Hopkinsville was settled in 1796 by Bartholomew and Martha Ann Wood, who came from Jonesborough, Tennessee. The Wood family settled in the vicinity of present-day West Seventh and Bethel Streets, near what would become known as the Old Rock Spring. Wood claimed of bounty land, based on his military service in the American Revolutionary War. He built a second cabin on what is now the northeast corner of Ninth and Virginia streets, and a few years later built a home southeast of Fourteenth and Campbell streets, where he died in 1827. Wood's settlement soon attracted others, and a pioneer village emerged.
Wood donated of land and a half interest in his spring for the new county seat. The following year a log courthouse, jail, and "stray pen" were built on the public square facing Main Street. The plat for the town, first called Christian Court House, was surveyed by John Campbell and Samuel Means in 1799. In honor of Wood's eldest daughter, the town was renamed Elizabeth that same year. However, a town in Hardin County had the same name, and when the city incorporated in 1804, the General Assembly renamed the settlement Hopkinsville, in honor of General Samuel Hopkins of Henderson County.
Hopkinsville in the Civil War
The Civil War generated major social and economic divisions among the people in Hopkinsville and Christian County. Confederate support in Hopkinsville and Christian County was evident in the formation of the "Oak Grove Rangers" and the 28th Kentucky Cavalry. Union Camp Joe Anderson, located northwest of Hopkinsville, was established in 1862 after the Confederate forces had retreated to Tennessee. Men who trained there became members of the 35th Kentucky Cavalry, the 25th Kentucky Infantry, and the 35th Kentucky Infantry. Union General James S. Jackson, a Hopkinsville attorney before the war, was killed in the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky, in October 1862. Private citizens who supported the Union cause provided the army with mules, wagons, clothing, and food, just as the pro-Confederates had done for their side earlier.
Christian County was the birthplace of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America. Several local businessmen and plantation owners contributed money and war supplies to the "Lost Cause." Hopkinsville changed hands at least half a dozen times, being occupied in turn by Confederate and Union forces. In December 1864, Confederate troops under General Hylan B. Lyon captured the town and burned the Christian County courthouse, as it was being used by the Union army as barracks. A skirmish between Union and Confederate forces took place in the field opposite Western State Hospital near the end of the war.
The Black Patch Tobacco Wars and the Night Riders
In 1904, tobacco planters formed the protectionist Dark Tobacco District Planters' Protective Association of Kentucky and Tennessee. This was in opposition to a corporate monopoly: the American Tobacco Company (ATC) trust, owned by James B. Duke.
Many farmers found that they could no longer sell their tobacco crop at a profit and that the ATC was the region's only buyer, now that the many tobacco companies had formed the trust using that agency to purchase all the tobacco from any farmer at a fixed price. Upon establishing the protective association and battling the monopoly by practicing boycotts of tobacco sales, some farmers formed the "Silent Brigade" in an effort to apply social pressure for the purpose of terrorizing farmers into joining the Association against the Trust and holding to its boycott of raising no tobacco or selling no tobacco.
The Silent Brigade was later to become the infamous the Night Riders, assembled and regulated by suspected leader Dr. David A. Amoss. The Night Riders, as they came to be called, were regarded as heroes by the farmers they helped, but they were also known for violence in their fight against the changing tobacco industry.
On December 7, 1907, 250 masked night riders captured the police station and cut Hopkinsville off from outside contact. They pursued city officials and tobacco executives who bought tobacco from farmers who were not members of the Dark Tobacco District Planters' Protective Association. Three warehouses were burned during the night. Peace Park in Hopkinsville now stands on the site of one of the warehouses.
The tobacco from the Black Patch region was highly desired in Europe and the tobacco companies there started to worry about a regular supply for their production and asked for an update. In response, W.B. Kennedy, leaf tobacco broker in Paducah, April 1908 reported in a private letter to a business relation in Rotterdam (Netherlands)"...Out of all the mischief that has been done the law has not been able to convict and punish the night-riders. They do their mischief in the night, and wear masks, and they have taken a pledge to never tell anybody anything they know, and for this reason it is impossible to get sufficient evidence to convict them. They have gone on with their mischief making, until they have almost ruined the country..."
Tornado of April 2006
On April 2, 2006, an F3 tornado swept through parts of Hopkinsville. In the storm, 200 homes were damaged and 28 people were injured. In addition, structural damage was reported to dozens of other businesses, along with countless trees, power lines, transmission towers and other structures, cutting electricity to the city of Hopkinsville. A gas line was also damaged, causing a gas leak.