"Good Morning Earlington:
Founding Fathers of Hopkins County "
Isn’t it fascinating how one story joins with another like piecing a quilt? It’s sometimes difficult to see a pattern until you piece several squares and study it at a distance. It’s not always neat and pretty with perfect stitches, but we can have pride that it was completed by our own hands. The final product is a combination of many pieces of hard work over a period of time. So it is with history. Our present is a compilation of the work of many who paved the way for us.
Those who came here first settled near waterways. The east and west boundaries of Hopkins County are between two rivers, Pond and Tradewater. That was for a reason. Our ancestors came either by water or through the buffalo trace with as few belongings as they could carry. Their lives were especially hard and brief. Few before them dared to live in the Ken-tuck-ee territory, a neutral, buffer zone for Indian tribes. Indians called it the River of Blood referring to the massacre of the ancient Mound Builders. So when we give thanks to others for what we have, let us also remember these hardy pioneers whom we often forget. Both Hopkins County (1807-2000) and Earlington (1870-2000) have a rich heritage. Perhaps we would appreciate it more if we knew about its people—our ancestors.
People often get confused when researching early Hopkins County history. One of the reasons is that prior to May 25, 1807, there was no Hopkins County. We were a part of Henderson County until Kentucky Governor Christopher Greenup and the General Assembly enacted "An Act for the Division of Henderson County" (which was approved Dec. 27, 1806). It wasn’t until 1870 when Earlington became incorporated (approximately 60 years later) that our Immaculate Conception School was dedicated, and the St. Bernard Mining Company built two important buildings--our first school for blacks (behind where the AME Zion Church now stands) and Union Church (a two-story frame building on the corner of E. Main and Day used for school, church, and public entertainment.
The beautiful Immaculate Conception Church still stands with only a few architectural changes, but I find no other information concerning the black school except that around 1910 St. Bernard built a new brick building on N. McEuen we later knew as Million. Union Church burned in 1889 which led to school temporary being held in what would later become the home of Mrs. Lander Chisholm on E. Main. These were probably the most important buildings in the early history of Earlington in the young county.
In 1807 the first court of the newly formed Hopkins County was at the home of Robert Mc Gary and was composed of Richard Davis, Russell Weir, Thomas Anderson, Stephen Ashby, Isham Browder, James Logan and Joseph Berry. That day David Wright was appointed the first sheriff with John Gordon, Abner Martin and Caleb Hall to carry out the "performance of said office" and for the "collection of fines and penalties." Caleb Hall was a large landowner and influential in Earlington’s beginnings because before we were called Earlington we were known as Caleb Hall’s Post Office. Not only was he a county deputy, but he served in 1807 on the first (as well as other) County Jury. He seems to have been a colorful "founding father" as he also appeared before the Grand Jury at least twice himself for swearing an oath in McGary’s court. It seems during this time profane swearers often appeared before Grand Jury. (This is a law I could still live with!)
The first county clerk was Samuel Woodson with assistants Silas McBee and Charles F. Wing. The Governor then appointed Robert McGary as the first coroner, but he refused and nominated Henry Ashby and Clairborn Williams. County Surveyors were John Gordon and Peter Ruby.
Now, with the naming of these officials, the next order of business was to plan a town (Madisonville) with public buildings. Daniel McGary and Soloman Silkwood agreed to donate 40 acres bordering their land including water privileges. With the question of where the town would be, the next question was what to build. Thus the court appointed James Davis, Thomas Anderson, and Abraham Landers to draft plans for a court house and jail. That move, of course, necessitated a need for a lawyer and tax commissioner. So, enter the first county attorney —Thomas Towies—and Commissioner of the Tax William Davis. Thus states the minutes of Hopkins County Order Book No. 1-A signed by Rich’d Davis, and to the present we add more appointees each year.
Now, we jump ahead 50 years to 1857 when the court began "price fixing." One of the most interesting is that of tavern rates. Lodging for the night was set at 25 cents. (The rate for your horse, however, was 50 cents.) If you decided on supper or breakfast for yourself, you had to add another 35 cents (while grain for your steed was 25). Then, if you were so inclined, you could order a pint of whiskey for 10 cents or a quart of cider for a nickel. You have already heard the story of the Mrs. Marie Germaine, grandmother of the Dalton Richards’ family, who ran the first boarding house in Earlington in 1870 after she arrived from Alsace-Lorraine.
So now when you go for a walk, spend a relaxing day at Loch Mary, or conduct business at the court house, take time to consider what life might have offered if you had lived here 130 years ago. Daily we reap the blessings from the work of these early pioneers. We should never take a single minute of this precious life for granted. Nor of the sacrifices of these hearty people. Enjoy but give thanks daily!
Ann Gipson 12-13-2001