How Eddyville, KY, got its name
I came across some interesting information about the little town of Eddyville, KY, recently. To give this historic trivia some context, I must explain that Eddyville was a village on the Cumberland River. I use the past tense because the Cumberland River at Eddyville is now Lake Barkley. Most of old Eddyville-on-the-river is now underwater. Some of the concrete foundations and streets are still visible under the water and at the edge of the lake.
Eddyville today is located on higher ground near the lake. You can read a short history of the relocation of this Lyon County village at the "Explore Kentucky Lake" website. To this day, many in this part of Kentucky harbor hard feelings about the land the Federal government confiscated to make Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley, and Land Between the Lakes. And there were other Federal land grabs around here too -- but that's another post.
Long before Lake Barkley came to be, Eddyville was a village beside the Cumberland River, at the mouth of Eddy Creek, two days downstream from Nashville, Tennessee. Eddyville was the last important river port of the Cumberland. From Eddyville, it was only 45 river miles to Smithland where the Cumberland flowed into the Ohio River. It was established in 1798, and by 1800, it already had a population of 69.
And now at last, I'm ready to pass along the bit of historic trivia that I promised -- the reason for the town's name. This would have been clearly evident at one time, but the lake has changed everything.
The Cumberland River, when it took its natural course, had two large eddies near the little settlement named Eddyville. Eddies are strong currents in the river that flow backwards or in a whirlpool. One of the eddies was below the town and the other eddy was two miles above the town. A French traveler, Michaux, wrote in his journal in 1795: "Rowed about seven leagues and slept at the Great Eddy, which is considered to be a distance of 45 miles from the mouth (of the Cumberland)." (Source)
I wonder if the eddies would still be there if the lake were drained.
Eddyville was a boat-building village. Matthew Lyon (father of Chittenden Lyon for whom Lyon County was named) was the first of several notable boat-builders. Besides the several gunboats that he built for the U.S. Government, he built a large number of barges and other river craft. A traveler of the Cumberland River in the early 1800s could stop in Eddyville and buy a boat that was sturdy enough for a trip down the Mississippi River all the way to New Orleans.