Throwback Thursday – The night Bowling Green almost burned down
It was recently announced that $1.6 million is being awarded to the city of Bowling
Green to rehabilitate the College Street pedestrian bridge. Constructed in 1916, this
is at least the third version of the College Street bridge. This week’s Throwback
Thursday tells the tale of that ominous night in 1915 when an angry mob nearly
burned Bowling Green to the ground.
This report comes from a February 1915 edition of the Bowling Green Daily News
and is based on firsthand accounts. Just after 1:30 a.m. on Friday, February 12,
Second St. resident Robert Wilson just happened to look out his window, noticing
the College Street bridge engulfed in flames. He notified the fire department
immediately, and hundreds of people fled toward the flames.
Meanwhile, John Whitaker, a young boy, happened to notice a handwritten note
pinned to a College Street telephone pole. The cryptic note threatened the lives of
the infamous Judge Henry Denhardt, Judge Hines, and asked all politicians to stay
out of everyone’s business. If they didn’t, the city’s water works and all bridges
would be blown to pieces.
The note was written on the type of cardboard used to package whiskey bottles, and
a whiskey jug partially filled with coal oil was found not far from the note. The
article indicated residents heard at least 20 rounds of shots fired into the night from
what appeared to be an angry mob that set fire to the bridge. It appears someone
poured coal oil on the bridge and set it ablaze.
Bloodhound dogs were brought in from Smiths Grove to search for scents that
would lead to the perpetrator or perpetrators. But so many people had come to the
bridge to see that no scent could be found. A few firemen nearly lost their lives when
the burning bridge crumbled and collapsed into the Barren River.
We have shared many intriguing and mostly questionable stories of Judge Henry
Denhardt’s life. Exactly 20 years after the night the town almost burnt down, he
would be vengefully murdered for killing his girlfriend, Verna Garr Taylor.
Throwback Thursday is brought to you by the Kentucky Museum.