East Ky. Railroad Co. In 1865 Tapped The Rich Mineral Resources of Carter County
Sandy Valley Enquirer
Thursday, December 10, 1942


	   A history of Carter County would be incomplete without including the Eastern Kentucky Railroad, and its 
	advent into the county.  The E. K. had its origin in the year 1865, just about the close of the war 
	between the states.  John and Knapp Thayer with Walter Hunneywell formed a company known as the Kentucky 
	Improvement Co.  The Thayers were eastern bankers, and Mr. Honeywell was a merchant.  All were men of 
	considerable means.  They purchased 25,000 acres of land south of Riverton, Kentucky, on Little Sandy 
	River, this land was rich in timber and minerals.  In 1866 they constructed a railroad to a point about 
	six miles south of Riverton, known as Argillite, and began developing the territory they had purchased. 
	   
	   In 1868, the railroad was extended to a point 7 miles further south, and a station established and named 
	Hunneywell, in honor of Mr. Hunneywell.  In the year 1870 the Eastern Kentucky Railroad Company was 
	organized and chartered.  The E. K. is unique in the annals of Kentucky railroads, being the only 
	railroad in Kentucky chartered by a special act of the Kentucky Legislature, for the purpose of taking 
	over the interests of the Kentucky Improvement Co. holdings.  The charter permitted purchase and operation 
	of railways, coal and ore mines, blast furnaces and lumber mills, and the right to construct and operate 
	a railroad in and through the following counties in Kentucky:  Greenup, Carter, Lawrence, Elliott, 
	Magoffin, Floyd and Pike.  The record shows that much of the surveying had already been done in three 
	of these counties.  
	   
	   It was the original intention of the Thayers to extend the E. K. to connect with the Southern Atlantic 
	& Ohio at the brakes of the Big Sandy River in Pike County, and when that connection was made, to erect 
	a bridge across the Ohio River at Riverton to connect with the Scioto Valley R. R. which was then being 
	built on the north bank of the river and extending to the Lakes, this making a direct route from the coal 
	fields of the south to the Great Lakes.  This line would have developed had it not been for the untimely 
	death of Mr. Thayer, and what a difference it might have made in the history of Carter County.  
	   
	   It is not the purpose of this article to give a complete history of the Eastern Kentucky R. R. but only 
	a brief outline as it relates to Carter County.  After the organization of the railroad company it was 
	decided to extend the line to Grayson.  The Eastern Kentucky Railroad, although abandoned and almost all 
	trace of its existence obliterated, contributed greatly to the early progress and development of Carter 
	County, and its influence will be felt for many years to come.  Up to the coming of the railroad in the 
	year 1871, Carter County, along with the other eastern Kentucky counties, was practically a frontier 
	wilderness.  It will be remembered that Carter County was only 33 years old at that time, and the only means 
	of transportation was ox teams and horses, and all farm products hauled out and merchandise brought in was 
	over almost impassable dirt roads.  The principal trading posts at that time being Ashland, Catlettsburg 
	and Greenup, on the Ohio River.  The local storekeeper of that era was really the pioneer in the department 
	store method of merchandising, and the big department stores of today are no different to the local 
	country stores of that date, except in size.
	   
	   The first train to come through to Grayson, was in the year 1871, and in celebration of the event, 
	the whole countryside declared a holiday.  A big picnic was staged on the mound were Mr. Ed Rupert now 
	lives, and the day was given over to merriment.  With the completion of the road t Grayson real estate 
	values began to climb, capital seeking investment in the virgin timber, rich coal fields and iron ore, 
	which nature had so lavishly bestowed on this section, began coming in and with the coming of new 
	capital, furnaces were built, sawmills installed, coal mines opened, and Eastern Kentucky bid fare 
	to become another Pittsburgh.  The shops were moved from Hunneywell to Grayson, furnishing employment 
	to quite a lot of men.  The line was extended from Grayson to Willard a distance of 11 miles, and 
	again extended in 1889 to a point 3 miles further south,  and a station established and named Webbville, 
	in honor of the Webb family, who were influential citizens of that section.  This is as far as the road 
	ever got toward the original goal.  With the completion of the road to Webbville it consisted of 36 
	miles of roadbed and nine stations, as follows:

		Riverton - MP 1
		Argillite - MP 6
		Hunneywell - MP 13
		Hopewell - MP 17
		Pactolus - MP 21
		Grayson - MP 23
		E. K. Junction - MP 28
		Willard - MP 34
		Webbville - MP 36

	   Col. H. W. Bates became the first vice-president and general manager of the E. K. and continued as such 
	until his death, and was then succeeded by his son, Surgis G. Bates.  Some of the most prominent names 
	connected with the road from its beginning, and who contributed to its safety and good management (it 
	may be of interest to note that all of its more than 60 years' operation, a passenger never lost his 
	life while a patron of the road), were:
	   
	   Captain R. B. Leedy, who served so faithfully and so long as superintendent; 
	   
	   Col. Wm. J. McKee, who was considered one of the most accommodating conductors ever to conduct a train; 
	   
	   Captain Joe Duke, who was one of the best engineers ever to pull a throttle, and many times made the 
	   old Alice beat the C. & O. crack trains on the stretch between the curve and E. K. Junction.  
	   
	   And there was Huey Craynon, a better engineer never ran a train than Huey, who only weighed a 
	   hundred and thirty pounds.  
	   
	   And among the late engineers there was Milt Duke, Malcom Partlow and Ed Leedy.  
	   
	   Lee and Bill Kilgore and Harry Black conducted many a train on the home run.  
	   
	   Dock Crawford was the Master Mechanic in charge of the shops, and a good one he was. He trained Bill 
	   Porter and when Doc retired Bill took over, and continued as the Master Mechanic until the abandonment 
	   of the road.
	   
	   One of the serious accidents of the road occurred when Alvin Burns lost his leg.  He was sent to the 
	Ironton hospital, where a nurse was assigned to give him every care.  She proved so efficient and 
	attentive that Alvin decided life without here would not be worth while, and persuaded her to change 
	her name to Jean Burns.  Alvin has long since gone to his reward, and Mrs. Burns is the present popular 
	Boyd County Health Nurse.
	
	   Some of the early agents along the line were Charles Jacobs, Creed Milstead, Charles Weaver, who 
	later became Mayor of Ashland; John Irwin, Chas. Eifort, Henry L. Woods, who later became Circuit Judge; 
	Henry Irwin, Barr Irwin, H. E. St. Clair, Charley Norris, Lan Shay, and others.
	
	   Many amusing incidents occurred back in the nineties, when the E. K. ran what was known as the jug 
	train, which may be better understood by explaining that it was this train coming out on Saturdays 
	from Riverton that carried C. O. D. jugs of whiskey, shipped by the Ashland and Greenup Liquor dealers 
	to their Carter County patrons (Carter having adopted local option).  Sometimes a patron would not 
	want it known that he was imbibing, and would direct the dealer to put his jug in a box and mark it 
	a hat or a pair of shoes or other merchandise besides wet goods. One Saturday a large shipment came 
	out and Henry Irwin, the agent, who always wished to get these packages off his hands before Sunday, 
	late in the afternoon, seeing one labeled in big letters, 'SHOES' and having his suspicions as to what 
	this package contained, he sent this pious man word by one of his neighbors, "that a package of shoes was 
	at the depot for him, and he would like for him to come and get them at once, as they were leaking."
	
	   Senator R. M. Bagby tells of coming out on the jug train one evening, when an amusing incident 
	occurred. Two boisterous fellows got on the train at Riverton, very much under the influence of John 
	Barley Corn, bound for Grayson.  The train had hardly left the Riverton station, when these two 
	fellows whipped out their revolvers and started shooting out the windows.  The only other persons on 
	the train were a woman, a Methodist preacher and Squire Hurn, of Argillite, who had just recently 
	been elected a Justice of the Peace.  He had gone up to Greenup that morning to secure a copy of 
	the Kentucky Statutes.  Hearing the commotion in the rear of the coach, and sensing trouble, the new 
	squire jumped up and started post haste down the aisle, waving his brand new Kentucky Statutes high 
	in the air, and shouting, "I command the peace, in the name of the Commonwealth of Kentucky."  By this 
	time the Methodist preacher was in a state of panic an cried out to Mr. Bagby to have the conductor stop 
	the train and put us off, to which Mr. Bagby answered, "No, I'm in favor of having the conductor stop 
	the train and throw these fellows off."  About that time Bill Kilgore, the conductor, entered the coach, 
	and being a muscular fellow, he grabbed the two hoodlums by the nape of the neck and dumped them into 
	the seat.  By that time the train had reached Argillite, and Kilgore got a good hold on them, and 
	with Squire Hurn bringing up the rear, they all landed on the ground.  Kilgore gave the signal to the 
	engineer and the train pulled out, and the last seen of the trio, the Squire was still waving his 
	Kentucky Statues and "commanding the peace in the name of the Commonwealth of Kentucky."
	
	   Another important figure in the early days of the E. K. was Col. Frank Powers, who as a young man, 
	crossed the river from Portsmouth and accepted employment with the new railroad, as agent and members 
	of surveying corps.  Mr. Powers soon reached Grayson and became a trusted employee of the road.  It 
	was not long after his arrival in Grayson that he began paying court to Julia, the beautiful daughter 
	of Doctor Landsdowne, who resided at picturesque Landsdowne Hall, which has become one of the historic 
	landmarks of Carter County.  This courtship soon ripened into love and culminated in marriage of this 
	popular couple.  Col. Powers became a prominent lawyer and was for many years one of the leading 
	Democrats in eastern Kentucky, having been the nominee of his party for Congress.  Col. Powers passed 
	to his reward some years ago, but Mrs. Powers, who is now in her ninety-first year, lives with her 
	adopted daughter, Mrs. Lula Stewart, in Grayson.
	
	   In 1925, the northern end of the line from Riverton to Grayson was abandoned, but the company 
	continued to operate the southern end from Grayson to Webbville, but it was not long until the company 
	decided to abandon the entire system.  Some enterprising citizens of Grayson and Webbville undertook 
	to prevent the abandonment on the grounds of public necessity and convenience, but in the year 1928 it 
	seemed likely that the railroad commission would grant the company the right of abandonment, and in 
	order to keep railroad facilities for Grayson and intermediate points to Webbville a company was formed 
	and negotiations entered into with Mr. Sturgis Botts, vice president-general manager, for the purchase 
	of the entire holdings of the old company, which finally resulted in the new organization taking it 
	over. After the transfer was made, the name was changed to the Eastern Kentucky Southern R. R., this 
	being the south end of the E. K. road.  After perfecting the new organization, R. M. Bagby was elected 
	president and Wm. Webb was elected general superintendent.  The new company managed to make expenses 
	and add some new equipment, and would, no doubt, be operating today had it not been for the depression 
	years.  After struggling along through 1931, it became apparent that, in order to save the 
	stockholders from loss, the road would have to be abandoned and salvaged, which was done, and 
	today the E. K. is only a memory, having gone the way of the earth.


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