2017-12-06 / Columns

The Way We Were


Mick Jagger, top photo, sings at the Altamont Rock Festival at Livermore, Calif., in this Dec. 6, 1969 photo while Hells Angels cross the stage during a melee to help fellow motorcyclists. At the bottom Jagger looks at the motorcyclists after they dragged onstage an unidentified person whom they mauled during the concert. (AP Photos) Mick Jagger, top photo, sings at the Altamont Rock Festival at Livermore, Calif., in this Dec. 6, 1969 photo while Hells Angels cross the stage during a melee to help fellow motorcyclists. At the bottom Jagger looks at the motorcyclists after they dragged onstage an unidentified person whom they mauled during the concert. (AP Photos) Clips from available Mountain Eagle pages since our founding in 1907

Thursday, December 8, 1927

The Indian Bottom Church of Regular Baptists celebrated its 117th birthday on Sunday. The church was organized in 1810 — two years before our second war with Great Britain — by Simeon Justice, William Solberry, and Elecious Thompson.

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Letcher County Deputy Sheriff Jim Maggard of Thornton has been cleared of all charges in the shooting death of Willie Bowen of Knott County. Letcher County Judge Noah Bentley freed Deputy Maggard Wednesday afternoon after an “examining hearing,” which included a trip by Judge Bentley to the scene of the shooting on Thornton. In rendering his decision, Judge Bentley noted that the mule Bowen rode and the horse Maggard rode were brought to the scene and placed in positions in which the different witnesses and Maggard said they were at the time of the shooting. Bentley said he didn’t want to accuse any of the 30 witnesses for the Commonwealth of “false swearing,” but that it appeared “certain witnesses” were mistaken in their accounts of how the shooting occurred. While the prosecution, led by Letcher County Attorney Harry L. Moore, argued that Bowen was shot down without cause, Judge Bentley ruled that the deputy was acting in self-defense while attempting to serve a warrant that had been issued for Bowen’s arrest by a county magistrate.

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Virginia Governor Harry F. Byrd has pledged his and his state’s help in investigating and punishing members of a mob who broke into Letcher County Jail last week and lynched a black man who had been charged with murdering a white man. Gov. Byrd called the lynching of Leonard Wood, “a dastardly and cold-blooded crime without the slightest justification.”

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At least 12 Letcher County men will be prosecuted for their roles in the death of a murder suspect who was forcibly removed from the Letcher County Jail early last week and hanged near the Pound Gap of Pine Mountain. A spokesman for Letcher County Attorney Harry L. Moore said Moore has the names of at least a dozen county men who helped a large group of Virginia men in the lynching of 30-year-old Leonard Wood, a black man who had been charged with murdering 35-year-old Harold Deaton, a white man who had worked as a mine foreman at Elkhorn Coal Corporation at Fleming. Wood was taken from the jail and murdered on the Virginia side of Pound Gap after a mob overpowered Letcher County Sheriff Morgan T. Reynolds and a deputy sheriff who were in the process of trying to remove Wood from the jail in Whitesburg for safekeeping elsewhere. According to Moore’s spokesman, murder charges filed as a result of the lynching will have to be prosecuted in Virginia, because that is where the lynching occurred. Kentucky will prosecute the mob members who are charged with breaking into the jail and taking Wood against his will.

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The Kentucky State Highway Commission has voted to endorse the movement now underway to make the Mammoth Cave area of western Kentucky into a national park.

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The wife of Letcher County coal baron

W. Slemp has returned to Millstone after accompanying her mother on a several months’ long tour of Europe, most of that time spent in Italy. Mr. Slemp met Mrs. Slemp in Washington, D.C., recently and accompanied her back to the couple’s home here.

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Whitesburg grocer J.A. Holbrook suffered a broken leg “near the ankle” Wednesday afternoon after he stepped into the path of a car driven by Kirk Caudill “near the corner on which is located Letcher State Bank,” The Mountain Eagle reports. Holbrook was en route back to his store on Railroad Street when the accident occurred.

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The Business Men’s Club of Whitesburg and members of the Letcher County Fiscal Court have issued a formal request to the Kentucky State Highway Commission, asking that the Commission continue the concrete surfacing of the road from Seco to Sandlick Gap. Dr. B.F. Wright and attorneys Harry L. Moore and F.G. Fields drafted the resolution.

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Friends were surprised Sunday night when they noticed that Mr. and Mrs. J.B. McAuley were registered to stay at the Daniel Boone Hotel in Whitesburg. Mrs. McAuley was still known as Leona Potter, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Potter of Kona, before the couple married in Virginia earlier in the day. The bridegroom is an employee of the Elkhorn Coal Corporation of Kona.

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A.S. Mire, a well-known and highly respected businessman from Blackey, is returning to his native Syria to settle the estate of his parents, both of whom died recently. He is expected to be back in Letcher County in April 1928. “Mr. Mire has been away from his native land for 21 years,” The Mountain Eagle reports. “During that time he has become a naturalized American, has fought for the land of his adoption, established a prosperous business in Blackey, and won the respect of the men and women with whom he has come in contact. He will see for the first time a sister who will return to America with him.”

. Two smallpox cases have been reported in Whitesburg, one at Seco, and one on Rockhouse. Several cases of smallpox are now affecting the community of Elsiecoal.

Thursday, December 9, 1937

Letcher County is “already having plenty of snow and winter — the worst so far for many years,” observes the community correspondent from Sergent, who is writing anonymously.

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Kelly Motor Sales of Whitesburg announces two new Ford V-8 cars for 1938, the De Luxe with 85 horsepower ($689 for the Coupe) and the Standard with either 60 horsepower ($599 for the Coupe) or 85 horsepower ($629, Coupe).

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The new brick store building belonging to S.F. Dawahare at Neon is almost ready for occupancy, Mr. Dawahare says. The two-story building with a 50-foot frontage stands on the lot where the old Dawahare’s store building was located. The new Dawahare’s store will open December 15.

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An “examining trial” will be held at 1 p.m. Friday to consider the circumstances surrounding the death Wednesday night of Flora Hardy of McRoberts, who was shot by James Battles, also of McRoberts, after an argument involving the two and others.

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The new floor is finished and the front doors are being installed in the auditorium of the Presbyterian Church in Whitesburg. “It is necessary for one to see this auditorium to appreciate the fine work that has been done on it,” writes The Mountain Eagle. “The wood up to the windows and all around the pulpit stand and choir loft is solid walnut and yellow poplar. The ceiling will be finished in yellow poplar stained with oil stain. This lumber was given by Mr. Authur Bastin of Kona, [who also] furnished the walnut for the fine work that has been done around the pulpit stand. The woodwork is being done under the direction of Mr. Hop Gibson, and when it is finished it will be another building that will make Whitesburg stand out.”

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Dr. B.F. Wright has filed a lawsuit with the Kentucky Court of Appeals challenging the results of the recount of his election against James M. Crase for the office of Letcher County Judge. Crase, a Republican, was declared the winner over Wright, a Democrat, after a recount was ordered by the Letcher Circuit Court.

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Blackey is trying to recover from two major fires and a flood that damaged the town in 1927. While both the Blackey Presbyterian Church and the Isom Hospital shine under new coats of paint, J.B. Brown bought and taken over the Bill Whitaker Whiskey Store, Troy Shepherd has opened a new dispensary to be known as the Hogg Whiskey Store.

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A number of Blackey residents traveled to Hazard on Sunday and Monday to see the new movie “Heidi,” starring Shirley Temple.

Thursday, December 18, 1947

The James Kimbrell Barber Shop in Neon was the scene of a murder Saturday morning when Shelley Lequire, a motorman for Consolidation Coal Company in McRoberts, was gunned down by Ernest Davis, a man left handicapped when he was shot by Lequire about three years ago when Lequire was a Neon police officer. Witnesses say Lequire was waiting to get a haircut when Davis walked in, stood a few moments, and then began firing his gun at Lequire. After shooting Lequire, Davis was heard to say, “You have caused me many of a worry. At least you got yours in the face while I got mine in the back.” Officials say Lequire shot Davis while he was attempting to arrest him on a charge of disorderly conduct. Davis now faces a charge of murder and is being held in the Letcher County Jail in Whitesburg. Lequire, who was buried Tuesday, is survived by his wife and four children.

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A new drug store called Champion Dairy Bar will open in Jenkins at the first of the year in the building where the Jenkins Meat Market was formerly located.

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Completion of the tunnel through Pine Mountain, the last barrier on the new C&O Railroad branch line connecting Kentucky and Virginia, is expected to be completed by January 15. The nearly milelong tunnel has been under construction for two years.

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Virgil D. Picklesimer of Seco, general superintendent of South-East Coal Company, was elected president of the Kentucky Mining Institute at the close of a two-day conference in Lexington December 13.

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Pure Oil Company dealers were treated to a Christmas party at the Pine Mountain Resort Hotel near Whitesburg last week. Guests and their wives included C.A. Dotson, C.H. Webb, C.E. Webb, Rev. Paul M. Stewart, Willie J. Craft, Gene Thrauley, Raney Robinson, and F.L. Farinash.

Thursday, December 5, 1956

Fleming-Neon High School’s James “Red” Hill last week became the only football player in the history of the school to make the All-State First Team.

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Former Whitesburg Fire Chief Remious Day was reappointed to his old job by members of the city council at their monthly meeting Monday night. He replaces Harold Day, who resigned.

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A recount of votes cast in the election for Jenkins City Council has made Denville Davidson the one-vote winner over Columbus Phillips for one of the six council seats.

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Residents of Letcher County received a total of $63,584 in October under Kentucky’s four public assistance programs — old age, aid to dependent children, aid to the needy, and aid to the blind and permanently disabled.

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Two attempted burglaries and one successful one plagued Whitesburg merchants last week. Thieves took between $15 and $20 from the Messenger Florist after trying unsuccessfully to break into the Western Auto Store and the U.S. Post Office.

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Two new businesses have opened in Letcher County. The Jack Call Piano Company has opened a store in the old Quillen Drug building on Railroad Street; Curt Asher has opened an auction house for furniture sales at Isom, where he will be working with auctioneer Ivan Childers.

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Dunham High School senior Juanita Wright is the winner of the “I Speak for Democracy” contest sponsored locally by the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees).

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“Don’t Knock the Rock,” starring Bill Haley and His Comets, Little Richard, and Alan Freed is showing Thursday through Saturday (Dec. 5-7) at Isaac’s Alene Theatre in Whitesburg.

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Ronald Polly, a University of Kentucky sophomore from McRoberts, is a member of the UK debating team. A graduate of Jenkins High School, he is a son of Millard Polly.

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Hugh Strunk made his last trip Saturday aboard an L&N Railroad train, retiring from the railroad after 42 years. Mr. Strunk was born in Corbin but has lived in Neon since joining the railroad. He says he will spend his free time hunting and fishing and helping Mrs. Strunk with the dishes. Thursday, December 7, 1967 Lilly’s Woods, a 600-acre tract of virgin forest at Linefork, is named in honor of the late Lilly Cornett who bought the land after he served in World War I. At the time, timber was being cut at a vast scale throughout the mountains, but Cornett would not let the trees on the tract be cut. A magazine reported in 1965 that a core sample taken by a forester revealed that one of the trees in Lilly’s Woods was more than 275 years old. State Forester Gene Butcher has had an interest for some years in preserving that land, and Mrs. Justin Zimmerman, a botany instructor at Morton Arboretum near Chicago, has also been contacting various sources for help in saving the forest.

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Army Specialist Four Ronnie W. Combs, 20, son of Mr. and Mrs. Curtis Combs of Colson, was among members of Company B who worked around the clock recently to complete the job of repairing a sector of highway QL-1 in Vietnam. Hauling rock from the battalion quarry 20 miles away, the company widened the entire roadbed and then raised it 12 inches. Specialist Combs is a truck driver with the company. His wife, Mary, lives at Seco.

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Gov. Edward T. Breathitt has announced that welfare checks going to 190,000 Kentuckians will not be cut. The announcement came a day after State Economic Security Commissioner Leslie Dawson said his agency was making preparations to reduce welfare payments as part of an overall drive to cut state spending by $24.1 million in the six months remaining in the current fiscal year.

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Specialist Four Douglas P. Chandler, 20, son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Chandler of Whitesburg, has received the Army Commendation Medal in ceremonies near Lai Khe in Vietnam. He received the award for heroism in combat.

Thursday, December 1, 1977

The Environmental Protection Agency soon will propose a new regulation designed to increase the use of Appalachian high-sulfur coal and protect coal min- ers’ jobs. The regulation will have the effect of requiring operators of new coal-burning power plants to install pollution control equipment regardless of whether they burn high- or low-sulfur coal.

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Twin boys born at Whitesburg Hospital died during a five-hour drive to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital after doctors here were told there was no room at three other hospitals, including the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington. The infants were two months premature when they were born. Both developed breathing problems shortly after their delivery and required artificial resuscitation.

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From January to August 1977, more coal miners died in Kentucky mines than in any other state nationwide. Twenty-seven miners had died in Kentucky coal mines through August. Kentucky led the nation in coal mines deaths in 1976 as well, when 39 coal miners died. That figure included the 23 miners who perished in the Scotia Mine explosions in March, 1976 in Ovenfork.

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The first snow of the season captured travelers home for the Thanksgiving holiday. Though the storm left up to 16 inches of snow in southwest Virginia, Letcher County had only a short-lived cover.

Wednesday, December 2, 1987

Letcher Circuit Judge F. Byrd Hogg has denied a motion for a change of venue in the penalty phase of Donald Terry Bartley’s trial for the murder of Tammy Dee Acker. Citing the publicity surrounding the trial of Bartley’s co-defendants, Roger Epperson and Benny Lee Hodge, Prestonsburg attorney Ned Pillersdorf has requested that the trial be moved to a county where there was not a general knowledge of the case. Bartley, Epperson and Hodge were charged with capital murder in connection with the April 1986 stabbing death of Tammy Acker, the attempted murder of her father Roscoe Acker, and the robbery of their Fleming-Neon home.

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Srinivas Rao of Whitesburg has won the Jim Clarke Prize at Yale University for his work in developing an optical range finder for a vehicular robot. The range finder makes use of a helium-neon laser. The prize, which recognizes academic excellence, carries an honorarium of $10,000. Rao, a sophomore at Yale, was valedictorian of the 1986 class of Whitesburg High School and was among the first students to receive the new Commonwealth diploma. He is the son of Dr. Chalapathi Subbalaskshmi Rao and Mrs. Rao of Whitesburg.

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Jenkins High School officials want the State Highway Department to help eliminate danger for students by building an elevated footbridge across US. 23. They say many students must cross the busy highway to the Jenkins Athletic Field twice each day.

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Students at two Letcher County schools will soon be in new classrooms. Workers have landscaped the area around the nearly complete Letcher School addition. The addition should be open next semester and will include six classrooms, two science laboratories, an art room and a library. The ground-floor walls are now up at the Fleming-Neon Industrial Arts building and the floors were poured last week. The building should be open next fall.

Wednesday, December 3, 1997

A Letcher County time capsule, which was placed in the courthouse cornerstone in 1964, reveals the thoughts, worries and entertainments of 33 years earlier. Construction workers renovating the building discovered the time capsule. Among the items in the capsule are two copies of The Mountain Eagle, a Kennedy half dollar, a calendar bearing a picture of the then-new First Security Bank building in Whitesburg, a picture of the new courthouse, a book containing a copy of the Declaration of Independence, and a sample election ballot featuring the presidential race between President Johnson and Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona.

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Jenkins officials are considering legal action against an ambulance company that left the town over the weekend and apparently took the city’s license to operate an ambulance service with it. Menifee County-based Care First Ambulance Service had been operating in Jenkins under a “certificate of need” issued to the city by the state. City officials say that when they found out that Care First intended to pull its equipment out of Jenkins, they also discovered that the company had managed to get the certificate of need changed from the city’s name to the company’s name. The name change means the city no long has the right to operate its own ambulance service.

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The December menu for the Letcher County School System includes items such as chicken and dumplings, a “hammy sammy,” chicken vittles, a sausage pancake porky, and breakfast tacos.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Registered nurses striking against Appalachian Regional Healthcare hospitals in Whitesburg and elsewhere in the region were expected to vote yesterday to defeat the company’s latest contract offer. The nurses’ negotiator calls the contract a flawed proposal and complained the nurses had no assurances of returning to work.

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Work has been underway since Nov. 1 on the new Millstone Democrat Bridge (PFC Billie McFall Bridge) on KY 113. The new bridge will be located at the same site as the existing bridge, and will contain two lanes and sidewalks. The cost of the bridge is $1,008,747.27.

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The City of Fleming-Neon will not be able to put out its Christmas display in the city park this year because thieves and vandals broke into the Hazen Building where the displays were stored and stole all those with electric wiring and vandalized others. City officials believe the motive behind the theft was to obtain copper.

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Santa Claus visited Letcher County over the weekend to ask boys and girls what he should bring along for them when he returns on Dec. 25. While he was here, Santa rode on a fire truck in the Jenkins Christmas Parade before meeting 150 children.

Rock festival brings 1960s to violent end

In August 1969, the massive, three-day Woodstock Music & Art Fair had proved that hundreds of thousands of young people could gather peacefully even in a seemingly chaotic environment rich with sex, drugs and rock and roll. Four months later, it would become clear that Woodstock owed its success not to the inherent peacefulness of the 1960s youth culture, but to the organizational acumen of the event’s producers. That idea was proven in the violent, uncontrolled chaos of the disastrous Altamont Speedway Free Festival, held on this day in 1969 in the northern California hills 60 miles east of San Francisco.

Altamont was the brainchild of the Rolling Stones, who hoped to cap off their U.S. tour in late 1969 with a concert that would be the West Coast equivalent of Woodstock, in both scale and spirit. Unlike Woodstock, however, which was the result of months of careful planning by a team of well-funded organizers, Altamont was a largely improvised affair that did not even have a definite venue arranged just days before the event. It was only on Thursday, December 4, 1969, that organizers settled on the Altamont Speedway location for a free concert that was by then scheduled to include Santana; the Jefferson Airplane; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; and the Grateful Dead, all in support of the headlining Stones. The event would also include, infamously, several dozen members the Hells Angels motorcycle gang acting as informal security staff in exchange for $500 worth of beer as a “gratuity.”

It was dark by the time the concert’s next-to-last act, the Grateful Dead, was scheduled to appear. But the Dead had left the venue entirely out of concern for their safety when they learned that Jefferson Airplane singer Marty Balin had been knocked unconscious by one of the Hells Angels in a melee during his band’s performance. It was during the Rolling Stones’ set, however, that a 21-year-old Hells Angel named Alan Passaro stabbed a gun-wielding 18-year-old named Meredith Hunter to death just 20 feet in front of the stage where Mick Jagger was performing “Under My Thumb.” Unaware of what had just occurred, the Rolling Stones completed their set without further incident, bringing an end to a tumultuous day that also saw three accidental deaths and four live births.

The killing of Meredith Hunter at Altamont was captured on film in Gimme Shelter, the documentary of the Stones’ 1969 tour by Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin, which opens with Jagger viewing the footage in an editing room several months later. In the years since, Jagger has not spoken publicly about the killing, for which Passaro was tried but acquitted on grounds of self-defense. — HISTORY.COM

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