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Sulphur’s demise was closely tied to automobiles

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By Brad Bowman

The expansion of the railroad stopped progress in the river towns like Lockport and Gestville where goods, supplies and passengers relied on the steamboat.

Similarly, the automobile would stop progress in towns like Sulphur.

Sulphur has had as many names as it has changes to its hilly rural landscape.

It was once known as Abbottford after a family of Abbotts who owned land in the area. Near where KY-157, KY-3175 and KY-1606 converge on a hill in Sulphur, it was known as Devil’s Backbone where tales say Indians were last seen in the area. According to the Kentucky Atlas and Gazetteer, the Sulphur Fork post office opened in 1869, was renamed Sulphur Station in 1880 and then Sulphur in 1882. The town took on the name of Sulphur because of the sulphur springs in the area around the valley of the Little Kentucky River.

The railroad brought progress to the town after the Civil War. The Louisville, Cincinnati and Lexington railroad, which later became the Louisville and Nashville railroad, gave opportunity to residents in Sulphur.  William Kidwell’s two teams of draft horses pulled a large freight wagon loaded with livestock, lumber or other goods to be shipped by train. Hattie Smith is the last known agent to work the depot area, which has long since been torn down.

In the late 1800s, Sulphur’s first bank was founded, and the town would later prove prosperous enough for another. The bank stood near the train depot, which later was replaced by a two-story structure with the bank in the first floor. The remaining bank closed in 1930.

G.W. Abbott opened a hotel in the 1880s. In an account written by Bryant Morris in the book Henry County, Kentucky 1798-1995, salesmen called ‘drummers’ would rent a horse and buggy after arriving on the train in Sulphur and spend the night in the hotel. After going through several owners, the hotel burned down while in the possession of Stella May in July 1930. May didn’t rebuild.

Another Abbott, C.W. Abbott, owned property on Eddie Road that once was a horse racing track.

Also during the late 1800s, Dr. C.R. Martin and John T. Adams, operated the Sulphur Building and Loan Association. Adams operated a store and is credited with building an impressive home on the corner next to it and Martin’s house across the tracks was the only structure that could compete in comparison.

Sulphur had many amenities common to a bustling railroad town.

James Gividen is credited with constructing several buildings in the town in 1875. Gividen built a picture show, a blacksmith shop and livery stables. He also built several houses, and parts of the Gividen family remained in the area well past the 19th century. The group of buildings stood at the intersection of KY 157 and 1606 was known as Gividenville.

Sulphur school, which burned in 2007, stood near the site of Fairmount College which remained open until 1912.

Several other industries have come and gone in Sulphur. The Hoskins Mill, operated by water, was built in 1807 near Bedford Pike. It was later owned by the Demaree family ,which sold it to W.W. Logan along with 35 acres. The mill operated until 1936.

The 1930s seem to be the common denominator in the decline of large business  in Sulphur. The completion of U.S. 42 in 1932 to Bedford and gas powered vehicles replaced the busy distribution hub that Sulphur had prospered into.