Governor James B. McCreary

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Governor James B. McCreary


One of the more interesting tombstones in Richmond Cemetery is the one over the grave of Governor James B. McCreary.

McCreary, a native of Richmond, was and is one of the few two term governors in the Commonwealth, having served from 1875-1879 and again 36 years later from 1911-1915. He died in 1918. In between terms he served as U.S. Congressman for 12 years and from 1902-1909 was one of Kentucky's U.S. Senators. McCreary County is named for him.

McCreary was a graduate of Centre College and Cumberland University (Tennessee) College of Law. When Confederate General Kirby Smith was victorious in August 1862 in the Battle of Richmond, Ky., many Southern sympathizers rallied to the "bonnie blue flag." A cavalry regiment was raised mostly in Madison County, and McCreary became a Major in the 11th Ky. Cavalry, CSA, assigned to Gen. John Hurt Morgan's command. During a raid by Morgan near the Green River the Colonel of the Regiment, David W. Chenault of Madison County was killed. McCreary was promoted to lieutenant colonel, but a few weeks later he and others of the horse soldiers were captured and were sent to the federal prison in Columbus, Ohio. McCreary almost died in prison.

Morgan and some others managed to escape. McCreary suffered much because he refused to tell where knives used in the escape came from. He was later offered release, if he would swear the oath of allegiance. He refused to do so and was further imprisoned near Washington, DC, and in South Carolina. He was later exchanged and returned to the Confederate Army, serving in several skirmishes under Gen. John C. Breckinridge.

After the war he returned to Richmond where he practiced law and went into politics successfully. His home is on West Main Street and is now the Medical Arts Building.


Dr. Fred Engle




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Dr. Fred Engle, “Governor James B. McCreary,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed March 29, 2023,