Recollections of Old Eddyville to be shared July 29

Downtown Eddyville in the mid-20th century was a bustling district prior to the impoundment of the Cumberland River and the creation of Lake Barkley. The shops that once lined the streets are gone, their foundations deep underwater. Residents who lived in the city prior to its relocation will share their memories in a special event planned Saturday, July 29.

FURNISHED PHOTO

It’s been over half a century since Old Eddyville was lost beneath the rising waters of Lake Barkley, like a modern-day Atlantis in western Kentucky.

It was its once strategic location on the Cumberland River, between the ports of Nashville, Smithland and Paducah, that would ultimately be its downfall. The river was impounded and the lake formed in 1966 by the completion of Barkley Dam at Grand Rivers.

As the decades have come and gone, fewer and fewer voices remain that can speak to what it was like living in the lost river town; that can speak with firsthand knowledge of some of the notable events that comprise Eddyville’s storied past.  

On the evening of Saturday, July 29, a panel of some of these individuals, past residents of Old Eddyville and Lyon County that can remember the old city, will share their personal memories of the community beneath the lake.  

The sounds, people, homes and businesses, streets and sidewalks of Old Eddyville — even the unmistakable winter smell of coal smoke wafting from the prison—will be brought back to life by panelists Odell Walker, Mary Weldon Dulaney, Charles Murphy, Tom Prince and Justice Bill Cunningham.

Archivist, historian and lawyer Christian Greco, originally of Boston, Massachusetts, will host and moderate the panel. The discussion will be supplemented by a display of rare, historic photographs Greco has recovered, preserved, and will reveal in public for the first time at this event. 

Greco became intrigued with the fate of Old Eddyville through the family of the late Marshall and Paula Turner. His girlfriend, Beth TeVault, is the granddaughter of the Turners, and a university professor and scholar working towards her PhD. The couple frequently visits her aunt, Chris Wood, in Old Eddyville.  Ms. Wood resides in one of the few historic buildings left above the shoreline of Lake Barkley. 

In addition to his other activities, Greco is a former assistant archivist at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. His archival preservation and digital restoration of historic photographs has engendered great interest and appreciation from many of Old Eddyville’s natives and descendants. He and former Old Eddyville resident, Richard Willett, are planning a book on the history of Lyon County that will include hundreds of never-before-seen photographs.

The July 29 event will be a potluck affair at the Community Life Center behind the Kuttawa United Methodist Church in Kuttawa, Kentucky. Doors open at 5:00 p.m. For those wishing to skip the meal, the program will begin at 7 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.