Nortonville, Kentucky is a classic, American small town. It was originally built on faith, family, coal, and railroads.
Nortonville opened its first post office in 1871, but the town itself was officially incorporated in 1873, after requesting incorporation in late 1872. As a result of the post office date and incorporation, the official year of the town's beginning has been proclaimed as 1872.
Nortonville was named for Eckstein Norton from Russellville, Kentucky. Norton was a wealthy merchant & investment banker that began to finance different projects across the country and became connected to several railroads in the South during the mid-to-late 19th century. He was the president of the Louisville & Nashville (L&N) Railroad from 1887 to 1890. After overseeing the laying of the tracks for the Elizabethtown & Paducah Railroad (which later became the Illinois Central), Mr. Norton purchased 2000 acres of land in what is now Nortonville. People began to settle in the area around the new railroad. The Evansville, Henderson & Nashville Railroad (later the L&N Railroad and what is now CSX) was completed in 1872 and created a hub of activity for the new town.
Several locals saw the great potential in the railroad junction, and a group of regional investors bought the land from the Norton family and began redoing the old hotel and depot. They also posted newspaper ads across western Kentucky to encourage new citizens to move to Nortonville. The investors then opened a shaft coal mine in 1902. It was named the Nortonville Coal Company & raised the level of prosperity greatly for town’s residents. They also built an electric power plant, connected by a spur track to the IC/L&N junction in the town, creating accessible power for locals. At the turn-of-the-century, the town boasted its own post office, bank, hotel, restaurants, and many other amenities, catering to the needs of the newly booming little city.
The boom continued into the 20th century, and Nortonville continued to prosper. The town implemented its first water system in 1936 and paved its streets in 1956. A centralized sewage treatment system was built in the late 1970s, opening a new opportunity for continued growth. In 1972, the town had a huge centennial celebration to mark the town’s 100 year milestone.
Today, Nortonville is still the perfect example of small town life. Though not as industrious and booming as it once was, the town’s quiet, pleasant pace is still enjoyed by its citizens. The IC Railroad is gone, but you can see where the former L&N line would be and still view CSX trains pass swiftly through the quaint town on the L&N’s original path. Its City Hall occupies the well-maintained 1930's high school building, keeping the past and school alive for its alumni and local residents. There are still shops, restaurants, and businesses to be enjoyed as well.