PADUCAH – The  Saturday, Sept. 14, meeting of the Jackson Purchase Historical Society will feature a tour of Paducah’s historic Oak Grove Cemetery led by Roy Hensel. “The Famous, Infamous, and Interesting Residents of Oak Grove Cemetery” will introduce a few of the 33,000 or so residents of Oak Grove. The meeting will be at 10:30 a.m. at the cemetery 1613 Park Avenue in Paducah. The tour will take approximately an hour and involve walking just under a mile on level ground.  

Oak Grove Cemetery was established in 1847 to replace Paducah’s first burial place, which was where City Hall is today. The original purchase was for 36 acres. This site chosen was later named Oak Grove Cemetery. The community fathers hired John Porteous, a master landscaper, to design the cemetery grounds. Porteus and his family moved to Paducah from Scotland.

At this time in the United States, many cities were designing cemeteries that would not only serve as burial grounds, but as attractive, park-like landscapes. This reflected the vision Paducah’s leaders had for the future of their city.

Those buried at Oak Grove include many who were locally famous and made important contributions to Paducah and west Kentucky, a few who achieved national prominence, and many ordinary people, who, its turns out, have an interesting life story to share.  And there is a rascal or two who found their way there.

Local historian and educator Roy Hensel has researched many of Oak Grove’s residents and his presentation will entertain and inform. Hensel is a retired elementary school teacher who taught in Carlisle and McCracken counties. He has remained active as a history educator speaking to schools and other groups, writing a blog, and sharing his knowledge of history with a wide audience.

“We are delighted to have Roy do our September program and to go outside to encounter local history where it is found,” said JPHS President Dr. Bill Mulligan. “Cemeteries are important historical resources that can connect us to our past in a very tangible way. Highlighting what they can contribute will not only be an interesting program, but a reminder of the importance of preserving cemeteries.”

For those not familiar with the cemetery’s location, it is on a one-way section of Park Avenue westbound. If coming from the west (Exit 4 on I-24), it is necessary to go past 16th Street and loop back.

In 1958, a group of historians met in Murray, led by faculty from Murray State University and University of Tennessee-Martin and formed the Jackson Purchase Historical Society to promote interest, study, and preservation of the regional history of the territory encompassed in the Treaty of Tuscaloosa, known as the Jackson Purchase. The society holds a number of meetings each year with a speaker on Jackson Purchase history, publishes an award-winning journal on local history, and has recently launched an online Encyclopedia of the Jackson Purchase. Members include a wide range of people who simply have a love of history and a love of the Jackson Purchase area. Anyone interested in Jackson Purchase history is welcome to join the JPHS. Information about membership and future programs is available on the society’s website, jacksonpurchasehistory.org.

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