Augusta Historical Society and Museum
Jesse Bell (J. B.) Taggart was born August 17, 1834 to James and Elizabeth Bell Taggart, one of nine children. J.B. was appointed as Postmaster of Laurel Bluff, Kentucky on November 27, 1863. And, on April 18, 1865 he enlisted in Company D, Kentucky Middle Green River Infantry Battalion. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on July 11, 1865 and mustered out on September 17, 1865, so he served 5 months towards the end of the Civil War, and in 1892 there is a record of him filing for Civil War pension.
There are a couple of interesting tidbits of information on J. B. found in the Annals of Kentucky and in the History of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. One entry states that in 1864, the Jake Bennett ‘band’ made its way through the county and into Greenville. They came in from the southern part of Muhlenberg County, where they captured Jesse Taggart, who was a leader of the Home Guards and a very active Union man. Bennett shaved Taggart’s head, then turned him loose, and made his way on to Greenville, where they broke into a store, helped themselves and left town, headed north. In about an hour a company of Federals were in pursuit but did not overtake the Bennett band. The second interesting entry is from June 12, 1865 where it indicated that General Palmer refused to surrender Jesse Taggart to the civil authorities for trial in Muhlenberg County for killing Philander Welbourne – claiming ‘exclusive jurisdiction for military courts’ because Taggart was at the time a soldier, and alleging it ‘the duty of the military to protect him from a possible trial by disloyal courts and juries’; he must have ‘evidence that judges, juries, commonwealth’s attorneys, etc. charged with the administration of justice, are loyal to the government and would give to persons employed by the government a fair trial,’ before he will give up any such for trial by the civil courts.
In 1870, J. B. came to Augusta and was employed by Dr. H. D. Hill to haul a load of lumber from Manley’s mill near Walnut City. The story goes that he started early in the morning and was returning west of the river when night overtook him. He got lost on the prairie and as a storm was threatening, he decided to unhitch the horses and ride to Augusta where he arrived after ten o’clock. Taggart put up the horses and made his way to Mitchell’s hotel (across from the C. N. James Cabin) but the hotel was full. Because of the weather, Mr. Mitchell decided to find a spot for J. B. After eating a bite of supper, Mr. Mitchell led him upstairs to a room where mattresses made of gunny sacks were scattered on the floor. Each bed had 3 occupants, except one. Mr. Mitchell threaded his way to the bed, grabbed the leg of one of the occupants, pulled him around and made room for the newcomer. It cost J. B. $2.00 for the night, $2.00 for his horses and $1.00 for a bushel of corn to feed the horses. The next day when he delivered the lumber to Dr. Hill, he figured Dr. Hill would ‘kick’ about paying the $5.00 for his charges. But Dr. Hill put his hand to his vest pocket, pulled out a bill and handed it over to J. B. without a murmur.
J. B. also told the Augusta Journal the story that he built a house for about $400 including the lot and rented it for $100 for three month and then continued to rent it for $35 per month. He said the house paid for itself twice over in three years when he sold it.
In 1872, J. B. went into the furniture business with Mr. G. B. Palmer. They set up their business at 503 State and later that year J. B. bought out Mr. Palmer’s interests. He advertised in the Gazette as a ‘manufacturer and dealer’. The ad also said ‘undertaker’. Burl Allison noted that to combine the calling of undertaker with that of home furnishings was quite common in many small towns and Burl remembered seeing displays of caskets on one side of a furniture store with sofas and dressers on the other side.
The next information we have of J. B. is his marriage to Jerusha (Rusha) A. Poole on September 24, 1877. Over the next few years, J. B. and Rusha had two sons, Earl and Howard, and a daughter, Fannie Belle. The Augusta Journal of July 27, 1900 said that Mr. J. B. Taggart was recognized as one of the substantial businessmen of the city and he resided with his wife, two sons and a little daughter in one of the city’s most comfortable homes. He served as Mayor of Augusta in 1901. J. B. died on November 5, 1906 and Rusha died on May 26, 1918. Both are buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
(Unfortunately, we don't have any photographs of the Taggart Family, only an old newspaper clipping photograph of J. B.'s store.)