Before Kentucky became a commonwealth in 1792, this area was part of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Many settlements throughout the wilderness had been established. These stations or forts were home to early pioneers until more permanent homes could be built. One of these early settlements was Harbison’s Station, also known as Harbison’s Fort or Crossroads, located between Springfield and Harrod’s Fort. Settled between 1776 and 1780 by James Harbison, Daniel Ewing, Samuel Potts, Samuel Tucker and Thomas Walker, Jr.., it was later known as Chaplin Hills.
The early settlers chose a strategic place with a spring providing fresh water for the pioneers and were chosen for the location of their stockade. It was their refuge in case of Indian attacks. The spring’s outlet to the Chaplin River provided a tunnel through which the settlers could escape to safety in case of Indian attack .This land was situated in the traditional hunting grounds of the Indians. This property later became the property of William Huston Parks, and is the location of the historic Karrick-Parks House.
James Harbison received a land certificate for 1400 acres Chaplin was issued in the court at Boonesborough on December 18, 1779. The court record states that James Harbeson this day claimed a settlement and preemption to a tract of land lying on both sides of the Chaplins Fork by improving the same in the year 1776 and raising a crop of corn in the country in the year 1776, satisfactory proof being made in the court.
The settlement around the fort continued to grow, interest flourished there and in other settlements for the Kentucky District to petition for statehood. On February 14, 1791, an act to establish Kentucky as a separate state passed both houses of the first Congress and was signed by President George Washington. On June 1, 1792, the Commonwealth of Kentucky became independent of Virginia.
Encouraged by the likely prosperity of a new state, the population of the area around Harbison’s Station grew considerably.
In 1815, two residents, Edward Bullock and William Hall, planned the town of Perryville, named in honor of the naval officer Admiral Oliver Perry. The plat for Perryville showed 32 acres, divided into 64 half-acre lots. The Chaplin River divided the town. The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky was enacted into law on January 17, 1817, and the town of Perryville was officially established. In the May 1817session of the Mercer County Court, the plans for the town were officially recorded.
Starting in the 1840’s, the area along the west bank of the Chaplin River become known as “Merchants Row” began to attract more business owners. One of the oldest family businesses, the Parks General Store, had been owned by the same family for over one hundred years staying in operation until 1972.
Education in Perryville has always been important. In the 1850’s the Ewing Female Institute and Perryville Seminary, which later became Harmonia College under the auspices of the Cumberland presbytery. Elmwood Academy gained prominence after its inception in 1897. A comprehensive classical curriculum was offered to students of the three private schools attracting students from Perryville and surrounding towns.
Stagecoaches carrying the mail and passengers made regular trips into Perryville.
The quite rural town of Perryville was forever changed on October 8, 1862, when the bloodiest battle of the Civil War was fought in and around the town. Every resident was affected by the thousands of wounded troops brought into town filling every home and church. The recovery of the wounded was slow. Dr. Jefferson J Polk treated the wounded following the battle. Some soldiers remained in town for up to a year following the battle.
Following the war Perryville thrived as an agricultural community. Businesses thrived and medical services were provided by as many as seven different doctors in town.
In 1899, the Citizens Telephone Company, headquartered at Perryville, filed articles of incorporation. Southern Bell Telephone Company purchased the exchange in 1955 replacing the telephone operator with the new direct dial system.
In 1961, Perryville and the surrounding area were made part of a National Historic Landmark area. In 1973, the entire town of Perryville, because of the contribution the village has made toward American History was put on the National Register of Historic Places.
We welcome visitors to Perryville. Visit our historic district by taking a walking tour of Perryville’s historic homes. The Perryville Battlefield State historic site is one of the most pristine Civil War Battlefields in the nation. On the first weekend in October, re-enactors gather at the Battlefield and downtown Perryville to commemorate the historic Battle of Perryville.