South Hampton, Kentucky

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In 2015, the South Hampton Baptist Church and its cemetery stand as the sole guardians of what was once know as the South Hampton neighborhood. The area attracted settlers very early because of its rich, well-drained, fertile farmland, its abundant timber, and its relative freedom from the pestilential insects such as mosquitoes, which were the curse of the wetland areas of Daviess County.

Little is know of the early days of South Hampton, or even how it got its name. We do know that by 1854 there were two organized churches located in a building along what is now South Hampton Road. The Cumberland Presbyterians and Methodists shared this structure, which was not really a church building but a converted residence.

In 1854, the South Hampton Baptist Church was organized, and for several years this group shared the same building with the other congregations. In 1871, the Baptists began a fund drive to construct their own building, and in 1877 the new South Hampton Baptist Church was dedicated. At that time, a house belonging to the church was sold and the proceeds were used to fence the newly-founded South Hampton cemetery. Seven years later, in 1885, an all too familiar event occurred, a measles epidemic broke out. The story was reported in the Owensboro Tri-Weekly Messenger on March 12, 1885:

“The measles scourge in this section has been the one subject of conversation for weeks. Mr. Tom Harbourst introduced measles to our section and from this starting-point about fifty cases developed in Dr. Harris’ practice  lone. Nearly all cases have some lung complications or sequel. Out of this number there have been four deaths, all of which have died of capillary bronchitis or pneumonia. Mr. C.H. Kirk’s family, near South Hampton, have been  he greatest sufferers in the this epidemic. The mother and oldest boy—six years old—and baby four month old, died. Mr. Kirk himself is dangerously ill....” 

Mrs. Virginia Kirk died on March 6, and Ollie I. Kirk, aged nine, died two days later. Four-month-old Martin Kirk died on March 9, followed by Mr. Kirk. Beatrice Kirk, age three, died on March 30. The sole survivor of the family was five-year-old Bertha Kirk, who lived to grow up, marry, and enjoy her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. The story of little Bertha was one that can be replicated in almost any cemetery in Daviess County during the 19th century. Diseases of all kinds, from measles to cholera, ague to dysentery, took their toll—particularly of the young. Bertha’s story illustrates the hazards faced by every family in 19th century Daviess County. Epidemics such as this continued well into the 20th century.