January 9, 2014

Traces of Laurel: Judge W. L. Brown

By Jan Sparkman

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Before I tell you about Judge W. L. Brown I want to add something to the information I gave last week on Edward Parker.  Remember that I couldn’t give his death date nor explain why he wasn’t buried in the same plot as his wife and daughter.  Turns out there was a good reason.  Thanks to Beuna Bishop and Renee Beets, two of my co-workers at the Laurel County Historical Society, I now know a bit more.

Parker and his first wife divorced and Parker later married Mrs. Julia Litton whose maiden name was (possibly) Bryant.  They moved to Yakima County Washington where Parker died on April 16, 1926.  Both he and Julia are buried there in the Tahoma Cemetery.  It seems that Parker continued his public service in Washington state, being elected to Congress while a resident there.  As for donating the family cemetery where his daughter was buried to the community, Renee found records that show him selling lots in the area. I’ve always been told that he donated the land that became A.R. Dyche Cemetery but could be that’s just folklore.



Judge W. L. Brown


Kellogg writes:  “W. L. Brown, son of George P. and Eveline Hopkins Brown, was born in London, KY, April 3, 1841.  His early life was spent in his father’s store and in trading in stock, the latter often occasioning trips south.

He was married young and has six children, three by his first wife and three by his present wife.  (Remember that Kellogg’s sketches were written in 1895 and most of his subjects were still living.)  In 1860 he (Brown) was elected Lieutenant Colonel of the State Militia in Laurel County and was appointed delegate to represent the 8th Congressional District to the National Convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln the second time for the Presidency.”

Brown went on to serve in the War Between the States and also became known as one of the original Republicans in the southeastern part of Kentucky.  He was active in every campaign, both on the state and national level, stumping in support of the principles of the party.  He studied law under Judge Granville Pearl and was admitted to the bar in 1876. He ran on a temperance platform and was elected as Judge of Laurel County in 1878, beating both his Democrat and his Republican opponent. (Did the temperance platform represent a third party?)

He served as deputy clerk for both county and the circuit courts, as well as deputy sheriff, and was later elected county attorney. One of his duties as deputy sheriff was to carry out a sentence of 39 lashes on a party charged with petty larceny. (Kellogg only says “charged” not “convicted” but the fact that the sentence was executed surely means that the man was found guilty.)

Brown’s title of Judge came from his 1878 election to the office of County Judge. He served in this office again in the late 1890s and early 1900s. According to Dyche’s history, Brown was serving as judge in 1905 when one Virgil Bowers, a black man, was taken from the Laurel County Jail by a lynch mob and hanged.  Brown presided over a mass meeting of citizens angered by this and strongly condemned the action.  No one was ever brought to justice for the crime.

W. L. Brown was a member of and a worker in the M.E. Church.  He was still serving as County Judge when he died in 1917.  I don’t know the name of his first wife, but his second wife was Grace Hammett.  She died in 1929 and is buried beside her husband in A.R. Dyche Cemetery.


The Laurel County Historical Society is located at 310 W. 3rd St., London, (formerly the Laurel County Health Department).  The library is open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 12 noon.    Visit the historical society’s website at