HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN COUNTY KENTUCKY
charles m. meacham
THE FIRST RAILROAD
The First Railroad in 1868; The Ohio Valley Railroad; The Tennessee Central Railroad; The Illinois Central Railroad.
The first railroad to enter the county was the Henderson & Nashville, which was incorporated by an Act of the Kentucky Legislature, approved February 8, 1837 (Acts 1836-7, p. 118). A similar Act was passed in Tennessee on November 15, 1849, to amend and re-enact that Act provided that the company authorized thereby should, when formed, have corporate existence in each of the States of Kentucky and Tennessee, the company being empowered to construct railroads so as to form continuous lines between Henderson, Kentucky, and Nashville, Tennessee, so as to touch Clarksville, Tennessee, that Clarksville might be afforded all the benefits of which the road was capable. The Act was not to become a law until the State of Kentucky enacted the same and concurred in the amendment made thereby to the Kentucky Act of February 8, 1837. This the Kentucky Legislature did by an Act approved March 4, 1850 (Acts 1849-50, p.308).
The property, rights and franchises of the Henderson & Nashville were sold on February 23, 1867, under judgment rendered by the Circuit Court of Christian County at a called term in January, 1867. E. G. Sebree was the purchaser, and by deed of March 22, 1867, Master Commissioner John Feland conveyed to him:
“The railroad constructed and to be constructed, the railroad track, roadbed, rails, bridges, fixtures and the land on which they are situated, and all the rights, privileges and franchises whatever of the Henderson & Nashville Railroad Company, with all depots, stations, and other real estate belonging to the said Henderson & Nashville Railroad Company included and embraced in the deed of trust or mortgage from said railroad company to T. S. Goodman and J. S. Atwood, dated March 1, 1854, said property being situated in the counties of Todd, Christian, Hopkins, Webster and Henderson.”
These privileges, franchises and properties were in turn conveyed by E. G. Sebree and wife on June 20, 1867, to the Evansville, Henderson & Nashville Railroad, which was incorporated by act of the Kentucky Legislature, approved January 29, 1867, with power to construct and operate a railroad from Henderson to the Kentucky-Tennessee state line in the direction of Nashville. The company was also authorized and empowered to
purchase from any railroad company or any person, such railroad track, roadbed, right of way, rails and other material and franchises necessary to construct the said road.
While some work was done under the charter of the Henderson & Nashville the line was substantially built under the charter of the Evansville, Henderson & Nashville. The Southern Division (Hopkinsville to Guthrie) was completed in 1869 and was operated in connection with the Edgefield & Kentucky Railroad until completion of the line from Henderson to Hopkinsville.
On October 1, 1872, the E. H. & N., with three other roads, consolidated into the St. Louis & Southeastern Railway Company. This company later defaulted in payment of interest on bonds and was operated by a receiver from October 20, 1874, to August 1, 1879, when it was operated by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company, which purchased the property at a sale held on July 19, 1879. By deed dated December 1, 1879, the property was conveyed to the L. & N. and became a part of its Henderson Division.
As to the value of this road to the L. & N. System, and of the latter to the new line, the Annual Report of 1878-79 says:
“The road intrinsically is a very valuable one. It is the short route from the Northwest and the Southeast, and as its Northern connections tap the great grain-growing regions of the United States, it cannot fail to do a large carrying business. It passes through a fine mineral and agricultural country, one which does now, and will in the future, bring a good revenue to all our lines.
“We have reason to believe that this road will, in a few years, be second to none in your system in earning capacity.”
The foregoing sketch is from the records of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad and for it we are indebted to Mr. J. J. James of the Company’s office force.
When the Louisville & Nashville Railroad first came, it stopped a mile outside of town for a year or more, finally coming into and through the city. The first passenger agent, recalled by old citizens, was William L. Waller, who was succeeded by William Sasseen, known as Buck Sasseen.
Since the first road was merged into the L. & N. system, the following agents have represented it for the last fifty years: J. W. I. Smith, W. W. Alexander, John W. Logsden, J. Matt Adams, C. E. Miller, John C. Hooe and Richard F. Brasher, who has been agent for seventeen years.
For more than twenty years the L. & N., as it came to be known, was the only railroad in the county. Early in the nineties, a road crossing the county west of Hopkinsville, known as the Ohio Valley Railroad, was built from Clarksville, Tennessee, to Princeton, Kentucky. A few years later, a branch was built from Gracey to Hopkinsville, giving the city of Hopkinsville an outlet to the Illinois Central road at Princeton, independent of the L. & N. connection at Nortonville. The last road to be built was the Tennessee Central, extending from Clarksville to Hopkinsville. These short roads are now merged into a divided control by the Louisville & Nashville and the Illinois Central. The roads from Clarksville to Gracey and from Clarksville to Hopkinsville are a part of the L. & N. system and the road from Hopkinsville via Gracey to Princeton is a branch of the Illinois Central.
THE ILLINOIS CENTRAL
Although the Illinois Central system did not come to Christian County until 1897, the history of this great transportation system goes back to the year 1850, when Congress passed the first Federal land grant act to aid in railway development. This act, sponsored by Senators Stephen, A. Douglas of Illinois and Henry Clay of Kentucky, conveyed to the State of Illinois 2,595,000 acres of the 11,000,000 acres of public lands in Illinois to encourage the building of a “Y”-shaped railroad 705 miles in length reaching from the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers at Cairo to Chicago and East Dubuque, Illinois. The Illinois Central was organized and chartered the following spring, and by September, 1856, the entire railroad was in operation.
In 1872 the Illinois Central took steps which led to the acquisition of its present main line between Cairo and New Orleans, thus forming a through route between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico.
Meanwhile a group of seventy-one citizens of Union, Henderson, Webster, Daviess, McLean and Ohio Counties, in Kentucky, organized the South Kentucky Railroad Company, which was chartered by the Kentucky Legislature, March 15, 1871, and empowered to construct a railroad from the Elizabethtown & Paducah Railroad (now the Illinois Central) at Hartford, in Ohio County, through the coal region south of Henderson and Uniontown to the Ohio River in Union, Crittenden or Livingston County.
This corporation remained in existence fifteen years without building a mile of railroad. By 1885 a controlling interest in the enterprise had been acquired by Dr. P. G. Kelsey and Capt. S. S. Brown, who directed its affairs until the property was acquired by the Huntington system in 1891.
Tn the spring of 1886 the name of the company was changed by legislative authority to the Ohio Valley Railway Company, and during the following summer the first forty miles of railroad, between Henderson and DeKoven, was completed and put in operation. Construction was continued southward from DeKoven and on December 1, 1887, the road was opened to Princeton.
About this time the citizens of Christian County began to interest themselves in the enterprise. At a meeting of the directors, held at Henderson, Kentucky, September 19, 1888, President Kelsey “submitted letters and telegrams from prominent business men in Hopkinsville indicating that a subscription of $200,000 would be voted to the capital stock of the railroad company for an extension of the line from Princeton to Hopkinsville, provided the people were assured that the railroad would be built.”
The Hopkinsville proposal was accepted by the railway company, and on November 10, 1888, the proposition, submitted as a referendum to the voters of Christian County, was approved by a majority of 399 votes. The fiscal agents of the county in these negotiations were E. P. Campbell, President of the Bank of Hopkinsville; Lucien Jones, President of the City Bank, and S. E. Trice, President of the Planters Bank of Hopkinsville.
Before the full bond issue could be floated, however, and before more than a beginning could be made toward extending the line from Princeton to Hopkinsville, the Ohio Valley Railway Company became enmeshed in financial difficulties and defaulted in its interest payments.
To the rescue of the distressed road came Collis P. Huntington, erstwhile Yankee peddler who had amassed a large fortune as a mining outfitter in California during the gold rush and had made other millions as a railway organizer and promoter. Huntington had done what no other railway chief had ever done before or has ever done since—he had established a great transcontinental railway system, reaching from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The Chesapeake & Ohio South-Western Railroad, now the Illinois Central line between Louisville and Memphis through Princeton, was a link in his great transcontinental chain.
Huntington needed the Ohio Valley Railway as a feeder to his line through Kentucky. In return for his guarantee of the payment of interest and principal of the bonds of the Ohio Valley, his railroad, the Chesapeake & Ohio South-Western, received a controlling interest in the enterprise, and in August, 1891, General John Echols, Huntington’s right hand man in Kentucky, succeeded Dr. Kelsey as President of the company.
Under General Echols the railroad was reconditioned and improved, and steps were promptly taken to extend the line to Hopkinsville. The Indiana, Alabama & Texas Railroad Company had built a line from Princeton to Gracey, and the line had been acquired by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. In January, 1892, General Echols’ company leased this line, and during the summer of 1892 the line was extended from Gracey to Hopkinsville, thus providing the Ohio Valley Railway Company with a through line from Evansville, md., to Hopkinsville.
Eighteen months after the Ohio Valley was acquired by the Chesapeake & Ohio South-Western the latter road went into the receiver’s hands. After three years of receivership, the road and its subsidiary, the Ohio Valley, were sold under the auctioneer’s hammer to Edward H. Harriman, the noted railway organizer, and on August 1, 1897, the Illinois Central system took over the operation of the properties, although the actual sale
by Harriman to the Illinois Central system was not consummated until June, 1898.
From the time the railroad was built into Hopkinsville, in 1892, it has been a factor of first importance in the agricultural and industrial development of Christian County. The Illinois Central system, with its vast network of lines reaching into fourteen states of the Middle West and South, provides Christian County with direct rail communication with numerous consuming and distributing centers.
Aside from the indispensable service which it renders in the transportation of freight, passengers, express and mails, the Illinois Central system contributes to the prosperity of Christian County as an employer of labor and as a taxpayer. Its payroll in Christian County runs into many thousands of dollars annually, and its taxes in the county amount to around thirty-seven hundred dollars a year—a sum which has the effect of lessening the tax burden of all other property owners in the county.
Below are the names of the agents of the Illinois Central system at Hopkinsville from 1898 to date:
E. M. Sherwood 1898 to 1904
J. B. Mallon 1904 to 1908
G. R. Newman 1908 to 1909
T. L. Morrow 1909 to 1917
C. L. Wadlington May, 1917 to February, 1928
T. M. Parrish February, 1928, to date
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