HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) – Hopkins County has connections to a professional baseball team. The county grew thanks to the railroads, and it once had a well-known spa and resort.

According to Visit Madisonville KY’s website, Hopkins County was formed in 1806 and is named for General Samuel Hopkins, who was an officer in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Officials note Hopkins later served as a Kentucky legislator and a United States Congressman. Officials say the county seat, Madisonville, was founded in 1807 and is named for Secretary of State James Madison.

According to Visit Madisonville KY’s website, throughout most of the 1800s, farming drove Madisonville’s economy, with tobacco being the cash crop of the area. The first coal mine opened in 1869. Officials say the Louisville and Nashville Railroad extended its line through Madisonville in 1870, boosting the mining industry and making Madisonville a railroad hub, a booming coal mining center, and a thriving tobacco market. Officials say later, the Elizabethtown and Paducah Railroad came through Hopkins County, and many of the communities grew as railroad stops. Officials also say Dawson Springs was well-known as a spa and resort destination from the late 1800s through the 1930s. According to the ​Hopkins County Regional Chamber of Commerce, today, Hopkins County’s main industry is manufacturing. 

Officials say Dawson Springs’s springs were a draw for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who used Riverside Park as a spring training facility from 1914 to 1917. According to Visit Madisonville Kentucky’s website, Ruby Laffoon, the 43rd governor, was born in Hopkins County. Officials say Laffoon was the governor who initiated Kentucky’s state sales tax and made Harland Sanders a Colonel.

According to the United States Census Bureau, as of the 2020 census, the population of Hopkins County was 45,423.

This is the fourth of a weekly twenty-one-part series that will help educate about each of the counties in the Eyewitness News viewing area. Check in every Tuesday at 9 a.m. for the next one! Last week’s story can be found here.