Industries and Establishments of Christian County, Kentucky

Among the early tradesmen, some of whom afterward became the most prosperous merchants, were Daniel Safferance, Archibald Gant, Jeremiah Foster, Benjamin York, M. T. Carnahan, Jefferson Bailey, John Wilcoxson, etc. Daniel Safferance was a tin and coppersmith; Archibald Gant was the first hatter in Hopkinsville. Hats were then made to order by men brought up to the trade, and a merchant thought as little of buying a stock of hats with his other goods as he would think now of keeping in stock railroad locomotives. Mr. Gant made a fortune in the hat business, and “Gant, the hatter,” became known throughout the Green River country. He made hats of rabbit skins, with fur on them an inch long, sold them for $10 apiece (the hats, not the rabbit-skins), and one would last a man his life-time. In fact, the leader of the advertising troupe for the ” Great Indian Remedy ” was, upon a recent visit to Hopkinsville, supposed to be wearing one of them, still in an excellent state of preservation. Mr. Gant bought a farm in the county for which he gave $5,000, and it is said paid the whole sum in hats, or in money made from their sale. Jeremiah Foster was the first silversmith in the town, and M. T. Carnahan the first gunsmith. The latter gentle-man went to Mount Vernon, Ind., and rose to considerable prominence; represented Posey County in the State Legislature several times, and was also a member of the State Senate. Bailey was an early bricklayer, and John Wilcoxson a carpenter; Benjamin York, one of the early black-smiths, if not the first one in the town. Of all the old mechanics who knew Hopkinsville in an early day, perhaps Kirtley Twyman is the oldest living representative. He has laid more brick and built more houses in the town doubtless than any man that has ever lived in it. The spectacle, it is said, has often been witnessed and commented upon of this veteran brickmason, his son and grandson, all laying brick upon the same edifice. It is a fact worthy of record, and withal, highly commendable, that he trained up his boys to follow in his footsteps, and it is nothing to their discredit that they have imitated their worthy sire in his honest calling.


At the first term of the County Court (March, 1797), Obadiah Roberts was granted a license to keep a tavern. Where this tavern was to be kept the records do not show, and as that was more than two years before Hopkinsville, or Elizabeth, rather, was laid out, it is not probable that it was for a public house here. Nothing is known of Mr. Roberts and his tavern beyond the fact that the court granted him a license for that purpose. A man named Vail was probably the first tavern-keeper of Hopkinsville. His tavern stood where the city bank now is. He was succeeded by a man named Crow, who was keeping a tavern upon the same site as early as 1804. Thomas Allsbury kept a tavern prior to the war of 1812. Another early tavern was kept by John Burgess; another by a man named McGrew, and still others by Henry Haw-ley, Abraham Stites, John P. Campbell Sr., William Murrell, etc. The village tavern in those days was an important place, where the old men would meet at their leisure, sip their grog and swap stories. On the subject of taverns, an incident of one kept for some time just beyond the city limits by Curtis Wood is appropriate. Curtis Wood was the youngest son of Bartholomew Wood, the pioneer of Hopkinsville. He was born in 1801, and is said to have been the first white child born within the limits of the present city, and is . still living in the eastern part of the county, a feeble old man. He, for a long time, kept a tavern (on a very small scale) just beyond South Kentucky College, near where Wood’s mill now stands. His unique sign is still remembered by many, and was as follows: ” Rest for the weary, food for the hungry, liquor that is good, by C. D. Wood.” This is only equaled by the Dutchman who opened a lager beer saloon in Carlinville, Ill., just after the close of the war, and mounted a tasty sign over his door-” You fights mit Sigel, and drinks mit me.” The pertinency of the sign is seen when it is known that a large proportion of the people around Carlinville are Germans, many of whom fought in the late war under the gallant old Franz Sigel.

The Postoffice

It was a pathetic and strangely human sentence of Dr. Johnson, when he said, we shall receive no letters in the grave.” There is no power in that silent dominion to appoint postmasters; there is no communication open, and no mail contracts can be made with the grim passenger boat. There were very little mail facilities or communications here when the first postoffice was opened, eighty years ago. We learn that the postoffice was established in Hopkinsville, April 9, 1804, and by a strange coincidence, this portion of this article is penned April 9, 1884, just eighty years after the establishment of the postoffice., George Brown was the Postmaster, and no doubt his duties were light, particularly when we remember that the colored people did not then receive letters, and hence did not require half a dozen clerks to wait on them, as in this enlightened age. There were not half a dozen news-papers published west of the Alleghenies; a letter from the old home cost 25 cents postage in coin, and when we remember how scarce 25-cent pieces were in those days, in a new and unsettled country, we find ourselves wondering what use the people had for a post office. But all things must have a beginning, and the post office now, although a considerable institution, was, three-quarters of a century ago, a very small affair. The old citizens of today might apostrophize somewhat after this fashion:

“The post office, too, is wonderful now, With its lock-boxes and that;
Why, I can remember just how Brown carried the thing in his hat.”

Postmaster Gen. Gowan would require a gross or two of Mr. Gant’s hats in which to stow the mail that passes through the Hopkinsville post office now in a single day. No better illustration of the growth and development and of the changes wrought is needed than is seen in the post office. At one time the pony mails passed through the county weekly, or semi-monthly, when they were permitted by the streams to go through at all. There are no records by which it can be ascertained how much mail matter now comes daily into the county, but an approximation might be reached by reference to the large bags of letters and papers received at Hopkinsville by every train, and by stage, and the old-fashioned horse-back mail. This increase in mail matter, however, is not merely the measure of the growth of population in the county, and a measure of the spread of intelligence or education, but it is a mark of the age, an index in the change of habits of the people, and applies to the whole nation.

The newspaper press is another illustration of the city and county’s growth and development. A newspaper, the Kentucky Republican, was established in Hopkinsville in 1820. But as an extensive sketch of the press has been given in another chapter, upon the county at large, nothing additional need be given here. Reference is merely made by way of noting the growth and improvement peculiar to the age. The press of the county, comprising the New Era and South Kentuckian, are happy illustrations of the county’s growth, development and prosperity.

At a later period in the history of Hopkinsville there were the following merchants additional to those already mentioned: Daniel Park, Robert Patterson, William Nichol, Robert Martin, James Richey, Samuel Finley, Wilson & Sinton, Francis Wheatley, Anderson & Atterberry, Samuel and Jacob Shryock, Richard Poston, James and Thomas Moore, Alexander McCulloch, John McGarvie, George Ward, etc. These have passed away, and a younger generation fills their places. But it is impossible and would scarcely be interesting to trace the mercantile business through all its growth and prosperity. Among the merchants of Hopkinsville years ago, were William E. Garvin, Thomas Quigley and William Bell (father of John and Robert Bell), who afterward became prominent wholesale merchants of Louisville; Wayman Crow and John Agnew, who became prominent merchants of St. Louis.

Of the learned professions Hopkinsville has known some as brilliant men as any city in the State, perhaps. The early members of the bar have been noticed in a preceding chapter. Of the medical profession there were Dr. Moses Steele, Dr. James H. Rice, Dr. Augustine Webber, Dr. Short, and others whose names cannot now be recalled. They were men learned in their profession, and faithfully performed their duties to their fellow-men. Dr. Webber receives extended notice in connection with the Baptist Church, and the others are mentioned elsewhere in this volume. Just at this point in the history of Hopkinsville a communication is pertinent and of interest, from Judge Livingston Lindsay, of La Grange, Tex., and late Chief Justice of that State, many years ago a resident of this city, and still remembered by many of the older citizens. It was written to his nephew here, Mr. Lindsay, who requested his recollections of. Hopkinsville as a contribution to our history of the county. It is devoted principally to Hopkinsville, though in one or two instances touching upon the county at large, and the reader will find it of interest throughout. It is as follows:

Communication of Judge Lindsay

Oral tradition upon the topics to which you invite my attention, is not very reliable at best. But it is still more uncertain when it is wholly dependent upon the treacherous and failing memories of very old persons. And I have always regretted the neglect of American society in its failure to adopt in an early period of its history some methods, as a system, for the preservation of family records, containing not only all the names of families, but such incidents in connection with them as might be useful to their immediate posterity, as well as of interest to the public at large. In the progress of our social system, possibly, this defect might be remedied. It certainly would con-duce to the improvement of society.

“In regard to what I may know and remember about the early history of Christian County: I emigrated from Orange County, Va., in the fall of 1828, and stopped at my brother’s, Lunsford Lindsay, in the borders of Todd County, which county had, not a great while before, been formed out of a part of Christian and Logan Counties, where I remained nearly a year, teaching a country school; though I then had my license (obtained in Virginia) to practice law. But by reason of the paucity of my finances, I was deterred from adventuring then upon my professional career. I did adventure upon it, however, shortly after the close of my school, and moved to and settled in Hopkinsville; and not long afterward married my wife, and boldly, if not judiciously, took upon myself the charge of a family. This, too, was done without having first achieved anything professionally. This new obligation assumed, together with the emptiness of my exchequer, awakened me to the necessity of devising some expedients for the immediate wants of my family, besides the pre-carious reliance upon the professional success of a briefless lawyer, a mere novice just entered, or passed over the threshold of one of the learned professions, without means and without practical experience among strangers, with a strong and already well-established bar to compete with. Under these inauspicious circumstances I concluded to purchase a printing press with its appurtenances, which had been established in Hopkinsville some years previously by David S. Patton, Esq., and commenced the publication of a weekly journal under the not very taking name of the Spy, which I continued about two years, when I sold out the establishment in consequence of a call I received from the Trustees of Cumberland College, at Princeton, Ky., to the position of Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, which, though the salary was small, the duties of the’ position were more congenial to my taste than the turmoil and the common reckless spirit of journalism. I preserved no copy of that publication, nor indeed do I know where one could be found. By mere chance, it may be that some patron of the paper in that county preserved one. But village newspapers were in those days too unimportant and ephemeral to secure any special care from their readers. I regret that I cannot furnish a copy, as it might show somewhat of the temper and tone of the community of those by-gone days, and be of some interest to the present generation of the locality.

“When I settled in Hopkinsville in the year 1829, it was a small village comparatively (I don’t recollect the number of the population precisely. I don’t think it much exceeded 1,500 inhabitants), but it was inhabited by an intelligent and interesting population. It was a cultivated society for what might still be called a sort of frontier settlement; as in the following year, in my travels through Illinois I found that now magnificent and grandly developed State in all its material, social and moral elements was still in a crude and uninviting condition. Then even the great city of St. Louis, which I visited also, contained a population of only 5,000 souls. What a mighty change in the last half century!

“Hopkinsville at the time adverted to, in her social, moral and intellectual condition, could justly enter into rivalry with any community west of the Alleghenies. The manners of her people were polished and re-fined; her public as well as private morals above reproach; and so little disorder among her people, both in town and county, as falls to the lot of the most favored communities. Her meed of prominence, character and standing, considering the number of her population, equal to any. When I arrived in Hopkinsville I found these distinguished gentlemen of the legal profession: Charles S. Morehead, Fidelio C. Sharp, W. W. Fry, Gustavus A. Henry, J. B. Crockett, Gwynn Page, the first three of whom were then in the full tide of practice, with well-established reputations, and the three latter rapidly budding into notice, and very soon developed into full bloom. Two others, Benjamin Patton and Robert P. Henry, had both died a year or two before, and their fame was still echoing through town and county at the time of my arrival, and not confined to town and county, but reverberating throughout the State. But in the hurry of writing I pretermitted two other prominent gentlemen of the profession about that time, James Breathitt and James Ewing, neither of whom lived a great while after. Besides, James F. Buckner was there equipping himself for the struggle. It may be that I have omitted to mention others of that period, but if so, it is a lapse of my memory. Besides these gentlemen of note of the legal fraternity, the medical profession was not less famous for its learned physicians. Dr. John F. Henry, who was afterward professor in several medical colleges, and a man of unquestioned ability; Drs. Webber, Bell, Glass, Montgomery, men of considerable literary attainments, and of undoubted success in the practice of their profession. I cannot now call to mind the names of others, some of whom were just pluming their feathers for the adventurous flight. In addition to these professional celebrities, there were literary gentlemen not a few, of which a modest sample was found in the person of James Ramsey, who was as guileless as a child, and intellectually as brilliant as the most favored sons of genius. In the private walks of life could be seen men of exalted character and of personal worth, a public spirit worthy of all imitation, a specimen of which was plainly manifested in the bearing and conduct of John P. Campbell, Sr., whom I always looked upon as one of Nature’s noblemen, and whose memory I shall always revere as a generous friend. These worthy specimens of the male population of the community, which were much enlarged by many in the county, were supplemented by many high-toned, intelligent, refined women, of whom I will not be guilty of the bad taste of particularizing, but who contributed largely to the many excellencies of the community.

So much in regard to the general view of the town of Hopkinsville and the County of Christian (luring my short sojourn among their people, from some time in 1829 to the spring of the year 1832. With my imperfect and failing memory I would not venture upon details. I might compromise myself by doing injustice to some of those early citizens. But be assured that I have a lively sympathy with those who may desire to have a full and accurate history of the town and county, which might afford some material for the future historian of the State and nation.

“L. LINDSAY.” Manufacturing Industries – Hopkinsville has never been anything of a manufacturing center, and why it has not is a problem. With the finest timber in easy reach, coal enough underlying the county for all manufacturing purposes, good railroad facilities-what more is needed? Only energy and enterprise. The early enterprises of this kind have been confined to flouring-mills, carding and woolen mills, tanyards, distilleries, brickyards, etc. There is no distillery in the city, nor in the county we believe, unless it is a “moonshiner,” which is a credit mark to both city and county. The manufactories now consist of flouring-mills, a foundry, planing-mills, carriage and plow factories, an ice factory, brickyards, etc. A development of the coal fields of Christian and adjoining counties will make Hopkinsville what she deserves to be, a manufacturing city. Upon the future of Hopkinsville Mr. Mercer, a few years ago, thus wrote in the Hopkinsville Republican: ” The geographical position of Hopkinsville, its vantage ground as the center of a fertile region possessing various resources, all demanded a fast advancing civilization, warrant the belief that a safe exercise of enterprise and industry on the part of its citizens, merchants and manufacturers will double its present population and wealth in a few years. An Illinois, Indiana or Ohio town under like conditions would not require more than five years to reach a population of 10,000 souls. The country wants farmers, wool-spinners and weavers, farm-implement makers, pork-packers, dairymen, tanners, and skilled mechanics. Nearly every competent manufacturer who has given strict personal attention to his trade in Hopkinsville, has prospered.” When we consider the amount of money that crosses the Ohio River every year for farm machinery alone, the above paragraph comes home with considerable force, and brings pertinently to mind a Biblical phrase that the way (to prosperity) is so plain that even fools should not err therein.”

The Crescent Mills

Without going into details of enterprises that have long since passed out of existence, a brief space will be devoted to some of the present manufacturing industries of the city. One of the great flouring-mills of Southern Kentucky is the Crescent Mills of Rabbeth & Brownell. This establishment dates back to 1876 and stands on the railroad north of the depot, and is a large frame building. It has six runs of buhrs and three sets of the celebrated Stephens rolls, with a capacity of 200 barrels of flour per day; the whole valued at $30,000. They do a merchant and custom trade, and ship largely to Southern markets.

The Eugene Mills

The sketch of these mills is from the South Kentuckian of February 26, 1884: This mill is a frame structure with four stories and a basement, with 75-horse power, and is propelled by water and steam, water being used six months in the year, and is one of the best built, local, new-process mills to-day in Christian County, and is supplied with all the latest improved machinery from top to bottom. The capacity of this mill is 100 barrels of flour every twenty-four hours, and it is kept in motion the year round from early dawn till dewy eve. Mr. Eugene Wood, its proprietor, has been engaged in the milling business since 1872 at this place, at which time he took charge of an old structure and ran it until 1879, when he remodeled and built the present handsome structure, and by his energy, perseverance, as well as a thorough knowledge of the business, has built up a wide-spread local trade second to no other mill in this or adjoining counties, and “Eugene’s Best ” has long since become a household word throughout the city and county. He makes a specialty of exchange work, and is constantly receiving grain for which cash payments are made. Mr. K. J. Ensminger is the miller, and is thoroughly qualified to fill that position, as he has al-most devoted his entire life-time in this capacity.

Hopkinsville Mills

This mill was erected in 1868 by Thomas & Linden, who brought much of the machinery from Cadiz, all of which has since been removed and replaced with the latest improved. It is now owned by F. L. Ellis & Co., and is a most excellent mill, with a capacity of 150 barrels per day. It has three sets of the Stephens rolls and seven runs of buhrs. The mill is located on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, and is valued at $30,000. In 1874 William Ellis purchased the Edmunds interest, and in 1876 F. L. Ellis purchased Linden’s interest. They ship their flour principally to Southern markets.

The Hopkinsville Planing-mill was erected, in 1866, by John Orr and Martin Miller. It was then but a small building 30×40 feet, and they could only operate on a small scale. Miller was finally succeeded by F. J. Brownell, with whom Mr. Orr did business under the firm name of Brownell & Co. Mr. J. S. Torrey, the present partner, succeeded Brownell, and the firm is now John Orr & Co. They do all kinds of work common to an establishment of the kind, and work, upon an average, about fifty men.

Ducker & Dryer’s carriage factory is a considerable establishment. They succeeded the old firm of Poindexter & Baker, with whom Mr. Ducker had learned his trade. In 1876 he went to Fairfield, Ill., where he was associated with F. R. Dryer; he remained nearly a year. They then returned to Hopkinsville, where they have continued the business as successors of Poindexter & Baker. They make a specialty of repairing, but also put up considerable new work.

There are several other establishments, viz.: McCarny, Bonte & Co., carriage manufactory; Forbes & Bro., planing-mill; Hanna & Co., foundry and ice factory, but of these we have no information. The grain trade of Hopkinsville is large, but is principally conducted by the mills already noticed. The tobacco trade is perhaps the most extensive business of Hopkinsville, but as a sketch of it is given by Mr. Abernathy in a preceding chapter, anything here would be a repetition.


The first bank in Christian County was established by an act of the Legislature, approved January 26, 1818, called the Christian Bank, with a capital of $200,000 divided into 2,000 shares at $100 each. Subscriptions were opened in Hopkinsville, under the direction of A. Webber, Charles Caldwell, Charles W. Short, Samuel A. Miller, Joshua Hopson, Robert Patterson, Francis Wheatley and John Burgess, a majority of whom were empowered to superintend the subscriptions of stock. Young Ewing was the first cashier of this bank, a man then in the zenith of his glory and popularity. It is not known just how long this bank continued in existence. There was another bank here, but whether a private affair or a branch of the Bank of the Commonwealth, we do not know, as few now remember anything about it.

The Bank of Kentucky or-a branch of that bank was next established in Hopkinsville, and was for many years the principal banking institution in the county. It occupied the old Christian Bank building, in which Merritt & Gwynn now are, but which has been remodeled and modernized since then. It existed until the commencement of the war, when its business was wound up. Among the Presidents of the bank were John H. Phelps, Strother J. Hawkins and John B. Campbell. Rewlen Rowland was Cashier from its organization until his death; William H. Sasseen succeeded him, and then came John H. Van Culin. There was no other bank in Hopkinsville until after the close of the war, and the establishment of the Bank of Hopkinsville, one of the leading banks in Southern Kentucky, and the principal bank of the city. John C. Latham is its President, and has been since its organization. There are two other banks in Hopkinsville.

General Business

Hopkinsville makes no pretensions to a whole-sale trade, and does but little in that way. But in its retail trade it will compare with any town of its size in the State. Its stores and business houses are large and of a much better class than may usually be found in a town of this size. The Thompson Block, the Opera House Block, the Bank of Hopkinsville’s building, the Hopper Block, the McDaniel Block, Anderson’s building, and a number of others that are a credit to the city, among which, one erected and owned by Peter Postell, a colored man, is not the least magnificent. These buildings are handsome and show the energy and enterprise of the inhabitants. Others are now in course of erection that will compare favorably with those already constructed, and still others are contemplated, which no doubt will be built during the coming year. This spirit of improvement denotes a healthy business and prosperity, and it is no wild or extravagant prediction to suggest the probability of Hopkinsville becoming the leading city in Southern Kentucky.

The handsome residences should not be overlooked in the general summary of the city’s elegant buildings. Many palatial residences, situated in beautiful grounds, and surrounded with grand old trees, ornamental shrubbery and fragrant flowers, are seen along the principal streets, and would be creditable to much larger and more pretentious cities. But of the many we will particularize none, for fear of omissions that might appear unjust to the owners, and also for the lack of space to notice all. Other ornaments to the architectural beauty of the town are the churches, school buildings, colleges and court house, which find appropriate mention in other chapters of this volume.

The Hopkinsville Building and Loan Association is not the least factor, perhaps, in the fine improvements of the city. Its name and title denote its character and business, which need no explanation. Its officers and Board are as follows: J. D. Russell, President; J. 1. Landes, Secretary; Thomas W. Long, Treasurer; Landes & Clark, Attorneys. Board of Managers-George C. Long, J. D. Russell, F. J. Brownell, F. R. Dryer and H. C. Gant. Its semi-annual exhibit, October 1, 1883, showed the following:

First mortgages on real estate $25,400 00
Delinquent dues, $131; interest, $65.50; fines, $15 211 50
Cash on hand 4,293 82
$29,905 32


242 shares first series, at $61.20 $14,810
425 shares second series, at $27.20 11,560 162
272 shares third series, at $8.16 2,219 b52
Loans not paid 1,075 00
Advanced payments on stock 240 00
$29,905 32


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

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