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.
Education in the 19th century in Madisonville was different than what we now have in our schools. It was not until 1847 that the county school system was formed. Madisonville obtained an independent school district on February 5, 1892. However, most schools in the 1800’s were one-room schools and many were private schools such as the original Seminary School. Education in the 1800’s was also different in that the County Commissioner of Education was appointed. In 1884, the title was changed to Superintendent of Schools and it became an elected position. The General Assembly abolished the elected position of Superintendent of Schools and since 1926 the Board of Education selects and employs Superintendent of Schools.
Madisonville High School opened in 1903 with its first building being located on the third floor of the old West Broadway Elementary School.
In 1911 the first high school building became a reality and the high school operated at the Waddill Avenue School from 1911 to 1923. Continued growth and improvement saw Madisonville High School relocate again to 320 South Seminary Street from 1923 to 1937.
The high school then moved to a building now home to Browning Springs Middle School, which served as the high school for Madisonville from 1938 to 1968.
In 1968 the high school moved to its current location at 4515 Hanson Road and changed its name to Madisonville North Hopkins High School. The school housed grades 10 through 12 until 1979 when 9th graders were moved to the campus. Madisonville North Hopkins High School currently has approximately 1033 students.
In addition to the high school, elementary schools have been an integral part of Madisonville’s history. Neighborhood elementary schools were located on Waddill Avenue, Hall Street, and Broadway Avenue. In the mid-1950s, three new “neighborhood elementary schools” were built, being Grapevine Elementary, Pride Elementary, and West Broadway Elementary.
Madisonville City Schools operated as an independent system until 1951 when the Madisonville City system merged and became part of the Hopkins County School System. Prominent Madisonville educator Harper Gatton served as Superintendent of the Madisonville Public Schools from 1914 to 1951 and Superintendents of the Hopkins County Schools since that time have been Sam B. Pollock (1952-1956), Compton C. Crowe (1956-1974), Harold Peyton (1974-1976), Patrick L. McNeil (1976-1981), Dr. David B. Gover (1981-1991), John D. McClearn (1991-1998), Michael K. Farris (1998-2000), and James Lee Stevens (2000-present).
In the early 1960s Madisonville and Hopkins County faced the issue of integration of public schools. With the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, segregated schools became illegal.
For Madisonville’s African American population, Branch Street Elementary served as the elementary school and Rosenwald High School was the high school for African American students from 1932 until the spring of 1966. During school year 1966-1967 school integration was totally complete and Rosenwald no longer operated as a high school, although it later housed administrative educational offices and a kindergarten center for Madisonville students.
The mid-1990s saw major changes to elementary schools as Waddill and Hall Street Elementary Schools were closed and consolidated with Anton Elementary to form the new Jesse Stuart Elementary School on Anton Road which was built at an approximate cost of $3,935,395.00. Additionally, in August 1994, James Madison Middle School opened on Brown Road at an approximate cost of $6,315,000.00 and many of Madisonville’s children in the 6th through 8th grades were moved from Browning Springs Middle School to James Madison Middle School. Children on the south side of Madisonville had previously been redistricted to South Hopkins Middle School.
As part of the restructuring of the Hopkins County Schools in the 1990s, many Madisonville high school age students located on the south side of Madisonville were redistricted to the new Hopkins County Central High School which opened in August 1996 at 6625 Hopkinsville Road, Madisonville (Barnsley). The redistricted Madisonville students joined former students from South Hopkins High School and West Hopkins High School in the new $15,000,000.00 building. Hopkins County Central High School now has approximately 1058 students.
In addition to elementary, middle, and high schools, Madisonville’s educational scene has been influenced by post-secondary education. The Kentucky Vocational School on West Center Street has provided technical training in skill areas including carpentry, welding, and auto body repair. The Health Occupation School located near Regional Medical Center and Trover Clinic on Madisonville’s north side has provided education to individuals interested in going into the large healthcare industry which exists in Madisonville.
Madisonville Community College was authorized by Senate Bill No. 161 under the signature of then Governor Louie Nunn on March 4, 1968. Previously, in 1960 Western Kentucky College, Murray State College, and the University of Kentucky offered classes through the “Madisonville Cooperative College Extension Center” on West Center Street. However, with the creation of the new Community College, the College eventually outgrew its site on West Center Street adjoining Browning Springs School and relocated to an area on the north side of Madisonville. The groundbreaking of this facility was on July 15, 1971 and the first classes were held on March 12, 1973. Since the 1971 groundbreaking, the Madisonville Community College campus has expanded to four (4) campuses, with buildings named for local benefactors including John Gray, Joe C. Davis, Glema Mahr, and Brown Badgett. As of 2006, Madisonville Community College had approximately 3,200 students with 220 employees.
Recreation and Social Life
When the population is not at work or school, how do they spend their free or recreational time? Over the years sports have been an integral part of the history of Madisonville.
High school sports have provided not only recreational activities for the youth and teenagers of Madisonville, but have also provided a center of social interaction among the residents. Madisonville High School started football in the early 1900s and for many years played a traditional Thanksgiving game against Hopkinsville High School.
The athletic events were more than just sporting events, as they became a showcase for other activities including the musical programs of the community. From 1934 to 1973 the band at Madisonville High School was under the direction of Dean Dowdy and the band played at numerous athletic events including the football games. In addition to Dowdy’s contribution to high school band, he was part of a larger musical community including Ruth Carr Williams, Sue Jent, Alice Gatton and Lennie McMurray Rash.
Over the years high school basketball, which started in the late 1910s, became the center of social activity in the winter months and over the years numerous other high school sports have been added including baseball, softball, tennis, golf, soccer, swimming, and volleyball.
In addition to the high school sports, numerous leagues existed in Madisonville to provide opportunities for youth. Rotary football operated by the Madisonville Rotary Club has provided youth football for youngsters in elementary and for a few years even into middle school. “Small Fry” baseball was operated by Don and Nell Hall from 1957 to 1971 to provide youth baseball to supplement the Jaycees’ run youth leagues that were played on Brantley Field near the Hopkins County Fairgrounds.
In the early 1970s, a movement came to upgrade Madisonville’s youth baseball facilities and the dream was realized in the summer of 1972 when the Youth Athletic Association (YAA) fields opened on Outer West Center Street in Madisonville. Today the YAA complex houses eight (8) fields for softball and baseball and has added four (4) soccer fields. Additionally, as Madisonville celebrates its Bicentennial, discussions and plans are under way to either renovate or relocate the YAA complex.
In addition to school and youth activities, adult recreational opportunities have been a part of Madisonville’s history. From the 1900s through the mid-1970s, adult baseball was very popular. As adult baseball slowed down, softball, including men’s, women’s and co-ed leagues, became a part of Madisonville’s culture playing at fields such as Brantley Field near the Fairgrounds, Gill Field near Anton, General Electric Field at the Industrial Park, and various fields at churches in Hopkins County.
In the 20th century, golf also became an integral part of adult recreational opportunities in Madisonville. Initially, golf was primarily a sport defined by the private clubs. Madisonville Country Club opened in 1921 on property on Highway 41 (South Main Street) on the extreme southern end of Madisonville. Until the 1970s, the Club consisted of a clubhouse, swimming pool, and a nine-hole golf course, but added nine additional holes after acquiring 114 acres on July 20, 1971. In the late 1960s, work began to open a new country club on property adjoining Lake PeeWee on the north side of Madisonville. Lakeshore Country Club opened with a clubhouse, swimming pool, and nine-hole golf course in 1970 and eventually added nine additional holes to become a complete 18-hole golf course in the mid-1990s.
The Madisonville City Park, a project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), was built during the late 1930s. In addition to the nine-hole golf course, the Park featured lakes for fishing and swimming, a playground and picnic areas, and a baseball stadium that was initially called Municipal Stadium. The baseball field changed its name in the 1970s to Elmer Kelley Stadium in honor of long-time radio and sports personality, Elmer Kelley. The Park was home to the Madisonville Miners, a professional baseball team from the 1940s through the mid-1950s.
In 1974, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) reorganized in Madisonville and eventually opened an office in downtown Madisonville at 45 South Main Street in 1975. Through additional growth and after a donation of a five-acre tract of land from businessman Otto Corum, the YMCA opened in a permanent facility at 2100 North Main Street on October 3, 1980. Over the years, the YMCA has added additional facilities including additional basketball courts, swimming facilities, and extensive youth soccer facilities.