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Kentucky Historical Society Curator Nicky Hughes Brings Jacob Golladay to Life

Since we talked about Jacob Golladay yesterday, I thought you would enjoy this information about Nicky Hughes’ recreation of the gentleman during tours of the Old Capitol Building. If you have never been to the capitol on Broadway, in downtown Frankfort, it is definitely worth the trip. In a picture further along in this article you will see the beautiful double staircases that take you to the Senate and House chambers. At the time that Nicky Hughes was an employee of the Kentucky Historical Society, it was located on the third floor of a building that was located beside the capitol. I fondly remember days of research there.

News Democrat Leader, Russellville, Logan County, Kentucky

Thursday, August 5, 1993

Sen. Jacob Golladay of Logan County to reappear after a 100-year absence

The Old State Capitol will come alive this August with the presence of a former occupant.

1993

Sen. Jacob Golladay of Logan County will make a reappearance after more than a 100-year absence, thanks to a new living history program produced by Old State Capitol Curator Nicky Hughes.

Hughes, a 20-year employee of the Kentucky Historical Society and an avid Civil War reenactor, will add yet another personality to his repertoire as he assumes the character of Golladay in the landmark building’s Senate Chamber.

Visitors to the Old State Capitol will be invited to enter the Senate and step back in time to 1854, a year chosen because of the detailed inventories of the building in the Society’s records from that time.  Though selection process was somewhat random, Hughes said, Golladay’s identity was chosen, “Because we wanted to have someone away from the central part area of the state, someone who had to travel a long distance to represent the wishes of his constituents.”

Newspaper reprints, replicas of spittoons, quill pens and inkwells will give the room the look and feel of former times.

“It’s my aim to give visitors an idea of what the room felt like, how it was kept warm, how it was lighted, and how business was conducted.”  Hughes said, “I can’t really recreate the smell of the place, but I will ask our guests, 38 senators, two clerks and a few benches of visitors to imagine smoking, chewing and spitting tobacco.”

Hughes will engage visitors in conversation and discuss issues of the day, including the demise of the Whig Party following Henry Clay’s death in 1852, revisions to the 1850 state constitution and the escalating divisiveness over slavery.

In September Hughes will offer yet another living history program providing insight into the conflict resulting from arguments over slavery and states rights.  “Capitol Confederates (And Yankees, Too)” will take the form of a Civil War encampment on the grounds of the Old State Capitol.

“We’ll be sure to point out that they’re standing on an actual battlefield,” Hughes said, and “remind them that the building was the only Unionist state capitol ever captured by Confederates.”

In September of 1862, Confederate forces moved into Frankfort and took over the Capitol building until Federal forces pushed them from the area almost a month later.  While in the capital city, the Confederates installed a governor and planned an inaugural ball, which was hastily cancelled with the sighting of Union troops.

For most of the rest of the war, Union troops were stationed at Fort Boone, located on a hill overlooking the Old State Capitol.  When Confederates advanced toward the city again in June of 1864, Union troops launched shells toward nearby South Frankfort and the bridge where the Confederates were advancing.

“They had shells whistling over the Old Capitol, but thankfully, none hit it,” Hughes said.

Visitors will learn what soldiers wore, what they ate, and how they entertained themselves during the war.  Sometimes the character will be a Confederate private, other times a Union sergeant.

The “Meet the Senator” presentations will take place 1-4 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 7 through Sept. 30.  Hughes said the programs will be offered again next year.  The “Capitol Confederates” will be offered in April and May of 1994, with the “Senator” program following in June, July and August.

The Old State Capitol, located at Broadway and Lewis streets in historic downtown Frankfort, is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and noon until 4 p.m., Sunday.  For more information contact the historical society at (502)564-3016.

A portion of the article in the July 5, 1995, Lexington Herald Leader:

State Sen. Jacob Golladay, a proud Whig follower of Henry Clay, died more than a century ago.  But he still walks the halls of the Old State Capitol.

History is alive and well and living through Nicky Hughes, curator of the Old State Capitol.

Dressed in a black suit with tails, a bow tie, gray gloves and a top hat, Hughes becomes Golladay and talks with visitors as though they have been transported back in time.

He gives a first-person account of issues of the day – Golladay’s unsuccessful effort to export freed slaves from the state, his successful push for a property tax increase to pay for education reforms and a $2-a-head bounty on wildcats aimed at eradicating the now-revered creatures.

Whether it’s a demonstration of writing with the quill pens on lawmakers’ desks or Golladay’s economic arguments supporting slavery, schoolchildren are captivated.

“They love him,” tour guide Annie Denny said.

Hughes spent months researching Golladay and the 1850’s so he could answer the wide-ranging questions that visitors pose.

He selected Golladay, a lawyer and farmer who owned a dozen slaves, because he lived in the same area of Western Kentucky where Hughes grew up.  “That way I knew the geography of the area and some of the history of the place.”

Golladay wasn’t a famous statesman, but he was an ambitious politician who served in both the state House and Senate, chambers controlled by the Whig Party.  After the Civil War and the downfall of his party, Golladay became a Democrat and won a seat in Congress.

His stay was short.  His colleagues demanded his resignation after he was caught selling a West Point commission.

Hughes never stops studying Golladay.  “I’m getting to know him better and better,” he said. 

Hughes is convincing as Golladay, said Denny, the tour guide.

She recalls a youngster who returned to the Old Capitol with his family after seeing Hughes’ character during a school trip.  The boy thought he had been transported by a time machine, Denny said.

“Where is that man who made me think I was going crazy?” the boy asked.

Jacob Shall Golladay

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