History of Christian County, Kentucky Railroads

The first effort to build a railroad in Christian County of which we have any account was made about the year 1832. At this time, the Legislature having made an appropriation for the purpose, Messrs. Chinn and Jouette, of Lexington, made a preliminary survey for a rail-road from Hopkinsville to Eddyville, on the Cumberland River. A final survey was afterward made by Mr. Letcher, of the same place. Maj. John P. Campbell, Jr., then a youth, acted as a chain-carrier, but beyond this nothing further was done. The company failed to organize as required under the charter, and the project was temporarily abandoned. In 1837 it was revived again under the same charter and another survey made by Mr. A. Livermore, State Engineer. This effort also proved abortive, and for the same reasons. It was again, and for the last time, agitated in 1845 and 1846. The People’s Press of May 7, 1846, gives the following account of a convention held in Hopkinsville April 25, Dr. A. Webber in the chair, and G. W. Johnston, Secretary: The committees appointed February 14, 1846, to visit the different points on the river favorably spoken of as the termini of the road, reported through Dr. Montgomery that they had visited Ferry Corner, Clarksville and Trice’s Landing. They found either point quite feasible for a railroad terminus, and were of the opinion it could be built at a maximum cost of $8,000 per mile. To Clarksville the road would be twenty-five miles in length, and cost $200,000; to Trice’s Landing (Providence) twenty-three miles and $170,000; to Ferry Corner thirty-one miles and cost $248,000. Mr. Livermore’s experimental survey to Eddyville in 1837 ” by a circuitous route through Princeton ” gave the distance as forty-eight and a half miles, and was estimated to cost $338,000, but this they thought to be an exaggeration both as to cost and distance. They thought the distance could be reduced to thirty-five miles, and the aggregate cost to $280,000. The following unique, if not original and novel method of raising the necessary means, was suggested: ” The people to subscribe $75,000 or $100,000 to the building of the road, which subscription shall be well secured by stock. Of this sum, $50,000 or $60,000 to be vested, as fast as paid in, in the purchase of 100 young, able-bodied Negro men, who, if well provided and judiciously directed, would grade the road to any one of the points suggested in the course of twelve or eighteen months, or at the longest time two years. These 100 laborers could then be hired or pledged for the iron, and so soon as the work should be completed they could be readily cashed for the benefit of the railroad company.” A summary of the probable business of the road when completed is then given:

Five thousand hogsheads of tobacco at $1 $ 5 000
Grain of all kinds 1,000
Pork and beef 2,000
Coal and lumber, 1,500
Goods, groceries, etc 2,500
Mail 1,500
Passengers 2,000

This estimate was believed to be quite reasonable, and would yield a dividend of at least six ‘per centum, allowing for contingencies. At the same meeting a report was read from the people of Eddyville and vicinity setting forth the advantages of that place as an objective point, and giving assurance that a liberal subscription could be had in the event of its selection. ” F. G. Montgomery, L. L. Leavell, W. R. Payne, F. C. Sharp and James Ware were then appointed a ‘ central committee,’ and the first Saturday in October selected as the time for the next meeting.” What further was subsequently done does not appear, and at last and finally the project fades entirely out of view.

The Henderson & Nashville Road

In 1839 a charter was granted by the Legislature to build a road from Henderson to Nashville. In 1850-51 it was amended, with Joel Lambert and James Albes of Henderson, Powhattan Robertson and A. G. Gordon of Hopkins; and John P. Campbell of Christian, as Directors. These gentlemen called a meeting of the stockholders at Madisonville on the 1st of June, 1852, and finding the necessary stock subscribed, proceeded to organize with Hon. Archibald Dixon of Henderson as President of the company. Mr. Dixon resigning in the spring of 1853 was succeeded by Edmund Hopkins of Henderson. At the annual meeting of the stockholders for this year, the Board of Directors elected were: E. G. Sebree, R. T. Torian, W. E. Price, John P. Campbell, Jr., P. M. Robertson, Joel Lambert, John Woolfork, R. G. Beverly and M. S. Hancock, of whom John P. Camp-bell, Jr., was elected President. Under contract with Messrs. Van Bergen, Ward & Co., of Ohio, ground was broken and the work pushed forward as rapidly as the collection of stock would permit. Efforts were made to secure subscriptions by the several counties–in their corporate capacities, but upon submission to the people the measure was defeated. The war came on, the contractors suspended work, and finally abandoned the enterprise.

After the close of the war, in 1865, a meeting of the stockholders was called at Madisonville, and the company was reorganized with John P. Campbell, Jr., President. Proceedings were immediately taken by the Board of Directors to ascertain and liquidate all claims against the road. Suit was instituted for the foreclosure and sale of the road-bed, sale was made, and H. D. Hanson of New York became the purchaser. A new charter was then granted by the Legislature to the company, under the title of the Evansville, Henderson & Nashville Railroad Company, with Gen. Jerry T. Boyle President, and E. G. Sebree, John P. Campbell, Jr., D. M. Day and R. T. Durrett, Directors. To the stock of this new organization the city of Henderson subscribed $300,000, the county of Hopkins $150,000, and Christian County $200,000, all of which was secured and paid for by the issuance and delivery of their bonds at par. The contract was then made with Day & Hanson for the building and completion of the road, but the amount of stock taken being insufficient for the purpose, it was afterward re-let to J. Edgar Thompson of Philadelphia and others, under a lease of the road for five years after its completion.

During the term of this lease the contractors sold out their interest to Winslow & Wilson. The panic of 1873 embarrassed Messrs. Winslow & Wilson. They failed to pay the interest on the bonds and the road passed into the hands of a receiver. Subsequently the bondholders fore-closed the mortgage on the road, and, at its sale, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company became the purchasers, thereby entailing a total loss of stock to both counties and to individual stockholders. Since coming into their hands the road has been extended to St. Louis, by the purchase of the St. Louis & Southeastern Railroad. At present the transfer of freights and passengers between Henderson and Evansville is effected by boats. A bridge, however, is now being constructed across the Ohio River at Henderson, and when complete a road will be built along the northern bank of the river to connect at Evansville. With the simple mention of the fact, that a road has been projected and is now in process of construction between Clarksville and Princeton, the sketch of Internal Improvements of Christian County must close. The history of that enterprise, if ever completed, is referred to the pen of the future historian.


Perrin, William Henry, ed., Counties of Christian and Trigg, Kentucky, Historical and Biographical, Chicago : F. A. Battey Publishing Co., 1884.

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