Whitesburg KY

The Way We Were

Clips from available Mountain Eagle pages since our founding in 1907

Thursday, April 1, 1926 The Letcher County Fiscal Court has hired its first treasurer and auditor. The salary for local bookkeeper John D. Sergent was fixed at a total $1,200 per year for handling both jobs.

. “He was in his eighty-sixth year and was one of the very few old soldiers left who followed the ‘Stars and Bars’ in the days of 1861-65,” The Mountain Eagle reports on the death of Uncle Jim Banks of Little Cowan.

. The Kentucky General Assembly has approved a law that carves out a separate judicial district for Harlan County. The old district will now be made up of Bell and Knox counties, with the new Harlan district getting its own circuit judge and commonwealth’s attorney. “If conditions are as bad as they are reported in the daily press, poor old Harlan needs to be a district all to itself,” The Eagle observes.

. The Whitesburg Post Office is moving to its new quarters in the Lewis building in the room formerly occupied by The Mountain Eagle. In a related matter, U.S. Rep. A.J. Kirk has introduced a bill in Congress requiring the Department of the Treasury to acquire a suitable building site and erect a post office building in Whitesburg. Kirk’s bill says the cost of the project may not exceed $75,000.

. “If what people say is true, a big revival of the coal industry in the Upper Elkhorn field is right at hand,” according to a report in The Eagle’s “Fleming-Seco News” section. “Early in April, it is claimed, all the coal operations will begin running every day. Merchants, businessmen and miners are looking forward with hopes.”

. Eighteen large moonshine stills, including two propelled by steam boilers, were destroyed during the last two weeks along the Kentucky-Virginia border. The raids were conducted by Prohibition Enforcement Officer C.S. Day and Letcher County sheriff ’s deputies M.F. Hall, Bob Wright, John D. Blair and Fred Chancy. Twenty men have been charge with moonshining as a result of the raids.

. John Fields, 25, of Sergent, was killed in an accident inside the Apex mine near Bastin a few days ago. An accident at Bastin a few days ago resulted in the death of David G. Spangler, 56, who was employed at the Elkhorn Collieries plant. Spangler died at the Fleming hospital before a badly broken leg could be amputated.

Thursday, April 4, 1946 The announcement of the sale of the entire Van Lear community in Johnson County led Wednesday to the disclosure of plans of the Consolidation Coal Company to divest itself of its real estate holdings in eastern Kentucky, including Burdine, Dunham, Jenkins and McRoberts. The Mountain Eagle was correct in reporting last week that all houses in Jenkins and McRoberts would be sold, but was in error when it said the sale of the houses had already begun at the price of $100 per room. With the Van Lear community being the first to be put up for sale as of April 1, Consolidation Vice President S.M. Cassidy was working to assure residents “that there is no intention on the part of the management of abandoning the operations at Van Lear, as our present plans contemplate the use of conveyors to mine the remaining coal. Enough of this coal has been proven by diamond drilling to give eight to 10 years of further life to the mine by conveyor mining methods, assuming the reasonable improvements in tons per man. A substantial amount of new underground equipment is now being purchased to permit complete mechanization of the property.”

. A Dunham man is being held in the Letcher County Jail in Whitesburg pending the investigation of an alleged crime that resulted in the death of Howard Johnson of Little Cowan and the serious injury of James Adams of the Cumberland River section of Letcher County. Easterling, Johnson and Adams had been in Pound, Virginia drinking when Johnson and Adams contracted with Easterling, who was accompanied by his wife, to drive them to Whitesburg for $12 in the early hours of Saturday morning. After giving Easterling a $20 bill, he started the drive toward Whitesburg but refused to go beyond the turnoff into Dunham. Adams, who is recuperating at the Jenkins Hospital, said Easterling stated, “I’m not going to give you anything except a drink of liquor.” Easterling then let Johnson and Adams out of his car, but began following them and trying to run over them. After hitting Adams first, Easterling sped across three or four railroad tracks and ran over Johnson, who died a short time later. Police say 13 pints of whiskey were found in the car driven by Easterling.

. U.S. Bureau of Mines experts are meeting with Kentucky officials to work out plans to try to recover the bodies of 20 men killed in the Straight Creek Coal Company mine explosion near Pineville last December.

. Leander Collins, 62, died at the Fleming Hospital on Saturday, 24 hours after being injured in a car and train accident across the street from Lewis Wholesale Company in Whitesburg. Collins was getting out of his car when a freight train came along and made contact with the car and knocking Mr. Collins to the street. At the time of his death, Collins was in the process of building a new home and store on Smoot Creek.

. Three men remain at large after escaping from the Letcher County Jail at 6 a.m. on Wednesday. The three — Eugene Phillips, Paul Collins and Claude Morris — were under indictment for grand larceny and scheduled to stand trial soon. They escaped by tying bedclothes together and sliding to the ground after prying bars off a cell window that had been welded before.

. A 14-year-old Perry County boy was killed instantly Sunday afternoon when he was leaning out the window of a Hazard-Jenkins bus near Whitesburg and was struck by an oncoming truck. The young lad and a friend, both from Viper, were on their way to Whitesburg to get birth certificates when the accident occurred after the boy got motion sickness and leaned out the window to vomit.

Thursday, March 29, 1956 The City of Whitesburg has a hospital for the first time in its history after the Whitesburg Memorial Hospital opened its doors last Friday and admitted its first patient. Mrs. Verdie Day, Mayking, became the first inpatient at the $2-million institution, one of 10 being built in the southern coalfields by the UMWA’s Miners Memorial Hospital Association. The new hospital has a staff of 161, including seven full-time physicians and 72 persons in nursing service. It has 92 beds and 23 bassinets. Unusual in design, the hospital is built in the shape of a racetrack, with patient rooms on the outside of a quadrangle, a corridor on the inside “track,” and service facilities in the center island.

. The Whitesburg Recreation Fund collected $45,142 in cash received from pledges, two small loans of $2,500 or less, and $5,031 in revenue from operating the Whitesburg

swimming pool during the period between August 28, 1952 and March 20, 1956. During the same period, the Recreation Fund disbursed $45,140, including $27,093 spent on pool construction, $2,503 for the land on which the pool sits, $9.764 for construction of the bathhouse, and $1,191 on fencing.

. Letcher County residents are being encouraged to grow a crop of strawberries to earn extra income after the success several county residents had growing the berries in 1955. Among those reporting success with strawberries were Benton Back of Jeremiah, who earned $1,200 from 200 crates. Earning $400 each by raising 45 crates of strawberries were Jasper Niece of Colson and Arlie Boggs of Eolia.

. In a story written by Lexington Leader staff writer Russell Rice and reprinted in The Mountain Eagle, two Letcher County men — Samuel C. Webb of Goose Creek and Benton Wright of Neon — describe how they were denied admission to the University of Louisville Medical School because they were told they didn’t have any relatives who were alumni of the school, nor did they live in Louisville or Jefferson County. “That school is just a closed corporation,” Webb said. [Rice is a Letcher County native who went on to a long career as sports information director at the University of Kentucky. After working as a lab technician at the Whitesburg Memorial Hospital, Webb became a longtime Property Valuation Administrator in Letcher County when the office was still known as “tax commissioner.”]

. The Mountain Eagle is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding. In honor of the day, former employee E.C. Watts writes about arriving in Whitesburg in 1910 to go to work for The Eagle as a “printer’s devil.” Watts remembers the office had no typewriters in the early days, when stories were written by hand and set in type by hand. He said that misspelled words had to be replaced by using tweezers to switch the wrong letters. He said the press was operated by hand, with no electrical power used.

Thursday, March 31, 1966 Funeral services were held this week for five teen-age boys who were killed Saturday night in a car wreck near Letcher. The five died instantly when the 1959 automobile in which they were riding crashed at high speed into the abutment of the lower of the Twin Bridges over Rockhouse Creek on KY 7. The auto upended and landed upside down in the creek before catching fire.

. An epidemic of infectious hepatitis has struck Letcher County, the Letcher County Health Department reported this week. Dr. Richard Keeler, health officer, said 17 cases have been reported during March, as compared to five reported during February.

. The Federal Communications Commission has approved installation of a television translator tower near Whitesburg, members of Whitesburg Translator Corp. said this week. The translator will pick up and rebroadcast a signal from WBIR-TV (Channel 10) in Knoxville, Tennessee without the need for cable installation to homes.

. Calvary College was formally launched Sunday in the renovated plant of the former Stuart Robinson School at Letcher.

. “The Yellow Rolls-Royce” starring Ingrid Bergman and Rex Harrison is playing at the Alene Theater in Whitesburg.

. Robert Campbell, an electrician for Beth-Elkhorn Coal Company, has announced as a candidate for the Letcher County Board of Education from Division 5. Kern Whitaker, who is not seeking re-election, now holds the seat. Campbell, a father of four from Blackey, is making his first race for office. Ray Back of Blackey has also announced as a candidate for the same office.

Thursday, April 8, 1976 A dangerous build-up of explosive methane gas in a temporarily inactive section of the Scotia Mine was detected as much as two weeks before explosions killed 26 men in the mine, but no special precautions were taken

to disperse the gas or protect against an ignition, according to testimony heard this week in Whitesburg during the first days of a federal investigation into the March 9 and March 11 disaster.

. The Senate today adopted an amendment proposed by Kentucky Senator Wendell Ford that would provide emergency food stamp assistance for dependents of those who died in last month’s Scotia mine accident. The measure was introduced as an amendment to the Food Stamp Reform Act of 1976, now being debated on the Senate floor.

. A coal severance tax panel has recommended approval of Letcher County projects totaling nearly $280,000. Included were: $137,575 for roads; $75,000 for pipe projects; $48,100 for the Golden Years Rest Home located in Jenkins; $2,340 for county fire equipment; and $16,000 for the county’s share in an eight-county center for drug abuse and alcoholism to be built in Hazard. The bulk of the allocations approved went to Pike County for construction of a new airport and industrial sites.

Wednesday, April 9, 1986 Last week, workmen finished the task of taking down Alene Theatre’s large orange and white marquee. The downtown landmark was bought by two Letcher County men, Cossie “Scooter” Quillen Jr. and Dr. Sam Quillen Jr. They want to turn the structure into a 20-unit modernday apartment building complete with retail space on the ground level and balconies overlooking the Kentucky River.

. The United Steelworkers of America’s strike against Appalachian Regional Hospitals is in its second week with no settlement expected soon. Some 150 employees at the Whitesburg hospital joined 1,700 others from three states who walked off their jobs last Tuesday after the union rejected ARH’s final offer for a three-year contract.

. Beginning with the issue of April 16, the counter-sale and coin-rack price of The Mountain Eagle will increase from 35 cents to 50 cents a week.

Wednesday, April 10, 1996 Beginning next week, the price of a single copy of The Mountain Eagle will be 75 cents.

Despite missing 30 days of instruction so far, most students in the Letcher County school system will end classes June 7.

”Oliver and Company” and “The Birdcage” are playing at the Whitesburg 1 & 2.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006 Letcher County Public Schools Superintendent Anna Craft says it will take three to four years before everything is finished at the Letcher County Central High School site at Ermine. Now that the school building is almost complete, other projects include a field house next to the football field, baseball and soccer fields, a running track and a new vocational school.

Fire departments from Fleming-Neon, Sandlick, Mayking and Whitesburg were called out on March 31 to help control a forest fire that was threatening several homes where the heads of Cram Creek and Pert Creek meet at Pine Mountain, between Mayking and Whitesburg. No homes were damaged, but acres of mountainside were burned.

At least 30 people are charged with drug offenses in indictments returned last week by the Letcher County Grand Jury. The indictments were handed up to Letcher Circuit Judge Sam Wright, who approved a request to seal them until the suspects charged can be arrested. The 30 named in the indictments apparently were charged by offi cers working for the federally-funded Operation UNITE program.

Drivers heading toward Lexington later this month can expect to see more police that usual enforcing speed limits and other traffic safety laws on long stretches of KY 15. The Operation Drive Smart program will emphasize highway safety during a weeklong effort along KY 15 in Wolfe, Breathitt and Perry counties.

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