official
elected to oversee persons in the
jail, the jailer’s house was built
circa 1870 and used until 1991.
Located on the east bank of the
city’s Royal Spring Branch, the
original site of Georgetown’s
earliest settlements, the
Italianate style dwelling conveyed
the official’s importance.
Scott County Arts Consortium 2019