LaDonna Latham and the Hickman
County Historical Society worked mightily to produce a pictorial of a county that has gone from being the “Athens of
the West” in the 19th century to a ever smaller shadow of itself in the 21st. The
Society’s newest book, a 128 page soft cover (Arcadia Press $21.95) is a black and white look at the people and places
in this small far western Kentucky county.
Hickman County was the mother
of all the Jackson Purchase counties. From one super county in 1821, it was later divided into eight smaller ones. By 1881,
the county consisted of 225 square miles of farmland dotted with tiny communities with names like Beelerton, Croley, Wolf
Island and Mt. Pleasant. Clinton, centrally located, bustled as the county seat. Latham uses photo captions
to tell stories of people long ago. Whenever possible, a photo of current use accompanies the old photo of what was in place.
The book is organized into chapters on business and professions, churches, communities,
activities and finally schools. Each section includes photos from around the county. Hickman Countians appear as shopkeepers,
barbers, school teachers and men and women basketball players. Children are ever present. There is even
a picture of Miss Frances Warren and her “Mother’s Day Out” preschoolers.
Photos of old Columbus- the one that the Mississippi River covered in a flood are scattered throughout the book.
The 1927 flood was so catastrophic that President Calvin Coolidge sent Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover to the town to
survey the damage. Eventually, the lower town was abandoned in favor of a higher dryer elevation. Columbus, once a thriving
river town that was occupied by both Confederate and Union troops during the Civil War, did not thrive after the move. Old
Man River gave a good living in one century took it away in the next.
What jumped out over and over
again is the number of disasters, natural and unnatural, that have struck the county. Fires, tornadoes, floods, even a train
derailment that killed a hobo, cleared buildings, businesses, churches and schools. Unfortunately, many destroyed were not
rebuilt. Latham and the Hickman County Historical Society detail these unhappy events as matter of factly as they recount
parades and festivals.
“Hickman County” is a book
that should be on every shelf of those who love the area. It is a must for family and class reunions. It should be shared
by grandparents with their grandchildren. Because barring a miracle, the glory, energy and industry that characterized the
early days of the county are only history now.
To obtain the book, call the Historical Society at 270-653-7346.
LaDonna and the Historical Society will be happy to sign a copy for you.
Or it can be purchased from Arcadia
Press at www.arcadiapublishing.com