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.
African American History
The history of our African American community is rich across Hopkinsville and Christian County. Our free cell phone tour may be enjoyed in about one hour and features eighteen snapshots of history.
Tours Across the Community
From art to whiskey to history, check out our full slate of tour options, both guided and self-guided!
In the Footsteps of the Cherokee
As you walk among the sacred land in the Trail of Tears Commemorative Park, you are sure to feel the energy of the Cherokee people. During the 1830s, the Cherokee were among the Native American peoples who were forced to leave their homelands and walk thousands of miles to newly designated “Indian Country” territory, located in present-day Oklahoma.
Experience the exhibits and artifacts in the Trail of Tears Heritage Center, a log cabin dating back to the removal period. Hear stories and history as told by guide Kristina Scott, who is of Cherokee heritage herself, and her team of volunteers. Commemorate the two Cherokee chiefs who passed away during their time in Hopkinsville by visiting the gravesites of Chiefs Whitepath and Fly Smith inside the park, one of the only verified burial sites along the Trail of Tears.
And if you’re looking to learn more about Native American traditions and culture, set your return visit for the annual Trail of Tears Pow Wow, held the weekend after Labor Day.
For some spirited sightseeing through history, be sure to check out these sights and annual events!
Edgar Cayce’s Reading Sights — Edgar Cayce was known as a great clairvoyant and the father of Holistic Medicine. Explore the hometown locations where Cayce lived and worked, and the locations of several of his many psychic readings, by taking the Edgar Cayce Cell Phone Tour.
Riverside Cemetery, Edgar Cayce’s Gravesite — Honor the clairvoyant at his gravesite, located at Riverside Cemetery (take Hwy. 41 N to 530 N. Main Street, Riverside Cemetery will be on the right).
Sight of the Kelly Little Green Men Encounter — See the Sutton Farm in Kelly, KY, sight of the historic alien encounter on August 21, 1955. The story is told of the night five adults and seven children claim that small alien creatures descended from their spaceship and attacked them in their family farmhouse. Two adults held off the aliens with gunfire “for nearly four hours” as they shot at “twelve to fifteen” short, dark figures who terrorized them from doorways and windows.
Edgar Cayce Hometown Seminar — Enjoy an exciting weekend full of activities honoring Hopkinsville’s most famous son!
(usually held annually in March)
Kelly Little Green Men Days Festival — Fun for the whole family, the festival shines with live music, arts and crafts, yummy treats, rides, and Little-Green-Men-themed activities!
(usually held annually in August)
Torchlight Tales — Enjoy a crackling bonfire paired with the chilling tale of the Bell Witch, as recounted by County Historian and master storyteller Mr. William Turner.
(usually held annually in October)
Downtown Historic Homes and Architecture
Our Downtown homes and storefronts have a uniquely special history all their own. Our free cell phone tour may be enjoyed in about one hour and features numerous architectural snapshots across the centuries.
Download the Downtown Walking Tour Card
A Truly Out-of-this-World Event
Hopkinsville–and all of the tens of thousands of visitors who flocked to our community–played host to 2017’s Great American Total Solar Eclipse! Orchardale, a farm in northern Christian County, served as the point of greatest eclipse.
Click here to check out some of our favorite memories!
Searching for Your Kentucky Past
If you enjoy discovering new pieces in your family’s story, you’ll want to make a visit to explore the McCarroll Genealogy Collection at Hopkinsville-Christian County Public Library. Additional local resources include the Christian County Clerk Office and Pennyroyal Area Museum.
Hopkinsville-Christian County Public Library
1101 Bethel St., Hopkinsville
Christian County Clerk Office
270-887-4105 (main number) | 270-887-4109 (records from 1797)
511 S. Main St., Suite 15, Hopkinsville
Pennyroyal Area Museum
217 E. 9th St., Hopkinsville