Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Thriving Town in the 1800s

(Editor's Note: This article was written in May 1978 by Greg Travis. I am not sure of the exact publication location, but am tracking it down.)

By Greg Travis

The following is a brief look into the history of a town that once filled the air with a strange magnetism. A town that at one time the mere mention of its name brought excitement to the faces of all. A town that once could ask for nothing more. This is Dycusburg. Special thanks to Mrs. Leon Dycus for much of the history of the community.

August 4, 1804 (Editor's Note: I question this date), Dycusburg, the second largest city in Crittenden County, rested peacefully on the east banks of the massive Cumberland Ricer at a point where Livingston, Lyon, and Crittenden Counties converged. Nestled among the native forests of the vicinity Dycusburg would rapidly become a first class city for many of the markets of the world.

The first known settlers in this new wilderness was a family called Scyesters, who set up housekeeping on the farm now owned by the widow Jane Branum.

In 1835, a Mr. Shelby opened the first ferry at this location on the Cumberland thus the progression of this small Kentucky town began to take shape. The next man we find entering the scene is Berry Dycus (after whom the “Village of Dycusburg” as it was referred to in the early 1800’s census records, was named).

Dycus opened the first warehouse at this location and initially Dycusburg became the prime shipping point for the towns of Providence, Princeton, Madisonville, and Shady Grove. The Cumberland River, this small town’s greatest asset, was the number one means of shipping tobacco from these warehouses to the surrounding cities.

In 1844 Dycusburg was incorporated and it seemed that nothing would stop the cheerful little community. (Note: This was in 1847). With the growth of the city came the flow of many new thriving businesses. One of the first assemblages for the village was the Masonic Lodge charted the same year as the town’s incorporation.

Two beautiful new church buildings could only add to the splendor that hovered about the atmosphere of Dycusburg like a cloud.

The Baptist Church was first built on Commercial Street, but was later moved to a new building on a lot overlooking Dycusburg from the south side of town. This land was donated by William Bennett for the building of the new church.

The Methodist church, first recognized as the community church, stood on the corner of Walnut and Commercial.

In 1851, Jackson & Cobb were selling goods along with shipping tobacco. Cobb & Cobb would succeed this firm.

A large mercantile business was operated at the pen of Smith & Head. Much of the credit for the growth of Dycusburg belongs to the large tobacco warehouses, handling up to 4 million pounds annually. Much of this was shipped to Liverpool, England.

Some of the other names one might recall in the history of this pleasant community would be, David Moore & Bros., M.L. Smith, J.N. Flanagan, William Bennett & Co., T.T. Martin, The Yancey’s, I.L. Lenell, Cobb & Gillathy, Prichett & Cardin, William Dycus, and Dr. W.J. Graves. These men were known for their admirable business methods, integrity, and entertainment, giving Dycusburg much of its splendid trade.

Grand hotels like the Clifton House, The Yancey House, and the riverfront Dycusburg Hotel with their exquisitely decorated interiors once filled the town with many traveling salesmen, or drummers as they were called at that time.

Other businesses included, three general stores, two groceries, one hardware store, one drygoods store, one drug store, three saloons, and the Bennett Bros. Distillery, known for their Cooksey Spring Whiskey.

Large steamboats, handsome and sleek, like the J.P. Douileard were in a common sight at the landing in Dycusburg. Usually three or four at a time were moored at the riverbank awaiting the loading of another shipment bound not only for cities within the United States, but various foreign countries now.

Exuberant stages shows, elaborate and breath-taking, aboard many of the riverboats were a major drawing card for many of the young at heart.

Other steamers serving Dycusburg included the B.S. Thea, the W.H. Cherry, the Edgar Cherry, the H.W. Buttarf, the W.K. Phillips, R. Dunbar, Bob Dubley, and the J.B. Richardson with its melodious whistle. Most of these boats ran from Evansville to Nashville and New Orleans. In later years boats like the Will J. Cummings, the J.S. Lowery, and the Southland made their appearance in Dycusburg.

The last of the shinning beauties to emerge were the Nashville, the Grace Devers, and the Queen of Dycusburg.

The Grace Devers and the Queen of Dycusburg were two excursion boats owned and operated by F.O. Devers of Dycusburg. Devers arranged to have his steamers built there in his home town.

As the town progressed, thus did the need for the education of the children. So it was decided a building be erected for holding classes. A commodious school house was built atop the hill from Haywood Hollow.

A daily mail run from Kuttawa supplied the town with its quota of letters and papers. A river stage from Dycusburg to Paducah ran year round.

Then people of Dycusburg prided themselves on having their business run by such wonderful people. One of those being Miss Ida Harris who received the position as head of the Post Office from her father who had previously been Postmaster for Dycusburg.

Miss Harris, who also ran the millinery shoppe, was able to stay abreast of all the latest fashions and meet all competatory prices by being involved with the management of the Post Office.
Another of the interesting characters associated with the history of Dycusburg is Dr. W.J. Graves. Graves came to reside in this new community from Lebanon, Ky., where he had previously practiced medicine for a number of years. The good doctor practiced in Dycusburg for over forty years building a reputation second to none. Like most doctors of his time, his day was filled with caring for all imaginable illnesses, seeing to the needs of the community, and even amidst the hustle one might hear the cry of a newborn.

Dycusburg was continually prospering and business booming when suddenly in 1906 fire destroyed the majority of the quiet little village.

As the flames subsided and the smoke cleared, only the ruins of some 39 businesses remained standing. Damage was so extensive the rebuilding the town as it had once stood seemed almost impossible. The final hopes of ever relishing the memory of this peaceful community were scattered in 1907 when a second fire demolished the only businesses not hindered by fire the previous year.

Major losses included in the second fire were the Dycusburg Bank and The Yates Hotel. In 1908, Night Riders burned what tobacco warehouses were still intact and The Bennett Bros. Distillery. Beaten unmercifully during this ordeal were Henry Bennett and W.B. Graves for the buying of tobacco against the orders of the Night Riders.

While businessmen again attempted to revive the dissolute community, Charlie Smith, president of the Dycusburg Bank announced his intentions of moving the bank to its present location in Tiline, just across the river in Livingston County.

With the advent of the railroad and the decline of river transportation, Dycusburg would never regain the vigor that once filled the streets with the laughter of children, traveling salesmen packing the local hotels to the brim, or the echoing of the loan whistle atop the hastening steamboat as it rolled down the river like a song.

While young and old stood spellbound.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm interested in the Cobb family mentioned in this article. The firm of Cobb Jackson & Co., one of those mentioned, was composed of Robert L., Gideon D. & Giles L. Cobb, and Charles M. Jackson, according to deed records. They engaged in land purchases and sales from 1850 to 1853.

Cobb Gallatly & Co. consisted of Gideon D. Cobb & John Gellatty. It's land transactions extened from 1860 to 1867 at least - that's as far as I followed them.

Both firms also took mortgages, mainly on growing crops and tools, to secure their store accounts.

Details of these transactions can be seen in the extracts on my website, at http://reigelridge.com/Genealogy/Resources/Eddyville.htm