Local History

Progress Closing the Gates to Paradise

Only Six Residents Left in Tiny Town

There seems to be no room for Paradise on earth. And just as sure as Ebenezer is only a few horse strides down the road, there won't be in a matter of weeks…at least not in Muhlenberg County.

Adam and Eve took care of one Paradise by goofing in the garden, and the Tennessee Valley Authority is taking care of another.

Nestled along a road that leads almost to nowhere is the doomed little hamlet with only six inhabitants gamely clinging to the last threads of their homeplace.

Paradise never was a very big place. They say that no more than 35 families ever lived in the area at one time and part of them claimed to be Ebenezerites.

And nobody knows for sure if there ever was an Adam or an Eve living in the Kentucky Paradise on the Green River.

About the only life left in Paradise these days stirs around the former post office - a building which also served as the general store.

And about the only things remaining in that old store are its owner and former postmaster J.H. Buchanan, a crackling fireplace and a few letters left after the post office was closed November 17.

Buchanan who was postmaster at Paradise for 27 years, nine months and 17 days, says his store is the last of four or five once operating in the tiny community.

Only one light is kept burning in the rustic landmark and the proprietor moved around much slower than he did in days past when the shelves were stacked with merchandise and customers were plentiful. A sign on the front porch reads “last roundup sale in Paradise.”

Deserted Church. Looking around outside, a visitor sees other decaying structures, a church with broken windows and a very noticeable absence of life.

Giant shadows fall across the countryside, created by the huge chimneys at the nearby TVA plant and the earth trembles underfoot when the world's largest strip mining shovel takes a mammoth bite out of the soil.

TVA has been buying up property from residents of the community for several months. A spokesman for the huge generating facility said the land is being acquired for future expansion. He did not elaborate.

Three Families Left. Only three families remain of the original 35 who were property owners when TVA announced plans for construction of the steam plant in October 1959.

At that time, Paradise residents became elated with the prospect of seeing their town boom, with TVA being a hub for a possible industrial explosion. But this was not to be.

Only a few employees of the steam plant stayed in Paradise with the remainder making their homes in Drakesboro, Greenville, Central City, Owensboro and Russellville.

How It Began. Paradise is located on land originally settled by Jake and Henry Stum. The two men operated a small store in connection with their farm and their boat landing on the Green River in the northeastern section of Muhlenberg County. It was first called Stum's Landing.

The town of Paradise was incorporated March 10, 1856, more than half a century after the town had been settled. For a few years after the Mexican War, it was called Monterey.

In 1871 Paradise had a population of about 300. There were five stores and two tobacco factories. Inhabitants made their incomes from mining, timber and farming.

About a mile down river from Paradise stands the old Airdrie Iron Furnace, built in 1885. This settlement of 25 or more families was named after a Scottish town which has long since disappeared.

It was in this area that General Don Carlos Buell lived the last 35 years of his life. Buell commanded Union troops at Shiloh and Perryville. His former home burned to the ground in 1907.

Buell was credited with getting reinforcements to General Grant at Shiloh in time to change what appeared to be certain defeat into a partial victory. His efforts aided in forcing Confederate forces back to Corinth, Miss.

Another rapid march by Buell to Louisville prevented the city from falling into the hands of General Braxton Bragg's army.

The land adjoining the iron works is being strip mined by P&M Coal Company. Persons interested in preserving the site have been assured that the fortress-like ruin will be kept in its present condition.

Early inhabitants of Paradise and the surrounding area would never recognize the once beautiful rolling countryside.

The ground and everything above it is darkened with coal dust and the earth, a victim of its own riches, is scarred by deep pits.

And as the last remaining residents leave this sleeping little town they glance back over their shoulders and wonder how there can be hell on earth but no place for Paradise.

Source: Messenger & Inquirer, Owensboro, KY, by Dave McBride, December 3, 1967

Contributed by Dorann O'Neal Lam

Updated November 24, 2015