How Hopkinsville, Kentucky became ‘Hoptown’
If you thought Hawkins, the fictional Indiana town where the TV show “Stranger Things” takes place was Weirdsville, you should know about a real town with a very bizarre history. Hopkinsville, Kentucky is a small town with a very strange past. Let me just give a few bullet points to illustrate this premise:
Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) — the Sleeping Prophet — was born nearby, lived in Hopkinsville for years, and is buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Hopkinsville. In case you aren’t familiar with Cayce, he was world-famous for his ability to give psychic readings while in a self-induced sleep state or trance. He could also talk to angels and deceased relatives. He could read auras, was a spirit medium, and as a child was said to play with “little folks.”
In Hopkinsville, you can take a car audio tour to see the various locations in town where Cayce held clairvoyant experiences.
The Kelly-Hopkinsville UFO encounter — also known as the Hopkinsville goblins case or the Kelly green men case — was a well-documented 1955 event where a family on the outskirts of Hopkinsville was terrorized by a UFO. The family showed up at the Hopkinsville police station claiming they had been exchanging gunfire with many 4-ft-tall creatures from outer space. Mayhem ensued.
Tobacco Wars — In the early 1900s, local tobacco farmers decided they were getting a bad deal from a newly formed tobacco conglomerate of former buyers that decided to pay less for their tobacco. The farmers unified themselves to boycott the buyers. A problem developed when the union of farmers cracked, and some sold tobacco at lower prices. The farmers’ union formed a KKK-like band of night riders who began terrorizing farmers, buyers, and even city officials. Barns were burned. Equipment was destroyed. There was violence. In the end, it took the Kentucky State Guard to secure the region and facilitate the arrests of the night riders. Later, the tobacco-buying conglomerate was declared a monopoly.
Hoptown — Over the years, Hopkinsville has acquired the nickname, Hoptown. There are many stories about how the name came about. My favorite goes back to the 1800s, when this little town, smack dab in the middle of the Bible belt, was the only wet county on the L&N railroad line between Evansville and Nashville. Apparently people could hop off a train at the rail yard, have some quick drinks at one of the bars in town, and hop back on again to continue their journey. That story is quoted here, and attributed to historian William T. Turner in Robert M. Rennick’s 1977 book Kentucky Place Names. That book is still available on Amazon here.
Black and White Photographs of Hopkinsville, Kentucky
Today, Hopkinsville is a vital community but parts of it are a little rough around the edges. The old downtown has seen better days, and it wears the crust and patina of age that draws me with my camera like a magnet.
The Green River Lodge of the IOOF
Built in 1903 by the Cumberland Telephone and Telegraph Company. Telephone companies continually occupied this building until 1953. (National Register of Historic Places)
Thanks for reading.
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