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The Way We Were




THE ’57 FLOOD — This week marks the beginning of the 60th anniversary of the Great Flood of 1957, which caused widespread damage in the Big Sandy, Cumberland, and Kentucky River valleys of Kentucky, all of which have their beginnings in Letcher County. On the North Fork of the Kentucky River, “damage was particularly notable at Whitesburg and in the Neon-Fleming area upstream from Whitesburg (and) at Blackey, below the mouth of Rockhouse Creek,” said a federal government report prepared during the years after the flood and released in 1964. Luckily, only nine Kentucky residents lost their lives because of the flooding, five of them in Hazard. While still too high, the fatalities were far fewer than originally believed. Among the areas hardest hit were the neighboring towns of Hazard, which, like Whitesburg, is located on the North Fork of the Kentucky, Pikeville, which is located on the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River, and Cumberland, located on the Poor Fork of the Cumberland River. “The first three weeks in January were drier than normal, but, just prior to the flood, streams were at near-median levels and the ground was saturated due to 1 to 2 inches of rain a week earlier.” the federal report says. “The flood was attributable to these antecedent conditions and to the runoff generated by precipitation ranging from 4 to 9 inches during the period” beginning January 27.

THE ’57 FLOOD — This week marks the beginning of the 60th anniversary of the Great Flood of 1957, which caused widespread damage in the Big Sandy, Cumberland, and Kentucky River valleys of Kentucky, all of which have their beginnings in Letcher County. On the North Fork of the Kentucky River, “damage was particularly notable at Whitesburg and in the Neon-Fleming area upstream from Whitesburg (and) at Blackey, below the mouth of Rockhouse Creek,” said a federal government report prepared during the years after the flood and released in 1964. Luckily, only nine Kentucky residents lost their lives because of the flooding, five of them in Hazard. While still too high, the fatalities were far fewer than originally believed. Among the areas hardest hit were the neighboring towns of Hazard, which, like Whitesburg, is located on the North Fork of the Kentucky, Pikeville, which is located on the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River, and Cumberland, located on the Poor Fork of the Cumberland River. “The first three weeks in January were drier than normal, but, just prior to the flood, streams were at near-median levels and the ground was saturated due to 1 to 2 inches of rain a week earlier.” the federal report says. “The flood was attributable to these antecedent conditions and to the runoff generated by precipitation ranging from 4 to 9 inches during the period” beginning January 27.

Clips from available Mountain Eagle pages since our founding in 1907

Thursday, January 27, 1927 Notice has been given to all Klansmen of Letcher County, both men and women, concerning a joint meeting of Neon Klan No. 102 at Neon Union Church on February 21 at 7 p.m. An announcement of the meeting says all Klansmen are urged to attend “to discuss important business.”

. Kyva Motor Company, the local agency for Pontiac, Oakland and Buick automobiles, has elected new officers for 1927 to run the company’s operations at Whitesburg and Millstone. Wilson S. Renaker is president and Ward Renaker is vice-president.

. Fire has destroyed the old D.D. Fields homeplace built in 1897. The two-story frame structure was occupied by J. Henry Brown, who had been away to see his mother, Mrs. W. R. Brown of Dry Fork, who is recovering from a broken arm she suffered after being thrown from a mule recently.

. The Corner Store of Neon, operated by the Wise family, is having a 15-day winter sale.

. Whitesburg High School is the beneficiary of 500 books donated by Berea College, Caney School, and the Carr Fork Community Center.

. Supporters of the Appalachian Way, the proposed Great Lakes to the Ocean Road,” say their annual meeting will be held in Bristol, Virginia in April.

Thursday, January 28, 1937 Fleming High School has reopened after being quarantined for two weeks because of meningitis.

. A 23-year-old McRoberts police officer is free after being found not guilty of willful murder in the Election Day shooting death of M.M. Coleman, the election sheriff at the Lower McRoberts Precinct. The Letcher Circuit Court jury reached the verdict after deliberating evidence for 40 minutes. The lead defense attorney was John Young Brown of Lexington. Local attorneys French Hawk, Bill Lewis, and Harry L. Moore assisted. The jury heard testimony from more than 30 witnesses during the three-day trial. “Witness after witness took the stand and swore that Coleman reached to his hip in the neighborhood of his pistol before Hood fired,” The Mountain Eagle reports. “The prosecution pinned its hopes on the right of an election officer to carry a pistol and his immunity from arrest during the conduct of an election.” Praising the defense strategy, The Eagle writes, “John Young Brown made one of the most brilliant pleas before the jury that has ever been made in the courthouse in Whitesburg.” Following the jury’s verdict, related murder charges against United Mine Workers of America field worker Milton Hall and McRoberts policemen George Morgan and Carl Shear were dismissed for lack of evidence.

. Nath Engle, charged with the fatal shooting of Ed Gibson on December 19, was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of willful murder in Letcher Circuit Court.

. A car belonging to Frank Hall, a United Mine Workers of America field worker from Letcher County, is a total wreck after being bombed outside a hotel in Harlan in the first act of violence committed in labor’s latest campaign to organize Harlan County. Hall was asleep in his hotel room when the bomb placed under the hood of his car exploded at 4:14 a.m., the time the vehicle’s dashboard clock stopped running. After being awakened by the noise from the explosion, Hall and his fellow UMWA workers rushed out of their rooms only to be greeted with tear gas that had been released from canisters.

. Churches and civic organizations are busy gathering clothing, bedding and food for shipment by train to flood-ravaged Louisville and Cincinnati. All available doctors and nurses from the area, including Dr. Dow Collins and nurses Beryl Boggs and Stella Kidd, have been called to Louisville to work with the public health department there. Meanwhile, Al Major, owner of the People’s Department Store in Whitesburg, informs The Eagle that he will donate five percent of his sales this coming Saturday to the American Red Cross for the flood relief effort. The Ohio River began flooding on January 18 and had left 70 percent of Louisville underwater by January 27.

. Pointing out that Letcher County women made 59 quilts in one day to send to Ohio River flood victims in Kentucky, Letcher Schools Superintendent Arlie Boggs is asking that all Letcher County school teachers donate money to the relief effort through the Bank of Whitesburg.

. Miners by the thousands in Jenkins are without work this week with all Consolidation Coal Company mines shut down because the C&O Railroad is unable to get coal cars here because of the severe flooding elsewhere.

. Miss Betty Holt of Fleming died in the hospital there Monday as a result of gunshot wounds to her head. Her

body has been shipped to Alabama for burial.

. Pearl Combs of Craft’s Colly has purchased a new radio and invites all of his friends to come to his house and enjoy the programming with him.

. Henry Holbrook of Rockhouse reports sowing five bushels of turnip seed. He is one of the county’s leading farmers.

. Doctor Passmore of Whitesburg was overheard complaining about how it is easier for the younger generation now. He says the young now have soft handkerchiefs to wipe their noses on while he used to have to wipe his on his sleeve.

Thursday, January 30, 1947 The new Haymond Theatre, which has been under construction for several months, is scheduled to open on Saturday, February 1, under the management of World War II veteran Clyde Wilfong. The first film will be “Abilene Town,” starring Randolph Scott. The air-conditioned theatre seats 240, with admission set at 20 cents for children and 40 cents for adults.

. Former 10th District U.S. Representative A.J. May of Prestonsburg is under federal indictment following a grand jury investigation of wartime munitions profits. One count of the federal indictment charges that May “did agree to receive … a total of $53,634.07” in illegal bribes from the Erie Basin Metal Products Company. May, an attorney, is the former chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee.

. President Harry Truman personally made the decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan. Truman divulged this in a letter to Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Dr. Karl T. Compton, which was published today in the February issue of Atlantic Monthly magazine. Truman told Compton the bomb saved “hundreds of thousands, perhaps several million, lives, both American and Japanese,” and shortened the war several months.

. Dave Hollan, a disabled ex-serviceman from Whitesburg, is the new manager of Hollan’s Restaurant and Pool Room located across the street from Dawahare’s in Neon.

. East Jenkins grocer Paul James has purchased the Dunham Recreation Center.

. M.C. Napier is in his 29th year as superintendent of the Perry County School System.

. The body of Al Capone, the once fabulously wealthy Chicago gang leader whose attorney said he died broke, lay in a mortuary in Miami Beach, Florida this week waiting completion of plans for his funeral. The 48-year-old ex-mobster died Saturday in his 25-room villa on Palm Island. Federal officials once estimated Capone’s fortune at $20 million, but his attorney said Capone died leaving “no will and no money.”

Thursday, January 31, 1957 One of the greatest disasters in the history of Letcher County struck Tuesday when the North Fork of the Kentucky River, swollen after nearly 48 hours of a steady, driving rain, left its banks to follow a path of destruction throughout the county. Luckily, no one was killed. However, property damage was extensive as the water invaded countless homes and businesses along the river’s entire route. “All sections of the county seem to be hit hard by the flood,” Letcher County James M. Caudill said. Downtown Neon seemed to suffer the most damage, with nearly every store being flooded. In Whitesburg, floodwaters damaged homes and businesses that had never been flooded. Twenty-five homes in the Upper Bottom neighborhood were flooded, as was the Boone Motor Company.

. Reports reaching Whitesburg indicate that at least 12 persons were drowned in floods in the Hazard area, although only five bodies have been recovered. Water reportedly stood at 12 feet on Hazard’s Main Street.

. Governor A.B. “Happy” Chandler visited Whitesburg and Letcher County today to personally inspect the damage done by the county’s record flood. “We have suffered the most devastating flood that our people have experienced perhaps in history,” Chandler said, adding that no one has any idea as to the total extent of flood damage in terms of dollars and cents. President Eisenhower today declared all of eastern Kentucky a federal disaster area.

. Free typhoid shots will be given to Letcher County residents on Friday at various locations across the county. Doctors are advising that all citizens take the shot because of the flooding.

. Fire has destroyed the eight-room home of Morgan Compton on Neon. Seven Compton children were living at home with their parents at the time, including son Pete Compton who had just returned to Neon from Japan with a Japanese wife.

Thursday, January 26, 1967 “Please do not go across our picket line,” the members of Local Union 1435, United Mine Workers

of America, ask in an advertisement concerning their strike against Scotia Coal Company at Oven Fork, which began June 1. “(We) urgently request tht no coal miner seek employment with this company,” Lloyd Long, president of the Local Union, says in the ad.

. The United States Senate is conducting hearings this week on a proposal for extension of the Appalachian Redevelopment Act for another two years. President Lyndon Johnson asked Congress Friday to continue the program and Senators John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky and Jennings Randolph of West Virginia introduced the bill Monday.

. Reorganization of the Letcher County Economic Opportunity Committee will take place Monday night when several new members take their seats on the committee. Elections are now being conducted by mail to choose representatives from various groups within Letcher County.

. Private First Class Jim T. Whitaker Jr., 21, son of Mrs. Cuba Whitaker of Oven Fork, has been assigned to the First Cavalry Airmobile Division in Vietnam. A 1963 graduate of Whitesburg High School, Whitaker entered the Army in July 1966.

Thursday, January 27, 1977 Severe cold, widespread mine shutdowns and a depressed coal market are adding up to trouble for area residents. People who can afford to keep their furnaces stoked say coal is getting hard to find and local social services report coal supplies are critically low for those who cannot afford to pay.

. Whitesburg City Councilman Bill Collins is spearheading an attempt to bring franchise taxes paid by the Kentucky Power Company in line with those paid by other businesses operating in the city.

Wednesday, January 28, 1987 Hopes for the start of reconstruction of U.S. Highway 23 from Jenkins to Virginia were dashed by state officials again this week. A State Intergovernmental Review of the proposed improvement indicated that the start date for the project would be February 23, and Mayor Robert Shubert of Jenkins has received preliminary drawings of the new road. State officials say, however, that no schedule has been set for construction of the highway and plans will not be completed until December 1988.

. Authorities are still looking for two suspects who failed in their attempt to rob the home of Fleming- Neon physician Roscoe J. Acker early Friday morning. Police believe the attempted robbery is a result of news reports detailing the repayment of $175,000 to Acker this month from former Pulaski County attorney Lester Burns Jr. Acker has been the subject of widespread publicity since his 23-year-old daughter, Tammy, was murdered during a robbery at his home in August 1985.

Wednesday, January 29, 1997 The Letcher County Board of Education expects to begin interviewing candidates for the job of superintendent of schools again by mid-April. Board members Monday authorized a national search to find applicants for the job. The new superintendent will be the fourth for the Letcher County school system in less than 18 months and the eighth change in superintendents in less than three years.

. An employee of the county’s senior citizens program attended a meeting of the Letcher Fiscal Court Monday night to criticize Judge/Executive Carroll Smith for not hiring her as secretary for the county’s senior citizens’ program. The woman, Gail Bates of Dry Fork, is distantly related to Smith. She said Smith should have hired her as secretary because she has worked with the senior citizens’ program longer than the woman who got the job, Eunice Mullins.

. Whitesburg Attorney Forrest Cook has replaced Edison Banks II as attorney for the Letcher County Board of Education.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 Newly-elected State Representative Leslie Combs has been appointed to four committees — transportation, education, state government and tourism and energy. Combs represents the 94th District which includes parts of Letcher, Pike and Harlan counties.

. Two Letcher County women were arrested in connection with the vandalism of at least 100 mailboxes in Haymond, McRoberts, Neon and Jackhorn.

. Several electronic items belong to the Letcher Little League were stolen from the baseball park at Isom. Vernol Hatton, treasurer of the Little League, estimates the items to be values between $1,200 and $1,500.

. The Letcher County Central High School Cougars defeated the Breathitt County Bobcats, 65-53.


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