I’ve been lucky to travel extensively around the United States and Europe – but heart-stopping places are often the ones closest to home. A few years ago, I spent several weeks in far-western Kentucky, exploring the farms and crossroads communities of Livingston County. I fell in love with one rural hamlet in particular, which retained not only much of its historic character, but also a beguiling sense of charm. This is my love letter to Hampton, located in north-central Livingston County, Kentucky.
Settlement around the area of Hampton began in 1816, when Davey Champion, who likely emigrated from North Carolina, purchased a farm that was later bought by Jesse Padon. In 1840, Padon and his wife built a substantial house on the property that was later utilized as a hotel.
The community didn’t receive its name until after the Civil War. Confederate General Wade Hampton was stationed in Livingston County during a portion of the Civil War, and following the war, residents christened their community in his honor. The Padon land transferred to James Cameron in 1877, described as a “man of great enterprise and business tact.”
A post office was established at Hampton in 1888, and despite moving several times within the community, is still operating, though constantly threatened by USPS closings. The small, frame, front gable Post Office is now only open from 12-2 pm, Monday through Saturday. Cameron is credited with securing the post office as well as ensuring the construction of “two country roads, one to Salem and one to Birdsville.”
Hampton’s streets include Main, Back, First, Bell, Pine and Tennessee Streets. Carrsville Road (State Route 135) cuts through Hampton, but historic development is oriented toward the smaller streets.
Residents of Hampton established a common school in the 1880s; the Hampton Academy was founded the next decade. The Academy, a two-story front gable frame structure, served as both elementary and high school for the community until 1936.
A fire swept through the commercial district of Hampton on January 29, 1914. Before the fire could be contained, “almost all of the business section burned to the ground, including the telephone exchange, drug store, general merchandise stores and blacksmith.” Though the commercial core of Hampton contains only one active building today – the post office today – several other historic buildings remain.
I’m not sure exactly what the exact magic of Hampton is – only that I’ve thought often, when daydreaming about hitting it big in the lottery (if only I ever bought tickets), of how I would purchase each historic building, and restore them.
Perhaps it was the gentle spring weather that bewitched me, the first time I visited. Or the love and pride evident in the residents. Perhaps it was the very tangible stories and history I could sense when I peeked through the windows of Dr. Davenport’s office. Visions of an artists’ colony or a writer’s retreat danced through my head – surely other people would feel calm, and settled, just as I did as I strolled through town, watching chickens idly and placidly cross the road.
 Livingston County History, 26