Friday, September 2, 2016

Caswell Bennett, Chief Justice of Kentucky Court of Appeals

Livingston County, Kentucky has produced a number of prominent people, one of whom was Caswell Bennett, chief justice of the Kentucky Court of Appeals from 1878 until his death in Hopkinsville, Kentucky on 9 August  1894. The story of his life can be found in area newspaper obituaries shortly after his death.

Caswell Bennett was born August 27, 1836 in Halifax County, Virginia. His father, Ambrose L. Bennett, was  a lawyer, and for many years a farmer in that county. He was of Scotch-Irish origin. Judge Bennett was liberally educated in the neighborhood schools and at Millwood College, in Tennessee, under James B. Rains, who became a general in the Confederate army and was killed in the battle of Murfreesboro. 

He commenced the study of law at Lebanon, Tenn., subsequently read with Judge Joseph R. Underwood  of Bowling Green and finished his legal preparation with Hon. F.H. Bristow.  In 1857 he was admitted to practice. His first office was at Smithland, in Livingston County, where he has ever since continued to hold his residence.  Very soon he became known as one of the best lawyers in that region. In 1867 he was elected circuit judge of the third judicial district, holding the position six years, whereupon he was re-elected without opposition.

In 1870 he was a candidate for a seat on the appellate bench, but was defeated by Judge Lindsay. Eight years later he was again a candidate and was elected. He continued to serve and at the time of his death was presiding chief justice of the state's highest tribunal. Recently he secured the nomination to again succeed himself.

He was married in 1868 to Miss M.T. Cruce, of Smithland. She died a number of  years ago and Judge Bennett was again married in 1886 to Miss Mollie Crumbaugh, of Lyon County, who survives him. Two children, a son and daughter, were born of the first marriage, and a daughter of the last, and all are living.

Justice Bennett's remains were conveyed to the statehouse where they were to lie in state until the funeral. All state offices were closed during the day of the funeral. He is buried in Frankfort Cemetery.

"At the State Cemetery Remains of Judge Bennett will Probably Be Buried," Evansville Courier,  10 Aug 1894, p. 1.
"The Dead Jurist," Evansville Courier, 11 Aug 1894, p. 1.

Published 2 September 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

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