History of Kentucky Governors

Kentucky Governors and Elections




      The only stone mason to serve as Governor was Thomas "Stone Hammer" Metcalfe.  Governor Metcalfe was a skilled stone mason prior to his entry into public life.  His work included the tavern in Versailles owned by Henry Clay's mother and step-father. He also laid the stone foundation for the Governor's Mansion which is now known as the Lt. Governor's Mansion.

       Metcalfe served as a Captain during the War of 1812 where he led a company in the Battle of Fort Meigs (Ohio).  He began service as an elected official first as a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives (1812 to 1816) and in the U.S. House of Representatives from March 1819 until his election as Governor in 1828.  In the U.S. Congress he served as chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs and the Committee on Militia.  During the disputed Presidential Election of 1824 decided by Congress he voted for John Quincy Adams (who was supported by Henry Clay) over Andrew Jackson.

      Metcalfe was a Whig and political ally of Henry Clay.  The Whigs would dominate the Kentucky Governor's Office from 1828 until after the death of Clay in 1852.

     As Governor, "Stone Hammer", supported the Whig position for internal improvements "as essential to the welfare of the state".  Projects supported included the canal around the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville, bonding for the railroad between Lexington and Cincinnati and the highway/toll road known as the Lexington and Maysville Turnpike now the route of US 68 which ran by Metcalfe's farm in Nicholas County.

     Governor Metcalfe’s only successful achievement to advance education in the Commonwealth was a report on the status of education in Kentucky.  The report was produced by Rev. Alva Wood and Benjamin Peters.  It noted that only one-third of the children in the state attended school of any kind.  The report’s recommendations were not acted upon.

      Governor Metcalfe spoke against South Carolina’s threats of nullification of the federal tariff.  Metcalfe believed that allowing one state to nullify federal law would result in dissolution of the Union.

    After serving as Governor, "Stone Hammer" Metcalfe was elected to the Kentucky State Senate serving from 1834 until 1838. On June 23, 1848 he was appointed to the U.S. Senate filling the balance of John J. Crittenden's term when he resigned to become U.S. Attorney General.

    Metcalfe died in August 1855 of cholera at his home in Nicholas County. 

    Metcalfe County is named for Kentucky Governor Thomas "Stone Hammer" Metcalfe.