2013-09-25 / Families & Friends

School was important to Linefork

Linefork
By BONNIE INGRAM

Greetings to all from my little mountain home on Dry Fork of Linefork, one of the greatest places on this part of the world. I don’t guess too many folks might think that’s true, but it is a special little place in Letcher County about 13 miles out of Whitesburg.

At one time, the news came to us that Whitesburg folks in high places threatened to build a moat around Whitesburg Town to keep Linefork people from coming to their town — we were white trash to them. I know it must have been true because we have had all kinds of problems over here.

People came in here in the earlier years when I was a child, and bought all mineral rights, timber rights, coal rights and oil from the owners of the property because of the forefathers that had land and no way to keep their taxes paid every year. They were all uneducated and not knowing what these rich people were up to.

One great man, Harry Caudill, a very grand writer and attorney, knew what they were causing to our poor people who were really rich, but didn’t understand what they were doing. They owned acres of the best coal and much oil and gas, and the best of timber. It had been left alone for years and the people were needy and were talked into selling their riches to these crooked people.

Then finally a wonderful blessing came and wanted to help our area by building a fine school for our younger generation to be able to get an education — a high school and elementary. John D. Huff saw the greatness of having a school for the children of the area. He donated the property.

The Methodist Church heard about this place and wanted to help get a high school and grade school built. John D. told them that he was willing to donate some of his property to build the new schools.

They found a contracting company that was willing to do the work if some of the citizens would find enough stones and hew them out of the cliffs on Linefork to build the big, three-story stone building. There were several stonemasons in this area, and they got together and got the rocks and cut them in sizes to build it with.

My husband’s dad and two of his uncles and one other man did the cutting of the rocks. Charlie Ingram, Hiram Ingram, Woodard Cornett and an Ison man did the work. They were great.

Archer and Archer Brothers, who took the contract, started the old three-story building with the gym on the third floor. It had a chapel on the first floor and two classrooms for the grade school children. Then on the second floor were two large classrooms and a library, and an office and two more rooms that were used for the typing room, and a room for classes at one end of the library. It was perfect for the young people, and they were so proud of it.

Some of the teachers came from other places, and some from close around.

We had bad roads and no school buses for years, and students boarded with some of the people who lived close by. But, most walked for miles and crossed mountains to be able to get to school. Some rode horses and mules if they could.

Linefork is a big place. It is 20 some miles from the headwaters to the end at Ulvah. Some came from the head of the creek, which was a long distance to walk, but they were anxious to get an education. Some came from Big Branch and Turkey Creek and Tolson Creek.

They came through rain, snow and sunshine over big mountains. It was hard, but they were strong young people. They loved Kingdom Come Settlement School and wanted to get an education.

Everyone had great love for their neighbors and families, and sacrificed their time to do what they wanted to do — get an education. The teachers understood their needs and helped them in any way they could.

They built a big log cabin up on the hillside close by, and some of the principals and teachers lived there and let students stay with them. Some of the boys helped to build fires in the big heating stoves to keep the school warm. There were no electric lights to see by, just the windows for light.

The school started in the 20s and it was so beautiful in this deserted part of Kentucky. It gave us courage to know that someone cared for our people, and I know it was from our Heavenly Father because our forefathers and foremothers were believers.

The great attorney Harry M. Caudill’s book about ‘Night Comes to the Cumberlands’ was so true. He knew what had happened to all the people who were being robbed by the wealthy ones.

Now, all the coal mines are down and the oil and gas companies are taking us back into the poverty years again.

The worst thing that ever took place to hurt so many in Linefork was taking our high school from us, and to see that beautiful stone building being torn down. It was a landmark that should have been preserved.

Then later, the elementary school was closed and neglected, and then our post office was taken away. I feel as if we are being treated differently again.

We are trying to do everything we can for our people to have a place to meet and enjoy eating together and listening to the musicians play music for us and to have games and crafts. And to have a place for our young ones to come and be safe. Only, I have heard they want to take that away also. I hope that won’t happen.

I love Letcher County and would be so happy to have it grow and grow, and be a place to come to visit our beautiful mountains and valleys, and our waterways and people. I am willing to help in any way I can to see it prosper and become one of the finest counties in Kentucky.

The beauty is very spectacular from the Big Pine Mountain, and the Little Shepherd Trail and the Kingdom Come Park. You can see so far from the overlooks. The mountains and little villages down in the valleys are breathtaking and at night it is so quietly beautiful in the moonlight.

The sounds of night birds calling out and the stars seem to twinkle so brightly as you sit and linger in the tops of the trails. It is a sort of paradise to go do those things with family and friends.

We are looking forward to our Mountain Heritage Festival during the next week. It is so much fun to go see all the beautiful crafts and food booths, and the great folks who come to show their talents and love to our county. The parades are always so pretty. The people work hard to make it a success, and it usually is a great success.

We have some very talented people in this area. They look forward to our festival.

Our community center won’t meet again until Oct. 5 in order for everyone to go to the Mountain Heritage. Then we will be working harder to get our center in better shape and in order for the coming winter.

We plan to be doing lots of different projects and teaching, music, cooking, quilting, sewing, cake decorating, basket weaving, etc. A Christmas pageant is being planned for the season. If anyone is interested in helping us to be a successful center, oh, please come.

Church groups are to sing in our music room (Sugar Grove Opry), please come and country and bluegrass and also country rock. We would be glad to have you with us.

I hope no one will feel that I’m forward about us being left to fend for ourselves anymore like it was years ago. We were lost in the early part of the 1900s and before, but when we finally got our beloved Kingdom Settlement School, we came to understand a better way of life.

So many of our young people began to explore a better way of life. Schoolteachers, lawyers, businessmen and businesswomen, and great soldiers, pilots, lieutenants and fighters in the Second World War, and Vietnam and the Korean Conflict.

We lost so many beautiful young men from the Linefork area. They were brave and wanted to defend our county if they could.

The first military funeral I went to was an experience I’ll never forget. He was the son of our close neighbor. I went to grade school on Ingram’s Creek with him, Ernest Howard. They sent his body back for burial, and I was 13 years old. The soldiers did their prayers and the 21-gun salute over his casket. Then Taps.

It was one of the most heartbreaking things I’d ever known. I cried and cried for him and his sweet mother.

Then later, one of my cousins, Eldred Cornett, was brought home to Cornetts Branch. It was so hard to see his family grieving for him. He was a son of my Uncle Jasper Cornett.

My darling husband was a soldier in Japan after the war ended over there. He was a military policeman and helped during the cleanup. He saw some awful, frightening sights that he’d told me about.

Oh! So many memories. Claude has been gone from me for eight months now, and I miss him so much and grieve for him, only I have to go on and hold onto my memories of 64 years with him, raising our five sons and getting to see our grandchildren coming to us.

I will stop for now and say that I have a great love for all my family and friends and people I know.

Just know that God loves us and takes care of us, “For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall have everlasting life.” John 3:16.

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