[puh-doo-kuh, -dyoo-]
Paducah, city (1990 pop. 27,256), seat of McCracken co., SW Ky., on the Ohio River at the mouth of the Tennessee River; inc. as a city 1856. It is a tobacco market, a farm trade and livestock shipping point, and a river port. It has railroad shops and boat yards, and there is diversified manufacturing. During the Civil War, Paducah was held for the Union (1861) by Grant, and in 1864, it was the objective of a Confederate raid by Nathan Forrest. The city suffered serious floods in 1884, 1913, and 1937. The American Quilter's Society is headquartered there.
Paducah is the largest city in Kentucky's Jackson Purchase Region and the county seat of McCracken County, Kentucky, United States. It is located at the confluence of the Tennessee River and the Ohio River. The population was 26,307 at the 2000 census. Twenty blocks of Downtown Paducah have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It is the hub for the Paducah Micropolitan Area, which includes McCracken, Ballard and Livingston counties in Kentucky and Massac County in Illinois; which had a population of 98,127 in 2006.

There is a Paducah, Texas which was named after Paducah, Kentucky and is the only other American city to share its name.


Paducah is located at (37.072226, -88.627436).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 19.5 square miles (50.5 km²), of which, 19.5 square miles (50.5 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.10%) is water.

Paducah is the largest city in the Jackson Purchase Region of Western Kentucky. It is one of two cities named Paducah located in the United States. The other Paducah is in the state of Texas, near the panhandle, and was named after Paducah, Kentucky


Paducah has a humid subtropical climate, with an average annual temperature of 57.2°F (14°C). Average annual precipitation is 49.31 inches (125.25 centimeters), and average annual snowfall is 10.6 inches (26.92 centimeters).

The highest recorded temperature in Paducah was 106°F (41°C), recorded on June 30, 1952 and July 28, 1952. The lowest recorded temperature was -15°F (-26°C), recorded on January 20, 1985.

Monthly Normal and Record High and Low Temperatures
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Rec High °F 70 77 84 90 94 103 102 104 100 89 83 74
Norm High °F 41.9 48 58.1 68.4 76.9 85.2 88.6 87.4 81.2 70.8 57.2 46.3
Norm Low °F 23.9 28.2 37.1 45.6 55 63.8 67.7 64.9 57.1 45.2 36.5 27.5
Rec Low °F -15 -8 11 24 35 44 52 44 35 24 10 -10
Precip (in) 3.47 3.93 4.27 4.95 4.75 4.51 4.45 2.99 3.56 3.45 4.53 4.38


The story of Pekin (Paducah)

Paducah, originally called Pekin, began around 1815 as a mixed community of Native Americans and white settlers who were attracted by its location at the confluence of many waterways.

According to legend, Chief Paduke, most likely a Chickasaw, welcomed the people traveling down the Ohio and Tennessee on flatboats. His wigwam, located on a low bluff at the mouth of Island Creek, served as the counsel lodge for his village. The settlers, appreciative of his hospitality, and respectful of his ways, settled across the creek.

The two communities lived in harmony trading goods and services enjoying the novelty of each other's culture. The settlers had brought horses and mules which they used to pull the flatboats upstream to farms, logging camps, trading posts and other settlements along the waterways, establishing a primitive, but thriving economy.

This cultural interaction continued until William Clark, famed leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, arrived in 1827 with a title deed to the land upon which Pekin sat. Clark was the superintendent of Indian affairs for the Mississippi-Missouri River region. He asked the Chief and the settlers to move along, which they did, offering little resistance probably because the deed was issued by the United States Supreme Court. Though the deed cost only $5.00 to process, it carried with it the full authority of the U. S. Government backed by the United States Army.

Clark surveyed his new property and laid out the grid for a new town which remains evident to this day. The Chief and his villagers moved to Mississippi allowing Clark to continue with the building of the new city which he named Paducah in honor of the Chief. Upon completion of the platt, Clark sent envoys to Mississippi to invite Chief Paduke back to a ribbon-cutting ceremony, but he died of malaria in the boat while making the return trip. The settlers had been allowed to purchase tracts within the new grid but most of them moved on to less developed areas.

Incorporation, steamboats and railroads

Paducah was incorporated as a town in 1830, and because of the dynamics of the waterways, it offered valuable port facilities for the steam boats that traversed the river system. A factory for making red bricks, and a Foundry for making rail and locomotive components became the nucleus of a thriving River and Rail industrial economy.

After a period of nearly exponential growth, Paducah was chartered as a city in 1856. It became the site of dry dock facilities for steamboats and towboats and thus headquarters for many bargeline companies. Because of its proximity to coalfields further to the east in Kentucky and north in Illinois, Paducah also became an important railway hub for the Illinois Central Railroad, the primary north-south railway connecting Chicago and East St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico at Gulfport, Mississippi. The IC system also provided east-west links to Burlington Northern Railroad and Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway lines (which later merged to become the BNSF Railway).

Paducah in the Civil War

During the American Civil War on September 6, 1861, forces under Union General Ulysses S. Grant captured Paducah, which gave the Union control of the mouth of the Tennessee River. Throughout most of the war, US Colonel Stephen G. Hicks was in charge of Paducah and massive Union supply depots and dock facilities for the gunboats and supply ships that supported Federal forces along the Ohio, Mississippi and Tennessee River systems.

On December 17, 1862, under the terms of General Order No. 11, thirty Jewish families, longtime residents all, were forced from their homes. Cesar Kaskel, a prominent local Jewish businessman, dispatched a telegram to President Lincoln, and met with him, eventually succeeding in getting the order revoked.

On March 25, 1864, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest raided Paducah as part of his campaign Northward from Mississippi into Western Tennessee and Kentucky to re-supply the Confederate forces in the region with recruits, ammunition, medical supplies, horses and mules and to generally upset the Union domination of the regions south of the Ohio river. The raid was successful in terms of the re-supply effort and in intimidating the Union, but Forrest returned south.

  • Forrest's report: "I drove the enemy to their gunboats and fort; and held the town for ten hours, captured many stores and horses; burned sixty bales of cotton, one steamer, and a drydock, bringing out fifty prisoners."

Later, Forrest, having read in the newspapers that 140 fine horses had escaped the raid, sent Brigadier General Abraham Buford back to Paducah, to get the horses and to keep Union forces busy there while he attacked Fort Pillow.

On April 14, 1864 Buford's men found the horses hidden in a foundry as the newspapers reported. Buford rejoined Forrest with the spoils, leaving the Union in control of Paducah until the end of the War.

1937 flood

See also: Ohio River flood of 1937
In 1937, the Ohio River at Paducah rose above its 50-foot flood stage on January 21, cresting at 60.8 feet on February 2 and receding again to 50-feet on February 15. For nearly three weeks, 27,000 residents were forced to flee to stay with friends and relatives in higher ground in McCracken County or in other counties. Some shelters were provided by the American Red Cross and local churches. Buildings in downtown Paducah still bear plaques that highlight the high water marks.

With 18 inches of rainfall in 16 days, along with sheets of swiftly moving ice the '37 flood was the worst natural disaster in Paducah's history. Because Paducah's earthen levee was ineffective against this flood, the United States Army Corps of Engineers was commissioned to build the flood wall that now protects the city from the ravages of flooding.

The Atomic City

In 1950 the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission selected Paducah as the site for a new Uranium enrichment Plant. Construction began in 1951 and began operations in 1952. The plant, originally operated by Union Carbide has changed hands several times to Martin Marieta, Lockheed-Martin, and is now operated by the United States Enrichment Corporation. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), successor to the AEC, remains the owner.

Quilt City, USA

On April 25, 1991, the American Quilter's Society located its Museum - MAQS in downtown Paducah. Each spring, during the Dogwood season, quilt enthusiasts from all over the world flock to Paducah for the Society's annual event. The Quilt Show is one of Paducah's largest events of the year and draws large revenue in tourism. Hotels for miles around the city fill up months in advance of the show.

The museum was honored in May 2008 when the congressional designation as The National Quilt Museum of the United States was bestowed. May Louise Zumwalt, Executive Director of the Museum, said recently “Though it does not mean we will receive national funding, it does recognize that we are a quilt museum with national significance.” This designation brings additional attention and helps increase the number of visitors. The Museum currently averages 40,000 visitors per year from across the country and at least 25 foreign countries.

Annual telethon

Local Chapters of Paducah's Lions Club and WPSD, the local NBC affiliate, hold an annual telethon to raise money for local charities. The money raised over the past 49 years has totaled more than $18,000,000 as of 2005. Talent throughout the years has been very diversified including:

  • Hugh Downs (1959)
  • Betty White (1959)
  • "Doc" Severinson (1966)
  • Leonard Nimoy (1967)
  • Count Basie (1971)
  • Melissa Sue Anderson (1976)
  • Tom T. Hall (1976)
  • Carl Perkins (1979)
  • Bill Anderson (1980)
  • Peter Marshall (1983)
  • Ed Begley, Jr. (1984)
  • Todd Bridges (1984)
  • Bobby Vee (1988)
  • (Nathan Ellis)1993
  • JD Sumner and the Stamps (1993)
  • Juice Newton (2002)
  • Pam Tillis (2004)
  • Terry Mike Jeffrey (several appearances)
  • Lew Jetton & 61 South (several appearances)
  • Barbara Mandrell (several appearances)
  • Steve Wariner (several appearances)
  • Ralph Emery (as emcee - many years)
  • Other various NBC soap opera stars
  • Players and coaches from the St Louis Cardinals

Contemporary Paducah

In August 2000, Paducah’s "Artist Relocation Program" was started to offer incentives for artists to relocate to its historical Downtown and Lower Town areas. The program has become a national model for using the arts for economic development, and has been awarded the Governors Award in the Arts, The Kentucky Chapter of the American Planning Association Distinguished Planning Award, The American Planning Association National Planning Award, and most recently Kentucky League of Cities' Enterprise Cities Award.

Lower Town, home of the Artist Relocation Program, is the oldest neighborhood in Paducah. As retail commerce moved toward the outskirts of town, efforts were made to preserve the architectural stylings, restoring the historic Victorian structures in the older parts of the city. The program helped that effort and became a catalyst for revitalizing the Downtown area. The Luthor F. Carson Center for the Performing Arts was also constructed.

In September 2004 plans jelled to highlight Paducah's musical roots through the redevelopment of the South side of Downtown. The centerpiece of the effort is the renovation of Maggie Steed's Hotel Metropolitan , where legends such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Chick Webb's orchestra, B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Ike and Tina Turner and other R & B and Blues legends polished their craft along what has become known as the Chitlin' circuit. Using this genre as a foundation, supporters hope to advertise Paducah's role in the history of American music.

Music in Paducah

The town of Paducah has given birth to artists from various genres. The top mainstream artist is Steven Curtis Chapman, the greatest selling Christian artist of all time. Rockabilly Hall of Fame artists include Ray Smith, whose recording of Rockin' Little Angel was a hit in 1960 and Stanley Walker, who played guitar for Ray Smith and others. Terry Mike Jeffrey, who has been showcased on national television is a resident of Paducah.

The local community boasts a great "underground" musical environment, with acts finding some success due to the recent promotion of musical growth in the city with the new Middletown project. Notable groups include The Wish You Weres, who have toured internationally and whose album Left 4 Dead was featured as one of the top 10 punk albums of the year by Rolling Stone Magazine. The town has recently began redeveloping its Middletown section as a hotspot for musical growth. The plan is very similar to its very successful Lowertown Artist District. The focal point of Middletown will be the Metropolitan Hotel, where many blues and jazz musicians played during the mid-20th century.

The town celebrates its local musicians many times in the year, but most notably during its annual Summer Festival and the Rock The Vote-sponsored Paducahpalooza festival.

See also: Urban planning, Gentrification


Local media in Paducah includes NBC affiliate WPSD-TV and regional daily newspaper The Paducah Sun, both owned by Paxton Media Group. Six radio stations call Paducah home with half of the stations owned by Bristol Broadcasting Company, while weekly newspapers the West Kentucky News and Lone Oak News also enjoy significant readership. A National Weather Service Forecast Office is based in Paducah, providing weather information to western Kentucky, southeastern Missouri, southern Illinois, and southwestern Indiana. A bi-monthly magazine by the name of Paducah Life () debuted in 1994 and continues publication today. The magazine features articles about life and residents in and around Paducah.


As of the census of 2000, there were 26,307 people, 11,825 households, and 6,645 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,350.2 people per square mile (521.4/km²). There were 13,221 housing units at an average density of 678.6/sq mi (262.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 72.78% White, 24.15% African American, 0.25% Native American, 0.64% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 0.55% from other races, and 1.56% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.38% of the population.

There were 11,825 households out of which 25.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.8% were married couples living together, 16.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.8% were non-families. 39.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.12 and the average family size was 2.84.

In the city the population was spread out with 22.5% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 26.2% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 20.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 83.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 77.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $26,137, and the median income for a family was $34,092. Males had a median income of $32,783 versus $21,901 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,417. About 18.0% of families and 22.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 33.8% of those under age 18 and 16.8% of those age 65 or over.

Notable residents

Paducah was the birthplace or residence of the following notable people:

See also


External links

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