Henry Youtsey

Henry Youtsey

Information comes from Pieces of the Past, Volume 1, pages 196-197 by Jim Reis and printed here with his permission.

Henry Eckert Youtsey was born in 14 Sep 1873 to Andrew J and Elizabeth (Eckert) Youtsey and was raised on a farm in Cold Spring.  He attended school in Campbell County and studied law in Cincinnati before joining a law firm in Newport.  As a young adult he was described as an excellent orator and staunch Republican.

In January 1900 Youtsey was a clerk in the state auditor's office in Frankfort with Senator William Goebel the center of a controversy.  In 1899 Goebel ran as a Democrat for Governor.  Republican William S Taylor won the gubernatorial election, but Goebel contested the results under a law that gave the legislature the power to decide the outcome.  Taylor was sure the legislature, which was controlled by Democrats would support Goebel.

As a result, Frankfort became an armed camp in January 1900.  Members of the militia, mountain men and adventurers rushed to Frankfort.  Goebel was shot as he walked from his hotel toward the old Capitol about 11:30 am on January 30.  He was sworn in as governor on his deathbed, forcing Taylor to flee to Indiana for protection.  The shot that killed Goebel was fired from the office window of Republican Secretary of State Caleb Powers.

Powers was not in Frankfort that morning, but Henry Youtsey had a key to Power's office and there is evidence he used it to let the assassin enter.  Youtsey was also accused of providing the ammunition. He was arrested March 27, 1900 as he was leaving Frankfort disguised as a woman.  He was identified by a witness as the "black-haired man" who obtained a key to Powers' office on the day before the shooting. He told police that he served as a messenger between Taylor and those plotting the assassination.

Republican Party Officials were quoted April 10, 1900 that Youtsey probably committed the assassination himself and was making up the conspiracy angle to confuse investigators. On April 17, 10 people were indicted and Youtsey led the list. He pleaded innocent at his arraignment.  One of the ten, Jim Howard was tried, convicted and sentenced.  His trial began October 1, 1900.  Two of his four attorneys were L J Crawford, from Newport and Newport Mayor Robert W Nelson.

Prosecution witnesses reported conversations with Youtsey before the shooting in which he supposedly expressed a desire to eliminate Goebel.  One witness said he saw Youtsey in the secretary of state's window before the shooting holding a gun.  But the main witness against him was Arthur Goebel, brother of William Goebel.  He described a conversation with Youstsey while he was in the Frankfort jail.

Arthur said Youtsey told him he had gotten a key to the secretary of state's office and let Jim Howard and two other men into the room, and that Youtsey gave them ammunition he had purchased in Cincinnati.  While testifying, Youtsey jumped up and called him a liar and became uncontrollable in his raging.  He was carried into the courtroom on a cot on October 16, but could not or would not speak.  Those who knew him from Newport felt the strain of the investigation was causing a mental breakdown.

On October 20, the jury found Youtsey guilty and recommended life imprisonment.  In August 1903, Youtsey was a witness against Secretary of State Powers, who was charged concerning his involvement in the shooting.  Youtsey confessed at this time, that his fits were false and that affidavits he had signed, clearing Howard and Powers were false and part of an agreement he made in Powers' office minutes before Goebel's shooting. Powers and Howard were sentenced to life imprisonment.  In 1911 they were pardoned by Governor Augustus Wilson and Powers was later elected to Congress.

Henry Youtsey remained in jail 18 years.  During that time his wife, Julia French, divorced him, his mother, father, sister and brother all died.  He eventually became a volunteer chaplain.  In December 1918 Governor A Owsley Stanley pardoned him.  He went back to Newport and lived there until he died May 2, 1942.

The Kentucky Post, November 6, 1906

Urging the Nomination of Governor Beckham at State Primary

Life Prisoner at Frankfort, Takes a New Departure in Kentucky Politics

Letters have been received by Newport people from Henry Youtsey, a life prisoner in the Frankfort Penitentiary, in which he makes the request of the recipients who were former friends of his, that they vote and work for the success of Governor Beckham in the State primary which is being held today.

The letters go on to state that men Beckham has placed in charge of the State prison have treated him well and that a number of prisoners have been paroled and on this account he would like to see Beckham win the Senatorial nomination.

The letters were only received yesterday and have caused much comment.  Among those who received letters in Attorney Thos P Carothers.  He was much surprised at receiving such a communication from Youtsey and remarked today that it was a new department in politics.  The fact that the letter reached Newport too late to be make political capital of, if published, also caused commet. Youstey was born and reared in Campbell Co and is serving a life sentence for complicity in the killing of Gov Goebel.

The Kentucky Post, November 20, 1907


Defense in Powers Trial Asks that Convicted Man be Brought to Georgetown for Consolation

GEORGETOWN KY-When the trial of Caleb Powers, charged with complicity in the assassination of Governor William Goebel, was called today, Attorney Smith, for the defense, asked that the court order that Warden of the Frankfort Penitentiary to bring James Howard and Henry Youtsey, now serving life sentences for their share in the murder, to Georgetown, so they could be consulted by the defense.

Judge Morris said he would have to have a formal request but that he did not think it in his power to give such an order.  Examination of witnesses as to the actions of the Deputy Sheriffs in summoning the Harrison Co men for special venire was then take up.  The defense offered a half dozen witnesses to show that the Deputy Sheriffs passed up Republicans in summoning venire man and selected only Democrats.

The Kentucky Post, December 2, 1907


GEORGETOWN KY-When court convened for the trial of Caleb Powers today there was a long delay over the claim of the defense that time should be granted to get some witnesses and to laying a foundation for contradictions of certain statements.

Judge Morris said he would have Youtsey returned here when the defense wished.  Youtsey was again recalled to the witness stand and asked regarding a conversation with H N Hubbert, in which he had "a gun that shoots steel balls and could shoot him from a window and escape through the basement."

A man named Drake was present.  Youtsey denied meeting Drake and Hubbert.  Witness was then excused and Gov Percy Haly of Frankfort was placed on the stand.  He was Sergeant at Arms in the House of Representatives.

The Kentucky Post, December 17, 1907


Rifle With Which Goebel Was Shot Down is Brought into Court by Defense

GEORGETOWN KY-The sensation of the day in the Powers trial this morning was the introduction of the much sought for gun that killed William Goebel.  The gun is a Marlin rifle, caliber 38-55 and has never been put in evidence in any of the Goebel assassination trials.  Its history is now fully known to the defense attorneys and witnesses will be introduced to testify as to its whereabouts since January 1900.

The defense will endeavor to prove that after the fatal shot was fired, Henry E Youtsey gave the gun to a man named McKnight, from whose hands it passed into the possession of Albert Helton of Knox Co who has had it continuously.  Helton will be put on the stand to tell what he knows of its history.  Yelton swore that he gave the gun to Ben Row, a negro janitor.

The direct examination of Caleb Powers was continued.  Powers said he did not suggest to Wharton Golden that he go t the Capital Hotel and kill Goebel nor did he agree to hve Eli Farmer come from the mountains and shoot Goebel.

Powers was turned over to the prosecution for cross-examination.  Attorney Franklin stated that he was so ill that he could scarcely hold his head up and begged the indulgence of the court.

Kentucky Post, December 20, 1907


Owner of the Rifle With Which Goebel Was Killed Testified in Powers Trial

GEORGETOWN, KY-Grant L Roberts with whose Marlin rifle William Goebel was killed, was placed under cross examination today in the trial of Caleb Powers.  He was asked by Victor Bradley of the prosecution to tell all about the gun.  Roberts said he bought the gun from a young man named Fugazzie and kept it in the vault in the Auditor's office. A Dr Johnson came in and secured the gun.  Roberts did not see it until about noon on the day Goebel fell.  He then saw Henry E Youtsey in the Auditor's office with the gun in his hand.

Later Roberts saw the gun in the vault and then it disappeared and he found it in January of this year in the possession of Albert Helton of Knox Co.  Convicts Lloyd Helton and William Mullin were brought here today as witnesses for the defense.  George Dean, another convict wanted for the defense, is suffering with typhoid fever and could not come.  Henry Youtsey was also brought here for contradiction by the defense.

The Kentucky Post, December 12, 1918



The doors of the Kentucky State reformatory at Frankfort were opened Tuesday morning to liberate Henry Youtsey, Kentucky's famous political prisoner and Curt Jett, known in Kentucky's criminal annals as the "Boy bandit of bloody Breathitt" both of whom were serving life sentence for murder.

Henry Youtsey had been convicted of complicity in the murder of William Goebel, Kentucky Governor and Jett had been convicted of killng Dr J B Marcum and shooting James Cockrill of Jackson Ky.  Both prisoners had been pardoned by Governor A Owsley Stanley.


The freeing of Henry Youtsey spells the final chapter of one of the most famous political criminal dramas in the history of the country. During his trial Henry Youtsey feigned insanity.  He was convicted of murder in the first degree after on of the most thrilling trials every held in Kentucky.  He was sentenced to serve the balance of his days in the state Reformatory at Frankfort.  Shortly before being sent to prison Youtsey married Miss Julia French, society leader at Winchester Ky.  Several years later she obtained a divorce.  After entering the state prison Youtsey took up religious work and for many years has been leader of the church work in the big prison.  He never gave up hope of being freed and a few years ago told the writer during an interview at Frankfort that he "some day would see the light of the great outdoors."

At this time Youtsey declared, "I have spent the best days of my life behind these walls.  I have full confidence that some day God will forgive me and see that I am freed.  I shall never give up hope that some day I shall return to my home in Campbell Co."


The famous prisoner was born in Cold Springs, six miles south of Newport and spent his boyhood days on the little farm owned by his parents.  He attended the schools in Campbell Co and later took up the study of law in Cincinnati.  As soon as he obtained his majority he took an active interest in politics.  He was a staunch Republican and served as a page at the Kentucky legislature.  He formed a wide acquaintance.


The freeing of Henry Youtsey came as a bolt from a clear sky to citizens of Campbell Co and Newport to whom all he was well known.  His friends in the community were well pleased and expressed hoped that he would return and again take up life's battles among his boyhood friends.  The word that he has been paroled was a complete surprise to his friends.  None knew that efforts were being made to secure his release from prison.

The Kentucky Post, August 23, 1919


Henry Youtsey recently pardoned from the Kentucky Reformatory at Frankfort where he was sentenced to serve a life term for alleged complicity in the killing of Governor William Goebel will deliver an address Sunday night at Taylor M E Church Newport.

Youtsey was leader in religious work while confined in prison and has some unique as well as interesting experiences to relate.

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