Eddyville, Kentucky

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Eddyville is a city in Lyon County, Kentucky, United States. The population was 2,350 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Lyon County [1]. The Kentucky State Penitentiary is located in Eddyville.



Eddyville, the seat of Lyon county, was settled around 1798 and named for the eddies in the nearby Cumberland River. It became the seat of Livingston county when it was formed in 1799, then the seat of Caldwell county in 1809, and finally the seat of Lyon county when it was formed in 1854. Thus, it holds the distinction of being the only city in Kentucky to have served as the county seat of three separate counties. The Eddyville post office opened in 1801.

Throughout Kentucky, Eddyville is best known as a synonym for the Kentucky State Penitentiary, although the prison itself is actually 3 miles (5 km) south of the present town, on the shore of Lake Barkley in Old Eddyville on KY 730. Taking six years to build (1884–1890), the massive stone prison structure towers over Lake Barkley, and is sometimes called "The Castle on the Cumberland." Its electric chair has had a long history of use, with its use dating to the period before 1936 when public executions were still conducted in Kentucky for punishment for some crimes (e.g., rape, see for example Rainey Bethea), with electrocutions at Eddyville being strictly reserved for capital punishment for conviction of other crimes (e.g., murder). Executions are still held at the prison, although there have only been three since 1976 (and only one since 1999) and the primary method has been changed to lethal injection.

Following the completion of Kentucky Dam in the 1940s, rumors began that a dam would be built on the lower Cumberland. This would mean relocating Eddyville and Kuttawa. By the mid-1950s, the people's fears were confirmed. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began surveying for the construction of Barkley Dam. The entire population of Eddyville was in a turmoil with decisions to be made. Where would they move? Were they getting a fair price? This ordeal caused many angry feelings among some of the residents, which lasted a lifetime.

It was about this time that Lee S. Jones entered the picture. Jones was a native of Lyon County who had attended law school and settled in Louisville, where he had gained a reputation as one of the best "tax lawyers" and also had accumulated enough money to be considered quite wealthy. Jones had purchased farms in the Fairview community (which is now the site of Eddyville). He came to the Eddyville City Council and presented his plan: each person owning land in the towns (Eddyville and Kuttawa) to be flooded would receive a free lot in the new Eddyville site. This also applied to businesses.

Eddyville residents accepted his offer and on August 13, 1959, the official plat for the new town was filed with the county court clerk. The plat included 254 residential lots, 46 business lots, 28 acres (110,000 m2) for construction of a school and campus, city park, courthouse, health office, water works, and location of streets.

August 28, 1959 was designated as "Dedication and Free Deed Day" at the new site. A large group of people gathered for the event which was held in a field (in front of where the post office is now located). Mr. Jones handed the first deed to Boyce and Lillian Yates, then presented approximately 60 more residential lots.

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