Whitesburg KY
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The Way We Were

Answer to ‘Whitco’ question is revealed Pictured above is an image from an inside page of the February 11, 1909 edition of The Mountain Eagle. The ad answers the question, “What is Whitco?”that was asked in the same space on February 4, 1909. Whitco would come to mean more than a brand name for liver medicine in Letcher County in just a few years, as it became the name of the coal camp located near Whitesburg.

Answer to ‘Whitco’ question is revealed Pictured above is an image from an inside page of the February 11, 1909 edition of The Mountain Eagle. The ad answers the question, “What is Whitco?”that was asked in the same space on February 4, 1909. Whitco would come to mean more than a brand name for liver medicine in Letcher County in just a few years, as it became the name of the coal camp located near Whitesburg.

Clips from available Mountain Eagle pages since our founding in 1907

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 1909

“I think development will reach the Letcher coalfields soon, and when it does the rest of the world will have to ‘go away and sit down,’” writes Chas. L Collins in a letter to the editor of The Mountain Eagle. Collins, a Letcher County native, writes from the Pike County community of Hellier, and is away from Letcher County working in the Pike County town of Hellier. Pointing out that the coal seam in the “Pike Mines” where he works is “from three- and four-and-one-half feet thick,” Collins compares that to the coal seams he has seen on Boone Fork and the head of the Kentucky River in Letcher County, where the coal stands “seven-and-onehalf feet to perhaps 12 feet” tall. “I am just unable to see why they mine coal such as this when by going 10 or 15 miles away they could reach coal that is more than twice as thick.”

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Death has taken another Letcher County man who fought for the Confederate Army in the Civil War. Jesse Holbrook, of Millstone, died Tuesday after a short illness. Holbrook was one of the few soldiers who escaped when Confederate general John Hunt Morgan was captured near Columbus, Ohio. After the war, Holbrook returned to the peaceful pursuits of agriculture.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 1949

A picket line formed outside a Jenkins restaurant Saturday after a dispute arose over the employment of two members of the United Mine Workers by restaurant owner D.C. Smith. According to Smith, who leases the restaurant space in the Jenkins Recreation Building, the pickets were members of the United Construction Workers Union who were angry because Smith hired a son and son-in-law to work at the restaurant. The two work at the restaurant after they complete their shifts at the mine where they work. Two shifts of four members each picketed the building from nine in the morning until four in the afternoon. As of press time, the disagreement still had not been settled.

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Two prisoners escaped the Letcher County Jail in Whitesburg Thursday night but were recaptured four hours later by Jailer John M. Adams. The prisoners, E.J. Stamey and Bill Price Jr., sawed their way out from and upstairs cell with a hacksaw blade and left town unnoticed. Adams found them walking along the road between Mayking and Sergent about 2:30 a.m. Friday. They surrendered peacefully even though one of them had obtained a gun.

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Whitesburg High School’s new gymnasium is fast approaching completion and should be finished by the middle of April. Armstrong Construction Company of Kingsport, Tennessee is building the $300,000 facility. It will seat about 2,000 people.

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The Whitesburg Yellowjackets lost by a heartbreaking one-point Tuesday night to the Vicco Mountaineers on the Fleming floor. The final tally was Vicco 42, Whitesburg 41.

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Memorial services were held in Seco January 23 for two Letcher County brothers and Army sergeants whose remains were returned recently for burial here. Sgt. Braton Salyer and Sgt. William Buford Salyer, were only 17 years old and 14 years old, respectively, when they joined the Army. Braton was killed in action in Normandy, France on June 18, 1944. Buford was killed in action in Germany in November 1944. Both were born at McRoberts to Harrison and Ollie Salyer of Seco.

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Thieves broke into the offices of the Gulf Oil Company bulk plant at Pine Mountain Junction Monday night and made away with $2,000 in cash, plant manager D.W. Little says.

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One police officer was killed and another wounded after a shooting broke out during efforts to unionize the force of United Supply Company in Lynch. Lawrence Pennington of Clover Fork shot Officer John Yelonoski, 40, to death. Officer Harry Carroll and Pennington were wounded during an exchange of gunfire between the three. Yelonoski, a father of three, had been on the Lynch police force for 17 years. Pennington is an organizer for the United Construction Workers Union, an affiliate of the United Mine Workers of America. The Lynch store workers voted recently to stay with the UMW rather than move to the UCW. Pennington was the leader of a group of 35 men who arrived in Lynch in five automobiles to attempt to organize the store workers.

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Armed robbery charges against E.H. Armani of Payne Gap have been referred to the Letcher County Grand Jury. Armani is charged with stealing a car belonging to Dick Prater, assistant mine foreman at Millstone, after threatening Prater with a shotgun. Armani was taken into custody by Letcher County Constable Banger Haynes before he could get away with the car.

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A seven-year-old Ermine boy died in the elevator of a Louisville hospital while on the way to the operating room for treatment of head injuries he suffered after being hit by an automobile on the road near his home. Owen Billy Berton Brush, grandson of former Letcher County Judge Sandy Adams, died Saturday in St. Joseph Hospital. Funeral services were held February 8 at the First Baptist Church in Whitesburg. Honorary pallbearers were his classmates at the Ermine Grade School. Charlie Hall of Whitesburg was driving the car that hit young Brush.

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A new theater is being built in Whitesburg by the Cumberland Amusement Company on one of the town’s old landmarks, a salt well that was used as a point of reference on many early deeds and property transfers. The well has been filled and covered by the Joe Romeo Construction Company, builders of the new structure. J.E. Isaac, president of Cumberland Amusement, hopes to have the theatre opened by fall. Seating capacity will be between 700 and 800. A contest will be held later in the year for selection of a name for the theatre.

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The new $50,000 telephone exchange building on the corner of Church Street and Webb Avenue in Whitesburg is rapidly nearing completion. Built for the Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company, the building will provide space for five telephone operators in addition to the equipment necessary for handling all local telephone calls.

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Production was halted in the Millstone mine of South-East Coal Company on Tuesday when some 150 miners walked off their jobs. The walkout came as a protest against what a United Mine Workers spokesman said was unsafe working conditions. He said the company failed to remove loose rock from the main haulage line.

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Effective March 1, the Louisville and Nashville Railroad will discontinue two passenger trains into Letcher County, a company directive says. This leaves only one train a day — to Fleming at 9 p.m. and to Lexington at 4:45 a.m.

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Dr. Sam W. Quillen hopes to be in his new dental office on Main Street in Neon by the middle of March. The two-story building will contain dental offices downstairs and living quarters on the second floor.

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The 53rd District high school basketball tournament will be held March 2, 3, 4 and 5 at Stuart Robinson High School. The first game will feature Kingdom Come and Jenkins, with the winner playing Stuart Robinson. The winner of that game will play the winner of the Whitesburg and Fleming game to determine the champion.

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Holland’s Lunch and Pool Room is opening Monday, February 21 in the Frazier building opposite the Letcher County Courthouse in Whitesburg. Dave Holland, a disabled World War II veteran, is the owner.

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Dr. Robert Combs has opened his dental office in Blackey and is ready for patients in the old post office building.

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Sixteen Letcher County men enlisted in the U.S. Army during the month of January, according to Sergeant Sewell Watson, recruiting officer in Whitesburg.

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More than 600 people attended the opening Saturday of the new Combs Motor Company building on Railroad Street in Whitesburg. The company is a Ford dealership.

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The Baker Lumber Company, located on Cumberland River near Partridge in Letcher County, has been sold to Hillard Blair and associates of Partridge for an undisclosed sum. Dan Blair of Whitaker and Arlie Hall of Deane purchased what was then the Cumberland Lumber Company for $58,000 from a firm headed by now-disgraced former U.S. Representative A.J. May of Somerset. The mill and 1,000- acre timber tract, one of the largest in Letcher County, was involved in the trial of May and his associates when they were charged with taking wartime bribes.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 1959

Kingdom Come High School will get four washbasins and an 80-gallon water heater so that students may wash their hands after physical education classes. The basins will be installed in the auditorium, two in one corner for girls and two in another corner for boys. The Letcher County Board of Education approved the expenditure after school principal Ruben Watts appeared before the board Saturday to request indoor toilet facilities at Kingdom Come, or at least someplace where the students could wash. The board said it would be too expensive to install partitions, but agreed to go ahead and buy the basins and heater.

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Members of the Letcher County Board of Education say they want Superintendent W.B. Hall to send notification before May 15 to qualified teachers in the Letcher County school system telling them where they will be teaching next year. Board members made the request at their meeting on Saturday. They asked Hall to supply applications to all qualified teachers by the first or middle of April and to notify them where they would be placed by May 15. The board’s request stirred controversy between Hall and board members Arnold Hall and board chairman Dr. B.F. Wright. “Let me remind you again that the superintendent places the teachers,” Supt. Hall said in answer to a request by Arnold Hall that each teacher be allowed to list his or her preference of schools in 1-2-3 order. “You’re immune to the request of the board, are you?” asked Dr. Wright. “I wish the paper would say that.” Referring to Wright as “old righteous Doc,” Supt. Hall answered: “I wish the paper also would say the superintendent is attempting to preserve the authority of the superintendent.”

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The qualifications of Alvin Holbrook as a member of the Letcher County Board of Education come up for some discussion at the school board meeting on Saturday. Board employee Tilden Crase said several persons had called him to question whether Holbrook meets the qualification that board members must have an eighth grade education or better. Holbrook is a supporter of Superintendent W.B. Hall, who said an affidavit claiming that Holbrook has met the proper education requirement is on file. “We’ve got the credentials all right,” Hall told board members. “We weren’t caught napping on that.” Asked to produce the document by board members Arnold Hall, Kern Whitaker and Dr. B.F. Wright, the superintendent shuffled through some papers for about 15 minutes and then said he could not find it “at this time.”

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County school buses will be used next year to transport rural students to and from athletic events at high schools in Letcher County. The decision, made by the Letcher County Board of Education on Saturday, comes after a request from Whitesburg and Fleming-Neon athletic associations. The current ban on using buses to take students to and from games resulted in Whitesburg’s game receipts falling to $3,621 this year from $8,700 last year.

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A new building for Fleming-Neon High School is a step nearer to reality this week after deeds from Elkhorn Coal Corporation for mineral rights to the land where the school will stand were signed this week by the company and the Letcher County Board of Education.

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Coach John Washko’s “hopping mad” Fleming-Neon Pirates, still smarting from the 10-point loss handed them by Jenkins last week, came into Jenkins this week determined to revenge that loss and stop the Cavalier win streak. The Pirates did both, winning by a score of 70 to 64.

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The Dunham Blue Devils defeated Feds Creek at Jenkins Friday night, 58 to 56, in a sudden death playoff, which means the first team scoring is the winner.

Funeral services were held Tuesday at the Kingscreek school for Alfred Fields, 72. A farmer, Fields is survived by 15 children, 60 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.

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Soft drinks may be sold in all Letcher County schools except those in Whitesburg, the Letcher County School board decided last week. The board changed a ruling made two years ago after Ray Collins of the Royal Crown Bottling Company of Whitesburg appeared before the board to request the change.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 1969

It appears almost certain that a major national manufacturing firm will locate a plant in Whitesburg to employ 400 to 500 persons. One of the chief obstacles to construction of the plant was cleared up when the Whitesburg Industrial Foundation received a grant of $300,000 to prepare a site for the factory.

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On the front page of The Mountain Eagle is an appeal to Letcher County residents to “take proper advantage of the opportunity” offered by the proposed location of a manufacturing firm in Whitesburg. The article urges people in the county to sign up for employment at the manufacturing plant, and to “lay to rest once and for all the talk that mountain people don’t want to work.”

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A notice by the United Mine Workers union in The Mountain Eagle tells the employees of Elkhorn Jellico Company and Marlowe Coal Company the results of the collective bargaining election held January 21 and January 28. The results at Marlowe Coal Company were 26 votes for the union, seven votes for no union and two union votes challenged. At Elkhorn Jellico Coal Company there were 67 votes for the union, 13 votes for no union, and one union vote challenged.

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Technical Sgt. James R. Fields, son of Mr. and Mrs. James D. Fields of Blackey, has received the U.S. Air Force Commendation Medal. He was decorated for meritorious service as an administrative supervisor at Lajes Field, Azores. Fields, a graduate of Stuart Robinson High School, is married to the former Roxie Whitaker, daughter of William B. Whitaker of Ulvah.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 1979

Beth-Elkhorn Coal Corp., one of the largest coal producers in Letcher County, has announced plans to open a new deep mine on State Route 113, south of Democrat, near Indian Creek. The mine will produce coal from THE Hazard No. 4 seam and will employ 100 to 125 miners.

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Drug use in area high schools is on the decline, according to Jack Burkich, principal of Whitesburg High School. Burkich said use of drugs — particularly black market prescription drugs — is still a serious problem and that consumption of alcohol among his students is on the rise, but he said he feels the role of the school in controlling the problem is limited. He said the primary tool used by the high school is counseling.

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“For a sure sign of falling weather, watch your dog when he leaves the porch and goes out to lay on the ground,” writes West Whitesburg correspondent Siller Brown, “then you can bring in another log for the fireplace. Or listen to the birds. They predict the weather or sometimes give warning of bad news.”

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“Who’s Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?” will be shown at the Alene Theatre in Whitesburg on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 1989

Thousands of dollars in motel room taxes earmarked to support tourism in Letcher County have never been collected. Letcher County’s tax, passed February 25, 1975 by the fiscal court, was apparently collected for a short time, but then county officials stopped enforcing the tax ordinance. The law placed a three percent tax on hotel, motel, inn, motorcourt and other short-term rental rooms, with the money reserved to “promote recreation, convention and tourism activity.”

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Two Whitesburg businesses, Lowe’s of Whitesburg and Sears and Roebuck Inc., say they plan to stay in business despite rumors they will close. Managers of both businesses say the rumors are false.

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Engineers from the University of Kentucky are scheduled to come to Whitesburg this week to examine the old Coca-Cola plant for possible use as college classrooms. The city has been discussing using the building as an extension of Southeast Community College in Cumberland.

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The Jenkins Cavaliers improved their record to 9-12 with a 40-point victory by a score of 98-58 over the June Buchanan Crusaders.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 1999

The Letcher County Recycling Center will begin accepting recyclables on a limited basis this week. Deputy County Judge Mike Gover, who is running the center, said collection boxes will be available Monday for residents to drop off their recyclable items. Door-to-door collection won’t begin until the center is staffed.

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Region officials are again considering Carr Creek Lake as a water source for Letcher, Knott and Perry counties. The lake has been considered a possible source for water for the region for many years. The Kentucky River Area Development District has reason to act quickly. Gov. Paul Patton has announced that a prison will be built on KY 80 outside Hindman, and KRADD officials say the problem is there is not enough water.

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Construction will begin next month on a Rite Aid “superstore” in Whitesburg. A Lexington developer has obtained building permits from the city that will allow construction of the 11,180-square foot building to begin in March.

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Southern Living magazine will feature some Letcher County locations in coming travel articles. A writer and photographer for the magazine was here last week and visited several attractions around the county, including the Courthouse Cafe, the Cozy Corner and Appalshop in Whitesburg, the C.B. Caudill Store in Blackey, and Bad Branch Falls at Upper Cumberland. In 1994, the magazine featured The Mountain Eagle in an article called “Small towns, big news” about small newspapers.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2009

The ailing economy has left a big question mark hanging over the U.S. coal industry: will last year’s highpriced contracts and today’s declining costs be enough to offset rapidly falling world demand this year? Already mine operators have scaled back production plans for 2009, namely coking coal used for steel mill blast furnaces as manufacturing grinds to a halt.

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The City of Jenkins is likely to lose $600,000 in federal money allocated for a proposed welcome center on US 23 at Pound Gap if construction on the long-planned facility does not begin within 60 days.

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Letcher District Judge Jim Wood has officially retired after 16 years on the bench, but will remain on the job until Gov. Steve Beshear is able to appoint a replacement. January 30 was Wood’s last official day as judge of Kentucky’s 47th District.

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Two classified ads that appeared in The Mountain Eagle have been shown to be scams. Both ads offered dogs and the people placing the ads wanted $350 in shipping costs, wired before the dogs were shipped. The ads were paid by credit card, and one card has been verified as stolen. Eugene Slone of the Letcher County Sheriff ’s Department cautions people to be aware of similar scams and to never wire money. The Mountain Eagle will no longer accept classified ads if a working phone number isn’t provided.

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