Hickman County Fiscal Court

Hickman County Fiscal Court Photo


110 E. Clay St.
Clinton KY 42031

About Hickman County, Kentucky

Hickman County was established in 1821/22 and is Named for "Paschal Hickman", a military captain who was killed at the "Battle of River Raisin" (also known as the "Battle of Frenchtown", January 22, 1813; in Frenchtown, Michigan).

The City of Clinton, County Seat of Hickman County, is located near the center of the county on US 51 at KY 58. the county consists of 244 square miles with a total population of over 5,200 people.







Hickman County’s charming county roads, especially along the Great River Road, are full of rolling hills, wetlands, and beautiful homes. Hickman County is full of fresh produce such as strawberry patches and pecans. Hickman County offers Columbus-Belmont State Park, a member of the Kentucky State Park System. Columbus-Belmont State Park is a 156 acre park with a fascinating history. Hickman County also offers Shepherds Inn, a unique landmark originally built in 1910 and listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. It offers visitors beautiful overnight accommodations in an exquisitely restored setting.


History of Hickman County

From deep in Tennessee the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers travel northward to empty into the Ohio River.  Flowing eastwards, the Ohio River then merges with the Mississippi River to complete the gigantic arc that shapes what is now western Kentucky and western Tennessee. 

When the Europeans came, the ancient Mound Builder Native Americans were long gone.  The mounds and relics they left can be seen at the Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site north of us.  These lands were later used for hunting by the Chickasaws.  At that time relatively few Native Americans live full time or farmed in this area.

The future site of the Mississippi River port of Columbus City was on a flat flood plain on the eastern bank of the river.  The plain was surrounded by a semi circular chain of 180 foot tall bluffs. 

The first Europeans to see Columbus were probably the French missionary Jacques Marquette and his fur trading companion Louis Joliet.  They passed by Columbus during their 1673 journey down the Mississippi River.  Usually the French were only interested in Native American souls or furs.



The rusty red color of the bluff of the future site of Columbus caused the French to name it the IRON BANKS.  They were wrong.  There is no iron ore here.  Down river from Columbus is the CHALK BLUFFS.  Yes, you guessed it.  No chalk is there.  But the white colored bluff does have an excellent white clay that was once used for pottery making in the future town of Columbus, Ky.    


In 1780 Virginia's governor, Thomas Jefferson, ordered George Rogers Clark to build a fort in the general area where the Ohio River joined the Mississippi River.  It was hoped that this fort would open up western Kentucky for trade and settlement.  Apparently they thought that the Chickasaws would just go away.  

Clark built Fort Jefferson on the Mississippi River about half way between present day Cairo, Illinois, and Columbus, Kentucky.  The Chickasaws immediately began a series of fierce attacks on the fort.  Fort Jefferson was soon abandoned as a complete failure.


Never the less, the Americans were still interested in this land.  In 1783 Virginia attempted to have this area surveyed into land warrants for Virginian Revolutionary War veterans.  The governor of Virginia suggested that a city named Columbus be founded at this spot.  But the Chickasaws drove away the surveyors.  Until the Chickasaws were gone, nothing could be done.   


The United States came to believe that Aaron Burr was conspiring to form an independent country in western Kentucky and western Tennessee.  This resulted in the first American settlement at the future site of Columbus.  In 1804 a blockhouse was built here for a detachment of US soldiers.  Although the soldiers soon left, by now the Chickasaws were no longer a serious military threat.  

In 1817 the Kentucky legislature asked President James Monroe to purchase western Kentucky and western Tennessee from the Chickasaws.  Monroe appointed Isaac Shelby of Kentucky and Andrew Jackson of Tennessee to negotiate with the Chickasaws. 




Now too weak to refuse, in 1818 the Chickasaws sold all of western Kentucky and western Tennessee for 6 cents an acre.  That portion of the land which was in Kentucky was named the Jackson Purchase.

In 1821 the Kentucky legislature organized this land as Hickman County with Columbus as the county seat.  The county was named in honor of a Captain Paschal Hickman who had been killed at the War of 1812 Battle of Raisin River.  As the land filled, other counties would be carved out of the original Hickman County.  The county seat would be moved to Clinton in 1829. 

For at least a century the people of Columbus have believed that their city was founded in 1822 to become the capital of the United States.  The British had proved how easily Washington D.C. could be captured and burned during the War of 1812.  Because of the 1804 Louisiana Purchase, Columbus was safe in the center of our new nation.


On display in the Columbus Belmont KY State Park museum is the original 1822 survey map of Columbus City.  She was divided into an elaborate grid of streets and building lots covering 4000 acres.  A very ambitious plan for a city that had less than 1000 people in 1860!


Historical Markers


Clinton College

(Marker Number: 1611)

Location: Clinton, Hickman Co. Elem. School, E. Clay St., KY 123


Established in 1873 under auspices of West Union Baptist Assoc. First building was erected on this site, 1874. Rev. Willis White pioneered educational work in Hickman County and led movement to secure college charter. Under leadership of Prof. T. N. Wells and Miss Amanda Hicks, college contributed much to the Purchase area. Closed, 1913; used for Clinton High School, 1918-35.



Clinton Seminary

(Marker Number: 1497)

Location: Clinton, Courthouse Lawn, US 51


Description: First high school in Ky. west of Tenn. River established at Clinton, 1846. Frame structure erected; burned 1854. In 1850, Clinton Female Seminary was incorporated. Organized as Clinton Academy as charter made no mention of only women students. Professor G. W. Ray was early educational leader in Hickman County. Clinton was known as "Athens" of West Kentucky.




(Marker Number: 1398)

Location: Columbus, KY 58


Description: First entire town in Kentucky to be moved from one site to another. In 1927, after the most severe flood in its history, Columbus was moved from the banks of the river to this bluff, 200 feet above, by the American Red Cross at a cost of $100,000. The relocation was under the supervision of Marion Rust, national Red Cross representative.



County Named, 1821

(Marker Number: 895)

Location: Clinton, Courthouse Lawn, US 51


Description: For Capt. Paschal Hickman who was massacred by Indians after River Raisin battle, Jan., 1813, one of nine Ky. officers killed in that action for whom counties named. Resided Franklin County, extensive landowner. Originally, Hickman comprised the Jackson Purchase in Ky. Later eight counties have been formed within initial area. First county seat was Columbus.



First Christian Church

(Marker Number: 1937)

Location: Clinton, 201 N. Washington St.

Description: Established 1876 on this site. First structure (frame) burned 1896; brick church built three years later. A 1951 fire caused damage, but complete repair achieved. This Kentucky Historical Landmark features a multi-spired roof, vaulted ceiling, curved pews, and original stained-glass windows with memorial pictures of donors. Presented by Members and Friends.



Gibraltar of the West

(Marker Number: 528)

Location: Columbus, Columbus-Belmont State Park

Description: Troops under Gen. Leonidas Polk fortified strategic line of bluffs here Sept. 3, 1861, marking CSA's first move in Ky. To prevent passage of Union gunboats, a huge chain was stretched across the Mississippi River. After Union success in Tenn., CSA evacuated on Mar. 2, 1862. Union troops moved in the next day and held position throughout the war.



Guerrilla Raids on Clinton

(Marker Number: 1400)

Location: Clinton, US 51

Description: Federal troops garrisoned in area between 1862 and 1865 were often harassed by enemy guerrillas. March 10, 1864, Clinton was first raided by about forty who took supplies and horses that had been purchased for Union army. On July 10, 1864, guerrillas nearing Clinton on another raid lost 3 men killed and 5 wounded in a skirmish with USA infantry.



Iron Banks

(Marker Number: 60)

Location: Columbus, KY 58, 80


Description: So named by early French explorers. Columbus was proposed as the Nation's Capital after the War of 1812. The area was fortified by the Confederate Army during the War Between the States.



Marion Rust (1879-1958)

(Marker Number: 1775)

Location: Columbus-Belmont State Park, Columbus

Description: Red Cross agent Marion Rust came to Columbus after its destruction in 1927 by Mississippi floods. Noting river bank cave-ins, Rust directed relocation of town. Exploring area, he found remains of Confederate garrison and envisioned Civil War memorial park. With CCC camp labor, he partially restored fort area, 1934-37, providing major step in development of present state park.



Marvin College

(Marker Number: 891)

Location: Clinton, US 51

Description: A Methodist school, built 1884-5, originally stood on this site. It operated until 1922 when it closed because of advance of free public schools. Alben W. Barkley, Congressman, Senator and United States Vice President, 1949-53, was graduated here in 1897. He worked his way through by doing janitorial work, giving rise to the phrase, "Barkley swept here."