The formation of Trimble County in 1836 out of sections of Oldham, Henry and Gallatin counties is a chapter of much interest and historical importance to our people here at home. Nearly all the early counties of Kentucky history were named from some hero of Revolutionary times, but in the case of our neighbor county we come upon the story of a family so worthy and distinguished in state annuals that we shall make it typical of the sort of ancestral stock that constituted the brawn and brain and moral fiber of the Old Time Kentuckians. The original Trimble family were not residents of that county, but a number of their descendants settled there and in Oldham and were always among the very best people of the community. We are indebted to the work of Mrs. Lavins Gross, of St. Louis, Mo. for the initial sketch of the Trimbles, compiled from old family archives.
Robert Trimble continued his studies under another attorney at the death of George Nicholas, and was licensed to practice by the Court of Appeals in 1863(probably should be 1803). He hung out his shingles in Paris, Kentucky, that same year and was elected to the Legislature from Bourbon County. This experience was the heated atmosphere and arena of political intrigue and contest proved disastrous in his sensitive and honorable nature that he several times declined nominations even to the Senate of the United States. He stuck to the practice of law and to the literature and duties of his profession, preparing himself for the most impartial and dignified career of a jurist. In 1808 he was advanced to the court of Appeals and there distinguished himself. In 1810 he was offered the appointment as Chief Justice of the State; but owing to his limited fortune he returned to the private practice of his profession. He filed successively the office of District Attorney and that of Federal Judge. In 1826 President John Quincy Adams appointed him to the Supreme Court at Washington. His ability and high sense of honor and justice occasioned immediate recognition from Chief Justice Marshall and his colleagues of the court. he died in Washington in 1828 in the fifty second year of his age, widely mourned and lamented. Trimble county was named in his honor eight years later.
Perhaps the most notable incident in the life of Judge Robert Trimble was his support of the so called Anti-Relief Party and measures in the fierce contest between the creditor and debtor classes in this State one hundred years ago. The great world against Napoleon had ended with a wide collapse of the industrial and financial fabric in England, France and Italy had brought the masses of the people over there to the verge of starvation in 1816-17. In this country, as usual speculation had reached a feverish extreme. Western land, new canals and turnpikes and other internal improvements had excited the hope and cupidity of the people to such an extent that the crash of 1819 shook the country to its foundations. The new doctrine of protection, that had appeared under the embargo of the War of 1812, fostered stock companies, corporations, and other mushroom enterprises along with the infant industries of the nation. In Kentucky the Old State Bank had existed since 1807. People imagined that more bands and more paper money would assist mightily in solving the desperate problem of creditor and debtor. Anticipating the collapse of the speculation craze, the Kentucky Legislature in 1818 chartered forty-six independent banks. The suspension of specie payment soon followed. In 1820 the independent banks were abolished by the State and the Bank of the Commonwealth was established at Frankfort with a branch in each judicial district. A paper dollar was worth but fifty cents in specie. The distress of the debtor class beggars description. The biographer of Judge Ben Hardin says that in the vicinity of Louisville the finest farms had been taken over by the banks and could buy land only on terms made to the security of the creditor class.
The cry of the Relief Party, which represented the great majority of the people who were in poor circumstances or heavily in debt, so moved the Legislature that laws were passed postponing the inevitable day of doom to the debtor. It was in this excited and impassioned conflict that imprisonment for debt was abolished in the State of Kentucky. General John Adair, an old Revolutionary Hero, was Governor and approved of the law passed to protect the impoverished masses whose ballots gave them overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate in Frankfort. The Anti-Relief Party, which included the merchants most of the lawyers and jurists, and the more prosperous farmers, fought the Relief Party even the Free Silver Campaign and the Goebel controversy of seventy-five years later were minor political episodes. Oldham county was born in the heat and excitement of this famous social conflict.
Judge John Trimble was appointed to New Court of Appeals by Governor Desha. It seems that the excitement and distress all around him became so discouraging that he resigned his position not very long after. The Legislature, who created the New Court of Appeals had been unable under the constitution to remove the judges of the Old Court, so a law was passed repealing the act by which the Old Court had been organized. This enactment was put through in perhaps the most exciting session of the Kentucky legislature ever known. The Old Court absolutely refused to be abolished; and the greater part of the legal profession and state judiciary stuck to the Old Court. The New Court, however, held its sessions and was recognized by a substantial part of the lawyers and judges over the state. Meanwhile the poor and distressed masses of the people through ballots had given such overwhelming majorities for the relief in the legislature, began to emigrate westward in such numbers that by the next election the Old Court party came to power again. Records of the time revealed how steady was the stream of people to other states and territories. In the year 1820, Thomas H. Benton, the United States Senator from Missouri appeared in public life with the profound sympathy for the struggling masses. Thousands of the Revolutionary veterans had drifted westward in utter destitution; for it is said that if all thosse who were burdened with debt in one single New England State had been imprisioned for it, two-thirds of the population, including the old soldiers would have been behind the bars. The famous Col. Barton who captured Colonel Prescot, languished in prison for a debt of the sort. And Senator Thomas H. Benton gives us in the opening of his great book, "Thirty Years in the U.S. Senate, " a graphic picture of conditions.