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Berea City Records

Identifier: BCA 0180 HC 05

Scope and Contents

The early records of Berea City 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.


  • created: Majority of material found within 1890-1916

Conditions Governing Access

Records can be accessed through the Reading Room, Berea College Special Collections and Archives, Hutchins Library, Berea College.

Conditions Governing Use

There are no restrictions on use by researchers other than federal copyright restrictions.


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Language of Materials



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 marshal, 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, 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 running 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 pretense 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)

Arrangement Note

The records are arranged into two series:

Series 1: Trustees' Minutes, 1890-1908

Series 2: City Ordinances, bulk: 1895-1918

Other Descriptive Information

BCA 0180 HC 05

Processing Information

Materials digitized by Wesley David, SCA Intern, June 2023.

Berea City Records Finding Aid
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Revision Statements

  • 2023-05: Finding guide updated 2023 with digitized materials

Repository Details

Part of the Berea College Special Collections and Archives Repository

Hutchins Library
100 Campus Drive
Berea Kentucky 40404 US