Scott County Museum
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Georgetown Post Office
Seventy years ago Georgetown and thirty-five other Kentucky towns were on the verge of getting all sorts of appropriations for public buildings and post offices, thanks for the pecuniary promises from Washington going to the credit of a Democratic Congressman who had in April 1911 secured a seat on the important Committee on Claims.
That Congressman was from Georgetown, and the federal building to be erected here was to be of a special sort. The story of the Georgetown Post Office deserves an honored spot in the history of well-earned political plums.
For Congressman James Campbell Cantrill was in one of his crest riding phases. People from all over the state had been involved in his and Senator Ollie James' Civil War Omnibus Claims Bill which provided funds to persons, churches, and schools whose property had been damaged during the Civil War by federal troops.
Cantrill had proved to Kentuckians that he meant it when he said on April 1, 1911, on being appointed by "Uncle Joe" Cannon to the claims committee, that his appointment had come at his own request "so that I can take care of Kentuckians who for years have been unable to get the government both to build up its holdings in our communities and to pay its wartime debts.”
So it was a big day in Georgetown on May 1, 1915, when the post office cornerstone containing a stuffed copper box was laid in elaborate ceremonies directed by the Mount Vernon Lodge F & AM and observed by some 2,500 citizens.
To the gathering, James Campbell Cantrill told about his role in securing the appropriation for the structure. He spoke in terms of gratitude to "the friends of my youth and of my manhood in dear old Scott County," and pledged continuing loyalty to his native county's "loyal sons and beautiful daughters.”
"When I first went to Congress," he declared, "I determined that this county and this good town should have a public building consistent with its dignity and beauty, and my heart is very glad that today I can offer to you a testimonial in stone and marble of your loyalty to me and my love to you..."
He related how he had secured a seat on the committee after having served in Congress for three years. He credited Senator W. O. Bradley, a rare breed of Republican, with having sufficient influence to secure an appointment from Speaker Cannon for a seat on the committee. "This was the Sixty-First Congress." Cantrill recalled, "and in that session, a public building bill was passed, and in the bill was an item for a $60,000 building for Georgetown.”
"This,” said Cantrill, "was the usual amount for a building in a town the size of our beautiful little city; but in the bottom of my heart, I felt that somehow Georgetown was a little better than any other town of the same size, and that somehow the people of Scott County were entitled to a little more than any other people. So in the Sixty-Second Congress, I undertook to argue ... that we should have about $30,000 more, or in all, $90,000."
And Cantrill, his honesty taking priority over his modesty, continued, "the committee was a just one and realized that Georgetown was out of the ordinary and granted my prayer. I will always feel grateful to those members. And so today we lay the cornerstone of one of the most handsome buildings in the nation for a city the size of ours. It is a tribute to our splendid citizenship which is noted to all the corners of our great country.”
Also joining in the ceremonies were lodge members John C. Porter, who sprinkled corn on the stone, symbolizing plenty; J. R. Downing, who poured wine over the stone to symbolize gladness and refreshment; and Charles Davenport, pouring oil, emblematic of peace and joy. The box contained Masonic documents, histories of the Episcopal, Christian, Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches; photographs of Georgetown College, Cardome Academy, local schools, the Royal Spring, the city's three banks, and two hotels; copies of the two local papers; a City directory; and a history of the city from the April 25 Lexington Leader.
Local papers carried a forecast of "when the box is opened" by Josephine G. Marks. She prophesied that that day would find "no dust to blind the eye or choke the throat;" factories all over the banks of the Elkhorn; telephone-type television; use of electricity by all housewives in cooking, chilling, and even freezing; fireproof houses of concrete or glass; universal woman suffrage; a single standard of tolerated morality; inoculation of infants for contagious disease; eugenic marriage as a matter of law; and "no more houseflies, the pests long before have been exterminated through the efforts of women's clubs.”
A general panic was created when Secretary of the Treasury McAdoo on July 18 stated that neither Georgetown nor twenty-five of the thirty-five towns deserved any buildings or improvements at all. He said construction should be limited to buildings in cities with postal revenues of $15,000 or more. Georgetown's revenue was $10,231. Subsequently, Postmaster General Burleson agreed.
However, Congress had its way, claiming that the executive had no right to usurp the legislative function. Built on the corner of Main and
Mulberry, the structure of Indiana limestone, Vermont marble, North Carolina granite, and Washington D.C. steel stands where the old Primitive Baptist Church was located. Robert Hall Anderson was the first postmaster to handle the operation in the new facility.
SOURCES: Congressman J.C. Cantrill Collection, assorted papers belonging to Dr. J.C. Cantrill, Georgetown.
Bevins, Ann Bolton. A History of Scott County As Told By Selected Buildings. Georgetown, 1981.