Monday, January 16, 2017

Paradise, Kentucky

Michigan is still home to Hell  but in 1967, Paradise disappeared from Kentucky, remaining only as a ghost town. Four years later John Prine wrote a song about it which I was listening to yesterday. My curiosity got the better of me.




Paradise was a small town in Muhlenberg CountyKentucky. It was torn down in 1967 by the Tennessee Valley Authority due to health concerns over its proximity to a nearby coal-burning electric plant, Paradise Fossil Plant.

Paradise was settled in the early nineteenth century. It is postulated the name was descriptive, for settlers who considered the setting to be paradise. A post office was established at Paradise on March 1, 1852; it closed in 1967.

A song about Paradise, Kentucky, called "Paradise", was written and made famous by singer/songwriter John Prine. The lyrics attribute the destruction of Paradise to the Peabody company, and allude to the fact that the town was a site for strip mining. In reality, the town remained in partial form after the Pittsburgh & Midway Coal Mining Company and Peabody Coal Company stripped the coal around it. 

The Paradise Fossil Plant was initially erected with only two units; afterwards, the residents who were left in the village were bought out by the Tennessee Valley Authority after ash fall from the newly opened plant brought health concerns to the area. Soon after the TVA bought the town out, they tore down all the structures and constructed the largest cyclonic fired boiler in the world at the new "Paradise Unit 3". All that remains of the original town is a small cemetery at the top of a hill close to the plant. (abstracted from Wikipedia)

Prine mentions the abandoned old prison down by Airdrie Hill (about 1 mile north of Paradise) in his song.  Found a link to it with some rather fascinating history and a picture of the remaining two stone structures (and also with a link to the Breathitt County Feuds. Fun times in old Kentuck').

Also found this description of the stone structures The Story of Airdrie.

".........A wealthy Scot who lived in Scotland, but who had been born in Kentucky, became aware that Scotland was in a terrible state and the iron ore sources were depleting..........". "..........The Scottish immigrants sailed to the new land in 1854 and immediately began building a city and the iron ore business........" "......Airdrie's furnace was in operation no more than 8 weeks before it would blow a boiler. After three failed attempts to produce quality iron ore, and after 1/3 of a million dollars spent, the owner had enough and called for the ironworks to be closed in the fall of 1857......."



Location of Power plants and strip mining

Location of Rochester dam mentioned in the last verse of the song

11 comments:

  1. Wow, you're really exercising your intellectual curiosity lately! Is this to be the year that you investigate songs that are based on historical events?

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    1. There are certainly no shortage of such songs. My interests move around like a ping pong ball in a tornado so we'll see what happens. I was on a Tom T Hall binge last week so that is what triggered these last two posts.

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  2. Don't despair -- there's always Paradise, Newfoundland.

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  3. there is a Paradise,Texas too..in Wise county.451 in the 2010 census.. according to tradition it was considered a 'cowboys paradise'
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradise,_Texas

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  4. So Paradise seems to crop up in many places. Newfoundland, Texas, Michigan (to counter Hell, I suppose).

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  5. There are numerous small bay villages in Newfoundland that were deserted after cod fishing was banned. The small town of Flagstaff was bought out by the Maine state government and the valley was flooded forming Flagstaff lake - the town still exist under the lake. Kentucky has a long history of towns that came and went.
    If you are interested in Kentucky you might read the book Satan's Saint: the story of the notorious James Ford that ran the Cave-in-rock ferry in the early 1800's and robbed and killed hundreds. Cave-in-rock is the cite where Davy Crockett and Mike Fink had to fight off the pirates on their Ohio River journey.
    the Ol'Buzzard

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    1. Most every place has abandoned or partially abandoned villages and towns as sources of income dried up and people left. I did find the book you mentioned. The name of it is Satan's Ferryman.
      https://www.amazon.com/Satans-Ferryman-True-Tale-Frontier/dp/B0007DTN4O

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  6. Being a Kentucky boy I have known that song most of my life. It's sad... the whole history of coal mining is Kentucky and Appalachia is one of poverty, sickness and sorrow.
    the Ol'Buzzard

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    1. Can you are someone recommend a good history book of coal mining in Kentucky and Appalachia? I would be very interested to read that.

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  7. Well, I was going to comment that there is a Paradise in Newfoundland, but I see others have beaten me to it!
    Interesting story you are telling.

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    1. Paradise seems to be where ever you find it. I expect Hell is much the same.

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