The story of the cross at Wickliffe began in 1937 when a few members of a community choir, spearheaded by Mrs. Noah Geveden, erected a small wooden cross on a hill at the Ancient Buried City (now known as Wickliffe Mounds Research Center) in Wickliffe, KY. Then in 1951, Mr. and Mrs. Noah Geveden furnished the materials to construct 35-foot pole with cross arms to replace the smaller cross. Bill Howle wired it with 325 bulbs. The bulbs were lit during Easter and Christmas each year.
When Murray State University purchased the location in 1981, it became necessary to seek another location for the cross. It was then the idea was born to build a cross tall enough to be seen from the tri-states of Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky. The cross would be 90 feet tall and lit at night for all to see.
Site selection took a long time. The highest point along the river was Fort Jefferson hill and in 1989 the 38-acre property came up for auction. Several citizens, with the encouragement of Margaret Phillips who was terminally ill at the time, requested the Wickliffe City Council to purchase the tract and lease or sell two acres as a site for the memorial cross. The City Council purchased the tract on July 26, 1989.
A name for the memorial was decided by seeking suggestions from area residents. Juett Owens, Jr. of Wickliffe suggested
Cross at the Confluence because of the location above the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and the idea of "flowing together" of the citizens of the tri-states who would be asked to financially support the construction. The term "Memorial" was added when it was decided that the project would be used to honor the memory of loved ones.
Representatives of the 51 churches in Ballard County were invited to serve on a county wide committee. The first meeting was held at St. Mary Catholic Church in LaaCenter on March 8, 1990. Rev. Jack Studie, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Wickliffe, presided with 23 churches represented.
A board of directors was selected: John Wood, Chairman; Tom Juett, Treasurer; Joyce Carpenter, Secretary; directors: Terry Simmons. Anita Howle, Richard Overby, Peggy Piper, Carolyn Rosenstone and Teresa Sullivan. Later, Keith Kelley was added to the board. The board met on November 7, 1991 at the Barlow House Museum and finalized the design and materials for the project Soil borings were taken and it was determined that the site would support a 90-foot freestanding cross. A fund goal was set at $150,000.
On February 22, 1992 the project at raised $21,762 through memorial gifts, church and group donations, aluminum cans, and activities such as a "cross walk". A major fund raiser was launched on Easter 1992 - the sale of granite bricks
to be placed around the base of the cross. The "bricks" would be purchased in honor or in memory of loved ones, family, friends, special people - with names inscribed on the bricks. The base of the cross allowed the placement of 800 bricks with the price set at $100 each.
The ground breaking ceremony was held on May 22, 1994 with coverage from local TV and newspapers. The cross project consisted of two phases. Phase I was the construction of the foundation which would support the weight of the cross as well as include the deck surrounding the base of the cross. Phases II was the construction of the 90-foot cross. Simmons Engineering of Paducah designed the project and the contract for Phase I was awarded to Bass Maintenance of Wickliffe on August 16, 1994 and was completed on October 28, 1994.
During March 1995, Earnest Brown laid the first bricks around the base of the cross pedestal. By that time, $98,954 had been raised. By December 31, 1996, 823 bricks had been sold and the amount raised reached $150,000.
During the fall of 1996, a loan was granted by Citizens State Bank to complete the final construction phase. As each year passed, the cost of construction had increased from the original projection of $150,000 to $300,000. So, with a great deal of faith and optimism, the board members co-signed a note and Phase II was finally completed on April 4, 1999.
more bricks sold, it became necessary to construct a walkway around the outside of the deck leading to an area where a wall of bricks could be added. Jerry Dunn Construction completed this project in 2000.
August 29, 2002 was a memorable day when the board of directors voted to make the final payment of the bank loan and all bills had been paid - at this point in time, a total of $316,405 had been raised for the project.
The cross site is used for many purposes. There have been weddings, memorial services, candlelight services on September 11 and the annual Easter sunrise service. It is a popular site to visit for residents and people passing through on Highway 51.
A receptacle is located near the flagpole for donations which are used for the upkeep and maintenance of the cross.
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