January 23, 2014

Traces of Laurel: W.R. Ramsey II

By Jan Sparkman

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The subject of this week’s column – W. R. Ramsey – was well-known in Laurel County for his law expertise.  Ramsey’s father was W. R. Ramsey Sr., and his mother was Julia Randall, daughter of Judge William H. Randall.  W. R. Ramsey, Sr., died when his children were young which meant that W. R. Ramsey, II was, as Charles Kellogg puts it, “left to his own resources to gain a livelihood.”

According to Kellogg, Ramsey “obtained the rudiments of his education at the Laurel Seminary, but when only thirteen years of age he left the school of his native county to accept a clerkship in the pension office at Lexington, which position he held until he had accumulated sufficient means to enable him to take a course of study at the State College and Kentucky University.”  Later he attended law school at the University of Michigan, worked for a law firm there for a while and graduated around 1882.  He came back to Kentucky and formed a partnership with his grandfather, but after Judge Randall’s death in 1884 he practiced alone.

Thirteen seems early to obtain a clerkship anywhere, even in the 1880s, so he probably had some help from his grandfather, Judge Randall, with whom Julia and her children seemed to have lived after Ramsey, Sr. died, or perhaps until Julia remarried to J. T. Brown in 1875.  She died in 1880 and is buried in the Randall Cemetery at the end of East First Street.  If the father of her children is buried there, no record exists of his grave.

Census reports show that W. R. Ramsey, II, was born ca. 1867 and was still living at the time Kellogg wrote his “Glimpses of London and Her People” in 1895.  Kellogg does not mention a marriage for W. R., II, and I can find no record of one in Laurel County. 

Ramsey held several offices of importance, including Police Judge, Master Commissioner, and he briefly served in the Lower House of the Kentucky Legislature.  In writing about Ramsey, Logan Ewell said:  “Ramsey . .  was a very capable lawyer of his day.  He served as prosecuting attorney for this district for several years.  He was a political orator of statewide fame and in the year 1890 was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention at which Convention he was selected by the members thereof to inscribe upon sheepskin parchment the Constitution adopted by this Convention.  The pure Spenserian penmanship of W. R. Ramsey was scarcely to be equaled in all of Kentucky.  It was absolutely legible, its formation symmetrical in highest degree, its shading or emphasis on the stroke of the pen requiring such were as well nigh perfect as could be.”  This talent seems to have made Ramsey famous in his day, at least locally.

At one point, W. R. Ramsey shared office space with his physician brother, Dr. R. T. Ramsey.  The doctor eventually moved to Colorado.  More research needs to be done to see where W. R. Ramsey, II, ended his life.  I do not find his death listed in the Laurel County Historical Society’s cemetery books and since I am traveling and cannot check some of the sources I usually have access to, I will have to do further research on that when I return home.  If you know more about this family feel free to contact me at the email address below.



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