Goebel Assassination Scrapbooks, ca. 1900-1910

Descriptive Summary

Goebel Assassination Scrapbooks, ca. 1900-1910
Mrs. John Mastin of Frankfort compiled some, if not all, of the scrapbooks
9 volumes
Goebel, William, 1856-1900.
Powers, Caleb, 1869-1932
Taylor, W.S. (William Sylvester), 1853-1928
Youtsey, Henry
Goebel, William, 1856-1900 -- Assassination.
Trials (Assassination) -- Kentucky -- Franklin County -- 20th century
Kentucky -- Politics and government -- 1865-1950.
Scrapbooks, aat.
The collection has been maintained in its original state. This collection's original order was maintained.
Finding Aid Author
Archives Staff
Kentucky Historical Society

Collection Overview

Biography / History
William Goebel, the son of German immigrants, was born in Covington, KY in 1856. Seemingly destined for a life of political supremacy in Northern Kentucky as part of the Goebel Covington Clan (known for supporting Cassius Clay and John Y. Brown), Goebel began to make a name for himself in state politics when elected to be a member of the 1890 Constitutional Convention. Well known for his Unionist background (his father had fought for the Union), Goebel often clashed with prominent ex-Confederates, such as John Sanford who was also from Covington. Deciding to provoke Sanford by writing a newspaper article questioning Sanford and his family's honesty and honor, William Goebel started a conflict that ended in a public duel on April 11, 1895. Arranging the circumstances to insure a confrontation would take place that day, Goebel encountered Sanford on the steps of Sanford's bank. Simultaneously both men fired their guns at each other; Sanford was shot in the head and died, while Goebel survived unscathed. Later, Goebel was acquitted of murder of Sanford in a highly politicized trial. (KHS/library biography file William Goebel/Governor/Shooting of John Sanford)Elected to the state Senate in 1887 Goebel became President Pro Tem in 1897. While a senator he supported such issues and laws as a franchise tax law, railway rate legislation, anti-lottery laws, end of textbook monopolies, an employer's liability law, regulation of toll bridges and roads, abolition of pool halls, and extended civil rights for women and minorities. Many have referred to Goebel as "the first new dealer" and "a friend of the common man." Seemingly, Goebel and his "Goebelism" were what the Democratic Party was looking for at a time when Populism was failing and Republican support was on the rise.On February 1, 1898 the Goebel Election Law was introduced into the General Assembly. This proposal was met with opposition from both sides of the political spectrum for it proposed the creation of a Board of Elections Commissioners, who would be chosen by the General Assembly each election year. In turn they would then select an Election Commissioner for each county. This was seen by many as a way for Goebel to increase his own political power, similar to what he was accustomed to in the politics of Kenton County. During the Music Hall Democratic Convention of 1899 Goebel's reputation for reform made him a major threat to P. Wat Hardin, a former state attorney general from Mercer County. Hardin had the support of the big businesses such as the L & N railroad (enemies of Goebel). The third man up for the nomination in June of 1899 was William J. Stone, an ex-Confederate soldier who drew support from the agricultural constituents. Goebel had long been an enemy of ex-Confederates (John Sanford), but due to the recently passed Goebel Election Law his popularity had decreased somewhat, and he needed Stone's help to defeat Hardin. The two made an agreement that if they could take a significant amount of Hardin's votes and force him out of the race Goebel would drop out of the race leaving only Stone to win. They succeeded in obtaining Hardin's votes despite the large and rather unruly crowds that summer in Louisville. When it came down to Stone and Goebel, Goebel did not drop out off the race and Stone and Hardin were too late to join forces against Goebel. The L & N railroad was accused of ensuing riots in order to oust Goebel, but when it was all over Goebel had many new enemies and a nomination for Governor. (KHS library biography file/William Goebel-Governor 1)W.S. "Hog Jaw" Taylor was born in Butler County on October 10, 1853 and served as Butler County Judge from 1886 to 1894. Elected Attorney General in 1895 under Governor W.O. Bradley, he was known as a Republican who opposed Goebel's "bossism" and the Goebel Election Law. As the 1899 Republican candidate for governor representing the "western lily-white"(James Klotter p 111) branch of a party that relied heavily upon black votes, Taylor depended on the split in the Democratic Party to beat Goebel during the 1899 election. Although indicted, Taylor was never tried for Goebel's murder because he fled to Indiana and the Republican Governor of Indiana refused to allow his extradition back to Kentucky. He remained in Indianapolis until his pardon on April 23, 1909. (KHS library biography file/W.S. Taylor)The election of 1899 proved to be one of the most corrupt elections in Kentucky history. The Republicans used an illegal weight of paper for the ballots so that the Democratic votes could be easily identified and replaced. The final tally was 193,714 for Taylor, 191,331 for Goebel, and 12,040 for Brown. Taylor was inaugurated governor on December 12, 1899. However, a few days after the election an investigation was ordered by the elections committee to determine whether the election had been fraudulent. Before the committee could reach a decision a shot rang out from the window of the Secretary of State's office on January 30, 1900, hitting Goebel as he entered the Old Capitol grounds. Although Goebel was struck fatally, the Democrats on the Elections Commission invalidated the election in a secret meeting on January 31, and swore Goebel in as Governor. Goebel then died on February 3, 1900.For the next eight years the state of Kentucky's prosecutors tried to prove that a conspiracy to murder Governor Goebel did exist. At first the blame was placed on an African American, "Tallow Dick" Combs, but this was later found to be false. Later, the grand jury indicted 16 individuals. Only 5 of the indicted went to trial, 2 of which were acquitted, the remaining three became the main players in the subsequent four trials spanning eight years. Caleb Powers, the Secretary of State, was presented by prosecutors as the mastermind behind the assassination. Henry Youtsey, a Stenographer, was presented as the intermediary, and Jim Howard, a noted "feudist", was accused of being the assassin.The prosecution's account maintained that Caleb Powers, acting on orders of then Governor Taylor, gathered up an army from areas such as Barbourville and London, Kentucky. This group of men became known as the Mountain Men. A telegraph operator at the Barbourville station, Finley Anderson, testified that Caleb Powers was the one to assemble the Mountain Men and was overheard saying that killing was inevitable. These men were then transported to Frankfort aboard L & N Railroad trains. Powers maintained that the 960 Mountain Men were brought to Frankfort to keep the capitol under control and impress the Democrats. None of these men were ever prosecuted, although some did testify. In the first trial of Caleb Powers, the testimonies of Finley Anderson and Wharton Golden, two of the state's star witnesses were questioned greatly when it was discovered that Arthur Goebel, brother of William, had paid them to testify. Later it was also discovered that Arthur had also paid Robert Noakes, who was affiliated with the Mountain Men, for incriminating evidence against Henry Youtsey and Jim Howard. In August of 1900 the jury returned after 50 minutes of deliberation with a guilty verdict, that sentenced Powers to life in prison. Howard was given the death penalty in September after his trial that had run parallel to Powers' trial. Henry Youtsey's trial began in October, yet it was continually being delayed because of Youtsey's apparent illness. In the Lester papers, a detailed account of Youtsey's fits in the courtroom can be found. It was not until the third trial that he admitted he had faked the fits because he did not want to stand trial. (KHS/special collections 96SC70-William Stewart Lester Papers)In March of 1901 the Kentucky Court of Appeals ordered new trials for both Powers and Howard, citing misconduct on the part of prosecuting attorney Campbell and the presiding judge. In October Powers' trial began with new testimony. Robert Noakes had recanted his testimony from the 1st Powers trial on the grounds that he had been on a drinking binge, so his new testimony began to incriminate Powers. Noakes changed his story from knowing nothing about the reason the Mountain Men were assembled to stating that he heard Powers talk of killing in Frankfort. The verdict of the second trial handed Powers a second life sentence. In January of 1902 Howard was also handed his second life sentence. (KHS/Special Collections 96SC70-Lester papers)In December on 1902 the Kentucky Court of Appeals granted Powers a 3rd trial, citing Judge Cantrill in violation of his authority. In April of that year Jim Howard was also granted a 3rd trial as well. In this segment of trials Youtsey admitted that his illness during the 1st Powers trial was faked and it was actually he whom fired the shot that killed William Goebel. This put a strange twist on the trials, for now it was apparent that Howard was innocent, but Youtsey also testified that Powers was the mastermind. Due to Youtsey's testimony, along with more incriminating evidence from Wharton Golden, the jury deliberated for three hours before delivering the death penalty for Caleb Powers. The execution date was set for November 25th, yet Powers remained in Jefferson Co. jail for one year before the Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed the decision and demanded a 4th trial, citing that Judge Robbins informed the jury incorrectly concerning the sentencing portion of the trial. (KHS/Special Collections 96SC70-Lester papers)Finally in July of 1907 the 4th trial for Powers was finally called and was set to begin in November. By this time Powers had been in jail for three years awaiting the new trial. The testimony of Henry Youtsey told the story of the conspiracy to kill Goebel, yet Youtsey was also on the stand to answer the allegations that he had told individuals in jail that he knew Powers was innocent. Additionally, it was to the point where testimony from previous trials had to be read in place of the many whom had died since the 3rd Powers trial in 1903. Many began to cry for an end to this politically saturated trial. The public was ready for the trial to end, so much so that the court held session on Christmas day in hopes of ending the proceedings sooner. Finally in January of 1908 the trial ended with a hung jury and the cry for pardons began. (KHS/Special Collections 96SC70-Lester papers)Governor Wilson issued pardons for Powers and Howard in February of 1908 after he was presented with a petition of 500,000 signatures calling for such an action. Powers went on to serve as state senator for two terms. On April 23, 1909 W.S. Taylor was finally granted a pardon. An explanation as to why Wilson pardoned Taylor can be found within the KHS/library biography file for W.S. Taylor. The last of the major players, Henry Youtsey, was paroled in 1916 and pardoned in 1919. Obviously there was a political conspiracy involved, but the conspiracy seemed to both blame and proclaim innocence for all parties involved in one trial or another. Therefore the answers to many questions still remain, and the answers are hidden amongst perjured testimony, bribed witnesses, jury loading, and general political red tape. All those involved continued to proclaim their innocence until their deaths.
Scope and Content
This collection contains nine scrapbook volumes of political newspaper cuttings concerning the assassination of Gov. William Goebel. The volumes cover the Democratic convention and Populist movement, the 1899 election, the election investigation and assassination of Goebel, the assassination's aftermath effect on Frankfort and the State, and the numerous trials and verdicts of those accused of the assassination. Some of the volumes are in better condition than others are, and some are more extensive or focused in their coverage of the topics listed above. See the container list below for a description of the individual scrapbooks.
County(s): Franklin, Jefferson

Contents of the Collection

Scrapbook #1 1900

This scrapbook's newspaper accounts are pasted into a ledger that was compliments of the Ballard & Ballard Company of Louisville. The pages of the ledger have separated from the spine, yet the glue has held the articles firmly in place. This is by far the largest scrapbook in the collection, and contains newspaper articles from the beginning of the courts' indictments in 1900 and concludes after the end of the first trial of Caleb Powers. Along with newspaper articles from the Louisville Courier and the Louisville Evening Post are many photographs of the army of mountain men in front of the old capitol with their threatening gatling guns. The earlier activities of the courts are chronicled in this scrapbook. Included is the grand jury indictment list of 16; 3 turned states evidence, 2 acquitted, and 3 were actually brought to trial in the course of eight years. The "man hunt" for the indicted was recounted. The newspaper's diligent coverage of the search for them is present in this collection along with detailed accounts of the first trials of Caleb Powers and Jim Howard.
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Scrapbook #2 1900

This scrapbook, compiled in a scrapbook album, is missing 1/3 of its' original material. While there are a few loose pages the overall condition is good. The material contained within is from the year prior to the fateful election of 1900. The articles from the Louisville Evening Post concern the Democrats fight for control in the next election. It is also noted that the race for procuring a nomination for the senate is heated due to the conflicting free silver views of the candidates. This political battle was watched throughout the country and this scrapbook includes articles from 12 individual newspapers from around the country in 8 different states.
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Scrapbook #3 1903

Mrs. John Mastin of Frankfort compiled this scrapbook in a ledger. The ledger is in good condition and the binding is still intact. This scrapbook contains articles on the Jett-White trial as well as the beginnings of Caleb Powers' third trial in August of 1903. Testimony by Robert Noakes states that the Mountain Men were brought to Frankfort in order to block the Democrats in the legislature and to cause a riot that would ensure a Republican majority. Taylor continued to deny involvement and defended Caleb Powers.
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Scrapbook #4 1900

This scrapbook takes a closer look at the public reaction to the assassination of Governor Goebel. Compiled by Annie Crutcher of Louisville, it is in a scrapbook album with a decorative cover, which is still in good condition. Five pages of "morality" pictures from magazines are placed before the newspaper articles concerning Goebel. A flier displaying Goebel's supposed last words and a numerous articles concerning the death of Goebel on February 3, 1900 give an account of Goebel's final hours. A group of letters printed in the newspaper entitled "Personal Recollections of William Goebel" gives the reader insight to how others saw Goebel on a personal and political level.
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Scrapbook #5 n.d.

This scrapbook is a perfect example of a "morality" scrapbook. The materials are glued onto the pages of a Christian text entitled Sunshine at Home. It is filled with Christian art and symbols. Along with various miscellaneous articles of seemingly personal interest items are articles on the nomination of William Jennings Bryan by the Populists for President of the United States, and an editorial cartoon attacking the current violent Kentucky political system.
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Scrapbook #6 1903-1910

The contents of scrapbook #6 are pasted into a 'scrapbook'. The newspaper articles included concern the problems involved in selecting a jury in such a political trial. Articles from the 3rd and 4th trials of Caleb Powers detail the politics behind the trial. The most unique article is from September 17th, 1910, when Powers won the Republican nomination for congress by over 10,000 votes. A congratulatory telegram from W.S. Taylor in Indianapolis is included within this article.
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Scrapbook #7 1908

Materials within this scrapbook are in a scrapbook album, presumably meant for this purpose. The cover is the same as the cover of scrapbook #8, so it could have come from Mrs. John Mastin as well. There are a few loose pages and individual folded pages of newspapers. The Louisville Evening Post article, announcing Powers and Howard freedom in 1908 as well as the recounting of the conspiracy theory by Wharton Golden dominate this scrapbook. The testimony of many individuals was read from transcripts of the previous trials during the fourth and final trial because they had died in the 4 years that passed between the third and fourth trials. Henry Youtsey's testimony is also included in print form and the murder weapon was finally "found" and presented as evidence against Henry Youtsey. There is also an article claiming that Judge Morris gave the jury a warning against drinking alcohol while on the jury. The fourth trial, which lasted 7 weeks, held court on Christmas day in hopes of ending sooner.
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Scrapbook #8 n.d.

Compiled by Mrs. John Mastin in the same type of scrapbook album as #7 in good condition. A headline from the Louisville Evening Post reads, "I did not kill William Goebel" "I did not harm hair of his head" denies that Jim Howard was the assassin. The same paper announced that it was Henry Youtsey that fired the fatal shot. The controversy over where to place the proposed statue of Goebel is discussed in a newspaper article. A detailed chronology of the eight years of proceedings is also included within this scrapbook. Numerous articles calling for the pardoning of Powers and Howard are also within this book.
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Scrapbook #9 1908

This scrapbook is in a scrapbook album similar to the Mastin scrapbooks and is 90% blank. There are a few articles concerning the 500,000-signature petition to procure a pardon for Powers and Howard. This was achieved on June 13, 1908 (Taylor was not pardoned until April 23, 1909 and Youtsey was pardoned three years after his parole in 1919).
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