Ballard County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. As of the 2010 census, the population was 8,249. Its county seat is Wickliffe. The county was created by the Kentucky State Legislature in 1842 and is named for Captain Bland Ballard, a soldier, statesman, and member of the Kentucky General Assembly. Ballard is a prohibition or dry county.
Ballard County is part of the Paducah, KY-IL Micropolitan Statistical Area.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Lynchings
- 1.1.1 C.J. Miller
- 1.1.2 Tom Hall
- 2 Geography
- 2.1 State protected area
- 2.2 Adjacent counties
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Politics
- 4.1 Voter Registration
- 4.2 Statewide Elections
- 5 Communities
- 6 Notable residents
- 7 See also
- 8 References
Ballard County was formed from portions of Hickman County and McCracken County. It was named for Bland Ballard (1761â€“1853), a Kentucky pioneer and soldier who served as a scout for General George Rogers Clark during the American Revolutionary War, and later commanded a company during the War of 1812. On February 17, 1880, the courthouse was destroyed by a fire, which also destroyed most of the county's early records. The county seat was transferred from Blandville to Wickliffe in 1882.
Ballard County has a history of racial violence, dating back to the 19th century.
The journalist and civil rights leader Ida B. Wells, in her 1895 pamphlet A Red Record, details the gruesome death of C.J. Miller, an African-American traveling near Ballard County.
On Wednesday, July 5, 1893, Two girls, Mary and Ruby Ray, were found murdered outside their home, near Wickliffe. Few clues were left except a blue coat at the crime scene. As news of the murders spread, search parties noticed a white man hiding in a nearby cornfield, who ran after being fired upon. A bloodhound picked up the scent of the man in the cornfield, and tracked him to a ferry that ran between Wickliffe and Birds Point, Missouri. The ferry operator, Frank Gordon, said that he had one passenger that evening, who had been either white or possibly "a very bright mulatto." The bloodhound picked up the scent of the suspect on the Missouri shore, but could not track him further inland.
On Thursday, July 6, in Sikeston, Missouri, C.J. Miller, an African-American traveler from Springfield, Illinois, had a verbal and physical altercation with a train brakesman at a train depot, for which Miller was arrested by Sikeston authorities late that morning. Upon noticing Miller was wearing a blue vest without any coat, and that Miller had rings inscribed with the first names of the two girls in his possession, the sheriff in Sikeston telegraphed the sheriff in Ballard County that he had his suspect in custody. However, no rings were ever taken into evidence.
The Ballard County sheriff, without an arrest warrant, and "a posse of thirty well-armed and determined Kentuckians," chartered a train Thursday evening and traveled to Sikeston to apprehend Miller, who professed to have never visited the state of Kentucky, from the Sikeston jail and extradite him to Kentucky. On Friday morning, the Ballard County sheriff sought out Gordon to see if he could identify Miller as the man he transported to Missouri on Wednesday evening. Gordon said that Miller was not the man he transported. After the Ballard County sheriff threatened Gordon with arrest on charges of complicity to murder, Gordon recanted his prior statements and said that Miller was the man he had ferried across the Mississippi River. While Gordon and the search parties who spotted the suspect in the woods noted that the suspect was white, the Cairo Evening Telegram noted that Miller was, in Wells' words, "a dark brown skinned man, with kinky hair, 'neither yellow nor white.'" The Ballard County sheriff released Miller to the custody of the mob, who prepared to lynch Miller.
The father of the two murdered girls protested at what was about to take place, certain that their murderer was a white man and still free, and that an innocent man was about to be killed in the name of justice. Miller was transported to the county seat of Ballard County and on Friday, July 7, 1893, Miller made his final pleas of innocence to the mob. Even as "numbers of rough, drunken men crowded into [Miller's] cell" to coerce a confession from Miller, he still proclaimed his innocence, stating "burning and torture here lasts but a little while, but if I die with a lie on my soul, I shall be tortured forever. I am innocent." At 3:00 that afternoon, a heavy log chain, weighing over one hundred pounds, was placed around Miller's neck, and he was dragged through the streets of the county seat and suspended from a telegraph pole. Miller was then raised with a stick and allowed to drop, breaking Miller's neck. Members of the armed, drunken crowd then shot Miller repeatedly. Miller's body was suspended for two hours, after which his fingers and toes were cut off by Ballard Countians as souvenirs, and Miller's body was burned in the streets.
Wells concludes "it is the honest and sober belief of many who witnessed the scene that an innocent man has been barbarously and shockingly put to death in the glare of the 19th century civilization, by those who profess to believe in Christianity, law and order."
On October 15, 1903, a mob organized near Wickliffe and the county jailer surrendered the keys to the Ballard County jail, to the mob. Tom Hall, a black man, accused of the critical wounding of a white man near Kevil on October 11, was lynched and left partially naked, suspended from a tree in Wickliffe. Tom Hall professed his innocence in the shooting, which occurred after a disagreement between two white men and a group of black men; Hall stated he was an innocent bystander wounded by crossfire.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 274 square miles (710 km2), of which 247 square miles (640 km2) is land and 27 square miles (70 km2) (9.9%) is water.
State protected area
Axe Lake Swamp State Nature Preserve is a 458 acres (1.85 km2) nature preserve located in Ballard County, in the Barlow Bottoms. The preserve is part of the 3,000-acre (12 km2) Axe Lake Swamp wetlands complex which supports at least eight rare plant and animal species. The site has been recognized as a priority wetland in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.
- Pulaski County, Illinois (north) â€“ across the Ohio River
- McCracken County (east)
- Carlisle County (south)
- Mississippi County, Missouri (southwest) â€“ across the Mississippi River
- Alexander County, Illinois (west) â€“ across the Ohio River
|U.S. Decennial Census