Monday, November 20, 2023

New Deal Programs helped Crittenden County - WPA

 Works Progress Administration, known as the WPA was the largest and most ambitious New Deal agency, employing millions of unskilled workers to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings, streets, bridges, roads and numerous other projects.  

Marion and Crittenden County greatly benefited from this agency and the many projects done here through the years of 1935-1943.

Some of the streets to be improved with cement bound macadam or cut black asphalt, which would include curbing and drainage, included: East and West Depot, East and West Elm; North and South College, East and West Carlisle, North and South Walker. 

      Shady Grove and Frances Gymnasium's constructed by the WPA

 Other projects submitted and approved were to construct recreational center at Shady Grove, Ky, (new gymnasium) $2,027.00, Training work centers for women at Marion, $7,782.20, to construct playground at Frances Consolidated School, Frances, Ky., $2,269.00, (Frances also got a new gymnasium) Construct playground at Mattoon Consolidated School grounds, $1,5469.00. 

Dec. 13, 1935. The rock crusher began operation at the Alexander-Hopsons quarry, Shady Grove, crushing rock for the use of W.P.A. in the paving and curbing of the various streets in the city previously designated for these improvements. The first of the rock so delivered will be placed for use around the court Square in order that this paving and curbing may be completed at once and after this to the other streets so named.


In March of 1936 the Press tells us that the work of preparing the streets around the Court Square for paving is rapidly progressing since the moderation of the weather. The remainder of the sewage has been completed and preparations are now under way for the laying of the curbs.


Another important road project that was completed in October of 1938 was the Dycusburg-Kuttawa road. The bridge connecting Lyon and Crittenden counties was opened last week. With the completion a direct route to Lyon County is now open to citizens of the Dycusburg area.



 We know they helped with the building of several bridges in the county.   In 2013 the Fiscal Court authorized the replacement of the bridge on the Bells Mines Road.  Prior to the demolition of this bridge it was noticed that this foundation stone indicated the WPA had constructed the original structure in 1939.  The stone was removed and preserved for historical purposes.  This historical stone was presented to the Crittenden County Historical Museum in Oct. 2023 to be kept and preserved.


Perhaps one of the last large projects completed by the WPA was the demolition of the old Marion Grade and High School building and replacing it with a beautiful new building in 1938.  

This is why it is such a shame and disgrace for us to have let this beautiful and historical building sit and slowly fall into ruin, a ruin so bad that they say it is beyond any kind of repair now, due to the expense. 

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Early Pioneers and Early Roadways


This is an interesting article that was written many years ago in 1931 by Rev. James F. Price. It's a look into some of our very early history of the land and the settlement of our county.


The early pioneers of our Western Kentucky that later would become Crittenden County were a most neighborly and visit-prone people right from the beginning. This can be attributed to many factors, not the least of which was the dark, gloomy, largely unbroken forest which blanketed our virgin landscape and cast uncontrollable fears of Wilderness Fever caused by too much loneliness and isolation. Added to this was the nagging fear of Indian trouble .


The pioneer of original Livingston County was that hardy breed of perpetual western movers we term the Scotch-Irish. Even though they were relatively poor, in most instances, they retained the overbearing family and neighbor ties as the system was developed in the deep South. There were a few of the planter-aristocrats who attempted to set up plantation type farms, these were usually in the river bottoms, but these people soon realized that this land was just not suitable for such uses, and soon adapted themselves down to the smaller cropping method of provision farming.


Traveling To Western Kentucky

The Pioneers migrated to what became Crittenden County by both the overland routes across the Cumberland Mountains and across Kentucky or through the Cumberland River Valley through Tennessee by wagon, foot and pack-horse, and by the river flatboat route down the Cumberland, Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. 


By far, the former overland routes were mostly always taken by the home seeking, very few of whom lived near rivers in Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee, and fewer yet had any river boats nor navigation skills, and since few had money to buy or build boats and rent crews or pay passage, the river pirate and hostile Indian danger on the rivers decided the way this county was settled, which was traveling on land.


The overland travelers in the virgin Kentucky and Tennessee forests always traveled in groups as a means of protection against the ever-present larger savaging-wild animals, such as wolves and panthers, who would follow the pioneer's herds of cattle, hogs, sheep and poultry in packs awaiting the opportunity to attack a straggling animal or even a child. 


They also traveled together for protection from possible attacks of hostile Indians or robbery and murder by land pirates, although there was less actual danger of Indian attacks in Kentucky, since they using the state only as a hunting ground, and had become adjusted to sharing the game with the white settlers.


When the groups of overland traveling pioneers arrived in west Kentucky they considered the wooded rolling hill-land of what was to become Caldwell and Eastern and Southern Crittenden County as prime land, for the pioneers were convinced that land that would not grow trees would grow nothing, and most of them were quite familiar with hill-farming in their original homes in the south, thus the first sections of original Livingston County to become settled were its Eastern and Southeastern half. 


The original permanent settlement of what was to become Crittenden County was determined to a great extent by the only roadway that naturally led through the desired homestead country in a south to north direction.


Roadway known as the: Saline Trace, Chickasaw Trail and Flynn's Ferry Road

Geologically a natural break, formed by parts of Camp Creek and Piney Creek in very early times formed a basis for a North-South track or trail through the eastern part of the County from the plains or grasslands of middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky to the salt-licks along the Saline River in Southern Illinois.


The first use of this pathway was made by the great herds of buffalo and other grazing animals that had inhabited the grasslands from time immemorial as the route to travel to secure the supply of salt, which was necessary for their health. 


The "Saline Trace" was built by the buffalo, which has been called the trail maker or engineer, because of his habit of finding the route of least resistance between salt licks and cane breaks. His trail, some 4 or 5 feet wide, was hard packed by many hoofs. Indians adopted and followed his traces, or paths. 


Before Crittenden County was settled, the Chickasaw tribe of Tennessee sent hunting parties into the area. One of these early camps was located in the vicinity of Piney Fork church, near whee the present highway crosses the creek west of the church. 


The Kaskaskia Tribe representing the powerful Illinois nation, often camped on lower Camp Creek near the site of Weston. Thus these large groups of Indians often came into conflict over possession of hunting rights in the land that was to become Eastern Crittenden County.


Early Crittenden County tradition tells us that in about 1790, warriors of these tribes met near the Piney Fork campsite, and in a running battle from there to the river, more than 200 Indians were killed. The Chickasaws won the battle and immediately made provisions for the spoils to be transferred to their camp. They cleared a road along the trail for the use of their wagons, by 1790, the Chickasaw had adopted the full use of the white man's freight wagon. 


When early settlers located, at what would later become Weston, the road was known at the Chickasaw Trail, but soon in 1803 it would become know as Flynn's Ferry Road for George Flynn who opened a ferry and established a better road to Big Spring in Princeton.


Armstrong and Centerville

The land that is now Crittenden County is a rolling plateau cut by three main north-south running valleys which are clearly divided by high ridges between them in its southeastern quarter which were the first sections to be settled by the pioneers after the Centerville neighborhood had been taken up.


The Armstrong's were among the first settlers of (what was to become) Crittenden County. James took up 200 acres on Livingston Creek, the site of Centerville, where he had already built a residence a few years earlier. Logan Armstrong and Samuel Armstrong took up 200 acres on the same creek. The three tracts were all surveyed in 1799. (There is a Kentucky Historical Marker to mark the site of Centerville on the Crittenden-Caldwell line on Highway 641.)


The Piney Fork Valley was next preferred by the homesteaders. It begins as a narrow valley in the south, near where the original Piney Creek Baptist Church was located and is separated from the Tradewater River Valley by the Haw, Blackburn and Piney Bluffs ridge on the east, but soon broadens to the Twin Knobs-Wilson Hill ridge on the west. (Who would have ever dreamed that the once historically known Twin Knobs would be no more, and a modern highway would now be where they once stood. These knobs were landmarks known for miles around by pilots in the air and from travelers on the highways.)


This valley was very fertile to the basic pioneer crops and was well drained by both forks of Piney Creek and watered by numerous ever flowing springs. The land was also blanketed by a fine virgin growth of hardwood timber. These factors made it the ideal location for successful pioneer settlement and it became the "cradle" of Crittenden County.


As each generation dies out, much of our past history is lost. It's nice to have these written facts to still read and recall the very early days of our county and it's pioneer people.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Amish Came To Crittenden County in 1997

 Article from The Crittenden Press, July 28, 1977

Amish buy 1,900 acres in county.  Horses and buggies may become  common site on county roads again when an Amish community gets settled into the Mattoon community this fall.

A group of Old Order Amish from Dover, Del., recently purchased about 1,900 acres of land near Mt. Zion church and a spokesman said half a dozen families may be moved in by the first of the year.

The community will include people who now live in Delaware, Canada and Pennsylvania.

More families may come after it is seen how well these first are able to adapt to this area, the spokesman said.

Members of the Amish sect, have stubbornly refused to adopt most of the "conveniences" of modern living.  They continue to till the land with draft animals and use horses and buggies as a primary means of transportation.

They will be engaged mainly in family farming with possibly produce for sale.

"As long as we can make an honest living and be neighbors, then we're happy," the spokesman said.

The group had been investigating land in this area for more than a year and a half before deciding to buy the tract from Charles Wesley.

The spokesman explained other Amish in the Gutherie area and in southern Indiana had help them in spotting suitable land.  He said that by getting that large an acreage, it would provide room for several families now as well as for future growth.

Last week, about 25 prospective residents were on the farm digging basements for houses, which they will return later to finish construction.

He noted the county's fiscal court had agreed to erect hitching posts of Jockey Lot for them and that some grocery merchants had indicated they would put up hitch rails.

They hope to re-open an old county road which connect the Mt. Zion road with the Fords Ferry Road and use that less traveled highway for their trips in to town.

Agreeing that their ways and appearances --men are bearded and women wear long dresses and caps -- naturally attract attention to them, the spokesmen noted he hopes the community is not expect too much from them.

We are only human, he said.  "We're not a perfect people."

Some Amish scenes on Mt. Zion Cemetery Road.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Marion Happenings in 1953

 An interesting article appeared in the October 30, 1953 addition of The Crittenden Press, telling of the improvements to our town. Reports such as this are a good way to learn of some of our past history. Major Lewis Chipps gave this informative report.


Oct. 30, 1953

On account of the facts that our tax rate was at the highest limit and couldn't be raised, and the further fact that all expenses of our City Government, both as to salaries and material needed were getting higher and higher it has been most difficult to manage the City Government and keep it within its income and at the same time to expand our services to the citizens of our community.


Over and above meeting the general expenses of our City Government the officers and employees of Marion have managed to secure for the City and our people over a period of the past few years the following needed improvements, viz: In the Fire Department we now have an almost new fire truck and equipment which cost approximately $7,000.00; and we have retained the old fire truck and improved and reworked it until it is now in excellent condition and in case of a large fire, which we hope will not occur, the Fire Department has two fire trucks to use.


Recently the City purchased an up to date aluminum ladder that is long enough to reach the highest building in Marion, and if needed can be used to rescue people from the third floors of some of our tallest buildings, and also to enable the firemen to reach the roofs of the tallest buildings quickly and safely to extinguish roof fires and maybe save buildings that otherwise might be burned. 


Also a firetruck for first aid was purchased and equipment by the City with some equipment being donated by some of our public-spirited citizens, which will enable the firemen to give first aid to all who many need such services and too the Department is well equipped with sufficient footage of new and up to date firehouse.


The Department is not only well equipped and all the equipment is paid for in full, but we do have one of the best group of firemen that can be found in any small town, and we do think that a good word should be said in behalf of the young men who really get out in the thick of the fire and do the good work of saving our property and the lives of our people whose homes may burn.


The Light Department is constantly improving the lighting of our streets and alleys, the light committee with the help and cooperation of Orlan Love, the local manager of K. U, there was installed a new set of street lights around the court Square, and now once the business men have made the much appreciated improvements along the fronts of the stores on Main Street, and after the County Officials together with the good ladies of the Woman's Club have made such remarkable improvements on our Court House, we'd say that Marion looks nicer than at any time since we can remember.


The General Department of our City Government, which includes our Police Department, has been maintained at the same high level as in the past years and we think has been improved, for the past several years the City Government has been able to purchase and maintain a police car which is necessary to control traffic and protect the lives of those who use the streets both as drivers of motor vehicles and pedestrians, and especially school children. 


And one of the best additions that has been jointly sponsored by the City and School in the School Boy Patrol, and when ever you see a school boy patrol be sure and slow down and obey his signals for you may be sure that is is a boy, maybe a little man, who is out in the heat of the sun or the cold of the winter storm to give protection to the smaller child who is trying to cross the street, and hoping to safely reach home.


Our water system has not been neglected, but over the past several years much money has been expended in expanding our system and extending our services to more and more of our people. We have now approximately 875 customers in our water system which has almost double during the past years. 


Also the department has purchased a pickup truck for the use of the system; has kept painted and in up to date repair our water tank; has purchased several items of needed equipment and in 1950 made arrangement to use the waters from the lake in the Lake View addition whenever needed, and in 1952 dug three much needed wells out at the water plant to supplement our supply, and too, in the same year expended several hundred dollars in laying a line and making ready the Lucille Mines to enable the City to use water from these mines whenever needed, and all these additions and improvements have been paid for in full. 


In addition to the water system a new system has been added to our undertaking, namely the natural gas system, which is now a part of the combined water and Gas System of Marion. We now have approximately 450 users of natural gas and in the course of a few years we hope to double the number of users.

The Crittenden County Court House has had a face lifting which has lifted the spirits of citizens of the entire county, thanks to the help of the Marion Woman's Club.

The historic landmark of Western Kentucky, located in the downtown square of Marion, was badly in need of repair work and a coat of paint. Everyone agreed that something should be done about the Court House, but funds were not available and the work was delayed from year to year.

This year the Marion Woman's Club, under the leadership of its president, Mrs. Thomas Tucker, was determined to stop talking and start acting, and went to work. Members spearheaded a drive to get the citizens interested in getting something done about the painting.


The county officials started the needed repairs on the Court House recently but lacked funds for the painting so the Woman's Club started raising funds. The painting project was estimated to cost $300.00 but when it was finished it cost $439.00. 


Now that the project is completed the entire down town of Marion has a progressive look and merchants have joined the parade of progress by adding new store fronts and painting their buildings.


Marion city officials at this time included: Mayor, Lewis Chipps, City Attorney, W. J. Postleweight, City Judge, Hugh Norris, City Clerk, Mrs. Gertrude Brown, City Treasurer, Mrs. E. E. Mackey, Fire Chief, Lonnie Buckalew, and Chief of Police, N. S. Hollingsworth.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Accidential Train Deaths

 Several accidents involved with the trains of long ago occurred in our county in earlier times. From the archives of The Crittenden Press, the victim's obituaries are interesting and sad to read. They tell of the circumstances of the accidents.


Crittenden Press, Feb. 9, 1911 -

Minus Bradford Rushing. Resolutions of our beloved brother, a strict member of our noble order, the F. E. & C. U. of A., was struck by one of the Illinois Centrals heavy engines which crushed his skull killing him instantly.

On Dec. 25, 1910 the accident occurred. Bro. Rushing was born in Crittenden and was a good law abiding citizen, he was well liked by all that knew him. He was born January 8, 1868 and was married to Miss Alice Campbell on May 9, 1894. To the happy couple there was five children born, of this number one is dead and four are living. They lived close to the community of Mexico.

(Family information tells us that Mr. Rushing had left his home to walk to Mexico on Christmas Eve, after awhile when he didn't return home two of his children went looking for him. They found him near the railroad track where he had been hit by a train. He is buried in the Campbell Cemetery near Mexico.)


Crittenden Press, Nov. 1922 –

Denver Travis Killed By Train Nov. 9th. At Inquest Over Body Coroner’s Jury Find Verdict of Accidental Death.

Denver Travis, about 23 years old, was run over and instantly killed by an I. C. North bound freight train a short distance north of the Marion Depot Thursday afternoon of last week. So far as is known, no one saw the occurrence.

The body was found on the rail road track soon after the train passed, the train leaving the Marion station at 12:43 o'clock. The trainmen stated they knew nothing of the occurrence and it is thought by some that the deceased met his death by trying to board the train as it passed.

An inquest was held over the body by Judge E. J. Travis and County Attorney Edward D. Stone. The jury returning a verdict of accidental death by being run over by a railroad train.

Burial was in the James Wheeler cemetery on Just A Mere Road.


Crittenden Press, January 1924 –

Wyley Montgomery, 65 years old, a farmer residing near Mexico, this county, was run over and instantly killed by a south-bound passenger train about 11:20 o'clock Sunday morning Jan. 13th, between Mexico and Fredonia.

Mr. Montgomery, it is reported, was walking down the railroad tracks near Livingston Tank when the passenger train which leaves here at 11:00 rounding a curve, came up behind him and when the alarm whistle blew, instead of stepping off, started to run down the track and was struck by the engine.

Mr. Montgomery leaves a widow and four children: Ishmere Montgomery of Arkansas; Mrs. Mona Loftis, Mrs. John Tabor and James Montgomery, all of this county.

Funeral services were held at Caldwell Spring Baptist Church Tuesday, Rev. U. G. Hughes officiating. Interment at Stevenson/Stephenson cemetery on Marion Road. (He has no stone, in an unmarked grave)


Crittenden Press June 12, 1930 –

Guy Griffith was instantly killed Sunday, June 8th, when struck by a north bound Illinois Central freight train, at the Bellville Street crossing. The accident occurred about six-thirty in the evening.

Griffith, going to his home east of Marion, drove his car directly in front of the approaching freight in an apparent effort to beat the train to the crossing. The victim's head was crushed on one side; and the automobile entirely demolished.

In the course of the inquest testimony was introduced by G. W. Durke, engineer on the train which struck Griffith's car; by J. D. Burgess, fireman; J. W. Griffith, conductor, and T. B. McConnell, brakeman. All these men stated that the train, a through freight, was running at the speed of about twenty-five miles an hour; that the bell was ringing at the crossing, that the whistle on the train was blown; and that the pilot on the engine struck the rear side of the automobile.

Robert Murphy, of Marion, testified that Mr. Griffith stopped his car when very near the track, started it again, and when he reached the track turned toward the Marion Milling Company building.

A number of other witnesses were heard, all of whom gave the similar evidence.

The coroner jury, returned the verdict: “We, the jury, find that Guy Griffith came to his death by being struck by a freight train on the Illinois Central Railroad at the Bellville Street crossing, and that same was an unavoidable accident.”

Surviving Mr. Griffith, are eight children, his wife having died in 1922. The children are: Lois, Preston, Thomas, Matilda, Nelle, Elizabeth, George and James. A sister, Mrs. J. T. Hatcher, of Plicher, Oklahoma, and a brother, Walter Griffith, of Marion, Illinois.

The body was taken to the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Foster. Funeral services were held Wednesday with burial in the Love cemetery.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Siloam School, Church, Residence

 An interesting article that appeared in The Crittenden Press, June 3, 1982.

Siloam Methodists Disband

The Siloam United Methodist Church building, located on Ky. 297 west of Marion, will be auctioned Saturday, June 12, by Crittenden County Reality Co. Church members gathered for their final services there Sunday, May 23, 1982.

Church trustee Bob Wilson said the decision to close the church and merge with the Tolu United Methodist Church was a traumatic one for the dwindling congregation. The church has served the community for more than 140 years.


The Siloam Methodist Church was established in the early 1800's and the first deed for the property was dated Feb. 26, 1834. The fist building was probably a log structure located about a mile lower on Deer Creek than the present one, which is the third one to house the congregation.


Besides the 1834 deed, Wilson said church papers include a Bible dedicated to the church Aug. 7, 1856, and records started in the 1850's.


According to those records, at one time more than 200 people attended services there. “It was nearly the only church in the area, with churches being “widely scattered then,”. During the early 1900s attendance dropped off as people transferred their memberships to Marion and other closer churches.


The present building, was the former Siloam School, was purchased in the 1950s. It replaced a huge weather boarded structure located a mile down the creek from the present site.


Memories of Siloam's past are good. As late as 1939, Wilson said he could remember the old building being filled with people coming from around the area.


They would come and park their wagons and buggies outside the building. If it rained, they'd bring in their buggy seats and lap rugs. There were many times people got caught by the rains and had to stay overnight in the church because they couldn't cross the creek.


Other things Wilson remembered about the old church were the wood stoves and kerosene lamps. There were two huge wood stoves on either side of the room. The preacher preached with an overcoat on many a time. It wasn't unusual for the kerosene lamps to burn down, and the preacher continued his sermon in the dark.


Wilson added that during his childhood, worship services were held only once a month although Sunday School was held every week. The church was part of a circuit then, Preaching was held there once a month with the preacher going to either Hebron, Hurricane or Tolu Methodist churches on the other Sundays.


Others memories remembered by Wilson included that at one time the church was visited by large crowds for prayer meetings. When you walked or rode your buggy up to the service, you could hear the people singing and praying. I've heard it told that during one dry season, the people gather to pray for rain. Old Uncle Jimmy Wooten rode up to the church with an umbrella in his hand. When asked what he had it for he said he aimed to use it. He got to before he left too.


Wilson said that although selling the church building may be sad for the nine active members left, it would be better than seeing it continually vandalized. He added that the church's records would be sent to the Methodist Conference archives in Louisville.


The historic building that once was a community school, then a church, and today it is a residence.


Picture above, made in the 1920s is when the building was the school house.


 This picture was made in 2007, a nice cared for home.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Lost History and Houses at the old Dam 50 site

 Our Dam 50 (now known as Riverside Park) was destroyed in Nov. 1980 because it wasn't needed anymore due to the new high lift dam at Smithland.  

A part of the closing of the dam also meant that the Corps of Engineers would be getting rid of the beautiful brick homes of the lock and dam employees.  

These 2-story brick homes were really pretty. Here is a picture of one of them . 

The homes would have to be torn down and removed, no one wanted to do this. 

They tried to sell them through sealed bids, but only one was even bid on and it sold for $307.00, so that left the others for the COE to tear down and remove.

In just a short time after the employees had moved from their homes vandals arrived and destroyed much of the homes insides.   Windows were broken, even the stair rails were destroyed.  This as early as Dec. 1981.



The tear downs continued until all brick and wooden structures were either torn down or the wooden ones, to the left of the picture, were removed to a different location.

The rest of the story.  In the early 1970s when the Smithland Dam project, which replaced the old wicket dam here, was being planned, the county had expressed an interest in obtaining the reservation and developing it into a park and campground.

The houses, in that early plan, would have been remodeled into vacation cottages.

Those plans fell through when Congress cut the Corps of Engineers' budget allocation for recreational projects and then county officials determined the county could not afford the long-term cost of maintenance of the property.