Fayette County, Virginia, named in honor of the Marquis de La Fayette and
originally a part of Kentucky County, Virginia, was formed by an act of the
Virginia Legislature in 1780. As described, it embraced "all that part of the
...county of Kentucky which lies north of the line, beginning at the mouth of
the Kentucky River, and up the same to its middle fork to the head; thence
southeast to Washington line" (Hening, Statutes at Large, Laws of Virginia, Vol.
X, pp. 515-516). The exact territory embraced in this definition is disputed
by present day historians, due to the inaccuracy of contemporary knowledge of
the countrys rivers (Cf. County Location Map included; and Map of the State of ,
Kentucky; with the Adjoining Territories, J. Russell, 1794: facsimiles issued
by the Kentucky State Historical Society, February 1, 1951).
The boundaries were changed four times before the county assumed its pres-
ent outline. The first two changes, made by the Virginia Assembly, created
Bourbon and Woodford Counties in 1785 and 1788 respectively (Hening, Op. Cit.,
Vol. XII, pp. 89, 628). The third, which occurred in 1792 at the time Fayette
and other western counties of Virginia became part of the state of Kentucky,
created Clark County from portions of Fayette and Bourbon (William Littell,
Laws of Kentucky, Vol. I, p. 119). In 1798 Jessamine County was established
from a part of Fayette, making the county boundaries as follows: on the north,
Scott; on the east, Bourbon and Clark; on the south, Madison and Jessamine; on
the west, Woodford (Littell, Op. Cit., Vol. II, p. 215).
The earliest permanent settlements made in Fayette County were Lexington
and Bryant's (or Bryan's) and Grant's Stations, all three of which were estab-
lished in 1779 (Robert Peter, History of Fayette County, pp. 54, 55; Entry 257).
In 1781 a county government was established in Fayette by an act of the
Virginia Assembly, and Lexington was named the county seat (Hening, Op. Cit.,
Vol. X, pp. 515-516). Courts were held the same year. The first county
officials were Levi Todd, county court clerk; Charles Carr, sheriff; John Max-
well, coroner; and Innis Brent, jailer. Members of the court of quarter ses-
sions wore John McDowell, Robert Todd and Thomas Lewis; Samuel McDowell was
circuit judge, and Thomas Bodley, circuit clerk. The board of magistrates, which
formed the county court, was composed of Joseph Crockett, William Campbell, Ab-
raham Bauman, James McMillan, Hubbard Taylor, James Trotter, Walter Carr, Edward
Payne and Percival Butler (Peter, Op. Cit., pp. 62, 64).
The early sessions of the county court were held in a log cabin. The first
courthouse, a two-story structure built of logs, was not erected until 1782
(Entry 8, Deed Book F, p. soo). In 1788 a small stone courthouse was construc-
ted to meet changing conditions. The rapid growth of the city of Lexington
brought appeals for a still larger building, however, and a three-story brick
courthouse was completed in 1806. This building was replaced by a more up-te-
date one in 1884 (Entries 2, 5), which was in use only thirteen years before it
was destroyed by fire on May 14, 1897. Construction of the present courthouse
began in 1898 (Entry 4), but the new quarters were not occupied until 1900 (J.
Winston Coleman, The Courthouses of Lexington, pp. 10, 11, 16, 50, 52).
The first school in Fayette County was opened by John McKinney one year
after Lexington was permanently settled. His successor as school-master, about
1784, was John Filson, author of the first published book concerning Kentucky
(Richard H. Collins, History of Kentucky, Vol. II, p. 185). In 1787 Isaac Wil-
son established the Lexington Grammar School (Ibid.). Ten years after McKinney's
school was opened, Transylvania Seminary, from which grew Transylvania University,