The Founding Years

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In 1807 Madisonville was founded on 40 acres of land donated by Daniel McGary and Solomon Silkwood.  By 1810, Madisonville was a bustling home to 37 people.  The little town was home to a tavern, three general stores, a cabinet shop, a blacksmith and a tanner.  Growth was slow at first but by 1830 the town had grown to almost four times the population.  With the growth in population came the growth in businesses and services.  The Eagle Hotel was erected on the northeast corner of Main and Main Cross (Center) Streets sometime in the 1850s.  The building was razed in 1906 to make way for the Farmers Bank and Trust Company. 

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Population Trends and Growth

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In 1807 Daniel McGary and Soloman Silkwood each donated twenty acres to establish the City of Madisonville.  When the town was laid out, it consisted of two main streets.  Main Street ran north and south and Main Cross ran east and west.  In the survey of 1822, only Main Street and Main Cross were designated.  As Madisonville was to be the county seat, it must have a Court House.  So in August 1807 the contract for building the Court House and jail was granted to Soloman Silkwood.  In 1810, records show that there were 37 people living in Madisonville.

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Madisonville, KY | 1900-1939

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On Monday, January 1, 1900 the twentieth century began in Madisonville, Kentucky much as it did in many other Kentucky communities.  Madisonville was, at the turn of the century, a small county seat city with a population of 3,628 and served as the governmental and commercial center for the 30,995 persons living in Hopkins County. (Population statistics for Madisonville researched by Mr. Vernon M. Smith of KSDC in Louisville, Kentucky).  The promise of a new century may have been in the thoughts of some residents, merchants, professionals, and government officials as they prepared for the workweek ahead.  Who among them could have envisioned just what the next forty years would bring to their community.  Each of the next four decades would present the city with challenges and opportunities from within the region and state, as well as from national and international events.

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Coal Mining Around Madisonville

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The first coal known to have been burned in Hopkins County was from a barrel brought from Pennsylvania.  This was in a grate in the Weir and Wilkins store on East Center Street across from the north entrance of the courthouse.

In 1838, the state legislature commissioned William Williams Mather, Ohio State Geologist, to conduct a Reconnaissance Survey of Kentucky’s minerals.  Mather’s survey was amazingly accurate with the minimum amount of information available.  Mather delineated both the Eastern and Western coal fields.

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The Civil War In Madisonville

When the Civil War began in 1861, Kentucky was one of four border slave states that did not join the Confederate States of America (Maryland, Delaware, and Missouri were the others).  The Kentucky legislature passed a resolution of neutrality in May 1861, which was approved by Governor Beriah Magoffin.  President Abraham Lincoln of the Union and President Jefferson Davis of the Confederacy, both native-born Kentuckians, asked Governor Magoffin to contribute troops to their cause, but the Governor refused both requests.

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Education, Recreational and Social Life

In tracing the history of any community, one has to look at how and where people, including their children, spend their time not at work.  Considering the fact that approximately 25 percent of Madisonville’s population typically are involved in school, either being in the form of a student or an educator, the educational history of any community is important.

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