The property that Gaines “developed” in 1866 would become the town of Montgomery, located in the northeast part of Trigg County. Named in honor of an early settler, Thomas Montgomery, who was living in the community as early as 1816, Montgomery was described by the noted historian William H. Perrin in his 1884 History of Christian and Trigg Counties as a “beautiful little village.”
Gaines first built a general merchandise store which he operated successfully for 18 years. Shortly after establishing his mercantile business, he laid the town out into lots and built several homes, shops and other structures in anticipation of attracting people to the new town. Today, we would likely refer to these properties as model homes or “spec” buildings. Such structures are commonly built by both residential and commercial developers in the hope that they will entice people to buy a home or establish a business in the building.
Montgomery would become a thriving town with a post office (1853-1916), general store, wood-working shop, blacksmith shop, boarding school, inn and several churches. Through the years, a number of doctors called Montgomery home and established lucrative medical practices in the town. Prior to the construction of the Cadiz Railroad and improvements to the county’s roads, Montgomery was a regular stopping point for stage-coach traffic on the Hopkinsville and Eddyville Road, parts of which are now Ky. 276.
Although it was not the first town established in Trigg County, it is one of the few that has stood the test of time. Additionally, Montgomery is home to two of the oldest residential structures in the county. The Federal-style farmhouse of Smith and Katie Broadbent was built about 1830 by Dr. Thomas Wooldridge, and it would become home to General John W. Gaines in 1872. The John McCaughan home located 2.2 miles north of Montgomery on Ky. 276 is known locally as the “Rock House” and is thought to be the oldest remaining residential structure in the county. The Rock House was built about 1814, also in the Federal-style. Instead of using wood to construct his home, McCaughan utilized dry-stone masonry, typical of Scotch-Irish construction in central Kentucky, but so rare in western Kentucky that it is the only known example of this type of construction in the region.
Today, with only two structures from its earlier days and no longer an incorporated town, Montgomery still remains a vital part of the Trigg County economy. Long-time residents already know the location of Montgomery, but for those readers who are unfamiliar, the next time you sit down for a hearty meal at the Cracker Barrel or browse the latest selections at Broadbent’s Foods & Gifts, take note – you are in the midst of a successful real estate development established just after the Civil War.
Have you ever wondered about the history of Trigg County? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions or suggestions for future columns. In the words of the great Kentuckian, Abraham Lincoln, “History is not history unless it is the truth.”