The City of Hopkinsville was initially settled in 1796 by a North Carolina couple, Bartholomew Wood and his wife Martha Ann.
Wood staked a claim in the area as part of a grant on 1,200 acres of land for his service in the Revolutionary War, and he and his wife moved here from Jonesborough, Tennessee.
The Wood family established a permanent settlement in the vicinity of present-day West Seventh and Bethel Streets, near what would become known as the Old Rock Spring. He built a second cabin on what is now the northeast corner of Ninth and Virginia streets and a few years later built a home southeast of Fourteenth and Campbell streets, where he died in 1827.
Wood’s settlement soon attracted other settlers, and a pioneer village emerged. Christian County was formed later in 1796. Wood donated five acres of land and a half interest in Old Rock Spring for the county seat. The following year a log courthouse, jail, and “stray pen” were built on the public square facing Main Street.
In 1799, the town was renamed Elizabeth in honor of Wood’s eldest daughter. However, a town in Hardin County already had been established with the name, so when the city incorporated in 1804 the Kentucky General Assembly established the settlement as Hopkinsville, in honor of General Samuel Hopkins of Henderson County.
The Civil War in Hopkinsville
The Civil War generated major social and economic division among the people in Hopkinsville and Christian County. Distinct groups formed to support Union or Confederate causes.
The Union Camp Joe Anderson was established northwest of Hopkinsville. Men who trained there became members of the 35th Kentucky Cavalry, the 25th Kentucky Infantry, and the 35th Kentucky Mounted Infantry. Union General James S. Jackson, a Hopkinsville attorney before the war, was killed in October 1862 at the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky.
Confederate support in Hopkinsville and Christian County was evident with the establishment of the Oak Grove Rangers and the 28th Kentucky Cavalry.
Christian County was the birthplace of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.
The war brought military take-over of Hopkinsville at least half a dozen times by both Confederate and Union forces. In December 1864, Confederate troops under General Hylan B. Lyon captured the town and burned the Christian County courthouse.
A skirmish between Union and Confederate forces took place in the field across from Western State Hospital near the end of the war.
Tobacco Wars in Hopkinsville
The tobacco grown in the region was in great demand in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century. Tobacco companies formed a trust, the American Tobacco Company, which used the power of monopoly to reduce prices paid to local farmers.
Many farmers found that they could no longer sell their tobacco crop at a profit.
In 1904, tobacco planters formed the Dark Tobacco District Planters’ Protective Association of Kentucky and Tennessee. The farmers’ association organized a boycott of sales to drive the price of tobacco upward. However, some farmers continued to sell tobacco to the ATC, leading the association to form a “Silent Brigade” in an effort to apply social pressure to persuade these farmers to uphold the boycott.
As social pressure failed to prevent farmers from selling tobacco to the ATC, the Silent Brigade escalated efforts by organizing the Night Riders to terrorize farmers into compliance.
On December 7, 1907, 250 masked Night Riders captured police and sheriff posts and cut off the town from outside contact. They pursued tobacco executives who were buying cheap tobacco from farmers who were not members of the association. They sought city officials who were seen to take the side of the ATC. Three tobacco warehouses were burned during a night of lawlessness. Peace Park in Hopkinsville was created on the site of one of the former warehouses.