Earlington Was Once The Coal Metropolis Of Western Kentucky


By Mrs. George Mothershead - 1929

Long ago, before the grandparents of our present oldest generation came into existence, the Indians or some prehistoric people roamed the hills and valleys in Hopkins County, round about Earlington. Numerous evidences of these early inhabitants have been discovered. Several thousand interesting pieces of pottery, arrowheads, spearheads, discoidal stones, and other articles have been unearthed or found on the surface; or sometimes, by excavators. The late John B. Atkinson, during his lifetime, had made a wonderful collection.

Hopkins County is included in the Indian survey, which has recently been launched by the University of Kentucky, under the direction of Professor W. S. Webb, of the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology.

The Earlington of today is a city of about 5,000 population and has long been known as the coal metropolis of Western Kentucky. The former St. Bernard Mining Company, which had been shipping coal since 1870, sold its property in 1923 to the West Kentucky Coal Company. The group of mines of the St. Bernard had an annual capacity of 3,500,000 tons, and to these mines have been added others in this section, acquired and operated by the present company.

The Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company has done much to make this city the thriving one that it is. Earlington is on the Henderson division of the L. & N., which is the outlet of the coal supply. Its payrolls have been one of Earlington's biggest assets, and its employees among its best citizens. Besides its commodious two-story station, it operates a big repair shop here.

Until recently, Earlington was one of the busiest terminals of the L. & N., but an overproduction of coal in other fields decreased business here, and a large number of employees have been sent to other points. Many officials, high up in rank, gained much of their experience with the L. & N. at Earlington. Among those we call to mind are W. F. Sheridan; R. M. Brooks; Will Wright; John H. Fish; the late lamented Ed T. Wise; Martin Devney; W. K. Griffin; Thos. J. Featherston, Sr.; Will Devney; John Devney; C. R. Bowman; Chester Hutchison; Will Morrison; Elmer Orr; Wash Etheridge; Walter Daves; Steve Mothershead; and numerous others. They were once familiar figures in the Earlington office.

The many men of the mechanical and rolling stock department, who are still proud to claim Earlington as their former home, are just too numerous to mention; but they, with their families, are still remembered by the excellent family of the L. & N. that still remains, and our other citizens, also.

The passenger service of the L. & N. at Earlington is unexcelled, all trains stopping for passengers here. The Kentucky Utilities Company purchased from the West Kentucky Coal Company, in 1926, operates a modern, steam-generating electric power plant. To this has been added extensive enlargements and improvements. One of these is a substation, with 36 miles of 66,000-volt line wires on steel towers, just recently completed from Earlington to Morganfield. Its connection with the Paducah and Graham generating stations assures uninterrupted service and adds many adjoining cities and villages to those already served with light and power.

The engineering department is preparing to put across the top of the station a neon-gas electric sign, 76 feet long and five feet high. This type of illumination is comparatively new and is the most penetrating form of light known, but not blinding. The Earlington Power Plant, according to the Kentucky Utilities Company, is apt to resemble a display of the aurora borealis, when seen from a distance at night.

The two big artificial lakes and properties, also of the Kentucky Utilities Company, are Earlington's pride. Lock Mary, the largest artificial lake in Kentucky, supplies water for steam and domestic purposes. On its shore, to the north, is beautiful Lakeside Park, known over a wide section as an ideal picnic resort. The power plant is on its southern shore and in the valley below the substation. Here, also, is an artesian well, with a never-failing supply of mineral water, much appreciated and used by the populace, as well as many in nearby towns.

Lock Mary is a fine fishing place, and during the fishing season, its shores are dotted with lovers of the sport; while others launch out on its placid waters in usually sure pursuit of the finny tribe. Meadow Lake is another pleasure resort furnishing a place for skaters in the cold, wintry weather; while during the summer months, hundreds take advantage of the excellent swimming afforded there.

The Arboretum, which is a living monument to the late John B. Atkinson, a former much-loved president of the St. Bernard Coal Company, contains more different varieties of trees and shrubs than any other section of the same size in the state. Many of these unusual specimens were purchased at a distance and planted under Mr. Atkinson's supervision, the love of forestry and plant life being one of his characteristics. It is just on the southern outskirts of the city and is a cool retreat on a hot day. Lovers of nature and forests could well spend a profitable day within its wooded recesses.

The new Earlington High School, completed a little more than a year ago, is a credit to a city of much larger population. It has an auditorium with a seating capacity of 700, lovely classrooms, and offices. The John B. Atkinson School, which had, until this year, been both graded and high school, is now used for grade school, exclusively. Professor A. P. Prather is superintendent of city schools, and besides being a man of learning, is an ideal friend and citizen. He has been re-elected for the 1929-30 term.

The parochial school, costing $30,000, is another modern and model school building, and was completed just a few years, since. All Earlington schools are full-term schools, so the children, here, have unusual educational advantages. The colored school has a neat brick building, and besides the grammar school, furnishes two years of high school work.

The Earlington Ice Plant not only supplies ice to home consumers, but does quite a big shipping business. The Earlington Iron Works is another home industry and is better equipped for heavy repair work than any plant in the Western Kentucky mining district. Earlington has a wideawake Merchants' Association; various fraternal orders, with active and growing membership; and five white and three colored churches.