2017-07-05 / Columns

The Way We Were

Clips from available Mountain Eagle pages since our founding in 1907

Thursday, July 7, 1927 Several washouts on the L&N Railroad and impaired telegraph and telephone lines were caused by a heavy storm that hit Letcher County on Saturday. For a little while, it looked as if a repeat of the recent flood had arrived as streams left their banks, but the damage was slight. The passenger train was 18 hours late getting to Beattyville from McRoberts on Saturday, and the 11:15 a.m. train from Lexington to McRoberts was 11 hours late.

. Letcher County is losing a man considered by many to be one of the county’s most valuable citizens. Henry Pfening Jr. announced last Thursday night that he is leaving South-East Coal Company to accept a better opportunity with Blue Diamond Coal Company of Middlesboro, where he will serve as vice president and general manager. Pfening made the announcement during a gathering of key men in the South- East organization. Reports The Mountain Eagle: “One man present expressed the sorrow of those present by saying: ‘Twenty strong men struck dumb with grief, sat with tears in their eyes as if they were losing a member of their own family.” Blue Diamond is now the top coal producer in the state of Kentucky. Pfening began working with North-East Coal Company, a sister organization of South-East, when he was only 16, and has been with one of the two companies since then, with the exception of his attending Ohio State University, where he graduated as a mechanical engineer. Pfening organized and financed the Letcher State Bank in Whitesburg, serving as the bank’s first president before resigning just recently.

. Tom Jones, a 35-year-old miner living at Hemphill, is charged with murder in the death of Luther Potter, 19, on July 4. Jones is being held without bond until the August term of Letcher Circuit Court. Potter died of injuries he received in a fight with Jones. Witnesses say the two men had been laughing and having fun just before the fight broke out. Potter is believed to have died from injuries he sustained during the fight or when he fell from a porch.

. Former University of Kentucky All-American Basil Hayden was among the guests attending the wedding of Astor Hogg and Gertrude Lewis, both of Whitesburg. The new Mrs. Hogg, a teacher at Whitesburg High School, is a graduated of Georgetown College. Hogg, one of the leading young lawyers in Letcher County, is a graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Law. After a wedding trip to Washington, D.C., the couple will live in Whitesburg.

. Jack Daniel, the nine-year-old son of former McRoberts mine superintendent John Daniel, was killed at Auxier last Thursday after being struck in the chest with a batted baseball. The youth was sitting on a fence watching a baseball game when the tragedy occurred. His body was taken to the Daniel family home in Frostburg, Maryland for burial.

. Two eight-year-old Millstone boys were seriously injured when the truck in which they were riding turned over a bank near Jesse Holbrook’s store, also at Millstone. Injured are Ben Holbrook and Jesse Holbrook Jr. They were riding in a truck being driving by Douglas Taylor when the accident occurred.

Thursday, July 8, 1937 Duke Massey, an aviator of many hours of flying experience, crashed to his death on the Breeding Creek field on Sunday, July 4. Massey, who was known as one of the outstanding flyers of this region, had been flying and performing stunts above the Eolia field before moving on the Breeding Creek, where he gave the spectators a thrill by performing his daring maneuvers. Coming out of a loop, Massey seemed unable to gain control of his plane, after which the engine “conked” and the plane crashed into the side of a mountain. Massey survived only a few minutes after the crash. He was buried in Norton, Virginia on July 6.

. For the first time in 25 years, the Letcher County Sheriff ’s Office has a new location. The office, formerly located on the left upon entering the county courthouse in Whitesburg, is now located on the second floor of the new courthouse addition.

Thursday, July 10, 1947 Two days after the operation of the nation’s coal mines was returned to the mine owners on June 30, mine operators and the United Mine Workers of America agreed July 1 to establish the UMWA Welfare and Retirement Fund. As part of the agreements, royalty payments were increased to 10 cents a ton. “John L. Lewis zooms back today as the union leader able to win the most benefi ts for his followers,” The Mountain Eagle reports. “That comes through a contract that gives probably 400,000 bituminous coal miners wage advances and other advantages never gained before in one step by any union.”

. Brothers Luther Elbert Halcomb and Roscoe Halcomb have been indicted for willful murder in the May 28 slaying of Clint Cornett. The two are scheduled to stand trial July 17. The Halcomb brothers are accused of murdering Cornett on the head of Linefork, near the homes of all three of parties involved. Cornett was attacked and robbed while returning home after a brief visit in Whitesburg with his daughter, the wife of Letcher County Jailer John Gose.


President Truman on July 8 asked Congress to admit a “substantial number” of Europe’s displaced persons into the United States as immigrants.

. Criminal Court Judge Loraine Mix on July sentenced Daniel T. McPeak, 21, of Dublin, Virginia to die in Kentucky’s electric chair next November 1. McPeak stands convicted of armed robbery in connection with the slaying of Vernon Hodge, 26, a war veteran from Louisville. Jasper Nease, 25, of McRoberts, has also been tried and sentenced to death, but is appealing.

. Stevens Bike Shop is now open for business in downtown Neon and is selling Schwinn-built bicycles as well as bicycles built for two, pedal cars, scooters, Whizzer bicycle engines and adaptor kits, trailer tricycles, steel kitchen cabinets, breakfast sets, electric irons, wardrobes and “too many other items to mention,” says the store’s adverstisement in The Eagle.

. Shovel and bulldozer work on the Carcassonne Road is finished nearly to the top of the mountain.

Thursday, July 11, 1957 Letcher County may have mechanical voting machines for use in the November 5 general election. Letcher Fiscal Court this week authorized County Judge James M. Caudill to enter into negotiations with representatives of “lever” voting machine companies for the lease-purchase of a suffi cient quantity of voting machines for use in the county. [Lever voting machines were first used in the United States in 1892. By 1930, every major American city was using lever voting machines. By 1944, 12 million American voters were using the machines.]

. The Letcher County Health Department has announced that it will not start any more persons on free polio vaccinations. The federal government, which has sponsored immunizations under the Polio Vaccine Assistance Act of 1955, ended the program — which had been supposed to terminate in February 1956 — nearly two weeks ago, on June 30. Persons under 40 years of age who still wish to receive the vaccine may purchase it from their family doctor, said Letcher County Health Officer Dr. R. Dow Collins.

. Improvements at the Burdine School authorized last year by the Jenkins Independent Board of Education are now complete. The contractor’s work on the two modern classrooms was completed with the installation of steel wardrobes and bookshelves.

. The Whitesburg Fire Department’s fire siren will blow for a full minute at 11 a.m. Friday as part of the nationwide Civil Defense test known as “Operation Alert 1957.” This will be the first time Whitesburg has participated in the exercise.

. Norman Lucas, 66, of Dry Fork, was convicted of convicted of manslaughter Friday in the death of his housekeeper, Mrs. Lovell Stamper, last February 2. The jury fixed punishment for Lucas, who was indicted for murder, at 18 years and one day in prison on the lesser charge. Lucas testified that he shot Mrs. Stamper at his home when she came at him with a butcher’s knife.

Thursday, July 6, 1967 Whitesburg Little League publicist Jerald Combs is asking coaches to stop verbally abusing umpires. “Our program has been dampened some by the coaches, managers and players talking to the umpire about his decisions,” Combs said. “This is not good, because it teaches the players to argue rather than to try to do better the next time.” Meanwhile, Combs says that Mark Caudill and Michael Burl Combs, helped by Phil Amburgey and Rodney Fields, have helped Glo-Coal develop one of the best pitching staffs seen on one Little League team. Still, Glo-Coal surrendered the lead in the league standings to VFW after two weeks as No. 1.

. People in the path of the Carr Fork Dam project are not happy with the way they are being treated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and they got together at Carr Creek Elementary School last Friday to tells the Corps so. Their complaints centered on two main themes: 1. They do not believe the Corps is consistent in its offers of money to purchase property: 2. They do not have enough information about the dam project to make intelligent decisions on relocating their homes and their families.

. A three-day “health fair” with free physical examinations and exhibits will be held next week at Haymond and Kona. Medical specialists include a pediatrician and dentist from Rye, New York. The Letcher County Health Department is cooperating with the fair.

. Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Holbrook of Millstone will celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary with an open house at their home on Sunday, July 16.

. Olivia Maggard, daughter of June Maggard and Ellis O. Maggard, is going to school this summer in Europe, where she and Clayshan Caudill, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Herb Caudill, are roommates. The girls, who will be visiting Italy, Switzerland, France and England, are members of the Foreign Language League program.

. Leigh Lewis and Beth Blackson, both of Whitesburg, will leave Louisville July 22 on a Baptist Young Women’s Auxiliary Tour of the southwest. Among the places they will visit are Kansas City, Denver, Colorado Springs, and Glorieta Pass in New Mexico.

Thursday, June 30, 1977

Ray Hamlin, 27, an employee of Stearns Mining Co., was wounded by shotgun fire last Thursday as he was finishing his shift on the Justus Mine picket line in McCreary County. Storm Security guard Lee Griffith Jr., 35, of David, has been arrested and charged with first-degree assault in connection with the incident.

. Widows of 11 men killed in the second Scotia mine explosion last year are asking the federal government for $1.2 million each in damages, and if an investigation exonerates the Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration of blame in the disaster, they will file suit for $12 million, according to their attorney.

. July 3 will mark the beginning of “Dog Days” writes Linefork correspondent Thelma Cornett. And she points out that oldtimers say we will have 40 days of whatever kind of weather July 3 brings us.

Wednesday, July 1, 1987 After withstanding years of thunderstorms, high winds and heavy snows, the nation’s largest pawpaw tree may be about to die from poisoning, its owners say. Rebecca Ratliff says she is afraid the tree designated as the largest of its kind in the U.S. will die because it has been watered frequently from a well contaminated with a mixture of two very potent herbicides. Even worse, said Mrs. Ratliff, is the fact that she and her family had been drinking water from the same water source before they discovered it was contaminated. According to Mrs. Ratliff, the poison entered her water supply sometime between January and May after the Kentucky Power Company sprayed a mixture of the herbicides Garlon 3A and Tordon 101 on property belonging to her and her husband, Larry Ratliff of Kingscreek.

. A project by the Letcher County Fiscal Court to restore the Fishpond Lake recreation area is nearly complete. The county began restoring the park early last summer after state and federal agencies, which for years had contributed thousands of dollars to fix up the park, ordered the county

to bring the facility up to par or suffer the consequences.

Wednesday, July 2, 1997 The City of Blackey will receive a $650,000 rural development grant to complete construction of its new water system, which will serve 272 families. The water system will include a treatment plant, storage tank, two pump stations and approximately eight miles of distribution lines. The water will come from the North Fork of the Kentucky River.

. Responsibility for Letcher County’s proposed countywide water and sewer system has been formally transferred from a study group to an official commission. Judge/Executive Carroll A. Smith praised members of the study group for their work, which began in early 1996. The study group included James McAuley of Kona, Joe Begley of Blackey, Steve Taylor of Whitesburg, Don Profitt of Camp Branch, Ralph Marcum of Fleming-Neon and David Richardson of Jenkins.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007 The B.B. King All Stars will be featured at a Fourth of July celebration being held tonight in Whitesburg. The celebration is schedule to begin at 7:30 p.m. and will end at midnight. A fireworks display will take place shortly after dusk.

. Letcher County’s unemployment rate includes a full percentage point after 205 residents lost their jobs between April and May. According to the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, the county’s jobless rate for May was 7.7 percent, up from 6.7 percent in April.

. Frank Majority Jr., one of Letcher County’s best-known photographers and an authority on mountain lore, died June 30 after a long illness. He was 89.

Return to top