Tag Archives: Route 66

One of 5 Historic James Homes in Pulaski County, Kentucky

This is one of five historic homes of our James family in Pulaski County, Kentucky. Located at the intersection of Route 80 and James Road, the site is about eight miles east of Somerset, Kentucky.

Unclear is whether this home was built by John M. James (1751-1823), or by his son, Reverend Daniel Field James (1795-1871). I believe it was John. Daniel built his own brick home on Highway 461, north of Dahl Road. John’s previous brick home was built at the bend in Dahl Road, circa 1795. This second home was more opulent in its construction with arched windows and doorways, and much larger in size than John’s first home.

This home definitely was occupied by two of John’s daughters and their husbands. John’s third eldest daughter, Betsy, lived here with her husband, Reverend Jeremiah Vardeman. After she eloped with Jerry, John brought the un-godlike Jerry into Baptist ministry. Jerry went on to become an eminent Baptist Divine. Jeremiah Vardeman founded the schools of Theology at Georgetown College in Kentucky, and at William Jewell College in Missouri. He also gave Frank and Jesse’s father, Reverend Robert Sallee James, $20,000 to become a William Jewell College founder, after Robert graduated Georgetown.

Record books today identify this tract as “The Vardeman Tract.” Jerry’s enslaved were buried in a cemetery on this site. Jerry also had a still in the knob behind the cemetery meadow. John’s eldest daughter, Molly, subsequently occupied this home with Senator Jack Griffin Sr.

The home then was occupied by Will James, John’s grandson and a son of Daniel Field James, with his wife Nancy R. Gilliland. Will, it is said, got shot up riding with Frank and Jesse. Will returned to this home partially crippled. The estate sits in clear view of James cemetery, on the knob diagonally across Route 80 at the end of James Road.

It was Jack Griffin’s son, Senator Jack Griffin Jr., who accidentally burned down the house. This photo shows the markings of the fire that consumed the second story bedroom level.

Today, all the bricks are gone. The leveled site is planned as an interchange for the extension of historic Route 66. A gravel pit consumed the former slave cemetery onsite. The Commonwealth of Kentucky avoiding any necessary cemetery mitigation for the enslaved. The Commonwealth also determined the home itself not to be worthy of an archeological excavation. Soon the site will become a road interchange, unless the present delay in construction, caused by the collapse of the national economy, persists anbd national transportation funds are withheld.

We pray to John, Jerry, Daniel, Will, to all their wives, and to all their enslaved, that the history of Route 66 never paves over the history of our James family.

Route 80 Expansion in Pulaski County Dead

i-66-louisville-courierThe planned Route 66 expansion over Route 80 through Somerset east to Shopville and beyond is dead. This road cuts through the historical lands of Pulaski County’s first judge-executive and founder John M. James (1751-1823). The Louisville Courier-Journal reported yesterday, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has halted work on the highway, concluding, “There is little prospect that construction funds will be available in the foreseeable future.”

For a couple of years, I was a consulting party for I-66, representing The James Preservation Trust and the historical interests of the James family. I’m pleased the project’s been rendered comatose.

Particularly distressing during the review process was the despicable practice of the Transportation Cabinet to rename historical properties in the road’s path, despite panel objections. Long historic names were removed. Historical properties were re-identified by the names of current occupants. This corruption was intended to avoid potential mitigation for historical properties. Panel objections voiced during public hearings were voided by the Transportation Cabinet.

Also, a construction permit was granted at Route 80 & James Rd. for a gravel pit and mine on a site where enslaved where known to have been interred. This location was for former site of the James mansion house, once occupied by Rev. Jeremiah & Betsy James Vardeman, Rev. Daniel Fields James, and Sen. Jack Griffin. This site was planned for a roadway interchange linking Route 80 to a newly constructed by-pass around Somerset.

As a 4th great grandson of Pulaski County’s first judge-executive & founder, John M. James, I don’t believe John would have objected to this road through his historic lands, where the road truly needed. Traffic projections, however, concluded the road isn’t needed at all, now nor in the foreseeable future.