Whitesburg KY
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The Way We Were

Clips from available Mountain Eagle pages since 1907.


JUNE 17, 1921

Construction of a road connecting Jenkins with Pound, Virginia is expected to begin in early 1922. This news comes after three members of the Letcher County Road Commission — Henry Pfening Jr., M.A. Dunlap, and Lewis E. Harvie — traveled to Wise, Virginia Tuesday to hold a joint meeting with the Wise County Supervisors. The purpose of the meeting was to devise ways and means for the construction, without further delay, of a modern road to connect Jenkins with the Wise County road system. Letcher County and Wise County will use their own funds to begin the construction, with the understanding that the commonwealths of Kentucky and Virginia will begin contributing funds later next year.

Sam Collins, about 40, was appointed this week to the position of Prohibition Director for Kentucky. Collins’s great-grandfather was a member of the first 14 families to travel from the hills of North Carolina into the Powell and Clinch River sections of Virginia and on through a trackless forest over Pine Mountain into what is now Letcher County. Recently married, he and his wife now have one baby son.

Blackey’s baseball team remains undefeated after a 4 to 0 win over Hazard Sunday.

Incidents of careless shooting in and around Whitesburg continue to be reported. Only a few days ago, Frank Caudill, while on duty at the Whitesburg Depot, was nearly grazed by a bullet fired from an unknown location. This week, Dr. Fitzpatrick narrowly escaped being hit by a bullet while going about his business near his home. It is speculated the bullets were fired from small-caliber weapons, probably from young boys in the woods who gave no thought as to where the bullets might end up.

A large crowd visited the Pearl Theatre in Whitesburg this week to watch the film “Tarzan.” Manager A.C. Brown says he will soon obtain the sequel, “The Romance of Tarzan.”

“Why let cows and hogs roam on the streets of Whitesburg and have them break in (homes) while people are asleep?” The Mountain Eagle asks that question on the front page of this week’s edition.

A Mountain Eagle editorial cautions candidates for Letcher County offices against expecting to “find things as they were 10 or a dozen years ago,” before the coal and timber industries arrived. The editorial says that because “our county in the last few years has undergone an awful change, questions of momentous importance confront us, and problems of deep significance are to be handled. New and as yet untried paths will have to be hewn out and traveled. These, all these, will require men of muscle and hearts of iron to manage, handle and solve. Letcher County being a mining section will naturally attract a class of people peculiarly different from our own, some of whom will be of a type not to be dealt with easily. Therefore, the importance of having strong, sober and fearless men to head affairs.”


Oil has been struck on Kingscreek, at the Dave Day farm near the head of the creek. Wilson Fields was in Whitesburg this week showing off a bottle of fine-looking oil taken from an oil well that is being drilled at the head of Kingscreek. The well is said to have now reached a depth of 3,500 feet. Fields said oil in the well now stands at about 600 feet. s

A quarrel between Neon adults who fell out over an argument involving children has resulted in the death of a 32-year-old immigrant from Syria. Sam Hassem was shot and killed by brothers Frank and Jesse Bentley, sons of the late Dobber Bentley and Lizzie Easterling. The trouble took place on the lower Main Street of Neon and was witnessed by a number of people. Witnesses say the shooting occurred after the Bentley boys and Hassem were involved in a fight in which sticks, pieces of wooden planks, and an automobile seat cushion were used as weapons. A shotgun was eventually introduced to the scene, resulting in Hassem being shot in the left breast, after which walked a few steps before dropping dead. Hassem had a fine reputation in eastern Kentucky and was a Third-Degree Mason. The large crowd at his funeral in Neon attested to his reputation of being a man of fine qualities and reputation. The two Bentley were taken to jail in Whitesburg, where each is being held under $10,000 cash bond

A shooting at East Jenkins has left Red Shelby, about 40 years old and well-known in the area, in a very critical condition. Sam Vanover shot Shelby one day after Vanover fell and broke his arm. Witnesses say the shooting occurred after Shelby went to Vanover’s home to check on his condition.

Bert Banks of Cowan and Paulina Fields of Carcassonne were the recipients of two scholarships the L&N Railroad provided to the 4-H Club’s Junior Week held last week on the University of Kentucky campus in Lexington. The scholarships consisted of two round-trip tickets to Lexington and back, the expense of food and lodging at the event, and spending money of two dollars cash for each.

“Child Health Conferences” were conducted this week by the Letcher County Health Department at the Isom and Doty Creek schools. At Isom, four babies were found to be suffering from rickets, while two babies at Doty Creek were found to have rickets. At Isom, health workers gave 25 doses of typhoid vaccine, 20 smallpox vaccinations, and eight toxin-antitoxin vaccines for diphtheria. Doty Creek children and adults were administered 93 typhoid vaccinations and 71 smallpox vaccinations.

Willie Lucas is offering a big cash sale on groceries at his Thornton store. According to a front-page story in this week’s edition of The Mountain Eagle, it is “another chance to get goods for very little money, and to suit the hard times.”

According to reports, the Woodrock Coal Company is resuming operations at its mine near Blackey.

Good rains over the past few days are believed to have helped the local crops of Irish potatoes and soybeans.


Friends of John Stone White here were dreadfully shocked when it was learned that Mr. White was drowned in Russell Fork of Big Sandy River in the region of The Breaks. White and friends had left Jenkins a few hours before for a fishing jaunt on Russell Fork and White was placing a trotline when he struck a whirlpool and went down on the swift current.

Robert Collins was an Eagle visitor this week sending the paper to his brother Lovell, who is in training with the Army at Fort Mammouth, N.J.

According to the Democrat community correspondent, there is an epidemic of measles in Democrat now, and quite a few people are sick, including some whole families of seven and eight.

A Fourth of July celebration will be held in Whitesburg. The event will include speeches, games and contests, and there will be an assembly of veterans of all wars as well as a demonstration by the Whitesburg Fire Department.

From The Eagle’s sister publication The Neon News:

FRIDAY JUNE 20, 1941

Matthew Hughes, 28, son of the late Jim and Nannie Hughes, of the Colson section, lost his life Monday in the mines at McRoberts. He was working as a coal loader when a runaway motor crashed upon him.

“One of the biggest things undertaken around Jenkins in a long time is having the preliminaries started — that of the big million-dollar tipple up at No. 7,” writes Jenkins correspondent Burdine Webb. “The old tipple is practically gone, and a number of the buildings just above the service store at Improvement Branch are being moved to make way for the trackage. It is said every building between there and the Dunham store, in fact a number below the store, are to be razed and at once.”

Otto Parsons and Sollie Justice have been ordered to report to the Local Board of Whitesburg on June 25 to be sent to Fort Knox to receive their year’s training in the U.S. Army.


Pfc. A.C. Anderson, 18, son of Mr. and Mrs. Alex Anderson of Jenkins, was killed in action in Korea on May 27. A member of the 17th Infantry Division, Anderson had been in Korea two and a half months at the time of his death.

Pfc. George Hay Cline, 21, son of Police Chief Charlie Cline of Jenkins, has been reported killed in action while fighting with the First Marine Division in Korea. Pfc. Cline was discharged from the Marines as a Reserve in 1949 and was called to active duty in October. He had been in Korea since January, and was supposed to have rotated this month.

James E. Gose, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Gose of Whitesburg, has been chosen a member of the East team to play in the annual East-West football game. Gose, who returned from Detroit to play in the game, is a 1951 graduate of Whitesburg High School.

Letcher County Schools Superintendent Dave L. Craft announced that Goebel Ritter, former college and professional basketball player, will coach the Fleming-Neon High School basketball team this coming season. Ritter is well-known to sports fans and writers throughout Kentucky and the nation. He was an all K.I.A.C. player at Eastern State College and later played three years of professional ball with the New York Knickerbockers.

Milburn Polly, a Whitesburg barber, caught a nine-pound pike on a fishing trip to Norris Dam, Tennessee. Polly was fishing from Hickory Star Dock. He used live bait.


Grading and draining contracts on the entire 43 miles and surfacing contracts on three sections of the Eastern Kentucky Toll Road have been awarded. Right-of way acquisition by the Department of Highways is substantially complete. It is estimated that the toll road, upon which work began in February, will be opened to traffic December 1, 1962, with all construction completed by the following January 1.

Three Letcher County coal mining officials were elected to the board of directors of the Big Sandy Elkhorn Coal Operators. They are Harry LaViers, President, and Virgil Picklesimer, Vice President, South-East Coal Co., and D.A. Zegeer, Division Superintendent of Bethlehem Mines Corp.

Two Whitesburg men are currently taking their combat training at Fort Knox. Pvt. Bobby W. Blair, 21, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Elbert Blair. Pvt. Harvey M. Ison, 18, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. George Ison.

Porterhouse steak is on sale this week at the A&P food store for 99 cents a pound. Sirloin steak is 89 cents a pound and full cut round is 69 cents a pound.


United Mine Workers of America members have returned to work at Beth-Elkhorn after a wildcat strike last week shut down the mine. The wildcat strike was part of a national move launched by supporters of UMWA President W.A. “Tony” Boyle after a U.S. district judge ordered Boyle to step down from his position as one of the directors of the UMWA Welfare and Retirement Fund.

A federal grand jury has returned a 24-count indictment against Finley Coal Co. and Charles Finley for violations of the 1969 federal coal mine safety act in the Hyden mine disaster, which took the lives of 38 men last December 30.

In a surprise move, defendant Claude Veale has confessed to the murder of United Mine Workers reformer Joseph A. Yablonski, his wife, and his daughter in December, 1969. The Yablonskis were murdered in their home less than three months after Yablonski had lost a bitter campaign in which he had challenged the presidency of UMW chief W.A. “Tony” Boyle.

One hundred seventy-six youths enrolled in the Neighborhood Youth Corps program of the LKLP Community Action Council are without work or paychecks for the next four weeks. Officials of the program, which serves young people who have not completed high school and who are not enrolled in high school, said the cutoff became necessary because the agency spent all of its $591,000 annual budget before the end of the fiscal year, which will be July 17.


Cowan Elementary School Principal Robert Gatton has resigned to accept the position of principal at the new McCreary County Central High School.

The Jenkins Independent Board of Education says it is considering a change in procedure under which it would not discuss matters with school patrons at board meetings unless the nature of their business had been reported to the board prior to the meeting. Parents, teachers and other citizens would have to declare in writing what matters they want to discuss with the board and submit a statement no later than a week before the board meeting is scheduled.

Letcher Fiscal Court joined the state and federal governments in cutting health programs for the needy this week. Court members voted 3-2 to repeal a 2.9 cent county health tax — a move which apparently could terminate or severely limit services offered by the Letcher County Health Department. Judge/ Executive Robert Collins says the tax had been enacted to help pay for construction of the health department’s office building and was no longer needed because the building is now paid for.


The Reagan administration says it is prepared to go to Mexico to recruit workers for U.S. coal mines.


Families of miners killed in the second explosion at Scotia Coal Co. at Oven Fork in 1976 have reached an out of court settlement with the federal government for a total of $2.1 million.THey had sought $8 million.


A federal regulation requiring new self-rescue devices for coal miners went into effect this week, but very few miners are wearing the device. Officials said it would be weeks before all working miners have their device within their reach.


United Mine Workers pickets stopped many southeast Coal Co. miners from returning to work Monday, but the company was running coal nonetheless and expects to continue doing so. About 35 workers turned out for the 2 p.m. shift at mines No. 404 and No. 405 at Linefork in Letcher County. Fifty-four were supposed to report for work. UMW President Richard Trumka sent official notice to South-East Friday that the strike was sanctioned and would begin at 12:01 a.m. on Monday. Union officials voted last Wednesday to walk out over alleged unfair labor practices.


A ruling by the Federal Communications Commission may have set the stage for a battle between the Letcher Fiscal Court and local cable television companies. Until last week, the court had no legal authority to force cable companies to answer complaints from county residents. Now, the FCC has ruled that local governments may regulate the rates of some TV cable companies.


“Robin Hood” starring Kevin Costner is playing this week at Whitesburg I and II.


The Letcher Fiscal Court is inviting every state and federal representative and senator to attend the next court meeting to impress upon them the need for money for county projects, including finishing the renovation of the old Jenkins High School and construction of a Letcher County welcome center at Pound Gap.


Voters in the Seco precinct will decide July 31 whether the Highland Winery can sell its own wine on its own premises. Judge/Executive Carroll Smith issued an executive order last week setting the date of the limited election after the company collected enough signatures to put the question on the ballot. Letcher County has not had a wet-dry election since the 1940s, when all alcohol sales were banned.


The City of Whitesburg will seek a grant to build soccer fields in town. The city council agreed last week to work through the Letcher County Action Team to seek a grant, after Action Team Community Development Director Tracy Frazier visited the council meeting to offer assistance with grant proposals.


When President George W. Bush and his wife Laura visited Brussels, Belgium last week, Letcher County native Anna Richardson helped show them around. Richardson is working as an intern at the American Embassy in Brussels. She is a daughter of Bill and Josephine Richardson of Whitesburg.


Letcher County workers narrowly held onto a 2 percent raise in the coming year, thanks to a motion by Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming. At the June meeting of the Letcher Fiscal Court, the Fiscal Year 2011- 2012 budget was presented to the board with the raise left out, but Fleming said he had promised last fall that he would make certain of at least a 2 percent raise and he would not go back on his word. The court voted five to one to restore the raise.


The Board of Directors of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District has voted to de-activate the Blackey Water Plant as long as doing so doesn’t cause the county to lose any funding tied to the plant. Water Superintendent Mark Lewis also recommended putting a permanent separation between the Blackey plant and the rest of the county water system. Lewis said the plant can be reactivated if ever required.


Anna Bell was named Queen of the Boone Fork Senior Citizens Center prom. Reed Stewart was chosen King.

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