First Jail

The first jail was built by Absalom Skirvin for $220. It was sixteen feet square, and was built of hewed logs, dovetailed and let down one upon the other. This jail was two stories high, and had two small windows in each story. There was also a “stray pen” built on the public ground for the purpose of holding all the stray stock that was taken up. This was thirty feet square, and inclosed by a post-and-rail fence.

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Williamstown, at this time, could boast of but three houses except the Court House and jail that of Wm. Arnold, situated near where Robert McDuffee now live; the small log house of P. B. Hume, standing near the present post-0ffice, in which there was a tavern kept by Wm. Mt. Joy; and another log house, built by James Conyers, just below. The principal settlements in the county extended from Williamstown north to below Dry Ridge. Almost all the land in the county was owned by non-residents, who held the same under large patents.

John Fowler, of Lexington, had a patent that covered all the land from just south of Williamstown to the residence of Lewis Myers, and extending east and west to within a few miles of the Pendleton and Owen county lines. The northern part of the county was covered by the patent of John and Jordan Harris’ forty-four thousand acres survey.

The extreme western, and all the southern part of the county from Fowler’s survey, was covered by the patents of-Leach, May, Banister & Co. and Josiah Watson; and the eastern part of the county was covered by the Moody patent. These patents were not well defined, but overlapped each other, which afterwards gave rise to many large suits in the Courts that furnished rich food for the lawyers and gave to the county a noted reputation for land litigation. It was this character of litigation that gave Lewis Myers, who was a citizens of this county from its formation until his decease in April, 1870, the most extensive reputation as a land-jobber in Northern Kentucky. His correct knowledge of the multitudes of old lines of surveys, and his clear and positive memory of numbers and dates were wonderful, and though he was constantly enrolled upon the docket of the Courts for many years, as either plaintiff or defendant, in almost all the important land suits, he was warm-hearted and generous to a fault, and much beloved by his people, representing them as many as four times in the Legislature of Kentucky.

But while the central part of the county was settled sparsely by men who had either bought or leased the land on which they lived, almost all the rest of the county was settled only by “squatters,” or families who owned no land, but took up their residence where they chose, erected small cabins in which to live, cleared and cultivated as much ground as they thought proper. These little patches of cleared land were called improvements, and were bartered and sold with as much freedom as cattle and hogs.

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