Dukedom, a Brief History

by Nelda Rachels

 

      According to the facts gleaned from Dukedom, Then and Now (author unnamed) and Tennessee History Series: Weakley County by Virginia C. Vaughan and edited by Charles W. Crawford, Dukedom has had a long and interesting history.  As a stop on the stagecoach route from Dresden, Tennessee to Mills Point, a port on the Mississippi River (now Hickman, Kentucky), Dukedom had become established as a post village as early as 1833.  At that time, Duke A. Beadles applied to Washington, D. C. so that the community could acquire a post office.  Supposedly, Dukedom is the only post office in the United States by this name.  Not only was Beadles the first postmaster, but also the community's first merchant.

      By the latter 1800s, a funeral home, blacksmiths, a Methodist Church and Christian Church (both organized about 1863), a school, and three stores had located there.  Other businesses and schools entered the scene in the early 1900s, including two drug stores and three grocery stores.  The Dukedom Bank opened in 1904 under the direction of its first president, Jim Si Cavender, with Everett Atkins as its first cashier.  Supposedly, the Dukedom Bank was one of the few banks to remain open during the Great Depression.  It remained open because Mace Rose--the cashier--along with two policemen, went to Paducah, Kentucky and managed to bring back enough money to restore the confidence of the citizenry and, therefore, to prevent a run on the bank.  

      Other businesses during the first half of the century were two hotels, distilleries, and saloons; a cotton gin, tobacco pricing barn, tannery, barbershop, and shoe shop; and several groceries, and dry-goods stores.  There were also several doctors, two dentists, a brass band, a semi-pro baseball team, and a telephone exchange.  Early switchboard operators were Horace Puckett and Almos Byars.  One of the many operators who worked and lived in the home containing the switchboard were the grandparents of Marion Harris, current resident of Austin Springs.  She remembers John Hudson and wife as the operators in the twenties and thirties.  John or "Toby" was also considered the area faith doctor.  People who believed in his touch would come for healing.     

      Early schools of the area were Dukedom Academy, Welch School, Ridgeway, McLean, Ellis, Slaughter, and Wiley. Today, consolidation has taken the school from the Dukedom community.  However, there are still several businesses left there, including a restaurant, service station and garage, grocery, post office, bank, and funeral home, an auction barn, several beauty shops, and a slaughter house.