With a population just under 35,000, Hopkinsville in southwestern Kentucky has big-city advantages and small-town charm, from the tree-lined streets downtown, to the surrounding fertile fields of soybeans, winter wheat, dark-fired tobacco, and corn.
For a taste of the small town, stroll down Main Street to Ferrell’s for lunch. Once there you can wait for a stool (there are only 16), or take your food up the street to the Round Table Park, where there is an exact replica of King Arthur’s Round Table.
Ferrell’s has been owned and operated by David Ferrell since 1936. Most days you can still find him there serving burgers and pecan pie to those who drop by to catch up on the local gossip.
But Hopkinsville has another side, quite different from the village charm of Ferrell’s. It is a growing economic center, its strategic location helping its expansion immensely. The Christian County seat, Hopkinsville is just 69 miles from Nashville and is easily accessed by several major highways and Interstate 24. There is also a local airport offering charter service.
Hopkinsville takes great pride in its educational facilities. There is a vocational center for technical training and Hopkinsville Community College draws students from throughout the area. And ground has just been broken for a Hopkinsville campus of Murray State University.
Recreation offers another big plus, with nearby Lake Barkley, Kentucky Lake, Lake Malone, and Pennyrile Lake. Whether you are a lover of nature or water sports, there is something for everyone here, including Land Between the Lakes, a 170,000-acre inland peninsula bounded by Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, which includes 200 miles of hiking trails and fully equipped campgrounds.
Golfers will enjoy teeing off at either the Skyline Golf Course, a par 3, nine-hole facility, or Western Hills Golf Course, with 18 holes. Or they may prefer the course at Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park. This nine-hole regulation course has a pro shop, carts, and rental clubs. There’s even an 18-hole course for miniature-golf enthusiasts.
History buffs will want to see the Trail of Tears Commemorative Park. This marks the spot where thousands of weary Cherokee Indians stopped to rest during a forced march to Oklahoma. During the early 1800s Cherokees from four states were moved overland on wagon, horseback, and foot with the most meager of supplies.
All regiments that traveled this route made a stop in Hopkinsville to receive provisions for the rest of the journey. Two chiefs, White Path and Fly Smith, died on the way and are buried at the park. Each fall Native Americans and other local residents watch demonstrations, listen to stories, and dance to the beat of drums during the Trail of Tears Indian Pow Wow.
A visit to the area wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Jefferson Davis Monument in Fairview. Here you can ride to the top of the 351-foot memorial that honors Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. The view from the top of the monument is spectacular, showcasing Christian County’s rich farmland. But call ahead before you travel for that view, (270) 886-1765, because the inside of the monument will be closed for renovation for about a year.
Seventeen miles from Hopkinsville is Fort Campbell, a major U.S. Army installation with 24,000 soldiers and almost 5,000 civilian employees. There you can explore the history of the famed 101st Airborne Division-the “Screaming Eagles”-at the Don F. Pratt Museum.
At the Fort Campbell Memorial Park, visitors pause in front of a monument honoring the 248 Fort Campbell soldiers who died in Newfoundland on December 12, 1985, on their way home from a peace-keeping mission.
And no visit is complete without learning about one of Hopkinsville’s most famous residents of the past, Edgar Cayce. As a young man he lost his voice and was told it was incurable. Through self-diagnosis and hypnosis he prescribed a simple treatment that eventually restored his voice. He became a well-known clairvoyant and gave medical and life readings until his death. He and his wife are buried near the entrance of the Riverside chapel.
If you visit Hopkinsville in the spring don’t miss the Dogwood Festival or Little River Days. These two celebrations draw huge crowds every year and there is always something for all ages to enjoy. In the summer Hopkinsville hosts the Western Kentucky State Fair-the third largest fair in the state.
Then, when the weather cools and autumn comes to Christian County, it’s time for the Annual Night Rider of the Tobacco Wars Re-enactment. At the turn of the century an underground segment of the Planters’ Protective Association called the Night Riders protested low tobacco prices by burning tobacco barns and destroying crops during the Black Patch tobacco wars. Several hundred masked Night Riders slipped into Hopkinsville during the early morning hours of December 7, 1907, and held the police and fire departments under house arrest while they burned three full warehouses of tobacco. These incidents inspired the 1939 novel Night Rider by Kentucky native Robert Penn Warren.
Hopkinsville Means Business
Business is booming in Hopkinsville and Christian County these days. Here’s proof:
· Seven new manufacturing plants have moved into the area the past two years, bringing 860 jobs.
· New and expanded industry in the past few years has added 1.5 million square feet of manufacturing space. That’s more than 100 acres.
· Average hourly wages at these manufacturing plants jumped from $7 an hour to $13 an hour in the past 15 years.
· In the last 20 years the population of Christian County has grown by about 16,000, to more than 72,000 people.
· Pennyrile Rural Electric Cooperative Corp., the Hopkinsville-based co-op that provides electricity to more than 40,000 customers in a nine-county area, is in the second year of a $25 million work plan, adding substations at industrial parks and heavying up power lines.
The co-op hired a Commercial and Industrial Adviser, and recently finished construction of an office expansion, including the addition of drive-through windows to improve service to the growing number of customers.
· A new Regional Technology Center at Hopkinsville Community College has been cited as a key reason Pittsburgh Tube decided to build a plant in the area.
Local leaders credit these successes to the formation of the Hopkinsville-Christian County Economic Development Council, and to a general spirit of community unity and aggressiveness in seeking out industry.
David Riley, editor of the local newspaper, Kentucky New Era, says the farm economy troubles in the 1970s hit the area hard. But people came together, set priorities, and moved forward.
“The economy is becoming more a part of the global community,” says Riley. “We’re reacting to that and reacting