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Welcome to the Port of Hickman, Kentucky, and the floodwall murals. Photo: Tatiana Jackson
Floodwall murals relive memories in Hickman, Kentucky. Photo Tatiana Jackson
At left, U.S. Mail being delivered by boat, and the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railway passenger train at Lover’s Leap in Hickman, Kentucky. Photo: Tatiana Jackson
At left, U.S. Mail being delivered by boat, and the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railway passenger train at Lover’s Leap in Hickman, Kentucky. Photo: Tatiana Jackson
The U.S. Coast Guard and Dr. Richard H. White’s Clinic featured on the Hickman, Kentucky, floodwall murals. Photo: Tatiana Jackson
Come sit a spell on the benches or picnic tables along the Hickman, Kentucky, floodwall that features murals. Photo: Tatiana Jackson
Boats park along the Hickman, Kentucky, bank along the Mississippi River. Photo: Tatiana Jackson
Looking down on the mighty Mississippi River from Hickman, Kentucky. Photo: Tatiana Jackson
The James Black Family floodwall mural of Hickman, Kentucky. Photo: Tatiana Jackson
School, at right. Photo: Tatiana Jackson

Historical mural scenes are breathing new life into Clinton Street located in downtown Hickman

A total of 76 murals now adorn the floodwall depicting memorable moments from the little river town. Many buildings, once filled with people who worked to bring Hickman to fruition and provide a home for many along the Mississippi River, also helped shape the lives of generations with ties to the area. Several churches that provided places of worship, with long histories rich in faith, have also been featured on some of the floodwall spaces.

The floodwall murals project spanned two and one-half years, from 2015 to 2017, with 76 murals depicting memorable moments from the little river town of Hickman, Kentucky. Photo Tatiana Jackson

Over the course of about two and a half years, Hickman Chamber of Commerce Director Martha Campbell has watched as Lake County, Tennessee, artist Karon Griffin turned the once blank floodwall into colorful, one-of-a-kind paintings worthy of drawing people to the area. Hickman’s downtown park is the perfect place to sit and view the floodwall murals that now decorate and add historical value to the river town perched on the bluff along the mighty Mississippi River.

Campbell and Griffin began collaborating on the project in June 2015. “We met with the thought of painting 16 murals,” says Campbell. “That first phase quickly grew into twice as many with Karon painting 30 murals during phase one in 2015.”

Before Griffin could begin painting the scenes chosen by individuals, families, churches, and area businesses, the wall had to first be primed.

A total of 76 murals were painted on the Hickman floodwall in Fulton County, Kentucky, by artist Karon Griffin. From left, life on Hamby Pond, farming in the “Lower Bottom,” and Hickman Hardware, one of the oldest businesses in Hickman started around 1900, still in operation today. Working on the old Internal Harvester tractor—Hickman Hardware once sold these fine farming tractors and today they still provide parts and service for farmers. Photo: Tatiana Jackson

As a true grassroots effort, many people contributed to the successful project. Members of the U.S. Coast Guard, work crews from the Fulton County Detention Center, and other volunteers helped prime the walls, coming together to make the project possible.

Volunteers like Paul Henderson contributed equipment and Jane Voorhees faithfully brought cold water and tea on hot summer days as Griffin painted.

A true collaborative effort to help preserve the history of Hickman, Kentucky, and bring visitors was made possible through the dedication of people like Hickman Chamber of Commerce Director Martha Campbell, right, artist Karon Griffin, left, and countless others who helped. Photo: Charlotte Smith

Another volunteer, Phyllis Bryant, helped out by painting words and other things on some of the murals, as did Vicky Waller. Artist Jerri Whitman traveled all the way from Maine to help out with the project back in 2015 and she returned again in 2016. Don “Buzz” Blincoe helped seal the murals after they were completed.

The second phase of the floodwall mural project began in August 2016, after the base coat was applied in July.

The Catlett Graves Fish Market mural is located at the very spot that Mr. Graves bought and sold fish at Hickman, Kentucky. There were steps leading to a passageway through the floodwall. Steps lead down to the boat where many fish were bought and sold, and even “bigger” fish were said to have gotten away. The fish depicted in the mural is one of the largest said to have been caught from the Mississippi. Photo: Tatiana Jackson

“The heat was relentless,” says Griffin. “We would have to start before 7 a.m. and would sometimes only make it to 10 or 10:30 a.m., it would just get too hot for us to paint.”

All the murals, which took approximately 12 hours each to paint, are designed from photographs or drawings that people submitted. Sponsors of the mural could choose the scene they wanted on their mural space as long as it had historical relevance to Hickman and the people who reside here or once made a life along the river.

Left, the original Hickman, Kentucky, courthouse steps were built in 1903. The steps were constructed to connect the courthouse with the downtown area. In August 1936, the wooden steps were to be rebuilt by W.P. A. workers following a fire that destroyed the top half of the steps. The rebuilding started in 1939. At right, in 1840 the first ferry to connect Kentucky and Missouri was a cable-pulled ferry, which made it easier for trade and visiting “kin folk” who lived on Number 8 Island and across the mighty Mississippi in Missouri. Photo: Tatiana Jackson

Some of Griffin’s favorite ones to paint include Hickman Hardware and the LaClede Hotel, which were painted in 2015. Some of her favorites from 2016 include the Cemetery Arch and the USS Taylor.

The USS Taylor mural, sponsored by Joe Taylor and family in honor of the men who served on the USS Taylor, depicts a Fletcher-class destroyer of the United States Navy. It was named for Rear Admiral William Roper Taylor (1889). The Taylor was the first destroyer to anchor in Japanese coastal waters at the end of World War II. After four years of inactivity, the Taylor moved to San Francisco on May 9, 1950, and days later began an extensive conversion to an escort destroyer headed to her new home port, Pearl Harbor. The Taylor earned 15 battle stars during World War II, two battle stars for the Korean conflict, and six battle stars for Vietnam War service.

The USS Taylor is one of artist Griffin’s favorites. The Fletcher-class destroyer of the United States Navy, named for Rear Admiral William Roper Taylor (1889), was the first destroyer to anchor in Japanese coastal waters at the end of World War II. After four years of inactivity, the Taylor moved to San Francisco on May 9, 1950, then received a conversation to an escort destroyer headed to her new home port, Pearl Harbor. The Taylor earned 15 battle stars during World War II, two during the Korean War, and six during Vietnam War. Photo: Charlotte Smith

Each mural represents something special to someone and Griffin added her own personal flair to them all, making them just as unique as the town perched on the bluff in western Kentucky along the mighty Mississippi River.

Artist Karon Griffin shares details of the LaClede Hotel mural, with its “horseshoe” entrance and “keyhole” exits. A major hotel in Hickman, Kentucky, in the 19th and 20th century, the current three-story building was constructed in 1898. The LaClede was known as the best hotel on the Mississippi River between Memphis and Cairo, with 30 rooms and occupied nearly half a block on the south side of Clinton Street. Charles Lindbergh once stayed at the LaClede and it has been rumored that “Machine Gun” Kelly and Jessie James also stayed overnight. Photo: Charlotte Smith

Some of the phase three murals painted during 2017 include the grocery store chain that opened its first store in Hickman, E.W. James and Sons Supermarket; the old service station now owned and operated by Roger Gordon; and a mural for a Missouri man who wanted to feature his grandfather’s plumbing business. Phase three also included murals of Riverview, Western, and Graves schools.

Hickman Motors featured on the Hickman, Kentucky, floodwall mural. Photo: Tatiana Jackson

With each stroke of her brush, Griffin and the many people who worked behind the scenes have imprinted the history of Hickman for the future. The memories of long ago are brought back to life once again, impacting the town that Mark Twain called “the prettiest little river town perched on the hill.” 

This phase three Hickman, Kentucky, floodwall mural was still waiting completion in the summer of 2017 by artist Karon Griffin. All 76 murals are now complete. Photo: Tatiana Jackson
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