Bullitt County History

Elizabeth Griffin Act

On page 129 of the December 1817 edition of the Journal of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Kentucky it was recorded that on Tuesday, January 6, 1818, "Mr. Jewell presented the petition of Elizabeth Griffin, formerly Elizabeth Simpson, representing that a certain James Brown, an alien, some time since became indebted to her, and shortly afterwards died; that she afterwards commenced a suit and obtained a judgment against his administrators, but that said Brown at the time of his death was possessed of no personal property, and possessed only of some real estate in Shepherdsville, which she prays may be sold and the proceeds applied to the payment of her judgment, and the balance (if any) paid into the public treasury."

Then from Acts Passed at the First Session of the Twenty-Sixth General Assembly for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, published in 1818, pages 369-371, we learn that a certain Irishman named James Brown had died owing Elizabeth Griffin a debt, and that he had no heirs to receive the lots he owned in Shepherdsville. Apparently the lots would have become the property of the Commonwealth, but by this act the General Assembly allowed the Bullitt Circuit Court to sell the lots and pay Elizabeth what was owed her. Any balance remaining was to be set aside for the benefit of the Bullitt seminary, a local school.


An ACT for the benefit of Elizabeth Griffin, and for other purposes.

Approved January 23, 1818.

WHEREAS it is represented to the legislature of the commonwealth of Kentucky, that James Brown, late a resident of Shepherdsville, Bullitt county, departed this life at that place indebted to Elizabeth Griffin; that he left no personal estate, whereby the debt of the said Elizabeth can be paid, by James Alexander and Adam Shepherd, who administered upon his estate, and against whom she obtained judgment at law for the amount of the debt aforesaid; that the said Brown was an alien, a native of Ireland, and that he had no heirs in America; that he died seized of four lots of ground in the town of Shepherdsville, for which he had obtained conveyances from the trustees thereof; that the said lots are subject to be escheated to the commonwealth, for want of legitimate inheritors, and [it] is thought more reasonable that the said lots should be subject to the said Elizabeth's debt, than the claim of the commonwealth by escheat: Wherefore,

§ 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, That it shall and may be lawful for the said Elizabeth Griffin to file her petition in the Bullitt circuit court, setting out therein her claim, and the nature thereof, against the said Brown, designating also the lots of which he died possessed, and exhibiting therein his title thereto: and the court may hear the said petition, and decide thereon as dispatchfully as practicable; and if they shall be satisfied that the said Brown was justly indebted to the said Elizabeth at the time of his death; that he left ho personal estate out of which the debt could be paid; that he had title to said lots; that he was an alien, and had no heirs in America; then it shall be lawful for the said court to settle by decree the amount of said Elizabeth's demand, and to direct the said lots to be sold for the payment thereof, and of all costs. The said court may direct the sale to be made with such length of credit and extent of publicity as will in their opinion be most favorable to the obtention of the highest price therefor. The bond or bonds executed by the purchasers thereof, shall rank with, and have the effect of replevin bonds, and execution may issue thereon in like manner.

§ 2. And be it further enacted, That the aforesaid bonds shall be taken by the commissioner or commissioners appointed to make sale of said lots in his or their own name, in trust for the said Elizabeth, to the extent of her demand, as settled by the court under this act, including her costs; and as to the surplus, or residue, in trust for the trustees of the Bullitt seminary.

§ 3. Be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the commissioner or commissioners who may sell the aforesaid lots, to convey the same to purchasers thereof, at such time and in such manner as the said court may direct; and the said conveyances, when so made, shall vest in the purchasers thereof all the right, title and claim which the commonwealth of Kentucky has, or might or could have or assert to the said lots, on the ground of their liability to be escheated or forfeited, or otherwise, by reason of the said Brown having been an alien, and died without inheritors; but nothing to be done under or by virtue of tins act, shall affect or impair the claim of others to the said lots or either of them.

Subsequently, the Bullitt Circuit Court received her petition on 24 Feb 1819, and appointed commissioners to see to the sale of the four Shepherdsville lots, which according to earlier records we know to be the following numbers according to the new plan for the town: #26, #39, #40, and #44.

Then according to Bullitt Circuit Court Order Book H, page 321, the commissioners made the following report.

"In obedience to an interlocutory decree of the honorable Bullitt Circuit Court, we John W. Beckwith, Wier Tilford and William Jones did on the tenth day of April 1819 go upon the lots named in the original bill, after having given thirty days notice in the public advertiser, and exposed the same to sale, except forty feet square at the northeast corner of lot No. __ which we have been informed was given up by said decedent in his lifetime to the use of the public. The lot No. 1 on the subjoined plat made part of this report and marked A ws purchased by Thomas Joyce with the exception of the aforesaid forty feet at the sum of $350. Lot No. 2 as subjoined on plat was purchased by Nathan Harris at $478. Lot No. 3 on the subjoined plat was purchased by Thomas Joyce at $352.50. Lot No. 4 on the subjoined plat was purchased by Joseph Bowman at $463. We have taken such security as was approved of by us and herewith return the obligations into court. Given under our hands this 1st day of October 1819. (signed) William Jones, J.W. Beckwith, W. Tilford."

It is unclear why it took so long, but it appears from Bullitt Circuit Court Order Book J, page 163 that it wasn't until 30 May 1822 that the court finally ordered that Elizabeth Griffin receive her share of the sale proceeds, as noted below.

"The court being now sufficiently advised of and concerning the premises do order and decree that the commissioners William Jones, John W. Beckwith and Wier Tilford pay to Elizabeth Griffin the sum of $114.40 with interest thereon from the 12th day of June 1813 until paid and her costs herein expended, and that the commissioners aforesaid pay to the trustees of the Bullitt County Seminary the surplus of the money for which they sold the lots aforesaid, which report and notes taken of the purchases are made part hereof by reference and not by incorporation. And it is further ordered and decreed that the commissioners aforesaid make conveyances of the lots aforesaid to each purchaser sold by them as by their report returned, when the whole of the purchase money is paid by the purchasers respectively."

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The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 07 Apr 2023 . Page URL: bullittcountyhistory.org/bchistory/elizabethgriffinact.html