September 30, 2020
Paducah, Kentucky is a small city situated on the south bank of the Ohio River at its junction with the Tennessee River, which comes up from the south.
Paducah is an old city in terms of the American west, founded in 1827 by William Clark of Lewis & Clark fame with a purchase of 37,000 acres of land for the sum of $5. An historical sign downtown explains the circumstances.
Colonel George Rogers Clark had claimed the land as a warrant for his army service during the Revolutionary War, in which he effectively gained the entire Northwest Territory for the new United States of America.
Much of Paducah’s history is recounted by murals painted on the town’s Ohio River floodwall. A walk along the wall is a walk through history.
The name “Paducah” was given by William Clark. Some say Clark named the town for the “Padoucas”, a Great Plains tribe he encountered in his travels to the Pacific with the Corps of Discovery. Others say Clark named the town for Chief Paducah, leader of a nearby Chickasaw band.
The town was a major prize in the early days of the Civil War. In 1861 while Kentucky was trying to remain neutral in the impending conflict, General Ulysses Grant took Paducah on September 6 before his Confederate counterpart could do so. Later in the war Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest conducted a successful raid on the city.
The Ohio landing areas near the riverfront provide an insight into late 19th Century Paducah. The area abounds in old brick merchant buildings now used as restaurants, bars, and antique shops.
The McCracken County Courthouse occupies an entire city block seven blocks away from the river. This two-story red brick structure was built between 1940 and 1943 under the auspices of the WPA.
Here’s a final floodwall mural of some of the most prominent old buildings in Paducah. Most of them are churches.
All photos taken by the author. Photos taken on September 3, 2019.
A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.