Trimble Family History

The Trimbles
The Family and The County

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.

The Trimble Family

Five brothers, James, Moses, John, David and Alexander Trimble, came to America from Armagh, Ireland, in 1740. James and John settled in Augusta county, Virginia. James Trimble was a surveyor. He married Sarah Kersey and lived near Lexington, Va. He had six sons and four daughters. Jane, the oldest daughter, married Wm. McClure; Agnes married David Steele, ancestor of the Rockbridge family of that name; Sarah married Samuel Steele and removed to Tennessee; Rachel married James Carothers, who also went west. John Trimble, the brother of James, the surveyor, settled in Augusta on Middle River, about two miles from Churchville, eight from Staunton and five from Buffalo Gap. He married Mary Moffett, widow of John Moffett. His death occurred in 1764, having been killed by the Indians at the time of the second Kerr Massacre, when his only son, James was captured by the Indians and afterwards rescued by his half-brother, Capt. Geo. Moffett. John Trimble's widow and his brother James qualified as administrators in 1764. On the eighteenth of March, 1768, George Moffett qualified in the county court as the guardian of James Trimble orphan of John Trimble.

Captain James Trimble

Captain James Trimble was the son of John and Mary Christian Moffett Trimble and was born in Augusta county, Virginia, 1756, and removed with his half-brother, Robert Moffett, 1784, to what is now Woodford County, Kentucky, where he died in 1840. His family removed to Hillsboro, Ohio, where his sons became prominent and honorable men. Allen Trimble being acting Governor in 1822, and afterwards being elected Governor and serving from 1826 to 1830 Wm. A. Trimble, born in Woodford County, Kentucky, April 4, 1786, was a Major in the War of 1812, Brevit Lieutenant-Colonel, U.S.A., in 1810. He was elected to the United States Senate and died while a member of that body on December 13, 1821, aged thirty five years. James Trimble married Jane Allen, daughter of Capt. James Allen of Augusta and had eight children, six sons and two daughters, Margaret married James McCue of Augusta, and spent a long and honorable life in the county. The other daughter, Mary married John M. Nelson, a native of Augusta but long a resident of Hillsboro, Ohio.

Judge Robert Trimble

Judge Robert Trimble, in whose honor Trimble County was named, was a descendant of this old Irish family born in Berkeley county, Virginia, of a simple but most respectable farming people. The schools in the back-woods districts, to which his father had come across the mountains into Kentucky when Robert Trimble was but a small child, were so poor that the little fellow had a hard time securing an education. But he borrowed good books from cultivated families in the vicinity and improved himself rapidly, as he was a most diligent student. In his youth he aspired to the practice of law and began his studies under George Nicholas, whose chief distinction in the new State of Kentucky was thwarting this emancipation movement in the first constitutional convention, where Father David Rice immortalized himself as a patriot and lover of human freedom in opposition to George Nicholas.

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

Although Judge Robert Trimble lined up with the Anti-Relief Party, a new Court of Appeals was created by the Relief Party, and the conflict continued under the names of the Old Court and New Court parties. The New Court included such well-known names as George M. Bibb, Wm. T. Barry, John Rowan, John Trimble and others. This Judge John Trimble was born in Kentucky, December, 1783. When a youth of nineteen he served at the pioneer town of Vincennes, Indiana, as secretary to the territorial Governor. Upon his return to Kentucky he also studied law like his gifted relation, Robert Trimble, under George Nicholas. He practiced in the courts of Paris, Kentucky and rose to the Circuit Bench.

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.

Trimble Banner Bi-Centennial
April 1974

More on Robert Trimble and his family

Persons researching the Trimble Family - (click blue link to contact them)
Lois Easley

Back To Trimble County Genealogy
The First Trimble County Court
Booming Business in Pre-Civil War Trimble County
Trimble County - How It All Began