Today is the day. August 29th, 2017 is the day that Andreas Fath finishes his swim on the Tennessee River. After 34 days, the aquatic journey is over after many stops along the coast of the river. Today he comes ashore in Paducah, Kentucky to complete his trip and meet with members of the local government and press in the River Discovery Center (RDC). Today’s post will consist of a brief history of the town and the RDC.
In 1818, Andrew Jackson purchased from Chickasaw Indians the land of Western Tennessee and Southwest Kentucky. The land already had a rich history of prior inhabitants due to its important location at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers with the Mississippi River only 50 miles away. It would not be until 1827 that the city of Paducah would be founded by William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame. Paducah (named for the Padoucas Native American Tribe Clark met on his expedition) is a major river port and owes much of its prosperity to the rivers that surround it.
Paducah became an important city due to river trade and transportation. It certainly exploded in growth thanks to the steamboat industry with the first steamboat voyage having only happened 16 years prior. As the steamboat industry grew, so did Paducah. The city’s strategic location as a major river hub became well known at the turn of the Civil War. Union General Ulysses S. Grant took control of the city and nearby Fort Anderson as a vital piece of the Anaconda Plan to defeat the Confederacy. The Battle of Paducah would occur in 1864 with the Union defeating Confederate assaults. The war inflicted its economic burdens on many towns including Paducah. However the river and rail industries helped the town bounce back overtime.
As the city continued to expand and grow, another historic event would do its best to shake Paducah to its core. That was of course the 1937 flood. As mentioned in a prior post, the flood brought a devastation that had never been seen before. However, just like after the Civil War, this river town would not stay down for long. Ever since then, the town has continued to grow into what it is today. New businesses have found homes here as well as a blossoming arts hub with landmarks such as the Lower Town Arts District, Hotel Metropolitan, Market House Theater, and Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center. Paducah does its best to remember its past as seen in the National Quilt Museum (this is Quilt City, USA after all), Dafford Murals on the Flood Wall, Lloyd Tilghman House, and the River Discovery Center.
The River Discovery Center (formerly the River Heritage Museum) is a private, non-profit, educational institution whose primary mission is to stimulate an interest in and teach the public about the importance of America’s rivers to the development of the nation, and in particular upon the Four Rivers Region. The Museum deals with all aspects of the rivers, including environmental, cultural and economic benefits, and seeks to provide a forum for mutually beneficial development of this great national asset. It is only fitting for Andreas’ endeavor to end here. His work to raise public awareness on the water quality of the Tennessee River and the posts on this blog to speak of the rich history of the river create a great combination. The city of Paducah, Kentucky is proud to welcome Andreas Fath.