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Livingston County, Kentucky

Livingston City Hall is located at 321 Court Street, Smithland, KY 42081; phone: 270-928-2162.


Thomas Lawson House

Photo: Thomas Lawson House, circa 1876, located on Wabash Avenue, Grand Rivers. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Photographed by User:Plazak (own work), 2011, [cc-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed November, 2021.


TOWNS

When Livingston [†] was established in 1798, it consisted of a thinly-populated large area, and began to follow a course followed by many counties established in 18th-century Kentucky. That is, various crossroads and shipping towns soon arose distant from the county seat; as people saw their interests align more with those newer urban areas than with the county seat, people in a part of the county would elect to separate and to form their own county. This public behavior is not confined to county governments: for instance, we see factions emerge in churches which lead one congregation to become two; on a larger scale, our country was born of a split from England, and conflict between regional interests in the US reached their climax in the American Civil War. One key factor that stabilized the evolution of Livingston County government was the courthouse in Smithland. The seat in Livingston hopped from one town and then another, not settling in Smithland until 1842, more than 40 years after the county was established. We see in the court orders for each courthouse in the succession of earlier county seats, thoughtfulness in the construction and design specifications for the building that would house county government. While each court built the finest structure it could manage, given the fiscal affairs and construction technologies available, voters still would tire of one town and vote another to become the seat, or would divorce from Livingston to form their own county. The courthouse that took form in 1845 Smithland is the courthouse that survives today, a building that grounded county government after that in Smithland. The seat remained in the town even after it lost a later election to a rival town, presumably demonstrating that a building's power exceeds the power of the vote. The nominated property's story tells of many ways that county residents have come to identify with this building. Those residents recall many of the events that have occurred there, the many judges presiding over the court, and the variety of non-governmental uses that the public square has served over the years.

† Tracy Cothran Jordan; Brenda Joyce Jerome; Jerry Bebout, Livingston County Historical & Genealogical Society, Inc., Livingston County Courthouse and Clerk's Offices, nomination document, 2011, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C., accessed November, 2021.

HISTORIC SITES