2017-08-30 / Columns

The Way We Were


Worst hurricane in nation’s history hit on Labor Day 1935 As the news continues to be dominated by the massive flooding and the resulting horrors Hurricane Harvey unleashed upon Texas, you might wonder which hurricane is on record as the nation’s worst and when the storm occurred. The most intense hurricane to hit the U.S. occurred on Labor Day (September 2) in 1935. This file photo shows the wreckage of an 11-car passenger train that was derailed by that hurricane in the Florida Keys. The National Hurricane Center says no wind measurements were available from the core of the small but “vicious” hurricane, which was a Category 5 storm when it reached the Florida Keys. But a pressure measurement taken at Long Key, Fla., makes it the most intense hurricane ever to make landfall on the U.S. mainland. It was blamed for 408 deaths and caused an estimated $6 million (1935 dollars) in damage. (AP Photo) Worst hurricane in nation’s history hit on Labor Day 1935 As the news continues to be dominated by the massive flooding and the resulting horrors Hurricane Harvey unleashed upon Texas, you might wonder which hurricane is on record as the nation’s worst and when the storm occurred. The most intense hurricane to hit the U.S. occurred on Labor Day (September 2) in 1935. This file photo shows the wreckage of an 11-car passenger train that was derailed by that hurricane in the Florida Keys. The National Hurricane Center says no wind measurements were available from the core of the small but “vicious” hurricane, which was a Category 5 storm when it reached the Florida Keys. But a pressure measurement taken at Long Key, Fla., makes it the most intense hurricane ever to make landfall on the U.S. mainland. It was blamed for 408 deaths and caused an estimated $6 million (1935 dollars) in damage. (AP Photo) Clips from available Mountain Eagle pages since our founding in 1907

Thursday, August 30, 1917

The Mountain Eagle is now read in 600 of the best homes in Letcher County,” editor Nehemiah Webb boasts in a front-page commentary as the newspaper celebrates the 10th anniversary of its founding in August 1907. “Does it come to yours?”

.

In an effort to stop the increasing cost of coal, President Woodrow Wilson, operating under the authorization of Congress, has placed a limit on the maximum cost of coal as the world war continues. The Mountain Eagle reports that the fixed price of $1.95 per ton for “mine run coal” will cause the operators of Letcher County’s small wagon mines to close their operations. Before Wilson’s action, coal brokers were paying Letcher County operators $2.40 per ton for the mine run coal. “We are very sorry that this condition prevails and that the President, under the law, was forced to act,” Eagle editor Webb writes. “Yet for the benefit of the millions who are consumers of this very important product it was his duty to do so. In the meantime, we trust arrangements can be provided to save the county and our operators from suffering severe losses. Come let us reason together.”

.

The Louisville & Nashville Railroad has started work on a five-mile extension from near Benham in Harlan County to property recently acquired by the United States Steel Corporation near the Kentucky- Virginia border. A U.S. Steel subsidiary, the United States Coal & Coke Company, has purchased 20,000 acres of coal land in Harlan County and has already begun the construction of a town, to be modeled after Gary, Indiana. It is expected that the new town will have such modern improvements as electric lights and running water. The streets will be paved and the mines will be lighted electrically. The town will be located on famous Looney Creek and will be home to one of the largest coal and coke operations in the South.

.

The Cassell-Draper-West Coal Company has shipped its first carload of coal from its plant at Ice. The mine now employs about 100 men and hopes to be able to ship no fewer than five railcar loads of coal each day.

.

With several cases of typhoid fever being reported from Cowan and other sections of Letcher County, The Mountain Eagle says, “The day is past in this county when the conditions that cause typhoid should be allowed to prevail. Let our Letcher County Board of Health get busy now. … Persons who permit unsanitary condition that are the root and branch of typhus are inviting death into their own households.”

.

Kentucky-produced petroleum now commands $2.40 per barrel, a 10-cent increase in just eight days.

.

Dr. Williams, who had been a leading physician in Ravenna, Kentucky, has arrived in Letcher County, and is now employed by the Mayking Coal Corporation and the Whitley-Elkhorn Coal Company of Sergent. He has already treated Mrs. Ida Webb of and the small child of Nelson Sellers, both of who are ill in Sergent.

.

The Whitley-Elkhorn Coal Company will begin shipping coal from its new Sergent mine very soon, as the company is rushing its tipple construction while awaiting the L&N Railroad to lay its steel rails in the community.

.

Professor Paul Hounchell, the new principal of the county high school and graded school, both located in Whitesburg, arrived here a few days ago with his wife. Both schools are set to open next Monday.

.

“In his travels over the earth, Old Man Winter lost his course and drifted this way a few days ago,” The Eagle observes. “In the evenings and at night his breath was so icy that we had to don extra clothes and, in the wee house of the night, beckon the ‘kiver’ to come. Some think the Old Man was just giving us a few samples of what’s to come.”

.

The fiercest fighting of all the war is now going on along the border between the French, Italians and the English on one side and the Germans on the other. U.S. allies are said to be making great headway, gaining ground and capturing arms and prisoners at every drive. The question is: Can Germany hold out much longer?

.

The number of known dead in the recent disaster in Mine No. 7 of the West Kentucky Coal Company was increased to 51 when the bodies of three unidentified Negro miners were brought to the surface of the mine located in the community of Clay in Webster County.

Thursday, September 1, 1927

Stating that he was “bordering on a nervous breakdown,” Letcher Circuit Court Clerk Jody P. Adams has withdrawn a counter suit he filed against J.H. Hogg in connection with the August primary election. Hogg originally filed suit against Adams, who appeared to have won the Republican Party nomination by three votes, after it was discovered that a mistake in the Neon voting precinct awarded Hogg only 12 votes when he should have received 21, easily giving him the nomination. Adams’s latest action assures Hogg’s nomination.

.

During a visit to the offices of The Mountain Eagle, W.M. Breeding said that Jim Back and sons of Breeding’s Creek in Knott County killed 41 copperhead snakes in one nest recently. According to Breeding, nine of the snakes were adults.

.

Wise County, Virginia is set to have a weekly newspaper once again after a 10 years absence. The new journal will be called The Wise Gazette and will be edited by James Taylor Adams, a native of Craft’s Colly in Letcher County who has spent much of his 35 years working for papers such as the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and the Arkansas Gazette. Most recently, he was on the staff of the Roanoke (Va.) Times.

.

The body of Lenville Gates was found beside his wrecked automobile on the hill coming from Virginia into Jenkins, where Gates was employed. He was about 30 years old.

.

The short stretch of road from Potter’s Fork to Neon is now open to public travel. The road, which is not part of the state highway system, connects Neon with Haymond via a route much shorter than the road across Haymond Hill. It is also much safer.

.

Codell Construction Company of Winchester is bringing its big shovel to Dwarf in Perry County, where it will start construction next week on the road between Hazard and Hindman, the county seats of Perry and Knott. Knott County has put up $50,000 for the 12-mile section from Hindman to Dwarf, which is expected to be complete by winter. It will be the first road out of Hindman, site of the well-known Settlement School. When the entire road is finished next summer, the trip from Hazard to Hindman will take less than an hour.

.

The spread of infantile paralysis has resulted in some Kentucky communities, including the City of Lexington, banning the gathering of children less than 16 years of age into groups. The “catching” disease often leaves its victims crippled for life. Of the 1,500 crippled children in Kentucky, more than half of them are the results of infantile paralysis.

Thursday, September 2, 1937

The City of Whitesburg has spent $4,200 while acquiring all of the equipment necessary to start a fire department. According to Mayor H.H. Harris, $690 of the money came from community donations and was applied toward the purchase of 1,000 feet of hose. The rest of the money was borrowed, including the $400 cost of a siren.

.

What started as a vacation trip turned into tragedy here for 12 Weeksbury people last Wednesday morning. Robert Rains, his wife and their two children, his aged grandmother and his two brothers and their families were driving from their Floyd County home to Williamsburg in Whitley County when the Chevrolet pickup truck in which they were riding began having mechanical problems as it traveled up Pine Mountain. About two-thirds of the way up the mountain, the pickup left the road, ran along the shoulder for about 30 feet, and then plunged down the mountainside. Killed was Robert Rains, the driver. The other 11 suffered various injuries, none of them life-threatening. All three men involved in the mishap were miners with Koppers Coal Company at Weeksbury.

.

Dr. B.F. Wright of Seco has secured the release on bond of three organizers for the United Mine Workers of America who were jailed in Harlan County while trying to organize the Lynch and Benham districts. Wright, who owns property in Harlan County, paid the bonds ranging from $2,500 to $500 after the organizers, who were arrested August 22, spent three days in jail.

.

“Dr. B.F. Wright is to be congratulated for his stand for organized labor — and organized labor is to be congratulated for having a friend of his caliber,” a Mountain Eagle editorial says about the efforts of Wright on behalf of the United Mine Workers of America. “Organized labor in Letcher and Harlan counties owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. B.F. Wright for his unceasing efforts in their behalf.” The Seco physician most recently came to the aid of three UMWA organizers whose work in Benham and Lynch resulted in their being arrested and placed in the Harlan County Jail.

.

Fifty-three new sheriff ’s deputies have been added to the staff at the Harlan County Sheriff ’s Department, says officials with the United Mine Workers of America.

.

At least 1,200 miners gathered in front of the company store at Lynch last Sunday to hear talks given by organizers with the United Mine Workers of America. It was the first meeting held between U.S. Steel Corporation miners and the union in three weeks.

.

The Fleming ballpark will be the scene of a monster Labor Day celebration on Monday as sponsors include UMWA Local Unions 6800, 5824, 5810, 6848, 5794, 5790 and 5860, along with members of CIO Local No. 73. Among the guest speakers are Dr. B.F. Wright of Seco, the Democratic candidate for Letcher County Judge, and John Y. Brown, attorney for the UMWA’s District 30.

.

A shootout between Letcher County Deputy Sheriff Floyd Cook and Blackey resident Viron Hogg has left Hogg hospitalized and Deputy Cook facing criminal charges. Witnesses say Hogg, his son, Jonah, and another man were boarding the passenger train in Blackey, where they had been drinking alcohol, when an argument broke out between them and Cook. Hogg, who was shot in the back, is being treated at the Jenkins hospital. Deputy Cook was released from the county jail in Whitesburg after posting bond of $1,000.

.

Among the prizes to be awarded at the Carcassonne Community Center Fair on September 29 include those for best mule, biggest hog, biggest ewe, largest rooster, tallest stalk of corn, biggest cushaw, largest head of cabbage, best handmade basket and best corncob pipe.

Thursday, September 4, 1947

Sam Bates has purchased the McRoberts Recreation Building from Mr. and Mrs. Roy Fleming. Bates will continue Fleming’s practice of leasing the business to the sons of Leslie Hogg.

.

Ed Williams has resigned from his position with Electric Machine Inc. at Marlowe and is establishing an electrical repair and wiring shop at Neon. Williams also served as chief electrician for Elk Horn Coal Corporation for many years.

.

Funeral services were held in Tolliver Town August 30 for Charles Henry Collier, the six-year-old son of Jimmy and Edna Smith Collier of Thornton, who was killed when a coal truck ran over him at Barlow Hollow in Neon. The tragic death of little Charles, who was visiting his grandmother, Mrs. Charlie Smith, when the accident occurred, has left many in the Neon area in shock.

.

Six-year-old Shelby Jean Stambaugh of Whitaker died tragically August 25 when a loaded gun fell to the floor from an open dresser drawer, discharged and sent a bullet through her chest. The accident happened in the home of the girl’s mother, Gloria Hall. She is also the daughter of Lawrence Stambaugh of Millstone.

.

Jess Holbrook will soon open on his property near Millstone one of Letcher County’s most up-to-date filling stations and general merchandise stores.

.

S.A. “Big Shot” Collins will soon open a modern Texaco filling station and restaurant at Mayking.

Thursday, September 5, 1957

Faced with a $6,000 budget deficit, the City of Whitesburg appears ready to hike its occupational license fees for the first time since 1940.

.

A crowd estimated at 22,000 attended a Labor Day celebration at the Jenkins football field Monday sponsored by District 30 of the United Mine Workers of America.

An electrifying 74-yard runback of the opening kickoff by Jenkins halfback Jimmy Scott touched off an explosive first quarter that saw the Cavaliers score three touchdowns on their way to a 26-7 win over Loyall High School of Harlan County. Gary Harrison scored three touchdowns and one extra point for the Cavaliers.

.

Red Hill ran for a 35-yard touchdown and kicked the extra point late in the second quarter as the Fleming Pirates held off the Belfry Pirates for a 7 to 6 victory Saturday.

.

Whitesburg High School fullback Charles Martin scored his team’s only touchdown of the game and quarterback Darrell Stidham found Owen Pace open for a two-point conversion pass as the Yellowjackets defeated M.C. Napier, 9 to 6, Friday night in Hazard.

.

Residents of Jenkins and Whitesburg overwhelmingly support the use of automatic voting machines in Letcher County, according to an informal poll conducted by The Mountain Eagle. The Letcher Fiscal Court is now considering whether to purchase the county’s first voting machines, which, according to citizen Manus Ison, would “have a tendency to do away with a lot of the corruption in politics.” Ison was one of several citizens questioned about the voting machines by Eagle reporter Barbara Stambaugh. “They would cut down on lots of things that go on in the precincts that are not right,” added Jenkins resident Bill Terrill.

.

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Adams of Harlan have announced the arrival of a five pound 14-ounce baby girl. She was born Friday night at the Harlan hospital and Linda Carol has been chosen as her name. Maternal grandparents are Mr. and Mrs. Willie Quillen.

.

Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden, and Raymond Burr star in “Crime of Passion” showing Friday through Sunday at Isaac’s Alene Theatre in Whitesburg.

Thursday, August 31, 1967

Master Sergeant Ben B. Taylor, a native of Millstone, received the Bronze Star medal for heroism as the result of his personal bravery in a battle in Vietnam. Sgt. Taylor, a member of the Special Forces, led his men to aid a reconnaissance patrol, and under his direction, the men drove the Viet Cong into the jungle.

.

After more than two weeks of charges and counter charges, the federal Office of Economic Opportunity apparently does not plan to withdraw any funds from the Appalachian Volunteers. Two weeks ago Sargent Shriver, director of OEO, and Kentucky Gov. Edward Breathitt announced that OEO aid to the AVs in Kentucky would stop as of September 1. OEO has provided about $600,000 for the current year of AV operation in Kentucky.

.

Enrollment in Letcher County schools dropped 6½ percent from last year’s opening figure, the office of Superintendent Kendall Boggs said. Enrollment from 1960 to this year has fallen 18½ percent. Asst. Superintendent Jeff B. Mayes said the drop occurred throughout the county, with perhaps the largest occurring at Campbell’s Branch School.

.

The Jenkins Cavaliers kicked off the football season by defeating the Elkhorn City Cougars, 24-7.

Thursday, August 25, 1977

Appalachian coal mines began an unsteady return to production this week, but as United Mine Workers members in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky began returning to work, the recurrent presence of pickets and lingering dissatisfaction over unresolved issues after meetings with top union officials made continued unrest a certainty. Officials at the Charlestonbased UMW District 17 estimated that perhaps half of their 26,000 members had acknowledged a back-to-work order by district President Jack Perry, but many miners there remained angry and unconvinced after a six-hour meeting with the union’s International Executive Board.

.

The installation of four additional rain gauges at key points throughout the Kentucky River Valley has been identified as the top priority project in a flood abatement study recently completed by the Kentucky River Area Development District. Only only two National Weather Service rainfall-recording stations currently serve the KRADD area.

.

Terry Taylor of Letcher High School, son of Clyde and Faye Taylor, of Isom, was a member of the East All-Star basketball squad in the recent East-West game at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington.

.

Joe Walters assumed new duties this week as manager and part owner of Superior Food Market in Whitesburg. Walters moved over to Superior from Gibson Discount Plaza, where he had been manager since March 1, 1974.

Wednesday, August 26, 1987

Police say they have “some leads”, but still don’t know the whereabouts of Anthony Smith, 21, and his wife, Carolyn Shepherd Smith, 22, of Isom, and Steve Adams, 20, and his wife, Rebecca Pennington Adams, 17, of Perry County, accused of a triple murder and kidnapping at Isom August 1. “We’re getting some leads,” Danny Webb, a Kentucky State lieutenant, said. “I hope something will break in the next couple of days.” The four are wanted for the murders of Carolyn Smith’s parents and her brother. They are also charged with kidnapping the Smiths’ three-year-old daughter, who had been legally adopted by the Shepherds.

.

Residents of Camp Branch blocked coal trucks for nearly two hours Friday in an attempt to draw attention to the condition of KY 931. The once-asphalt road was covered with gravel when the protest was staged.

.

When Westmoreland Coal Co. takes over 38,000 acres of BethEnergy coal reserves in Letcher, Knott and Pike counties later this year, eastern Kentucky will become the site of a major operation of the largest independent company in the coal business. Last January, Fortune magazine recognized Westmoreland as one of the 10 best American companies in the category of mining and crude oil production, based on a survey of 8,200 corporate executives and financial analysts.

. A delegation of 18 Letcher County citizens will go to Frankfort Thursday for a public hearing on a proposed nursing home. According to the proposal, Letcher County Health Care Center, Whitesburg, would construct a long-term care facility.

Wednesday, August 27, 1997

Commissioners of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District are exploring the possibility of using worked-out coal mines as a principal source of water for the new water and sewer system they are developing for local residents. The Kentucky Geological Survey is working on a study to see if the mine water could be one of possible water sources for the proposed new county system. The water/ sewer district commissioners hope to find a water source that can provide a sure six month supply of water for all of Letcher County. One mine which might provide the necessary amount of water is the Polly Mine west of Whitesburg, opened in the 1950s by South East Coal Co. The mine no longer is active.

.

When Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota meets with local residents this week, he hopes to find himself at “a community meeting with the emphasis on community. A lot of the wisdom, a lot of the best ideas, come from people who are living it every day and who have some good things to say about what we could do better for kids in the early years, what we could do better in our schools, what we could do better by way of economic development, what we could do better by people being prouder of their history and their culture, what we could do better in terms of health care,” Wellstone says. “I look forward to hearing from everybody.”

.

A Mountain Eagle editorial lists the many things that have happened in Letcher County and eastern Kentucky “since the 1960s when federal anti-poverty funds supported things like the Head Start program, improved health care, school lunch and breakfast programs, access to better housing.” The editorial recommends that on his visit to Letcher County, Sen. Paul Wellstone should look at some of the programs by way of celebration of the earlier federal effort including: Mountain Comprehensive Health Care Corp., improved coal mine safety, meals provided to schoolchildren, the Woman and Infant Care program, and Head Start.

.

Lillian Auxier Wright Craft, 89, read from her book, Winding Roads and Dreams, at the Mary Jo Wolfe Library in Jenkins. The book is a memoir of her years as a nurse in Letcher County.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Letcher County Grand Jury has indicted Thomas Wade Sizemore, 42, of Premium, on two counts of attempted murder after he allegedly poured diesel fuel on two women and said he would “burn them alive.” He was also charged with two counts of wanton endangerment for allegedly firing a gun at the two women and two counts of fourth-degree assault for hitting them with his fists.

.

Also indicted by the grand jury is Bobby Gene Collins, 36, of Deane, whom the grand jury did not believe was acting in self-defense when he shot a friend to death after a night of drinking beer together.

.

Matthew Wayne Bailey is the recipient of the Meryl Brown Rotary Scholarship. He is the son of Wayne and Frieda Bailey of Isom. He is also a winner of a fall 2007 Roy R. Crawford Memorial College Scholarship along with Keshia Georgetta Allen, daughter of Jimmy and Kitty Back of Cornettsville, and Whitney Elaine Banks daughter of Steve and Tommye Banks of Whitesburg. Sierra R. Kincer, daughter of Bennett and Carolyn Kincer of Mayking; Rebecca L. Hampton, daughter of Frank and Barbara Hampton of Jenkins; and Amber Wurschmidt, daughter of JoAnn Wurschmidt Smith and Kevin Wurschmidt of Mayking, received the spring 2007 Roy R. Crawford Memorial College Scholarships.

Return to top