Symsonia, Kentucky

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Symsonia, Kentucky
Census-designated place
Pete Lyles House
Symsonia's position in Kentucky
Symsonia's position in Kentucky
Coordinates: 36°55′15″N 88°31′07″W / 36.92083°N 88.51861°W / 36.92083; -88.51861Coordinates: 36°55′15″N 88°31′07″W / 36.92083°N 88.51861°W / 36.92083; -88.51861
Country  United States
State  Kentucky
County Graves
 • Total 3.96 km2 (1.53 sq mi)
 • Land 3.93 km2 (1.52 sq mi)
 • Water 0.02 km2 (0.008 sq mi)
Elevation 120 m (410 ft)
Population (2010)
 • Total 615
 • Density 156.3/km2 (405/sq mi)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP Code 42082
Area code(s) 270 & 364
GNIS feature ID 2629690
U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Symsonia, Kentucky

Symsonia is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) in Graves County, Kentucky, United States.[1] The community lies in the far northeastern part of the county, 13 miles (21 km) southeast of Paducah, 11 miles (18 km) northwest of Benton, and 15 miles (24 km) northeast of the county seat Mayfield, in the Jackson Purchase region of the state. As of the 2010 census, the population of Symsonia was 615.[2]


The Symsonia CDP has a total area of 1.5 square miles (4.0 km2), of which 0.01 square miles (0.02 km2), or 0.01 square miles (0.02 km2), or 0.56%, is water.[2] The community is located at the intersection of Kentucky Highways 131 and 348. The intersection contains the community's only four-way stop and only flashing red light. It lies at an elevation of 407 feet (124 m) above sea level and is between the East and West Forks of the Clarks River, a major tributary of the Tennessee River.


The Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge, which runs along the Clarks Fork River north of Symsonia, was first identified as a high priority site for protection in 1978 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Bottomland Hardwood Preservation Program. In 1991, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources asked the service to consider the site for protection as a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Clarks River is the only National Wildlife Refuge located solely within the bounds of the state of Kentucky. The refuge was established in July 1997, with a proposed acquisition boundary of 18,000 acres (73 km2). The first tract of land was purchased in August 1998, and the refuge currently consists of over 7,000 acres (28 km2). Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge is a beautiful bottomland hardwood forest located in western Kentucky near Benton. The refuge lies along the East Fork of the Clarks River and is seasonal home to over 200 different species of migratory birds. The bottom lands are dominated with overcup oaks, bald cypress, and tupelo gum, and the slightly higher, better drained areas, are covered with willow oak, swamp chestnut oak, red oak, sweet gum, sycamore, ash and elm.[3]


In the early 20th century, when its roads were not paved, the community acquired the nickname "Slab Town" when wood slabs from local saw mills were used to fill ruts in the muddy roads. The community was formed in the 1820s, and has slowly grown from a farming community of several families, to a bedroom community.



The community has a long history of community churches. The Symsonia United Methodist Church was founded in 1912 as Lyles Chapel, on property donated by Pete Lyles. Today, other churches include Clarks River Baptist Church, Symsonia Baptist Church, and nearby Spring Creek Church of Christ (located in Dogwood) and Elva Baptist Church (located in Elva). Symsonia Baptist Church is a Southern Missionary Baptist Church that was formally constituted on August 6, 1995. It is a member of the Blood River Baptist Association, Hardin, Kentucky, and the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Clarks River Baptist Chuirch,founded in 1867, still remains active in ministry and community outreach as it has for over 100 years. Clarks River Baptist Church hosts many community events including Easter Egg Hunt, Vacation Bible School, 4 July fireworks, Community-Wide Summer Fun Festival, Trunk or Treat, Harvest Festival, and Christmas Musical Program and Children's Play. Clarks River Baptist Church also has many active ministries including Sunday School, Library, Food Pantry, Upwards Sports, AWANA, Women's Ministry, Youth, Music, Preschool and Daycare and Creative Ministry Team. The community currently has four active, public cemeteries: Symsonia Cemetery, Clarks River Cemetery, Carter Mill Cemetery, and Bolton Cemetery. The oldest dated tombstones are from the 1860s.[4]


The former Symsonia High School was originally a one-room, wooden building built in 1902, on the same lot where the Symsonia United Methodist Church was later built. The second high school building was built in 1936(completed just in time to house refugees from Paducah following the 1937 flood). This building housed grades 1-12 until county consolidation created Graves County High School in 1986. The Symsonia School continued for grades K-8, until the Graves County Middle School was consolidated in 1998. The Symsonia Elementary School then continued as K-6 in the old high school building until 2004, when a new Symsonia Elementary School was built next door and the 68-year-old building was razed. Symsonia Elementary School students have consistently excelled in state and national standardized testing. The Symsonia Alumni Association was formed in 1986. Through the leadership of alumnus and former principal Boyd Whitt and his wife and alumna Francette Whitt, the Alumni Association has awarded scholarships totalling over $25,000 to Symsonia students who graduated from Graves County High. Symsonia High School had outstanding faculty leadership and student achievement in various national student organizations, including Future Farmers of America (FFA), Future Homemakers of American (FHA), and Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). Symsonia had seven students recognized as American Farmers, the FFA's highest national award: Carl Thomas McNeill (1954), Randall W. Heath (1971), Jackie Heath (1976), Craig Wayne Mathis (1979), John Timothy Chapman (1980), Richard D. Thompson (1984) and Lawinna McGary (1985).

The school's nickname has always been the Rough Riders. Former principal and boys basketball coach Slayden Douthitt bestowed the name on the school in the 1920s. The high school boys basketball team won the First Region Championship in 1960, and represented the First Region in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association's Sweet Sixteen Tournament, where the team won one game before losing in the quarterfinals by one point in overtime. Tournament play began with 432 teams, and SHS made it to the Final Eight. In the third game of the first round of the State Tournament held at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, SHS beat Meade Memorial (15th Region) 69-60. SHS lost in the quarterfinal round 48-47 in overtime to Owensboro (3rd Region). SHS's boys team's last appearance in the First Region Tournament was in 1984 during Head Coach Steve Dreher's 4th and final season at SHS. The Rough Riders lost in the first round to Marshall County 70-44, ending the season with a record of 17-12. SHS's last trip to the First Region Tournament semi-finals was in 1977. SHS beat Fulton City in the first round 80-55, before losing in the semi-finals to Paducah Tilgham 68-65. The Rough Riders were coached by long-time Head Coach Donald Butler and finished the season with the outstanding record of 26-5. The SHS boys and girls basketball teams had players voted as All Purchase selections a total of 15 times, consisting of 12 different players (10 boys, 2 girls). The players were selected as one of the top ten players in the First Region (consisting of all high schools in the eight counties in the Jackson Purchase) by the First Region head coaches in a survey conducted by The Paducah Sun (previously The Paducah Sun-Democrat). Those players included: Becky Rhew ('83, '82), Cheryl Upton ('82), Tim Allred ('78, '77, '76), James Whittemore ('77), Jeff Bean ('72), Freddie Whittemore ('71), Danny Hicks ('68), Harold Hicks ('67), Jerald Ellington ('60), Larry McClure ('58), Joel Ellington ('55) and Clifton McManus ('52).


The town hosts Sassafrass Pass Variety Shop, The Salon Next Door, Symsonia Kitchen & Bath, Symsonia Storage, Henson Broom Shop & General Store, Symsonia Car Wash, Rodney's Body Shop, Symsonia Video, Dollar General, Olivia's Closet, Slabtown food and fuel, Gary & Virginia's Restaurant, J and M mart (Kaler) various home and building construction, renovation, and repair businesses, lawn care and landscaping businesses, horse training, dirt and gravel hauling and excavation, appliance repair, computer consulting and it management business, daycare for children, individuals selling cosmetics

Formerly, the community included a branch of Liberty Savings Bank, five other restaurants, four other groceries, one of which (the Hilton and Audrey Watkins store) also included a hardware store, several beauty and barber shops, other sawmills, a ready-mix concrete and poured concrete sewer pipe company, two gasoline and mechanic service stations, other automotive mechanic shops, another floral, balloon, and gift business, a catering business, an automotive customized parts store, a roller skating rink, two pool halls, a laundromat, a dentist's office, a doctor's office, a pharmacy, a law office, a bakery, a horse riding club, a model airplane club, a radio control race track, a go-cart track, an electronics and appliance store, an earthworm business, another antique shop, a blacksmith shop, a feed mill, and a used car lot. In the later part of the 20th Century, Symsonia had two grocery stores that also included hardware stores. Farmers Supply was owned and operated for many years by James "Butch" Heath and his partner, Jackson McClure. Later the store was owned by Vern "Pedro" Simmons and his wife, Dot, and then by their nephews, David and Danny Lyles. Later the store was owned by David and Devonna Lyles, and later by Mark and Lorie Cunningham. In the early 20th Century, Symsonia had a grocery owned by Jim Hathcock. This store was located at the southwest corner of the Oak Level "Y," the intersection of Kentucky Highway 348 East and Kentucky 1949. During this time, there were two more groceries on Kentucky 348. A store owned by Mr. Reed was located on Kentucky 348 East, just west of the house known as the Carter house. A third store operated by Verda Willingham was located on Kentucky 348 West, west of the property where George Lyles operated his concrete company and near the home of her father Dr. Dupe Robertson.


Although Symsonia is an unincorporated community, it has had a long history of civic involvement. Community leaders, including Butch Heath, Howard Reid, Ulus Johnson, John Draffen, Edward Reid and Edwin Reid, were instrumental in forming a non-profit corporation to build a medical clinic to attract a doctor to the community in the 1950s. The Symsonia Clinic was dedicated by U.S. Senator and former Vice-President Alben W. Barkley, a native of Graves County. Doctors who served the community through the clinic included Dr. Sullivan, Dr. Lockhart, and Dr. Jack Diles. The building was later converted to a mortuary and the former next door pharmacy is a restaurant. The Symsonia Lions Club was very active in the 1960s, and it addition to the Reids, Heath, and Johnson, referenced above, was led by Joel Ellington, Jimmie Ellington, Eddie Heath, and Clinton Goodman. The Symsonia Lions Club purchased property for a community park that is now administered by the Symsonia Park Board, through the Graves County Fiscal Court. The community obtained paved road, electricity, natural gas, city water, city sewer, cable television, and the Symsonia Volunteer Fire Department through many local civic leaders. Former Kentucky State Senator Wayne Freeman grew up on a farm near Symsonia and community resident Howard Reid, also served one term as a Kentucky State Representative. The community has a long history of service by members of Symsonia Lodge No. 917 of the Kentucky Grand Lodge, Free & Accepted Masons and the Symsonia Chapter of the Kentucky Order of the Eastern Star. Symsonia Lodge No. 917 was chartered on October 18, 1922. The Symsonia Post Office was opened in 1847. Today, it serves the Zip Code 42082 and covers approximately 1,000 households.