Thomas Metcalfe (Kentucky)
Thomas Metcalfe (March 20, 1780 – August 18, 1855), also known as Thomas Metcalf or as "Stonehammer", was a U.S. Representative, Senator, and the tenth Governor of Kentucky. He was the first gubernatorial candidate in the state's history to be chosen by a nominating convention rather than a caucus. He was also the first governor of Kentucky who was not a member of the Democratic-Republican Party.
At age 16, Metcalfe was apprenticed to his older brother and became a stonemason. He helped construct the Green County courthouse, known as the oldest courthouse in Kentucky. Later, political opponents would mock his trade, giving him the nickname "Old Stone Hammer." His political career began with four terms in the Kentucky House of Representatives. His service was interrupted by the War of 1812, in which he commanded a company in the defense of Fort Meigs. At the age of thirty-eight, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He held his seat in the House for five terms, then resigned to run for governor. In an election decided by 709 votes, Metcalfe defeated William T. Barry in the gubernatorial election of 1828. Metcalfe's predecessor, Joseph Desha was so stunned by his party's loss that he threatened not to vacate the governor's mansion. Ultimately, however, he respected the will of the people, and allowed an orderly transition.
Metcalfe's primary concern as governor was the issue of internal improvements. Among his proposed projects were a road connecting Shelbyville to Louisville and a canal on the Falls of the Ohio. When President Andrew Jackson vetoed funds to construct a turnpike connecting Maysville and Lexington, Metcalfe built it anyway, paying for it entirely with state funds. Following his term as governor, he served in the state senate, and completed the unfinished term of John J. Crittenden in the U.S. Senate in 1848. After this, he retired to "Forest Retreat", his estate in Nicholas County, where he died of cholera in 1855. Metcalfe County, Kentucky was named in his honor.
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“Some have been thought brave because they were afraid to run away.”
—Eighteenth-century English proverb, collected in Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia (1732)