Kentucky, a state known for its stunning scenery and rich history, has a darker side to its rolling hills. The ghost town of Paradise, which was once a thriving coal mining village, is one of the forgotten locations left behind by time.
The Ascent and Decline of Paradise
The town of Paradise, which gets its name from the verdant environs, was established in the early 1800s and is located in Muhlenberg County, around 10 miles east of Greenville. At its peak, the town had more than 2,000 residents and was home to a post office, bank, hotel, school, and other enterprises.
Coal mining was the main source of income in Paradise starting in the late 1800s. The town’s advantageous location next to the Green River made it easier to transport coal to different markets. Paradise became a hive of activity and trade as a result of the railroad station that connected it to nearby towns and cities.
But as the need for coal decreased and the negative effects of mining on the environment were realized, things started to change in the 1950s. The town’s air and water quality declined, and garbage and coal ash entered the river. Paradise was further beset by fires, landslides, and floods on a regular basis, which drove many residents to look for better chances elsewhere. The community was almost completely abandoned by the 1960s.
The Demise of Paradise
In the late 1960s, Paradise suffered its ultimate blow when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) chose to build a coal-fired power station close to the town. The town and surrounding area had to be flooded in order for the TVA to build a reservoir, which was necessary in order to cool the plant. Most of the buildings were razed, and the remaining businesses and residents were purchased out. A few historical sites and the cemetery were the only ones spared. The power plant was finished in 1970, and Paradise was submerged underwater in 1967.
The only apparent ruins of Paradise that still stand today are the power plant’s smokestacks, which dominate the lake that hides the town. As one of the biggest coal-fired power stations in the nation, it is still in operation. Although there are boating and fishing options on the lake, there is no access to the town itself. The public can visit the cemetery and historical sites that are located on higher ground. Every year, descendants of former inhabitants get together for a memorial service and reunion.
The Heritage of Paradise
Heaven may be gone, but it hasn’t been forgotten at all. Many writers and artists have drawn inspiration from the area; one well-known example is John Prine’s song Paradise. Folk singer Prine, who is from nearby Illinois, laments the loss of nature and culture in her song, which pays wistful homage to the town and its residents. Performers including Dwight Yoakam, John Denver, and Johnny Cash have all covered the song.
The tale of Paradise has also been included in documentaries, movies, and books. One of these is the 1981 movie Coal Miner’s Daughter, which tells the story of country singer Loretta Lynn, whose father worked in the Paradise mines and who was born in a nearby hamlet. Seven Academy Award nominations were received for the movie, and Sissy Spacek won the Best Actress prize for her depiction of Lynn.
Even though Paradise might never be discovered and go unnoticed in history books, it serves as a moving reminder of Kentucky’s past. It is a spot where paradise was lost but not completely obliterated, and it serves as both a reflection on the past and a warning story for the future.
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