Whitesburg KY

The Way We Were

Clips from available Mountain Eagle pages since 1907.


JUNE 24, 1921

An agreement between Harlan County and the state of Kentucky clears the way for a state highway to be built from the Harlan-Bell County line all the way up the 45-mile long Poor Fork of the Cumberland River to Flat Gap in Letcher County. While a decent road already exists between Franks Creek in Letcher County to the Harlan County line at the town of Poor Fork [now Cumberland], it is hoped the new plan will enable the road to be extended from the mouth of Frank’s Creek to the head of river at Flat Gap, where the road will then connect with the Virginia highway system.

The home of Steve Gilley of Big Cowan burned Monday, and The Mountain Eagle is helping collect funds to benefit Mr. Gilley and his family in their time of need. Donations to the Gilley family can be left at or mailed to The Eagle’s office. “Mr. Gilley is a good hardworking citizen and has a family of small children,” a front-page notice says. “Now, let our citizens help him get back on his feet.” The fire started around the home’s cooking stove.

So far, 81 candidates have filed to run for county offices in the August primary election.

W.R. Boggs of Eolia sold his property to the Blackwood Land Company but will continue to live in his home as long as he desires. This is considered good news for Letcher County, which can ill-afford to lose such a valuable citizen.

As the town of Blackey continues to hustle and grow, the Chero- Colo bottling plant there is doing good business.


JUNE 25, 1931

According to the 1930 Census, Letcher County now has a population of 33,702. Of that number, 18,811 are males and 16,891 are females. Our county now has 33,572 whites and 2,120 negroes. Magisterial District 2, which includes Jenkins, has the county’s largest population, 9,234. Perry County has 42,186 residents and Knott has 15,230. Harlan County is now home to 64,557 people, making it the state’s fifth-most populous county, followed by Pike County, which has a population of 63,267.

Dr. Ben F. Wright of Seco has filed to run for the Democratic nomination for the office of state representative.

Four years after several Letcher County communities were “literally destroyed” by flooding, The Mountain Eagle is asking this question: What has happened to all the flood relief money that was promised by the state and federal governments? “That relief was practically all in ‘wind,’” the paper answers in a front-page commentary. “A little stretch of highway has been constructed from Cornettsville to the mouth of Linefork, neither end of which leads anywhere. … Linefork, Kingscreek, and Kingdom Come Creek were literally destroyed, yet neither of these destroyed sections has a road on which a pig could make a decent trot.”

Dr. A.A. Weddle has resigned from the office of Blackey Police Judge and is moving back to his native Pulaski County. Pat Piiersall has been appointed Blackey’s new police judge, but the community of Blackey is losing excellent citizens in Dr. Weddle and his family.

An advertisement from Lucky Strike says its cigarettes are easy on the throat because they are “toasted” with “ultraviolet rays.” The ad claims that 20,679 American physicians say Luckies are less irritating to the throat.

Letcher Circuit Clerk Harvey Hogg is building a new home on Fieldcliff Hill, overlooking the North Fork of the Kentucky River and downtown Whitesburg.


JUNE 26, 1941

Letcher Countians will not lack for entertainment on the Fourth of July it seems, as celebrations are as “thick as hair on a dog’s back” so to speak. Whitesburg is having a real celebration with many elaborate prizes for contestants as well as fireworks to be displayed in the evening. This celebration is sponsored by the American Legion and Whitesburg Rotary Club.

Friends of John Stone White were dreadfully shocked Saturday when it was learned that Mr. White was drowned in the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River, in the region of “The Breaks.” White went out on the water to place a trotline and struck a whirlpool and went down in the swift current.

Unemployed workers of Letcher County received $3,744 in jobless benefits during May. During the month, 537 claims were filed by residents of the county; 95 of these were initial claims and 442 were continued claims.

“Six Lessons from Madame Lazonza” starring Lupe Valez and “There Comes The Navy” with James Cagney and Pat O’Brien will play this week at Isaac’s Kentucky Theatre.

From The Eagle’s sister publication The Neon News:


JUNE 27, 1941

Local Union 6800 is sponsoring a celebration at Neon on July 4 in cooperation with the Town of Neon. The businessmen in Neon and vicinity are cooperating in making this the best celebration that Neon has ever had. There will be lots of music and all kinds of entertainment going on all day, with a street dance that night.

Much, or all, of the increase in hog production requested by the Secretary of Agriculture, as an aid to National Defense, can be accomplished by a more general adoption of sanitation in the hog lot. If sanitation is practiced, the number of pigs raised per litter may be increased by as much as 2.7.

Preliminary flight training as an Army Aviation Cadet at the Pine Bluff School of Aviation has been started by Burgess Robbins of Broadhead.

Smoked picnic ham is on sale for 30 cents a pound at the A&P food store. Watermelons are 49 cents each.


JUNE 28, 1951

Howard Stamper, 21, Dry Fork, an escaped trusty from the Whitesburg jail, was back behind bars Tuesday after a series of break-ins and a running gun battle with Sheriff Hassel Stamper and two deputies, Jim Short and John Gose. The Dry Fork youth, who fled while cutting wood, holed up in Riley Adams’s house on Dry Fork after being flushed from a cornfield by the Sheriff’s party. Sheriff Stamper estimated that the escapee fired about seven shots from a shotgun.

Plans for the Fourth of July celebration, sponsored by the Whitesburg post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, have been completed, and a program of floats, parades, contests, prizes, and dances has been announced by Ferdinand Moore, chairman of the event. s James A. Griffith, son of Mrs. Lizzie Griffith, Neon, has been promoted to the rank of corporal in Korea. He was promoted while serving in the 1st Calvary Division’s 7th Calvary Regiment. Griffith’s unit has been on the Korean front since last July when it landed amphibiously at Pohangdong. It also was the first unit to smash northward through the Taegu perimeter in September.

William N. Craft Jr., Neon, has enlisted in the U.S. Air Force for four years with the rank of Private. Conley N. Collins and Daniel M. Berry of Jackhorn, enlisted in the Regular Army for a period of three years in the grade of Private E-1.


JUNE 29, 1961

Whitesburg has been chosen as one of 11 cities to test a federally sponsored program designed to know what can be done in cities of this size in such things as urban renewal and public housing. As part of the program, Whitesburg will have made available — free of charge — the services of six experts in city planning and development.

The Presbyterian Church in the United States will give the Stuart Robinson School property near Blackey to the State of Kentucky if the state will establish a junior college there and will accept this donation by May 1, 1962.

The possibility developed this week that the contract of Jenkins School Supt. C.V. Snapp may not be renewed when it expires Saturday. Snapp is in Atlantic City attending a National Education Association convention and is not expected to return until about July 8.

The question of a right-of-way delayed the start of construction of a bridge over the Kentucky River on Long Avenue. Lewis Ammerman, owner and operator of a garage near the bridge site, said the bridge project would trespass onto his land and threatened legal action against the city and the contractor.


July 1, 1971

A march on the Hazard office of the Division of Strip-Mining and Reclamation was planned for this morning by a group attending an anti-strip-mine rally sponsored by Save Our Kentucky at Hazard Community College Saturday. Advocates for today’s action say that the reclamation office is not doing a good job of strip-mine law enforcement. They also indicated that such a march would demonstrate general dissatisfaction with the current strip-mine laws in the state. s The Millstone Sewing Center received word this week that it will receive $50,000 from the Office of Economic Opportunity, thus continuing the program for another year. The Sewing Center, one of the oldest and most successful anti-poverty programs in eastern Kentucky, had not been included in the Fiscal Year 1972 budget of the LKLP Community Action Council.

A Mountain Eagle editorial on coal mine safety says, “When Congress passed the new Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act in 1969 and entrusted its administration to the U.S. Bureau of Mines, there was some hope that at long last life was going to improve for the nation’s coal miners. Less than two years later, that hope has faded. More than 300 men have been killed in the mines since the Act became law; another 20,000 have been maimed or injured; still, thousands more have begun to die the slow death of Black Lung. . . In Washington, the Bureau of Mines has become the object of ridicule, bitterness, and despair, both for its apparent inability to meet the challenge given to it by Congress, and for its stubborn insistence on conducting business as usual despite the urgency of doing something drastic about the nation’s most dangerous line of work.”

“Pretty Maids All In A Row” starring Rock Hudson is being shown this week at Isaac’s Alene Theatre in Whitesburg.


JULY 2, 1981

Golden Oak Mining Co. has begun work on construction of a new coal waste and processing plant at the site of the old Elkhorn-Jellico Coal Co. tipple on Camp Branch. The preparation plant is to be completed by early 1984. Officials say when the plant is completed 300 more workers will be hired in addition to the 129 already on the Golden Oak payroll.

Letcher County produced 5,039,276 tons of coal in 1980 with employment of 2,207 persons. Letcher County’s deep mines employed 1,627 miners and produced 3,286,858 tons of coal. Surface mines employed 580 miners and produced 1,752,418 tons of coal. Letcher County’s present employment is about half what it was after World War II.

Problems surrounding water service to the site of the Ben’s Branch housing project in Jenkins apparently has been solved and construction of new homes on the site will proceed, said the Kentucky Housing Corporation.

Jerrell Webb Jr., 29, was electrocuted in a South-East Coal Co. mine. He is survived by his wife and two young children.

Hot, humid days are “just about to take the zip out of us,” comments Ice correspondent Sara C. Ison.


JUNE 26, 1991

A Letcher County Grand Jury has indicted Rebecca Kincer, 51, for murder in the shooting death of her husband. The body of her husband, Vernal Kincer, was found in the living room by a deputy sheriff and a neighbor. Kincer had been shot once in the back of the head with a shotgun.

Harlan at torney Sherry Brashear says South-East Coal Co. is trying to eliminate prounion workers in Kentucky, and she plans to file charges on behalf of at least seven men who claim they were fired for union activities. She said she would file charges with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of the men.

Letcher County’s average annual homicide rate of 6 per 100,000 for the period 1985-1989 was lower than the state average for the same period. The county’s accidental death rate of 49 for the five-year period was somewhat higher than the state rate of 45.

Wild turkey hunters in Letcher County killed 88 gobblers during the spring season, the second-highest number of birds taken in eastern Kentucky and the sixth-highest total statewide.


JUNE 27, 2001

A power struggle between Letcher County Judge/Executive Carroll Smith and the Letcher County magistrates over what the 2001-2002 budget should look like has left the county without a budget for the fiscal year that starts Sunday. If a budget isn’t approved before then, county government will come to an abrupt halt.

Letcher County Schools will have about $14.7 million to work with to build a new consolidated high school. That’s not enough to build the school, but it’s not far off, says Mark Ryles, head of the Kentucky Division of Facilities Management. The question should be whether the district will have enough money to do all of the things other than the high school that the district needs, Ryle says.

Two counterfeit $50 bills that turned up in a Jenkins store last week are not that unusual, the U.S. Secret Service says. As the number of home computers and scanners has increased, so has the number of counterfeit bills passed in Kentucky and in the rest of the nation. Kentucky State

Police and the Secret Service are investigating the two bills that were passed by two different people at the Jenkins Double Kwik last week. Detective Claude Little said he believes one was accidental, but the other was not.

Carla Gover, a former Letcher County resident, will be among performers at Morehead State University’s “Americana Crossroads Live” on June 29. Carla Gover, who was reared in Whitesburg, and Mitch Barrett, a native of Blue Lick, form the group Zoe Speaks. They are past winners of the Chris Austin songwriting contest.


JUNE 29, 2011

Fireworks celebrations are planned in three Letcher County communities to commemorate Independence Day. A fireworks display will begin at dark on July 3 at the Isom Fairgrounds. Live music and a magic show will follow. The City of Whitesburg’s Independence Day festivities at River Park begin at 6 p.m. on July 4 with inflatables, live music, and a food booth. The Whitesburg police band, The Citations, will perform. Fireworks will begin at 10 p.m. The City of Fleming-Neon will hold a Fourth of July celebration in downtown Neon beginning at 3 p.m. July 4 with games for children. Fireworks will begin at dark.

After Cowan Community Center had hosted a series of successful day camps, organizers decided to have a camp centered around mountain music. Now in its 10th year, the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School this year attracted 161 students ranging in age from seven years old to senior citizens who spend a week at the Cowan Community Center and Cowan Elementary School learning how to play music.

Letcher County coal miner Charles Scott Howard and Cumberland River Coal Co. (CRCC) entered an agreement last week whereby Howard will be paid $1,753.50 per week by CRCC not to enter onto the company’s property while his safety discrimination lawsuit against CRCC is being litigated. The agreement was reached in response to a judge’s order which directed CRCC to immediately reinstate Howard to his former position with the company while his discrimination case was ongoing.

Students at Beckham Bates and Fleming-Neon elementary schools will enjoy fresh produce in the 2011-2012 school year as part of the federal Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program provides children in participating schools with free fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the school day.

Leave a Reply