Henry County is
located in north-central Kentucky in the outer Bluegrass Region. It has a land area of 289
square miles. The Kentucky River forms the eastern boundary of the County. The population
estimates for 1998 are 14,765 persons. Eminence is the largest city in the county with an
estimated population of 2,231. Eminence is located 69 miles northwest of Lexington; 38
miles northeast of Louisville; and 65 miles southwest of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Henry County was carved out of a population of Shelby County in 1798. The county was
named for Patrick Henry, famous for his give me liberty or give me death
speech. The city of Eminence was not formally surveyed until April 1854 when a local man
named Gideon King gave the right of way through his land for the railroad. The plat was
laid 330 feet to the inch and the locations of the New Castle Turnpike, I. C. & I.
Railroad, the Christian Church lot; D. Thomsons lot and G. Kings residence are
When railroads were obtaining their right
of ways, it was Gideon King who persuaded the powers that be to run their road over his
land. He gave them land, not only in track and station, but also for the freight house and
cattle pens. So the road was detoured to pass through Gideon Kings Farm.
The railroad (completed in 1849) crossing the New Castle-Shelbyville Turnpike on its way
from Louisville to Frankfort was the catalyst for the growth of the town.
Eminence, which means
high place, is the highest point along the railroad between Louisville and
Lexington and lies 900 feet above the sea level. Bringing the train through Eminence is
credited with increasing the population of the city, making it larger than the county
seat, New Castle. At one time, the county boasted seven railroad depots. The Eminence
passenger depot is still a focal point of the downtown property and only one of two
remaining in the County.
On Mr. Kings farm, the
Moody Hotel was built, providing posh quarters to visitors for many years. Years later, in
1913 when the hotel was being remodeled, the owner dug a tunnel underground from the
Hotel, under the railroad tracks to the low ground beyond. Later, when the Louisville
Nashville Railroad wouldnt let them build even a ditch under the railroad, sewer
pipes were laid in the previously dug tunnel.
In 1882 an atlas of the County was
underway. Both the area originally planned by Mr. King and the population doubled. Eminence
Village was listed as having a population of 1,043. Churches had sprung up and the Male
and Female Seminary was located in the area as well.
The New Castle-Shelbyville Turnpike was
now called Main Street. King Street separated Gideons Kings residence from the
more central part of town. In 1921, Mr. Kings home was moved to occupy half of the
earlier acreage and another home was built on the corner of Main and King Street. An
article on Mr. King in an old Kentucky history book does not exaggerate a great deal when
stating His personal history is largely that of the town, there having been few of
the interest not connected with his name or influenced by his liberality.
Grain was obviously a major crop for the
area, as two industries seem to be an integral part of the local heritage. The Eminence
Mill and Elevator and the Eminence Distillery have their own place in the history books. A
special edition of the Henry County Local dated May 9, 1902 reports the Eminence Mill and
Elevator Company had built a new mill during that year. The company had been in business
over 20 years and was owned by the Giltners. Being located in the center of one of the
best wheat growing sections of the state, they were able to purchase all needed supplies
at their very door. Having the train through town enabled the company to easily export
Eminence has also been noted through the years for
their distilleries. They remain today the only wet city within the county.
After the Civil War, the Eminence Distillery was built and bottled many brands including
Old Blue Ribbon Whiskey. When Eminence went dry the first time
(1931-1941) there were two liquor stores in the city. After the second dry spell, in 1952
the Kentucky Legislature made Eminence a Fourth Class City and that enabled the citizens
to vote for the sale of alcoholic beverages.
The first bank in Henry County was
established in 1867 at the Deposit Bank of Eminence. The first location was a house on
North Main Street. According to the Henry County Local newspaper, the banks were the
largest employers in the county in 1905.
Eventually, the role of railroads diminished
throughout the country, including Henry County. The means of personal travel shifted from
train to automobiles, buses and airplanes. With the onslaught of the interstate system,
trucks began to siphon an increasing amount of freight business from the railroads.
Declining demand for coal reduced coal shipments from Eastern Kentucky. As a result, the
movement of rail freight through Henry County came to an end. Today, the community is
pleased to garner their economic benefits from local industrial development.