AHGP Transcription Project

Fulton County

Fulton County was formed, the 99th in order in the state, in 1845, out of the south-western part of Hickman County, and named in honor of Robert Fulton. It is bound west and north by the Mississippi River, N. E. and E. by Hickman County, and south by the Tennessee state line. It contains 184 square miles, is the last county west, and is literally cut in two by the Mississippi River, so that in going from the main or eastern part of the county to the western (familiarly known as "Madrid Bend,") it is necessary to pass over about 8 miles of Tennessee territory. The county is divided between Mississippi bottoms, subject for 25 miles to inundation, and uplands; lies well, has no mountains, and but a small portion of hill country; soil generally good, a part very productive; timber good, the finest oak, walnut, poplar and cypress; Municipal productions, corn, tobacco, wheat, stock-raising and lumber; the streams, Little Obion River, Bayou du Chien, Mud, Rush, and Dixon creeks.

Hickman, the county seat, was established by act of the legislature in 1834, then called Mills' Point, in honor of Mr. Mills, the first settler there, in 1819, and changed to its present name in 1837, after the maiden name of the wife of G. W. L. Marr, who at one time owned the entire town and several thousand acres around it. It is located on the east bank of the Mississippi, 45 miles below the mouth of the Ohio River, and contains, besides the court house and 7 lawyers, 7 doctors, one newspaper (The Courier), 4 churches (Methodist, Baptist, German Reformed, and Roman Catholic), 1 academy, 3 hotels, 17 stores, 11 mechanics' shops, 1 wagon and 1 furniture factory, 1 flouring and 1 corn mill; population in 1870, 1,120.
Jordan Station, on the Memphis and Ohio railroad, 10 miles from Hickman, has 2 stores, 2 mechanics' shops, a hotel, and saw mill.
Fulton Station, a thriving village, on the Paducah and Gulf railroad, 20 miles from Hickman, has 1 church (Methodist), 1 academy, 2 hotels, 6 stores, 3 mechanics' shops, 2 doctors and a flouring mill.

Members of the Legislature from Fulton County

Henry A. Tyler, 1869-71.

House of Representatives
Winfrey B. McConnell, 1848, '49;
Guy S. Miles, 1867-69;
[For additional names, see Hickman County]

The First Settlers avoided the Mississippi River, settling in the "upper end" of the county, near the Tennessee line.

No Indian Wars, but worse. Fulton County was a sort of dividing line between the combatants during; the civil war, and suffered severely, being plundered heavily by both parties.

The Earthquake of 1811, the most alarming and extensive, and the most serious in its effects, that ever occurred within the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, spent its greatest force in Kentucky, in Fulton County, and in the extreme south west portion of the county and state. After shaking the valley of the Mississippi to its center, and extending its vibrations all over the valley of the Ohio, to Pittsburgh and beyond, it passed the Alleghenies and their connecting "mountain barriers, and died away along the shores of the Atlantic ocean.* During the continuance of this appalling phenomenon, which commenced by distant rumbling sounds, succeeded by discharges as if a thousand pieces of artillery were suddenly exploded, the earth rocked to and fro; vast chasms opened, whence issued columns of water, sand, and coal, accompanied by hissing sounds, caused, perhaps, by the escape of pent up steam; while ever and anon flashes of electricity gleamed through the troubled clouds of night, rendering the darkness doubly horrible. The current of the Mississippi was driven back upon its source with the greatest velocity for several hours, in consequence of an elevation of its bed. But this noble river was not thus to be stayed. Its accumulated waters came booming on, and, overtopping the barrier thus suddenly raised, carried everything before them with resistless power. Boats, then floating on the surface, shot down the declivity like an arrow from a bow, amid roaring billows, and the wildest commotion.

"A few days' action of its powerful current sufficed to wear away every vestige of the barrier thus strangely interposed, and its waters moved on to the ocean. The day that succeeded this night of terror, brought no solace in its dawn. Shock followed shock; a dense black cloud of vapor overshadowed the land, through which no struggling sunbeam found its way to cheer the desponding heart of man, who, in silent communion with himself, was compelled to acknowledge his weakness and dependence on the everlasting God. Hills disappeared, and lakes were found in their stead; numerous lakes became elevated ground, over the surface of which vast heaps of sand were scattered in every direction; in many places the earth for miles was sunk below the general level of the surrounding country, without being covered with water leaving an impression in miniature of a catastrophe much more important in its effects, which had preceded it ages before. One of the lakes formed is sixty or seventy miles in length, and from three to twenty in breadth; in some places very shallow; in others, from fifty to one hundred feet deep, which is much more than the depth of the Mississippi River in that quarter. In sailing over its surface in a light canoe, the voyager is struck with astonishment at beholding the giant trees of the forest standing partially exposed amid a waste of waters, branchless and leafless."

In a keel-boat moored to a small island in the Mississippi River, about 18 miles below the boundary line of Kentucky and Tennessee, the crew (all Frenchmen) were frightened almost to helplessness by the first terrible convulsion. This was before 2 o'clock in the morning of December 16, 1811. At 2 A. M. another, only less terrible, shock came on, a shock which made a chasm in the island four feet wide and over three hundred feet long. Twenty-seven shocks, all distinct and violent, were felt and counted before day light; they continued every day until the 21st of December, with decreasing violence , indeed, they were repeated at intervals until in February, 1812. The center of the violence was ascertained to be about Island No. 14, 22 miles below New Madrid, Missouri, which is opposite Fulton County, Kentucky.

A scientific English gentleman† who happened to be upon the above keelboat, became cool enough to record his observations. He noticed that the sound which was heard at the time of every shock always preceded the shock at least a second, originated in one point and went off in an opposite direction. And so he found that the shocks mime from a little northward of east, and proceeded to the westward.

The following vivid description of the horrors of the earthquake was written probably fifty years ago, but not published until 1842. An eye-witness, who
*Letter, dated February 1, 1836, from Dr. Lewis F. Linn, U.S. senator from Missouri.
John Bradbury, Travels in the Interior of America, pp. 199-267.

was then about forty miles below New Madrid, in a flat-boat loaded with produce bound for New Orleans, narrated the scene. It must be premised that dandier was apprehended from the southern Indians, it being soon after the battle of Tippecanoe; and for safety and mutual self-defense several boats kept in company:
"The agitation which convulsed the earth and the waters of the mighty Mississippi filled every living creature with horror. In the middle of the night there was a terrible shock and jarring of the boats, so that the crews were all awakened and hurried on deck with their weapons of defense in their hands, thinking the Indians were rushing on board. The ducks, geese, swans, and various other aquatic birds, whose numberless flocks were quietly resting in the eddies of the river, were thrown into the greatest tumult, and with loud screams expressed their alarm in accents of terror. The noise and commotion soon became hushed, and nothing could be discovered to excite apprehension, so that the boatmen concluded that the shock was occasioned by the falling in of a large mass of the bank of the river near them. As soon as it was light enough to distinguish objects, the crews were all up making ready to depart. Directly a loud roaring and hissing was heard, like the escape of steam from a boiler, accompanied by the most violent agitation of the shores and tremendous boiling up of the waters of the Mississippi in huge swells, rolling the waters below back on the descending stream, and tossing the boats about so violently that the men with difficulty could keep on their feet. The sandbars and points of the island gave way, swallowed up in the tumultuous bosom of the river; carrying down with them the Cottonwood trees, cracking and crashing, tossing their arms to and fro, as if sensible of their danger, while they disappeared beneath the flood.

"The water of the river, which the day before was tolerably clear, being rather low, changed to a reddish hue, and became thick with mud thrown up from its bottom; while the surface, lashed violently by the agitation of the earth beneath, was covered with foam, which, gathering into masses the size of a barrel, floated along on the trembling surface. The earth on the shores opened in wide fissures, and closing again, threw the water, sand, and mud, in huge jets, higher than the tops of the trees. The atmosphere was filled with a thick vapor or gas, to which the light imparted a purple tinge, altogether different in appearance from the autumnal haze of Indian summer, or that of smoke. From the temporary check to the current, by the heaving up of the bottom, the sinking of the banks and sandbars into the bed of the stream, the river rose in a few minutes five or six feet; and, impatient of the restraint, again rushed forward with redoubled impetuosity, hurrying along the boats, now set loose by the horror-struck boatmen, as in less danger on the water than at the shore, where the banks threatened every moment to destroy them by the falling earth, or carry them down in the vortexes of the sinking masses.

"Many boats were overwhelmed in this manner, and their crews perished with them. It required the utmost exertions of the men to keep the boat, of which my informant was the owner, in the middle of the river, as far from the shores, sandbars, and islands as they could. Numerous boats wrecked on the snags and old trees thrown up from the bottom of the Mississippi, where they had quietly rested for ages, while others were sunk or stranded on the sandbars and islands. At New Madrid several boats were carried by the reflux of the current into a small stream that puts into the river just above the town, and left on the ground by the returning water a considerable distance from the Mississippi. A man who belonged to one of the company boats, was left for several hours on the upright trunk of an old snag in the middle of the river, against which his boat was wrecked and sunk. It stood with the roots a few feet above the water, and to these he contrived to attach himself, while every fresh shock threw the agitated waves against him, and kept gradually settling the tree deeper into the mud at the bottom, bringing him nearer and nearer to the deep muddy waters, which, to his terrified imagination, seemed desirous of swallowing him up. While hanging here, calling with piteous shouts for aid, several boats passed by without being able to relieve him, until finally a skiff was well manned, rowed a short distance above him and dropped down stream close to the snag from which he tumbled into the boat as she floated by.

"The scenes which occurred for several days, during the repeated shocks, were horrible. The most destructive ones took place in the beginning, although they were repeated for many weeks, becoming lighter and lighter, until they "died away in slight vibrations, like the jarring of steam in an immense boiler. The sulphureted gases that were discharged during the shocks tainted the air with their noxious effluvia, and so strongly impregnated the water of the river, to the distance of one hundred and fifty miles below, that it could hardly be used for any purpose for a number of days. The bottoms of several fine lakes in the vicinity were elevated so as to become dry land, and have since been planted with corn!"*

New Madrid, Missouri, which, in 1805, contained between 300 and 400 inhabitants, was almost depopulated, the people fleeing from the scene. The reason why so few were destroyed, was owing to the materials of their dwellings being of wood, and not of brick and stone. The bluff bank upon which it stood, fifteen or twenty feet above the summer floods, sunk so low that the next rise covered it to the depth of five feet.

Near St. Louis, Mo., the "great shake" as the old settlers still call it was so severe that domestic fowls fell from the trees as if dead; crockery and china ware fell from the shelves and was broken, and many families left their cabins, from fear of being crushed beneath their ruins. At Cape Girardeau, Missouri, the walls of several stone and brick buildings were cracked from the ground to the top, and wide fissures left. At Louisville.

In Fulton County, Kentucky, on the opposite bank of the Mississippi River from New Madrid, a great and singular lake which previously had no existence was formed, Reel-Foot lake, now seventeen miles long and from three-quarters of a mile to two and a half miles wide. Some call it fifty miles long, but they probably include Obion Lake, which connects with it. After the lapse of sixty years, it is still over twenty feet deep in places. It was formed by sand blown out of a chasm opened by the earthquake, and deposited near the mouth of Reel-Foot creek, causing a sudden damming of its waters, which spread over the adjacent low grounds, forming the lake, and deadening all the timber growing along the banks of the creek. The course of the lake can be traced, where its waters cannot be seen, by the tops of the dead timber. It is a great resort for all kinds of water fowl, lizards, cotton-mouth and other snakes, and mosquitoes, and full of excellent fish.

"Earth-cracks" can be distinctly traced in the bluffs on the Kentucky side of the Mississippi, for a quarter to a half mile, twenty to seventy feet wide, bounded on either side by parallel banks one to five feet above the sunk ground, the trees still growing firmly rooted in the soil. These earth-cracks are still more conspicuous on the Missouri side, near New Madrid, and in Obion County, Tennessee. In the latter, are still visible depressions one hundred feet deep, and varying from a few feet to a hundred feet wide which are said to have been more than double this depth when originally formed.†

Aboriginal Village
In the bluffs, not far from Reel-Foot lake, are found various ancient stone implements, earthen ware utensils, and carved images, associated with human bones, affording evidence that this country has once been the site of some considerable aboriginal village.

The region of Reel-Foot lake is subject to frequent severe hurricanes, which prostrate the largest trees in their course. There is strong reason to believe that many of them originate here, usually taking a north-east course. One of these, which cannot be traced further south, took place March 20, 1834, between 9 and 10 a. .m. passing by Feliciana on the edge of Graves County, and, within four miles, destroying six or seven houses, and carrying clothing a distance, some say, of twenty miles.‡

The First Naval Engagement in the west, during the civil war, took place just above the town of Hickman.

• American Pioneer, i, 129.
Kentucky Geological Survey, i, 119. ‡ Same, p. 118.

There are a few mounds in Fulton County, all near the Mississippi River. They present the appearance of "look-outs," or may be altars on which the natives of "the long ago" worshipped. They are not works of the modern Indians. A peculiar earthen vessel has been found in some of them.

Fulton County received its name in honor of Robert Fulton, the celebrated engineer. He was born in Little Britain, in the State of Pennsylvania, in 1765. In his infancy he was put to school in Lancaster, where he acquired the rudiments of a common English education. Here his peculiar genius manifested itself at a very early age. All his hours of recreation were passed in the shops of mechanics, or in the employment of his pencil. At the age of seventeen years, he went to Philadelphia, and entered under a portrait and landscape painter, where he remained until he was twenty-one. In his twenty-second year, he went to England, where he was received with great kindness by his celebrated countryman, Benjamin West, who was so pleased with his promising genius and his amiable qualities, that he took him into his house, where he continued an inmate for several years, devoting his time to painting. At this period he formed many valuable acquaintances, among others with the Duke of Bridgewater, so famous for his canals, and Lord Stanhope, a nobleman celebrated for his love of science, and particularly for his attachment to the mechanic arts. Even at that early period, he had conceived the idea of propelling vessels by steam, and he speaks in some of his manuscripts of its practicability. In May, 1794, he obtained from the British government a patent for a double inclined plane, to be used for transportation; and in the same year he submitted to the British society for the promotion of arts and commerce, an improvement of his invention on mills for sawing marble, for which he received the thanks of the society, and an honorary medal. In 1797 he went to Paris, where he lived seven years in the family of Joel Barlow, during which time he studied the higher mathematics, physics, chemistry, and perspective. While there, he projected the first panorama that was exhibited in Paris. He returned to America in 1806. At what time Fulton's attention was first directed to the subject of steam navigation is not known; but in 1793 he had matured a plan in which he had great confidence. While in Paris, he, in conjunction with others, built a small boat on the Seine, which was perfectly successful.

On his arrival at New York in 1806, he and Robert Livingston engaged in building a boat of what was then deemed very considerable dimensions. This boat began to navigate the Hudson in 1807; its progress through the water was at the rate of five miles an hour. In 1811 and 1812, two steam boats were built under Fulton's directions, as ferry boats for crossing the Hudson River, and soon after one on the East River, of the same description. We have not space for the details of Fulton's connection with the project of the grand Erie canal; of his plans and experiments relative to submarine warfare, of the construction of the steam frigate which bore his name, of the modifications of his submarine boat; of his vexatious and ruinous lawsuits and controversies with those who interfered with his patent rights and exclusive grants. He died February 24th, 1815. In person he was about six feet high, slender, but well proportioned, with large dark eyes, and a projecting brow. His manners were easy and unaffected. His temper was mild, and his disposition lively. He was fond of society. He expressed himself with energy, fluency, and correctness, and as he owed more to experience and reflection than to books, his sentiments were often interesting from their originality. In all his domestic and social relations, he was zealous, kind, generous, liberal, and affectionate. He knew of no use for money but as it was subservient to charity, hospitality, and the sciences. But the most conspicuous trait in his character was his calm constancy in his industry, and that indefatigable patience and perseverance, which always enabled him to overcome difficulties.

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

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