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The Way We Were

Clips from available Mountain Eagle pages since our founding in 1908


This month marks the 40th anniversary of a fire that destroyed the Main Street offices of The Mountain Eagle. Shown above is a photograph of part of the front page that appeared exactly one week after the fire, which was later determined to be the result of arson.

This month marks the 40th anniversary of a fire that destroyed the Main Street offices of The Mountain Eagle. Shown above is a photograph of part of the front page that appeared exactly one week after the fire, which was later determined to be the result of arson.

Thursday, August 22, 1934

“The day is not far distant when Mayking will teem with thousands of people and all kinds of business,” predicts Mountain Eagle editor and publisher Nehemiah M. Webb. The punch that will put Mayking more on the map starts this week with an ad in The Eagle announcing the sale of the Mayking Coal Company property, says Webb. Concludes Webb: “Mayking is already a suburb of Whitesburg, only a 10-minute drive from the courthouse over the finest road in the mountains. Mayking is a romantic place, with wide open spaces, hundreds of prosperous citizens, the largest Regular Baptist church membership in eastern Kentucky, home of the first white settler in the county, and the first settlement in the county. It embraces 100 acres, at least, of level land.”

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A Letcher County physician struck a four-year-old boy with his automobile on Sunday, then was assaulted by the boy’s distraught father. Dr. C.M. Bentley of Neon was driving along the highway in Haymond when he accidentally struck the boy. When the father of the seriously injured boy, John Polly, arrived at the scene and saw what had happened, he grabbed Dr. Bentley and began striking him in the face, breaking the doctor’s jaw in two places. Both the doctor and the child were admitted to Fleming hospital. It is reported that the doctor is in worse shape than the boy. John Polly’s brother is Whitesburg barber Milburn Polly.

The Thursday, August 22, 1974 edition of The Mountain Eagle carried the news that the cause of an August 1 fire that destroyed the newspaper’s offices on Main Street was arson. This photo shows how the paper looked during the weeks immediately after the fire, as all type, including headlines, was set on a typewriter.

The Thursday, August 22, 1974 edition of The Mountain Eagle carried the news that the cause of an August 1 fire that destroyed the newspaper’s offices on Main Street was arson. This photo shows how the paper looked during the weeks immediately after the fire, as all type, including headlines, was set on a typewriter.

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Jack, the fine police dog owned by Mrs. Mantie Whitaker, was shot and killed Monday after he attacked another boy in Whitesburg. Jack was put down after he bit Richard Eichelberger, 12-year-old son of a church worker who just recently located here. Whether the dog had rabies won’t be known until its head is examined in Lexington, where the head was sent following Monday’s events. It is not generally believed the dog was mad. Just last week, Jack faced an “examining trial” in Whitesburg before County Judge Adams after biting his first victim.

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Cincinnati City Police Officer Columbus C. Whitaker visited the offices of The Eagle on Monday. A native of Letcher County and reared in Burdine, Columbus is a son of George Whitaker. He has been on the Cincy police force for 11 years.

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Thousands of people from here and elsewhere in the U.S. gathered at the Mayking flying field over the weekend to watch the big air show that featured stunts of all kinds.

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Dave Addington and his uncle, Hugh Taylor, have been charged with stealing $25 from the home of Dair Gibson at the head of Sandlick.

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A 27-year-old Smoot Creek man died Saturday at the Fleming hospital from complications of blood poisoning he suffered after mashing a blemish on his face.

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Brucks Beer is being bottled at Parfay Bottling Company in Sassafras, Ky., in neighboring Knott County. Henry Combs is the sole distributor of Brucks draught and bottled beer for Letcher, Perry and Knott counties.

Thursday, August 17, 1944

Pfc. Venter Holcomb visited the offices of The Mountain Eagle earlier this week to talk about the five months he spent as a prisoner of war in Italy. Holcomb was taken prisoner shortly after he landed in Italy. He was released from prison camp in October 1943 when Italy declared war on its former Axis partner Germany and joined with the allies. Holcomb said that upon being released, he and others POW’s fled to the mountains of Italy, where he said they were treated like family members of the farmers living there. He said he and his buddies remained with the farmers for nine months until the Germans were eliminated and he was able to rejoin with American forces. Holcomb, who has been awarded a Purple Heart and medal for taking part in the European Theatre of war, will be returning to the service after 20 days of leave. He has taken part in three major battles — El Guettar, Oran and Faïd Pass.

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Former Whitesburg resident Robert Asher has been listed as missing in action in France since June 11. A 22-year-old Army private and paratrooper, Asher is the best friend of Sgt. Logan Collins, who was with Asher on the D-Day invasion of France. Asher is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Tim Asher, who lived in Whitesburg for several years while Mr. Asher was employed by the Kentucky and West Virginia Power Company.

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A cabin on Pine Mountain has been purchased by G.D. Polly and donated to the Whitesburg Rotary Club for use by Girl Scout and Boy Scout organizations.

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Lt. John Verdell Back, who has piloted a one-man fighter plane on 66 missions over enemy territory, was a visitor at The Mountain Eagle this week. Back, whose job it is to protect the larger bombers, told of bringing down one Focke-Wulf 190 German fighter over Sicily and other experiences during the Italian campaign. Back has two brothers serving in the armed forces, Captain Klair Back, an instructor at West Point, and Harold Back, who is now stationed in Walla Walla, Washington. All three Back brothers are graduates of Georgetown College and Whitesburg High School.

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Master Sgt. Bert Day, son of Mr. and Mrs. Clark Day, is home on furlough from New Guinea for the first time in three years. Day, a member of the Army Air Corps’ Aerial Gunner Division, told The Mountain Eagle that he believes our country is fighting a “very inferior people,” with their being unafraid to die while believing they will go to heaven if they are fighting for their country the only advantage they hold over us. Sgt. Day fought in the Battle of the Bismark Sea in March 1943, a major defeat for the Japanese that many see as a turning point in the war. Sgt. Day’s company was the first heavy bomb group to be shipped overseas after war was declared. He has high praise for the Australians and says they treat the Americans very well.

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Clamping a giant vice upon France, the Allies invaded the Toulon area of the Mediterrainean August 15 under tremendous naval and air support, quickly seizing initial objectives. To the north, 450 miles away, annihilation battles cut up the dying German Seventh Army in the tightening Normandy trap. The outstanding feature of the amphibious invasion of southern France by American, British and French forces is that the first landings were made quickly and against minimum German resistance, an indication the Hitlerites no longer have the strength to withstand such an attack.

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Mrs. Crissie Cornett of Letcher County has three sons in the service. Vernon Cornett is fighting in France; Oscar Cornett is stationed in Texas, and George B. Cornett was stationed in San Francisco when he was last heard from. “My boys have all gone to war and left me all alone,” Mrs. Cornett writes in a letter to The Mountain Eagle. “I pray that God will safely guide them and bring them safely home.”

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McRoberts residents are saddened to learn of the death of Sgt. Silas Bailey and the disappearance of his cousin, Pfc. Paul D. Bailey, who has been listed as missing in Italy since May 27. Sgt. Silas Bailey died February 5 from wounds he received in England. His mother holds the Purple Heart medal awarded him. Pfc. Paul Bailey had suffered four malaria fever attacks while fighting through several major battles before he went missing.

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The annual M.K. Marlowe picnic was held Sunday at the beautiful Oven Fork picnic grounds with friends and employees of the Marlowe mines gathering from Letcher and Perry counties, Lexington, Louisville and Cincinnati.

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The first letter from a serviceman postmarked “Guam” was dated July 31 and reached the Whitesburg post office last week. The letter was from Pfc. Arthur Ray Black to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Black.

Thursday, August 19, 1954

Notice is given that effective August 10, 1954, the territory formerly known as the Town of McRoberts has been removed from the present boundary and territorial limits of the City of Jenkins. The town was annexed into Jenkins in 1928 and stricken by ordinance dated June 26, 1954.

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Alpha Hart Hall of Ermine was arrested Tuesday afternoon and charged with murder in the shooting death of her husband, 40-year-old Frank Hall. Sheriff ’s deputies Boyd Caudill and Byrd Bates said Mrs. Hall was very upset when they arrived at the Hall home shortly after the 3 p.m. shooting. She told the deputies she and her husband had been arguing all day, and that both had guns. Mrs. Hall also said she could not believe she had shot her husband, who is a disabled World War II veteran. Mr. Hall, who was shot with a .38 Special pistol, died shortly after being admitted to the Fleming hospital. He was a son of the late Sam Hall of Whitesburg, who was found dead several years ago in the L&N Railroad tunnel near Whitesburg.

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Three men have been charged with burglarizing South East Coal Company’s Millstone store on Monday night. Bobby Hughes was the first man arrested in connection with the burglary. Hughes then told police Junior Cook and Ellis Cook were with him when they used a crowbar to open a store window and steal $1,000 worth of guns, shells, shoes, shirts, underwear, watches and other items. A fourth man, Vernon Combs, has been charged with receiving the stolen property.

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The kindergarten class under the direction of Mrs. Kermit Boatright will begin on Monday, August 30, in the kindergarten room at the First Baptist Church in Whitesburg.

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Letcher County Soil Conservationist John Jordan has been transferred to Taylorsville. Cecil Hensley, formerly of Campton, will replace Jordan. The Hensleys will live in an apartment above Dawahare’s Department Store.

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South East Coal Company President Harry LaViers is a member of the Interdepartmental Committee on Coal that will hold its first meeting in Washington, D.C., next Monday. The committee was created by President Eisenhower at the request of U.S. Senator John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky. The group is in charge of developing a comprehensive coal program to be submitted to the government.

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New Morehead State University President Adron Doran will address Letcher County school teachers at Whitesburg on September 3.

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Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Caudill of Whitesburg are receiving congratulations on the birth of a son, Samuel Mark, born at the Lynch hospital on August 16. He weighed seven pounds. The Caudills also have a daughter, fouryear old Clayshan, who is giving the new baby a warm welcome.

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Two young ministers, I.D. Back and James Whitaker, both 21 and former schoolmates at Stuart Robinson School, held services at the Junior Park at Hargis Caudill’s on Mill Branch on Friday evening.

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James Fields is building a large tobacco barn in Blackey.

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Sgt. Jimmy Haynes, 21, of Burdine, has been in Europe since March of this year, the Army reports from Augsburg, Germany. A squad leader in Company G, Haynes wears the Combat Infantryman Badge, Commendation Ribbon, Korean Service Ribbon and the Army of Occupation Medal for service in Germany.

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Home Lumber Company of Whitesburg is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Thursday, August 20, 1964

Only four of Whitesburg’s six city councilmen were present and voting when the group enacted the controversial “right-to-work” ordinance last week. Present and voting for the ordinance were Councilmen Dr. Lee Moore, Russell Price, Troy Stallard and Don Crosthwaite. Councilmen Bill Fields and Wesley Riley were absent.

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The Rules Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Appalachian Recovery Act today and cleared it for action on the floor of the House.

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A proposal for cutting wages of service employees of the Whitesburg hospital has been withdrawn after meetings between officials of Appalachian Regional Hospitals Inc., District 50 of the United Mine Workers of America and an arbitrator from the U.S. Department of Labor. Employees at Whitesburg and four other hospitals in Kentucky will work under the three-year contract they signed last February 1. Workers at five hospitals in Virginia and West Virginia just acquired by ARH face a cut in wages, however, and some of them are already striking. The dispute is to be submitted to arbitration.

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The state has awarded a $22,330 contract to Gentry Construction Company, Whitesburg, for construction of a dam and lake at Kingdom Come State Park in Harlan County, near the Letcher County line. The lake will provide a water supply for the new state park that will honor the locale of “The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come” written by Kentucky native John Fox Jr.

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Architects have released the drawing of the new Martha Jane Potter School at Kona.

Thursday, August 22, 1974

Evidence of arson was found in the remains of a fire which swept through The Mountain Eagle offices August 1, 1974. A box of kerosene-soaked envelopes was found under the rubble in the office. The envelopes were found just inside a back door to the outside, leading out of the office of Eagle Editor Tom Gish. An arson investigator from the fire marshal’s office in Frankfort took some of the envelopes for laboratory testing. Since the fire the newspaper has been published with borrowed equipment from makeshift quarters.

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An Eagle editorial on the fire which destroyed the newspaper offices says, “The fact of the fire itself was sickening. True, we immediately suspected arson and asked for an investigation. But somehow, you keep telling yourself, and keep hoping, that it really was an accident. For you don’t want to believe that you live in a civilized town in the 1970s where such a think really happens . . . It sure is a temptation to say yes to some of the people who have been wanting for years to buy us out. But we are too mean and ornery to quit. We’re going to stay right in there with it. Don’t ask us why. We have no good reason. Call it stubbornness. Or stupidity. So we are trying to put it all together again.”

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Coal miners from around the country, who are off work as mines are closed during a memorial week called by the United Mine Workers of America, are going to Harlan County. The miners are going to show their support for Brookside Mine employees, who have been on strike for 13 months against the Duke Power Co.-owned Eastover Mining Co.

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Of seven graduates of the Kingdom Come High School Class of 1925 — the first high school class at the school — four attended a reunion. The four are Thelma Nolan Cornett, Della N. Shepherd, Monette Huff Ison and Dennis Boggs. The other graduates are Astor Boggs, Ola Boggs, and Bertha Banks.

Wednesday, August 29, 1984

The Appalachian Regional Ambulance Service (ARAS), which closed August 3, 1984, re-opened after a temporary agreement was reached between the Letcher Fiscal Court, the Neon Volunteer Fire Department, and the Letcher Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad. Under the agreement, personnel from the two volunteer ambulance services will man ARAS while the fiscal court tries to complete an agreement with Whitesburg Appalachian Regional Hospital, whereby the hospital would assume the operation of the debt-ridden service.

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The August Letcher Grand Jury recommends that the next grand jury consider indicting members of the Letcher Fiscal Court if they don’t remedy conditions in the courthouse pointed out by the grand jury. Many of the same conditions were also pointed out by the May grand jury, but the August grand jury says it is “apparent that fiscal court has ignored all of them. A third of the jury’s findings relate to the Letcher County Jail including the “horrible condition” of plumbing, the need of a fire escape and bad electrical wiring.

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The Jenkins Cavaliers and the Fleming-Neon Pirates opened their football seasons with wins. The Cavs defeated Knott County 12-0, while the Pirates beat Rockcastle County 6-0. The Whitesburg Yellowjackets fell to Lexington Tates Creek 41-6.

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Eight-year-old John Whitaker caught an eight-pound largemouth bass at his grandfather, Jeff Whitaker’s, farm pond at Roxana.

Wednesday, August 24, 1994

The Fleming-Neon City Council elected Kenny Sturgill to fill the vacancy left after Ruth Harmon was forced to resign because she is a state employee. Kentucky law forbids state employees from holding paid public office; Fleming-Neon City Council members are paid $10 per month.

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An official with Stamper Brothers Sanitation told county officials the firm will no longer collect garbage in magisterial District Four. The firm quit after being told it was two months late in franchise fee payments owed the county. Letcher County Judge/Executive Carroll Smith said county workers will assume the garbage pick-up for the district.

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The entire student body of the Tomiyama Junior High School in Tomiyama, Japan — seven students — is visiting Whitesburg.

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An article reprinted from the November 4, 1887 issue of the Hazel Green Herald said about Letcher County schools, “There has been but little substantial improvement made since 1876, as regards schools and teachers. Of course our teachers have a more extended knowledge, in order to meet the requirements of the new school law. The condition of the schools is no better now than then; most of our schoolhouses are dilapidated; some new houses have gone up, while several districts have no houses in which to teach.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The Fleming-Neon City Council heard complaints from citizens about tax bills. Several people said they don’t believe their property lies within the city limits, others said they shouldn’t have to pay taxes since they have received such poor service from the city in the past.

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Architect Brian Lanham from Sherman Carter Barnhart presented an animated tour of the inside of Letcher County Central High School at the Letcher County School Board meeting. The construction of the new high school is five percent complete.

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Country music star Wade Hayes headlined the Saturday night concert at the Jenkins Days festival.

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Letcher County native Hillard Howard will receive the Legends Award at the 20th anniversary of the Pike County Bowl. He was the coach of the Pikeville High School Panthers football team from 1972 to 1989 and in 1994 and 1995.


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