Wilson Station, Utopia, etc.

Taken from a Special Edition of "The Gleaner"
printed March 27, 1988
permissive use granted by Editor
newspaper provided by Vonette Shelton-Curtis

image was printed with the following article

Those towns and others once dotted the county

By Judy Jenkins
of The Gleaner staff

A 1913 issue of the national magazine, "Woman's Home Companion," featured stories on the sculptor Rodin, Princess Victoria of Prussia - and the Rev. Edwin McCollom of Wilson Station, Ky.

The good reverend, who was a kind of Johnny Appleseed of the time, not only brought favorable attention to Henderson County, but put Wilson Station on the map.

Unfortunately, in the intervening years, Wilson Station - like a number of this county's earlier villages - has ceased to be a full-fledged community.

A similar fate has befallen Scuffletown, Posey Chapel, Mason's Landing, Ranger's Landing, Utopia and McDonald's Landing. And there surely are other villages that, like flowers, briefly blossomed and then faded away.

Some were ended by floods that crumbled foundations and drove away frightened residents who were afraid to trust again. Others ebbed when their central businesses - usually tobacco factories - closed. Still others, while not quite perishing, no longer were known as individual communities because they'd gradually been absorbed by other towns.

Wilson Station, southeast of Henderson, perhaps was best known during the years that the Rev. McCollom operated his apple orchard there.

McCollom, an ancestor of Henderson County Attorney Charles McCollom, was born in Ontario in 1844, college educated, and a minister until 1896, when his health seriously declined and doctors advised him to give up the pulpit and find something more relaxing to do.

Possibly it was because of the craving for apples he'd always had as a kid that he chose to buy an ailing orchard in Wilson Station. Using his typically scholarly approach, he learned all he could about the growing of apples and began using scientific methods on the 20 acres of apple trees.

Within eight years, according to material at the Henderson County Public Library, he was selling carloads of the fruit, and local farmers, following his lead, were devoting 5,000 acres to apples. County orchards continued to flourish until the end of World War II. By that time, refrigerated trucks were in use and states with better apple growing seasons, such as Michigan, proved to be overwhelming rivals.

Apparently Wilson Station was settled by the mid-1850s, because there is a Civil War account of Yankees calling on the Swope family, who'd been there for some time. Knowing that the soldiers were coming, the family had hidden their silver in a lye barrel.

An officer questioned one of the smallest of the Swope children, asking, "Where have you been little girl? Hiding the family silver?"

"Yes, Sir," she replied, hazing up at the uniformed man. Though there must have been tremendous groans from her parents, her naive honesty may have saved the day. The silver went untouched.

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There were more ponds than cemeteries in Scuffletown, but only a few more.

A Scuffletown history at the Henderson County Public Library relates that that[sic] the numerous ponds included Richland Pond, Hog Pond, Swan, Double Dam, Wolf's, Cow, Wet Arm, Twin, Turkey and Opossum. And, largely due to "drownings and epidemics from impure water," there were so many deaths the community had six cemeteries.

Of course, a few of the deaths may have resulted from the barroom scuffles that provided a name for the town that lay on the Ohio River, above the mouth of Green River.

It's said that from the time Jonathan Stott opened his tavern around 1800, there were constant scuffles among the burly settlers who frequented the establishment.

All kinds of stories were told in that rough settlement, including one that maintained Daniel Boone had been captured by Indians on a Scuffletown farm and tied to a tree to be tomahawked. Boone was said to have escaped, and settlers could point to the very tree where he reportedly had been bound. That tree, it's noted, stood until the middle of this century.

Scuffletown's character began changing around 1817, when Eneas McCallister - who'd settled there in 1809 - organized the community's first school. Thirteen years later, the town's first church was constructed.

IN 1868 the village got its own post office and apparently continued to prosper through the 19th century. IN 1880, it's noted, the place had W. W. Shelby's grains and dry goods business, E. T. Conway's general store, Carlen Brothers Blacksmith ship, J. S. McCormick's tobacco factory, A. Mitchell's tobacco factory and J. H. Coleman's grist mill.

It took two floods to end Scuffletown. The first, in 1913, did serious damage and prompted some of the residents to leave. The '37 flood finished the job.

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Posey Chapel was, one local historian related, the little church in the wildwood ... the church in the dell.

Founded around 1849 on land given by William Posey, the chapel apparently inspired a settlement of sorts around it. Families who wouldn't have thought of missing a service included the Hawkins, Suggs, Hopkins, Poseys, Nelsons, Locketts, Marshalls and Taylors.

The Piper family worshipped there too, and the entire congregation joined them, during the Civil War, in mourning the deaths of the "Piper Brothers," who were killed by federal soldiers and their bodies thrown in their father's field.

An account written by Mrs. David Hart more than 50 years ago noted, "There are no records to tell the interesting story of the old church, how many lessons learned or who were the teachers, or how many heads bowed in reverence while the sun shone through the long windows and rested as a benediction on the congregation."

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Two Green River communities, Ranger's Landing and Mason's Landing, owed their development to the tobacco factories that operated in them, and owed their decline to those same factories.

Both factories were owned by Fatman Ranger Co. of New York - hence, the name Rainger's Landing - and both thrived until the end of the Civil War, when the owner went bankrupt.

Ranger paid unusually high prices for tobacco during the war, saying it preferred to invest in high-priced tobacco rather than greenbacks. As ... Of course, the men were flat. They lost all."

Mason's Landing, settled in 1854 by J. W. and James Mason, struggled on through the turn of hte century, with a store being built there as late as 1901.

Its "excellent bathing beaches" were popular and became the sites of many baptisms. There was a particularly memorable service there in 1869, when the Rev. Coleman of "the old Bethel Church" baptised 137 people before an audience that had come from several Western Kentucky and Southern Indiana counties to witness the event.

Other communities that had valiant beginnings and untimely endings included McDonald's Landing, which had its own post office and a good many residents in 1888, but was washed away in the '37 flood, and Utopia, which had its own water system.

Utopia, on the Green River, began in 1897 and had a school and several stores, as well as a thriving coal mine. When that mine closed in 1917, the residents drifted away, and Utopia was no more.

transcribed by Tina Hall 8-13-2002

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