Whitesburg KY

The Way We Were

Clips from available Mountain Eagle pages since our founding in 1907
A late Tuesday night fire that destroyed the Whitesburg Post Office, the Whitesburg Telephone Company exchange and other businesses and some homes was reported two days later, in January 19, 1911 edition of The Mountain Eagle.

A late Tuesday night fire that destroyed the Whitesburg Post Office, the Whitesburg Telephone Company exchange and other businesses and some homes was reported two days later, in January 19, 1911 edition of The Mountain Eagle.


At midnight Tuesday, fire was discovered in the post office building on Webb Avenue in Whitesburg and in the rear of the rear of the Ira Fields law office and store building. When discovered, the blaze had already gained such headway that in a few minutes it had spread to the residence of Mrs. Mary Caudill, in which the Whitesburg Telephone central exchange was kept. Among the other buildings destroyed were Dr. Pursifull’s house and drug store. It was the worst fire in the history of our town and the loss and damages will approach $20,000. For a while it looked as though even the Letcher County Courthouse would fall victim to the flames.

Because of a fire that destroyed the Whitesburg Post Office and other buildings downtown, it may take several days before this edition of The Mountain Eagle gets out to all its readers.

In the wake of a fire that destroyed several downtown Whitesburg businesses, including the post office, Mountain Eagle editor Nehemiah M. Webb writes, “It’s the opportune time right now to start a movement for a good system of waterworks. Everybody ‘sorter’ believed we needed waterworks before the fire; now they know it.”

While out hunting last Friday near his home on Big Cowan, Lawrence Day, son of attorney D.I. Day, accidentally shot himself in the foot, resulting in serious injury.

L.W. Fields, proprietor of the Field-Cliffe Poultry Farm in Whitesburg, has for three years been raising Japanese-bred chickens known for having tails ranging from six to 10 feet long.

“We can hear the heavy railroad blasting, and it reminds us of the days or the rebellion when we marched to the bugle’s sound and wore a musket on our shoulder,” writes The Mountain Eagle’s correspondent from the Democrat community. “This time it is the boom of progress, then it was the sound of revelry and destruction.”

“We assure our readers than when the days get longer, The Mountain Eagle will get better,” a note on the newspaper’s editorial page says.

Wagon traffic will soon cease between Harlan and Stonega, Virginia, via Eolia. The new railroad is within a few miles of Looney, but traffic was delayed some on account of two bridges being demolished in the recent tide.

A 50-year-old Pikeville contractor who had been working on construction of the new railroad has committed suicide by taking carbolic acid. It is said the man had been drinking heavily at the time.


Letcher County’s population increased nearly over the past 10 years, from 24,467 in 1920 to 35,702 at the end of 1930.

Lillian Fugate, 13 years old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Elbert Fugate of Mayking, will complete her fourth and final year of high school later this spring.

Deputy U.S. Marshal A.V. Sergent left Whitesburg on Tuesday for Atlanta, Georgia, with 26 prisoners who were recently given federal sentences after trials in Jackson.

A combination subscription to the daily Courier-Journal of Louisville and the weekly Mountain Eagle of Whitesburg is available for the cost of $5 per year.


Several inquiries have come to this office concerning the re-districting of the county into the old style of having eight districts and eight magistrates as was formerly the case, and feeling that the paper was the proper source to find out the facts, we proceeded to call Judge J.M. Crase and he verified this, and said that he felt that the county people would get better representation than at present and he felt the people as a whole desired this to be done.

The Hemphill recreation building caught fire about noon January 19 and was destroyed. An alarm was given as soon as the fire was discovered, which had gained considerable headway before anyone noticed it as it apparently caught from the flue and as it was a very cold day, few people were stirring.

Charles Adams has another fine hog, weighing about 425 pounds, salted away in his smokehouse to cure for summer. Their two sons could not be with them for the holidays. The boys are each serving a three-year term in the U.S. Army.

From The Neon News:


The Cumberland Valley Electric Corporation reports the staking of electric lines in progressing very rapidly, as there have been over 110 miles of electric lines staked to date. Engineers are expected to be in Harlan and Letcher counties within the next two weeks to start staking lines from the Harlan County Substation. There are approximately 100 miles of lines to be staked in the counties, serving 900 rural homes.

Herman C. Combs announces he is a candidate for Letcher County Sheriff on the Republican ticket.

The Jenkins schools broke all records in the sale of tuberculosis seals in the recent campaign. In all, 37,859 seals were sold, raising $378.59 for the use of the Association to Fight Tuberculosis in Kentucky.

Clark Gable and H. Lamarr star in “Comrade X” this week at Jenkins Theatre.


For entering a mine field to evacuate wounded men from a burning ammunition-loaded vehicle, a Whitesburg sergeant has been awarded the Bronze Star medal in Korea. The decoration was conferred upon Sgt. William D. Lawson, son of Mrs. Josephine Lawson of Whitesburg, for heroism in action at Weagwan while a member of the 5th Calvary Regiment.

Progress in coal heating equipment has taken considerable strides in the past few years — before this little progress had been made since the time of Benjamin Franklin. Along with stokes and thermostatic controls in homes, fireplaces have been improved, for they can now be built to circulate heat throughout the room instead of allowing it to escape up the chimney. Amazing strides in fuel efficiency have been made by industries, particularly electric utility plants. In 1919, it took 3.2 pounds of coal to produce one kilowatt hour of power; in 1949 this was reduced to 1.24 pounds per kilowatt hour.

Four Letcher Countians escaped sure death by leaping from their truck Saturday, just before it was struck and destroyed by a train at a Roxana junction. The truck had slid from the road and its wheels had become lodged in the tracks in the path of an oncoming train and its load of coal cars. The men jumped when the train was within 50 feet of the truck.

The visiting professional All-American Red Heads basketball team, the nation’s top female net squad, will come to Letcher County to play the local Whitesburg Travelers.


The Whitesburg City Council created a Whitesburg Municipal Housing Administration Tuesday to acquire, construct and administer a low-rent housing project in Whitesburg. The new agency was set up to meet requirements of the federal government set for Whitesburg or any other city which desires a federally-financed low rent housing project. The action was hailed as a major step forward for Whitesburg. s

The possibility of adding a third floor to the Letcher County Courthouse to be used as a new county jail is being investigated by interested persons in Whitesburg. The subject came up at a meeting of the Whitesburg Development Association, where the present jail was stoutly condemned as a disgrace to Letcher County, unfit for use by human beings.

The architect has completed plans, and the county school board will advertise for bids for construction of two consolidated grade schools within the next 10 days, Supt. Sanford Adams said. A 14-classroom unit will be located at Colson. The other, an eight-classroom unit, will be at the mouth of Campbell’s Branch.

The weekend snow lured many Letcher County youngsters from their homes for a romp in the snow. Typical of the many was first-grader Marion Jenkins, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles D. Jenkins, who found the area around her home on Cliffside perfect for slipping, sliding, running and tumbling. She and her brother, Matthew, threw lots of snow at each other as they climbed around the cliff above the Kentucky River.


Angry people held a meeting at the Blackey Community Center of the Citizens League to Protect Surface Rights. Participants were angry because they had been rebuffed by the grand jury, they were angry with elected officials who they feel are only concerned with the coal industry and not the people, and they were angry with the stripminers and gas companies for ravaging their land.

An editorial titled “Safety a joke?” in The Mountain Eagle says, “The Nixon Administration, whatever its intention, is turning the whole question of mine safety into a not very funny joke. To create a key position of ‘Enforcer’ to decide whether and how much in the way of fines are to be levied against coal operators might be a good idea. But to name a small-town lobbyist and GOP fundraiser who spends his time lobbying for coin laundries is more than absurd — it is a threat to the health and safety of every coal miner in the United States.”

Black lung spokesman Dr. I.E. Buff addressed a crowd of nearly 200 active and disabled miners and miners’ widows in the packed Fiscal Courtroom in Whitesburg on Sunday. Dr. Buff pledged assistance to anyone having difficulty obtaining benefits under the federal black lung benefits law. Buff and other critics of the Social Security Administration claim that miners have been arbitrarily denied benefits and that unnecessary and sometimes illegal claims filing procedures have been implemented.

Sgt. Noah Back will be home about January 28 from Korea, where he has been stationed for about seven months with the Army. A graduate of Kingdom Come High School, he is the son of Lou and Fannie Back of Letcher.


Letcher County Atty. Guy Palumbo has filed four suits in an effort to collect more than $20,000 allegedly owed the county by various present and former county officials.

The Letcher County Health Department says rumors of an outbreak of hepatitis and typhoid fever in the Jenkins area are unfounded.

Letcher County has agreed to help the financially strapped Jenkins city government in its efforts to overcome the severe water shortage which still plagues it. The fiscal court voted unanimously to award Jenkins a $2,500 emergency grant so it can buy gasoline to power pumps to carry water from Fishpond Lake to the nearly-empty reservoir in Jenkins.

Arguments were heard in federal court at Pikeville this week on whether the federal government should be responsible for the second of two explosions at a Scotia Coal Company mine in Letcher County nearly five years ago. The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the widows of eight miners who were killed in the explosion. The women claim that negligence by the federal government led to the deaths of their husbands. Attorney Gerald Stern of Washington, D.C., argued that the federal government is legally responsible for the deaths because the men were relying on the federal Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration (MESA), which told them it was safe to go in the mine and allowed them to go in. The government argues that the miners knew there had been an explosion and that ventilation controls had been destroyed.


Several Letcher County residents are among 40 Army reservists from units throughout eastern Kentucky who have been transferred to a Frankfort squadron and placed on active duty this week. Thousands of U.S. reservists have been activated since last Wednesday, when the United States and allies began bombing raids on Iraq. The activation order is for 12 months, but other orders could be given later.

A pickup truck pulled from a lake last week was stolen from the Walmart parking lot in Whitesburg while its owner was shopping. The Letcher County Sheriff ’s Department recovered the pickup Tuesday after a fisherman saw the truck at the bottom of Fishpond Lake at Payne Gap. Four divers from the Jenkins Police Department went down to check for a body, but the truck was empty.

Gasoline prices were down this week in Letcher County, but increasing oil prices could drive them back up quickly. Prices at the pumps in Letcher County Monday dropped four cents a gallon to $1.259 for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline. Prices were $1.299 before hostilities in the Middle East began.

Appalshop Inc. of Whitesburg has received a grant for a multi-cultural exhibit comparing Appalachian and Mexican- American cultures. The Metropolitan Life Foundation of New York has awarded the multi-media arts center $15,000 to do the exhibit in cooperation with the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio, Tex.


State officials have completed the purchase of a part of a reclaimed stripmine in Jenkins for use as a multi-county industrial site. The Appalachian Industrial Authority, made up of members from Letcher, Pike, Knott and Perry counties, gave final approval for the purchase of about 83 acres earlier this month. The purchase price was $1.2 million.

City and county results of the U.S. Census 2000 are still three months away, but it’s no secret what those results will show — Letcher County is shrinking. Estimates put out by the Census Bureau in 1999 show the county with a population of 26,069, down 15 percent from 1980 and down 3.4 percent from 1990.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has completed a contract with Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation for a first-of-its-kind private veterans’ clinic. A news release from the VA said the program will enroll “a limited number” of veterans for primary care at the MCHC clinic, but plans to expand enrollment in the future.

Funeral services for Dr. Roscoe Acker, 92, were held last week at Neon First Church of God. In 1985, Dr. Acker was the victim of an attack in which intruders stabbed his 23-year-old daughter, Tammy, to death and stole $2 million from a safe. Three men were later convicted in the attack.


In a split vote, the Letcher County Fiscal Court passed the second reading of a resolution which approves a lease financing the county’s new recreation center, which is currently under construction in Whitesburg. Magistrates Wayne Fleming and Terry Adams both voted against the resolution, saying they based their vote on a provision in the lease agreement which could raise taxes on Letcher County residents if coal severance tax receipts were to drop to the point they will no longer take care of the payments.

A Mountain Eagle editorial tells the Public Service Commission that it should act immediately to open a formal investigation into what has caused power bills to rise so high that some families are being forced to do without proper food and needed medicine. “During the 54 years we have owned and operate this newspaper,” the editorial continues, “we can think of no other issue that has generated as many calls for help and complaints of disgust as the skyrocketing cost of power bills.”

The Letcher County Board of Education voted to have school during the week originally scheduled for spring break to help make up some days missed because of snow and ice. As of January 20, the district has missed 20 days because of inclement weather, pushing the last day of school for students to May 20.

Letcher County landlords whose properties get their water from the Letcher County Water and Sewer District will have to make arrangements in the future to make certain their renters don’t skip out without paying their water bills. The Board of Directors of the water and sewer district voted unanimously to approve a resolution calling for joint liability for water bills. That is, property owners will be held liable for unpaid water bills run up by their renters.

Leave a Reply