Kentucky Lake History - Old Birmingham
Birmingham... Down Under
With the creation of Kentucky Lake, many homes, roads and even towns were purchased by TVA and had to be relocated. Birmingham disappeared under the waters of Kentucky Lake in the 1940's, but at one time it was a busy place larger at that time than Benton, the county seat.
Birmingham's founders had great dreams, that it would be another Birmingham, England because of the iron industry that was thriving between the rivers (what is now LBL).
In 1874, according to Collins History of Kentucky, Birmingham had a population of 322 and Benton only had 158. As late as 1929 around 600 people still lived in Birmingham which was one of the two oldest towns in Marshall County.
Located in 1849 on land belonging to Thomas A. Grubbs, it wasn't laid out and platted until 1853 and incorporated in 1860. Love's addition was added in 1858. L. S. Locker and Thomas Love were among the first settlers. Thomas C. Grubbs came in 1851. James Love, the biggest tobacco man in the purchase, located there in 1856. John Lockhead arrived and ran a grist mill for three years, then began merchandising. The town was most prosperous around 1866-1867. A stave mill and timber business employed more than 200 people. The logging industry supplied white oak for barrel staves, red oak for railroad ties, hickory for axe handles and sweet gum for flour barrels. In 1894, there were 5 churches (Birmingham Methodist Church is pictured above), 2 schools, 2 hotels, 4 dry goods and general store, 3 grocers, 1 drug store, 2 millinery shops, 2 wagon and blacksmith shops. In the 1920 and 30's they shipped chickens, rabbits and hickory nuts to northern cities. Mussels were harvested and the shells sent to a button factory in Metropolis, Illinois.
The main entertainment came from the Birmingham baseball team. They had the first team in Marshall County in 1914 and won the local pennant several years.
In 1938, the Birmingham residents were told they would have to relocate permanently. TVA started buying land from the owners and by 1942-43 they had moved and relocated, many to nearby towns. Some moved their houses. In some cases the houses were moved twice for the people who moved to Kuttawa or Eddyville and had to move again when Barkley Lake was impounded.
When the waters are low, remains of foundations and the streets of Birmingham may be seen under the water off Birmingham Point. People who were from Birmingham still say it was the best place in the world to live.