Sunday, August 30, 2009

St. Paul's Episcopal Church - Henderson, Kentucky

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church sits in quiet dignity at the corner of South Green and Center Streets near downtown Henderson, Kentucky. This “stuccoed-brick Gothic” church was consecrated 21 May 1860 after an earlier church, located at Third and Main Streets, fell into disrepair. The new church had the distinction of containing the first pipe organ in Henderson. According to the church website , “St. Paul’s grew and thrived during the Civil War. Divided in sympathy, the congregation nonetheless held together.” St. Paul’s was the scene of much activity shortly before the execution of two Confederate soldiers in July 1864.

The Henderson Reporter of Saturday, 23 July 1864 faithfully, albeit with bias, reported the events leading up to the event. Before the execution, however, the town of Henderson was rife with rumors of attack, which were vividly described in the newspaper. The reporter painted a realistic picture of the feelings and actions of the local citizens.

While reports were flying through Henderson that a fight between the Confederates and Federals was imminent, an order was sent out to clear the town of women and children. “In the meantime, citizens collected … on street corners, rushing through the streets with ludicrous impetuosity, ridiculously clambering upon house tops for protection behind chimneys, while a timid tide of women and children, anxious men and fear-bleached negroes streamed into the Episcopal Church building, prudently resolved to valiantly and boldly hug the floor during the turbulent melee; soldiers who had sworn to protect the old flag here and there were confusedly clattering in headlong dashes … on every street was heard the furious clamor of buggy wheels and the clangorous appeal of the lumbering wagons intermingled in one tumultuous, small Bull Run-like stampede.”

The Federals concentrated their forces at the Court House and deployed skirmishers on Elm and Center Streets and waited in painful expectation for the War to hit them. The expected attack never happened. Confederate forces withdrew from their posts. Gunboat No. 17 arrived that night and “several shells whizzed with an ominous whir over the city. They, however, did no damage. On Friday, no demonstration was made upon the town, and the day dragged lazily along …” About 5:30 p.m., activity picked up and preparations were made for the execution of the two Confederate soldiers.

Henderson is fortunate to have issues of the newspaper which recorded the events of this crucial time in our history. An eye witness account provides us an inside view of the emotions of the citizens and the events. Henderson is also fortunate to have this beautiful, historic church still active in a far different world.

Photographs of the church and sign were made August 2009.

Copyright on text and photographs
by Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG
Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog

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