Sometimes you run across a story that is just too fun not to share. As the curator responsible for the Old State Capitol I’m always looking for interesting stories to add to our interpretation of the building. When I first started at KHS I ran across a 1908 newspaper article that talked about a fox terrier that lived at the Old State Capitol. The dog’s name was Billy and his job was to be the rat catcher. For many years we incorporated Billy’s story into our tours. I even bought a toy fox terrier to place in the library—a visual cue to the story. Recently we have changed our interpretation to focus more on the history the Civil War and what happened in the Old Capitol during that time. Since that time “Billy” has been sitting on my desk.
While looking for something else I came across the transcription of the newspaper article about Billy and I thought I would share it with you here. It’s a cute story and gives some insight to the goings-on in the Old State Capitol in the early 20th century.
From the Frankfort Weekly News and Roundabout July 4, 1908:
At the Psychological Rat Killing Moment.
CAPTAIN JACKSON MORRIS STAYS
RODENT AND DOG IS REGRETFUL.
Think of killing rats in the Governor’s reception room. The idea strikes the general public as being out of the question, but they don’t know the old State House, which is overrun with rodents. Capt. Jackson Morris actually killed a good-sized rodent in his desk in the Governor’s reception room Thursday afternoon. Capt. Morris used a ruler to destroy the animal, which had made his home in the desk for some time. The fact that Billy was not there at the time was deeply deplored by everybody. Billy is a fox terrier. Billy is well known at the State House, where he spends most of his leisure hunting for rats which he never catches. The trouble is not with Billy, as Billy is an expert rat catcher, and is a relentless foe of rats, but there are too many things under which the rats can go, but under which Billy can not. The rats get away for this reason. Billy has smelled rats in the Governor’s office for some time, but has never had a glimpse of them, and he has become discouraged. He will get excited when he smells rats, but does not really expect them to come out and be killed.
So on Thursday when he smelled a rat in the drawer of the desk presided over by Capt. Morris, Billy was merely mildly excited. Billy knew that the rat would stay in the desk, and that he would not have any chance to kill it, but he told the men in the office that the rat was there and they could get it out if they would. Nobody paid any attention to Billy’s remarks on the subject of rats for he has talked about them too much. Capt. Morris was not there at the time, being outside in search of his dinner. When he returned, the others told him Billy had shown signs of having discovered a rat in the drawer of the desk. Billy, by that time, had gone on about other business. Capt. Morris decided to investigate, and opened one of the drawers quickly. The rat was there, and made a break for liberty, but Capt. Morris was too quick for the rodent and killed it with a ruler. Then he wished he had waited for Billy, as everybody was anxious to see Billy kill a rat. Billy does not know what he missed, but he will be disappointed when he learns of the adventure.
-Sara Elliot, KHS Curator