Where it all started...
Mayfield & Graves County History
In October 1818 Andrew Jackson and Isaac Shelby negotiated for the US Government to purchase land from the Chickasaw Indians for $300,000. This land today encompasses western Kentucky and Tennessee from the Tennessee River to the Mississippi River. This area was to become known as the Jackson Purchase Area of Kentucky. It was not long before pioneer families began to settle in this fertile area because of the close proximity of water, Mayfield Creek, Clarks River, Bayou de Chien and Obion Creeks. One of the first settlers was John Anderson and his wife Nancy. They had traveled from South Carolina, when they reached the Tennessee River they began a three-day travel inward to what had been the “Chickasaw Nation”.
When they reached Mayfield Creek they made camp. Liking the area they built a log cabin and began to clear the land. As others began to settle around them the area became known as Mayfield. In December 1823 Graves County was established in the center of the Jackson Purchase Area. Mayfield was named the county seat and the first little log courthouse was built for $139.
From 1824 through 1830 Graves County grew rapidly as new settlers arrived to take advantage of the reasonable land rates, usually buying in tracts of 160 acres. Adjacent forests gave way to cultivated fields of tobacco and corn. Soon churches and schools were established and Graves County began a steady growth.
Folklore: How Mayfield Got It's Name
When speaking of unusual monuments the Wooldridge Monument is the first to come to mind. It has been described as “The strange process that never moves.” Located in the Maplewood Cemetery in Mayfield, it has received worldwide attention. This monument consists of an 18-figure group, carved from Italian marble and sandstone. This monument was commissioned by Henry G. Wooldridge and was to be erected around his tomb. In the mid-1840’s, near his 21st birthday, he moved with his widowed mother and five of her eight children from Williamson County, TN, to south Graves County. As his family lived, died and were buried in south Graves County, Wooldridge continued to raise, race and sell horses in this area. He never married after his first and only love died in a riding accident years before in Tennessee.
About 1880 as he neared the age of 60, he moved into Mayfield where he lived until his death May 30, 1899, soon after the statues had been erected. Although none of the family members were illustrious, Wooldridge chose to commemorate them, and himself, with life-size statues that were grouped around his tomb. Two statues of Henry G. Wooldridge, one astride his favorite horse, Fop, and another standing beside a lectern, stand taller than all of the other figures. Other life-size statues depict his mother, four brothers, three sisters and two favorite great-nieces. To illustrate his love of hunting, Wooldridge erected statues of two hounds, one deer and one fox. Wooldridge’s tomb and a memorial shaft of the Wooldridge family complete the strange group of statues on the cemetery lot.
According to folklore, none of which has been verified, townspeople were aghast to discover his metallic casket was too long for his elaborate burial vault. It was said that stonemasons were hurriedly called to enlarge the vault. Another myth said one statue of the small girl (Minnie) actually depicts Wooldridge’s long-dead lover as a child. Descendants of Wooldridge vehemently deny both rumors. Family records prove Minnie actually was one of his great-nieces. Also according to folklore, the Illinois Central Railroad supplied a special flatcar with “new type air brakes” to transport the large statue of Wooldridge astride his horse from Paducah to Mayfield. It was said that en route to Mayfield “the town drunk” boarded the freight car, climbed aboard the horse behind Wooldridge’s statue and arrived in Mayfield in regal and “inebriated” fashion. In spite of the reality and rumor, the Wooldridge family appears to “rest-in-peace” preserved forever in marble and sandstone at Maplewood Cemetery.His obituary reads as follows: “Mr. Henry G. Wooldridge, better known as ‘Uncle Henry’, died yesterday afternoon at five o’clock, of kidney trouble, after an illness of a few weeks. The burial will be at the city cemetery tomorrow morning at nine o’clock. The deceased was a very eccentric man, but withal, had many friends, who will regret to learn of his death. He was born January 22, 1822, in Williamson County, TN. He had resided in Kentucky about 50 years, a considerable part of which was spent in this county. He never married, but most this life he lived with his relatives. Of late, he has been cared for by Mr. T.J. Nash, who has lived at Mr. Wooldridge’s residence on the corner of Broadway and Ninth Street. The deceased showed his appreciation for the good treatment given him by Mr. Nash and his family by willing them the house and lot above mentioned. Mr. Wooldridge left three nephews and one niece in this section all of who are here to attend his burial. They are Messrs. W.H. and Joe Wooldridge and W.J. Neely of this county, and Mrs. E.C. Reeds, of Fulton. The deceased had bought his coffin (from Mr. D.A. Safford) a year or two ago, but it was destroyed when Mr. S.’s store burned last winter. Another had been ordered , however, and was ready some time ago. The burial will be in Mr. W.’s lot, near the south entrance to the cemetery.”