Monday, February 01, 2010

Pilot Rock at the Peak of Its Popularity

Preaching and picnics, with a great view

 A winter view of Pilot Rock, 
from its Todd County side

Pilot Rock is a locally famous landmark of Christian County. We (and many other folks who live in this general area) can see it from our house. Pilot Rock is the highest point of both Todd and Christian Counties, and it's visible for miles.

A century ago, a trip to Pilot Rock was a summer day's adventure for Hopkinsville residents. A party of young folks might leave early in the morning in a caravan of buggies or wagons, arrive at Pilot Rock in time for a picnic lunch, enjoy the view for a couple of hours, and arrive back home late in the evening, tired, but thrilled with the natural wonder they had seen.

Preaching at Pilot Rock

Joe Dorris, author of a popular column that ran for years in the Kentucky New Era, once wrote about a letter he had received from Clarence E. Mitcham of Mead, Washington. While visiting Christian County, Mr. Mitcham and his wife had climbed Pilot Rock with an elderly relative and her husband, a Mr. and Mrs. Carpenter.

The climb to the summit of Pilot Rock brought back vivid memories to Mr. Carpenter.

At the peak, Mr. Mitcham writes, Mr. Carpenter told him how Pilot Rock used to be a gathering place for many occasions.

He said he had seen so many persons at the rock that their horses and buggies would be parked around the base in an area covering several acres. The kids would play in and around the rocks. They would have a big dinner there, along with preaching.

Source: "Watching the Parade" by Joe Dorris, Kentucky New Era, October 28, 1969

Here's an example of the sort of preaching that Mr. Carpenter might have remembered. In 1895, the pastor of the Vaughan's Chapel was retiring.  (Vaughn's Chapel was roughly 4 miles southwest of Pilot Rock, cross-country. At that time, it had around 150 members .) "I want to get my congregation as near to Heaven as I can for my last sermon," Reverend Bowles said, (according to Elzie Yancey, who was then a young member of the congregation). And so, the last sermon that Reverend Bowles preached was on top of Pilot Rock. "That rock was crowded with people that Sunday," Yancey said. Fortunately, no one fell off!

The view from Pilot Rock

A fellow named Bill Hubbard lived near Pilot Rock, apparently around 1900. Mr. Hubbard owned a small telescope. He often set it up on top of Pilot Rock and charged a fee to look through it. In those days, most of the visitors hadn't seen a telescope before. They probably didn't know or care that its lens wasn't very powerful. They just marveled at the view. (Source)

"Pilot Rock, A Kentucky Wonder", published in the January 27, 1904, Kentucky New Era, mentions that the smoke of steamboats on the Ohio River could be seen from Pilot Rock with a "field glass". Perhaps the author looked through the enterprising Mr. Hubbard's telescope! The water main in Hopkinsville, 16 miles away, could be seen with the naked eye.

Even today, those who climb Pilot Rock are impressed by the view of the countryside it commands. The view was awe-inspiring, in the days before airplanes and satellites made aerial views common, automobiles and good roads made travel easy and televisions brought the wonders of the world into our living rooms.


Teri said...

It's been years since I've been out to Pilot Rock. DH and I used to go and take our dachshund with us. He'd put Brandy in his rucksack to get her to the top and then she'd have a grand time running around. Back into the rucksack for the trip down!

ptg said...

Sounds like Pilot Rock was a happening place back in the day.

Genevieve said...

I read that the road to Pilot Rock was terrible. However, people were used to terrible rural roads, in pre-automobile days. After they got cars, they started demanding better roads.

I could drive to the mountains of eastern Kentucky in the time that it used to take people to get in their buggies and drive from Hopkinsville to Pilot Rock!

Mark said...

My father, a WW II vet, used to refer to "field glasses." They are apparently similar to but different from binoculars. As far as I can tell, field glasses do not use prisms. I have some photographs of my father during his training for WW II with a pair of field glasses hanging around his neck. We also had a pair around the house for many years, but I have no idea what happened to them. Maybe they're still in his chest of drawers.

Genevieve said...

Now that you mention field glasses, Mark, I remember that my brother had a pair when we were kids. They were not too strong. I guess I didn't think about that before because the guy in the article spoke of a field glass in the singular.

Anonymous said...

Steve said,,, A group of us "boys" have been to Pilot Rock, rappelling,,, every year on January the first since 1978. Next year 2018 will be our 40th annual trip. It is almost a tradition.

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