The city of Newport was established in 1795 by James Taylor Jr. Newport was named after Admiral Christopher Newport. The land had actually been surveyed twenty years prior by his brother Hubbard Taylor, who at the time was surveying it for his father Col. James Taylor Sr.
In 1803, James Taylor Jr. requested the help of his cousin James Madison, who at the time was U.S. secretary of state to persuade the federal government to move the Ft. Washington military post from Cincinnati to Newport. The barracks would then replace Fort Washington across the river in Cincinnati Ohio. There were around 4 acres in the original tract, which was bought from the old Colonel Taylor estate for the minimal price if $1. In 1806, two additional acres were bought for $47. Taylor was hired as the superintendent of the construction of the barracks. He was to erect three buildings. John Metcalf of Fleming County and Dan Mayo of Newport contracted for the brick and stone work at $7 per thousand bricks and 75 cents per perch of stone. Stephen Lyon did most of the carpentry and Amos B Watson of New York was the joiner.
Colonel William Boyd arrived in Newport in March 1811 with 600 men who pitched their tents in the fields adjacent to the Barracks. Newport had become the recruiting center for Ohio and Kentucky and had to furnish equipment and soldiers for the newly acquired Louisiana Territory. Soon after this came the War of 1812, and the barracks was called upon to furnish her share of soldiers to go to the front in the second war with Great Britain. Gen. James Taylor Jr. was Quartermaster General and paymaster of the Northwestern Army during this war, thus Newport became a vital center for war supplies. British prisoners were also brought to Newport.
In 1842 Taylor asked the government for $20,000 to make improvements at the Barracks. After 35 years of use they were in need of repair. Not only was it approved but Captain J R Irwin of the Quartermaster Department who was sent to Newport to hasten the undertakings, requested money to purchase some additional land, erect officers and laundress quarters and build a hospital. On 7 January 1845 Irwin informed General Thomas Sidney Jesup that the new hospital was ready for patients, the enlisted men were in their barracks and two sets of officers quarters needed only a stockade to finish them.
In 1848 the city of Newport gave to the government all the land lying between the barracks and the Ohio and Licking Rivers. These waterfronts included several acres and were given free to the government, with the stipulation that in case the barracks was ever abandoned the property would revert to the city.
Newport Barracks became a depot of the Eastern Department of the Recruiting Service until 16 Jul 1859 when it was made an independent department. During the Civil War, although Kentucky was a slave state and families divided over the issues of states rights and abolition. Wounded and dying from the war were brought to Newport as well as Confederate prisoners. It is also said that Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and Union General Ulysses S. Grant did tours of duty at the Newport Barracks.
Picture taken from Eden Park around 1872 with Cincinnati on the right and the Barracks and Covington on the left across the river.
After the Civil War ended, the Barracks lost their usefulness as one company posts were giving way to larger installations. Its days were certainly numbered after the floods of 1882, 1883 and 1884. The floods made some of the buildings uninhabitable. The Secretary of War purchased 112 acres on a hill above the Ohio River three miles east of Newport which became Ft. Thomas. By November 1894 all personnel and equipment was transferred out to Fort Thomas. On the 2nd of January 1895, Colonel Cochran formerly transferred Newport Barracks to the City of Newport. The city eventually built General James Taylor Park on the grounds.
Newport Barracks in the flood of 1884
History on James Taylor Jr. and Newport, KY
James Taylor, Jr. (1769–1848) was an American banker, Quartermaster general, and one of the wealthiest early settlers of Kentucky. He was a founder of the city of Newport, Kentucky.
He was the fifth child born to James Taylor Sr. and his wife, Anne Hubbard Taylor in Midway Virgina. His father, James Taylor Sr., bought 2,700 acres of land in Northern Kentucky from his friend George Muse, which was part of the land Muse had been awarded for his military service in the French and Indian Wars.
The Taylor family had two cousins, James Madison and Zachary Taylor, who later become presidents of the United States.
On April 1, 1792, just short of his 23rd birthday, James Taylor Jr. left his father's plantation for Kentucky accompanied by three slaves, Moses, Humphrey and Adam, along with an English Army deserter, Robert Christy, and Christy's wife and their three children. They reached Newport June 20 but couldn't find lodging so he stayed at Ft. Washington in Cincinnati. His enslaved men worked through the summer to clear 16 acres in fields along the Licking, plant two corn crops and build a small cabin on lot no. 6 at the southwest corner of Second Street and Central Avenue. He became the driving force behind the settlement's development. He laid out the first road to Lexington in August with Jacob and Edward Fowler.
In 1794 James Taylor tapped his connections with Kentucky's leaders to lobby at Frankfort for acts incorporating Newport and creating Campbell County, Kentucky. The legislature established the county on December 17, 1794 from parts of Mason, Scott and Harrison Counties. On December 14, 1795 it approved Newport's charter.
James Taylor jr. and Keturah Moss Leitch were married on November 15, 1795. James and Keturah Taylor had 11 children, but only four survived to maturity.
During a storied lifetime, James Taylor Jr. operated ferries across both the Ohio and Licking rivers, helped to found banks, invested in the mammoth Newport Manufacturing Co., operated saw and grist mills along the Licking River, was part owner of a salt-works at Grants Lick, Ky., ran a tanning business and in his spare time was known to collect fossils and hunt buffalo at Big Bone Lick in Boone County.
James Taylor Jr. and his wife were laid to rest at the Taylor Family Plot Evergreen Cemetery, Southgate, Ky. At his death, James Taylor Jr. was said to be one of the wealthiest men in the state of Kentucky, with an estate valued at more than $4 million.
In the mid 1800s, Newport became a hub for trade, industry and culture. Just a few years later, Gen. Taylor's grandson established the wealthy area of East Row, a collection of elegant homes. Today, the East Row local Historic District is the second largest local district in Kentucky and the Taylor Mansion is the district's oldest house.
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