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The Way We Were

Clips from available Mountain Eagle pages since our founding in 1907
Shown above is a copy of a story containing what is perhaps the most important news in the history of Letcher County — the coming of the railroad, which cleared the way for commercial coal mining. The news about the railroad was reported on the front page of the September 15, 1910 edition of The Mountain Eagle.

Shown above is a copy of a story containing what is perhaps the most important news in the history of Letcher County — the coming of the railroad, which cleared the way for commercial coal mining. The news about the railroad was reported on the front page of the September 15, 1910 edition of The Mountain Eagle.

THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 15 & 22, 1910

Within two and one-half years the Lexington & Eastern Railroad is expected to be completed from Jackson to the mouth of Boone Fork in Letcher County via Whitesburg and Hazard. The railroad will allow the largest and richest coal and timber fields to be developed. Completion of a contract for the construction of the new railroad, which will be located beside the North Fork of the Kentucky River, is expected by October 15, with dirt being moved before January 1, 1911.

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“Don’t forget that your neighbor, though he differs from you politically, may be just as honest in his convictions as you are,” writes Mountain Eagle editor Nehemiah M. Webb. “This is a free country where freedom of opinion is one of the biggest of the broad foundations of our government, and there would be an end to it without it. Stand by your convictions and let your neighbor stand by his. If you want to talk politics do so, but do it calmly and reasonably and bear in mind that just as you have made up your mind as to the way you expect to vote, 99 (percent) of the voting population has done the same thing and the little blast you can get up won’t change them.”

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“Boom! Boom! Let everybody boom! The railroad is coming; clear the track!” a Mountain Eagle editorial says in responding to the news that a new railroad linking Letcher County with Lexington will soon be built.

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The Mountain Eagle, founded in August 1907, already boasts a circulation of more than 1,000.

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W.B. Reedy has sold 215 acres of coal land for $6,000 to Northern Coal & Coke Company. Northern Coal has also paid $14,000 for 180 acres on Potter’s Fork it bought from A.B. Potter, and has agreed to pay $40 per acre for 43 acres W.K. Collier owns on Lower Boone Fork.

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North Fork Timber Company has purchased 4,000 standing trees at Tolson from John W. Adams of Cram Creek. The price is not yet known.

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Jim Willoughby of Louisville, the chief engineer of the L&N Railroad, was in Letcher County getting acquainted and looking over our big coal and timber fields. While here he also subscribed to The Mountain Eagle.

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The breastwork at the back of the judge’s seat in the Letcher County Courthouse was removed by Jailer Hall on Monday. The protection was installed during the Ku Klux Klan’s reign here in 1901 to protect the judge from danger coming through the window behind his seat. “For years, owing to the orderly condition of our county, these monuments of a former day were allowed to occupy their worthless position,” The Mountain Eagle notes. “We are glad now that no such protection is needed.”

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Last Friday evening a large bald eagle — a mountain eagle — was observed circling over and around and above The Mountain Eagle’s little nest in Whitesburg. “We watched him for some time and beheld the wide, easy sweep of his nimble wings as he circles ever onward and upward until he became a mere speck in the bright sunny sky,” writes editor Webb.

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Letcher County residents are invited to hear former United States President Theodore Roosevelt speak in Bristol, Virginia on October 7.

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Whitesburg attorney Robert Blair has sold his property near the mouth of Sandlick to the Lexington & Eastern Railroad for $2,500 and will buy property elsewhere in the county.

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What is believed to be the biggest purchase of mineral rights yet in Letcher County includes some 2,000 acres on Upper Rockhouse known as the Quillar Bentley Farm. The rights were purchased by James H. Frazier for $25 per acre. The Bentley boys will earn $50,000 from the deal. Mr. Frazier has also purchased the rights to the T.G. Bates lands on Bates Branch of Beaver Creek, which lies near the Bentley tract. Near the Bates property is a coal opening that is nine feet thick. The price paid for the Bates property, which is believed to be 600 or 700 acres in size, was $27.50 per acre.

THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 26, 1940

As we go to press we learn with a joyful heart that the Elk Horn Coal Corporation mines which have been shut down for about four weeks started to work on Wednesday night. According to the information received, the settlement was in favor of the union, which we understand was like this: All men go back to their regular jobs; no physical examination; with 50 percent of the back wages paid at the time of the arrangement and $3,000 every two weeks until all past due wages are taken care of with regular paydays coming every two weeks. The company was forced into the hands of receivers four weeks ago, thus causing the walkout of the miners due to delinquent wages.

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James C. Sergent, son of Enoch A. Sergent of Polly, has recent joined the Army, and has been assigned to Battery “A”, 27th Field Artillery Battalion (Armored), with station at Fort Knox. Private Sergent says that he enjoys the life very much — the work is interesting and the food is fine.

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The excavating for the post office building in Jenkins was more or less delayed when solid rock was struck close to the bottom of the excavations. However, work has been going along steadily and at this time everything is almost in readiness for the laying of the foundation.

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Van Lear High School came to Jenkins Saturday for a game with Jenkins High, losing to Jenkins by a score of 30 to 5.

THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 28, 1950

The first group of Letcher County boys to be inducted into the Army under the Selected Service Act of 1950 will leave Oct. 12, 1950, it was announced this week. Fourteen boys will leave Whitesburg for Lexington, where they will be moved to army camps for service. Seven days later, a second group of six will be inducted. Those boys to leave Oct. 12 are John E. Crawford Jr., William R. Caudill, Eugene Spangler, Clarence D. Byrd, Lawrence Braddock, Hobert Richardson, James E. Fields, Provy Cornett, Joe Pack, Elzie Bentley, Keith Mullins, Leslie Kiser, Guy Kilgore and Cleatrice Whitaker. Scheduled to leave Oct. 19 are Phillip S. Holston, Paul L. Williams, Edward Fields, Samuel Grey, Mitchell N. Meade and Russell L. Profitt.

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A follow-up tuberculosis clinic will be held within the next few weeks to re-X-ray all positive or suspected cases of TB. The Kentucky Mobile X-Ray unit, in Letcher County for the past two weeks, took chest X-rays of 2,945 Letcher County citizens.

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A complete mapping of Letcher County will begin within the year, it was announced this week by B. Dave Blair, County Tax Commissioner. Purpose of the mapping is to put on the tax roll that property not now listed, Blair said.

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Previously unshown gridiron power was put on exhibition as the Whitesburg High School Yellowjackets rolled to an unexpected 32-7 rout of Pikeville.

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The Cavaliers of Jenkins blanked the Wayland Wasps 26-0 Saturday, in an away tilt that saw the Jenkins boys score at will.

THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 29, 1960

Governors of 11 states in the Appalachian area will meet October 17 and 18 to consider problems of the area, which includes Letcher County and the rest of Eastern Kentucky. The 11 states in the Appalachian region are Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

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Staff Sergeant James M. Collier, son of Mr. and Mrs. Roy Collier of Hall, has recently graduated from Non-Commissioned Officers Preparatory School at Beale Air Force Base, California. He graduated from Fleming-Neon High School in 1952.

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Mr. and Mrs. John Fields celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary Sept. 25 at the old homeplace on Bull Creek.

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The Whitesburg Choral Club will meet for its first rehearsal at Craft Funeral Home on October 7. The director this season will be Frank Bickel, who is on the faculty at Whitesburg High School.

THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 24, 1970

Letcher Fiscal Court voted on the urging of state highway officials to sue a coal company for damages to a Mayking bridge, if the firm does not voluntarily pay the costs involved. County Judge Robert Collins said he understood that the coal truck that broke the bridge down belonged to a Pike County firm, and that a representative of the firm had promised it would repair the bridge. But that promise was made two weeks ago, and nothing had happened since. Sheriff R.C. Warf said he happened along at the time the truck was being pulled out after the bridge collapsed, and that he could verify that the bridge collapsed under the weight of truck, but that he didn’t know the identity of the firm.

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Army Sergeant R.W. Lowe, 21, received the Bronze Star Medal in Vietnam on August 17. Sgt. Lowe received the award while assigned as a platoon sergeant in 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry, of the 25th Infantry Division near Dau Tieng, Vietnam.

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A group of Knott County residents, angered over the destruction of their roads and alleged violation of private property by coal trucks in the region, banded together to challenge the continued movement of coal trucks in the area of Lotts Creek. The group was headed by 77-yearold Mrs. W.M. Kelly, who claims that the one-half mile of graveled road running from Kelly Fork toward Anco belongs to her, and that coal trucks serving deep and surface mines have no right to use it without her permission. About a dozen other Knott Countians supported her Saturday as she flagged down trucks heading for her stretch of road in order to inform the drivers that she no longer wanted them hauling their loads on her property.

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Herman Hale, newly elected president of the Bank of Whitesburg, will be honored by the bank at an open house Saturday in observance of his 50th anniversary in banking.

THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 25, 1980

Jenkins Lake began filling back up with water Wednesday and, if things continue to go well, life should soon be much easier for the city’s 4,000 residents. Construction of a 2,800-foot pipeline was completed Tuesday, connecting the lake, the city’s nearly empty water reservoir, with Fishpond Lake at Payne Gap. Officials hope to fill the reservoir with water from Fishpond. The Jenkins City Council declared an emergency nearly three weeks ago when many residents were left without water after a combination of leaking water lines, a lack of rainfall, and an increased demand for water took its toll on the reservoir and left the water level in the lake too low for adequate use.

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Letcher County Judge/Executive Robert B. Collins has called for the resignation of Magistrates Add Polly, Lee Hogg and Charles Dixon after they declined last week to approve the minutes of the August meeting of Letcher Fiscal Court — thus voiding all actions taken at that meeting including several hirings and the approved payments of several bills. State law says a fiscal court cannot carry on any further business without approving action taken at the previous meeting. At jeopardy, says Collins, is the future of the county’s participation in the East Kentucky Concentrated Employment Project (EKCEP), a federally funded program which, in addition to employing 37 people, provides the county with a cash flow of more than $2,100,000 annually, the blacktopping of several county roads, and whether or not the county faces legal action for not paying bills.

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Three pedestrians — Joe Mark Combs, Jeff Couch and Aaron Adams — suffered minor injuries and four automobiles were damaged Friday after a water truck, doing work on the Whitesburg Bypass, went out of control as it made its way down School Hill and struck a parked car on Main Street.

. Josephine Richardson of Whitesburg has been named by Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. to the Kentucky Commission on Corrections and Community Service. The commission will advise the governor and commissioner of corrections concerning correctional policy and programs.

WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 26, 1990

The Letcher County Fiscal Court will have to be “creative and innovative” to survive with ever-tightening budgets, said Al Howell, a field representative of the Department of Local Government. He said the court will have to look at new methods of financing county projects, especially if South East Coal Co. closes its doors next month as company officials have said it will. “South East Coal is one of the biggest coal companies in this county and if they go down the tubes — if they go out of business — it’s going to affect your coal severance tax severely,” said Howell.

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The Kentucky River Area Development District leads the state in the number of marijuana plants destroyed this summer, according to the Governor’s Task Force on marijuana. The report showed a total of 267,602 plants destroyed and 33 arrests made in the eight-county KRADD area. Letcher County had the lowest number of marijuana plants seized — 202.

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“Fat Monroe”, a short dramatic film made at Appalshop, will be shown next week at Lincoln Center in New York City. The film, written, directed and edited by Andrew Garrison, is based on a short story from “Kinfolks”, by Hazard native Gurney Norman. Hollywood actor Ned Beatty has the title role. Eleven-year-old William Johnson of Carbon Glow has the role of Wilgus Collier, and Jerry Johnson, a coal miner formerly from Harlan County, plays Glen Collier, father of Wilgus Collier.

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Estelle Day of Letcher was named Letcher County Golden Girl in the Mountain Heritage Festival pageant held at the end of Whitesburg Day.

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Whitesburg has been named a certified city by the state Chamber of Commerce. Whitesburg Mayor James Asher said, “It indicates to industry that the city is on par with other cities certified by the Chamber of Commerce.”

WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 20, 2000

A year after closing when miners refused to take a cut in pay, Golden Oak Mining Company is set to reopen under the ownership of Cook and Sons Mining Inc. The Cooks will assume ownership of Golden Oak on October 2 and want to have coal on the ground by October 5, said Randy Cook, one of five brothers and sisters buying the limited partnership from William B. Sturgill and others. The Cooks say the company plans to start mining coal with 165 employees next month.

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The Kentucky Department of Transportation has stopped issuing permits for oversize trucks to cross Pine Mountain at Whitesburg, and it will probably post signs warning other tractor-trailers off the mountain and it may improve up to 12 curves on the mountain, state Rep. Howard Cornett said. Cornett said 15 engineers, planners and geologists from the department came to Whitesburg and drove across the mountain to look at the problem firsthand. He said when they got to the other side, he asked them to make the left turn into Eolia, which is in the middle of a blind curve. “They were white knuckled,” he said.

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In Letcher County Elementary Athletic Association girls’ basketball action, defending county champion Whitesburg Middle School won at Fleming-Neon to raise its record to 4-0.

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This year’s Mountain Heritage Festival will feature a new attraction — rock climbing. The 24-foot-high simulated granite wall will be set up at the festival area in downtown Whitesburg.

WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 22, 2010

Packs of vicious dogs roaming Letcher County are endangering children and creating a number of problems for county officials. Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming brought up the ongoing dog problem at the September meeting of the Letcher County Fiscal Court. Fleming said it is getting dangerous for children to play outside in some parts of the county because of the vicious dogs, but said there is little parents can do because of state laws that protect dogs more than children in Kentucky.

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Police say the link between drug addiction and thefts in Letcher County continues. “We have a drug problem and people don’t have the money to buy drugs so they steal items or scrap them to buy drugs,” said Lt. Brian Damron of the Letcher County Sheriff ’s Department. “When we make arrests and interview people, they will commonly tell us that they steal to support their drug problem. I’ve never heard someone say they steal to support their family.”

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Gary Powers, son of U-2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers, is coming to Letcher County to help set the record straight about his father’s conduct after his plane was shot down over the Soviet Union more than 50 years ago. Powers will also serve as grand marshal of the Mountain Heritage Festival Parade. His father, a native of Burdine, died in 1977 in a helicopter crash while working for a California news station.

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Letcher County residents who live on Highway 7 North from Daniels Branch to Thornton Gap, and at Low Gap to the end of the line on Earl C. Drive are now eligible to sign up for water services through the Letcher County Water and Sewer District.

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