12 October 2010

A Chance to Win the Lottery

compiled by Teresa Martin Klaiber
October 2010

With the economy in shreds, I hear people in Eastern Kentucky joking daily that when they win the lottery they are going to do this or that. Well in our immediate family you have to play to win. Our budget does not have any wiggle room for even a scratch off ticket. We tend to look at this form of gambling as a very bad habit.

Not that I don't have some bad habits. I do. My youngest son suggests that my antiques are "clutter." He sadly prefers chrome and glass to sentimental or historical doo-dads. When hubby and I watched a show about hoarding the other day I did take a look around and sighed with relie
f. I can see all my furniture and there is nothing on the floors thus I think I am safe to say I don't fall into that category. But as I took stock of my surroundings I spotted an item that I have meant to research for some time.

I have a tattered old broadside th
at we found in the smokehouse on the farm we own. Our farm, Deliverance Farm, is a historical genealogists dream. I am not sure how many other genealogists have their own cabin that is on the Kentucky Landmark Register or their own cemetery. But I must tell you the day we finally broke the lock on the old smokehouse and discovered piles upon piles of old papers I had the biggest thrill of all.

Among the treasures in the smokehouse was a broadside titled the "Official Drawing of the Louisiana State Lottery, drawn at New Orleans, La. on Tuesday, July 10th 1888." The paper is signed by G. T. Beauregard and J. A. Early. It is labeled the single number drawing class "G."

For the past 12 years the paper has languished waiting my ever questioning mind to find out more about that lottery. These scraps of papers were a window into everyday life here on the farm.

The first thing was to confirm who was living on the farm in 1888 when this particular lottery was taking place. Henry Powell Sexton born 24 April 1835 married 2 March 1854 in Carter County to Julina McCormack. They had eleven children. By 1888 several were married but William Vincent, Martha E., James McClelland, John D, Jasper Newton, Henry Powell and little Julina Leota age 10 were still all living at home. The house on the farm was grand and was even mentioned in one deed as the "mansion house."

Of these children John D. Sexton, according to the family bible, would die in 18 October 1888 just months after the lottery sheet arrived by mail and was delivered to the farm here on Garner in Boyd County, Kentucky. His brother William Vincent Sexton was 19 years old and I wonder if he would be allowed to participate in this vice.

According to Robert M. Ireland in Kentucky Constitutional History "following the Civil War a number of state and national lotteries conducted flourishing business in Kentucky. Foremost among these was the nation's largest lottery, the Louisiana State Lottery, which ran almost daily advertisements of its monthly drawings. Kentucky reformers joined a growing chorus of complaints about lotteries especially the Louisiana State Lottery, which had allegedly corrupted its home state..."

This particular lottery already had a bad reputation and had many anti-lottery proponents on the campaign trail. A lawyer in a case in the Michigan Supreme Court, just months after the lottery sheet found its way to Garner, Boyd County, stated that "there is, in Kentucky, a lottery in which every day there are thirteen numbers drawn by lot out of seventy-eight. These numbers are wrongful and unlawful sale of a certain share or shares in a certain lottery and device in the nature of a lottery, known as the Louisiana State Lottery...{State v. Kaub, 1 West. Rep. 411, 19 Mo App. 149, Lawyers Reports Annotated Book 3, 1889}.

This makes me wonder if Henry Powell Sexton was a betting man or did the paper just get tossed aside as a lark? We found no ticket among the papers in the smokehouse, only the official drawing list. Did he think and dream of winning to help maintain the house and farm here on Garner, Boyd County, Kentucky?

An article Gambling In The South: History [medscape.com] says that during the post Civil war era Kentucky and other states held lotteries to finance projects including such things as fire fighting equipment. Kentucky did have a legal lottery of its own at this period in history. But the Louisiana Lottery seemed to dominate the states and reaped huge financial benefits. Wiki points out that it was a monopoly that bribed legislators and paid no state taxes by "donating" $40,000 a year to the state of Louisiana. An article in the New York Times said that the $40,000 was contributed directly to the Republican campaign fund in 1888. In fact the lottery was syndicated originally out of New York. From all that I read if anyone played this lottery in Eastern Kentucky they would not reap benefits for the good of family or community. The money all went south - or was that north?

The billboard signatures of G. T. Beauregard and J. A. Early were gentleman paid by the lottery for little more than theatrical value when the drawing took place. Beauregard and Jubal Early were former Confederate Generals that were paid grandly for their time. Did a small farmer in Eastern Kentucky have a chance to gain financially? Probably not.

By 1892 the New Orleans Anti-Lottery League was supported by the Democratic Party and the Louisiana Farmers' Alliance. Why? Because it appears that the lottery targeted farmers by sending out massive mailings and billboard advertisements. [The Alliance and the Lottery: Farmers Try for the Sweepstakes by Henry C. Dethloff, University of Southwestern Louisiana, Louisiana History. The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association Vol 6, No 2 1965]. President Harrison wrote a letter to Congress concerning lotteries with special reference to the Louisiana group saying "The people of all the states are debauched and defrauded..." He went on to say that it would be practically impossible for this type of company to exist if the "public mail system shut down their advertisements and remittances".

The Louisiana Lottery Company was successfully shut down in 1893. Just how deviant were they? The company transferred it domicile to Honduras and continued to sell tickets in the United States until 1906 when the United States Department of Justice finally shut them out for good. Some of the Louisiana State Lottery Company Records are housed in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

We probably will never know how much money, if any the Henry Powell Sexton family may have gambled on the Louisiana Lottery, if any. I do know they worked hard farming and logging to maintain a living in the county. H. P. helped the county build the poor house, worked as required on the roads and was well known in the community. It was back breaking work and we all have dreams of a better life.

It is easy to see who actually benefited from the lottery in 1888. I think it is a valuable lesson. I will continue to keep my dollar in the piggy bank and let someone else dream of riches from the lottery.

1 comment:

  1. what an exciting experience!/hilarious! Delightful! True!

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