Hutchins Library
Special Collections & Archives
Guide to the Berea City Records, 1890-1918

Accession Number: HC 5
Berea City Records
Dates: 1890-1918
.5 linear feet
Online Catalog Record (BANC)

Series Description
Series I - Trustees' Minutes, 1890-1908
Series II - City Ordinances, 1895-1918

Access and Use

Provenance: Officers of the City of Berea entrusted these documents to the Berea College Archives.

Preferred Citation: Berea City Records, 1890-1917, Berea College Special Collections & Archives, Berea, Ky.


The early records consist of a ledger book and a folder of ordinances. The book contains the Berea Village Board of Trustee minutes for 1890-1908, from its incorporation as a village until it was reclassified as a 5th class city in 1909. The accompanying folder includes the town bylaws from 1895 and city ordinances enacted at various times between 1895 and 1917, with an additional pamphlet on licensing ordinances from 1957.

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The Village of Berea was incorporated as a 6th class city on May 9, 1890, at a meeting held in the office of the treasurer of Berea College, P.D. Dodge. The location suggests that the College community initiated the creation of a formal government structure for the town. Berea was governed by a five-man Board of Trustees until 1909, when it became a 5th class city and was therefore entitled to have a mayor. During the period covered by the ledger, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees carried out the duties of a mayor.

The early Berea Village Trustees nominated a police judge and a marshall, and began to collect taxes. They signed a contract to put up telephone wires between the train depot and the post office, and licensed refreshment booths at the annual Berea College graduation ceremonies. Some of their ordinances were controversial; for example, in the summer of 1894 a petition was presented with the names of 57 voters in regard to the most recent (of many) ordinances restricting hogs.

When Kentucky’s laws governing 5th class cities were altered in 1895, the trustees proposed new bylaws for the city, which are preserved in the folder of city ordinances.The folder also contains provisions made by the city and the college in respect to redesigning the roads that run through the campus.

In October of 1896 John L. Gay was chosen to be Clerk to the Board, and served until 1898, when he became magistrate. He was son-in-law to the first Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Josiah Burdette. In 1901, Gay was involved in an intense political contest. As Mayor Steve Connolly tells it,

"The election for governor in 1899, which culminated in Republican charges that Democrats had stolen the race and the assassination of candidate William Goebel, created a climate of political mistrust and suspicion that affected the 1901 local elections in Berea. The controversy arose when the Berea town council nominated S.E. Welch Jr., a prominent Republican and business leader, as its new police judge, but the Democratic governor, J.C.W. Beckham, appointed Democrat H.C. Kinnard.

"Outraged by this action, Republicans in Berea chose a straight Republican ticket for the fall elections. In the past, though Berea was a Republican bastion in Madison County, the town elections had customarily been nonpartisan. John L. Gay withdrew from the magistrate's race and filed for police judge. Wm. J. Tatum agreed to run for marshal. W.R. Gabbard, S.E. Welch Jr., T.J. Osborne, J.W. Stephens, and Josiah Burdette ran for town council. As a result, a rival caucus met and nominated a nonpartisan slate consisting of both Democrats and Republicans: E.T. Fish for police judge; Hiram Richardson for marshal; and Jas. Stigal, L.V. Dodge, J.J. Branaman, R.G. Ramsey, and R.W. Todd for town council. . . . On November 5, 1901, the entire Republican slate was elected by a wide margin. John L. Gay went on to serve as police judge until 1909 when he was elected the first mayor of Berea, a position he held for 48 years." (

By 1909 a town-gown political division was evident; the Berea Citizen, commenting on the opposition ticket in the municipal election that year, wrote, "No pretence is made that there is anything against Messrs. Dinsmore or Seale except they draw their salaries from the College." (10/17/1909, p. 1, col. 6)

Series Description
1 Manuscript Box

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Series I
Trustees' Minutes, 1890-1908
Box 1

The first Chairman of the Board of Trustees was Josiah Burdette, a member of the Prudential Committee of Berea College [i.e., the Board of Trustees],and the other members were P. B. Johnson, a dry-goods merchant; P.D. Dodge, Berea College treasurer from 1880-1894; Richard Cornelison, a local farmer; and A.W. Titus, a black graduate of Berea’s Normal school [i.e., teachers’ college] and town businessman. They started out by forming three standing committees: Streets and Sidewalks, Stock and Sanitation, and Law and Order. At the end of 1891 four of the original trustees were replaced by J. W. Hanson, Chairman; J.T. Stephens, J. W. Van Winkle; and G.M. Patterson, Clerk. Municipal elections were held each November; in 1894 Prof. Dodge appealed to the County magistrate to appoint the current trustees, because the city election had not been held. At least two other black citizens served as trustees in the 1890s: Louis Titus, and. James Hathaway, a black instructor at Berea College.

Box 1

Handwritten ledger, Minutes of the Board of Trustees for Berea Village, May 1890-1908

Series II
City Ordinances, 1895-1918
Box 1, con't

Box 1

Miscellaneous copies of City ordinances and memos, 1895, 1900-1918, 1957.

  1. Bylaws and ordinances of the town of Berea, Kentucky 1895
  2. Copy of stock law, April 17, 1900
  3. Memorandum of questions submitted to the town board at an informal conference with President Frost at Boone Tavern Wednesday night July 16 (no year)
  4. Memorandum of town ordinance
  5. College undertaking with regard to water supply
  6. Memorandum regarding a dumping place
  7. Fire escapes ordinance, 3/12/12
  8. Loitering ordinance, 11/29/1911
  9. Estille [sic] Street ordinances, July 1915-May 1916, extracted from City Record
  10. Ordinance regarding Estill Street and contract between the city and Berea College
  11. Fire escape ordinance (n.d.)
  12. Comprehensive set of city ordinances read April 16, 1918, and passed, May 12, 1918, and posted May 16, 1918 in the Berea National Bank. Signed by J.L. Gay, Mayor, and Edward Fothergill, Clerk.
  13. Copy of amendments to the hog law
  14. Prudential Committee notices to those who use college water, October 4, 1918, and n.d.
  15. Extracts from the General Statutes of Kentucky, July 1, 1878
  16. City of Berea license fee ordinance # 1-58, effective January 1, 1958

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