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Birmingham, Kentucky

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Birmingham, KentuckyWhen Kentucky Lake was created by flooding the Tennessee River in the early 1940s, many things had to be moved.  We're taking roads, cemeteries, houses - even entire towns.  Birmingham, Kentucky (seen at right in the 1930s) is the most notable community affected by the creation of Kentucky Lake.

The town's roots date back to 1853 when the town was laid out on land owned by Thomas Grubbs.  In 1860, Birmingham was incorporated. 

Birmingham was named after Birmingham, England in hope that the city would mimic its European counterpart's iron industry. 

After the Civil War, Birmingham enjoyed prosperity when a stave mill and timber business employed over 200 people.  The town's population grew throughout the late 1800s.  It was actually larger the county seat of Benton during parts of the 19th century.  Being located on the banks of the Tennessee River, it was the main shipping point for goods coming from Marshall County until the railroad was established in 1890 in Benton. 

In 1894, there were five churches, two schools, two hotels, four dry goods and general stores, three grocers, one drug store, two millinery shops, and two wagon and blacksmith shops.  In 1903, the Bank of Birmingham was organized.

Birmingham had some bleak history as well. On March 8, 1908, "night-riders" from nearby communities raided Birmingham and whipped several African-Americans.  They shot into the homes of the families.  Several were wounded from the raid.  Many African-Americans fled the community for fear they would be targeted again.

In 1910, Birmingham's population was 349.  It dwindled down to 312 in the 1930 census.  According to 1940 census records, Birmingham is not listed as a town in Marshall County.

The town's main highway was Kentucky 58 which was commissioned around 1933.  A ferry operated at the end of the road.  KY 58 continued through present-day LBL and onward to Eddyville.  You can still see old KY 58 sliding into Kentucky Lake near Big Bear Resort at the public launching ramp.

The town's most notable resident was Joe Fulks, who was born there in 1921.  Fulks played college basketball at Murray State, played in the NBA for several years and is credited for creating the "jump shot".

Photo by Jennifer Dunnaway

Replicas of the Nina and Pinta occasionally dock at Green Turtle Bay. We snapped a photo of the masts of the Pinta last summer.