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The Way We Were

The May 12, 1949 edition of The Mountain Eagle is a rarity in the paper’s 112-year history, as its front page contained two banner headlines about two separate stories — the federal indictment of local bootlegging king Sam Bates and the approval of an 800,000-acre game preserve atop Pine Mountain, between Whitesburg and the Harlan County line.

The May 12, 1949 edition of The Mountain Eagle is a rarity in the paper’s 112-year history, as its front page contained two banner headlines about two separate stories — the federal indictment of local bootlegging king Sam Bates and the approval of an 800,000-acre game preserve atop Pine Mountain, between Whitesburg and the Harlan County line.

Clips from available Mountain Eagle pages since our founding in 1907

THURSDAY, MAY 13, 1909

A group of local political and business leaders left Whitesburg today for Frankfort, where they will appear before the Kentucky Board of Equalizers and fight against the state’s proposal to put a 10-percent raise on the assessed value of all property in Letcher County.

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“Teddy Roosevelt [former U.S. President] has already killed a number of lions, and it is now reported that a rhinoceros has just bitten the dust by a shot from his deadly aim,” The Mountain Eagle reports. Roosevelt and his hunting party left the United States for a hunting trip to Africa on March 23, shortly after his presidency ended. They are collecting specimens for the Smithsonian’s new Natural History museum.

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The Letcher County Fiscal Court last week set the county’s poll tax at $1 for general purposes and $1 for school purposes. The court also set the local property tax rate at $1.03 on every $100 worth of assessed property for general purposes and 20 cents on every $100 worth of assessed property for school purposes. Writes Mountain Eagle Editor Nehemiah M. Webb: “That is to say, if I have $500 worth of property and pay poll tax … my total tax will be $8.15.”

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Eastman Kodak is advertising its No. 2A Brownie camera on sale for $3. The company says the new camera takes pictures 2-1/2 x 4-1/4 inches in size and uses film cartridges that can be loaded and unloaded in broad daylight.

THURSDAY, MAY 12, 1949

S.J. “Sam” Bates of Whitesburg has been charged in connection with violating federal law for the second time in a month. Bates was charged after federal agents raided his Whitesburg home Friday night in search of illegal alcoholic beverages. While in the home, agents found and seized a machine gun, a sawed-off shotgun, and seven other automatic guns. The raid is related to an incident in April, when Bates and four other men were charged with conspiracy to violate liquor laws after federal agents seized 250 cases of whiskey and 500 cases of beer from a Cornettsville liquor store. Friday’s raid lasted from 3:30 p.m. until after midnight. Bates is charged with operating a wholesale liquor business in a dry territory without a permit and with violating the National Firearms Act. He has pleaded to guilty and was freed from custody after posting a $1,000 bond.

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The Pine Mountain Game Preserve, long a desire of Letcher County and eastern Kentucky sportsmen, is about to become a reality. Nearly 8,000 acres of land has been secured and land surveys are expected to start immediately. D.W. Little of Whitesburg, a member of the state Fish & Game Commission, said the reserve will extend from the top of Pine Mountain near Whitesburg to the Harlan County line on the other side and down to the limestone rock quarry on this side. It will go to the head of Cowan and the head of Linefork and will be stocked with squirrels, deer and other wildlife.

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Employees at the Fleming and Hemphill stores of the Elkhorn Coal Corporation voted unanimously this week to continue their strike that began April 1. Workers at the Elkhorn Coal stores in Wayland and Garrett are also out on strike. The dispute involves wages. The employees are represented by the United Construction Workers Union, an affiliate of the United Mine Workers.

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Seventy Whitesburg High School seniors will receive their diplomas at next Thursday’s commencement. Jenkins High School will hold its commencement exercises on May 24, but did not release the number of graduating seniors.

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The new Royal Crown Cola bottling plant at Ermine is rapidly nearing completion. Bradley Bentley and Ray Collins own the new plant.

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Bids were opened this week for the completion of the Whitesburg Waterworks. Engineer Howard K. Bell is looking over the bids and will select the best one, said Mayor Ed Williams.

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A 44-year-old L&N Railroad employee has been missing from his Neon home since Tuesday. The man, Lewis Dunaway, was said to have been suffering a severe headache when he was last seen. The married father of three came to Letcher County from Irvine to work for the railroad three months ago. He left home for a trip to the post office without taking any of his identification with him.

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Edmond “Carbide” Anderson pitched no-hit shutout to lead the Jenkins High School Cavaliers to a 1-0 win in the final game of the District 53 & 54 Baseball Tournament held at the Jenkins Athletic Field.

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Twenty-four Jenkins High School seniors returned home tired but happy Saturday from their class trip to New York City, where they stayed three days, and to Washington, D.C., where they stayed two days. The tour was planned and conducted by passenger agents with the C&O Railroad. The students traveled on a special C&O train.

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Two passengers were slightly injured when a Hazard-Jenkins Bus Line bus collided with a coal truck Monday morning at Whitaker. The bus, which was badly damaged, was making its 7 a.m. run from Jenkins to Whitesburg.

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Numerous praiseworthy features, inducing a dozen recent safety improvements, at the No. 204 Mine of the Consolidation Coal Company at Jenkins were commended in a re-inspection report released this week by the Bureau of Mines. The mine employees 447 men and produced 3,800 tons of coal per day when it was examined.

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Clark Gable stars in “Command Decision,” showing this week at the Kentucky Theatre in Whitesburg.

THURSDAY, MAY 14, 1959

Members of the National Guard have refinished the floor of the Whitesburg gymnasium, which was marred by scratches from cot legs during the time the Guard occupied the gym while it was here on coal-strike duty.

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The National Labor Relations Board postponed until July 15 a hearing of unfair labor practice charges against the United Mine Workers of America in connection with the strike at eastern Kentucky coal mines. The UMW and its District 30 are accused of violence, mass picketing, restraint, and other illegal activities at struck nonunion mines. One hundred and thirty-four cases are pending against the mine workers and their union.

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Commencement exercises for all five high schools in Letcher County — Fleming- Neon, Jenkins, Kingdom Come, Letcher, and Whitesburg — will be held next week. Whitesburg High School has its largest graduating class ever, with 155 seniors. Letcher High School has 58 graduating seniors. The other three high schools did not release the number of graduates.

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Letcher County’s jail is living up to Jailer Robert Sexton’s report to the Letcher Fiscal Court last year that it “won’t hold anybody.” Two more prisoners escaped from the jail Wednesday morning by sawing window bars. A total of 10 prisoners have now sawed their way out of the jail in one month.

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The Letcher-Knott Independent Truck Mines Association has opened an office in Whitesburg, over Craft’s Dollar Store on Main Street.

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Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Caudill of Whitesburg are the proud parents of new daughter, Elizabeth Jeanne, born May 8 at the Whitesburg Memorial Hospital. The Caudills’ have two other children, Clayshan and Mark.

THURSDAY, MAY 8, 1969

Thirteen more Letcher County coal firms were warned by the state attorney general this week to provide protection for the workers under the state workmen’s compensation law or face legal action. Seven Letcher County firms were warned by the attorney general last month.

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The National Steel Corp. of Pittsburgh announced this week that it will open a major new coal mine in Knott County. The mine will be located in the Caney Creek section of Knott County and will have approximately 250 workers.

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Army Specialist Four Verlin G. Roberts, 22, son of Mrs. Atha G. Wright, Thornton, was assigned as a clerk with the 45th Engineer Group in Vietnam April 7. His wife, Margaret, lives in Indianapolis.

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There will be a beard-growing contest for all Letcher County men as part of the big Letcher County Day celebration on July 4. Starting date for beards is May 4 or later.

THURSDAY, May 3, 1979

Testimony in the assault trial of Letcher County Sheriff Vernon Hall and four other men began Tuesday in Pike Circuit Court. The case was transferred to Pikeville at the request of Assistant Attorney General Barbara Edelman, who is prosecuting the case with Assistant Attorney General Sam Isaacs. They replace Letcher Commonwealth Attorney Peyton Reynolds, who disqualified himself. Letcher Circuit Judge Byrd Hogg also removed himself from the case. The five defendants were indicted in March in the alleged beating of James R. Keel, a brother of Letcher County Magistrate Billy Keel.

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Striking miners at Stearns are preparing to enter a bullet-riddled mine equipment building today to vote on the future of the United Mine Workers at the Justus Mine. As a result of UMW disclosures on who will be allowed to vote, the miners are convinced they have no chance to win the election for the UMW. Sources close to the union local at Stearns say the miners are preparing to challenge the validity of the election with the National Labor Relations Board.

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“The smoke had to rise from the chimneys again as some little winter visited,” writes Ice correspondent Sara Ison. “This must be redbud winter, they look like they are ready to shed. I think it is too early for dogwood winter.”

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The opening date for the drama production “The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come” is June 28. The stage adaptation of John Fox Jr.’s novel will run through Sept. 1 on KY 15 at Van.

WEDNESDAY, May 10, 1989

Landslides, worsened by heavy rainfall, have forced the family of Alan and Reva Adams of Jeremiah out of their home and are threatening to push the home of Betty Trent of Whitesburg off its foundations. The mudslide at the Adams home is fueled by nearly a week of rain. Mining officials say the slide was caused when a deep mine worked by Hill Gail Coal Co. “blew out” from water pressure, bringing down a reclaimed two-acre stripmine with it. Betty Trent began to feel the effects of the rain last Wednesday when the ground began to move under her home on Pine Mountain about a half mile above Pine Mountain Junction. The movement became more violent Friday night, tearing the house loose from its foundation and dropping her driveway several feet lower than the main road. Mrs. Trent said she has tried to get help from the state highway department since the slide started under U.S. 119, but so far the department has refused to help.

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A Mountain Eagle editorial writes of the George Bush administration altering the findings of scientific researchers on global warming and presenting the altered information to Congress. A leading American scientist “told Congress Tuesday that the Office of Management and Budget had changed key portions of his written testimony concerning the dangers of the global warming so as to make the situation appear less dangerous that it is.” The editorial goes on to say, “It looks very much as if President Bush wishes to formulate official policy on environmental issues on considerations that ignore scientific realities. Yet to do so puts the life of each and every person in the United States at risk.”

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William Johnson of Carbon Glow has been chosen to play Wilgus Collier in Appalshop’s new film “Fat Monroe” starring Ned Beatty. The film is set mostly in a pickup truck traveling down an eastern Kentucky road.

WEDNESDAY, May 5, 1999

Noted Kentucky historian Dr. Thomas D. Clark will visit the C.B. Caudill Store owned by Joe and Gaynell Begley, which is now a museum, to talk about the role of country stores in rural life.

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The state Division of Water has approved preliminary plans for a public water system to Jeremiah and Isom. The approval clears the way for the water and sewer district to begin seeking money to pay for the lines, which would be connected to the Blackey water system near Letcher School.

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Geneva Picklesimer died April 29 at her residence in Whitesburg. She was 102 years old. Mrs. Picklesimer was the widow of Virgil D. Picklesimer, an official at South East Coal Co. She was active in the Baptist Missionary Society, the commodities distribution program, Woman’s Club and Homemakers Club.

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Unemployment rose a tenth of a percent in Letcher County during March. The official report showed that 514 persons, or 6.9 percent of those in the labor force, were without jobs at the end of March. That figure was slightly higher than the February 1999 figure of 6.8 percent.

WEDNESDAY, May 6, 2009

More than 300 coal miners in Letcher and Knott counties are going to work for the richest man in Europe. Metinvest Group, a mining and steel-making company based in the Ukraine, is acquiring 100 percent of United Coal Co., whose subsidiary Sapphire Coal Co. has extensive mining operations in Letcher County and an underground mine in Knott County. Metinvest is owned by 42-year-old Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, whose net worth of $31.1 billion accumulated since 1991 is said to make him the wealthiest man in Europe.

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“Grease” will be performed May 23 and 24 by the Letcher County Central High School Drama Club. “Grease” is the group’s first musical endeavor and the cast will be accompanied by a full orchestra led by professional and accomplished musicians from across the state. All dances have been professionally choreographed by eastern Kentucky native Cody Anderson.

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Appalachian Regional Healthcare is still trying to determine which patient services will be provided at its new clinic in Jenkins. ARH recently bought 25-bed Jenkins Community Hospital and reopened the facility on May 1 as Jenkins ARH Family Care Center. Dr. David Minix will provide primary care physician services, and the physician’s assistant is Shelebra Bartley. Dr. Licerio Soto will provide some relief coverage for Dr. Minix.

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As reunion season nears, 11 gatherings are listed in the reunion column of The Mountain Eagle.

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Donald Moore of Jenkins found a large “dryland fish” last week while hunting for wild turkey. The morel mushroom measured 15-1/2 inches long.

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