Stories of Flat Gap, Johnson County, KY
Written by Dorothy Ross, Flat Gap, Kentucky
Among the residents of Flat Gap in the early days was Henry Jaynes son of Henry Jaynes Sr., whose brother William Jaynes had been sent to college at Georgetown, Ky, and educated as a teacher and minister. On his return to Flat Gap he established the Enterprise Academy which became the first training school for teachers in Johnson County. Before this time many of the local teachers had attended Prestonsburg Academy established in 1821. The town of Flat Gap was incorporated by act of Kentucky Legislature on April 4, 1884. The trustees were elected from among the local citizens on the first Saturday in May, 1884. Previous to that incorporation of Flat Gap as a town in March 1870 to be exact Henry Jaynes sold a plat of ground on which the Academy was to be located, which was on the hill near where the late Jim Jaynes and Nell Jaynes home now stands. When this academy was no longer used for school purposes it was removed by the trustees and the land went back to the previous owners. The following names are some of the people who attended the Flat Gap Academy.
These names were furnished by one of the members of the class of 1883, G. C. Carter. His brother C. Carter an early teacher in Lawrence County, C. B. "Lum" Wheeler, John Picklesimer son of Wm. " Uncle Billie" Picklesimer, who entertained many people every Sunday, who attended the Missionary Baptist Church on Barnett's Creek. Several preachers were ordained at this church. Among whom were John Wesley VanHoose, Elijah VanHoose and B. F. Caudill. Other scholars at Enterprise Academy were Rafe Caudill, Brushy, Ky., a teacher and farmer, William Barton of Blaine, Ky, Dr. Green V. Daniels, physician and co-founder of the Golden Rule Hospital in Paintsville, Ky. The hospital is now used as a dwelling house and occupied by Ellis and Thelma Jewell Hamilton and their son Mark.
Henry Daniels was a Baptist minister for 60 years. He married Francis P. VanHoose and had four children the youngest son Cleveland Daniels, I've been told lived in the big two story house near the intersection of 1092 and 689 in Flat Gap and used it as a boarding house for students that attended the Enterprise Academy.
Ben F. "Squire" Salyers had a hotel in Flat Gap which was once an incorporated town with Thomas Dills the chief of police. It was said he once arrested a man for riding his horse too fast on the main and only street. The incorporation was soon done away with because the people objected to paying city taxes. Anyone discussing the early settlement of Flat Gap would often mention the names of Ross, Fletcher, Salyer, Conley, Webb, McKenzie, Hatfield, Jaynes and many more honorable names. Today there are lots of Descendants of these families who are proud to say my father or forefather once lived at Flat Gap.
An interesting legend of the school told by the old timers was a man by the name of Jim Caskey, who at the age of 21 could neither read or write, but entered the Academy and became one of the leading teachers of Johnson County. The Academy was described as having two rooms down, a coat hall, library with folding doors, and a bell steeple. The school offered the following courses: Ray's Higher Arithmetic; Mental Arithmetic; Harvey's Grammar; Spelling: Reading: Writing and Geography. Other activities were included at the Academy with wall lanterns for lights and bed sheets for curtains. Some of the female actresses recited such poems as "Curfew Shall Not Ring Tonight" and the lower grades recited such poems as "Little Bo Peep". Community singing, apple peelings and corn husking added fun to the social life.
Preacher William Jaynes, the founder of the Enterprise Academy, was the pastor of the Flat Gap Missionary Baptist Church which still is standing, but no longer used for church services. A Masonic Lodge is upstairs and a community center in the lower ground floor. A Man by the name of Daniel Jayne was the surveyor of the public road from Flat Gap to the intersection of Hood's Fork Road in 1843, which was many years later made into what was known as a WPA road made by men with mattocks, shovels, sledge hammers, wheelbarrows, drill bits and dynamite after walking for miles by a lantern light until day break then hiding the lantern to pick up on their long tired walk back home. This road is now a black topped highway with a near solid rock foundation made by Johnson County men with a mind to work.
When the white man came to this county in the late seventeen hundreds across the Appalachians from Virginia and other parts of the country, they found the Indians already settled here and living peacefully and in comfort raising Indian corn or 'Maize" as they called it along with other vegetables. The white man agreed with the Indian that the flat lands were more desirable for growing a portion of their food, with the cliffs, caves, rocks, streams and forests nearby for hunting and fishing.
A young man named Washington Webb with his family moved into the settlement about 1825. A shrewd bargainer, as well as politician, he bought all of Meadow Branch, now owned by Elmon Davis, from the Indians for a big iron kettle and a hunting rifle. Other settlers came to this settlement about the same time.
Government land was cheap and large grants government patents were taken. It was found that the "flat lands" were on the divided gap between the waters of Mud Lick Creek and Big Laurel thus the name Flat Gap originated. The Indians and white men were usually at peace except the occasion when Jenny Wiley was captured and mistreated so badly. The Indians soon left Flat Gap except one Indian woman named Matilda Burke was still living here in 1930, she was real old and never being married she lived with her nephew and her cat in a tiny two room hut. The women of the neighborhood had taught her to do housework and she had served them well. After she was old they often carried her food and gifts. Two ladies took her a basket one day and were much impressed by her clean house. Said even the cat had a piece of snow white woolen sweater on which to sleep. Aunt Tilda had a bed but only used it for appearance because she slept on a pallet on the floor. She said when she was a girl they had thirty cats at one time. One night one of them went mad "rabies" and since the whole family slept on the floor they pulled their blankets over their heads while the cat ran wildly over them until someone killed it.
Lumbering was the first money industry here, a saw mill with a "sash" saw moves up and down and a grist mill combined was run profitable for many years at the mouth of Drake by Merida Segraves. The George Hatfield house of the Hatfield-McCoy feud fame was built of sash sawed lumber. The logs used to saw the lumber were floated down stream to the mill. some of the lumber from the old Hatfield barn was used in the foundation of our home where we now live and was over one hundred years old when used in 1965. We used the lumber as floor joist it was yellow popular about 3 x 8 inches and was 28 feet long. George Hatfield was one of the early postmasters in Flat Gap and held that position for many years.
The first election was held in Flat Gap in 1844, Henry Jaynes was the Judge. Some later elections were of pioneer style with legal whiskey being cheap and plentiful and local taverns were convenient. "Uncle" Luke Williams gathered persimmons and made brandy from them along with pumpkins for the same drink. His establishment was known as the "Whiskey Grocery". An extra amount of his excellent drink was consumed one election day and resulted in a Mr. Pendleton being shot.
One of George Hatfield's daughters was one of the most kindest and best woman I ever knew in my life. Her name was Tera and she married a man named Isom Salyer and raised their family of three sons and one daughter in Flat Gap, Ky. Their home was directly across the road from the Big Gap Enterprise Baptist Church of which she was a member until her death. She was and could be depended on to build the fire early so the church house would be warm for services along with a fresh bucket of water each time. Women like her are never forgotten by me. Their big two story home burned down some years ago but sad was the fear that James the youngest of the three sons had perished in the flame. This was proven true the following day. He had lived alone in the home for sometime.
Just recently another house near by also burned down. It was just across the road from the Salyer home, known as the Timmy Stinson house. This home had no one living in it since Jim's death a few months earlier.
The big boarding house between these two homes will probably be torn down soon and since the Enterprise Church is no longer standing, that clears a big portion of Flat Gap's landmarks including the big store building that stood on the intersection corner of 1092 and 689.
In the year 1927 in May there was a very disastrous flood on a Sunday night. Somewhere in the Flat Gap area was a doctor named Therman Bailey whose wife, mother and son were drowned in it. Everyone knew his mother as "Aunt Aggie". On the same night at Red Bush, Hershell and Gracie Conley's house washed away with their dog in it, but the dog finally came back. Gracie found some of her quilts but could never get the sand washed out of them to use anymore.
At the same time there was a family at Crockett by the name of Landon Lyons, who lost maybe ?? members and a neighbor child in the flood. They say a son of Landon's held on to a little eight year old sister and saved her life by her holding around his neck. This was near Hanson Branch in Morgan County. They caught on to a willow and sycamore tree and held on until the water went down. Landon was holding on to his wife helping to save her, when a big gush of water turned a school house around and caused her to break loose from him and she was drowned. We see one of their sons, Sherman, at church real often. The boy who saved his little sister's life was named Herald. Someone said Mrs. Lyons always kept a box of matches setting by her bed side to use for a quick light during the night. She reached to get a match that fatal night and stuck her hand and arm in the water already in the house.
This page last updated on:
November 22, 2009