PARIS, Ky. (WTVQ) – The newest Kentucky Historical Marker highlighting Bourbon County Hemp and the historic Alexander House was dedicated in Downtown Paris.
People in the community gathered for the marker dedication and reception featuring hemp-infused appetizers, live music, and cocktails on Saturday, March 9, 2019.
Bourbon County was one of ten counties in Kentucky that led hemp production across the country during the 19th century.
Paris became a central hub for hemp cultivation and manufacturing because of its location on the main trade route to the Ohio River.
As early as 1790, Bourbon county residents were shipping hemp fiber on flatboats to markets along the river. By 1810, the county boasted two hemp mills that processed 50,000 yards of fiber per year, leading the way in the amount of raw material produced at 796 tons (followed by Scott with 599, Fayette with 595, Mercer with 433, and Woodford with 417, and outside of the region, Mason County, reporting at 581 tons.
As hemp production continues to expand across Kentucky, and the nation, Bourbon County aims to reclaim its role as a leading hemp producer. In 2018, the three processors and 20 growers participating in the Kentucky Hemp Pilot Program were registered in the county.
For small business owner Jennifer Tijou, products being produced by the growers and processors under the hemp program are allowing her to serve and support the local community.
In 2015, Tijou purchased the deteriorating Alexander House located at 902 Main Street in Downtown Paris. The historic property was built for William W. Alexander, a prominent lawyer and county attorney, who was the son of an early Bourbon County hemp manufacturer, William Alexander Sr. William Alexander, Sr. built a hemp factory and ropewalk at East Paris along the Maysville & Lexington Pike circa 1816-1818.
The ropewalk was operated by 100 enslaved people and was said to be one of the world’s longest at 600 feet. He produced rope for large ship rigging, and cotton bagging made of hemp fiber, and continued in operation until 1856.
Tijou renovated the Alexander House and made it the home of Pleasanton Goods, a coffee shop and community gathering space which offers a variety of locally produced goods. Last year, she began offering Kentucky Proud Hemp Products including Bourbon County-based CBD products from Nature’s Rhythm and foods from Heritage Hemp Co. She even commissioned a hemp mural on the building to greet downtown visitors.
In 2018, Tijou partnered with the Hopewell Museum/Historic Paris-Bourbon County and the Kentucky Hemp Heritage Alliance with the goal of bringing a historic marker to the Alexander House. The marker application was completed by Alyssa Erickson, co-founder of Kentucky Hempsters and the Kentucky Hemp Heritage Alliance, and submitted last Fall by former Executive Director of the Hopewell Museum, Leah Craig. The Kentucky Historical Society administers the Historical Marker Program and approved the marker installation on behalf of the state.
The Bourbon County Hemp historical marker joins more than 2,400 markers across the state illuminating Kentucky’s complex story, 9 of which describe Kentucky’s hemp history. It will be featured on the ExploreKYHistory website and phone app, and as part of the Heritage Hemp Trail.
Visitors can find the Bourbon County Hemp/Alexander House historical marker in front of Pleasanton Goods at 902 Main Street in Paris, Kentucky.