Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cleaning Shippingport Island

Cleaning at Shippingport by paynehollow
Cleaning at Shippingport, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

This weekend, some of the teens from church went to Shippingport Island to clean off the garbage that daily washes ashore and I was privileged to go along with them. I've been to the island before, but the trip reminded me of what a cool place it is.

Shippingport Island was originally just Shippingport - the little village immediately west of the city of Louisville. It became an island in 1830, when a canal was built, cutting off Shippingport into its own little island. Louisville was settled at its location because there were a series of waterfalls/rapids on the Ohio River which made river navigation very difficult (many of the old maps of the Falls show little shipwrecked boats to indicate how treacherous it was). The dam and canal were built in order to tame that portion of the Ohio River and make it navigable.

Eventually, the village at Shippingport was abandoned, but it had quite a history while it lasted. One little bit of that history involves, indirectly, my own church. The church from which we sprang - the Union Gospel Mission - was founded by a former riverboat gambler, murderer and all around scoundrel named Steve Holcombe. Holcombe was raised on Shippingport Island and his father was buried there.

Holcombe and his mission to the "least of these" of his day achieved a bit of notoriety back when it began in the 1880s and 1890s. Eventually, Holcombe's biography/story was written and published.

As I walked and worked on Shippingport last Saturday, I reflected on Holcombe walking those same shores and thought it would be worthwhile to post an excerpt from his biography. It really is a fascinating story, maybe I'll post other excerpts at a later date.

Here then, from the book, "Steve P. Holcombe, the Converted Gambler: His Life and Work..."

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