AHGP Transcription Project

Christian County

Christian County was formed in the year 1796, and named in honor of Colonel William Christian. It lies in the south-western part of the State, adjoining the Tennessee line; bounded on the north by Hopkins and Muhlenburg; east by Todd; south by the State of Tennessee, and west by Trigg.

This county is twenty-two miles wide and thirty-two long, containing an area of seven hundred and four miles, and is the eleventh county in the State in point of wealth. The southern division of the county is generally composed of rich, fertile, level bottoms, and produces fine crops of tobacco, corn, wheat, rye, oats, and grass. The northern division is broken, and in some portions almost mountainous, with a soil less fertile, but sufficiently rich to sustain a large population, finely timbered, well watered, and abounding in inexhaustible beds of coal and iron ore. The general basis of the soil is a red clay, founded on cavernous limestone; and like most of the southern counties, abounds in sinks, caves and caverns. The situation of the county is elevated, and the surface of the country has a descending inclination in all directions from the centre, as it contains the head waters of Pond, Trade Water, Little, and the west fork of Red Rivers: The first emptying into Green River, the second into the Ohio, and the two last into Cumberland River. Mineral and Sulphur springs abound, and many invalids visit them during the watering season. The staple products are corn, wheat, oats and tobacco, not less than 6,500 hogsheads of the latter article being exported annually; while coal from the mines, in large quantities, finds its way to market.

There are eleven Towns in Christian County.
Hopkinsville, the county seat, was laid out in 1799, on the lands of Bartholomew Wood, and called Elizabethtown, by which name it was known for several years. In 1804, it was incorporated by its present name, in honor of Gen. Samuel Hopkins. It is now an incorporated city, with a population in 1870 of 3,136, and on January 1, 1873, of about 3,600. It has 4 warehouses engaged in the inspection and sale of tobacco, and 1 re-handling establishment; is the most important station on the Evansville, Henderson, and Nashville railroad; and the seat of one of the great charities of the state, the Western Lunatic Asylum.
Petersburg, 18 miles north of Hopkinsville, on the Henderson and Madisonville railroad, population about 100.
Fairview, 12 miles east, population about 260, is partly in Christian and partly in Todd County; in the latter part, the house now occupied by Andrew J. Kenner, is pointed out as that in which ex-President Jefferson Davis was born.
Pembroke, 10 miles south east, population in 1870, 278.
Oakgrove, 13 miles south east, on the Clarksville road.
Longview, 8 miles south, on the turnpike to Clarksville, population about 100.
Garretsburgh, 16 miles south, near the Tennessee line, population about 125.
Bennettown, 12 miles south west, population about 125.
St. Elmo, on Tennessee state line, 12 miles from Hopkinsville, population about 40.
Belleview, 8 miles south west, population about 140.
Lafayette, 20 miles south west, near the Tennessee line, population in 1870, 215.
Crofton, 16 miles northwest, on E. H. and N. railroad, population about 150.

Members of the Legislature from Christian County, since 1847

Ben. Edwards Gray, 1847-51;
Jas. F. Buckner, 1855-59;
B. H. Bristow, 1863-65;
W. W. McKenzie,1865-67;
E. P. Campbell, 1871-7.3;
Walter Evans, 1873-75

House of Representatives
Jas. F. Buckner and Lysias F. Chilton, 1847;
John McLarning, 1848;
Daniel H. Harrison, 1849;
Edmund Wooldridge and Winston J. Davie, 1850;
John J. Thomas, 1851-53;
Drury M. Wooldridge, 1853-55;
Ben. Berry, 1855-57;
Jas. S. Jackson, 1857-59;
Wm. Brown, 1859-61;
Geo. Poindexter 1861-63 and 1865-67;
E. A. Brown, 1863-65;
Jas. A. McKenzie, 1867-71;
Walter Evans, 1871-73;
O. S. Parker, 1873-75.

Western Lunatic Asylum
On the 28th of February, 1848, the legislature of Kentucky provided for the location and erection of a second Lunatic Asylum. The "Spring Hill" tract of 383 acres of land (which proved to be of "indifferent quality"), on the turnpike road east of Hopkinsville, was purchased for $1,971.50 (only $5.14 per acre). This sum was refunded by the citizens, and $2,000 additional paid by them. There was expended upon buildings and other improvements in 1849. $43,052, in 1850, $43,484; the additional outlays for these purposes do not appear in any documents before us. The legislature appropriated $15,000 in 1848, $20,000 in 1849, $45,000 in 1850, $35,000 in 1851, $43,000 in 1852, $44,017 in 1854, total $202,017. On September 18, 1854, the first patients were received. By December 1, 1857, 208 had been admitted, but only 102 were then in the institution; the others having died, eloped, or been restored and discharged, under the care of the superintendent. Dr. S. Annan. No. admitted in 1858, 106, and in 1859, to December 1st, 129, total for two years, 235; during same time, 133 were discharged, of whom 65 were restored, 56 died, 10 eloped.

On November 30, 1861, the main building was destroyed at mid-day by fire, which caught from sparks from a chimney falling upon the shingle roof. (It had "once or twice before caught fire near the same place.") The 210 patients escaped uninjured, except one who fastened himself in his room, near where the fire originated, and perished in the flames. The court house and other buildings in Hopkinsville were kindly tendered for the use of the unfortunates; 23 hewed-log cabins were speedily erected, at about $90 each; and everything done that could well be to mitigate the sufferings of the patients.

The walls being mainly uninjured, it was estimated that "$50,000 would replace the brick and wood work," and $67,000 more (including $3,856 for tin roof and gutters) would complete the building. In February, 1861, the legislature made an appropriation to begin it, and before January 1, 1867, had appropriated in all $258,930 to complete the rebuilding. This added to the managers' "probable net valuation of the property" after the destruction by fire of the interior of the main building, $145,420 (exclusive of the enhanced value of the land itself) makes the total value of the improvements at that time (1867), $404,350 providing comfortably for 325 patients.

Sometime in 1863, the present able and successful superintendent, Dr. James Rodman, took charge of the asylum. The total number of patients received and treated, up to October 10, 1871, was 1,273 of whom 321 were then in the asylum. "Calculated upon the number of patients received, 50.847 per cent, were discharged restored, 8 were discharged more or less improved, 2 were unimproved, 1 eloped, and 22 died" (9 of tubercular consumption). The two lunatic asylums were, in October, 1871, full; and in December, 1872, a number of lunatics were confined in apartments in jails, or at home, awaiting increased facilities by the state for their care. "There is (nearly) one insane person in every 1,000 of the population" at least 1,400 in Kentucky, of whom there is room in the two asylums for only 850; and both are full!

Christian County contains several exceedingly interesting natural curiosities:

1st.   Two of the forks of Little River sink and disappear entirely in the earth for many miles, when they emerge and flow on about their usual width.

2nd.   The Pilot Rock, a rare curiosity, is situated about twelve miles from Hopkinsville, rather north of an east direction. The rock rests upon elevated ground, and is about two hundred feet in height. Its summit is level, and covers about half an acre of ground, which affords some small growth and wild shrubbery. This rock attracts great attention, and is visited by large numbers of persons, particularly in the summer months. Its elevated summit, which is reached without much difficulty, affords a fine view of the surrounding country for many miles, presenting a prospect at once picturesque, magnificent and beautiful.

3rd.   Situated in the northern extremity of this county, near "Harrison's tanyard," about twenty miles from Hopkinsville, is a Natural Bridge, somewhat similar, but on a reduced scale, to the celebrated rock bridge in Virginia, which was considered by Mr. Jefferson the greatest natural curiosity in the world. The bridge in question crosses a deep ravine, is thirty feet in height, with a span of sixty feet, and a magnificent arch. The surface is perfectly level, and the general width about five feet. The scenery in the vicinity of the bridge is remarkably romantic, and presents great attractions to the lovers of the picturesque in nature.

The first settlement in the county was made in 1785, by John Montgomery and James Davis, from Virginia, on the west fork of Red River, where they built a block house. At or near this block house, was a large cave, which served as a hiding place for themselves and families against the attacks of Indians.

Col. William Christian, in honor of whom this county received its name, was a native of Augusta County, Virginia. He was educated at Stanton, and when very young, commanded a company attached to Col. Bird's regiment, which was ordered to the frontier during Braddock's war. In this service, he obtained the reputation of a brave, active and efficient officer. Upon the termination of Indian hostilities, he married the sister of Patrick Henry, and settled in the county of Bottetourt. In 1774, having received the appointment of colonel of militia, he raised about three hundred volunteers, and by forced marches, made a distance of two hundred miles, with the view of joining the forces under General Lewis, at the mouth of the Great Kanawha. He did not arrive, however, in time to participate in the battle of Point Pleasant, which occurred on the preceding day, the 10th of October, 1774. In 1775, he was a member of the general state convention of Virginia. In the succeeding year, when hostilities had commenced between Great Britain and the American colonies, he received the appointment of colonel in the Virginia line of the regular army, and took command of an expedition, composed of 1200 men, against the Cherokee Indians. No event of moment occurred in this expedition, the Indians having sued for peace, which was concluded with them. After his return from this expedition. Colonel Christian resigned his command in the regular service, and accepted one in the militia, at the head of which he kept down the tory spirit in his quarter of Virginia throughout the revolutionary struggle. Upon the conclusion of the war, he represented his county in the Virginia legislature for several years, sustaining a high reputation for his civil as well as his military talents.

In 1785, Colonel Christian immigrated to Kentucky, and settled on Beargrass. The death of Colonel Floyd, who was killed by an Indian in 1783, rendered his location peculiarly acceptable to that section of the state, where a man of his intelligence, energy and knowledge of the Indian character, was much needed. In April of the succeeding year, 1786, a body of Indians crossed the Ohio and stole a number of horses on Bear-grass, and with their usual celerity of movement, re-crossed the river, and presuming they were in no further danger of pursuit, leisurely made their way to their towns. Colonel Christian immediately raised a party of men, and crossed the Ohio in pursuit of the marauders. Having found their trail, by a rapid movement he overtook them about twenty miles from the river, and gave them battle. A bloody conflict ensued, in which Colonel Christian and one man of his party were killed, and the Indian force totally destroyed.* His death created a strong sensation in Kentucky. He was brave, intelligent and remarkably popular.

*Vide Marshall's History, vol. I, page 228. This account varies in some of its particulars from that which appears in the biographical sketch of Lieutenant Governor Bullitt, who belonged to the party of Colonel Christian. See Bullitt County.

There is a remarkable Spring near St. Elmo and the state line of Tennessee, of great depth and unfathomed, which flows regularly a stream of water powerful enough to run a mill.

First Public Building
The late Gov. John Reynolds, in his Life and Times, page 25, says that when, in emigrating from Tennessee to Illinois, he "passed the site of the present Hopkinsville," in February, 1800, the jail was the only building in the place.

Jefferson Davis, ex-president of the Confederate States of America, was born in Christian County, Kentucky, (in that part now included in Todd County), June 3, 1808; but with his father removed to Mississippi in his infancy. He returned to Kentucky for a while, as a student at Transylvania University; was a cadet at West Point Military Academy, 1824-28, and graduated, 1828; second lieutenant of infantry, 1828-33; first lieutenant of dragoons, 1833-35; served in various campaigns against the Indians, and was distinguished as a subordinate officer in the Black Hawk Campaign; resigned his army commission, 1835, and became a planter in Mississippi. Mr. Davis began his political career as presidential elector, 1844; was elected to congress, 1845-47, but resigned, 1846, to take a colonelcy of a Mississippi regiment enlisted for the Mexican war; was promoted brigadier-general, for gallant conduct at Buena Vista, where, it was claimed, his regiment, by its steadiness and valor in repelling the final charge of the enemy, turned a doubtful battle into a great victory; in 1847, was appointed by the governor of Mississippi to fill a vacancy in the U. S. senate, and subsequently was unanimously elected by the legislature to the same, 1847-51; resigned, 1850, to make the race for governor of Mississippi, against Henry Stuart Foote; was re-elected U. S. senator, 1852, but resigned to accept the position of secretary of war under President Pierce, 1853-57; in 1857, was again elected to the U. S. senate, from which he withdrew, January 8, 1861, Mississippi having seceded from the Union.

On February 4, 1861, the delegates from the cotton states met at Montgomery, Alabama, organized a provisional government, adopted a constitution for the Confederate states, and chose Jefferson Davis president, and Alexander H. Stephens vice-president thereof The selection of Mr. Davis for this exalted position was well made; for whatever may have been his faults, no one else could be named who embodied the elements of character to head a revolution. Mr. Davis in common with the Confederate leaders, desired a peaceful separation from the Federal government. In withdrawing therefrom, they only exercised a right which that section had always maintained. The Confederate government at once sent commissioners to Washington, to effect if possible an amicable adjustment. But while they preferred the olive branch of peace, they made all possible preparations for war. Indeed the temper of the Northern people admitted of no other solution of the difficulty. The South was deficient in all the implements of warfare. But shipyards, powder mills, armories, machine-shops, and all things else necessary for their manufacture, magic-like sprang into existence. Indeed the first iron-plated vessel constructed on this continent (the Merrimac) was the result of the genius and skill of Confederate mechanics. But all in vain were the efforts of the heroic people of the South, women scarcely less than men. If the one fought, it was the other that urged them to light. If the one died bravely on the battle field, the other suffered and endured at home. It has been said, and no doubt with much truth, that when the struggle had become hopeless, it was protracted by the entreaties and appeals of the women of the South. The Confederacy was shut out from that great world upon which the Federal government could call for men to fill up its ranks. The South could depend alone upon the resources within her borders. The end of the contest was then but a question of time.

It is unnecessary to recapitulate the events of the war. Outnumbered, overpowered, the Confederates were forced to yield, crushed, yet still unconquered. In all the grave responsibilities that devolved upon Jefferson Davis, in the victories and through all the reverses of the Confederacy, he of all seemed most calm and most collected. Victory did not unduly elate him, nor defeat daunt his heroic spirit. He and his co-laborers had staked their lives for a principle for which they were willing to die. And no less were they patriotic, in its true sense, than were their fathers who fought in the Revolution.

After the fall of the Confederacy, Mr. Davis was captured while attempting to make his way to the Trans-Mississippi it being his intention, if he had escaped, to seek an asylum abroad. He was sent to Fortress Monroe, where he was detained as a prisoner for many months, but finally released. He was indicted for high treason by a grand jury of the Federal Court in Richmond, Virginia; but the Federals never dared to bring the case on for trial. They apprehended that the decision of the Court in the cause would sustain the States-rights theory, even to the withdrawal of a sovereign state from the Federal Union. His release, then, was dictated less by the clemency of the government than by a shrewd and astute policy. On his release Mr. Davis went to Canada; but subsequently returned to the South, and finally made Memphis his home.

Jefferson Davis is an uncommon man. A fierce antagonist, an uncompromising enemy, but unflinchingly devoted as a friend. In the U. S. senate, he was regarded as au fait in all the details of government. He was familiar with the operations of every department, and could discuss intelligently the affairs of the Indian bureau, the land office, the treasury, the war office. He is self-reliant, and when sustained by his own judgment, obstinate in opinion. He is a forcible writer, and his messages as president of the Confederate States, rank with the ablest and most scholarly of like productions. They were indeed models in composition, and elicited praise from the severest critics in Europe. Success is the test of merit; and the failure of the Confederacy has obscured the noble qualities that belong to Jefferson Davis, who to the thoughtless world is only a rebel. Yet had it been established, his name might have been third only to those of Washington and Robert E. Lee. Undoubtedly he committed grave errors in his administration, but they were solely errors of judgment. Alike with his honor, his patriotism is unimpeached and unimpeachable. The Confederacy failed with him; it could not have succeeded with any other. Mr. Davis once possessed great wealth, but it was lost during the war. On his return to the South, he declined the pecuniary aid which was proffered in profusion, preferring to maintain his independence through his own labor.

Source: History of Kentucky, Volume II, by Lewis Collins, Published by Collins & Company,
Covington, Kentucky, 1874

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