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Wiley Wellington Watkins Deposition, April 16, 1869

 

Kentucky History and Genealogy Network, Inc.

Ulysses Grant, Courtesy

The  Library of Congress,


 

The Deposition of Wiley Wellington Watkins, April 16, 1869

In the 1868 election, Republican Ulysses S Grant defeated Democrat Horatio Seymour of New York. Though the popular vote was relatively close, Grant decisively won in the electoral vote count. Kentucky went for Seymour. In the Kentucky 8th congressional district race for the U.S. House of Representatives (which included Laurel County in the nineteen counties of this congressional district at the time), Democrat George Adams was re-elected in his race against Republican Sidney Barnes. Barnes contested the outcome of the election and filed suit claiming voting irregularities in many voting precincts. Included in the contested precincts was the McHargue Precinct in Laurel County. My great-great grandfather, Wiley Wellington Watkins (1814-1896), was the precinct clerk and was one of many voting officials in the 8th district deposed as part of this suit.

Adams prevailed in this contested election. This legal case was recorded in the “MISCELLANEOUS DOCUMENTS of the HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES FOR THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FORTY-FIRST CONGRESS, 1869-70”. Several Laurel County voting officials were deposed and their depositions were recorded in this publication. The publication is part of the public domain, has been digitized and is available on-line and easily accessible using the advanced search methods of Google books search engine.

The court records give insight into the passions of the era shortly after the Civil War.  The “radicals” referred to in the testimony are the faction of the Republican Party that Grant belonged to that advocated a strong reconstruction platform.  Democrats were anti-reconstruction and advocated states rights.  Watkins’ deposition allows us an insight into his personality and political leanings that were heretofore unknown.  The following is a transcription of his testimony.

Submitted by:
Mark Anderson Watkins
Wadsworth, Ohio
December 14, 2009
mark@watty.com

The link to Google Books is here for the full Congressional Series Set containing the Court Case.

Wiley Wellington Watkins
Courtesy of Mark Watkins

The deposition of Wiley W. Watkins, taken at the court-house, in the town of Manchester, Clay County, Kentucky, on Friday, the 23rd day of April, 1869, to be read as evidence for contested in the matter of contest pending and undetermined in the forty-first Congress of the United States between Sidney M. Barnes, contestant, and George M. Adams, contestee.

By contestee Adams:

Question. State your age, your place of residence, and the voting precinct in which reside and vote. —

Answer. I am nearly fifty-five years old. I reside in Laurel County, Kentucky. I reside and vote in the McHargue precinct, in said county.

Question. State the names of the officers of the election in the McHargue precinct, at the November election, 1868. Also state the politics of each of said officers at and before said election, and state how each of said officers voted in said election.

(Contestant Barnes excepts and objects to the taking of the deposition of Wiley W. Watkins, and all other depositions taken or to be taken at this place by contestee, because contestee Adams has not served contestant Barnes with a legal notice of the time and place of the taking of said deposition; and because contestant Barnes, on the 10th day of April, 1869, and previous to the notice of contestee to take deposition at this place, served contestee with a legal notice to take depositions in the town of Somerset, Pulaski County, Kentucky, to commence on the 20th day of April, 1869, and continue from day-to-day until the 26th day of April, 1869 ; and because the taking of the depositions at this place, as above stated, is at the court-house in the town of Manchester, Clay County, Kentucky, and sixty or seventy miles from Somerset, Kentucky, where contestant is now taking depositions under the notice served on contestee, on the 10th ‘lay of April, 1869 ; and because contestant is not present, and has no opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses; and because the evidence to be taken at this place, under contestee’s pretended notice, is illegal and incompetent evidence.—S. M. Barns, by his attorney, Clark.)

Answer. Larkin Jackson and Edward Hopkins were the judges, James McHargue was the sheriff, and I myself, Wiley W. Watkins, was the clerk. Jackson, Hopkins, and McHargue were all radicals, and at said election voted the Grant ticket for President, and Barnes for Congress. I am a Democrat and voted the Seymour ticket for President, and Adams for Congress.

George Madison Adams, Courtesy of Library of Congress

 

Question. Give the names of several persons who were Democrats and voters residing in said precinct at and before the November election, 1868.

Answer. Hugh Elliott, Charles Kirby, Jonas Ohler, John Humphleet, George Taylor, and others I could name if necessary.

Question. Please state whether or not any certificate of any kind was appended to said poll-book and signed by the officers of said election; and if so, state whether the same was written on the poll-book itself, or on a separate piece of paper and attached to the poll-book by wafers or otherwise. State the facts.

(Contestant Barnes excepts and objects to the above and last question propounded to the witness, because the evidence attempted to be elicited is secondary in its character and not the best evidence, and is illegal and incompetent evidence.—S. M. Barnes, by his attorney, Clark.)

Answer. There was no certificate written on the poll-book, nor on a separate piece of paper and attached to the poll-book by wafers or any other way.

Question. Are your certain of this?

Answer. I am.

Question. Do you know how wafers came to be upon the poll-book when it was returned to the clerk’s office? If so, please explain.

Answer. I know the poll-book was folded up and wafers was stuck on the poll-book to seal it together; outside of the poll-book was a piece of paper put around the poll-book, and it sealed with wafers. That is the condition it was in when it was delivered to the sheriff.

Question. Do you remember what oath was administered to the officers of said election before they entered on the discharge of their duties as such? and if so, please state the terms of said oath.

(Contestant Barnes excepts and objects to the above and foregoing question propounded to the witness, because the matters and things attempted to be elicited are not relied on by contestee Adams in his answer to Contestant’s notice of contest, and because the same is illegal and incompetent evidence.—S. M. Barnes, by his attorney, Clark.)

Answer. The oath was for us to conduct the election according to law, was about the terms of the oath.

Question. Was that all the oath?

Answer. That was all of the oath.

Question. Are you certain of this? If so, state why you are certain.—

Answer. I am certain because we had no book to take the oath out of. We just held up our right hands and took the oath I have mentioned.

Question. Are you or not certain that the oath administered to said officers contained nothing about supporting the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Kentucky, or about having been engaged in sending or accepting a challenge to fight a duel?

(Contestant Barnes excepts and objects to each and all of the above and foregoing answers and questions in regard to the officers of the election being sworn, and the terms of the oath, and what the oath administered contained, because the same is not relied on by contestee Adams, and because the last above named question is leading, and suggests to the witness the answer desired, and because each and all of the above and foregoing questions and answers are illegal and incompetent evidence.—S. M. BARNES, by his attorney, Clark.)

Answer. I am certain the oath contained nothing of the sort.

Question. State whether you have ever held any offices by an election of the people of your county. If so, what offices, and state how long and when you held the same.

Answer. I held the office of constable in my district, I suppose about ten years. A portion of the time I was appointed by the county court, and a portion of the time elected by the voice of the people. I was constable when the war begun, and held it for some time afterwards.

Question. Are you or not acquainted with John F. Young, who resides and votes in the Raccoon precinct, in Laurel County, and do you know, either of your own knowledge or from general reputation in the neighborhood in which he lives, what party, during the war, the said Young adhered to and belonged to and acted with—Union, Democrat, or rebel? if so, please state.

(Contestant Barnes excepts and objects to the above and foregoing question, because the matters and things attempted to be elicited, is illegal and incompetent evidence, and secondary in its character.—S. M. Barnes, by his attorney, Clark.)

Answer. I am well acquainted with the said John F. Young; I do not, of my own knowledge, know what party he acted with during the war; but from general reputation, he was a rebel; John F. Young stated in my presence that he was a rebel, but whether it was during the war or since I don’t remember.

Question. State where the election in November, 1868, was held in the McHargue precinct.

Answer. It was held in a workshop, called Henderson’s workshop at McHargue’s ; I suppose the workshop is about eighty yards distant from the McHargue dwelling-house, and on the opposite side of the road.

Question. State whether or not the officers of election met that day at the dwelling-house of William McHargue, and from there adjourned the election to the workshop, and whether or not any public proclamation was made of the change?

Answer. They met at the dwelling-house and made no adjournment from there to the workshop that I know anything about; there was no public proclamation of the change made either at the dwelling-house or at the shop.

 

Cross-examined by contestant BARNES:

Question. You-have stated in your direct examination, that John F. Young, who was clerk of the election at the Raccoon precinct, in Laurel county, at the November election, 1868, said in your presence he was a rebel; how far did you live from said Young during the war, and how far do you live from him now?

Answer. In time of the war I lived about ten or eleven miles from where he lived; and I now live about the same distance from him.

Question. Was said Young ever in the rebel army, or does general reputation say that he ever belonged to said army?

Answer. If he was ever in the rebel army I don’t know it; and general reputation don’t say that he ever was.

Question. Was or not said Young during and since the war, a peaceable and quiet citizen?

Answer. Yes, sir; he was, so far as I know.

Question. Do you know, of your own knowledge, that said Young was clerk of the election at the Raccoon precinct, in Laurel County, at the November election, 1868?

Answer. I do not.

1861 Map of Laurel/Clay, Courtesy of Library of Congress

Question. Do you know who was the county judge of Laurel County at and before the November election, 1868? if so, please state who he was, and to what political party he belonged and adhered to, at and before the November election, 1868, and for whom did he vote at said election.

Answer. William T. Mooren was county judge; and belonged to the radical party at and before said election; don’t know how he voted at the November election, 1868.

Question. You have stated that the officers of the election, at the McHargue precinct, were only sworn to hold the election according to law at the November election, 1868; now please state whether or not you remember the precise words that were used when you and the other officers of said election were sworn as officers of said election.

Answer. I don’t know that I remember the precise words, but I remember pretty near the precise words, I think.

Question. Did you or not, as one of the officers of said election, feel yourself bound under the oath which you took at said election, to hold said election according to law ; and did you or not. together with the other officers of said election, discharge your duties as officers of said election under the oath which you took, to the best of your ability; and was or not said election fairly held, and free for all who desired to vote who were legal voters at said precinct?

Answer. I felt myself bound, under the oath which I took, to hold said election according to law; the vote that was taken at said election was taken freely and fairly.

Question. Was the place where the election at the McHargue precinct was held at the November election, 1868, in sight of the McHargue house?

Answer. Yes, sir; it was in plain view of McHargue’s house.

Question. Do you believe that any voter of said precinct who desired to vote, was deprived of voting at said election on account of said election being held where it was, instead of at the McHargue house ?

Answer. I don’t believe that they were.

 

By contestee Adams:

Q. State whether your duties, as constable, frequently took you, during the war, into John F. Young’s neighborhood?

Answer. Yes, sir; I was there during the war several times.

 

By contestant Barnes:

Question. For whom did said Young vote, at the November election, 1868?

Answer. I don’t know who he voted for.

Question. Does he or not claim to be a Democrat, and claim to belong to that party?

Answer. I think he claims to belong to that party; and further saith not.

WILEY W. WATKINS,
One day and forty miles.


 

{Did you know? Clay County was at one time a powerhouse of wealth due to the counties huge salt production?} Salt was vital before refrigeration to ensure food could be preserved with the mineral. Clay County was fortunate with the presence of bountiful salt wells.


 

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