One hundred and fifty years ago this month the “mothers, wives, sisters and daughters” of Graves County petitioned the Kentucky State Legislature to “guard them from the direful calamity of civil war”. On May 16, the State Legislature resolved that “this state and the citizens thereof should take no part in the civil war now being waged, except as mediators and friends to the belligerent parties and that Kentucky should, during the contest, occupy the position of strict neutrality”. Four days later, Governor Magoffin notified and warned “all other states, whether separate or united, and especially the United States and the Confederate States, that I solemnly forbid any movement upon the soil of Kentucky, or the occupation of any port, post or place whatever within the lawful boundary and jurisdiction of this state by any of the forces under the order of the states aforesaid”. The State Senate resolved on May 24 that “Kentucky will not sever her connections with the national government, nor will she take up arms for either of the belligerent parties, but will arm herself for the purpose of preserving tranquility and peace within her own borders”. The government of Kentucky had committed itself to the policy of neutrality, but there was a sizable minority in the Jackson Purchase that favored joining the Confederacy.
The Spring Meeting of the Jackson Purchase Historical Society at the Paducah Railroad Museum began with a brief discussion on the minutes from the Winter Meeting and a treasurer’s report from Marvin Downing. It was also announced that the Summer Meeting would be held at the Quilt Museum in Paducah sometime in late July. The speaker was Bob Johnston, the President of the Paducah Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. His presentation was on “Railroading in Paducah: Then and Now”. The story of the railroad at Paducah dates back to the early 1850s with Lloyd Tilghman, former West Point graduate and later Confederate general, who came to Paducah to lay out the northern branch of the New Orleans & Ohio Railway. The first depot in Paducah was constructed at the corner of 5th and Court Street and the first locomotive arrived by boat in 1855. For the first few decades, James Campbell and Lawrence Trimble managed the railroads at Paducah. Trimble would serve as president of the New Orleans & Ohio Railroad Company from 1860 to 1869. During the Civil War, North and South fought over control of the railway causing damage to the tracks and numerous breaks in service. Following the war, the rail line was completed from Paducah to Union City and from there to New Orleans. The first direct trip from Paducah to New Orleans occurred in 1868. As the United States became more industrialized, the number of rail lines entering Paducah increased dramatically. The later part of the 19th century and early half of the 20th century saw amazing growth in railroads and the number of railroad companies in Paducah. However, the automobile and the trucking industry overtook the railroad industry and by the early 1950s passenger trains ceased to operate in Paducah. In 1960, the last steam locomotive constructed in Paducah left the train yard. The early hay days of the railroads may have past, but Mr. Johnston reminded his audience that railroads still provide a major service to Paducah and Jackson Purchase. The meeting was adjourned with a reminder that office elections are coming up and that anyone interested in running for an office should contact one of the present officers.