History of Dawson

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Dawson Springs, Kentucky History

            The earliest known documented reference to the location nearest where Dawson Springs now stands is in a catalogue of Indian sites and monuments prepared in 1824 by Professor C.S. Rafunesque of Transylvania University.  It lists an Indian monument site on the Tradewater River in Caldwell County. That river, which partly surrounds Dawson Springs, seems to have been neutral ground, or water, where the tribes and whited went for the barter of skins, etc.  It was this that gave the name to the stream, “The Tradewater River.”  There once was an Indian village where Dawson Springs is now located, known as “The Big Bend in Tradewater River,” which was evidenced by flint chips, spear heads, pestles, mounds and forts.  The Big Bend village was a trading post. Other tribes living north of the Ohio River would come up the Tradewater River to trade blankets, lariat ropes, and shell beads for other articles they could use for themselves and for their horses. A little more then a mile away from town, on the summit of a lofty cliff, are the remains of an Indian fort that was built of rocks, one of a chain that reached across Western Kentucky.

            The earliest known white settlers came in the area about 1808, and the earliest reference to a white settlement where the city now stands is given in the first edition of Collin’s History of Kentucky.  The village was called Chalklevel.  The origin of the name is unknown.  In October 1872 the Elizabethtown and Paducah Railroad opened a depot, Tradewater Station, on land owned by Patton Alexander and Bryant Dawson.  In 1874 the railroad company changed the depot’s name to Dawson, in honor of Bryant Dawson.  The same year “Dawson” was listed as the name of the post office in Hopkins County, Kentucky.  It is that date, 1874, which is considered as the “birth” date of Dawson Springs.  In 1877 Washington I Hamby moved to Dawson from Christian County and engaged in merchandising and a railroad eating house.  He built a new house and in the process of digging a well he struck a strong vein of chalybeate, iron impregnated water and digging stopped. The date was July 2, 1881.  He had about decided to fill the well and dig a cistern, when several Irish laborers, who had been drinking the well water, expressed the belief that the water had pronounced medicinal value.  The convinced Mr. Hamby to leave the well and helped him to dig a cistern. Thus came into being Dawson’s first mineral “spring”, the famous Bhalybeate Well No. 1 on June 7, 1893, while boring for water for a hotel he had built, Mr. Hamby again, accidentally struck an inexhaustible stream of water.  The famous well became known as Hamby’s Salts, Iron and Lithia Well.  The discoveries of these two wells were the events that changed the course of history for the city.

            Dawson exploded on the scene as a leading health resort in the South. In 1898 the “Springs” was added to the name of the town in recognition of its mineral water. The most likely name for the town was “Dawson Wells”, however, to many citizens, that name just didn’t sound right.  At the time there was a beautiful bubbling spring in Sandusky Park near the center of town.  Someone, with that spring in mind, suggested that “Dawson Springs” was a more attractive name, and the idea was agreed upon.  To this day many people think that the mineral water came from springs instead of wells.

            At the turn of the century Dawson Springs was in its “golden era,” culminating with the construction of the ultra-modern, 150-room, New Century Hotel.  This grand hotel became a landmark and its guests came from far and wide.



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