Harvey Myers

The Covington, Kentucky, lawyer who helped Henrietta Wood begin the final phase of Wood v. Ward. Born in Chenango County, New York, he may have first encountered her case during the 1853-1854 trial, having moved to Trimble County, Kentucky, in 1851 or 1852, and from there to Covington around 1853.1 Wood mentions him by name in her 1879 narrative, and he also appears as her employer in the 1870 census, where it looks like she and her household are noted to have lived in a separate house from his while working as “domestic” servants. He started the suit against Zebulon Ward but was murdered by Col. William Terrell in March 1874 before it was settled. He was buried in Highland Cemetery, Kenton County. See also entry in Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky.

In 1866, Myers bought “the beautiful residence of T. Hammer, Esq., fronting the Ohio and Licking Rivers,” for $12,500.2 This Myers house on Shelby Street and Riverside Drive is still standing and may be the one where Wood lived in 1870. His 1869 address was listed in the city directory at 104 E. Front (the name for Riverside at the time).3 It appears that at least some of Myers’s real estate had to be sold after his death to satisfy debts.4

A scrapbook concerning his life used to be posted online by , Harvey Myers IV, though my attempts to contact him failed and the website appears to be broken as of September 14, 2017.

Law Career

He had a law practice in the 1860s with John W. Stevenson (governor between 1867-1871), who had also partnered with the brother of William B. Kinkead, brother of George B. Kinkead. They shared an office at 314 Greenup in 1860 (sold in 1865), and Myers later owned the building adjacent at 316 Greenup (sold in 1861).5 By 1869, the firm was located on the southeast corner of Scott and Lower Market.6

Myers prepared a well-known summary of the civil and criminal code of Kentucky in 1867, as well as a digest of laws passed since 1859 that was published in 1866.

In 1870, he worked with M. M. Benton to defend the Covington and Cincinnati Bridge Company from a lawsuit filed by heirs of the founder of the Covington Ferry, whose profits had been destroyed by the bridge.7

In 1871, he was part of a committee of Kenton County lawyers who submitted a resolution arguing that “the law of evidence in Kentucky should be so modified as to dispense with the exceptions to the competency of witnesses on the ground of interest, color, or being party to the action.”8

One of the obituary articles describes his legal style:

The high respect that he enjoyed was owing exclusively to his solid qualities of character. He was not of engaging address, but rather clumsy in carriage, unconventional in manner, and reserved and gruff in tone. Indeed in the Courtroom he was almost without courtesy, giving no quarter to his opponent and asking none, but mercilessly prosecuting every case as though it were war.9

He is briefly profiled in this book.10

Political Career

Myers is described as a Unionist during the war, and a Republican (one of “the Radicals”) after it.11 He described himself as “an active Union man” during the war.12

He was appointed by a federal court as a “United States Commissioner” in 1863.13

See also this blog post, which describes Myers as a Republican candidate.

In 1865, Myers ran as a Republican for the Kentucky state House of Representatives from Kenton County, along with M. M. Benton as the Republican candidate for state Senate. (Coincidentally, A. H. Ward was running as a “Conservative Democrat” for U.S. Congress at the same time.) Even before the election, though, Democrats formed “challenging committees” and raised questions about the election would be conducted fairly:

Both [Benton and Myers] are gentlemen of fine legal attainments, and distinguished at the Kentucky bar. They know the law, and that military interference at elections is unlawful, especially when the sole object is to deter men from voting in a particular way.14

After the election, several conservative Democrats, including Robert Richardson, John G. Carlisle, and O. F. Rankin, contested Myers’ victory “on the ground of military interference,” which led to Myers’ resignation before occupying his seat so that he could stand for reelection in a canvas taken in December.15 See also Myers’s reasoning for declining.

The conservative Cincinnati Enquirer praised his decision:

There would hardly be a Republican in the Kentucky Legislature if they would follow the precedent so nobly set by Mr. MYERS. They were nearly all chosen by military violence.16

Later, Myers ran again for Congress as a Republican in 1872, repudiating the Liberal Republican breakaway ticket of Horace Greeley. In September, he addressed the “Grant and Wilson Club” in Covington on the corner of Sixth and Madison in the Drexelius Hall, which had been reserved by local Republicans for the election speech. Excerpts from this speech:

The Republican party was founded in justice and equality to all men. It has been opposed by the Democratic party throughout, on the blood-stained field of battle, in the halls of Congress, and in State Legislatures, yet despite this persistent and malignant opposition it had succeeded in establishing on a firm basis the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the National Constitution, and in effecting many other beneficent results. … Kentucky was politically a benighted State, but the time was not far in the distant future when it would pass into the hands of Republicans.17

He also defended the Grant administration from criticisms of abusing patronage and maladministration.

In October, a procession by the “Grant and Wilson Guards” in Covington (composed of both white and black men marching) was addressed by Myers, who was endorsed by the group. The procession nearly led to a riot after a white onlooker threw a stone at one of the black marchers, who retaliated.18

Myers’s bid was defeated, however, by the Democrat Judge William F. Arthur, who won by a margin of nearly 5,000 votes.19

Murder by Terrell

Myers was the lawyer for the wife of Colonel William G. Terrell (then a correspondent for the Cincinnati Commercial) in a divorce proceeding, which brought to light depositions in which Myers intimated that Terrell had a bad temper caused by syphilis. Terrell came into Myers’s office and shot him on March 28, 1874, leading to sensational coverage of the trials that followed. Terrell was convicted but his sentence was later overturned in 1879 due to procedural irregularities in the initial trial.20

  1. See his testimony in “The S. S. Newman Tobacco Trial,” Cincinnati Enquirer, December 11, 1869, p. 7, which says he had been in Covington sixteen years.

  2. “Covington News: Sold,” Cincinnati Enquirer, May 16, 1866.

  3. 1869 Covington Directory; City Atlas for Covington Kentucky, 1877.

  4. “Chancery Court,” Cincinnati Enquirer, June 20, 1876, p. 7.

  5. Location of early office detailed in NPS historic district preservation nomination form.

  6. 1869 Covington Directory.

  7. “An Important Suit,” Cincinnati Enquirer, September 23, 1870, p. 7.

  8. “Meeting of the Members of the Bar,” Cincinnati Enquirer, November 28, 1871, p. 7.

  9. Cincinnati Enquirer, March 29, 1874, pg. 3. Can’t find this issue on Newspapers.com. Perhaps it was a special edition?

  10. Google Books edition of A History of Kentucky and Kentuckians.

  11. “Resigned,” Cincinnati Enquirer, November 29, 1865, p. 3.

  12. See his testimony in “The S. S. Newman Tobacco Trial,” Cincinnati Enquirer, December 11, 1869, p. 7.

  13. “Covington News: Appointment,” Cincinnati Enquirer, September 7, 1863.

  14. “Covington News: Conservative Democratic Ticket,” Cincinnati Enquirer, August 7, 1865, p.2, on Newspapers.com.

  15. “Declined,” Cincinnati Enquirer, December 14, 1865, p. 2; “Resigned,” Cincinnati Enquirer, November 29, 1865, p. 3; “The Contested Election Cases,” Cincinnati Enquirer, August 26, 1865, p. 1. John G. Carlisle, another Kenton County man elected to the state Senate and returned after the challenge, criticized Myers for giving into the pressure of the “rebel Senate” when all that General Palmer had done was provided troops to guard the elections and keep them pure. See “Covington News,” Cincinnati Enquirer, February 8, 1866, p. 1.

  16. “Mr. Harvey Myers,” Cincinnati Enquirer, December 13, 1865, p.2.

  17. “Meeting of the Grant and Wilson Club,” Cincinnati Enquirer, September 9, 1872, p. 7.

  18. “Republican Procession and Meeting Last Night—A Large Turnout,” Cincinnati Enquirer, October 11, 1872, p. 7.

  19. Cincinnati Enquirer, November 16, 1872, p. 7.

  20. “The Terrell-Myers Tragedy,” Cincinnati Enquirer, March 30 ,1874, p. 4; “The Myers Murder—The Funeral Yesterday—An Impressive Demonstration,” Cincinnati Enquirer, April 1, 1874, p. 7; “The Myers Murder—Bar Meeting Yesterday,” Cincinnati Enquirer, March 31, 1874, p. 5.