Month: June 2015

SARA CAMPBELL: THE “BETSY ROSS” OF PADUCAH

Mrs. and Mr. Campbell.

Mrs. and Mr. Campbell.

Today, June 14, is Flag Day, and on this day in 1777, by a resolution of the Second Continental Congress, the United States adopted its official flag with the statement that “the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes of red and white” and “the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” Popular legend decrees that the flag was designed by seamstress Betsy Ross, and commissionedby none other than George Washington himself. This legend, however, can neither be confirmed nor denied by historians.

While the United States may have adopted its flag a mere year after declaring independence, Paducah waited a bit longer. While the city was platted by William Clark in 1827, it would take over 130 years for a proud Paducahan to finally design its flag. Enter Mrs. Sara Smith Campbell, president of the Woman’s Club and widely published poet, who in 1960 began to wonder why Paducah didn’t have its own flag. After all, four other Kentucky cities had already adopted flags. So, she drew up a plan and her proposal was adopted by the city commission.

flag2The flag (not only designed but purchased for the city by Mrs. Campbell) is red on the ends with white in the center. On the field of white is a picture of Chief Paduke surrounded by 15 stars in honor of Kentucky being the 15th state to enter the Union. Under the portrait of Chief Paduke, is the date of Paducah’s naming, 1827. Of the choice to include Chief Paduke’s image, Mrs. Campbell said, “We want this to be everybody’s flag, so Chief Paduke was selected as the person to be honored on the banner. He, of all the famous persons connected with Paducah, really belongs to all Paducahans.” Intent on consistency, Mrs. Campbell made sure to model the bust of Paduke’s face after the statue of Paduke that stands on Jefferson Street.

The flag was officially adopted by the City of Paducah in 1961, and Mrs. Campbell’s flag hung outside city hall, was used in the City Commission chamber and graced police and fire department ceremonies. Miniature replicas were purchased to put in every classroom in the city.

Mrs. Sara Smith Campbell died in 1965, but her flag still waves, not only in the City Commission chamber, but also proudly in the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public library. On September 14, 1967, Paducah posthumously honored Mrs. Campbell’s efforts by officially proclaiming her the “Betsy Ross of Paducah” stating that she “exhibited high qualities of civic leadership and used her rare artistic and literary talents to serve the city.”

For more about honorable Paducahans, visit us at the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library; if you like this story, make sure to “like” our Facebook page.

–Matt Jaeger

THE SCOPE OF SCOPES: Lela Scope vs. the Paducah Board of Education

scope

Tomorrow, June 11, the library welcomes Todd Hatton, historian and WKMS host, for his presentation on John Scopes entitled “I Am John Scopes,” to be held in the 2nd floor meeting room at 7 PM. All are welcome!

Tonight, however, we talk about another member of the Scopes’ family, John’s youngest sister, Lela.

As you likely know, Paducah-born John Scopes was a teacher who was charged with teaching evolution in his classroom. He was ultimately tried in court (in the infamously dubbed Scopes Monkey Trial) and found guilty. He was fined $100.

But Scopes wasn’t the only teacher in his family and he wasn’t the only one persecuted for a belief in evolution. Enter Lela V. Scopes, John’s youngest sister, a math teacher just graduating from the University of Kentucky. Unlike her brother who was teaching in Tennessee, Lela Scopes looked to stay in the state and return to her hometown of Paducah, specifically to teach in Augusta Tilghman High School where she’d sent in an application. Scopes had worked at Tilghman previously, teaching math for two years while working on her degree and received nothing but accolades from the board for her efforts.

With the onset of her brother’s trial, Lela Scopes was called into the office of the superintendent of schools, L.J. Hanifan, and then reportedly asked point blank if she would “repudiate the stand taken on evolution by her brother.” Lela Scopes emphatically refused to do so, stating that she sympathized with the stance. Hanifan then informed her that her application to teach at Tilghman was refused. Schoolboard member A. Bennett further clarified to the Paducah News Democrat “it was the sense of the board that Miss Scopes would not be desirable on the High school faculty because, like her brother, she believed wholeheartedly in the evolutionary concept.”

The trial of John Scopes was far reaching; its themes and outcomes are still relevant in schools today. For all his attention, however, Scopes was never fired from teaching. His employment contract in Tennessee was renewed and he later accepted scholarships to study geology. In fact, John Scopes never had to pay his $100 fine from the trial; it was excused on a technicality.

Thus, with regards to the Scopes Trial, it may not have been John Scopes who experienced the most immediate effects after all, but rather his sister. The story of Lela Scopes was picked up by news wires and published in papers around the country. And for her part, Lela Scopes’ biggest consternation was that she “could not understand just what her views on evolution had to do with mathematics.”

For much more about John Scopes, come to the program tomorrow at 7 p.m. And for information about anything else, visit us at the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library. We’ll see if we can find you an answer.

–Matt Jaeger

PADUCAH NAMED AFTER HUMAN SACRIFICE?

sacrifice

For more than 150 years, Paducahans weren’t sure how their own fair city got its name. Because of the muddle, a number of legends arose, and Paducahans bounced back and forth between a couple origin stories with the namesake either being a seven-foot tall Native American named Chief Paduke or an enterprising Irishman named Pat Dugan who established a woodyard on Owen’s Island. Further tangling the situation, native son, outspoken author, and Native American enthusiast, Irvin S. Cobb, was convinced that Paducah was a compound word in the Chickasaw tradition that meant “where the wild grapes grow.” None of these theories were right, however, and it wasn’t until the 1990’s that a long lost letter was discovered that solved the mystery. Written by William Clark, who platted our city, the letter explained that Paducah was named for the tribe of Native Americans who originally lived here, a people known as Padoucas.

And that’s that.

Or is it?

How about one more legend, a legend based in human sacrifice? The following description of Paducah is quoted from an 1838 Baltimore Sun article: This village contains from 1000 to 1200 inhabitants, has 15 or 20 stores, 3 taverns, and no place of worship. It is not esteemed healthy. It derives its name from an Indian woman, who had been taken captive by the Pawnees, and sacrificed, after having her life promised her.”

Say whaaaaat?

This story of the kidnapped woman does not originate with the Baltimore Sun, but with Edmund Flagg’s early American travelogue, “The Far West,” first published in 1836. In the short passage, Flagg describes Paducah’s location on the mouth of the Tennessee as a “place of importance,” and then similarly describes the naming of Paducah as coming from an unfortunate captive who was sacrificed by the Pawnee. Seemingly related, another account of a Pawnee kidnapping and sacrifice, wholly independent of Flagg’s, was published in the Gazetteer of the State of Missouri (1837), which stated: “Information had been communicated to Mr. Dougherty, acting agent of Indian affairs at Council Bluffs, by Major Pilcher, that the Pawnee Loups were making preparation to sacrifice to the ‘Great Star’ a Paducah woman, who had been captured by a war-party about two months previous.”

So, as far-fetched as a tale of sacrifice seems, there’s enough anecdotal evidence to give a person pause. The story is supported by more than one source, and those reports come from the same basic period, a time very close to Paducah’s incorporation as a town. Further, at the time of Paducah’s founding, Pawnee were in the area, and they were known to engage in human sacrifice.

The simplest, oldest, and likeliest story of Paducah’s name originates with Clark’s 1827 letter. It’s fairly indisputable. But however incredible the human sacrifice story may seem, legends have to originate somewhere, so, who knows, there may be a kernel of truth in there.

For more about this and that and other such things, visit us in the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.

–Matt Jaeger

The attached image is a recreation of a Pawnee Sacrifice.