I’m attracted to areas that are pervasive with mystery and a kind of melancholy that comes with the sense of abandonment when areas pass their importance as a main artery of travel. Blame it on my Montana roots, where there were so many ghost towns to explore. There are places like that here in south-central Kentucky, if you know where to look.
Chaplineton, or Pageville, was located on the Old State Road, which became US Hwy 31E, and the town sat at the junction of Peter Creek and Big Barren River. It was at one time a busy river port for boats traveling back and forth from New Orleans with tobacco and goods sold there for profit.
CC Simmons wrote about the area: “One is favorably impressed by this rich agricultural region when he descends the long grade into the valley on Hwy 31E about one mile south of Lucas. The broad bottoms along Big Barren River and Peters Creek stretch out as far as the eye will let you see.”
Sadly, the better part of this area was impounded by the US Army Corp of Engineers in the 1950s, and the fertile farmland was inundated by the waters of our present day Barren River Reservoir. Now, when you pay a visit to Chaplineton you must go south on US 31E from Glasgow and follow the signs to Barren River State Park. At the caution lights, turn right and follow the road to the Louie B. Nunn Lodge. Pass the lodge and follow the road to the Marina. Signs are posted as you pass the cabins that you should use Caution, as the road ends abruptly at the water’s edge.
Of course, there are other failsafes in place to prevent you from driving off into the lake, including several speed bumps, more signs, and then barricades. But a few people over the years have actually managed to end up in the lake. And not all the tales have happy endings, sorry to say.
About 200 feet off the road’s ending, under the lake, is the location of Chaplineton. Several large and stately homes in this area, among other properties, were impounded, and it is quite a shame about the history that disappeared under the waves. Legends grew in these areas south of Glasgow, where you may get on a stretch of backroad that will abruptly end at a fence, or a cliff, and it will find you learning how to drive in “Reverse” for several hundred feet until you find somewhere to turn around.
One such place that I have heard tales from the 1980s, when I first returned here to live, about things that go bump in the night, is near the small town of Lucas. You see, in spite of the impound, and the fact that US 31E had to be relocated over a mile east when the Lake was finished, the town of Lucas managed to stay afloat with the institution of the Narrows Recreation Area.
Several miles south of Glasgow, and about 3 miles before you reach the caution lights at the State Park entrance, you come to the intersection of 31E and Hwy 1318, There is a sign to turn right to go to the Narrows Recreation Area and Marina. On the way to the Narrows, you have to go through Lucas.
When you enter Lucas, there are several different roads, but if you go left, or right, you are on old US 31E. Going left takes you about a mile and a half south, to the top of that hill Mr. Simmons spoke of that “descends the long grade into the valley” at the confluence of Peter Creek and Big Barren River. Now all you see is the blue waters of a pristine lake.
If you turn right at Lucas, the road goes along through the small town, where streets and roads turn off, going into residential areas, and one road that leads to the Barren River Rod and Gun Club. Then shortly after passing this road, old 31E ends abruptly at a fence, with dense woods on the other side. Back in the late 1980s, the fence was not there, and the trees were not so dense. Signs were posted announcing “End of State Maintenance.” The road turned to gravel, and as you drove along, the road meandered slowly into a curve that hugged the edge of a hill on the left of the road.
The lake waters slowly emerge on your right and the road abruptly ended in a drop off. It used to be told if you drove your car up to the end, and shined your headlights off in the lake at night, you would see the roof of the large old house that used to sit here, before the rising waters inundated it.
Of course, the US Army Corp of Engineers removed the house before the waters rose, and I was never stupid enough to actually try this. But it was a good place to fish, and I went down there several times and threw in a line before the area was abruptly closed up.
Several people didn’t follow instructions here either, and would end up off in the drink in the middle of the night, with the Haywood and Austin-Tracy fire departments having to come fish them out.
About ten years ago now, a man was fishing in his boat there, when the sun reflected off something near the shore, just under the water. He approached the bank, and realized what he was seeing was the top of a vehicle. Someone had driven off the old road into the water!
When they fished the vehicle out of the water, two bodies were inside. They had been there for some time. That ended the era of abandoned roads remaining open for recreation. Most all of these areas have been properly barricaded and you have to walk in and out to the fishing areas now.
But the legends persist. ~
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