William Martin Fulkerson, Sr.

William Martin Fulkerson, Sr., who passed away June 14, 1900, was the oldest member of the Louisa bar, and his career as a lawyer constitutes an important chapter in the history of Kentucky. He was a son of Peter and Susan (Loar) Fulkerson and was born June 18, 1818, on the present site of Louisa, which was then included within the boundaries of Floyd county, Kentucky. His rudimentary instruction was acquired in a country school, and he next attended Marshall Academy, located in what is now Huntington, West Virginia. He studied law under Judge Richard Apperson, Sr., of Mount Sterling, Kentucky, and in 1841 was there admitted to the bar. 

Mr. Fulkerson followed his profession in Booneville, Owsley county, Kentucky, from 1845 until 1860 but in 1848 located in Proctor and there embarked in general merchandising. He continued his practice and was successful in both lines of endeavor. His military record covered service in the Mexican war with the rank of captain. After the close of the Civil war he opened an office in Louisa and engaged in practice until his death, retaining to the end of the chapter his mental and physical vigor. His life was rightly lived and he enjoyed the unqualified respect and confidence of his fellowmen. He was a talented attorney and a sagacious, farsighted business man of strict honesty. A portion of Owsley county was separated, and is now known as Lee county. Mr. Fulkerson was instrumental in bringing this about through petition to the legislature, and in the section of the state affected, he is affectionately termed the "Daddy of Lee County." In the archives of the Lawrence county clerk's office are no more valuable or historical records than the original surveys of eastern Kentucky made by Mr. Fulkerson. They cover a period from 1840 to 1900--up to the time of his death. These records are still frequently referred to, and their accuracy has never been questioned. They are the final authority on the source of title and patent boundary lines. Mr. Fulkerson was a warm personal friend of Chief Justice John M. Harlan, of the United States supreme court, also of Hon. Richard Apperson, Sr., of Mount Sterling, Kentucky. 

The following is a newspaper review of the career of William M. Fulkerson, Sr. which appeared at the time of his passing: "By the death of the man whose name heads this notice a very prominent character is removed from the public eye. Born June 18, 1818, just below where Louisa now is, he opened his eyes upon a wilderness. When he closed them, after nearly eighty-two years of eventful, busy life, the wilderness had blossomed as the rose. In the dense woods and canebrakes which marked the home of his boyhood Mr. Fulkerson spent much of his time hunting the game which, then so plentiful, is now gone. Until about nineteen years of age he attended such schools as the vicinity afforded. He then looked for better scholastic advantages and found them where Huntington now stands. The profession of the law was uppermost in his mind and he became its earnest student. He was admitted to the bar in 1841, and was about that time elected surveyor of the county. In 1848 he went to where Beattyville now stands and there combined the business of general merchant with the practice of law. He was successful in both lines, and this success attended him to the day of his death. Mr. Fulkerson was a member of what was known as the war electoral college, and as far as can be ascertained there is but one surviving member of that body--to wit, Justice John M. Harlan, of the supreme court of the United States. In the fall of 1860, Mr. Fulkerson espoused the cause of John Bell for president and stumped eastern Kentucky in his behalf, making one hundred and thirty-eight speeches during the memorable campaign, making the whole trip horseback, requiring two months' time. It is very likely that his 'Union' sentiments were largely the result of his association with the Hon. Richard Apperson, Jr., for it was with him that he studied law. 

"When the Civil war broke out, Mr. Fulkerson's old-time southern democracy asserted itself in the many articles he contributed to the press, 'An Offering,' 'The Union Party,' and 'To a Just Cause' being especially prominent. He had quite a poetic vein in his make-up and the newspapers of fifty years ago were frequent recipients of his effusions. He greatly admired the late K. F. Pritchard. Here is the concluding stanza of a meritorious poem dedicated to him: 

                    'Tis the most cherished hope of mine 
                    That time's broad, sweeping wing 
                    Will press softly, gently on us both, 
                    As the mild dews are shed in Spring. 
                    Do not forget, my dashing, flashing friend, 
                    That life here plays with us as in a dream! 
                    And how soon my name may not be called 
                    Nor even marked on the legal file-- 
                    Dropped, as yellow leaves drop in the Fall. 
                    Thy briefs will not be read, but laid away, 
                    Then the records no more will bear thy name, 
                    No more thy powers of speech display 
                    To eulogize another's fame, 
                  Nor convince the court of a client's claim. 

"In 1872 Mr. Fulkerson was married to Miss Julia Howell, of Louisa. By her he had four boys, the oldest of whom bears his name. To these boys he was a very indulgent father, it being his one great desire to see them grown and filling useful places in the world. All of his near kindred died while he was very young, leaving him unaided to make his way in the world. That he succeeded is shown by the results of his ambition, energy and devotion to the welfare of his clients. These elements, coupled with integrity, will always win. Houses, lands and bonds were his, the fruits of his labors. His career as a lawyer is part of the history of this state, and this history cannot be written without Mr. Fulkerson as a prominent figure. He was the oldest member of the Louisa bar, strictly moral and temperate to the point of total abstinence. These habits contributed largely to his extraordinary activity, enabling him at one time to walk from Platt county, Missouri, to Louisa. He died on the morning of June 14, 1900. It was not in the law alone that Mr. Fulkerson was well versed. He had read much history, ancient and modern, and he never forgot it. He was fond of the classic poets, and in his knowledge of the constitution as expounded by Jefferson, Webster and Calhoun, he had no superior in this section. All in all he was a very strong character--strong in his likes and dislikes, industrious to a degree, doting on his children, and bent on laying up treasure that they might reap and enjoy the fruit of his labor. Life with its turbulence is ended." 

The four children of Mr. and Mrs. Fulkerson were William Martin, Jr., Peter, George Howell and Heman W., all of whom are deceased except the oldest son. He is also a lawyer of high standing and resides in Louisa. William Fulkerson, Jr., has a collection of equipment used in the early days that is of considerable interest. A wooden saddle one hundred and thirty-five years old, a flint-lock musket of unknown antiquity, a home-made steel bear trap and a flax hackle made by hand form a part of the collection. Iron candle molds and candle snuffers are also included. A powder horn carried in the War of 1812, and a parchment deed dated 1793, covering fifteen thousand acres of land in Mason county (now Lawrence county) and covering the first permanent settlement on lower Big Sandy, are also highly prized. 



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