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JOHN  BRADFORD
PIONEER PRINTER OF KENTUCKY
 
JOHN BRADFORD
Born:  1749 in Fauquier County, Virginia
Died:  20 Mar 1830 in Lexington, Fayette Co., Kentucky
Married:  Elizabeth (Eliza) James 26 Feb 1770 in Fauquier County Virginia
 

ELIZABETH (JAMES) BRADFORD
Born:  1746
Died:  11 Oct 1833 in Lexington, Fayette Co., Kentucky

FUNERAL NOTICES FOR JOHN & ELIZABETH

(Source:  Duffs Funeral Notices Scrap Book. Duff, James M., Lexington Public Library, Lexington, Kentucky.  1806-1887)


 
"THE COLONEL THOMAS HART HOME, in which HENRY CLAY married Lucretia Hart in 1799, is at the southwest corner of Second and Mill streets. In the same house GENERAL MORGAN was married to Miss Bruce, thereafter making it his home, and JOHN BRADFORD died there."

"John Bradford, the first printer of the west, who had established a newspaper
in Lexington in 1787, bought it for $5,000. A plaque on the Second-street
side of the house reads:

This House Was the Home of
John Bradford
1749-1830
A Pioneer Settler of Lexington
First Printer of Kentucky
Co-Founder of The Kentucky Gazette
A Prominent, Public-Spirited and Useful Citizen.

The tablet was erected in Bradford's honor by the John Bradford Club
of Lexington on April 19, 1926."

See full article below


 
John Bradford Biographies
 
1.
JOHN BRADFORD was born in Fauquier county, Virginia, in the year 1749. He married Eliza James, daughter of Captain Benjamin James, of said county, in the year 1761, and had five sons and four daughters. He served for a short time in the revolutionary army, and came to Kentucky for the first time in the fall of the year 1779. He was in the battle with the Indians at Chillicothe. In the year 1785, he removed his family to Kentucky, and settled about four miles north of Lexington, on Cane run. In the year 1787, he, in conjunction with his brother, Fielding Bradford (a venerable man, who now lives about two miles nearly north from Georgetown), established the "Kentucke Gazette," the first number of which was published in Lexington on the 11th of August, in that year; under which title it was continued until the 14th of March, 1789, when it was changed to the "Kentucky Gazette," in consequence of the legislature of Virginia requiring certain advertisements to be inserted in the Kentucky Gazette. Fielding Bradford remained a partner until the 31st of May, 1788, when he withdrew from the concern; after which it ws continued by John Bradford until the 1st of April, 1802, when he conveyed the establishment to his son, Daniel Bradford, who continued the publication of the Gazette for many years, and is still residing in Lexington, an acting magistrate of Fayette county. The first number of the Gazette was published on a sheet of demi-paper - the second on a half sheet of the same size; but owing to the difficulty of procuring paper, it was soon reduced to a half sheet fools-cap, and thus published for several months. It has been reported that the type on which the paper was issued, were cut out of dog-wood by Mr. Bradford. This is not true, except as to particular sorts, which fell short, and also as to a few large letters, although he was a man of uncommon mechanical ingenuity.
(Source:  Historical Sketches of Kentucky by Lewis Collins, Maysville, KY. and J. A. & U. P. James, Cincinnati, 1847. Reprinted 1968. Fayette County.)

 

2.

1749-1830, pioneer printer of Kentucky, b. Virginia. He moved to Kentucky c.1779. Although he had no previous practical experience, he issued at Lexington on Aug. 11, 1787, the first number of the Kentucky Gazette, the first newspaper in the territory, and succeeded, despite many handicaps, in making it a creditable sheet. In 1788 he printed the Kentucke Almanac, the first pamphlet in the W United States. In 1792, Bradford published the acts of the initial session of the Kentucky legislature, the first book to be published in Kentucky. He aided in founding Transylvania Univ. and was the first chairman of the board (1799-1811). In 1826 he began to publish in the Gazette his “Notes of Kentucky,” a valuable historical source, which continued until 1829.

3.


The first newspaper ever published west of the Alleghany mountains was established in Lexington, in 1787, by John Bradford. It was then called the Kentucke Gazette, but the final e of Kentucky was afterward changed to y, in consequence of the Virginia legislature requiring certain advertisements to be inserted in the Kentucky Gazette. This paper was born of the necessities of the times. The want of a government independent of Virginia was then universally felt, and the second convention that met in Danville, in 1785, to discuss that subject, resolved, "That to ensure unanimity in the opinion of the people respecting the propriety of separating the district of Kentucky from Virginia and forming a separate state government, and to give publicity to the proceedings of the convention, it is deemed essential to the interests of the country to have a printing press." A committee was then appointed to carry out the design of the convention; but all their efforts had failed when John Bradford called on General Wilkinson, one of the committee and informed him that he would establish a paper if the convention would guarantee to him the public patronage. To this the convention acceded, and in 1786 Bradford sent to Philadelphia for the necessary materials. He had already received every encouragement from the citizens on Lexington, and at a meeting of the trustees in July, it was ordered "that the use of a public lot be granted to John Bradford free, on condition that he establish a printing press in Lexington; the lot to be free to him as long as the press is in town," Mr. Bradford’s first office was in a log cabin, on the corner of Main and Broadway, now known as "Cleary’s," but then known as "opposite the court-house." He subsequently used a building on Main, between Mill and Broadway, about where Scott’s iron front building stands.

At last, after many months on the route, the precious printing material arrived, and on August 18, 1787, appeared the first number of the first newspaper ever published in the then western wilderness. It was a quaint little brown thing, about the size of a half sheet of common letter paper, "subscription price 18 shillings per annum, advertisements of moderate length 3 shillings." It was printed in the old style—f being used for s. The first number is without a heading, and contains one advertisement, two short original articles, and the following apology from the editor:

"My customers will excuse this, my first publication, as I am much hurried to get an impression by the time appointed. A great part of the types fell into pi in the carriage of them from Limestone (Maysville) to this office, and my partner, which is the only assistant I have, through an indisposition of the body, has been incapable of rendering the smallest assistance for ten days past."


"JOHN BRADFORD."

No wonder "the types fell into pi," for they had to be carried from "Limestone" to Lexington on pack-horses, that had swollen streams to cross, fallen trees to jump, and many a terrible "scare" from the sudden crack of Indian rifles, for there was not a half mile between the two places unstained with blood. The Gazette of 1787 is the only indicator extant of the size and importance of Lexington, at that time. We are able to surmise some things, at least, after looking over the first volumes of the Gazette. They are adorned with rude cuts and ornaments gotten up by Bradford himself. It is well known that he cut out the larger letters from dogwood. In these volumes we find advertised, among other things, knee buckles, hair-powder, spinning wheels, flints, buckskin for breeches, and saddle-bag locks. "Persons who subscribe to the frame meeting-house can pay in cattle or whisky." In another place the editor condemns the common practice of "taming bears," and also that of "lighting fires with rifles." Proceedings of the district convention are published. No. 5, of volume 1, contains the constitution of the United States just framed by the "grand convention" then in session. Notice is given to the public not to tamper with corn or potatoes at a certain place, as they had been poisoned to trap some vegetable stealing Indians. In another number, "notice is given that a company will meet at Crab Orchard next Monday, for an early start through the wilderness; most of the delegates to the State Convention at Richmond (to adopt constitution of United States), will go with them." Chas. Bland advertises, "I will not pay a note given to Wm. Turner for three second-rate cows till he returns a rifle, blanket, and tomahawk I loaned him." Later, the names of Simon Kenton and ‘Squire Boone appear. The columns of the Gazette are enriched with able and well-written articles, full of that mental vigor and natural talent for which our pioneer fathers were so justly celebrated; but "locals" are vexatiously scarce. Still the editor got up some. He often speaks of stealing, murdering, and kidnapping by Indians. At one time he speaks of a wonderful elephant on exhibition at a certain stable, and at another, "the people of the settlement are flocking in to see the dromedary"—quite a menagerie at that day. We must remember, if we think his "items" scarce, that at that time steamboats didn’t explode, nor cars run off the track, for none of these, or a thousand other modern item-making machines, were in existence.

Still the Gazette must have been read with the most intense interest; in fact a writer in one of its earliest numbers says: Mr. Bradford, as I have signed the subscription for your press, and take your paper, my curiosity eggs me on to read everything in it." And no wonder, for all documents of public interest had up to this time been written, were often illegible, and one copy only was to be seen at each of the principal settlements. And then it was the only paper printed within five hundred miles of Lexington, and there was no post-office in the whole district. It was published, too, at a time of unusual interest in politics, and while party spirit ran high. The old national government was crumbling to give place to the new; the settlements were distracted by French and Spanish intrigues; the people were indignant and hot-blooded over the obstructed navigation of the Mississippi, and convention after convention was being held to urge on the work of separation from Virginia. What a treat the Gazette was to the pioneers! Often when the post-rider arrived with it at a settlement, the whole population would crowd around the schoolmaster or "’squire," who, mounted in state upon a stump, would read it, advertisements and all, to the deeply interested and impatient throng.

Bradford’s editorial situation, contrasted with the same magnificent surroundings and princely style of a New York journalist of the present day, was quite interesting. His steamboat, railroad, telegraph and mail carrier was a pack mule. His office was a log cabin. His rude and unwieldy hand-press was of the old-fashioned style, that for centuries had not been improved, and, in addition, it was a second-hand one. He daubed on the ink by hand with two ancient dog-skin inking balls, and probably managed to get sixty or seventy copies printed on one side in an hour. It he wrote at night, it was by the light of a rousing fire, a bear-grease lamp, or a buffalo tallow candle; an editorial desk made of a smooth slab, supported by two pairs of cross legs; a three-legged stool, ink horn, and a rifle composed the rest of the furniture of his office. The Gazette was, for some time, in its early history, printed on paper made near Lexington, at the mill of Craig, Parker & Co. This pioneer journal of the West existed for nearly three-quarters of a century. There is no greater treasure in the Lexington Library than the old files of the Kentucke Gazette.

(Source: History of Lexington Kentucky: its early annals and recent progress, George W. Ranck, Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co., 1872, pages 124-127.)  Transcribed by Pam Brinegar November 1999
 


 
Articles on John Bradford
 
1.
 
"Bradford's 'Gazette' Started Here in 1787" (Includes copy of pencil sketch of John Bradford above.)
 
2.
 
TUESDAY SALE AFFECTS LEXINGTON LANDMARK

When the auctioneer calls for the opening bid of the late Miss Laura Clay's home at the corner of Second and Mill streets Tuesday, one of Lexington's oldest, most historic landmarks will be offered for sale. The
two-story, brick residence, an adjoining structure and two vacant lots at the rear will be sold to settle Miss Clay's estate. The older house was built 147 years ago and many of Kentucky's most noted persons have lived there.
 
It was the home of Col. Thomas Hart, a member of the famous Henderson Company, which was one of the first groups to colonize Kentucky; of John Bradford, early settler of Lexington and founder of the Kentucky Gazette, first newspaper west of Pittsburgh; of Gen. John Hunt Morgan, organizer of the Lexington Rifles and one of the most daring leaders of all American wars and of Miss Laura Clay, daughter of the noted Cassius M. Clay and nationally-known champion of woman's suffrage. There Henry Clay, eloquent orator and renowned statesman, married Lucretia Hart, daughter of Colonel Hart. There General Morgan wed Rebecca Gratz Bruce, a member of another of Kentucky's prominent families.
 
The old house, an early American type, was constructed in 1794, when Colonel Hart came to Kentucky to assume control of a large tract of land in Lexington. Five years later Henry Clay married the colonel's daughter, Lucretia, and 18-year-old girl of "great dignity" who "attracted attention and inspired respect." The wedding ceremony was performed under
the archway in the house.
 
Thomas Hart Jr., acquired the property on Feb. 10, 1802, for 1,200 pounds. It remained in his possession until March 20, 1806, when John Bradford, the first printer of the west, who had established a newspaper
in Lexington in 1787, bought it for $5,000. A plaque on the Second-street side of the house reads:

This House Was the Home of
John Bradford
1749-1830
A Pioneer Settler of Lexington
First Printer of Kentucky
Co-Founder of The Kentucky Gazette
A Prominent, Public-Spirited and Useful Citizen.


The tablet was erected in Bradford's honor by the John Bradford Club of Lexington on April 19, 1926.
 
On Dec. 28, 1833, three years after Bradford's death, the house passed into possession of John Bruce for $4,400. Evidently the Bruce family had moved into the residence immediately after Bradford died, for
in June, 1830, Rebecca Gratz Bruce, who was to become Mrs. John Hunt Morgan was born there.
 
The Bruce baby was named for Rebecca Gratz, who was the inspiration for Sir Walter Scott's Rebecca of "Ivanhoe." Scott has never seen Rebecca Gratz but she was described vividly to him by Washington Irving. The Bruce's and Gratzes were close friends and business partners. On Nov. 21, 1848, the dashing John Hunt Morgan, who reportedly could have had his choice of the belles of that period, was wed to the the beautiful Rebecca Gratz Bruce in the same house in which Henry Clay had taken marriage vows 51 years earlier.
 
The Morgans lived in the house for some time, the period of which is not known. Referring to Morgan, Ranck's "History of Lexington" states that "just before the late war (War Between the States), he lived on the corner opposite his old home, in the house now occupied by Mrs. Ryland." His old home still stands opposite the Laura Clay estate.
 
Mrs. Ann E. Ryland, a sister-in-law of Cassius M. Clay, became the fifth owner of the house on June 2, 1869. She bought if for $10,000, the largest price ever paid for the property. "Cash" Clay, in his autobiography, "The Life of Cassius Marcellus Clay, Memoirs, Writings, and Speeches," wrote that it was to Mrs. Ryland's home that his wife, Mary Warfield Clay, moved when a breach arose between the two. Evidently the late owner of the residence, Miss Laura Clay, moved from White Hall to Lexington with her mother.
 
The older citizens of Lexington recall it was during Mr. Ryland's ownership in the 1880's that an addition was built to the old house. This section, a three-story, three-apartment brick, will be separately sold at Tuesday's auction. A solid partition separates the two structures. The property passed from Mrs. Ryland to Miss Clay and her sister, Mrs. Anne W. Crenshaw of Richmond, Va. Miss Clay acquired her sister's half interest for $3,500 on March 31, 1899.  Ever since the latter part of the 19th century, Miss Clay, who died June 29 at the age of 92, had lived there. More than half of her life was passed in the old residence.
 
The 147-year-old house and its addition has been modernized with a furnace, gas and electricity. The two-story structure contain seven rooms, four baths and a basement. Each apartment in the addition consists of five rooms with a bathroom. A spacious lawn behind the two houses, bordered by a brick wall which also was built in the late 18th century, will be sold in two lots. Each is 50 by 101 feet.

(Source:  From the scrapbook of Annie Page Wiley
The Lexington Leader, Lexington, Ky., September 8, 1941)
Transcribed by Mrs. Mrs. A. Franks
 
3.

Seventeen and eighty-seven was the year of ratification of the constitution. Upon this occasion Fayette was represented in the Virginia convention by Humphrey Marshall and John Fowler. In December of this year a number of public spirited gentlemen, at least half of whom were from Lexington, established a society known as the Kentucky Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge. The second convention, which met at Danville in 1785, recognized the need of a government independent of Virginia, and to the end that there might be a unanimity of opinion among the people, decided to establish a newspaper. In 1786 John Bradford upon the assurance of public patronage, agreed to establish a newspaper, which promise he fulfilled, the first number of the "Kentucke Gazette" appearing in 1787. "It was a quaint little brown thing, about the size of a half sheet of common letter paper- subscription price 18 shillings per annum, advertisements of moderate length three shillings." A full and very interesting account is found in Ranck's history of Lexington. The History of Four Lexingtons
Review of the City's Growth From Infancy to the Present Time: Condensation of Epoch-Making Events

(Source:  The (Lexington, KY) Morning Herald, 02 February 1902, By E.V. Tadlock)
 

4.

EXCERPTS FROM THE (LEXINGTON, KY) LEADER, 01 APRIL 1916

"THE HOME OF THE GAZETTE, published by John Bradford as Kentucky's pioneer newspaper August 18, 1787, was at the northwest corner of Main street and Broadway.)

"BOOKS PRINTED HERE by John Bradford in 1794, his plant then being on an alley just west of the Carty Building, are on shelves of the Lexington Library.)

"THE COLONEL THOMAS HART HOME, in which Henry Clay married Lucretia Hart in 1799, is at the southwest corner of Second and Mill streets. In the same house General Morgan was married to Miss Bruce, thereafter making it his home, and John Bradford died there."

(Source:  History Shrines in and About Lexington - (Compiled by Ernest Helm))


MISCELLANEOUS QUOTES

"An enterprising pioneer editor who knew a good business deal when he saw one laid the groundwork 159 years ago for the expanding, bustling post office and mail-distributing system Lexington now has. Like most editors, John Bradford of the Kentucky Gazette was interested in circulation. In 1787, Bradford began to use post riders."

"First KY Newspaper Established In Lexington, 1787"

"The Kentucky Gazette, said to be the oldest newspaper west of the Allegheny Mountains."

October 21, 1793 - Hold Your Horses in Lexington

Horses were an important commodity in the early Lexington, Kentucky area. The 1790 Fayette County tax rolls accounted for 9,607 horses, 56 stallions, 2,522 slaves, and nine taverns. The horses were not necessarily Thoroughbreds, but it is certain that many were raced. When arguments arose among early Kentuckians, they were usually settled by a horse race. Races were usually quarter-mile dashes on straight paths or a town street. By 1791, an annual three day race meet was already an October custom in Lexington.

In 1793, street horse racing threatened Lexington's peace. Therefore, it was proclaimed by the majority of the townsmen that "jockeys racing their horses through the streets" were troublesome. The trustees issued strict orders confining racing to "the lower end of the Commons (West Water Street) where stud horses can be shown."


 
"The Trustees of the town of Lexington, feeling the dangers and inconveniences which are occasioned by the practice (but too common) of racing through the streets of the inn and out lots of the town, and convinced that they are not invested with saficient authority to put a stop to such practices, recommend it to the people of the town, to call a public meeting, to consider of the means which ought to be adopted for applying a remedy to the growing evil.
John Bradford, Ch.
                       Lexington, October 21st, 1793
 
The International Museum of the Horse - The Legacy of the Horse
 

 
John and Elizabeth Bradford were my 4th great-grandparents.
 
Susan K. Hudspeth
 
Copyright 2006  Susan Kay Hudspeth
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