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Mike Watson: Railroad attempts in Adair County, KY

The history of Adair County is one with no railroads. But there have been numerous attempts to establish one connecting Adair County to the nation's rail system.

[The following is a very brief overview of the railroad question in Adair County, 1865-1915. A complete survey of the issue would be a volume in and of itself.--MW]

By Mike Watson

The history of Adair County is one with no railroads. Though one was long sought, it was never to be constructed. During the Civil War the nearest railhead was located at Lebanon, Marion County. From that point supplies and troops could be shipped. Many saw the need for more and more miles of steel rails, but during a time of such conflict only necessary repairs were made upon existing track and essential new lines were constructed.

Columbia and surrounding farmland was host, albeit to the dismay of property owners and citizens, to many thousands of soldiers during the War. Camp Boyle lay just outside town, on the Campbellsville road, and encampments dotted the entire area at one time or other. Columbia and Adair County would have been a prime point on a proposed rail line, one that likely would have continued through the county and on to Creelsboro, on the Cumberland River.

Efforts abounded after the War to have a line constructed into Columbia. As early as 1867 there was a movement to gain support for such a project. In October 1869 a special term of the Adair County Court reported on a meeting of the directors of the Danville (KY)-McMinnville (TN) railroad held at the office of the Bank of Louisville, in Burkesville, at which was reported that the Adair County Court be requested to submit to the voters of the county as to whether the court shall subscribe for 3,000 shares of capital stock in the Danville-McMinnville Railroad Company, to be paid for in bonds, payable in twenty years, at six percent interest. The Adair County Court ordered that an election be held on 13 November 1869. An actual report of the outcome has not been located.

However, a similar issue and vote was taken in the county on 13 June 1868 concerning the issuance of bonds for the Elizabethtown and Tennessee Railroad Company. The vote was 685 in favor of issuing the bonds; 211 votes against. No answer has been found to show why this issue was not made or why there was no progress on the E&TRR. Only the final vote is documented.

A public meeting was held at the Courthouse in Columbia on 18 September 1872 concerning the passage of a railroad. The County Court ordered a poll of voters at the November election in each precinct in the county to get the feelings of the voters on "Whether they will obligate themselves to pay to parties damages they may sustain in the construction of the Cincinnati Southern rail road after the amount of said damages has been agreed upon or assessed ...provided in the Act chartering said rail road company's said obligation to pay such damages to be null and void unless said rail road is constructed through this county on or near the Wallace Survey...." [Adair County Court Orders 8, October 1872]

From time to time the issue of a railroad came up again, but there were always obstacles.

Rev. W.K. Azbill promoted the electric railroad from Columbia to Campbellsville in early 1903. The Columbia Inter-Urban Railway Company was organized with $15,000 of capital stock having been subscribed. The stockholders met and signed articles of incorporation. They were: W.K. Azbill, President, Board of Directors; Capt. W.W. Bradshaw, Vice President, Board of Directors; Judge Wallace W. Jones, Treasurer, Board of Directors; James T. Page; C.S. Harris, Secretary, Board of Directors; J.N. Conover; James Garnett, Jr.; J.O. Russell, Board of Directors; W.F. Jeffries; W.R. Myers, Board of Directors; Zachariah T. Williams; G.W. Robertson; A.S. Chewning; T.A. Murrell; T.R. Stults; George Nell; J.N. Coffey; John D. Lowe; W.B. Rowe; W.D. Jones; L.V. Hall; and N.M. Tutt, Board of Directors.

JIM compiled an excellent history of Rev. Azbill's attempts to bring the Inter-Urban line to Adair County. A copy of this book may be found in the collection of the Adair Public Library.

In 1904 it seemed a railroad was to come soon to Adair. In mid-1907 construction of a railroad was planned from Danville through Nashville to Savannah, the local branch was to be known as the Nashville-Scottsville-Danville branch line, passing through Hustonville, Liberty and Columbia...but that did not come to pass.

December 1913 brought new interest in a proposed rail line with a call from prominent citizens for all interested parties to meet at the courthouse for discussion. Columbia's Commercial Club was reorganized and the course of events then turned to the railroad. A "large and enthusiastic crowd" met on the designated night and lively discussion was in favor of the project and about $2,000 was subscribed to pursue a venture. There were hopes of a line from Columbia to Liberty to McKinney and on to Stanford.

The Adair County News reported in June 1914 that a delegation of the Commercial Club had met with representatives of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad concerning a line from either Campbellsville or Greensburg to Columbia, but there were "no prospects" for immediate work on such projects.

A meeting at the Adair courthouse in April 1916 gave hope that a line might be constructed from Columbia to either Campbellsville, Greensburg, or to intersect with the railroad between the two points in the coming year, if right of way could be had and if $40-50,000 could be raised to aid in construction costs. Within two weeks more than $32,000 had been subscribed. July 1916 came and went with money subscribed, but no word on the right of way for the project. It seems the railroad died due to lack of acquisition of passage over lands from the L&N line that connected Campbellsville and Greensburg to Columbia. Though the issue of a railway came up several times in the coming decades, it was not to be. - MIKE WATSON.

This story was posted on 2012-12-18 13:58:13
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