Paducah, Kentucky

From Academic Kids

Paducah is a city located in McCracken County, Kentucky at the confluence of the Tennessee River and the Ohio River.. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 26,307. It is the county seat of McCracken CountyTemplate:GR.

Location of Paducah, Kentucky


Paducah is located at 37°4'20" North, 88°37'39" West (37.072226, -88.627436)Template:GR.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 50.5 km² (19.5 mi²). 50.5 km² (19.5 mi²) of it is land and 0.1 km² (0.04 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 0.10% water.

Paducah is the largest city in the Jackson Purchase Region of Western Kentucky.


Paducah is an ideal case study in the historical progression mixing history, geography, economics, technology and culture into a continuing series of paradigm shifts:

The story of Pekin (Paducah)

Paducah originally called Pekin began around 1815 as a mixed community of Native Americans and European settlers who were attracted to the spot due to its unique geographic features in that it was nested at the confluence of many waterways.

According to legend, Chief Paduke, most likely a Chickasaw, welcomed the fair-skinned people traveling down the Ohio and Tennessee on flatboats. His wigwam, located on a low bluff at the mouth of Island Creek served as the counsel lodge for his village. The settlers, appreciative of his hospitality, and respectful of his ways, settled across the creek.

The two communities lived in harmony trading goods and services enjoying the novelty of each other's culture. The settlers had brought horses and mules which they used to pull the flatboats upstream to farms, logging camps, trading posts and other settlements along the waterways, establishing a primitive but thriving river basin economy.

This cultural interaction continued until William Clark, famed leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, arrived on the scene in 1827 with a title deed to the land upon which Pekin sat. Clark was the superintendent of Indian affairs for the Mississippi-Missouri River region. He asked the Chief and the settlers to move along, which they did offering little resistance probably because the deed was issued by the United States Supreme Court. Though the title deed cost only $5.00 to process, it carried with it the full authority of the U. S. Government and was enforceable by the United States Army.

Clark surveyed his new property and plotted the grid for a new town which remains evident to this day. The Chief and his villagers moved to Mississippi allowing Clark to continue with the building of the new city which he named Paducah in honor of the Chief. Upon completion of the platt, Clark sent envoys to Mississippi to invite Chief Paduke back to a ribbon-cutting ceremony but he died of malaria in the boat while making the return trip. The settlers had been graciously allowed to purchase tracts within the new grid but most of them moved on to less developed areas.

Incorporation, Steamboats and Railroads

Paducah was incorporated as a Town in 1830 and because of the dynamics of the waterways, offered valuable port facilities for the steam boats that traversed the river system. A factory for making red bricks, and a Foundry for making rail and locomotive components became the neucleus of a thriving River and Rail industrial economy.

After a period of nearly exponential growth, Paducah was chartered as a city in 1856. It became the site of dry dock facilities for steamboats and towboats and thus headquarters for many bargeline companies. Because of its proximity to coalfields further to the east in Kentucky and north in Illinois, Paducah also became an important railway hub for the Illinois Central Railroad, the primary north-south railway link connecting Chicago and East St. Louis, IL to the Gulf of Mexico at Mobile, Alabama. The ICRR system also provided east-west links to Burlington Northern and Santa Fe lines (which later merged to become BNSF).

Paducah in the Civil War

During the American Civil War on September 6, 1861 forces under Union General Ulysses S. Grant bloodlessly captured Paducah, which gave the Union control the mouth of the Tennessee River. Throughout most of the war, US Colonel Stephen G. Hicks was in charge of Paducah and massive Union supply depots and dock facilities for the gunboats and supply ships that supported Federal forces along the Ohio, Mississippi and Tennessee River systems.

On December 17, 1862, under the terms of General Order No. 11, thirty Jewish families, longtime residents all, were forced from their homes. Cesar Kaskel, a prominent local Jewish businessman, dispached a telegram to President Lincoln, and met with him, eventually succeding in getting the order revoked.

On March 25, 1864, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest raided Paducah as part of his campaign Northward from Mississippi into Western Tennessee and Kentucky to re-supply the Confederate forces in the region with recruits, ammunition, medical supplies, horses and mules and to generally upset the Union domination of the regions south of the Ohio river. The raid was successful in terms of the re-supply effort and in intimidating the Union, but Forrest returned south.

  • Forrest's report: "I drove the enemy to their gunboats and fort; and held the town for ten hours, captured many stores and horses; burned sixty bales of cotton, one steamer, and a drydock, bringing out fifty prisoners."

Later, Forrest, having read in the Newspapers that 140 fine horses had escaped the raid, sent Brigadier General Abraham Buford back to Paducah, to get the horses and to keep Union forces busy there while he attacked Fort Pillow.

On April 14, 1864 Buford's men found the horses hidden in a foundry as the newspapers reported. Buford rejoined Forrest with the spoils, leaving the Union in control of Paducah until the end of the War.

The '37 Flood

In 1937 The Ohio River at Paducah rose above its 50-foot flood stage on January 21, cresting at 60.8 feet on February 2 and receding again to 50-feet on February 15. For nearly three weeks, 27,000 residents were forced to flee to higher ground to stay with friends and relatives or in shelters provided by the American Red Cross and local churches. Buildings in downtown Paducah still bear plaques that highlight the high water marks.

With 18 inches of rainfall in 16 days, along with sheets of swiftly moving ice the '37 flood was the worst natural disaster in Paducah's history. Because Paducah's earthen levee was ineffective againt this flood, the United States Army Corps of Engineers was commissioned to build the flood wall that now protects the city from the ravages of flooding.

The Atomic City

In 1948 the Atomic Energy Commission selected Paducah as the site for a new Uranium enrichment Plant. The plant, originally operated by Union Carbide has changed hands several times and is now operated by the United States Enrichment Corporation.

The Quilt Capital of the World

On April 25, 1991, the American Quilter's Society located its Museum - MAQS in downtown Paducah. Each spring, during the Dogwood season, quilt enthusiasts from all over the World flock to Paducah for the Society's annual event. (see Museum of the American Quilter's Society)

The Heath Shootings

On December 1, 1997, a 14-year old boy named Michael Carneal carried five loaded guns to Heath High School in West Paducah, an unincorporated community about 10 miles from the city. He shot at a group of fellow students as they were leaving a preschool prayer group in the school's courtyard. Three (all girls) were killed, and five others were wounded; one of the wounded was left a paraplegic. Five of the victims were shot in the head, and three were hit in the upper torso. (See School massacre)

Contemporary Christian music star Steven Curtis Chapman, a 1981 Heath graduate, performed at the memorial service for the three slain girls.

Paducah Today

Paducah continues to grow and change, and the paradigms continue to shift.

The Artist Relocation Program

In August of 2000, Paducah’s Artist Relocation Program was started to offer incentives for artists to relocate to its historical Downtown and Lower Town areas. The program has become a national model for using the arts for economic development, and has been awarded the Governors Award in the Arts, The Kentucky Chapter of the American Planning Association Distinguished Planning Award, The American Planning Association National Planning Award, and most recently Kentucky League of Cities Enterprise Cities Award.

Lower Town, home of the Artist Relocation Program, is the oldest neighborhood in Paducah. As retail commerce, moved toward the outskirts of town, efforts were made to preserve the architectural stylings, restoring the historic Victorian structures in the older parts of the city. The program helped that effort and became a catalyst for revitalizing the Downtown area. (see also Arts, Urban planning, gentrification)

The Musician Relocation Program

In September of 2004 plans gelled to bring a hightened awareness of Paducah's roots to the forefront of public consciousness, through the redevelopment of the North side of Downtown. The centerpiece of the effort is the renovation of the Hotel Metropolitan, where legends such as BB King, Albert King and other Blues legends polished their craft. Using this genre as a foundation, Paducah intends to assert its place in the Annals of American Music. We shall see. (


As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there are 26,307 people, 11,825 households, and 6,645 families residing in the city. The population density is 521.4/km² (1,350.2/mi²). There are 13,221 housing units at an average density of 262.0/km² (678.6/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 72.78% White, 24.15% African American, 0.25% Native American, 0.64% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 0.55% from other races, and 1.56% from two or more races. 1.38% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 11,825 households out of which 25.0% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.8% are married couples living together, 16.2% have a female householder with no husband present, and 43.8% are non-families. 39.3% of all households are made up of individuals and 17.3% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.12 and the average family size is 2.84.

In the city the population is spread out with 22.5% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 26.2% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 20.3% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 40 years. For every 100 females there are 83.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 77.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $26,137, and the median income for a family is $34,092. Males have a median income of $32,783 versus $21,901 for females. The per capita income for the city is $18,417. 22.4% of the population and 18.0% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 33.8% of those under the age of 18 and 16.8% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

People from Paducah

Paducah was the birthplace of jazz pianist and bandleader Fate Marable, humorist Irvin S. Cobb, and contemporary Christian music star Steven Curtis Chapman. Vice-president Alben W. Barkley spent much of his life in Paducah, and has a lake, an airport and other landmarks named after him. His historic home, Angles, is a private residence. One can visit Whitehaven, a mansion-turned-welcome-center off Interstate 24, where some of his memorabilia is displayed. Steve Finley, a longtime (and current) Major League Baseball player, was born in West Tennessee, but grew up in Paducah. Actress Jeri Ryan (Star Trek: Voyager, Boston Public) spent her teenage years in Paducah.

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External links

Attractions and features

  • Floodwall Murals depicting Paducah's history external link (
  • Museum of the American Quilter's Society external link (
  • Four Rivers Center for the Performing Arts external link (
  • Market House Theater and Museum external link (
  • Artist Relocation Program external link (
  • Whitehaven Welcome Center external link (
  • Paducah Summer Festivalexternal link (



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