In 1870 W. E. Norton had grandiose visions of what would become of the 2,000 acres of land he had purchased in Hopkins County.

The East-West and North-South railroad construction in the area proposed the possibility of even greater wealth for the already comfortable Norton. So, he set about making his vision a reality, selling lots from the acreage to businessmen with hopes of making what was then known as Norton Village into a bustling town.

Although Norton was instrumental in bringing the railroad to the town, his efforts fell short. Progress was not what he had hoped for and his dreams were not realized until 1902 when a group of men purchased the 2,000 acres -- which had been renamed Nortonville -- from the Norton heirs and opened a shaft mine called the Nortonville Coal Company.

The town began to prosper despite the changes in ownership of the coal company, which was reorganized as Norton Coal Corporation in 1936 by Sterling Lanier. Lanier donated the land for many schools and churches and is still remembered as the man who made Nortonville a thriving mining and lumber town.

Nortonville played an important role in women's rights in Hopkins County. The "Nortonville Dispatch," the first and last newspaper ever published in Nortonville, was established in 1911. Allie Armstrong took a step forward for women's rights as the first woman in Hopkins County to serve as a newspaper editor.

Eventually the coal and lumber industries were exhausted in the area and, with no other industries to take their place, the town became rather quiet.

The city of Nortonville may not be thriving like it once did, but the town still stays busy. Restructuring of the county school system left the town with an empty building and Nortonville Mayor James Kerr said in a city council meeting that sufficient funds are already being held in bank accounts and no taxes would have to be raised should the city try to buy the 66-year-old building.

If the city were to be the successful bidder on the school, Kerr would propose moving city hall, the Nortonville Library and a museum chronicling the town's history into the building.

In addition to the new plans for the abandoned school building the city has recently received some new water lines and plans are in the works for a new city park.

This feature story originally appeared in the The Messenger in the small towns section of their "Changing Face of Hopkins County" on September 6, 1996 and was written by Slone Hutchison, a summer intern from Murray State University working with The Messenger to gain practical news papering skills during her summer vacation.

My thanks to The Messenger for granting permission to publish on the Hopkins County, Kentucky KyGenWeb page.

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Nancy Trice
Hopkins County, Ky

© 1997