Tribune-Courier News Reporter
No one can say with 100 percent certainty how the community of Possum Trot was named, but one thing is certain – it’s the name that put the tiny community in the northwest corner of Marshall County on the map.
Kentucky Curiosities, a publication detailing oddities and history of the commonwealth, suggests the identity was assigned when U.S. Highway 62 was being constructed through the area. Legend says two residents, after a morning of fruitless hunting, said if they didn’t bag a possum soon the critters were going to trot across the road and escape.
Interestingly, Kentucky isn’t alone in claiming a rural route named Possum Trot. Texas, Tennessee and Virginia also have towns with the same name and early settlers of Kansas City, Mo., first assigned the moniker to that city in the early 1800s.
Possum Trot native Charles Lofton, 70, said the community was first called Possum Ridge and somewhere along the way Ridge was changed to Trot.
A petition to change the name of the town to Vaughn’s Village failed in 1959, but not before making it all the way to the desk of then-governor Bert Combs. Combs ultimately denied the request for an official name change, saying the name of the community was a decision best left to the locals of the area.
Most believe it’s a safe bet “Paducah: Halfway between Vaughn’s Village and Monkey’s Eyebrow” would never have made it onto t-shirts, caps and drink coasters.
It’s also likely tourists wouldn’t bother to find their way to the town just to have their picture made in front of a Vaughn’s Village road sign and grab a souvenir to commemorate their travels, something many visitors to the curiously-named community do.
As the sun rises most mornings over Possum Trot you’ll find native Charles Lofton, 70, and longtime resident Ron Copeland, 62, having coffee and sharing stories at the Possum Trot Quickmart.
Lofton, a retired cattle and grain farmer, said he remembers seeing black and white movies at a once-busy Possum Trot theater and recalls there being grocery stores on every corner of the community.
Lofton graduated from North Marshall in 1959, the year the North Marshall Jets basketball team won the state tournament.
“Basketball and baseball was bigger here than it is now,” he said. “Everyone had a net and there was a baseball field down the road, but now it’s overgrown. There was even a net on the theater building and all of the younger people would go there and play basketball after church on Sundays,” he recalled.
The Possum Trot Quickmart and Marshall’s IGA are located in the heart of the community and for many locals like Lofton and Copeland the businesses offer just about anything anybody could need -- gas and groceries.
Marshall’s IGA was built when Hwy. 62 was still a gravel road running through town. The family-owned grocery does a brisk business, with locals and tourists depending on owner Mark Marshall to keep the shelves stocked with necessities. Marshall is the grandson of the original proprietor who first opened the store in the 1940s.
“A lot of the people that come here are from the area, but some come from Calvert City and then we get some because of tourism,” said Marshall, who estimates he serves about 2,000 customers each week.
Many are surprised to learn Possum Trot is the birthplace of a Nobel laureate. Robert H. Grubbs, who was awarded a Nobel prize for chemistry in 2005, was born in Possum Trot in 1942. He later moved to McCracken County, where he graduated from Paducah Tilghman High School.
Locals of the quiet community don’t seem to mind that economic progress and population growth have left them alone.
“We’ve gotten bigger because of subdivisions, but all the property is owned so it’s hard for new people to move in,” said Lofton, suggesting no one who calls the community home is eager to sell out and move on. “The community is small and after dark it’s pretty much closed up. They even roll the sidewalks up after dark.”
Like many Possum Trot residents, Lofton is just fine with that.