This impressed me, and I wondered if there were other young people living on our creeks and hollows who have never inquired about such things; this is a reminder, if there be such, to inquire and find out all they can from whence their forbears came and other matters that could be of interest to us all. So young people get busy! You may be surprised at what you might learn by consulting your senior citizens living among you.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishnes, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us-" Dickens begins his novel, The Tale of Two Cities with these words, and in an open letter to you the offspring of Arlena Collins Francis, I assure you on the spring morning as she stood and observed the site which was to become Carr Creek Community Center, she faced the same set of general conditions which Dickens understood were the common inheritance of modern man.
In relation to what she wrote, I would like to express these feelings to you in terms of the set of conditions she faced as a strong, forceful, mother of a growing family of children whom she felt must be educated, so, they might reap the wisdom, belief and light of the world. At one period of her life, this seemed to be a hopeless goal. Her concern extended beyond a concern for her family to the children of the community where she was born, raised and lived most of her life. These children needed a school which would prepare them for their tomorrow's.
Mrs. Francis turned to Miss Alice Lloyd of Caney Community Center and the women at Hindman Settlement School for assistance. When that assistance was non-existent or limited at the very most, she never gave up. With the help of her devoted husband, Marion, a friend Henry Blair, and a few other believers, finally, Carr Creek Community Center became reality. It was built with sweat, labor and love of a man and a woman who would not give up on a promise that their children and other children who would come to this community center would receive an education necessary to seek wisdom, belief and light which she knew with certainty existed in our universe. Because of their struggle, many of us were given a chance to avoid ignorance, doubt, and darkness with which we are also confronted.
This was a woman who knew her time and place was Carr's Fork, Knott County, Kentucky, and what she and her husband made of their and their children's lives must be in that time and place. Today, like other dreams, that time and place has faded into a past which she held dear. What she recorded for you in her own words is a gift which you and your kin should always value. The debt of gratitude owed her by many of us was something which was unknown to us as we passed through the doors of Carr Creek High School. Often, this is the way gifts are given, but those of us who know of this labor of love should hold it in our hearts as an inheritance beyond price.
As far back as 1947, I was familiar with the settlement school concept and knew about Miss Alice Lloyd's school on Caney and Miss Alice Sloan's Cordia Settlement, but very little about Carr Creek Community Center. By that time Carr Creek schools were operated by Knott County, and I knew little of their history. The second semester of the 1950-51 school year, I entered Carr Creek High School as a junior.
My first knowledge of Arlena Collins Francis was through my mother's membership in the Regular Baptist Church. Several times after 1943, our family had accepted her husband's, Marion Francis' invitation to take dinner with his family after a meeting at the Old Carr Church. Then, I didn't know of this family's involvement in the development of Carr Creek Community Center. Neither did I know of it when, as a student at Carr Creek High School, I asked this unassuming lady if it was alright for me to walk up their hollow on my first seven mile walk to our home on the head of Lotts Creek.
To my surprise, when I entered Eastern State University, I met her grandson, Jesse Davis Turley III. We were college roommates and have remained good friends for over 40 years. It was through him that I renewed her acquaintanceship. I met most of her family over the time I have been friends with the Turley family.
In the late 1960's when Carr Creek Reservoir was built, I knew most of the residents of that area would be leaving. One Sunday I found Arlena at the new Smithboro Baptist Church and invited her to my mother's for dinner. From our home on Lotts Creek, Arlena and I rode strip mine roads to the head of Lotts Creek, around the ridge which separates Lotts Creek, Carr Creek, and Troublesome Creek. She said, "I would like to go down through Flax Patch one more time." We went. It was on this trip she told me she was writing a book and wanted me to read the manuscript when it was finished. Shortly after our visit, she moved to Berea, Kentucky, near her daughter, Daphne.
The next time I heard about her manuscript, I was asked to write an introduction for it. I was not given a copy to read; I was simply told that it would be about the Carr Creek area from pioneer days to the building of the dam. I had known then that she had had much to do with the establishment of Carr Creek Community Center schools. I simply did not know how much until her son-in-law, Jesse Davis Turley Jr., sent a copy of the manuscript which he typed for Arlena and wanted me to edit it. I decided that it would take more time than I had available; then, I was teaching full time. However, I have had time this year, 1997, thirteen years after her death. I hope those who read it will have the same appreciation for its content as I have.
1. In the Beginning
2. Kelley Town
3. Irishman Creek
4. Smith Town
5. Defeated Creek
6. Breeding Creek
7 G. W. Johnson Homestead
8. Carr's Fate
9. The Shingle Branch Area
10. Old Carr Church
11. Burgeys Creek
12. Knott County, My Thoughts
13. Francis' Departure and Return
14. Betty Troublesome
15. Sickness and Sorrow
16. Home Sweet Home
17. School Discussions
18. The Flats
19 Springtime and Farming
20. Disappointment And Discouragement
21 Spring and Summer 1920
22. Disappointment Once More
23. Carr Creek Community Center
24. M. P. Humes, Youth's Friend
25. Carr Creek Community Activities
26. Carr Creek Basketball Champions
27. Flax Patch and Its People
28. The Lost Missionary
29. First High School Graduation
30. A New Decade
31. My First Vacation
32. From 1937 To 1970
33. The Turbulent Years
We go to school to learn the philosophies of man and to heed them; yet, how much more important is this book of books: the Bible? It gives us a brief history of that which occurred during four thousand years before Christ, and foretells that which has happened and is happening in these last two thousand years. This seems a long time; yet, it is only a drop in a bucket when compared to the millions of years scientists seem to know about. The Bible says God cannot lie. We know man is fallible.
Our nation had its beginning less than three and one fourth centuries ago when English immigrants founded the first settlement in what is now known as the greatest nation on earth at Jamestown, Virginia. Think of the devastating wars we have fought; think of our achievements in so short a time. Then, think of the great change in our way of living these last twenty‑five years. Is it any wonder we hear the remark, "Nothing is the same, the world is turned upside down." (Mrs. Francis was writing her memoir in the 1960's and 70's. WHY)
In former years, men tilled the soil and lived by the sweat of his brow; they could lie down at night and rest in a sweet dreamless sleep. It was a the most wholesome life on this planet, our only proving ground for eternity.
Doubtless, early settlers were fascinated as they crossed ridges and slopes and scanned it's forest of big leafed trees. They saw tulip, yellow poplar, trees some eight to ten feet in diameter. Perhaps it was the season when the bees were gathering their amber nectar to store for the winter. Or, huge chestnut burrs were
cracking open to discharge their meaty brown nuts. It could have been springtime when the sarvice bush was seen; its white
blossoms adorning its dark gray limbs. Or, unawakened by chilly winds, the dogwood flaunted its still white petals which introduced spring life that hovered around the rootlet's of various woodland flowers. At whatever time they arrived, there were other interests that claimed their attention as they entered the unnamed crystal clear creeks which teemed with catfish and perch that made delicious eating when rolled in corn meal and fried to a crispy brown.
More was to be seen and desired; the forests were the feeding places of such animals as deer, bear, squirrel, raccoon, and other edible animals; The early settler was ready with his rifle cocked in the crook of his arm, when at the crack of a twig, to blaze away. Hunting was not the chief interest of these settlers; they were looking for real estate upon which to build homes and raise their families; they traversed the creeks and hollows to find a satisfactory track to acquire. In many instances they acquired hundreds of acres.
When children of a family matured to marriageable ages and chose to leave father and mother to become wives or husbands, a portion land was allotted to them, and a family community grew around the pioneer homestead. Now man is restless, trying to keep pace with the world, and far too many have chosen the life of a parasite.
Let us return to Jamestown; crossing the muddy James river at a tortoise pace look upon the statue of John Smith and Pokahontas; read the markers; cross the threshold of the old sanctuary to meditate upon these scenes, and catch the spirit of those pilgrims. We can see how the site has receded several feet to the ravages of "Old Man River" who has kept rolling on. This attests to the fact that time and tide wait for no man".
All the men who arrived in that vicinity did not remain; like old man river, they kept moving on. Long before Horace Greely said, "Go west young man," they were on their way; man's Eden is just beyond, and he hopes to find the pot of gold at the rainbows end.
History tells us some of those emigrants set forth over hills, mountains, and streams, to reach this vast wilderness. Tired and foot‑sore, they acquired large tracks of land upon which to build homes, and raise their families, most of which were large. As one man expressed it years later, "They let nature take it's course."
This land is our homeland. It is where our ancestors came, where once crystal streams teemed with fish, and the virgin forest was alive with game that could supply food for their table--a benefit in itself without mentioning the sport it afforded. Pound and Cumberland Gaps were open doors to those nameless creeks and rivers. Our creeks and river into which they empty have their sources in the foothills of Pine Mountain. Not having authentic information on how creeks in this area were named, I shall give their present names as handed down by tradition and logic from knowing their course.
Rockhouse is named, for the famous James Collins family who
first lived under a cliff, or rock when James arrived in Letcher
County. Carr's Fork was named for a man by that name. A more detailed account will be given later. If we can rely on tradition for its name, Troublesome Creek was first entered near it's mouth. It is said the man who followed its course found it difficult to follow the horseshoe and hairpin turns to Hindman, where two smaller streams forked to form the main creek. These three creeks run parallel to each other with ridges of east Kentucky mountains separating them. They are the most beautiful I've seen from east to west. The middle of these three creeks is the one on which Carr's Fork Reservoir is located and the one around which this narrative is about.
I can think of no better place to begin than with pioneer, Robert Cornett, who located here and whose memory is still cherished by a centenarian whose mother had told her of his trustworthiness during the War Between the States, as the United Daughters of the Confederacy, U.D.C., prefer to call it rather than the "Civil War. When citizens had to hide whatever roving bands of men, especially food, would take as they passed through this our
area, he stored what was entrusted to his care far up a hollow known as Sassafras Hollow. Whatever was given him to hide was returned intact to most grateful neighbors who loved, respected, and regarded him as a friend, indeed. The name, Robert or "Uncle Rob, as he was affectionately and respectfully called, was honored to the third generation, and was occupying the old home site at the mouth of Sassafras Hollow at his death.
It is from here, Sassafras Hollow, following the serpentine Carr Creek in a north easterly direction toward its source, I am
endeavoring to describe the pioneers who located their homes along its banks. A relative may return some day and view the shimmering waters of Carr's Fork Lake and remark, "This is where my great, great, great pioneer grand father lived and owned land from mountain to mountain on both sides of a big hollow. Most pioneer homes were located at the mouth of a hollow.
This highly esteemed Cornett family was blessed by a friend, who one day came their way and saw the need for a school and church in their growing community. In the early part of the 20th century, a school and church were established and flourished on Carr Creek the creek went on a rampage and washed most buildings away that had been erected near its banks. Buildings were so damaged that rather than repair and take chances on another flood the church and school was relocated a mile or two below at Vicco. The Cornett family was left with cherished memories of the fine teachers who served at the destroyed Saint Nicholas Church and school but was most grateful for the opportunities they had had.
One dear spot remains, the family cemetery, on a spur of a mountain almost squarely facing the mouth of Sassafras Hollow. Here markers stand forth as a sentinel over the sleeping dead to which more are added from year to year. It was from here just below the graves, April 16, 1966, history will record that a new era began in the minds and hearts of people who lived here. For most of this land will be known from this day forth as the Carr's Fork Reservoir.
It was a somewhat cloudy day; a cool breeze blew, the sun shone intermittently, a comparatively nice day when one considers that a much needed rain had come the first days of that week. It was the second time in months our creeks had been filled to near overflowing. Many, whose wells were low or dry, thought it a godsend. Those who owned timbered forest land, which was so dry that only a spark was needed to set off a most damaging conflagration, were joyful
Much preparation had been made for the occasion to make the day comfortable for those attending the ceremony. A site had been graded and graveled where comfortable chairs were placed--more than were occupied that day--and a platform for the speakers. County officials had screened a platform decked with a red banner so only the upper part of the dignitaries busts were visible. "Old Glory" waved in the breeze from the entrance, and the Corps of Engineer's flag from the other end of the platform.
The main speakers were Governor Edward Breathitt; Congressman Carl Perkins; Garland Franklin, president of Camp Nathaniel and a
native of Carr's Fork, prayed the opening prayer; and Jesse Lee Amburgey, president of the Kiwanis Club and principal of Carr Creek Elementary School, introduced the speakers after "The Star Spangled Banner" had been played. Governor Breathitt spoke of his concern for developing the eastern Kentucky mountains for all its people. So did Carl Perkins; however, he spoke with sympathy for those who were to be removed from their only known homes, he urged them to relocate whenever possible in the same vicinity, "our beloved Knott County."
Archie Everage, Knott County Court Clerk, gave the benediction. It was then announced that we were to look to our right at the dam site. When Carl Perkins signalled an official blast went off. This was the climax of the ceremony. Following the blast blue, white and pink smoke, rose skyward leaving its trace on the ground.
Over where it was roped off with yellow ribbon, the ground breaking began; those participating were Garland Franklin, Governor Breathitt, Carl Perkins, Beckham Combs, and Archie Everage. This ended the official opening of Carr's Fork Reservoir. By this time the sun was fully out as if to add its blessing to the event; evening shadows extended their dark silhouettes from the yet bare trees and hill tops across the narrow valleys as those attending shuttled their way home.
On the next hollow above Sassafras Hollow, on the same side of Carr's Fork, resided George Washington Kelley. Doubtless, he was born in the days when George Washington was being lauded to the skies as "The Father of our Country." As many pioneer sons bore Washington's name in those days. G. W. Kelley was not only called Wash for short, but he was nicknamed "Bowl," and was better known by that name. He was honored by namesakes to the fourth generation of his family.
He was industrious and prospered, as did all large land holders in this area, and raised a respectable family. His sons were educated by George Clark and served as teachers in this area.
Water mills were important in those days, and Wash Kelly established one of the earliest. In due time he added a general store. Green coffee came in burlap sacks and sold by the pound and had to be parched and ground by the buyer. Brown sugar came in barrels; when a father brought along a youngster to mill to have corn ground, this kind old miller would give the child a lump of sugar to eat. As meal poured into sack, vibrations, caused by the turning of the big water wheel turning the millstones, shook the whole building. This meal made delicious corn bread that was so good to eat with a cup of fresh sweet milk.
This youngster was not only seeing meal ground but he was also hearing loud conversation between the father and the miller as each tried to talk over the noise of grinding. If it was in the winter, the conversation might be about an unusual fox chase of a fast
hound on the trail or how the neighbor's hounds had joined in but never caught up. Both men knew how musical dogs sound; each knew of many shivering minutes spent listening as fox and dogs crossed from one mountainside to the other, or as the fox skirted a knob to find a hole where it could evade the oncoming yelping hounds.
On the other hand, if it was an election year for President the conversation would be about politics, for Wash was quite patriotic. On one occasion in the latter part of the nineteenth century, he assembled a party of mounted men and who rode two abreast into Hindman; he at the head of the column held the American flag. The occasion could have been when Admiral George Dewey was victorious over the Spanish fleet in Manilla Bay without the loss of a single American.
He was thought to be quite peculiar by some, but they were probably just as peculiar to others as he. One example of his peculiar traits: he ordered a pistol through the mail and called often at the post office to see if it had arrived. Another patron taking note of his frequent calls decided to play a prank on him and contrived a make believe pistol to be given him when he called again. Naturally he was delighted to receive it, and quickly opened the package but was greatly disappointed when he saw it was wood. When he arrived home, he addressed his wife, "Well Miss Kelley my pastols come and it's all wood and a nail for the tragger."
On another occasion he heard a loud voice that seemed to inquire, "Who‑R‑U?" He listened to hear it repeated, "Who‑who‑R‑U‑" He answered with an oath, "Squire Wash Kelley," When he related this experience, he was told it was an owl.
Years passed and Mrs. Kelley lay ill for some time; Wash, would visit the sick room and say, " Well Miss Kelley looks like you cant get well, nor cant die." Family and friends, resented his remarks, but I suppose it was a relief for him to express them. He thought nothing of it as is the case with many who are outspoken and give no thought about how words will be taken. Even so, G. W. Kelley, Sr. will not be remembered so much for his peculiarities as for his kindness and service rendered to his fellowmen.
His sons grew to manhood and located on the old homestead where they reared their families. Their children were beckoned to greener pastures. Now every evidence, of their residence has been removed; even their graves were located to a new site on a tributary of Carr on the William Day property. William was the son of a pioneer who was left a widower with five sons and a daughter, to raise. He never remarried but became a victim of typhoid before his younger children were grown. They lived near the county school and got smattering education. An uncle helped one of the younger children, Kelly, continue his education. He in turn helped his younger brother. Kelly Day was honored as superintendent of Knott County Schools, he later became the president of a wholesale grocery company. He was a true philanthropist and assisted many unfortunates get an education; also, he aided churches financially.
We never know, when we look upon a lad with ugly teeth who stumbles as he reads and has had an unfortunate beginning, if given a chance what he might become. "There has been many a flower to
bloom on a desert green, to waste it's fragrance, lost unseen" Many mountain children with potential never had a chance. What a blessing it is to those who have ministered to diamonds in the rough when their sparkling talent has glowed like neon signs flashing in the brilliant sunlight under a sky as blue as the hearts of those so kind and true.
Although, they go the way of all the earth, as God decreed, their memory and their deeds live. Thus we are reminded to live on in the example of our friend, "who sticketh closer than a brother, who lay down His life with never a word to sinful men. Again an example of how we should use the unruly member of our body, our tongue, " which no man can tame". (James 3:8) Herein is the secret of walking in the light and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
To recognize, Kelley Town-‑ only the hollow and memories are left--all is gone. These two cannot easily be effaced though all else be displaced. We may not recognize Kelley Town in the future.
No one will remember the old mill wheel that went round and round while the meal poured forth as the corn was ground. Those were the days, when the pioneers followed the plow earned their bread by the sweat of the brow. (This paragraph is obviously a poem. I did edit it slightly. WHY)
Food for the body, but none for the soul;
Should never be the object, of any ones goal!
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his
righteousness: and all these things shall be
added unto you". Matt. 6:33
The largest tributary of Carr's Fork, is Irishman Creek, about which this Indian legend has been handed down to us from the days of the pioneer, "White men could shoe their horses with silver if they had sense enough." The place to get the silver was not revealed. It is known there are places of cinder as if some kind of metal had been smeltered. Assays have been made of the peculiar rocks at the cinder sites, but no silver or gold has been extracted. There is the possibility of a low grade of iron in too small a quantity, to be of commercial value.
Then there's the story of "Swift's silver mine and buried
treasure" on which at least two known women doted and dreamed of its location, and with friends stole away at night and dug for it to no avail. There are other facts of interest that of the "Injun" graves located in the areas of rock mounds of which we may conclude they are graves--as of Absalom it is said, "In all Israel there was none to be more praised for his beauty." II Sam. 14:25 Although he was the son of a great king, Absalom had such a grave.
There are other stories of interest in this territory. One which occurred in pioneer days. A lone traveler was crossing Irishman mountain. As evening shades settled over the pervading
stillness, it was broken by a hair‑raising scream of a panther following his tracks. He quickening his pace. Another panther answered, it seemed to be coming toward him from the other side of the mountain. He lost no time reaching the top where he veered from the path of being caught in the middle of those oncoming, ferocious animals.
Another incident of note occurred while the Freeland Parks family was sitting at the breakfast table and a daughter felt something hit her foot. Thinking it was the cat, she gave it a kick and got another whack; then she looked to see the culprit. A copperhead snake had stuck his head up through a crack in the floor and had bitten her twice.
Here is a remedy described to me in quite recent years by Jethro Hagans, " Kill the snake and take the entrails and wrap the wound." He thrust forth his hand to substantiate his story. It had been recently bitten by a copperhead, had applied this remedy, and had felt little effect from the bite. These are some of the experiences of pioneers of Irishman Creek
Now, we will turn our attention to those who took up their abode on this creek and acquired large tracks of land. Willie (William L. in official records. WHY) Combs lived at the mouth of Irishman. His sons and their families prospered, were educated, and became leaders in their fields. Willie's son John was among Knott County's first state representatives, and his son was one of Knott's first native lawyers.
Opposite Willie Combs' on the right side of Carr protrudes a ridge called "Boulder Hill" on top of which are acres of flat land that came into use as a cemetery for the whole community. Around it's cliffy edge grew the beautiful dark green spruce trees, standing sentinel over this sacred plot.
Looking from here to the top of opposite mountain on the left, a rock formation called the "chimney rock" can be seen where many for the fun of it hiked. Possibly, it was a lookout for the Indian as he scanned his vast domain for a smoke signals or watched the sun as it climbed the horizon to cast its warm rays upon Mother Earth. The same earth that nurtured acorns from which big storm weathered oaks grew and our homes, that we cherish in memory and will ever hold dear, were built.
Things have changed since that day. Strip mining and coal auguring have changed the area around "Chimney Rock." It is no longer nestled among trees but stands alone and keeps watch over a bare mountain. Now sightseers may park their automobiles nearby and feast their eyes over the grandeur of our east Kentucky mountains all the way to towering Pine Mountain and even beyond it to Big Black mountain. This scene in autumn is worth all it takes in time and money to get there, especially, if you are a lover of nature's gorgeously painted handiwork.
The last of the grands, Belle Sturgill, to depart the old homeland, said, "I was born and raised here, and some the best people of the world live here." No doubt she was thinking of some of her good neighbors living up Irishman. The Madden family ,too,
braved the wilderness to live here, and many of their relatives remain who will doubtless witness the effects of change the reservoir will bring. Irishman was a prosperous, residential, law abiding community, memorialized by markers of those who bore the brunt in pioneer days. Irishman Creek is some four or five miles long, and was mainly owned and occupied by the Combs, Madden, Mullins, and the Young families.
In the early years of these occupants, a water mill was established and grinding was done by catching heads of water for use in the dryer seasons. It served the few families living in that area.
As time passed and schools were established, there was a blab school on Irishman. In a blab school, scholars and the teacher read and talked loudly at all times. The teacher, who conducted this school, had an unusually large head, but, whether the saying, "Little head, little wit, big head, not a bit" could have been applied to him is not known by me.
In pioneer days the Irishman road was the main road traveled to Troublesome Creek. From Troublesome, it trailed to Prestonburg, the county seat of Floyd County. When Knott County was formed, it was the shortest route to our own county seat, Hindman. No doubt, the marks of those days remain on the large boulders over which the iron shod horses traveled. Not only are there large boulders but there are so many smaller ones that it has been said, "This is the place where the devils apron string broke and he spilled them here." About half way up the steepest grade, flowed a cool, spring from which many a weary traveler quenched his thirst. Some riders had pity on their horses and chose to walk and lead them over this terrain, especially in the hot summer weather.
A grandson of a Revolutionary soldier who was among the first pioneers in this area, Samuel Mullins lived near the base of the mountain. He had a family of five daughters who gloried in their long hair with which their heads were adorned. They gave it such loving care--not the kind you go to the drug store and buy--but careful cleansing and combing as though they were fearful of losing a single hair. It says in I Cor. 11:15, "But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering".
The oldest of those daughters, Matilda, is still living and plodding along toward her one hundred and second birthday. She was born on Christmas day 1867 and well remembers how they had to manufacture all they wore from head to toe. Also, she remembers helping her father make her first pair of shoes.
She being the oldest, her mother had her washing dishes when she had to stand in a chair to be high enough to reach the dishpan. She was taught to card, spin and weave wool at an early age. Not only did she do the things about the house but she also helped "Pap in the field piling brush when he cleared new ground for summer's crops of corn, beans, pumpkin etc, of which they always had a bountiful supply.
"Then there was the wood for the big fireplace which was our job to get into the house after it was cut, and that was a summer and winter job, but much more for winter, as the cooking was done on the fire and a back‑log, fore‑stick, and middle sticks were the combination of having those fires for heat and cooking.
"Coals were raked a little ways from the wood, toward the hearth over which, the oven was set in which to bake the bread or fry bacon and eggs; pots for cooking vegetables were set or hung on a crane over the burning wood. We never had a cook stove until after I was married," said, Matilda. She married the oldest son of a family of ten sons and no daughters, Sam Combs.
Matilda has survived all her family and vividly rehearses the days of the hard life lived on Irishman, from which she has long since left. She went to Berea, Kentucky so her children could get an education of which she was deprived. She smiled and said, "What would the modern girl of today do if faced with the kind of life I had?"
Yet, she has found life, as a whole, most interesting and has been blessed with good health and has gone west as far as California; perhaps, she is the only native Irishman born girl to have done such. Also, she may be the only one from Irishman to have survived a century and remember the days when her prosperous father remarked, "I provide for the comers and goers as well as my family." He had much company for which he provided.
Matilda resides with a son in Jellico, Tennessee. When I visited her in 1967, she happily pointed to her snowy white table cloth with the design of our Lord seated with his apostles at the last supper. Her hair is as white and short as the wool she carded on Irishman; her senses unabated except her eyesight is somewhat dimmed. She desired to visit her mountains. She represented those who say "You can get me out of the mountains, but you can't get the mountains out of me".
Smithtown is rightly named for the many families of Smiths who occupied this vicinity. The site was favorable for the village it grew as it is because it had more level land at the mouth of its hollow than any so far described. The main stream which flows into Carr at this juncture is known as Smith's Branch. In pioneer days Med Smith lived here. His son John, was known as "Bad John Smith" because of his way of life. Yet, he married a good looking girl, Betty Jane, who bore two sons and two daughters. The sons were good citizens of whom it could not be said, "like father, like son". The eldest son, Hilyard H. Smith, was a popular citizen in the affairs of Knott County's judiciary branch and one of the county's first native lawyers. The other son, John D., the only member of the family still living, took his talents to Louisville where he is having a bout with emphysema, but still remembers his boyhood days on Smith Branch.
While Med's way of a secular life was eminent, misfortune came to his home. A most pitiful daughter was born--said to be marked by her mother killing a black snake. Her dark complexion, crooked form, little black eyes, and twisted features attest to that fact; and any one seeing her could not long remain a "doubting Thomas." She grew to womanhood and became a pious, shouting saint; which, no doubt, had an influence for good on her family and friends. "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgement" St. John 7:24. "The Lord looketh on the heart" I Sam. 16:7.
There lived another family on Smith's Branch who became well known in Knott County's infancy. Some say Samuel Francis was the first judge while others say, Nathaniel "Nat" Collins was first. They both served and were firsts in this capacity, and for that reason Samuel Francis was called "Judge Sam Francis. For another reason he was called more frequently "Red Sam" because of his red hair. His cousin Sam had black hair, and was called "Black Sam" to designate one from the other. "Red Sam" had two sons who married Smiths: Cullen and George. They were among the early school teachers in this vicinity. With exception of the Samuel Francis family, this was a community of Smiths.
Med's family was not the only family of Smiths located in this vicinity in pioneer days. William Smith located on the left of Carr at the mouth of small hollow opposite a point on the right hand side of Carr which jutted to the waters edge and gave Carr Creek a sharp curve to the east.
Some say William was the first to locate in this neighborhood, which seems logical considering the fact Med Smith and Sam Francis were located some distance upon Smith's Branch. William was said to have owned all the area around the mouth of Smith's Branch on both sides of the creek. He had a family of three daughters and six sons; one son, Will, located at the mouth of a hollow southwest of Smith's Branch. This Branch was called Little Smith's Branch. Jeremiah "Jake" Smith, another son, remained at the old home and added on and remodeling the double log house with porches up and down stairs, covered the logs with new planks, and painted it snowy white. One would never think six generations of Smiths have been born there. Possibly all this work was not done by Jake Smith. Others have occupied this same site; and it was surely one of the oldest houses that had to be moved from the dam area.
Jeremiah had a large family who toiled, shared the land, and prospered. Jeremiah was a devoted Christian, filled his seat regularly in the Old Carr Church, and mingled his voice with others in songs from the "Sweet Songster" with feeling of praise to his Creator. Also, he could be heard singing the "Old songs of Zion" from the corn field where he worked. Surely, he was an inspiration to the fine family he raised.
The Smiths married and intermarried until they did not know their relationships, as Allie, one of Will's daughters remarked. The community moved upward, every round going higher and higher with the addition of a post office, appropriately named Smithsboro; and general stores. Men of vision like John J. Amburgey saw the need of churches and Bible schools and made appropriations to that
end. This was prior the erection of a stone school building, which served that community until all schools on Carr were consolidated and buses honked for the children instead of a bell that called them or the old time way when the teacher called "books" when it was time to go back to studying.
The stone school building was used for Bible school and church services until churches were built. First, a Missionary Baptist church was organized and erected by J. S. Bell; then, a Regular Baptist church. Both prospered beyond anticipation. When men in other places played cards, chewed Bull Durham, and moonshine flowed, it was remarked that "Smithtown is a bird of a different color." (Smithsboro was considered a Christian community. WHY)
Fun for young people, was a "party" where, six or eight couples gathered to swing their partners up and down "dila‑O," and a banjo picker, like Shell Smith, could fairly make the banjo speak the words to the tunes of "Old Dan Tucker", and "Chicken Crowing On Sourwood Mountain." The caller called the dance set to the couples with "form a circle left; lady round lady, gents go slow, lady round gent; gent don't go: meet to the center, and swing, then low, circle left," and so on,until all had to take a breathing spell. Those were "good old days" of pioneer young folk at Smithtown.
What of modern days? It is "Little League baseball for young boys. Fun for the "party‑goers" are contests in apple eating from a tub of water or lying on newspapers flat on the floor to try to eat an apple without touching their hands to either. That is fun galore!.
Misfortune came when the Missionary Baptist church was to be moved to a new location at the mouth of Red Oak Creek. It weighed two hundred and twenty tons, was loaded onto the moving van which got off to a good start, but collapsed and was a total loss. "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose. Rom. 8:28 "We'll understand it better by and by".
Defeated Creek is the next branch of Carr Creek above Smith's Branch. It is connected with our pioneer history more than any other Creek unless Irishman could be compared as an equal. As far as I am able to determine, two men bearing the Blair name owned Defeated Creek. Hiram Blair owned the upper part or head; his brother owned the lower half. Hiram had two sons Alamander "Bud" and Elihu. They married sisters and feathered their nests on the old homestead. Both raised large families, and in later years when
schools were established, one was located on this isolated hollow for the benefit of the Blair children.
Only one, Bud's oldest son Henry G., was interested enough in education to get more than the ability to read and write. That is understandable when the schools were taught for only three months a year. The school term usually began in July. For six year olds
to have to travel the distance those children did, there had to be some inducement for them to want to go. Most of the children were
girls, and girls did not get the encouragement to go to school as did the boys. Henry pursued an education with eagerness when he reached manhood; At Hindman he was tutored by Professor George Clark and obtain a teaching certificate. He served his people in this capacity for some years. This is an example of obtaining honor the hard way. He was born in 1882. I assume his grandfather came to Defeated Creek about the close of the War Between the States, as did mine.
Colbert "Cobb" Hylton owned the lower part of Defeated Creek. He married Cindesta Johnson, daughter of G. W. Johnson, and lived on the site where the Cody Bible Church is now located. Cobb raised a big family and was a little more fortunate than the Blairs in educating his children. Some attended school at Hindman, others attended the famous Berea Kentucky school, which is purported to have been established for mountain youth.
The Hyltons became acquainted with Sarah Armstrong, who became interested in them and their family. She became concerned with their need for a place of worship. She and the Hyltons cooperated to that end. The Hyltons gave the site and material to build the building; she financed the construction. Jesse Hylton, who had training in woodwork at Berea, built this non-denominational church which could be used by all who chose. For years it was only used occasionally; nevertheless, it was available as the community increased and progressed.
Jesse Hylton established a thriving business in logging, sawing and planeing timber. His family multiplied until he could count seventeen children as a heritage of the Lord. "as arrows are in the hand of a mighty man: so are children of youth. Happy is the man, that hath his quiver full of them" Psalm 127:3‑4‑5
By and by, some missionaries from the North came along and saw a growing community with a growing need. They established a Bible school, or Sunday School as it is commonly called, which was followed by a church.
Meanwhile, stores had been established to supply the needs of this growing community. The greatest asset in aiding property came later when an ebony trail, highway, followed the course of the main stream through the narrow valley. It was an outlet which also allowed an inflow; it was a connecting link beyond our mountain barriers that had kept those out who otherwise would have come in. Changes were rapidly taking place in our area; the honking horn was heard instead of the braying mule or prancing horse.
Cody, Kentucky, is now one of two incorporated villages in our county. It has gas stations instead of stables and hitching posts. Coal trucks shuttle back and forth; a modern elementary school is in its vicinity, busses transport our children, and wholesome lunches are served. Where once a pioneer residence stood, a trailer court now stands. The land is filled with huge machinery used to build more modern roads around the mountain sides where a lake is taking shape in the valley. Doubtlessly, the lake will attract a class foreign to any which our mountaineers have ever known. Youth
in our mountains are making contact with people from around the nation that their forefathers never had the opportunity to make.
When we leave Defeated Creek, we step over to Breeding's Creek. Here the two creeks merge and empty into Carr's Fork. Breeding"s Creek flows from an easterly course and is about three miles long. According to available records, Elisha Breeding was the first pioneer to come to this creek which bears his name. He was born in 1778 and came to Kentucky on May 18, 1816 with his sister. He took up his abode where his grandson, Johnny Breeding, youngest son of George "Pud" Breeding now lives.
Elisha acquired a large tract of land on the left hand side of the creek which joined the G. W. Johnson property on the west and included all the head of the creek to the Letcher county line.
There are occupied hollows on the right hand side; these folks came
at a later date. John Hale settled on the hollow which bears the name, Hale's Branch. There was the Back family who lived on the hollow west of Hale's branch, known as Sugar Branch. It was named for the maple trees which were tapped in the spring for their sap that was boiled down to make delicious maple syrup we like to pour over "Aunt Jamimas'" pancakes. Some of the syrup was made into hard sugar that was molded in teacups. More migrants to Breeding"s Creek came about the close of the War Between the States than at any other period.
Elisha prepared for the time he intended to return to Virginia for the girl he left behind; there was a saying "the direction of the first lonesome turtledove you hear in the spring is where your mind will lead." This may have been his call to action as he stepped from his cabin on a lovely spring morning. There are other calls aside from the lonesome turtledove to which all should be stirred to action. One is found in the last book of the Bible, as if it were the last and final one. "The spirit and the bride say, come let him that heareth, say, come, And let him that is athirst come, And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Rev.22:17
Elisha did return for his helpmate and for some years they shared the achievements, disappointments, and rigors of pioneer life together, which was not destined to last. She slipped into eternity, and he was left a widower. He was not to be a widower for long; he went to Virginia for his second bride and returned to Kentucky with the sister of his first companion. However, fate had decreed this companionship would be short. In the sacred words of, "until death do us part," he was forced into widowhood the second time by the horrible malady of cancer. Undaunted, by providential circumstances, Elisha took his third wife, and his history was tragically reversed.
A sound was heard that not only affected our famous "Bluegrass" section; it echoed to the heads of our hollows. Our state, known as the "Dark and bloody ground", had been cleared of
"Injuns" but was again endangered by similar atrocities. While Kentucky was trying to remain neutral in the conflict, both armies were camping on her soil, and her citizens in their confusion were joining both sides; As the conflict fanned in all directions, the mountain wilderness was no barrier for bands of cut‑throats. They invaded our peace, pilfered and robbed as they came. Elisha Breeding became one of their victims. "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble". Job 14:1. He was forced from his home and family and taken to a mountain near the source of the gently flowing stream bearing his name. At the age of 85, he was murdered in the year 1863. He left a widow and 19 children to shift for themselves.
Whether the family heard the report of that fatal shot is not known, but they went to investigate and found his lifeless body not too far from home. While they debated about how to get him back to the house, along came Robert Cornett, the good Samaritan, who assisted them in the time of their need.
This sound that went out was called the Civil War by our people, but I prefer to call it the War Between the States in honor of the U. D. C. organization which helped us in the time of our need, about which I shall tell later.
Elisha's great-great grands cherished the well from which he and his children drank and a picture of his log house which stood beside the wood framed one where his son, George, lived with his family. Now Johnny Breeding, Elisha's grandson, lives at or very near the same spot in a concrete block house which is modernly equipped and looks out toward modern machinery which is building a modern road beside his residence.
I have told of the fate of Elisha Breeding, the creek named for him, and the date he arrived. I believe he was among the first arrivals in this area, if not the first. Conflicting claims and dates are made as to who came first and when. I have relied on tradition and dates on tombstones, which do not always correspond. Yet, I am inclined to believe the tombstone dates are the most reliable; where there are unmarked graves, we have to rely wholly on tradition.
Elisha had problems, common to man,
From youth to old age, his troubles span.
Sorrow upon sorrow was his lot,
yet, he had cares, others forgot;
Amid it all,he persevered to the end,
with courage, his household defend.
The tide turned in later years,
He was forced to leave in bitter tears.
His companion and children sorely wept,
When lost from sight of them bereft.
Such was their fate: for them we grieve
No consolation left for them, to receive.
Take warning my friend, today's the time;
Tomorrow may never cross your line.
Seek the Lord, while he may be found,
Your days may be numbered to be around.
Be prepared to meet your God
In peace when laid beneath the sod.
The G. W. Johnson Homestead
Another namesake of the "Father of our Country", George Washington Johnson, was among the early settlers who came to this vicinity and took up his abode near the mouth of what is now known as Breeding's Creek. His homestead is but a hop and a jump from where Breeding's Creek empties into Carr Creek. He was the son of Thomas and Delphia Johnson and was born in 1818 according to the date on his tombstone.
"Wash," the name by which he was known, married Sarah Francis, daughter of Thomas Francis, about whom I will tell more later. As was the pioneer's custom, Wash erected a one room log cabin near the base of the hill, on top of which his remains are interred. As time progressed Wash built a nice hewed log house of two rooms, one over the other which had two porches along the front with steps from the bottom porch leading to the upper porch. Here the upper room was entered; such a house was dubbed a "fine house" in those days. In later years, he had much to do in regard to its popularity.
A kitchen/dining room of logs was built on the backside of the house. On the end toward the side, there was a space between the house and kitchen. A porch was built onto the right side of the building opposite the end where it was entered.
In later years the left hand side between these two buildings was enclosed for a bedroom for a negro servant, Mary Draughn, who had come to live with them. They failed to make the door large enough for her to enter normally, and she had to enter side ways because of her stature of some three hundred pounds. All this space was not taken for Mary's room, and a smaller compartment was built on the right hand side for the Cody post office. No doubt, it was named for William "Buffalo Bill" Cody, who supplied buffalo meat for men building the railroad. He ruthlessly slaughtered these animals. According to "The Arizona Highway" of June 1964, he killed 4280 animals in eighteen months. For a bet of $500.00, he shot sixty‑nine bison in less than eight hours. After Custer's battle, the Northern Pacific Railroad shipped five hundred thousand (500,000) hides in 1881, two hundred thousand, (200,000) in 1882. forty thousand, (40,000) in 1883, and in 1884, three hundred (300) The company reported, "this about ends the story of wild buffalo on the central plains."
A well was dug in Wash's front yard, a typical location in those days and for what reason I never understood, walled with stones, and equipped with a long sweep to which an oak bucket was attached to draw its cooling waters to supply household needs.
It was this writer's privilege and pleasure to visit with my Johnson friends in the autumn of 1966. Two sisters and a brother
composed this family; they were all in failing health. Sissy the eldest and mainstay had an ailing heart; the brother, Dee, had fallen over a precipice some years before. He painfully survived but never regained his strength and was barely able to cut wood for the cook stove. Because of cataracts, the youngest sister, Allie, could only discover light enough to go about the house.
We chatted and I observed; eventually, Sissy showed me the contents of an old trunk which contained the family heirlooms of inestimable value to them: their mother's wedding dress made of black material with a wide skirt; a white petticoat just as wide; a full skirted white apron for all occasions; a coat which belonged to their brother Sim, who must have been two or three years old when he wore it--he lived to be ninety. The marvel of it all was they were intact which indicated tender care. There were two
pitchers one white, the other a deep lavender. Both had octagonal markings and each had a capacity of two or three pints. There was a white, oblong platter with rounded corners and a picture of a cathedral‑like structure in the center; the finish was cracked all over its surface, which left dark marks like a jig‑saw puzzle. I noted what had been a log burning fireplace which was now rebuilt for a coal burning grate. The walls, ceilings, and joists of the house were papered with magazines and news papers. Some leafs had come loose and hung over the mantel. To my left facing the fireplace, hung a most conspicuous, pictureless, large figured calendar, dated 1931. I inquired about the date, and one of the women said, "That was the year mother passed on."
In the lower right hand corner facing the fireplace was an unusually long straight handled gourd hanging on the wall. It looked as fresh as last years vintage about which I made some complimentary remarks, One of them said, "that was mothers"' which made me wonder all the more as to how old it was. I was too ashamed to be so inquisitive and turned my attention to the enlarged family portraits which hung in a row in the back of the room. They were pictures of their grandfather and grandmother Johnson, their father and mother, and others.
In each corner, under the portraits, were two four poster beds. The top of one had an apple design, the other an acorn. Both were of a reddish brown hue. The pillows were square, typical of pioneer days but minus the embroidered peacock shams which adorned the pillows of more fastidious housewives.
A cot, piled high with a featherbed and made up as smooth as a window pane, occupied the space between the beds. the beds were high enough for trundle beds to slide under them. In the corner under the calendar was another bed which left only aisles to walk about in the room.
As we went into the kitchen/dining room, I noticed there were
dishes on the table, covered with a cloth as was the custom in early days. The legs on the table were of a rope design, indicating the father was quite skilled to have done such a splendid job. I wondered if he had been the one who made the beds.
On one wall I saw an oblong wooden tray with rounded ends, which were much in use in pioneer days to mix freshly ground corn
meal to a consistency which could be held in the hand and patted into loaves or pones about the length of the hand. Ginger bread was formed the same way and was often sold at gatherings. Also, ginger bread was used to make delicious dried apple stack cakes, truly a treat! The Johnson family was the last to grow sorghum cane in this area. It was fun in early autumn, a time called "lassy making time," when young folks gathered at "stir offs."
In the Johnson kitchen there was a coffee mills a reminder of when coffee came green and had to be roasted before it was ground and boiled; then the tantalizing aroma filled a room. It was good to drink, especially on a cold frosty morning when breakfast came before daylight.
A jovial old gentleman of green coffee days told this story. "My friend John, who was always putting on airs, was visiting us, and no doubt over anxious to partake of that steaming hot ambrosia. Said he, 'May I have a second cooler?' Seeing his wife didn't understand the request, the host said, 'Ah Liz, he wants another sacer'." My gentleman friend had many a laugh as he told of his friend trying to be "proper". (Proper here means above his raising. WHY)
Hooks used to lift hot pots that set over the wood burning fires hung on the Johnson's kitchen walls. They were used when cooking spare ribs and backbones at hog‑killing time, when all the neighbors shared in a fresh mess of pork. The churn lid and dasher had a prominent place and was still used to make heaping bowls of white puffy butter which could be stirred into molasses and spread on biscuits.
As we sat around the fire, Sissy, got pictures of family and friends to show me; one of was a group of young men with their musical instruments. She called them "the music makers." Another was of her father and his brother holding thick law books in their arms. Her father, Fielden "Bebe" Johnson, was a county attorney in Knott County's infancy.
Then, there was a picture of her father and his grandson, Raleigh, in his white graduating pants. Both were sitting in rocking chairs and faced each other as if discussing Raleighs career. There was one with a horse mounting block, the "Welcome Mat" in bygone days on the Johnson homestead. The wayfaring man, whether footsore or on horseback, always found a warm welcome where a bountiful table was spread with wholesome food produced by virgin soil. He could have crystal beaded corn whiskey if he chose. It was common in many homes in those days, and was used as a treat, just as Coca Cola is today. It was rumored it was for sale at this Johnson residence.
When it came time to retire for the night, the weary traveler was privileged to bury himself in a bed of feathers so high a step ladder was needed to enter a sweet repose for sleep. Some of the wayfarers stayed for days, even weeks. One left a token of his appreciation, a life‑sized owl carved from buckeye, the first of the big leafed trees to unfurl their huge buds in the spring and the first to turn a rusty brown in August. "Buckeye" so rightly named if they would only retain their beauty when picked up for the
pocket to ward of rheumatism. Unfortunately, they shrivel and lose their luster.
The Johnson house was a home with all the pioneer reminders for those two sisters and brother. They seemed content knowing only the companionship of each other. They lived all their years in
spinsterhood and bachelorhood. On leaving that picturesque old home, I thought it cannot be described as that in Alice Cary's poem, "An Order for a Portrait" in which she says,"Low and little and black and old, with children, many as it can hold". In black it did depict the gloom that was soon to enshrouded in it. For gone the way of all the earth, its three occupants died a little more than a year after my visit. It is decreed by Him who created man in His own image; "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the word of our God shall stand forever". Isaiah 40:8.
Some thirty‑five years since mother passed away;
We missed her much, the children would say;
Being aware, we are not here to stay,
We lived in hope, of seeing her again some day.
Then came nineteen hundred sixty‑seven,
When the mainstay was called to heaven;
She said, I am ready to go.
The younger followed, in less than a year;
Leaving the last of the trio here.
Amid rumors, tradition, contradiction, and fact, I want to introduce to you the first man to arrive in this Johnson/Hylton locality, Indians excepted. His name was Carr and we know very few little about him. From what we know, he was a covetous man without regard for his neighbor, as was the case with King David. Nathan, whom the Lord sent to David saying, "There were two men in the city, one rich the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds; the poor man had nothing save one little ewe lamb which he had nourished, growing up with his children, but a traveler came to the rich man and he spared his own flock but took the poor man's lamb and dressed it for the man. David's anger was kindled against the man who would do such a thing, and said to Nathan: the man that has done this thing shall surely die, and he shall restore the lamb four fold because he had no pity". And Nathan said to David, " Thou art the man". This is a summary, read it in II Sam. 12:1‑7. David had Uriah killed so he could get his wife. I tell it because it illustrates all the factual history obtainable about Carr. Unlike David, Carr did the killing himself.
This fact became known in recent years when an attorney went to the Floyd County courthouse to look for a document on another matter. He came across a legal case which he told my husband, Marion Francis, about. Later Marion searched for it but couldn't
find it. He said legal records were in unsorted piles in a corner of the old court house. Recently, I and two others searched for hours to no avail. We concluded it may have been destroyed by water as there was unmistakable evidence of water marks on the records to which we had access. We had hoped to use our recorder to get the case verbatim. Since, we could not find it, I shall relate it as best as I remember it as told.
Carr was living in the vicinity of Sassafras, and Combs was living near the mouth of Montgomery Creek. Combs' cows kept getting into Carr's corn patch, and Combs' wife would go for them. A courtship developed between Carr and Combs' wife. This led to a duel between Combs and Carr. Combs was killed. The next thing we hear of Carr, according to tradition, he was living in the vicinity of the Amburgeys. It sounds logical that he would leave the locality of the duel; especially so since he was living with Combs' wife.
As the story goes, Carr came down to Defeated Creek to hunt, and Indians set their dogs on him. He was killed and buried on the right hand side of Carr's Fork near where Breeding's Creek and Defeated creek merge. This is how Defeated Creek got its name; likewise, Carr's Fork of the Kentucky River. "Come let us reason together", saith the Lord, Therefore, I reason that it would have been logical to refer to the creek on which Carr was defeated and buried as Defeated Creek and where Breeding's Creek and Carr's Fork merge as Carr.
Another story to substantiate Carr's death at this place is that the creek washed away the bank and exposed a coffin. Some claimed it was Carr's. It seemed incredible that he would have a coffin; it is possible logs were placed around his body that served for one. Another story is that human bones were plowed up in the area when the bottom was cleared and tilled.
If by any chance the duel document should ever be discovered, it should be copied placed in the archives of our own county court- house in Hindman.
When pioneers walked this wilderness ground,
Indians stalked the scene around;
Their dogs were fierce, stalked their prey;
By so doing did a pioneer slay;
By that act, Defeated creek is known,
From pioneer days, tradition shown.
That man's name was known as Carr,
Perhaps, he had traveled from afar,
Seeking that which others sought,
To meet his fate where others bought.
Thus buried by an unnamed creek,
They called it Carr's Fork: alone and meek.
The Shingle Branch Area
As I am trying to have you visualize this area known as Carr's Fork in the early years of the 19th century, its occupants and their locations, I am going to skip from G. W. Johnsons homestead to that of his brother-in-law, Simeon Francis, who probably came to this area about the same time as G. W. Simeon's homestead is located near the mouth of a hollow we know as Shingle Branch. It is on the right hand side of Carr's Fork where his log home still stands. It was not popularized by travelers, as was G. W. Johnson's more conspicuous story and a half, black log pioneer home.
Simeon Francis was born in 1818, as was G. W. Johnson, and I assume as youngsters they grew up together in Virginia. The logs of Simeon's house have been partially covered and added onto with lumber until only on one end and one side the of house can logs be seen. They are of a brown hue rather than black, which is probably due to the kind of timber from which they were hued.
Here Simeon's family, comparatively small, mainly daughters and one son, grew to manhood and womanhood. In later years his daughter, Nancy, occupied the old home and raised a family of eleven sons, one set of twins in this number. Her husband Andy Combs established a water mill nearly opposite the home at the S curve, of the ever changing directions of Carr's Fork. Corn grinding day brought inhabitants of the creek and it's tributaries together where they stacked their initial marked sacks of corn in crossed piles to await the grinding. Meanwhile the men chatted, played "mumble peg", whittled with their "Barlow" knives, listened or looked on. This was a typical grinding day at the old water mill of pioneer days.
In the early years of the twentieth century, new occupants came into Simeon,s old home, Kelly Francis. He was a son of his only brother Samuel, whose family of seven--six sons and one daughter-- survived their parents, and as was the custom the youngest son inherited the home place. Kelly was the youngest; Kelly's widow survived him with their only son. (This paragraph was very hard to discern. This is my best attempt. WHY)
Her father James Stamper, a widower, was making his home with them and lived to be hailed a centenarian in the year of our Lord 1967. He was the first man, and the only one to my knowledge, in this area to be so honored. Kindred came from far and near; so did friends and neighbors with their gifts and good wishes. One hundred registered, and a sumptuous dinner was served. Willie Francis, of the Regular Baptist faith, leaning on crutches, offered a prayer. Those present partook of the abundance of the good food and shared in a morsel of a birthday cake.
A song by the Smithsboro Providence Regular Baptist Church, of which James was a member, was sung; followed by prayer by Clark Hays a minister of the same church. A nephew, Oliver Stamper, narrated his uncle's life from a youngster of a large family in a log house twenty by twenty feet with a loft of the same size: thus depicting the beginning of the long life he had now attained. He died within days, of reaching age of 101 on September 22, 1968.
Whether infant or centenarian, "Dust thou art, and unto dust, thou shalt return". Gen. 3:19.
Before his centennial party dispersed, James retired to his room to sit in his easy chair. At the request of his daughter, Mattie, Denver Toliver and Willie Francis led a Biblical discourse before departing. Then, the grandchildren took over and opened their grandfather's gifts, read the many greetings, and counted
his birthday money. One remarked, "You got fifty dollars ($50.00) you can take a vacation." To which there was no reply; he asked for his adjustable chair and more camera's flashed. Tired, no doubt, he would have preferred to be alone.
"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the council of the
ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful". Psalm l:l.
From the aforesaid landmark let us move on to another, that of Bald Point, which became the burying ground for the Francis and Amburgey families, and in later years others. It is an appropriate site, indeed.
At the end of this point, which extends to the creek, it takes a sharp turn northward and to the right. Upon a rise, a little beyond and opposite the cemetery, is the home of Thomas Francis, father of Simeon. He owned quite a boundary of land in this area; and no doubt the old home, still standing, which he erected is one of the oldest, if not the very oldest in this reservoir area. It too has been occupied by some his family from grandsons to great grandsons.
Here one of the oldest great grands now living was born,
Alice Francis Johnson; she is nearing her 93rd birthday. Here too her fun loving sisters played some "side‑splitting" pranks; one that turned out joyless rather than joyful. This is what they did. Feeding the cattle was one of their chores. One evening when they were feeding the oxen, they decided to lay their feed in different places and tie their tails together and see them tug at trying to get to their feed. They began to laugh, but the tug didn't last long before off came one of oxen's tails. Fearful of the licking they would get if their father found out what had happened, they untied the tails, tied the loose one to a rock and threw it in a deep hole of water. Fortunately, their father never knew what happened, but he wondered while the guilty girls bided their time. After they were married and had families of their own, they told him the whole story. He displayed a countenance of merriment and said "I've a mind to whop you yet". "Honest confession is good for the Soul!" Doubtless, they heaved a sigh of relief for having that off their chests.
Another time, they went to the barn to feed the mare and a ewe that followed the mare wherever the mare went. The girls, being full of devilment as usual, slipped a gunny sack over the ewes head. When the ewe went near the mare, the mare got frightened and ran to the field with the ewe in hot pursuit. The mare ran farther and faster to avoid the hideous looking brute. She ran to every nook and corner of the pasture. When she got some distance ahead,
she would look back and see the ugly critter still on her track. Again, she would take off at a fast pace. While the girls were clapping their hands and roaring with laughter, the father too, looked on with amusement, and muttered "that old fool." The mare continued the pace until fatigue and hunger took over. She gave up getting rid of the brute‑beast and came back to the barn. They removed the sack and all was quiet on the home front. (Their father was Arlena's father-in-law, Samuel Francis. WHY)
Work, laughter and fun,
Go hand in hand for any one;
Old and young, such a life can share,
In work and play with time to spare;
That was the life of the pioneer son,
Who was respected by every one;
Daughters too, knew all those traits,
And with those young men had their dates.
Old Carr Church
Truly the landmark of this entire area, the Old Carr Church
has been a familiar landmark not only for this area but also for
surrounding counties, especially Letcher and Perry. It was in all probability established when this part of Knott County was then in Perry County. (Actually, when it was in Floyd County. WHY)
The first building at this site was of logs and faced the creek where large beech trees grew. They had large mats of exposed roots where people who hadn't come to listen to the preaching sat and talked. Horse traders would be up the creek a little way showing off their nags: how well they could pace, run walk, work, and how young each was by raising the horse's upper lip to show its youthful teeth. The gathering was marred by neighing horses and braying of mules, as each arrival pawed and wound round and round the swinging limb to which it was tied.
Inside the church, demure women, dressed in white aprons and black quilted sunbonnets, sat on one side. The men sat on the other side of the room. The service was opened by singing two or three songs which were lined out by a leader; those leaders in the later part of the nineteenth century were: Samuel Francis, Jeremiah "Jake" Smith, Pee Cody and Jasper Mullins. The three last named were the main song leaders; when Nathaniel "Nat" Hale was present, he joined in the bass in such hymns as "Amazing Grace." These songs were sung with such feeling that it was not uncommon to see a flowing tear among some those dear old faithful saints.
The minister rose with his opening remarks of gratitude to our gracious Heavenly Father for sparing us to meet together once more; he proceeded to kneel in prayer invoking the continued mercy of an all‑wise God and asking Him, to "dig around the hearts, with a maddock of love"; This is a quaint expression which I had never heard before nor since. Then, he rose from this posture to deliver
a sermon on repentance, which was always appropriate because the congregation did not meet often. This was the theme of John the Baptist when he began to preach, and also, Christ's message after His baptism. The apostles took this message to the people when they were sent by Christ to preach his message.
Other messages were proclaimed from time to time such as the one of Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night inquiring the way of
salvation; to which Jesus replied; "Ye must be born again." Nicodemus marveled but couldn't understand; and people are still marveling today and don't seem to want to understand. Another sermon, The Prodigal Son, was very appropriate for those who went too far between messages. There were often more than one preacher at those services which lasted sometimes two or three hours.
Looking back over what I have told you about our pioneer church and the unique prayer phrase, I see I have omitted giving the name of the pastor, Ira Combs, and I would add the prefix of Reverend, if it had not only been named once in the Bible, Psalm III:9, in reference to God. I do not think fallible man has reached that height. Ira Combs, served the "Old Carr Church" for many years, as pastor or moderator as this church referred to its leader. Church was held the fourth Saturday and Sunday in each month, and he was one the most musically voiced ministers to have ever graced the pulpit with the gospel of the good news of salvation to mankind. When his messages was concluded, he would give the invitation for anyone to come and tell what the Lord had done for him. The congregation sang: I long to see the seasons come when sinners will come flocking home", and the shouting sisters began. Crowds from outside marched in to see and hear. They often mounted seats to see, as Zacheus did who climbed the sycamore to see Jesus, but I doubt if any of them received such a blessing as Zacheus. The attraction was Barbara Smith, the little dark twisted, and deformed sister, from Smith's Branch, about whom I have told you it was said she was marked by a black snake. She most assuredly could use her tongue effectively in praising her Maker and with a message all strained to hear. The pastor concluded the service with this benediction, "If all hearts feel clear, we'll look to the Lord for a blessing and be dismissed".
Of all the meetings of the year to draw crowds, it was the fourth Saturday and Sunday in July, "Sacrament Sunday." This was the one when every household prepared for company--the more they had the more honored they felt. Everyone who could, prepared to go to "Old Carr Church." Everyone who could would be there to see everyone else; this was uppermost in the mind of most who made the journey. To the members of the church, it was a day to remember as they ate bread in memory of Christ's body and drank wine, all drank from the same cup, in memory of Christ's shedding of His blood for their sins. Foot washing, an act of humility, was the washing of feet of whoever the person was who sat beside them. It didn't matter if that person was black or white.
At the close of the service the invitation of: "All who will go home with me are welcome": was extended, and many did gladly accept and were treated to delicious food, attention, and
overflowing kindness. Hospitality personified! Those were the salutary days of the pioneer: a time of rejoicing, a time of gracious living. Those were the "good old days". when lasting friendships were made, romance budded and bloomed; and many were wafted to the alter where the solemn vow "Until death do us part"
was uttered. Whether or not the partners kept those vows, divorce was a foreign word. "Until death do us part," was sacred.
A new day has dawned; an exodus of old days and old ways are passing. Cars honk where mules brayed; we travel in hours which once took days. Men walk on the moon which we only looked upon at night and depended upon to give us light. Not even two centuries have elapsed since our forbears set foot in this vast wilderness; soon, every trace which indicated they were here will be erased by a modern flood prevention dam.
At this writing the "Old Carr Church" has been relocated near the mouth of Wolfpen. In keeping with the times, it has indoor toilets, gas heat, a janitor, and a parking lot-‑a far cry from the log house on the banks of Carr's Fork where it was founded. As long as the same gospel is proclaimed, the location matters little. Tradition should be laid aside and it's doors opened every Lord's day. The time may be shorter than we think! Our young people and many old are in broad ways, "Where their chariots with flaming torches rage and jostle one against another and run like lightning" ‑ Naham 2:3‑4. Many go to their death and eternal doom: therefore, it behooves us to open our church doors every Sunday and invite them in. "He that winneth souls is wise". Proverbs 11:30. Luke 4:16, Says, "As his (Jesus) custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day," setting an example for us.
Where Carr's Fork makes another sharp bend, northwesterly, and just beyond the former site of "Old Carr Church," Burgeys Creek empties into it from the right. The road up Carr continues on the left; while the road up Burgeys creek is mainly in the creek or branch as we are accustomed to say.
In this vicinity in the year 1827, Ambrose Amburgey, came as
a pioneer, a son-in-law of Thomas Francis. According to tradition wild pigeons were so numerous then, they broke the limbs of the trees where they roosted. Like many other fowl and animal that were found here, they were ruthlessly destroyed. Nothing, has appeared to take their place like the auto took the place of the whinnying horse.
Ambrose, had two sons with vocations by which they were known even to the crowning days of their hoary heads. Wily was a surveyor and no doubt, many tracts of land in this area can be traced to his work for many of the first settlers had large tracts of land with many acres overlapping neighbors claims. This caused lawsuits that lingered in the courts for many years. On the other hand, between some surveys there were vacant tracts no one's survey covered.
As a family grew to manhood and womanhood and started a home of their own, a portion of land was lopped off and given them. Thus
the community multiplied and ownership of the old homestead diminished.
Among Wily's older sons was Robert "Bob" who served as County Court Clerk in the early years of Knott County. He made his home in Hindman, the county seat, and was an honorable and highly respected citizen. Wily"s log home still stands, and from a distance looks well preserved. It's last occupant is James Still. It was here he did some of his writing.
Jethro, a half brother to Robert Amburgey and the youngest and only one of Wily"s family now living, entered school at Hindman. He volunteered for Army service during World war I; returned to his native homeland; taught school; married a lovely young woman, Lurnia Smith, served a term as county school superintendent; established his home in Hindman; and retired to make dulcimers as a hobby.
William Amburgey, another son, of Ambrose, and better known as
"Tanner Bill" was famous for tanning leather. Most early settlers made their own shoes on a last fashioned from wood, sewed them with squirrel or ground‑hog hides, and attached the sole with wooden pegs cut from maple. A man with a big family was kept busy during the winter months keeping his family shod.
Two of Tanner's sons, Jeptha and John, migrated to the big state of Texas where they acquired many sections of land on which the town of Odesa sprang. During the late 30's Odesa began to boom, and the Amburgey's had a street named in their honor. Their property rocketed in value, and they became quite prosperous.
"Tanner," as he was affectionately called, not only raised his own family but he also adopted a young lad who grew to manhood, and when he was twenty‑one years old was given a horse, bridle and saddle, which seemed the custom in such instances. He was educated under the tutelage of professor George Clark. He left home before it was light to ride back and forth to Hindman and was fond of taunting residents along the way by imitating an owl, Who-R-U. He came to own the old home where he was brought up and raised his own family there.
When our roads were such that walking, muleback or horseback riding was the only mode of travel, in winter, some places were all but impassable. One of our teachers was riding a mule to school one morning. She said, "When I was passing Wily B. Smiths," who was the hoot'n‑toot'n lad "Tanner" adopted, "the mule I was riding took the studs and began going backwards. Try as I did, it wouldn't budge forward. Wily called to me and said, 'looks like you have the saddle on the wrong end'." This typifies his humorous remarks.
Now that we have that serpentine ribbon with alternate white and yellow markings smooth as a floor to glide over in our automobiles, the teacher drives and busses take our children to school. We don't have as much in common as we did when we kept our fire constantly with live coals covered by ashes. Charred oak was the best wood to keep fire. Sometimes a family lost its fire. One had to strike the back of a pocket knife against a flint to produce sparks to light upon punk and start a fire. Otherwise, they had to go to a neighbor to borrow fire; hence the query when we are
visited by someone who seems to be in a hurry: "What did you come after, a chunk of fire?"
They made their own soap by pouring water over ashes to distill lye. Then, hogs entrails and scraps of fat were boiled to a thick consistency of ropey, amber or gray colored, soft soap. They did their washing by hand and used a "battling stick" to beat dirty water from their clothing. Their tubs were halves of logs hollowed out with an adz. They had a hole in the bottom to drain unwanted water and a smooth surface on the other end to lay the clothes on to battle. Anyone nearby knew when washday had come by the noise of battling. The clothes line was the fence rails or the paling fence. Instead of a closet, clothes were hung on a pole at the back of the house. Pioneer light was a pine knot torch or a twisted rag in a saucer of melted tallow.
Their remedies in sickness was catnip tea for the baby, and vermifuge, nauseating stuff, for growing children with the belly ache. If belly ache was caused by worms, vermifuge would get rid of them. When one got a cold, he baked the bottom of his feet to the fire; drank boneset tea, which was as bitter as quininine; or drank pepper tea strong enough to burn the skin off the flesh.
A remedy for an upset stomach was slippery elm bark boiled in water until it was, sure enough, slippery. A spring tonic, or bitters was made of herbs, roots, and barks. A few I remember: wild cherry bark, wahoo bark; from roots, wild ratsbane which is a vine that stays green through the winter and has gray streaks in the leaf. This is all I recall. I was about to forget, castor oil for cathartics--did you know castor beans grow in Arizona the year round and to tree height and strong enough that children climb them?
Such was the life of the pioneer in this area, that is soon to be known only by the hum of boat motors, fishing, water skiing, and all that go with water recreation.
From "Old Carr Church" we move on to the next tributary of Carr's Fork. There is only one residence between the old home of Tanner Bill, which is on a rise at the mouth of the only little hollow, and this creek, known as Betty Troublesome. It is the only residential area of any consequence in the area after leaving Irishman Creek; I have not been able to learn how the creek got it's name; it has a feminine sound suggestive of a busybody who tattles and stirs up trouble among neighbors. This kind of community is not an agreeable one to live in.
During the 1880's people living on this creek were Kelly Francis at the mouth of Dead Man's Branch, and his brother Silas. Both were grandsons of Thomas Francis. Jim Adams now lives on their land. William "Limpy Bill" Amburgey lived in the vicinity of the forks of the creek near the cemetery; and John Stamper lived on
the left hand fork near where it forked. Will Mullins lived beyond on the right fork.
Hiram Amburgey, another of Tanners sons, lived near the mouth of a hollow beyond the cemetery where the road left the branch and went up around the hill; The road came off just below where Nick Combs, who married Fannie Day, lived. Nick moved to Hindman to work for his brother-in-law, Hiram Francis who was also brother to Silas and Kelly. My father was living in his house when the big snow came May 19, 1894. There was little more than the road and a narrow yard between the house and branch, and trees grew on the other side of the branch near the base of the hill. I remember, as a youngster, looking up at the trees which were bent with snow.
Bill Day, another brother-in-law to Nick, lived a few paces beyond Nick's near the mouth of the hollow where the cemeteries were relocated from the reservoir area. He was a widower for some years until typhoid removed him from his six motherless children. Here Kelly, next to his youngest son, grew to manhood and was educated by his uncle Hiram Francis to become the first and only philanthropist from this area and to whom I have previously referred.
At the mouth of Betty Troublesome, where a government still had been established, a general store sold staples: coffee, sugar and salt, capped off by plug tobacco. While the tax was being paid on the whiskey an illegal rat‑house was operated near at hand that often got the money instead of the grocer. Temptation was allowed to overrule better horse sense; and soon a man became a boisterous, thick tongued, red eyed, staggering braggart. Someone has said, "whatever is in a man will come out when he is in this condition." Cursing and vulgarity came out of some, while others wept, the tears streaming profusely down their cheeks. Some stayed out all night while a wife worried and wondered if he was in trouble. This was especially so if he had a gun, as most men did in those days.
Brawls, fist fights, and bloodshed occurred, and the place was dubbed "Smacky." If the drinkers, had been fortunate enough to earn fifty cents during the week by rail‑splitting or any other way, they were on their way to "Smacky" by Saturday afternoon.
For the benefit of those who do not know what a rat‑house is, it is where a hole is cut in the wall, a box slides in and out.The buyer on the outside puts his money in the box and slides it inside and the one inside puts the whiskey in the box and slides it back. Neither sees the other so no indictments can be made, and the rat gets the money. Beside misdemeanors, three men lost their lives at "Smacky", and three widows were left to raise their children. Only one man was called "bad"; all were victims of bullets. "In the bottom of a whiskey glass, the lurking devil dwells; it burns the breasts of those who drink it and sends their souls to hell."
All the inhabitants of this ill named creek and those engaged in its ill fated affairs at its mouth were grandsons of pioneers I have named; and most of them had grown sons and daughters in their own home.
Near the upper boundary of the reservoir area, lived the Stamper family from whom came the centenarian James E. Stamper. He had a brother Culbert who taught school in the same neighborhood. William "Tanner" Amburgey had two daughters one married Sam Adams, the other Randall Adams, these brothers became entangled with the law over moonshine whiskey; an officer of the law was killed and the Adams boys fled Kentucky to the Indian Territory. Later, their wives followed.
Such was the doings, in those "good old days". "For the love of money is the root of all evil; some coveted money; they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" 1 Tim. 6:10.
For the price of blood much of money is had;
For thirty pieces, Christ was sold;
Judas betrayed Him with a kiss so bold!
With conscience stricken and driven to despair,
He hanged himself the Bible declared.
What has a man gained when he has lost his soul;
By allowing the LOVE of MONEY to be his Goal?
Now that I have given you a run down on the first settlers in this area and the course they pursued to the third generation, I will return to the vicinity over which I skipped, which lies between the G. W. Johnson and Simeon Francis homesteads. Here the oldest man of all I have named, John Mullins Sr., lived. Born on January 10, 1758 in Halifax County, Virginia, he enlisted as a private and served in the Revolutionary War under Captain Conway at Stony Point. He was captured at the siege of Charleston, South Carolina and taken to England, a prisoner, where he was kept until peace was established.
Returning to his native state, he married Nancy Gentry, who was born May 19, 1775 in Halifax County. When they came to Kentucky, I have no exact date, but his great granddaughter, Matilda Mullins Combs, now 102 years old, says he lived in an Indian shack near the mouth of Irishman for a time. Also, she said there were only two or three families living on Carr at that time. I am relating these as facts for the benefit of his kindred.
According to available records, he bought a tract of land in this vicinity from James Davis on September 17, 1827, and sold it to his son John Jr., July 23,1836. Designating the tract as 25 acres more or less on the north side of Carr's Fork, at the mouth of Lick Branch and running up said creek to the upper end of Hackle Bottom, thence running down to the condition line etc.
John Mullins Jr. built his home near where the dug well is to be seen. He was born April 26,1808, and married Matilda Amburgey, October 20,1832, (Perry County Marriage record). He survived the rigors of pioneer life and the responsibility of rearing a large family, but not without his share of trouble and sorrow. During the War Between the States, a band of roving, pilfering, atrocious murderers, such as those who came Elisha Breeding's way, took his sick son out into the yard and killed him. John lived to see his
offspring to the third or fourth generations, his county of Perry changed to Knott, and a new century before he departed this life in the year of our Lord 1900.
Knott County, My Thoughts
Knott county, is located in the eastern part of Kentucky amid the foothills of the Cumberlands. Pine Mountain is the highest. Knott County was formed from Letcher, Perry, Breathett and Floyd counties in l884. It was fashioned together in crazy quilt style to become the infant county of the eastern part of our state. Carr's Fork is the middle stream of three running parallel which are tributaries of the North Fork of the Kentucky River. All three streams originate in Knott County.
Let us turn back the pages of time to see how this infant county developed. In its early years George Clark, as a young man, came to Hindman with the intention of hanging out his shingle as a lawyer. Our citizens wisely suggested that a school was needed more so than another lawyer. He reconsidered and consented to their request.
A log building was erected about where Dr, M. F. Kelly now resides, but it didn't serve long before someone burned it down. Professor Clark, as he was affectionately called, went about erecting another on the opposite end of town. It was a two story structure with a belfry to ring out school time, and many of the young of our county responded. Young women got little encouragement unless they took the initiative. The school progressed under his management and tutoring and was hailed college.
His motto was, "Be sure you are right, then go ahead". He was a pious man and was dubbed the father of education in Knott County. He was loved and highly respected by his students. He brought in teachers from Virginia and other places; some of whom joined him in choosing companions from their pupils. In later years he was honored by those pupils at reunions where a day was spent renewing old acquaintances. It was a time of enjoyable fellowship. One was held August 12,1939; on that date he was presented a gold watch.
Before then, about the year 1900, he had relinquished all rights to the college of his youth to two young women, Misses May Stone and Katherine Petitt. But he had not given up his life long vocation; he was teaching in the county school system.
After negotiations with Misses Stone and Petitt; Professor Clark moved to Campton, the county seat of Wolfe County, Kentucky, where he established a normal school to train teachers. Quite a number of his former students followed him. The place where he had taken root in his youth had a strong pull at his heart strings, and he returned to Knott County where he remained until he died. Thus ended the career of Knott County's noble character builder, Prof. George Clark who laid our educational foundation.
Misses Stone and Petitt established the Hindman Settlement School under the auspicious of the Women's Christian Temperance
Union, W.C.T.U., which, was an asset to our county. Frances Beaucham, the state president of W.C.T.U., was present on opening day; her masculine voice told the students to: Sow an act, Reap a habit, Sow a character, Reap a destiny.
The principal of that term, Frances Jean Gordon, one of the finest ever to grace any school room, was a very gentle woman. She conducted periods of devotion each day before the noon hour that were inspiring and up‑lifting to the serious minded. Each was food for the soul and should be part of time spent in every school room. I dare say there would be fewer delinquents and less demonstrations that are happening in so many nations today if this were so.
Education was founded on Bible teaching, and without Bible knowledge an education can never be complete. Our nation was
founded on Biblical principals, and the day we were deprived of
teaching it in our schools was the day our nation began to deteriorate.
Our next asset was expressed by Richard Duke when he said," A light has come out on Caney Creek where it was thought there was no light". Its people were tucked away in that part of the county without roads, where narrow valleys were surrounded by high hills. They seemed satisfied with their lot; it was proven conditions were not what they seemed. Caney Creek's citizens were hungering for something better. When a school was established that eventually became a college, the dark valley became famous and recognized as one the highlights of our county. This achievement was followed by another in the vicinity from which this is written. I will treat this achievement more fully in its own history. These advances have been climaxed by the "Beacon Light", J. S. Bell. Who come later and was instrumental in having our county voted dry. He has been the vanguard of spiritual enlightenment in our county by establishing Sunday Schools. I prefer to call them Bible schools and churches.
Through publicity for various reasons such as soliciting funds for schools; Knott County has become known. The reservoir will be visited by many people from outside. I am inclined to think that we have made many friends and acquaintances through these appeals; some of them will have a desire to see our beautiful mountains about which they have been told. I am sorry to say many times that publicity about our area has given the wrong impression. Our people are not all of the type they are said to be in the news media.
Many of our people have been unhappy, not to say resentful, of distorted impressions that have been published which portray the whole of our people as a type which only a few typify. No one denied that we were a pauper county; no one denied our people were blessed with big families; no one denied that our schools were inadequate. Let the truth be sufficient.
We had bad roads; it was true. We were walled in on all sides by mountains that protected us from storms; Although errors occurred in interpreting the scripture, we were not wholly without the light of understanding. Most if not all had a Bible in their
home, and there were, as a rule, at least one who could read it. They did not all read it, as is the case today when most all can read. I have come to wonder whether our people were any worse off then than now. We are seemingly blessed with all the modern conveniences in our homes, and travel on good roads to get out in a changing world. Yet, we seem to adhere more to a secular life rather than a spiritual one. There are six churches in this area where there was only one, and most all open every Sunday, but worldly attractions are more luring: the drive-ins, the parks, or just gallivanting.
If, people will work, they will get as much substance per hour as men got in pioneer days. Men worked whole days splitting rails, and were often paid in meat or other produce. The young, called "teenagers", are saying to their parents, "Where do we go from here?" Instead of the parents telling them where to get off. We are heading for the last round‑up. And that is putting it mildly. Paul said to Timothy that in the last days perilous times shall come, children would be disobedient to parents, heady, high‑minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of GOD. Hebrews tell us in unmistakable terms that God "spake in time past through prophets, and in the last days speaks to us through His Son." So we know we are living in the last days, and when we see all "thou hast said," is coming to pass. Why can't our people see and recognize the times
and the importance of heeding GOD'S call. "It is a fearful thing
to fall into the hands of a living GOD." Heb. 10:31 It is a fearful thing to be forever doomed to a place of punishment! God is not willing that any should perish. There's room for all, including YOU.
It remains to be seen whether the reservoir area will provide revenue, create a refined citizenry, and a progressive people. We have come from pioneer days, handicapped as we were, to become independent as well as an asset to our community and county. From birth to maturity, we came and stayed of our own free will; now we are forced to vacate! Times have changed; we were once free to do as we pleased with that which we had earned. Now we have to have permits and inspections to do that which we would with our own.
Yet, I would exclaim: Long live Knott County!
And to those of her soil adieu.
A better home awaits the faithful,
Francis' Departure And Return
My narrative continues in the vicinity of the John Mullins homestead, now known as the Francis' community. Samuel Francis, the only son of Simeon Francis, married John Mullins daughter, Lettie, and acquired by her inheritance hundreds of acres of land. First, he moved into his father-in-law's old home, which he later sold to his son-in-law S. N. Stacy.
Samuel moved to the mouth of Rocky Hollow, the next hollow below Lick Branch, where so many fine walnut logs lay at it's mouth and rotted while waiting for the tide that never came to take them to market. Across the creek, the bottom was fenced with walnut rails.
S. N. Stacy established a general store that served the neighborhood and surrounding area well. He became a prosperous and likeable merchant; his good wife, Cassie, manifested her motherly kindness to a number of orphan children, she not having of her own. Simoen, Sam's oldest son, attended school at home and at Hindman under the tutorship of Professor George Clark, and secured a teacher's certificate and taught school. He married and built his home on the lower end of the farm joining the G. W. Johnson farm.
The other sons, Marion and Willie, attended school at home; as they grew to manhood they earned and saved money for themselves. Marion attended a term at Professor Clark's college, and one term at Campton. From there he went to Transylvania College, two terms. Transylvania was the first collegiate institution in Kentucky, and has the oldest medical library in the United States. Willie, too, attended a term at Campton and a term or semester at Berea College, another famous Kentucky school. Berea College obtained it's charter in 1865, according to Bowles History of Letcher County.
Along the way, Willie met a girl of whom he became quite fond; on Friday, January 5, 1906, when her last day of teaching was over, they stood before a minister in the home of Randolph Adams, where she had been boarding, and intoned the solemn words, "I Do," and he brought her home with him.
Likewise, on January 23, 1906, Marion's twenty‑sixth birthday, he too stood before a minister, Louis Little, in the brides home and vowed, "Until Death Do Us Part." Returning home with his bride, two sisters were united as sisters-in-law, and the brothers as brothers-in-law. (Arlena and Dora Collins, sisters, married Marion and William "Willie" Francis, brothers. WHY)
The first couple, Willie and Dora had already charted their destination, the Indian Territory, and as we all sat around a blazing fire in an open grate chatting one evening in February, Marion and I said, "Let's go with them" Planning ensued, but it didn't take long before the parting day of flowing tears arrived, and we with our baggage loaded into a jolt wagon bound for Jackson, Kentucky, where we would take the train for our exciting journey. Our first stop after Jackson was in Lexington, and Marion, who was familiar with the city, took us out to the cemetery where Henry Clay's monument stood; but it had been struck by lightning, and the head had been knocked off and laid at our feet. Other markers were interesting, and as a whole, we were fascinated.
Our next stop was in Louisville, where our sister, Melissa, met us, and took us out to Miss May Stone's home where she was staying. The subject of most interest discussed was that of an assault on a young woman in that city; seemingly, it was the first.
Our next stop of note was in Saint Louis, where the depot was
equally as attractive as the cemetery: It was decorated in gold. Seeing is believing!
We were taking in the scenes of a new states unlike our native east Kentucky mountains; the Ozarks are nearest alike of any we saw to the west. We didn't see the wide leafed variety of trees we have; the most noticeable were scrub oak.
On we sped to the tune of the wheel's clickity‑clack to the territory of our destination where the Sante Fe crossed the tracks of the rails going north and south. At this crossing, nestled the growing town, of Davenport. There we met friends from our own county, and we didn't feel so far away even if we had been three days on the way.
We had not had any snow before we left, but they had snow
later. Nor, we didn't have any after we arrived. All the snow we saw that winter was on top of trains from the east. We soon learned to say, north, south, east and west, when giving directions, instead of up, down and around, as we had been accustomed to in east Kentucky.
One of our first ventures, was a hotel; as there were four of us to work and both wives having had enough experience, we could see no reason for not making it a success. Too soon, there were unanticipated evidence we had invested in a business that was not to last. When the husbands had to carry their nauseated wives to bed, they took over the dishwashing and other things in general.
We got rid of the hotel at our first opportunity, which wasn't long, for we found people going and coming as we had done. We found desirable places in the country. Oklahoma was having one the best seasons ever hoped for. Everything grew prolifically. We had never seen such an abundance of luscious fruits and vegetables; also, corn and cotton were excellent. Cotton was the main source of farmers revenue. Our location happened to be with and elderly couple who were an experienced canners, they taught me the art. I canned and canned big Alberta peaches. I grieved at seeing so much fine fruit lie and rot. We were elated and overjoyed to find such a new world! We thought all seasons would be like this.
Soon more of our friends and kindred came, but after a year or two of hot winds and seeing corn blades twist in the heat and drought, they began like the Israelites to look back and pine for the cooling crystal water flowing down Lick Branch, and cool mountain breezes. Business men from our home town, Hindman, and families from the countryside who had been farming and been introduced to the storm cellars when storm clouds arose, had become discouraged at crop failures and returned one by one to their native states.
Of all the family migrants from our neighborhood, probably the Samuel Francis' family was the largest. Within three years they had all returned to Kentucky except one that was Marion, who went to Oklahoma and liked it well enough to stay. Reluctantly, he and his family returned in September of 1913. Having contracted malaria, he was broken in health. He tried in vain to fight off the attacks with the best known remedy of that time, quinine, He was wan and
hollow‑eyed with his strength failing. Ruddy burning cheeks and
violent chills followed the attacks which sapped his energy.
So, he too began to look back, as my concern grew over seeing the bread winner losing weight and strength. Preparation began for our return; soon we boarded a commuter bound for Kentucky with our four jewels (children), but not without incidents along the way. In Kansas City our oldest son, Wallace, unnoticed, wandered away from us. We began looking for him and calling his name rather loudly; no answer came. As we walked toward the back of the depot, we met a policeman holding his hand and walking toward us.
When we had gone to the station yard before the gate was opened, this same son walked up to the gate and stuck his head between the bars of the gate. He turned every way but the right one to get out. His Daddy had to take his head between his hands and hold it straight to release him. Thereafter, we held his hand. When I took him to the rest room on the next train, he looked into the commode and got dizzy or scared and wouldn't ease himself. He soiled his clothes, which made quite a problem with no change of clothes at hand. Amid all this, there was no outburst of any kind from him; he was as mute as one dumb.
When we arrived in Louisville, Kentucky, the sun was rising. In Lexington, we met our old friend, Dr. Richard Duke and his wife. Sometime later, and for whatever reason, living became such a burden, he thought, "I can go no farther." In this mood he picked up a revolver turned it on his wife, pulled the trigger and then did likewise to himself. God pity man in that state!
Instead of a days journey by jolt wagon as we had done in previous years, our next stop was at Hamdin, now Jeff, Kentucky, we traveled by rail. There had been an extension of the railroad from Jackson since we had gone to Oklahoma. We intended staying that night with Marion's sister, Mrs. Ira Combs, but some of the family met us on arrival to inform us, her family had measles. We lodged with a family friend of theirs until the next day, when some of Marion's family met us with the usual travel vehicle, a jolt wagon. The same old rutty road never looked more rough than on this day. We arrived at Lick Branch in the afternoon, tired, worn, but happy to see home‑folks once more.
Sickness And Sorrow
Visiting was the order of the days that followed; and inquiries about our families, friends, and school mates held the spotlight as we amusingly watched our children play together in sweet accord. Naturally, Marion felt more at home with his father, mother, brothers and sister, while I wanted to be with my pal sister who lived opposite Lick Branch where Willie had built her a home after he came back from Oklahoma. It was a well lighted house with three large rooms, a three open grate fire place with a common chimney in the center, and a porch all the way around which was nice place for the children to play. The house lacked closets which are important to a good housekeeper.
We divided our family, Wallace went with his father to grandfather Francis', I went to Dora and Willie's with the other children. Willie was out most of the time campaigning. I asked about our family, friends, and classmates. We discussed all the people we had known from A to Z. Family coming first; conversation fell on Minerva, of whom it was said, she was the first girl to take an agricultural course at the University of Kentucky. She went to St. Paul Minnesota, if I remember correctly, to work in a seed house. She met a horticulturist, Richard Wellington; they married and established their home in New York. I only saw her twice after their marriage. Ellen and Lucinda; had finished their nurse's training and worked in Lexington. (Minerva, Ellen and Lucinda were Arlena's sisters. WHY)
All in all, we were getting on as well as usual. As long as the family was healthy there was no cause for anxiety, and we had much to be thankful for.
I inquired about our good friend, E. F. Granger with whom Dora and I had spent one never to be forgotten school year trekking about four miles a day for the sake of enjoying that privilege, and sharing with her devoted friend, I. M. Blake, whom Miss Granger had met at a health resort in the Adirondak mountains and brought her to Kentucky. She had come to do missionary work. Miss Blake was a devout Christian, a retired nurse, and a well educated woman. How many times we heard her pray that Dora and I might always be near each other. She knew our love for and devotion to each other. To a great extent her prayer was answered. Miss Granger told us more than once that by meeting Miss Blake her life plans were changed for the better. I can't imagine anyone living with such a person and not being inspired to live a better life.
After our departure, Miss Granger and I corresponded for a time, and she informed me of Miss Blake's failing health and of her departure from this life with a smile, for she went to be with our Lord. She left us with happy memories to cherish. However all did not turn out well with Miss Granger. After Miss Blake's death, she married a widower with several children; her marriage ended in disappointment and heart‑ache, and she returned to her homeland.
Going back in memory to those days of daily trudging to and fro for an education as compared to our day of busses picking up children at home, makes me wonder how many of them are really and truly imbued with much ambition to get an education. While making those daily walks we memorized poems and oratorical speeches for competition to win silver medals. With our classmate Josiah Combs, we had won silver; we then competed for a gold medal. Josiah was allowed to compete with us, who were the first to win silver medals. Now the three of us were competing against each other for a gold medal. That was the straw that broke the camels back. We had no more oratorical WCTU contests from that trio.(This paragraph was difficult to understand. It appears that Josiah Combs was an unwelcome competitor as far as Arlena and Dora were concerned. This is the same Josiah H. Combs who wrote The Combses Genealogy. WHY)
Days came and went as did our conversations which ranged far afield from where we began, as we re-lived our youth and our school days. In the meantime, Marion had another light malarial attack. When he recovered and felt like helping out, he assisted the boys when they worked at the saw mill which, then, set at the lower end of the bottom near the Simeon Francis' home.
I went over to the Samuel Francis home often to see Marion and Wallace. One evening I stepped into the dimly lit room where sat father, son and grandson in a semicircle in the order named; their resemblance was striking; I had never noticed it before.
On one of these visits, when grandfather and I were alone talking about how children should be brought up, he very kindly suggested the best way is, "By the Bible," to which I agreed. As the Bible says "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Prov. 22:6. Also, Prov 13:24 says; "He that sparest his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes". Again the Bible says, "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him". I hadn't applied the rod at all times, but I had required obedience and punished by putting my children to bed or stinging the palms of their hands with a limb. I thought I had very good children, and I still do.
I never suppressed my children to the quietness to which I had been subjected as a child. As we grew up, my Dad would say, "I'm no man for foolishness," and that was it. But mother was of a different temperament and we could get by with some of our foolishness when he was not present. Having been a teacher, I had some ideas of my own for my children's discipline.
Autumn came, but not with it's usual splendor which is attributed to our beloved east Kentucky mountains; it had been dry. Leaves, that were usually of a variety of rich colors dried up on the trees; when frost came to robe the earth in white, they showered down to carpet the patches they had shaded. Their dull brown leaves would protect many a wild flower from the coming winter.
The mountains never looked so steep before, even though I had climbed them to their highest peaks, gathered chestnuts, from their very tops, and "sarvices" from their sides. The mountains didn't seem quite the same; the narrow valley and rutty, rocky roads, were no different.
I strapped my baby, in a go‑cart, and with the other children, started on my way to see my parents some four or five miles distant. I came upon my stripling, only brother, trying to hide from me in a paw‑paw patch beside the road. I spied him before he had time to spring out on me. On our arrival, I had a new sister to meet as well as a new family to introduce-‑a father's joy and a mothers pride.
Now that we had seen all our families, and our household
belongings had arrived, my greatest concern was we needed a place
to call home. Saturday night before the November election, we were all at Willie's; he had come in from campaigning; the day had been sunny, the night cool, and we all sat around the fireside and chatted before retiring. As far as we knew our children were well and had enjoyed the evening.
The next morning, I was awakened about dawn by Raymond coughing a terribly distressing croup cough. I hastily arose and stirred the fire to get it going, and applied all the remedies I knew to relieve the congestion, but little relief came. A doctor was summoned, who came in the late afternoon. He said Raymond had true croup; whatever he gave Raymond soon brought relief. He was out of the bed playing with the other children. We thought he would be alright. The doctor left without any further instructions or warning of another occurrence. He was put to bed as usual, and soon he began that croupy cough. With the efforts of us all, with all we knew to do, he was getting worse instead of better. Ben went for Dr. Roark, Carr's standby in sickness. It was getting daylight when he arrived; he did all he could and made me feel he could have relieved him if he had arrived sooner, or if we had had him come first. About 8 a.m. Raymond slipped into eternity. God only knows the ordeal through which I went! (Ben in this paragraph is Marion's brother Samuel Benjamin Francis. WHY)
I thought, if only the first doctor had told us to expect and occurrence, or if we had had the last doctor first, or if we had had access to a doctor such as we had before coming back to Kentucky, maybe this wouldn't have happened. My mind was full of "if's".
Time like a stone was heavy upon my heart; I began to see I had not been submissive to GOD'S will. I didn't question Him; I began questioning myself. What had I done? I felt there was a reason. Weeks and months of heart searching, Bible reading, and prayer followed Raymond's death; years of brooding followed; I finally concluded that I was being chastened by the Lord. I had idealized my children; I was opposed to staying here on the Francis homestead. I was discouraged and unhappy. Everything was wrong; I had no one to whom I could tell all.
I felt I had a divine calling before I left my homeland; when I heard the minister at "Old Carr Church" tell his experience of his call as a minister. I could attest to the very same experience, but I didn't take it seriously. I didn't feel the Bible taught that women should preach; I didn't realize there was as much need for teaching as there was and still is. I felt I was suffering for my disobedience. As the years passed, I came to believe here was my place of service. A part of myself seemed to go with my child; I was overcome. I felt if I could get out of hearing of everyone else and scream to the top of my voice, it would give me relief, but that opportunity never came.
So the balmy days of Indian summer came, and we were still having no rain. For the sake of passing the time away, I took Ophelia and Audrey and went on a jaunt to see people I knew and how they were living. To my surprise, at one home, to which we went, there lived a young married couple in a log cabin with a dirt
floor. They had only the bare necessitous for house keeping. I had seen the girl grow up tied to her mother's apron strings. She never got away from home to do anything. Did she go to school to learn? Probably the A B C's, and to read and write her name; what a life! There are opportunities galore if they would only venture to break away from home ties and scratch for themselves.
Home Sweet Home
After Marion's malarial attack and he had sufficiently gained strength and with the help of his family we hastily boxed a two room house--shack I called--in an S curve about fifty or sixty yards from the mouth of Lick Branch in the shadow of an evergreen. It sat amid a forest and had room for a narrow yard in the back and a narrow slanted yard extending to the branch in front. A mountain on the other side of the branch looked almost perpendicular. There was some undergrowth of redbud, beech, mulberry and butternut that grew below the steepest part and was good to see in springtime.
Above these, it would be like climbing a tilted ladder while holding onto the rungs; in this case it would be holding on to saplings, limbs or any place one could get a hold. On top of the mountain grew the only creamy white rhododendron on the Francis homestead. It was unlike rhododendron that grows on Roan Mountain in Tennessee and Blowing Rock in North Carolina. Rhododendron on those mountainsides is purple.
But the mountain back of the house, could be walked up on a continual westward slant. Around the last of December or the first of January, we moved in. Meantime, Ben brought his wife, Sylvia, home. She was an Indian girl, whom he had met through a friend while serving in the Army. She seemed to be a very nice person, and was a faithful companion, but their home was without children, the welding link to a complete union. Neither did his oldest sister, Cassie, have children; she fostered a sister's children whose father, Drew Young, had drowned while releasing a splashdam to take his logs to market.
I had a homewoven hit and miss rag carpet to cover the floor of our drafty room in which we were to live. It was papered with building paper of a dingy pinkish tint which was tacked on with metal washers.
For heat, we had an open grate Ben Franklin heater. Our furniture consisted of a bed; a dresser; a rocking chair; sitting chair; and an imitation leather, padded, folding davenport which was a seat by day and unfolded for a bed at night. Our feather bed went on this at night.
The room had two windows, one in the end and the other at the left side of the door. I made muslin curtains for them. My most prized piece was a Sears Roebuck sewing machine, a Minnesota. It is still giving excellent service; and I doubt that I was ever without sewing to do, for I delighted in sewing and making fancy dresses for my children.
For the other room, we had an oblong table which Marion made. Our kitchen cabinet, which we called a cupboard, was given to us by his mother. It had an open shelf for dishes which was built over a table‑like top. Marion covered this top with metal. Underneath this top was a cabinet space for storing pots, pans, and other things. Our cooking stove was a second hand range given to us by Cassie, his sister. We had a window in the end and a door in back. This room was smaller than our bed/living room, but large enough to get along with very well. We made the most of it and were happy to all be together again. This was our "Home Sweet Home."
Soon after the house was built, Marion received an appointment as postmaster of the local post office, Dirk. So the corner in the end of the bed/living room on left hand side of the door was set aside for it. Mail equipment was nothing more than a compartment waist high with a door let down by cords which became a table to lay mail bags and sort incoming and outgoing mail. Behind the door was the equipment for doing business: a post mark for canceling stamps, a pad and black ink, a pad and red ink, stamps, money order forms, application blanks, official envelopes, and necessary forms.
Compensation for this post was a two cent cancellation for a letter and one cent for post cards. Our patrons were about ten families; so, this money was a pittance at the end of the quarter. No man could afford to waste his time for this. Consequently, I did the work, which was in some measure a help to me: a diversion and an opportunity to come in contact with more people. Politics played a role in the appointment of postmasters in those days; finally appointments came under Civil Services while the Dirk, Kentucky, Post Office was under our supervision. Marion retired in 1950.
The year we moved into the shack, Ophelia and Audrey were eight and six, respectively; I was teaching them at home, and with the fore mentioned duties, my time was more or less occupied. I was most thankful, indeed.
Spring came with life and beauty on every side-‑and so did another expected inhabitant, a baby boy, a God‑send to the whole family. He did not seem as strong as the other babies had been; yet, his babyhood days were a comfort to us all, and he never lacked love. We named him John Forest because we lived in a forest. When he reached the walking and talking stage while World War I was going on and General John J. Pershing was succeding against the enemy, his uncle Ben started calling him "John Pershing." Finally it was shortened to "Perry," by which he was known ever after. How very much he meant to me, coming at the time he did, only GOD knows.
Composing her own words as she sang, his little sister Audrey would rock and sing to him, which was interesting to hear. I wish, now, I had copied them. I hadn't started then what I did later, keeping a record of everything: sales, expenditures, what was done, if any one had died, and the price of items which I compared to prices of 1970.
Our greatest concern at that time focused on the long casualty list we were seeing in the Congressional Record of that day. I
still have some of them. Noteworthy to us that Armistice was signed the date of Raymond's birth‑-a day we never forgot because we were having the worst sand storm that happened while we were in the West.
Thus go the chain of events that make up the links of a long life, some most pleasant to re-live while others are vivid memories of discouragement and despair. We lived long enough to know we are kept by the power of God, and we who know Him as our Lord and Savior, and know His word says, "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose". Rom. 8:26. What a consolation! Bless the Lord, Oh my soul.
Now that World War I was over and Marion was working away from home most of the time, we had to spend one of the coldest winters on record in the shack with an increased family. It overflowed. For five years the subject of moving to a place where our children could attend school was uppermost in my mind. We had another decision to make, which had been a drawback in reaching a decision about moving. When the subject came up, as it often had during those years, the subject of what to do with our home surfaced. Marion wanted to sell and move; while I wanted to keep it and move. Believe it or not, our land had become dear to me, and I thought of it as having a permanent place to build a home some day--built on the only halfway level spot at the mouth of the branch. It was a see‑saw argument which consumed us on weekends when Marion was home.
We were winding our way, up, down and around the mountainside, more often up, than down, pausing occasionally, to lean against a tree, and pant for breath, as we talked this spring‑like day, to be exact, February 23, 1919.
We were tired when we spied the animals, for which we were looking, and children might have said. "Guess what?", and then quoted, "As I went around my father's fence, there I saw an ugly brute, ten tails and forty feet, then that ugly brute got up to eat". Answer: a sow and pigs.
While we stood and watched our hogs root among the damp leaves, Marion said, "What fine porkers they will make by next winter; if we only have a good mast, you could have all the sausage you are looking for." I said," Yes; that may be true, but I thought we had already decided to move from here before another school year begins. You know we have to get our children in a good school".
We continued to talk about schools most of the time we were in the woods. I liked Hindman Settlement School, perhaps because it was nearer my heart. I didn't want to take our children to any of the nearby mining towns to rear and educate them. Although the financial outlook was much better in them. We had spent eighteen months in a town with public works prior to coming back to
Kentucky. As I stood behind the metal drawers of the post office, I was sick and tired of hearing wives, of husbands who were sweating away their very lives in the mines, talk about going to shows. Church never mentioned! This was quite enough for me.
When we talked about moving, the subject of selling was once more discussed. He said, "The land isn't fit for farming." I wholeheartedly agreed. Since we were in the woods, I said, "This timber ought to be worth something now that the railroad is getting nearer". After we returned to the house, we continued to talk about school. Finally, we changed the subject to building a school in our own community. We had read this statement in the "Little Star," a folded paper of four ten by twelve inch pages, which was printed on Caney Creek with Alice C. Lloyd as managing editor. We read her comments to this extent, "any community can have a graded school and community center that will try for it."
The question was where? How gladly we would have offered any amount of land and timber we had for a school. We were most unfortunate for our land was steep mountain sides. Marion, "put on his thinking cap," and walked some distance before speaking a word. Then he stopped, leaned against a birch tree, and said, "I believe I can get Bill to give the Flats if Miss Lloyd would come over here and help us start a school." (Bill was Marion Francis' brother, William "Willie" Francis, a well known Old Regular Baptist minister as I was growing up in Knott County. WHY)
We kept thinking and talking about it during the week. On Thursday, February 27, 1919, I wrote the following note and mailed it.
My dear Mrs, Lloyd:
I am very much interested in your school and Little Star; hope they will be the Beacon Lights of many more such schools in our county, and would be glad if we had one such in our community.
The result was "Little Star was immediately changed to the "Beacon Light" And before this note had reached it's destination, Marion had met Bill about where the bridge now crosses Carr and proposed that Bill give the "Flats" for a school. Bill was interested and agreed that Marion could ride his mare and go Saturday, March 1st. to see Miss Lloyd. This marked the beginning of a series of weekly trips for the next two months, and less often over a period of the following sixteen months.
Saturday came Marion mounted his steed and went forth on his mission over mountains and muddy roads. He forded creeks and smaller streams on his ten‑mile journey to Caney to see Miss A. G. Lloyd a woman he had never met. On arrival he was courteously received when introduced, and he related his business. She seemed very much impressed and said she wondered why she hadn't found Carr Creek before going to Caney Creek.
She inquired what the people would do to get a school and community Center established. To that, he could not give a definite answer because no one in the community knew anything about it except
Willie's family and ours. He assured her that it was his opinion the people would want to cooperate. She in return gave him such encouragement that he sensed no difficulty in obtaining that which would be required to get a school and community center. He bade her good afternoon, mounted and rode back to Carr scarcely noticing mountains, mud, or water he was so engrossed in thought.
All the while, we were waiting with anxious watchful eyes for his return which came in late afternoon, and so eager to hear glad tidings that we could hardly wait until he was dismounted. When he did relate what had been said, we were elated. Dora said, "It sounds too good to be true." I was too thrilled for words as he told about the Caney Creek school which was creating so much interest in adjoining communities through the medium of the "Little Star". He ended abruptly by saying, " She's a talker," and he had to smile.
Saturday, March 8th, Marion went back to Caney, accompanied by Willie, to get further details and to inquire what the community would have to do. Miss Lloyd said if the community would donate the land on which to build a school and teacherage, cut and skid enough logs to saw 60,000 board feet of lumber to frame and box the two buildings for which she had a blue‑print, and the county would do it's part, that she would build and equip both buildings and furnish teachers.
The next step was to see if the county School Superintendent would grant us a new district. On March 15th, Marion and Willie went to Hindman to see him. Our state law required new districts be made by April 1st. After unfolding the cooperative plan with Miss Lloyd to the county superintendent, he agreed to create the new district provided we had the required number of pupils. A census was taken, and we did have enough, even without crossing the mountain to Flax Patch. Marion compiled their census list with ours on the March 17th. There was a total of sixty‑five pupils.
On March 29th a mass meeting was held at "Old Carr Church" with the people of our community, Miss A. G. Lloyd and her staff. The purpose was to see what would be donated by the community. Miss Lloyd explained what comprised a community center, June Buchanan talked about the "Purpose Road," her method of teaching, individual and community participation; our reserved Miss O. V. Marsh took notes. She was Miss Lloyd's secretary at that time.
It was interesting to me, especially the community center concept which was new to us, and the "Purpose Road" method. I do not recall the exact words of Miss Lloyd's definition of a community center that day, but the "Survey", of March 12, 1921, gave Dwight Sandersons' definition: A rural community consists of the people in a local area tributary to the center of their common interests.
Surely the center of our common interests was our children and in whatever place they congregate. In rural districts a school or church house is about the only center outside the home. In most places a school house is the only center of a community, since all districts do not have a church. Therefore, a community center could
be compared to the organization of a church where all things are held in common. I don't mean people should sell what they have and distribute it as they did in the Bible; I do mean they should all work together, each doing that which he is best fitted to do. Then, harmony will take the place of discord; and we'll share those things in common which are for the good of our community and our children who are to take our places in our state and nation.
"Where your treasure is there will your heart be also". Mine was in the school room with my children, just as it was in my youth when I sprained my ankle, hobbled home, and had to miss school a few days. I cried bitter tears.
At this first meeting, Miss Lloyd selected our school board from a list of names submitted from different locations in the community from east to west: H. G. Blair, S. M. Stacy, Marion Francis, Willie Francis, Sim Johnson, and Charley Hylton. Miss Lloyd instructed them about how to proceed, and Marion wound up the March work by going to Flax Patch to get work donated and to Caney with the report. In that, I see I have gotten the "cart before the horse" for I meant to give the names of those subscribing and how much and for what before the meeting adjourned at "Old Carr Church".
Sim and Willie gave land, about two and one half acres each. Marion and Willie gave timber for sawing the lumber. H. G. Blair and S. N. Stacy each gave $150.00. Charley and Jesse Hylton each gave $20.00. The men of Flax Patch pledged 65 days of labor to cut and saw the timber, and build a road.
"It is more blessed to give than to receive". Acts 20:35.
"For God loveth a cheerful giver". II Cor. 9:7. How oft have we heard said, "You can't outgive God ‑ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life". John 3:16. Let us bow to Him in humble gratitude for what He has given us to use. We brought nothing into this world, and we shall take nothing out. Read Job 1‑21. See what he says about this.
The old homestead of the Samuel Francis family had, like most other homesteads of the area, various place names for its hollows, fields and bottoms. Its "Flats" are three of a rather unique lay of land about two hundred feet above the bottom below. They could scarcely be classed as flat by anyone. They are somewhat sloped and are divided by three natural drains. I am going to name them and describe each as I see them.
To enter these "Flats" we must cross Carr's Fork and walk across a bottom some 200 or more feet to the first flat. It is drained in such a way as to form a plowshare. Here a road was cut to slant toward the point some 300 feet or more. Here the road makes a sharp hair-pin curve to the left and runs through a grove of oak saplings for about 250 feet. Near the end of the grove stands a large oak on
which has a huge knot‑hole, a habitat for owls that cry their "Whoo‑Whoo‑R‑U"? during the dismal autumn days. In later years it occurred to me that it would be an appropriate place for a poster on which was written in bold‑faced letters the old axiom: A wise old owl lived in this oak; the more he heard, the less he spoke, the more he heard; now, why can't we be like that wise old bird"?
Alas, that old tree had to come down with other giants that grew a few steps beyond. One bent, huge oak tree stood below the road, another one is still standing above the road, minus its top which was unable to weather the storms that roared with such fury that it seemed the whole top of the mountain would come off.
The great grandfather of all those giant oaks grew on top of the mountain above the topless giant. It was so unusual that Jesse Hylton took Boy Scouts to see it and take a look at its stump to determine its age and measure his girth.
The ravine between the first and middle flat, is somewhat deep and narrow. Once there was a "slip between the cup and the lip" that "fire‑water" (whiskey) had dripped from a "worm" (still) hidden in its depth. (Mrs. Francis indicates with this sentence that illegal whiskey was once made at this spot. WHY)
As we cross this ravine, we go onto the middle "flat", which is the largest of the three and more level. On this flat grew persimmon trees, hawthorn, and other growth. On its brink, evergreens, laurel, and vines clad the ground. Near its rectangular base birch, buckeye and other trees grew.
On this flat, posts were erected for basketball practice. The first game played was by a team from the first CCCC's; the spectators sat on the ground. Our new teacher, Miss Ruth E. Weston, sang with the youngsters, "Our school is a jolly home, tweet little wee dum bum." (CCCC stood for Carr Creek Community Center. WHY)
The third flat is divided by a less deep hollow and is globular in contour, Around its base grew graceful rows of apple trees; on top is the family cemetery, and above and below the cemetery corn was once cultivated as a main crop. Alice Johnson, now in her 90's, says, "I've hoed corn there, and when the ram's horn sounded for dinner, I would try to see how far I could jump down the hill."
In later years when Sylvia returned, and looked the "flats" over she said,"We used to come here to salt the sheep, and I never had any idea of seeing such improvements as are here". (I searched the Francis Family records to see who Sylvia was and could not find the name. Sylvia must have been another name for one of Samuel or his sons Willie or Sim's daughters. WHY)
Fifty years have passed; the first building that was erected on the first flat is now abandoned, deteriorating; windows are gone: targets for rock throwers. Yet it is an emblem of memories, sacrifices, and devotion. Just beyond the hair pin curve, lies a pile of ashes and a vacant lot, another reminder of memories and devotion (This is where the first auditorium burned. When I attended Carr Creek High School, it was the manual training shop. WHY).
On the opposite side of the road where a handsome brick home now is built near the bridge that spans the ravine, stands the original CCCC office that took the place of a shack occupied by some bachelor brothers who attended school under the shadow of the giant oak.
Things have changed; the middle flat dominates. What was the main playground is now a parking lot for cars. The stone high school building which stands on its brink, erected by WPA workmen and to which our gym/auditorium of concrete blocks was attached, is soon to be all that is left to stand as a sentinel of bygone days and the memory of a pioneer family that blazed the way for educational enlightenment of its fellow men.
The teacher cottage and girls dormitory that once occupied a site on this flat have been removed, and a path lined with daffodils is no more. Only the boy's dormitory and the original community cottage remain.
The graves of our cemetery have multiplied from five to twenty‑two. Only six of the original families remain on the Samuel Francis property; five of them soon will bid adieu to the valley. The reservoir will take our homes which are filled with memories of joy and sadness. Those in the cemetery will remain until our Lord returns with a shout to reclaim His own. Then, they will no longer be entombed on the "flats" of our beloved eastern Kentucky that we will ever hold dear.
I would solemnly admonish all who come to drink deep of the water of life, for this is only a proving ground for eternity. In the words of, H. W. Longfellow, "In the worlds broad fields of battle, in the bulwark of life, be not set like dumb driven cattle; be a hero in the strife".
This life is not all-‑the best is yet to come--if we have committed, our way unto HIM in faith and repentance of our sins, and trusting in Jesus our Lord, to save us.
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of GOD; not of works, lest any man
should boast, for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them". Eph. 2:8‑10. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift." II Cor. 9:15.
Springtime and Farming
April showers, swelling buds, and the pretty wildwood flowers
Trillium red, trillium white, lady'slippers folded tight.
Fragrant sweet William stirs with the breeze;
Jack‑in‑the‑pulpit stands upright like some stately knight.
The bloodroot's snowy white petals, with center of gold
Make their debut in patches and numbers untold.
The sarvice are first among the tree tops bare;
Are patches of white on the slopes here and there.
Then the redbud and dogwood come out in mass
To flaunt their beauty, deemed first class.
Although standing amid the darksome slopes,
We know it is springtime which enlivens our hopes.
New hopes, renewed faith, renewed spirits, spur us on,
Wherein we take courage and keep on keeping on
And begin anew to piece together the broken threads
That have long since frayed with life's dull treads,
And give praise to HIM whom we Love, serve, and adore,
And plead to be led by HIS spirit now and evermore.
Now that plans, for the remainder of the year's work have been formulated and farming time has arrived-‑first things must come first‑-a man has to eat. It has been the rule of the mountaineer to turn to mother earth for sustenance. Spring is planting time, and the dark nights in April are "'tater" planting time. Dobbin is hitched to the plow, and you hear gees and haws.
If the weather has been favorable, work has been underway, cleaning up ground and getting ready for the plow before potatoes can be planted. We are up with the birds; breakfast by candlelight. We have no time to spare from the farm for other work unless it rains and gets the ground too wet to work. Farming is usually a steady job until corn is "laid by." Corn is the main crop for mountain men.
In the Francis community there is more astir than springtime and farming. Marion tries to wind up the month's business by marking off the location of the school building which is on the tract of land Sim gave. Then, he was on his way to Hindman to conclude the transaction with the county officials.
Marion and Henry worked at clearing the road that had to be made to the school site before any material could be hauled to it. That was no little job to dig a wagon road from a steep precipice, after it was cleared. Many days were taken by many hands a mule team and scraper before it was finished. They were making a start.
From this beginning, Marion and Henry--Henry is H. G. Blair about whom I told you struggled through school on Defeated Creek and obtained a certificate to teach--went to the woods to cut and saw timber to build the school they had contracted to build. It was to be completed by November; they felt they had no time to lose. Labor for cutting the timber was expected from the men of Flax Patch, but they were heavy farmers; their time wasn't immediately available.
As I have tried to paint for you a word picture of the "flat's," I am going to do likewise with a stroll through our community of 1920. I'll begin at the west end. Charley Hylton is the first resident; he lives in a neat little cottage painted white and trimmed in red.
Going east and around a curve near where Carr takes an
abrupt direction north, we look across the creek and see the home of Colbert "Cob" Hylton, father of Charley; it is just a little way up Defeated Creek. From this point we face the G. W. and Fielden "Babe" Johnson home near the mouth of Breeding's Creek.
The next resident is that of Sim Johns on the banks of Carr, a few steps beyond, we see his maple sugar trees. They have been tapped so many times, though they are huge trees, it doesn't look they will survive many more years.
The next residence is that of Sim Francis; it too is on the same location, except it is nearer the road. It is a two story house with seven rooms. We walk in the edge of the creek, right along and under a cliff after passing Sim's. The creek veers to the right, and we go up a bank, around a bottom, and come to the Sam Francis home at the mouth of Lick Branch. Next is our shack, and Willie"s house sits opposite ours, and we've come a mile from mouth of Breeding's Creek.
The next house is that of S(hade) N. Stacy's; its a nice three room cottage with a stone walled cellar for storing their garden produce for winter use. His store is just a few steps beyond. Over where his former home stood is a spacious barn for the wagon and team of mules he kept for farming and hauling store supplies from Jackson, Kentucky, and Big stone Gap, Virginia, in former years. Now, he can get them from Hamdin, a railroad village.
H. G. Blair lives opposite Shade on the other side of the road. We travel on to the next residence, that of R. L. Collins on right. Just beyond a small drain and across the creek near the mouth of another hollow is a house belonging to H. G. Blair. It is a rental. The Blaine Francis residence is a short distance beyond R. L. Collins'; it is the last house in our district. The entire distance is about one and three quarter miles from east to west.
The sweet month of May had arrived
With humming bees, and singing birds at early dawn;
While we could half sleep, half dream,
While listening to their songs, Alas; awake we must:
The seed to sow, the crop's to grow, the hay to mow,
Oh, yes: and there's the school to build you know
So, the usual routines of the season--gardening, flower planting, farming, and house cleaning--are the order of the day. However, the one outstanding event for the community this month was the day a number of our citizens climbed onto S. N. Stacy's wagon on our way to Hindman where Miss A. S. G. Lloyd, was organizing the Knott County Community Improvement Association. For reasons best known to the proprietors of the Hindman Settlement School, or Hindman S. S. as it was known then, sternly refused to be a part. Miss Lloyd told them they automatically became a part of it just as they became had become citizens of our county. Stubbornly, they refused. The association was short lived. Community centers sprang up in various places; many of them were also short lived. It was a lovely sunny May day, and we enjoyed the outing.
Along came June, with honey galore,
Seldom had we seen so much, years before ‑
The crop's too, were looking fine;
Indeed, blessed, with a bountiful season divine ‑
Still we toiled, with never a sight:
For our children would have a school nearby.
This the month when every farmer is doubly busy, Marion, had very little land fit for tillage with only three or four acres cleared. Having devoted so much time to preparation for building our school, he has done very little farm work. He had some free time and went to Stacy's Branch and did some carpenter work at 75 cents per hour. He had the opportunity for steady employment but felt obliged to return home at the end of the month to continue work on the school. Although we needed the money, he had in mind, "Where there's a will there's a way." This was the first month he hadn't gone to Caney since March 1, 1920.
Now, July hot with the summers sun,
Time most farmer's work was done,
For the 4th chickens should be ready to fry;
With beans, beets, and raspberry pie;
A picnic, fishing, or something for fun,
On the 4th a summer's work had won.
So say the young folk, and they usually had their wish after a shout when corn was "laid by!"
Disappointment and Discouragement
A man living on a farm, dependent on it for a livelihood, has very little time for leisure; especially so, if he has a large family to support. When cultivation is finished, the hay is to mow if he had bottoms for it to grow. During August the fodder is ready to pull with tops to cut and shock to feed his livestock during the winter months. Fuel for heat, coal, must be mined, hauled and stored in the bin. A good supply of dry wood for the cook stove, found in a dead trees on the mountainside, is cut and stacked.
The mountain farmer usually seeks work when the crops are "laid by" to buy family clothing for the winter. Children, as well as some adults go barefoot in summer. Winter weather requires shoes. Also, sugar, coffee, flour and other necessities are needed; it is easy to see how very busy a man can be.
The men of Flax Patch had subscribed, some five, some ten or more days of work toward the building of our school. They did, some more, some less, than their quota. H. G. Blair kept their time and I never got that. They were faithful, for they were men on whom you could rely, They worked when they were supposed to work and didn't lean on their tools to kill time. In due time, they were felling
trees in Rocky Hollow; their cross cut saws made a merry ring as they sawed trees into the required lengths for lumber. Marion and Henry were right with them, when they had a day off from other work.
Since Marion's return, from Stacy's Branch, he has been busy doing odd jobs about our home and helped Willie build a new kitchen. Willie is living in the house with his father, Samuel. The elder Francis family is expecting a visit from their daughter, Alice and family. Alice is married to Jeptha Amburgey and they haven't been back Kentucky since they left many years ago. Willie needs to move into his own home to make room for this sister's visit.
Another school year has arrived and Miss Lloyd wrote Marion to come for a teacher. On September 8th, he took S. N. Stacy's wagon and team and away he went. He returned with one of her students, a young man from Caney; a Canaanite indeed; at least some of us felt let down. We had expected her to furnish us with experienced teachers. As a group of us discussed the matter, one mother made the remark; "Anyone can teach my children." I resented Miss Lloyd's teacher. In my estimation, there is so much more to being a teacher than book knowledge. Consider the wakeful hours one's children are away from your care. At home, do you allow them much time out of your sight, not knowing who they are with?
I want to feel my children are looked after just as I would; besides, to me teaching is next to the ministry of the Gospel in importance. Teachers assume a big responsibility. However, we made the most of it, for going a mile to school isn't as bad as going almost two. The church house at the mouth of Defeated Creek was obtained and the teacher boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Charley Hylton. He taught about three months. That, was the beginning of Carr Creek Community School! How many of you as children attended that term and remember the name of the teacher? I don't. That was more than fifty years ago. The manner of living is no more the same nor the teaching. I am opposed to some things taught today.
We NEVER had it, and it doesn't correspond to BIBLE teaching.
When I think about what is being taught in our schools today, it doesn't compare. The three letter word we see throughout some of our leading magazines with their suggestive covers make me feel we are on the down‑grade instead of up‑grade. I am glad we still have a few gospel ministers who are not afraid to speak out against such immorality. It takes courage to do so. (Mrs. Francis is referring to sex education and the use of sex to sell magazines as an immoral issue in late 20th century America. WHY)
Our very first visitor after we began our work here on Carr Creek was Henry E. Jackson from the Department of the Interior. He spoke to fathers in particular about how much their sons needed their companionship during the years of puberty. I sat there and wondered how many got the message. It's one thing to tell; but it's another to heed.
When the men weren't working in timber, they were working on the road. In the meantime, Marion was having great difficulty
finding a man to haul the logs to the mill. A railroad was being constructed up Carrs Fork at that time, and men who wanted to work were going there because they were paying more than they could get locally. Nevertheless, in the niche of time, one was found; the cost was more than was anticipated, and we had to borrow $200 and pay interest.
The skids at the mill were soon filled, and the old mill was whizzing in musical tones sawing the lumber Henry and Marion had been anxiously awaiting for months. Hiram Adams, who had the contract to haul it to the school site, was rearing to go, at last jubilant.
When the school house should have been finished, it was just beginning to be built. It was one of those things beyond which they, Marion and Henry were able to do. Time marches on; as soon as Hiram was able to haul lumber to the site of the new school, Marion and Henry prepared the building foundation. It was on the slant of the mountain, and posts of various lengths had to be sawed and hauled.
The foundation timbers were so heavy they had to hire help; the men they hired had to be paid when Marion and Henry received their first payment which was to be made when the foundation was finished. The county contributed $1,000.00 and turned it over to Miss Lloyd who was to pay. When she was notified, she responded with either $25 or $50; $50 was the largest amount received at any one time, and they had to go for it or send a dun. When the whole $200.00 she owed was paid, Marion was $20 to the good for what he had done toward building the school. How much Henry realized, I never knew. Marion invested his money in corn because he had spent most of his time that spring working on our school and was unable to plant and cultivate enough corn to take us through the winter.
Meanwhile, the log hauler was on the job trying to wind up the hauling before snow fell, We had been blessed with good outside working weather as it was sawed, and Hiram was delivering it to the building site.
One evening at milk time, no cows came to Willie's; someone was sent to find them. Lo and behold, they were found dead; the hauler had rolled logs over two cows and killed them. To make bad matters worse, Willie only received about $38 for their hides. His children were without milk until another cow was bought. Yet, he took it good naturedly and raised no "racket."
Marion and Henry worked through the winter, every day they could, and had the building framed. It had five rooms and two porches. To be ready when the roofing came, they had about two‑thirds of the roof boards on, but no roofing came. They were due another payment of $200 when the building was roofed. This they had no control over. Spring came, and Henry and Marion left the building as it was and went to their fields. They toiled through the summer and had a favorable season and a good crop. This came when their spirits were low and were awfully disappointed.
There is always something for which to be thankful. During February I had the opportunity to go over on the hill where Marion
and Henry were working on the school building for the first time. Soon thereafter I wrote Miss Lloyd the following letter in part--I had corresponded with her since the first note I wrote her:
Dear Miss Lloyd:
You remember it was about this time last year when I wrote you that I am very much interested in your school etc.
I told her that I had been over where the men were working and was thrilled; it was like a dream come true. Soon I was pouring out my heart to her. Since I have thought about it, I am sure she didn't understand. I learned later that she had used my first letter on back of one of hers. Some of you may have read it. I suppose it was good publicity for her. I had not given my consent for her to do so. Not knowing anything about the use of this letter, I was forced to be quite frank with her in regard to business matters, and the way she was being regarded. ( Mrs. Francis is referring to the letters Miss Lloyd wrote to solicit funds for Caney Creek Community Center. WHY)
Spring and Summer 1920
Another life giving spring and "fever" for the indolent, but a gladsome time for the alert, who seem to be hankering to stir the soil of mother earth again. Many things were visualized while we sat around the fireside when it was too cold to be outside to work.
Before the plowing began stalks had to be cut or brush piled and burned. Any number of things had to be done on the farm.
Gardening was on the housewife's agenda; it was among the first planting to be done. All hands were up and doing when the redbuds were in bloom. If the season was favorable, they hoped to be through by the fourth of July.
July arrived and my thoughts turned to the school. Marion and Henry were still "down in the dumps." In regard to the school, the whole community's morale was at a low ebb. I still had hope, so, I wrote my friend:
Dear Miss Lloyd,
Now that we are almost through with our crops, naturally, our thoughts turn to our unfinished school still standing in the sun and rain. The men have donated so much work, I feel they have done their part. Even though they couldn't comply with their contract it was no fault of theirs. Neither have you fulfilled many of your promises.
This is part of the letter I mailed to her asking what she could do now that more than a year had passed. She sent Miss Buchanan with one of the boys to see what had been done and what could be done. They arrived and had dinner--lunch people call it nowadays-with the letter writer, after which the whole matter was discussed. Miss Buchanan seemed very much impressed and went back
to Caney where it was discussed with Miss Lloyd. The following letter as received from her toward the end of July:
I have decided to come to Carr and help organize, provided you get a place for me to live. I think that while you are doing it, it would be better to start right now in order that the house may be used for nurses, lecturers, social workers, and possibly teachers. I think there should be two rooms. If possible have the roof extend out over a small porch.
I am sending over some roofing and will get the windows and doors. The school seats, with freight prepaid, are shipped to Vicco. Miss Buchanan and I will be over on August 21st and will stay as long as needed. She will also be over with some of the people here for the meetings we want to start. Officers should be elected at that meeting. Our boys will come over either juniors or seniors at any time for a basketball game. I hope you will like Miss Perry until we can secure a really trained community worker, as well as a teacher. Such a woman is hard to get, however. With the very best hope for this second CCCC.
Sincerely Your Friend,
Marion went to his one and only stand‑by in the community for manual labor, H. G. Blair, to discuss this latest message. Although it meant more labor to build a road and bridge across the ravine over the middle flat where they would build the teacherage, they decided to comply. Since it was recorded in black and white, they took it for granted that Miss Lloyd would do what she promised, and went about this additional task with a zeal to see it through. When the lumber was on the ground and everything was in readiness to start building, they mustered all the help they could get and had a "working." Six men came making, a total of eight; most of them were from outside our own community, which tells the story of the interest our community had. Many had never showed wholehearted interest in the school; we felt people should for their children who needed an education. Those eight men got off to a good start that day toward building the three room cottage which had two small porches.
The Women of the community did their share by cooking a sumptuous dinner and carrying it to the men on the hill, who improvised a table with lumber and partook of that repast with gusto. We were delighted to see them enjoy it. Miss Perry took their picture and said, "This will go down in history as one of the memorable days in this school".
As Miss Perry looked over our school grounds; she admired the few scattered stones that were so common to us and what we, more or less, regarded as pests when we thought of bandaged toes minus the
nails or when we had to walk on our toes because stones bruised the heels of our barefeet.
Miss Perry, our new teacher whom Miss Lloyd sent us, was from Louisiana; she boarded with Mr. and Mrs. S. N, Stacy and taught in his unoccupied store house. She seemed to be an intelligent and capable young woman, and we liked her. She wasn't here for fun; she expected compensation for her work. She left us, "holding the bag." Miss Lloyd wrote to me to ask if I would take over where Miss Perry left off. I replied, "As much as I would love to help out in the school room again that is almost impossible for me. I have my family to feed and the post office to attend while Marion is at work. I will see H. H. Taylor to see if he will help. I did and he consented. By his willingness to serve, the school continued until he became involved in an election campaign. All's well, that ends well; he came out victorious in the November election and became county school superintendent.
Good, some one had something, about which to crow!
Thrice disappointed, others around were feeling low:
Wondering who were trustworthy, when oft deceived ‑
Relying on words, as an oath, had believed.
But, who can know the heart, of fallible man?
Except HE, in whose image knows life's span.
But, who are we, that cannot disappointment endure?
As our Lord suffered such, even more, to be sure ‑
An example for us, to bear our cross without ado ‑
Whereby we may suffer, likewise be tempted too:
Yet knowing HE will succor, whate're betide ‑
We can rely on Him, for truth and in Him abide.
Disappointment Once More
The 21st. of August came, but, not Miss Lloyd or Miss Buchanan. Imagine, if you can, Marion's bewilderment? He had suffered disappointments from the first, but this was the knock‑out‑blow. The workmen wagged their heads in utter disgust: and Marion, would n‑e‑v‑e‑r have dared again to mention work on the school for their sacrifice had been too great!
H. G., like himself, could have been getting $7.00 a day. One and a half years had elapsed since the work began, and still there wasn't a school. Few men, if any, would have done what Marion and H. G. did under those circumstances. Like Daniel, the right motive was back of it; therefore, he had a purpose firm and with the grip of a bulldog, he held to the finish. Blame and criticism was heralded to the sky, he bore it with a heroic smile.
Not to be daunted or delayed by waiting for a letter to find out why she didn't come-‑again like Paul Revere-‑he mounted a horse and went to see. He got the usual excuses. "If excuses were horses we would all take a ride".
Luckily, Marion met my sister, Zurilda, who was working at Caney School at that time, and in his most disheartened state of mind poured out his heart to her. She was quite friendly with Misses O. V. Marsh and R. E Weston, who were also workers at Caney--as I have already stated Miss Marsh was Miss Lloyd's secretary, and Miss Weston was a teacher.
Zurilda told Marion these two women were leaving Caney; she said, "I will try to induce them to come to Carr." It seemed this was his only hope; he was forced to mount and return with a heart as heavy as it was light on his first return trip from Caney.
I fancy seeing Zurilda at the close of that very day entering the room of Miss Marsh and Miss Weston to relate another chagrined experience. She told us later, "I boasted Carr." I have no doubt she told the truth. Again, I fancy hearing her say, "It is one of the most refined communities, as a whole, in the county. Several are members of the church, and some are quite active in church work. The "Old Carr Church" is one the oldest churches in the mountains; in fact, it has been the center of religious activities and romance in this and adjoining counties for decades. In that immediate community are five school teachers, and Marion about whom I am telling you, has a business diploma from Transylvania University." Then, she names the teachers: Marion's wife; his brother Sim, H. G. Blair; our sister Dora, Willie's wife. Whatever she said, she had gained her point, and they decided to come to Carr.
On September 5, 1920, another memorable day in the annals of Carr Creek Community Center's travails, once more Marion went to his kind‑hearted brother‑in‑law, S. N. Stacy to ask for his wagon and team to go for the last time to Caney Creek.
On arrival, he was greeted by new faces, and they weren't long in getting loaded and on the return trip to Carr. They had large trunks and other personal belongings, which included a typewriter, a most important item. The women were helped to mount and get seated, and Marion was soon in his seat with the reins in his hand and was off to the first mountain that lay in their path. They arrived in the afternoon, quite tired from the jolts and bumps of the ten mile journey. We had secured a room for them in the home of Mr. and Mrs. S. N. Stacy, and I was there to greet them. They were received with open arms and heart; I took them in with feeling that day. We did everything we knew to do to make them happy and comfortable.
A meeting of the committee was called and Miss Marsh was chosen secretary and Miss Weston teacher. Each agreed to work for $50 a month to be paid out of funds solicited by the secretary. Marion and Henry were to resume work on the cottage to make it ready by winter; they were to receive $4.00 a day as funds, which Miss Marsh solicited, permitted. Other expenses were to be taken care of by the community. H. H.Taylor was chosen to serve with Misses Marsh and Weston on a new board. Miss Marsh's trunk became her typing table as her deft fingers glided over the keyboard. (Miss Marsh began to solicit funds for Carr Creek Community Center
just as Miss Lloyd was doing for Caney. To some extent, the two were in direct competition. WHY)
Well I remember some days later, when Miss Marsh came to the post office when Zurilda was visiting me. She sat and chatted a while as she opened the mail; in one of those letters was a check for $75.00. We were all so elated we could hardly hold back our tears. Zurilda said to Miss Marsh, "I'll pray for you." I've wondered since if that wasn't the check that gave the cottage its name "Lynhurst". That check was an introduction to some of the things that went on after Miss Marsh came to Carr Creek.
At last a day came when the cottage could be occupied, and our workers moved the women in; neighbors shared whatever could be spared from their gardens and pantries, and Marion gave his compensation as post master, the sum of $35. He didn't mind that. The family would have divided its last meal, we were so glad that the long awaited school was around the corner. Work continued, and cold weather came; Marion worked days and some at night ceiling the cottage to make it warm and comfortable.
However, enough money wasn't coming in for both Henry and Marion to keep on working together as they had previously done. They decided one would quit; public wages were more than they were getting and jobs were available. Marion gave Henry his choice. They had worked together for the same cause long enough to become attached to it, and a decision was not easy to make.
Henry decided to drop out; it was rumored he could not read blue‑prints. We were talking about the school, and he said, "I've laid awake nights thinking about it, but Miss Marsh isn't going to raise enough money for us both to work." I said, in reply you have a house, and we don't.
Henry and Marion were making progress on the school house with an eye to having a Christmas tree in it. Their hammers made a merry ring throughout every day. By Christmas the school was boxed, sub-floored, and roofed; blankets to keep out the cold covered the empty holes where windows would someday be; a star‑topped tinseled Christmas tree stood conspicuously within. All was ready; the door opened and the crowd of wide‑eyed children, parents and visitors surged in; few had ever seen such a Christmas tree before or had been inside such a spacious school house.
The children were delighted with their gifts; parents looked with satisfaction upon the house they had been hearing so much talk about. The large number of citizens on hand for the occasion was a lift to the spirits of the discouraged ones. One visitor looked it over and remarked about the unusual heavy timbers used in the framing; to which, Marion replied, "It is built to stand". In this way the year 1920 came to the end.
Something for a change to give us a lift;
When our spirit's are low: to remember the gift
Oh Him who sacrificed all without a complaint:
Reminds us we have a cross to bear to become a saint
He suffered disappointments and heartache too
As we, days, months, and whole years through.
When one is in such a state of mind;
The gloom is too thick to pierce the blind.
Yet a gleam of hope can make a change
To divert the mind long since a deranged.
When with the Psalmist, you wanted to say:
If like the dove, I had wings and could fly away.
Carr Creek Community Center
I suppose there are very few of us who haven't experienced
disappointment in some way; for instance; a busy housewife cooks a sumptuous dinner for guests and they don't come. Or something more frivolous things, like composing a parody to serenade someone expected in the neighborhood and they don't arrive either. These are minor disappointments; but what about being disappointed in someone you trusted and believed? That is a different story; it goes deeper and even effects the heart. You seem to lose faith in mankind; this kind of disappointment is not easily forgotten; it hurts. Unless you have had this experience, you can't know what I am talking about. I have had them and I know; so do others in the work I am describing.
We had no phones, and it took about three days for a letter to go its round about way to Caney. Marion had not delayed. Delay had caused a King to lose his crown: you remember when Samuel asked Saul why the lowing of the cattle and the bleating of the sheep. The excuses he had! So did Miss Lloyd.
Fortunately, Marion had met my sister Zurilda, who was working there, and she encouraged Misses O. V. Marsh and Ruth E. Weston to come to Carr. The year 1920 came to an end with a new hope.
Marion worked on during the winter of 1921 when weather conditions were favorable for outside work. When it was too cold for comfort, he and Willie worked some at night ceiling the unfinished cottage. To my knowledge, this was the only manual labor Willie ever donated.
At every opportunity, Marion added onto the "shack" first he built a porch across the front, then a room on the upper end for the post office, and a room across the back with a small porch on the upper end. This room became the boy's room. This building was most needed.
Before the official day of spring arrived, we had our first visitors Misses May Stone, and Katherine Petitt. When they first came to our county they were called "fureners." To be exact, it was March 17, 1921. Miss Stone introduced, Anna Brown, from the "Lend a Hand Society." A memorable day to us because we were remembering March, 1919 and all that had happened in between. They had lunch with us, after which, we went with them over to the community center. On our way, I related our story, which always bore heavily
on my mind. When we came to the cottage, Miss Stone went in, but we took Miss Brown out to the cemetery where my heart was anchored.
We returned to the cottage where Miss Stone was visiting with Misses Marsh and Weston. We had shown all the work the community had done; and Miss Stone remarked about the road which was a big job itself; John Caudill, Miss Lloyd's right hand man had once commented that we had done more than anyone else had been asked to do. After summing it all up; Miss Brown said, "You're like a nest of young birds with their mouths open waiting for something to be dropped in".
Prior to this visit and not long after the cottage was occupied, a Community Club was formed. It included the following: Misses Marsh and Weston; Spencer Combs, Jesse Hylton and I was honored to be among the five members. Spencer, who was from the Smithsboro/Irshman area, remarked, "I have been fortunate to give my family an education and anyone not interested in educating the youth of the community is but half a man." I said, "To me this kind of man is less because his children are my children's companions; I am interesting in all in the community." Jesse Hylton, who was from the Cody/Defeated/Breeding's Creek area remarked "This Creek had always been known as "Carr's Fork." This was in reference to me calling it Carr Creek as I had affiliated and thought of Carr's Fork in relation to Caney Creek. In the beginning, I felt it an honor to adopt the four C's of the original community center. It was my honor to be numbered with the five club members and to rename Carr's Fork, Carr Creek. If that can be called and honor.
Work continued on the school, and the sound of every nail being driven was music to my ears. Miss Marsh was a faithful worker and clicked away on the typewriter with appeals to friends and acquaintances for funds to finish our school building and to carry on the work, which had already begun, forward.
The response was gradual and meager; she made the remark on one occasion when she had received a check for $15 that " He could have given $1500 just as well." Nevertheless, we rejoiced, and were indeed most thankful for every contribution, large or small. That same donor became a substantial contributor and a sympathetic, understanding friend in more ways than giving.
Work continued at the Carr Creek Community Center School throughout the winter and was almost completed when farming time came. The center was for all meetings and activities connected with our work, such as clothing sales, library, and school activities.
When it was time to farm, Marion was ready. During farming time there was a job for all and little time for any thing else; however, all these things were being done in their appropriate order. First thing to be done in the spring was to get the ground ready: cutting, piling, and burning stalks if a field had been tended the year before. All hands large or small could participate, and it was fun for a little while.
So go the seasons as they, come spring, summer and fall, year in and year out. We all had in common a little more to look forward
to, our new school. Right in plain view of all, it perched on a hill, instead of being hidden in a hollow.
When the summer work was done and it was time for school to begin, not one child was willing to stay home; All were cocked and primed, washed and shined, and rearing to go. A new era in of our school had dawned; each pupil was anxious to participate--as well as some parents. The whole community was involved as school was off to a good start for the year 1922‑23.
Time for youth plodded on; but for the aged, it was swiftly moving. Year by year the seasons seemed shorter and shorter while the indolent got spring fever before planting time or before a new crop was ready with roasting ears to grit. This kind of man could hardly keep the wolf from his door. Time and life in the hills and hollows went forward. (Gritted bread was made from corn just before it lost its moisture to become hard grained. Many folks made their own gritting boards. WHY)
We were off to a good start; yet something vital was lacking for me: food for the soul! as well as food for the body. We need a both for the well-rounded man, woman, boy or girl. This was my way of thinking. Up to now, social work was stressed; were we supposed to leave the old trail and be on a new one? How to introduce the subject of religion without offending was the question.
Most of our community, who were Christians, were affiliated with the Regular Baptist Church which wasn't favorable to Sunday Schools; I prefer calling it Bible School. As Easter approached, I conceived an idea of getting up an Easter program. It was a simple program; we sang Easter songs and read the Bible. Though few families participated, those that did seemed to have enjoyed the time we spent together. I suggested meeting every Lord's day for more of the same. All agreed, and we proceeded to meet regularly. I had a friend who sent me The Sunday School Times from which I charted a course to follow; also other literature was sent which I appreciated; the following is some I will pass on:
Life's True Philosophy
To make the most of myself
To do good to others
To please God
Twelve Things to Remember
The Value of Time
The Success of Perseverance
The Pleasure of Working
The Dignity of Simplicity
The Worth of Character
The Power of Kindness
The Influence of Example
The Obligation of Duty
The Wisdom of Economy
The Virtue of Patience
The Improvement of Talent
The Joy of Originating
While this was a beginning, it was laying the foundation, of an efficient and informative Sunday School in connection with our community and school work.
M. P. Humes, Youth's Friend
In the vicinity of Carr Creek Community Center, as we moved through the year 1923, a youthful visitor came from over the mountains, "to see what she could see" and learn that what she could learn. She tarried, was a guest for a season, went away for awhile, returned, and was adopted into our community as a citizen. Before long, she acquired a piano and was gathering our young people together at the Center for vesper hymn sings. I vividly recall a phrase in one, "forgive our feverish ways." Some forty years since, that phrase, could be applied even more affably; our youth aren't as calm now as they were then. Parents would be much happier to have them at such gatherings than at some car outing. Perhaps to a drive‑in or something more alluring than hymn sings where they might blend their voices harmoniously in such meaningful pleasure.
Those days are not forgotten by the youth and families to whom Margaret P. Humes meant so much throughout her sojourn at Carr Creek Community Center. She was interested in community life, visited our homes, learned the problems of our youth, and tried to
help them meet their needs.
Her influence was, to our work as a whole, of inestimable value. Though numberless, I am going to name a few of her outstanding contributions which I happen to know she performed or was instrumental in getting done. It was she who interested that splendid organization, The Daughters of the American Revolution, D.A.R., in our work, all of which if I could enumerate them would fill a book.
One the D.A.R.'s outstanding achievements, along with the help of United States Daughters of 1812, was the Flax Patch project. Their assistance to the CCCC project, I mentioned earlier in regard to me preferring to call the Civil War, as it is commonly called in the South, "The War Between The States" Once the D.A.R. had adopted our work into their program, they were ever ready to lend a helping hand whenever needed. Therefore, I am unable to list the many ways they assisted us; I feel sure it is safe to say they had a part in all we accomplished.
Miss Humes, a member of the D.A.R., personally did much to advance our urgent needs. She was responsible in getting a much needed auditorium erected on the point of the plowshare "flat." Later it went up in flames, which could have been arson. Only He who knows all KNOWS. It was a regrettable loss; it had served in later years as the manual training shop. I do hope manual training
will be a required subject in every high school in Kentucky. Also, I can say as much for Home Economics.
Miss Humes financed her own trips on speaking tours and trips to get others interested of our work. She was instrumental in acquiring excellent workers and teachers from beyond the mountains. Two examples are Mrs. Hogue and Miss M. A. Beecher both devout Christians, excellent teachers, and inspiration to our Sunday School.
Then, there was Aunt Karen Raney who introduce new dishes at gatherings in the community, and I'm sure for dormitory meals. I can think of so many fine people we were privileged to meet, love and know, because Miss Humes adopted our community. We would have fallen far shorter than we did in reaching our goals had she not joined us. I hope all feel the gratitude I do; we owe her from the sincere depths of our hearts for her service, especially service to our young people.
Also, she applied herself to teaching secular studies as well as hymn singing. I could go on naming her many kind deeds and the list of fine teachers and workers who answered that "Macedonian Call": to come over and help us! I might leave out some, and for that reason I say in behalf of all, I hope, THANK YOU--which seems a puny expression of our gratitude.
I know many of you, who knew them, have gone the way of all the earth as Joshua said. Yet, it is a great consolation to relive happy memories, without which this would be a life of continuous gloom. The greatest consolation are the words in I Cor. 2:9."But as it written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love HIM". I love HIM, and I know His spirit is within me to guide me throughout my allotted time on earth.
Carr Creek Community Center Activities
As we speed through this fast changing world, with a little more sunshine along the way, I may touch only a few high spots on the way of the seven‑league boot traveler.
As the year 1923, came to a close the hilltop above the globular flat, on which the Francis cemetery is located, was crowned with the new dormitory for girls, most of them orphans or semi‑orphans. It was named Singing Carr, doubtless so named from the poem someone wrote about "singing on the line." In time it took in those who lived too far away to walk, or in later years when busses came into use, those too far to walk to get the bus. This was, indeed, an asset to those so handicapped; they not only had food and shelter but also training in general house keeping. Each one had an assignment and learned what was required. Everything was done orderly and efficiently, they cooperated as one big family.
When the school year of 1924 began, a small number of the students were ready for high school; when state requirements were met, Carr Creek Community Center was able to grant a high school diploma.
In 1926, the dormitory family had increased to the extent, that a new wing was added to the Singing Carr Home, which gave it a much larger kitchen, dining room, and extra sleeping room.
During the years 1926 through 1928 several achievements occurred at Carr Creek Community Center. First, a boy's dormitory was erected. Now boys, also, might have the same advantages as the girls. The graduating class of 1927 numbered only seven, which suggested a happy omen, since the Bible stresses seven as a perfect number. One instance of the importance of seven is found in Matt.18:22 in which Peter ask Jesus, " How oft shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Till seven times"? Jesus said unto him, "I say not unto thee until seven times: but, until seventy times seven". Isn't that a gracious admonition? We all need to remember those words and humble ourselves and be ready to apologize to our fellowman and to our Lord who will abundantly pardon weak needy creatures who grieve the Holy Spirit by sinning.
When the day of graduation came, there was no display of caps, gowns, or rings as in the year 1969, when sixty‑three marched the isle so adorned. Neither had we any baccalaureate sermon. The most important message of the year. Neither was the class of 1927 honored by a commencement speaker of renown; a neighbor W. C. Francis, was asked to address the class. He was willing to help but remarked, "I have never before been asked to speak on such an occasion." He made some favorable remarks and comments to the teachers and class alike, excused himself, and bowed out. While none was disappointed, it was a new venture.
In 1927 inhabitants of Carr experienced a devastating flood; all who were living on the mountainside were most thankful that they weren't living in the narrow valley. We appreciated all the more the flats in the lap of the mountain.
Opportunity and persistence remained the watchword. Yearly graduating classes increased. Also, the teaching staff increased; included among them were Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Morgan. Mr. Morgan served as the manual training teacher and basketball coach.
Mrs. Morgan was an admirable primary teacher. We kept climbing with every round going higher and higher.
The year 1928 was a banner year of generosity from the Gettysburg Chapter, D. A. R. and the Robert Fulton Chapter U. S. D. 1812. The school house and teacherage were built on Flax Patch; that, in itself, was an outstanding accomplishment for one year.
Buildings were but the beginning of what was accomplished. More people moved in to partake of the opportunities offered. The whole of the hollow (Carr's Fork) was transformed; old and young alike were learning; experienced leaders came into our midst, cooperation ensued, the economy improved, and we were spiritually enlightened.
The Bible admonishes us through the words of Jesus, "But seek we first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness,; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matt. 6:33. Herein lies the secret of our needs and how they are supplied when we have committed our way unto Him. Who knows better than we the things that are good for
us, which might not be the things we think we should have. The Lord has let me live long enough to see the wisdom of those words, for which I am most deeply thankful. Remember what Samuel said to Saul,
"Behold to obey is better than sacrifice. I Samuel.
It is most gratifying to see a healthy growth in a work so near one's heart which meets vital needs. As the years came and went, each had his designated assignments to achieve; these usually began when farming was over and continued until it began the next year. (Here Mrs. Francis is talking about students in the school who will be learning in a time and place which she was instrumental in creating. WHY)
Carr Creek Basketball Champions
Another feat of 1928 was when our manual training teacher, Oscar Morgan, coached our basketball team to victory and won national fame. This was the most outstanding achievement of the early days of Carr Creek Community Center. The team won the district and regional tournaments and was runner‑up in the state tournament and went on from there to the national tournament in Chicago
The following are a few obstacles which it had to overcome that was quoted by the "Chicago Daily Tribune, "They had only eight boys out for practice; a manual training teacher, their only coach. They had to practice out of doors in all sorts of weather. Their only basketball goal was a hoop nailed to a rude backboard. Here's the record these eight Carr Creek boys already have achieved. They played eighteen straight games and never used a substitute or called time out. They never had a player put out of a game on fouls. They won the divisional championship of their state, and went to Richmond and won the regional title. They won the division B championship of Kentucky, and came to Chicago, and in their first game defeated the Indian team from Albuquerque, N. M. and last night swept the boys from Austin, champions from Texas, with its 1,500 prep teams off their feet".
Again quoting, "They didn't even have uniforms, until the fans at Richmond bought them. They didn't have expenses for the Chicago trip until Lexington fans raised a fund. Texas had a strong, fast, smart team, but Carr Creek had that and more. They played like wild men". When the game ended Texas, who had been picked to win, came out behind 25 to 18. Once more from the Tribune, "But the score, surprising as it was, is only one of the minor surprises in the most unusual basketball stories that has ever been told".
These are the names of those boys as the "Chicago Daily Tribune" gave them without their first names; I am adding them: Shelby Stamper, Gilas Madden, Zelda Hale, Ben Adams and Gurney Adams.
The "Tribune" stated, "The nearest post office is eight miles away". Which is typical of many reports going out of our eastern Kentucky mountains which lead people visiting from outside to make remarks of surprise when they find these things to be untrue. The
post office, then, was in sight of those practicing ball boys; it was called Dirk and was named after the son of Rebecca Francis Cornett, However, she said they misspelled it. His name was spelled Derk. The"Tribune" concluded with, "Carr Creek? Where is it? Well, sir, a basketball team is putting it on the map". Sure enough they gave occasion to having Carr's Fork renamed CARR CREEK in their honor. That too was accomplished in the year of our Lord l928.
(Beginning with this next paragraph and ending with the last paragraph before the poem, it seems that Mrs. Francis is using information from a bulk mailing which was sent out to contributors years before she began writing these memoirs. WHY)
We have no intention of being boasters, far from it, but with the year's growth, we feel our contributors would like to know of our progress. We endeavor to inform them of our yearly additions and achievement as they occur.
We have acquired about 35 additional acres of land, and during the year 1929, new additions were added to the girls dormitory, enlarged the dining room and kitchen, and added to our dormitory which gave added sleeping room which will enable us to add students who might want to attend. We have done this as funds were provided.
In 1930 some urgent problems were solved. We now have a year- round nurse who resides at the school; this addition is another cooperative effort by friends, county and community. Her services are not restricted to the Center; she goes throughout the county wherever emergencies and illnesses occur. She may be in the saddle most of the day and her travels may take her to the farthest-most hollow, Also, when a school group is to be vaccinated, she is on the job. She has little leisure time.
From the 1927 graduating class to the 1930 class, inclusive, we have had a total of 30 graduates, the majority have gone or are going on to college. Indeed, this is most gratifying. Thus, we have high hopes of continued growth and see progress in our work, as we look over the eager faces of our students, who seem to enjoy the opportunities they are so kindly receiving at Carr Creek Community Center each year. This spurs our desire to help them grow.
The way was dim ere you came our way:
You made us happy, by your stay.
New roads were opened narrow and wide;
And we pursued what'er betide.
Thank YOU every one and all;
Thank you for answering our call.
Our Maker has a way of seeing us through;
When our desire for Him is staid and true;
And to Him we'll forever look,
When our road is narrow and but a crook.
There are still diamonds in the rough;
Who need polishing and a buff.
Mountains have long since shut us in;
But a new light has dawned within;
Showed us the way out, to a wider view;
For which we are most Thankful unto You.
A New Decade
"Through many dangers, toils and snares I have come," is a phrase sung with feeling and has echoed from these hills and hollows for generations and in many instances could have been applied literally. We were entering a new decade of toiling in the work at CCCC. A new phase of living was introduced, which was received with gratitude and deep appreciation. I personally believe it was conceived from a compassionate heart. However, criticism came, as well as praise; which was nothing new sun. Regardless of whatever good comes from something new, there are always those who criticize. Our Lord was criticized. He is our example in conduct; we should remember this when we are critical. This is one of man's weaknesses, he doesn't remember this in most cases.
I'm sure many remember the various three capital letter organizations that existed in the Depression. They were the initials of various work projects that brought pay checks to meet family needs. In many case it was an opportunity for some to earn their very first money; they welcomed the opportunity. Many of them were mothers who had married young, as far too many are doing a score and ten years later. They had large families for which to work; money a husband earned was spent on the family with little or none to give to the mother to spend as she thought. She knew the circumstances and didn't expect it. Some of these organizations gave her the opportunity to earn this so-called pen money. There were no opportunities for her to earn money had she wanted to until these organizations created the possibility
Two of these organizations were the WPA, NYA; the last named was an excellent program for high school drop-outs. It was very, very good, indeed for teenage boys who could do manual labor. Their work brought out sweat too and took out of them some he-man energy. If such a program existed today, there wouldn't be as many cars parked along our highways and byways. They need overseers too, to keep them busy while they are at work. To tell them to hold a tool if an inspector comes around, is poor advice; work while you work rest when it is needed. So it was and so it is. I don't at all approve of doles. We should help those who are willing to help themselves. Some will stand around and watch others trying to lift something with all their might and main (strength) and won't even grunt for them. They need work to keep them fit and start their lungs taking in oxygen like the bellows in a blacksmith's shop.
Some have asked what has been Knott County's greatest asset? In my opinion good roads, education and Christianity. I might add, that answer is from observation and experience, since Knott County
and I have grown together from our infancy. These three go hand in hand and are quite needed for progress everywhere. The railroad too has value; even though it touched but a corner of the county, it added in many ways and should be considered.
We need to stop, look, and listen to see how far we've come in so short a time. Our progress bespeaks much for our pioneer fathers, who braved the isolation of this vast wilderness to live as they pleased as long as they weren't infringing on the rights of others. The majority knew how to do just that. It has been said that it takes all kinds of people to make a world; and gradually all kinds have tread "Where angels feared."
The most outstanding achievement during the second decade of Carr Creek Community Center was that a nine room high school of split native stone was erected with WPA labor and sponsored through the efforts of the Schremerhorn family of Michigan. They came to the dedication and brought a lovely United States flag. "True friends like ivy and the wall both stand together or together they fall". The Schremerhorns proved themselves to be interested in our mountain youth; they were true friends..
The NYA erected a stone piered bridge across Carr which linked our campus, with the main highway. It was greatly appreciated. What an asset! We had been crossing Carr on a shaky swinging bridge, and anything that had to be hauled by wagon or truck was forded across the creek. Not only did the NYA do this good work but they also built a stone bridge across the ravine that connected the first and second flats. This bridge replaced the rustic one that had spanned it. Both these bridges were financed by our very kind friends, organizations of the DAR and USD 1812. As we look at these today, can we forget such kindness? They stand as a memorial to each and everyone who had a part in their erection. Today, they are under the jurisdiction of and maintained by the county. The road has been re-graded and blacktopped; it is used about as continuously as the main highway. On the main highway, coal trucks shuttle back and forth at the rate of sixteen and twenty an hour. Other traffic, pickup trucks and passenger cars by the score travel our roads This is the life at Carr Creek in 1970.
For the benefit of our young people, especially those of our homeland, I would like to share with you the experience of my conversion. I was a young girl in my teens; I was living at Hindman at the time when I was privileged to attend my first revival. I heard the message as though it was directed to me personally. I was much concerned, my heart burdened with sin; I was a sinner, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23.
I didn't know how to be saved. I had been to "Old Carr Church" and heard them tell of dreams when they joined the church, but I had no dreams to tell; neither, had I read anything in the Bible about dreams in connection with forgiveness of sin. When the
invitation was given to go to the "mourners bench," I went and I wasn't the least bit ashamed. We were told to pray, but my burden remained. Between services which were held in mid afternoon and at night, I searched my Bible for an answer.
I was familiar with my Bible's many interesting stories; I had been a Bible reader since I had learned to read, and I am happy to say that was at six, if not before. The Bible was about the only book in our home beside the "Blue‑back Speller".
Our father added a young folks Bible with those wonderful stories, about David and Goliath, and of Joseph and his brothers, and many others. There were pictures; one was of Jesus "Weeping over Jerusalem"; seeing, I wept too. I am sure God spoke to my heart through them.
But none of these that were focussed on my mind, relieved me of the burden weighing on my heart. I was deeply sorrowful and repentant, and in faith, I committed myself unto Him who came to seek and to save those who are lost. St. Luke 19:10. Read it; I haven't quoted verbatim. I read in St. Luke 12:8 again. Whosoever will confess me before men, him shall the son of man confess before the angels of God. That was it. I took Christ into my life, as MY Lord, and to a mid‑after noon service, I went and professed my faith the only true and living GOD.
My burden left, my heart was so light, I felt I could literally fly; a love for the lost and Christian brethren came into my heart such I had never known. I was indeed a new creature in Christ Jesus.
I started praying about every problem and decision I had to make. And I must say, in all sincerity, I have seen my prayers answered many times. My next concern was what church to join or with which to affiliate myself. At every opportunity, I went to "Old Carr Church" to listen to their messages. One of which I never forgot: when Brother Ira Combs; related his experience when he was called to preach.
As he told it, he was expressing my very own calling which I hadn't taken seriously; thinking the Bible didn't advocate women preachers not realizing it does say in Titus 2:3‑4, "Aged women, teachers of good things; that they teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children."
I understood, also, from their messages that the Regular Baptist weren't favorable to missions; that was hard for me to understand when the Bible is so plain on that, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." Mark 16:15. Isn't that simple and plain? And those words were spoken after Christ's resurrection. However, their message on repentance, as that of John the Baptist, Jesus, and His Disciples when He sent them to preach, were always appropriate and interesting.
In Hindman I attended Methodist services, Epworth League, and Presbyterian Sunday School. I didn't go to see and be seen, I went to listen and learn.
When I was married and went to Oklahoma to live; there was a revival in July after we arrived the previous February; I attended and joined the church: a missionary Baptist Church. I was baptized
July 15, 1906. I have conscientiously tried to live my profession; yet, I realize I have made many mistakes. The sad thing about that, we have to make them before we see them. Therefore, I would plead with you my dear young people to, "Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth," Ecl. 12:1.
I have tried to share with you the joys from my youth, of having a FRIEND that sticketh closer than a brother. Wont you drink of the water, also, that our Lord offered the woman at the well?
We are living in perilous times, "because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour". I Peter 5:8. Profit by my experience, "Live and let live."
Flax Patch and Its People
Since Flax Patch is now a part of our community, or at least our school district. I want to take you over the mountain the way the children will be coming to school. We will start near where the creek is crossed at the "flats"; we'll be crossing the mountain up through Lick Branch and panting for breath when we get to the top of the first climb.
The path zig‑zags through laurel, ivy we natives call it. It is so pretty when it blooms in cup‑like clusters of pink and white. If we cross the mountain while the rhododendron is in bloom, we'll want to pick one to sniff its pleasing fragrance.
When we reach the top of the first climb and feel the spring of the soft gray moss under our feet and the pure fresh air in our faces, we will want to linger and feast our eyes on the view from there. We can walk side by side for a few steps; then, although the trail is somewhat wider than at the bottom of the mountain, we must walk single file again. At this point along the trail, orange flowered azaleas and scattered blueberry bushes grow. When we get to this climb, we have reached the topmost bench of the mountain and will walk around it for a quarter of a mile or more.
If it is springtime, we will want to walk leisurely along to admire earth's beauty: wildwood flowers and lacy ferns that grow on both sides of the path. Perhaps, a frightened chipmunk will scurry to his lair; the male grouse can roar like distant thunder as he beats his wings--some say on a fallen tree or log; others say against his body. Doubtless, the hunter knows; I don't. Many times the hunter has lured the grouse from his habitat to beat no more.
At the end of this bench, we are in a gap from which we will descend to the foot of the mountain on the Flax Patch side; the path will be in a forest all the way. When we are about midway of the hollow, which is about two and one‑half miles long, we will arrive at the home of the Hiram Adams family.
From Hiram's we will proceed up stream, and I will name every family in the order each is located. The road is mostly in the branch (stream) with a walking path along its side. We will need to cross the branch now and then.
The next residence, perched on the side of the hill at the right, is the home of Isaac "Bud" Parks. The Bill Kelly home is a
short distance beyond. After we pass Bill Kelly's, we cross the branch and go up a bank (a short rise); a little way farther on the left, Monroe Kelly lives. A short distance down on the right Ben Smith resides. Next, is the home of Ben's brother, Barnes Smith. Since they are the sons of Jermiah Smith who lived just over the mountain from them on the Carr side of the mountain, I suppose Ben and Barnes were the first two occupants of Flax Patch.
John Lee Parks, a son-in-law of Barnes, lives with Barnes, who is a widower. The next family is Cicero Kelly's. Then, we come to the home of a widow, Lucy Ashley; she is one of the oldest residents. As we continue our way toward the head of the hollow, we come to the home of Tom Gibson. His family is the last one living on Flax Patch.
As the name suggest's, I understand the Smith's had a few patches of flax planted on this hollow in early days. Hiram Adams, the hauler of the lumber from the mill to the school site, was the first resident to leave Flax Patch.
After Miss Marsh's arrival and a convenient day came, she and I went to Flax Patch. It is amazing what can be done when someone who cares has ability to get work done. Not once did we think that day we would see as much change. In less than a decade a two room school house and a cottage of four rooms for teachers had been built from large boulders that were scattered around the base of the mountain. This was done at no expense to residents of Flax Patch. This rivaled the improvements at CCCC. These improvement were accomplished in 1928. Competent teachers were acquired for school age as well as older folks.
In 1931 a community worker came to Flax Patch. A worker she was! She was industrious, capable, and energetic: her name should have been "Work." She visited homes, served as nurse, advisor, or in any way she could be of assistance. With help from the two teachers already there, she turned the cottage into a recreational center. It was a model of order and cleanliness. She conducted sewing classes for the older girls, helped them remake clothes for their families, and tutored a class for young men who had dropped out of school as boys.
Amid all these activities, she sensed a need for a Sunday School. She applied her qualifications as a child of the "King," (God) and brought the families of the "dark Hollow" together on the Lord's day to study His word and learn of their Creator. Regular attendance of fifty or more adults and children was as it should have been. She was a God sent servant, indeed!
During those early days of Flax Patch activities, it was my privilege and pleasure to visit that new "Capital" over the mountain.
It was a lovely spring day; only two days before an April shower had given the earth such a refreshing bath that the warm sun was rapidly forcing life into dormant rootlets, and swelling huge buds of the buckeye that would soon flaunt their patch of green amid the dark shades of leafless trees. Maple trees were already showing their red tints on the mountain's slopes. Birds were singing sweetly as they flitted here and there among the forest.
We did not go all the way down to the mouth of the branch. Instead, we circled around a bench (steppe) to a point that took us straight down to the cottage and the school, which was only a short distance below.
An exclamation of surprise at seeing us rose above the sound of the rippling stream at the foot of the hill. It was a greeting to the oncoming guests, who smiled in recognition and paused to view the surroundings.
We expressed our admiration and were taken to the "capital," a spacious two room building, neatly kept, equipped with electric lights, running water, and an Edison Victrola. On the walls were the Sunday School honor rolls with gold and silver stars depicting Sunday School attendance which indicated that fifty per cent of the population of Flax Patch had been in regular attendance.
"Fine! Super fine!" exclaimed one visitor, "If they did that, up where I came from, Pennsylvania, they would have to knock out the back of churches and add on".
We went to the basement which had a large coal bin and furnace to warm the thinly clad youngsters who gathered there daily, to
be tutored by capable college graduates.
We returned to the cottage the "executive mansion," of the community worker, a silver haired, gentle woman who beamed with the satisfaction of knowing a community of fine people. A people who had been tucked away in an east Kentucky mountain hollow. What she was doing could not be reckoned in dollars and cents.
She told us how, recently, she had worked making collars for nineteen shirts for a sale of second hand clothing. She said, "Those shirts are sent to us from men who work in offices; they prefer putting on a clean collar daily; this way they get longer service from their shirts between launderings. The men here want collars attached; I cut the collars from tails of the shirts and mend the tails with other materials which won't show. See my new machine? A friend sent that to me". As we looked on the stone buildings with pure crystal water piped from a spring farther up the mountain, we knew she had been sent also.
She seemed perfectly happy as she talked; she had her trials and knocks from her public life; but she learned to right about face and adjust herself for whatever a day might bring forth. She did this seven days of every week; those seven days spelled a seven letter word: SERVICE. Her name was Mrs. M. Hogue. She was a Friend:
Who toiled long hours their clothes to mend,
But infirmities put her service to an end:
While a senior citizen she had served well
In so doing had taxed her strength.
Later when asked to address a group of men
She said, "Good morning boys".
They smiled and wished they were, right then.
The occasion happened to be on "Mother's Day".
And she too smiled, and said "This is the Flax Patch way."
The Lost Missionary
I suppose God has so decreed there are no indispensable; there will always be someone to take our place, more or less efficient. There will be someone to build on our foundation. I feel sure there is not one of us who wouldn't want the material with which they build to compare with that of I Cor. 12‑15, the sense of which says "when it is made manifest, it will stand the test."
So it was when Mrs. M. Hogue left Flax Patch and another missionary was sent to our community, Mrs. Prescovia Hogg. From what she accomplished, I assume she was a God‑sent servant also.
She arrived in 1936; the first time she crossed the mountain to Flax Patch someone was with her. She was sure she could go alone. On February 15th, when the snow was, perhaps, three or four inches deep, with bag in hand that Saturday afternoon, she started leisurely climbing the mountain. At that time there was a sled road to the head of Lick Branch where Marion had cleared and tilled a corn field for seven or eight years. Well do I remember being there one summer with two of our younger boys when it came a thunder storm. We took shelter under a tree that had been cut or fallen; lightning struck a walnut tree less than a hundred yards away, directly in our path. It split the tree from the top to bottom into splinters which scared us. We took off down the mountain in double quick time.
Crossing to Flax Patch seemed so easy to us, we thought Mrs. Hogg would have no difficulty; she seemed to feel no doubt herself about finding the way alright. She reached the top of the climb where an inviting stone, almost square, lay just beyond. Later, she made it a point to stop there, lay aside whatever she was carrying, rest awhile and breath a prayer. She told us later she called it her altar. On this day, she drew her coat closer around her and paused to look with awe and admiration on her altar. Then, she moved on.
Everything was quiet and still as she descended the other side of the mountain. At length, she saw a building and stopped to look about. She thought to herself, "I saw no house before until I had crossed styles over two rail fences. (Here Mrs. Francis interjects, "such as Abraham Lincoln made in whose honor, only yesterday, I heard one of these sturdy sons, of the mountains rehearse that ever famous Gettysburg address." WHY) "I must be lost." She retraced her steps to the top of the mountain and never noticed as she passed the less noticeable path she should have followed. When she looked about, she concluded that she had found the place where she had missed her way.
She continued on and on, as there was a plain haul road and a corn field. She walked thorough the field where the mud was even worse. On the farther side of the field, she crossed a wire fence and gazed at the summit of the mountain but could see no trail. Like a child, she began to cry; the day fast waning. She stopped again and wondered if she should yell: "Lost, lost, lost!" Would anyone hear her if she did.
Doubts rose in her mind; she feared night was going to find her in the woods. She remembered thinking she might encounter a moonshine still. If so, she thought, "There would be no other shine." Rationally, she walked down the fence line, through a trackless woods. She stumbled, dropped her bag, fell and cried, "Lord take me back to civilization."
Somehow she seemed to see the leaves looking different, and followed on until she found a cow's track, which was soon lost. "On" was the watch word. The silent shades of darkness would soon be upon her. She listened for familiar sounds of a bell; in the distance, smoke rose lazily over the tree tops. She came to a field, and a few yards farther a coal mine. From the mine a road led down; she followed it with tired trembling limbs. The road led right to the door of friends.
She passed our barn before she got to our house. When she saw Marion, she said, "And what are you doing here?" She thought she was on Flax Patch. Instead, she was back where she had started two and one‑half hours before. She arrived at our house with tears of joy and praises to God for deliverance. She tearfully related this experience while she rested.
Her work on Flax Patch was mainly with the young people; however, she visited in homes and prayed with their occupants. She encouraged them to come to prayer services and join in the singing of hymns. One was "We'll Understand It Better By and By."
She learned the road well as she crossed the mountain to get mail and do other business. She often rested at her altar, which is no longer there. A slip (mud slide) came on the mountain at that very place and it rolled into the branch where it rests today: in the year of our Lord 1970. It looks to be about five feet tall and about two feet square.
Through her efforts to arouse interest in the Christian religion, in the spring of 1936, she had Clarence Walker and his song leader, a young man by name of Lloyd Haynes, come for a series of services. Preacher Walker lectured on "The Trail of Blood." They were sent by Dr. Martin, who was doing mission work in the Kentucky mountains. A revival of the spirit ensued. I was privileged to attend all services. One afternoon it rained; they thought, "Mrs. Francis won't be here this evening," but she surprised them: hungry people, who are too long empty, want to be filled. Rain won't stop them. At the conclusion of the revival, a number of people had made professions of FAITH in our Lord, and a dam was made to baptize those who wanted to be.
Mrs. Hogg continued her services until she was stricken with gallstones and had to be carried out of the hollow on a cot to where she could get transportation to Lexington to a hospital.
After she left, James Howell came Flax Patch to render his service. In doing so, he found himself a wife and his sister found herself a husband; both of their spouses were members of the Parks family.
As Flax Patch was inhabited by the grandchildren of pioneers, the few remaining families are grandchildren of the first families
to live on Flax Patch. They have all the conveniences of modern living, electricity, phones and automobiles. The few that are left drive out in a car instead of trailing along beside the stream..
The foregoing is but an example of changes brought about in the last thirty years to this section of eastern Kentucky. Coal mining and trucking has been the life stream of this section. Often they are attacked and criticized by some as devastating the environment. Some folks are even made light of for being able to build brick houses, "without architectural designs." Coal mining has been the only thing that has kept many descendants of our pioneers in the mountains.
We have had no riots and few delinquents; we are a transformed people through education and the privilege to work; and our mountains protect us from the ravages of storms. In these hollows and narrow valleys of our everlasting hills, we have fresh air to breath for which we THANK GOD.
My First Vacation
I am going to give an account of a leisurely trip two of my daughters and I took from Carr Creek the summer of 1937. I began in my youth to jot down important things I did, and I think it is interesting to compare the cost of this vacation with prices in 1970. We were sitting a mile from Kentucky Highway 15 in front of Carr Creek, Kentucky, post office at 10:30 A. M., July 1, 1937. The speedometer was reading 28,059 when Ophelia stepped on the gas, and we sped adventurously westward. We stopped in Hazard, supplied ourselves with travelers checks, a few other necessities, and took off.
Our next stop was in Lexington where we picked up Daphne who was coming from Berea where she was a junior in college. Ophelia purchased a new tire and a most essential utensil for such a trip in the hot summer, a water jug.
As we passed our beloved state Capitol, the sun had passed out of sight. We were comfortably attired that evening for the weather was chilly. We admired the new bridge we crossed. As we slowly mounted the hill on its westward side, the bridge looked too low for rampaging floods we sometimes have.
We arrived in the admirable tree shaded town of Shelbyville, Kentucky, where we lodged for the night. The next morning we were up and on our way before towns people were astir. We were on Market Street in Louisville shortly. Not regretting our early arrival, we had the pleasure of seeing Louisville at an early hour. Huge trucks loaded and unloaded tons of luscious fruits and vegetables.
Before we leave Kentucky, I want to pass on, some amusing signs I noticed along the way: in Breathitt County, "Eat, Drink, and Gas"; in Campton, Kentucky "Stop, Gas, with Profit."
We bought 11.2 gallon of gas in Louisville for $2.56 and crossed the Ohio River for a 20 cent toll. Then, we were in Indiana
clipping off the miles. We stopped at Blue Ridge Inn at 8:30 for breakfast which cost 30 cents.
At twenty minutes of 12, we crossed the Wabash--so famous in song--into Illinois and bought 7 gallons of gas for $1.31. We were in the midst of sheaves of golden grain on all sides.
We stopped in Olney, Illinois, bought a quart of oil for 26 cents. Before we reached Carlyle, Illinois, we had seen the greatest extent of level land and sheaves of grain as we had ever seen before.
Before we crossed the bridge to St. Louis, we had passed vineyards as well as fields of grain. The bridge toll was 10 cents, the time was 5:10 P, M. as we entered that dismal city on U. S. Highway 50. There were no traffic lights, only policemen standing in the middle of the street directing traffic; it was a most unfavorable time to be in such a jam. Ophelia said it was like being at a ball game. I expected our fenders to be ripped off any minute. It was a trying experience for the driver, Ophelia, but we made it safely to the Big Chief hotel in the village of Pond, Missouri about 6 P. M.
Our supper cost $1.79, and we decided to stay all night even if it was a little early, The cost of our room was $2.00. We left the next morning at 4:30; and how we did enjoy that early morning. Before the sun peeped over the eastern horizon, we were traveling westward on U. S. Highway 66. Since we had left the Big Chief, we had bought 16.8 gallon of gas for $1.85. We stopped in Cuba, Missouri for breakfast at the White House Cottage.
The most colorful and attractive advertisements were displayed in this area through which we were traveling. Also, there were funny names of cafes in the foothills of the Ozarks like "Snorts," "Devils Elbow Inn," and "Blue Moon Camp." Then, we came to a most beautiful camp in Lebanon, Missouri, Nelson Dam Village. All along the route were the most elaborate and gay colored advertisings imaginable; it was quite attractive.
We stopped at Red Bird Camp for lunch and bought a quart of milk for 12 cents. We stopped again at 1:40 P.M. for gas, 13 gallons for $2.10.
We were in the Ozarks mountains, which look more like our east Kentucky mountains than any we saw on this trip; however, they didn't seem to have the variety of trees nor were they as large as our trees in the Kentucky mountains. They were mostly oak.
As we neared the foothills, we came to very attractive swimming pool which we supposed had been built by the CCC's. Daphne, a very good swimmer and a holder of a life saving certificate, made as though she would jump out of the car and dive in; a moment later, she looked behind her with a sigh. Then we came to a most beautiful camp, "Nelson's Dream Village." It was too tempting to pass without focusing the kodak. I was much interested in the brown and tan stones from which the buildings were very attractively veneered. The stones were pieced together in a zig zagged pattern; black cement held them together.
Highway 66 took us through Springfield, Carthage, and Joplin. There were other attractions: huge piles of ores with odd looking tipples and entrances to the ore mines. These looked lifeless and dry.
All day long we had noticed what looked like rain clouds in front of us; by the time we reached Oklahoma at 3:30 P. M., we smelled the dust. The farther we went, the more it had rained. As we arrived in Claremore, Oklahoma, puddles of water still stood in the street.
In Vinita, Oklahoma, we bought a quart of oil for 30 cents. We arrived in Tulsa about 8 P.M. on Saturday, the 3rd. We stayed with friends until Monday afternoon, and said, "Hat's off to Tulsa." It was the cleanest city we saw on this trip.
We visited Collinsville, twenty miles north of Tulsa, from where we left for Kentucky almost 24 years before. It was then a thriving smelter town in 1912 and 1913; now, it was a ghost town with most of the buildings gone.
Returning to Tulsa's airport, we saw a big east bound plane land, unload, load, and take off. We saw a beautiful Methodist Church on Boston Avenue. Its needle‑like spire reached heavenward. We saw the home of the rich oil men of Tulsa, and noticed with interest the quietness of the day; it was the 4th of July.
When we left on the afternoon of the 5th and were out of the city, the heat was like a baking oven; without exaggeration, at no time did we feel heat as hot than on the outskirts of Tulsa.
The car was greased for 75 cents, oil changed for $1.30, and gas for 10 gallons was $2.10, total: $4.15. We were now on our way to Davenport, Oklahoma, the town where we arrived from Kentucky 31 years before. We were entertained by good friends from Carr's Fork in Knott County. Lo and behold, soon after we retired a nerve racking wind roared in which reminded us of the night we had all been in a storm cellar decades before, when a late comer came down the steps to a dimly cellar and called out in a quavering voice, "full house are we all here?"
On this night, it was the hired girl who came downstairs to my room, all nervous and upset. She had been in a cyclone. It got on my nerves too as I remembered how such storms had effected me when we lived here. The storm blew over without bringing any rain to the dry earth.
The next morning we drove over town and saw an old neighbor and kind friend, Grace Swartz, who lived near a wooded area on the eastern side of a town that had grown since our days there.
We went a mile beyond Kendrick, Oklahoma, to a farm house where I had seen hail fall in balls three inches in diameter. An
old man was leisurely walking from his barn to his house when one fell right in front of him. It barely missed him; he quickened his step to reach the house.
I noticed how the caterpillars had eaten leaves from the trees leaving only stems--which reminded me of the time, I had seen the nasty things three inches long and more crawling toward our house
by the hundreds. After seeing all this, I wanted to move on to a good dinner.
Going through Chandler and beyond, I noticed the red dirt faded to purplish hues. Dirt had more of a red color as we drove beyond Oklahoma City. Water melons grew in this red soil. After the water melons, we saw a field of broom corn, something we had never seen before. We would have liked to linger longer in Oklahoma City to admire life size paintings we had seen for some distance as we approached the city. Also, there were other attraction, but we were going to Wichita Falls, Texas, that evening, and time would not permit.
Before we came to the BIG state, evening shades were about us; it was 8:30 P.M. by the time we arrived in Wichita Falls. We stayed at a tourists camp on the western side of town. A lady showed us a cottage without a garage. When we said something about the price, she seemed to think we weren't going to take it. She walked away without another word as if to say, "take it or leave it." She was "as independent as a hog on ice." We took it at $2.50 for the night.
The next morning, we got in touch with Samuel Francis, a nephew and cousin, with whom we breakfasted. After filling our gas tank with 10.25 gallons of gas and added a quart of oil, we left Wichita Falls about 10:00 A.M. that morning.
We veered southwest until we were on Highway 80, which we traveled to Odessa, Texas, the "boom town." Of all the towns on our trip, none seemed more progressive. On our way to Odessa, we saw fields of corn, some already cut, some with the blades rolled up from heat and drought. In Odessa, we were privileged to visit, in-laws and cousins as well as Kentucky friends. Jeptha Amburgey, who had married Betty Francis, Marion's sister, and his brother John had gone there many years before and acquired several sections of land when it was open to homesteaders. There was no Odessa or anything else then; now they were honored with a street named Amburgey Street. They had profited from the boom.
Jeff, as Betty called Jeptha, had retained his famous Kentucky, marksmanship. He could still kill crows on the wing. During the Depression they had gone to Oklahoma to work, and he delighted in saying he let off the first shotgun blast in Oklahoma at Christmas time. It was a custom in Kentucky to create a noise of some kind on Christmas Day, the louder the better. They liked this custom in Oklahoma. With his shot, he started the custom there, and Oklahoma City boomed at Christmas time. Doubtless, there were many Kentuckians there who were quick to catch on to an old habit.
At 7 A.M. July 9th, we continued westward on Route 88, for
36 miles we only saw two houses. We had heard so much about tarantula spiders and rattlesnakes, we were looking so hard to see some that when we passed a dead crow Daphne exclaimed, "Oh, I saw a rattler!" We said "No," but she insisted, "I know I did". To convince her, Ophelia turned around to look at the dead crow. We laughed and said, "That ought to teach you a lesson . Never argue
so strong on the positive when it's more often negative." No doubt, she had seen the car fan the crows feathers as we passed.
As we looked out over the wide expanse of sky, it seemed to hang so low. I thought of the story, when the animals were in such confusion that one said, "The sky has fallen. I thought, if a piece should fall, we wouldn't have as much as a tree to catch it. We were crossing Pecos River at 9:10 A. M., and stopped at Pecos for gas, $2.26; and a quart of oil, 35 cents.
Soon we came to mountains where it was 19 miles to a service station and another 30 miles to the next. We did see some sheep and horses at a water hole before we reached El Paso, the last Texas town near Mexico's border. For a little distance the road was shaded with cottonwood trees; its cotton sure was flying. It was the whitest of any I had ever seen. Before reaching this tree lined lane, we saw our first adobe houses; the better ones looked real nice. El Paso had flowers and looked so full of life it might have been hailed a paradise when compared to the long stretches we had seen without any sign of civilization.
Before we left El Paso, Ophelia had the car lubricated and refilled with gas and our jug replenished with water and ice. We were on our way about 4:35 P.M. We entered New Mexico along side of the Rio Grande River. It looked so clear and refreshing, we would have liked to have waded awhile. In the meantime we had seen a herd of goats--our first time to see that animal. We were in mountain time, turned our watches back an hour and put miles behind us. In Las Cruses, we saw our first glassed service station. Near Las Cruses we read a sign, "This is God's country, don't drive through it like hell." We could understand why one would be driving at high speeds during daylight hours because of the great distances between towns. Who would want to be out in this wilderness at night.
We crossed the Rio Grand River and were climbing a mountain when a black tailed rabbit crossed our path, another first for us.
When we arrived on the mountain top, we saw what sand storms were like. The storms had piled four and five feet high dunes around and near the tops of clumps of mesquite. Also, abrupt changes occurred in the species of cactus.
We spent the night in Deming at the Deming Court; room $2.25; supper, $1.38. The fare I am giving was for three of us. A garage adjoined our cabin. It was very nice, in fact, one of the best we found. We bought a paper to find out if Amelia Earhart had been found; but alas, she had not!
We rose the next morning by six A.M. July 10th, and was off to an early start. We crossed the Continental Divide at 6:50; it was beginning to rain. Stopping in Lordsburg, we paid 76 cents for breakfast; gas was $2.10; 1 quart of oil, 35 cents, and off we went. A prosperous looking small town, Lordsburg is 61 miles from Deming. I wondered what industries supported these little towns we were passing through. About all we saw for miles and miles were cactus.
We entered Arizona at 9:20, after going through the customary routine, of queries and inspection at its border. We were on Highway 70, which took us through mountains and another inspection
at Duncan. At Safford, we were spellbound to see men wearing such rich colored shirts of all hues--a fashion that never came to our part of the country until years later. (During the 1930's many western states required knowledge of your finances and destination at their borders before they would allow motor traffic to pass through. Each state had its financial problems, additional ones were unwanted. WHY)
Our next stop was at Coolidge Dam which was of much interest to us who had never seen such before, and I am quite sure this project meant much, yes, very much to the people of that section.
From here we stopped at Globe, Arizona, where we purchased a quart of oil for 30 cents and prepared for a mountain climb, which proved to be the most exciting event of our entire journey. Before we started the climb, we passed a copper mine, and were told it was worth millions of dollars.
Mount Hutton lay before us 5,501 feet high, and a black storm cloud was coming up over it. We read the speedometer to see how far it was to the top and began the climb. Up we went with little or no vegetation along the highway; rocks were on every side. We climbed up, over and around this mountain for more than three hours. Finally, we reached the top and marveled at the huge boulders which had the appearance of having been rolled, tumbled, and tossed there by water. The speedometer indicated we had come eight miles when the storm cloud hit us with blinding rain.
On the other side of Mount Hutton, what a contrast! Vegetation was plentiful, and we saw farms below us. At Devils Canyon we went through a tunnel. When I saw a small rock the rain had loosened and fallen into the road; if ever I wanted to scream, it was then. I wanted to say, "Step on It!" But I had the presence of mind to know Ophelia was driving under exasperating conditions and with taut nerves; I refrained from saying anything at all. No one spoke during this ordeal; soon, we were beyond the rocks that could have fallen straight down on us.
As we rounded an S curve, we saw a rushing torrent coming down the mountain. I said, "We had better get out of here, and get ahead of this!"
We were again in vegetation after skipping through a section of non‑vegetation and still going down the mountain. We neared the mouth of the canyon and left the torrent. Rain had been light here. It was getting dark as we left the canyon and wondered if we were going to get out of this wilderness before darkness. Our fears were allayed when we came to a junction where there was a zoo, and the sun came out.
We got out and looked at the animals which were reptiles and birds, if I remember correctly, they were native to Arizona. There were brown and black bear, a wild hog, a porcupine, and half dozen kinds of monkeys, a mountain lion, and a coyote. There were love birds, eagles and pigeons. One which attracted me most was a black bird with an upright tail that spread out like a fan. The rest of its feathers curled or frizzled. It wasn't as pretty as some of the other birds. Also, there was a common owl. Come to think of it, I'm doubtful they were all native. The animals moved restlessly in the
confines of their cages. This junction was Mesa, Arizona, which is now a part of Phoenix
Then, we were in Tempe, the location of the state university. Later we had the privilege of touring the university. Somewhere in this vicinity was a rather attractive park, although it lacked the greenness we were accustomed. Cactus and stone is about all they have with which to build a park. Then, we were in Phoenix, our journey's end. We stayed in the country with a lovely lady in a charming brick home with green grass and trees. This was more like home. We were shown Phoenix north, south, east and west. We drove along irrigation canals, amid vineyards and orchards of orange, grapefruit, lemon, and date. Visiting the Biltmore Hotel where celebrities and movie stars come for the winter, we were told they were gone for the summer; only the caretaker was there. We were allowed to explore the hotel and nearby lovely stone cottages where those who preferred more seclusion stayed. From the Biltmore Hotel we saw Camelback Mountain with the wailing monk near its head.
In the southern section of the city, we traveled up Lookout Mountain where we could get a good view of Phoenix and a charming valley with rows of citrus trees, palms and scattered buildings. We drove past buildings where tubercular patients came for relief and a cemetery in which a grave was marked with a triangular marker of white brick about eight feet high or more. It must have been the grave of a prominent person. We saw the attractive home of the famous Wrigleys and numerous other attractions. We enjoyed every minute of our time in Phoenix; most of all the pleasure of my sons, their brothers, Wallace and Forest.
Time to visit was running out; on Tuesday July 13th about 6 A.M. we were on our return trip. We wanted to miss Mount Hutton; so, we turned south to Tucson; I used to call it "Tukson" but, Arizonians call it "Twosun," and Twosun it must be. The road took us through giant Saguaro cactus with formidable arms reaching skyward. They looked to be great‑great grand fathers; some were said to be from 200 to 500 years old. After having heard so long of it being a health resort, we were not too impressed with Tucson. I supposed there was more to it than met the eye. One thing for sure it gets the sun and trees are few. Tucson is located on top of a hill.
As we left Tucson, we passed the veterans hospital and sped on into a wilderness. We had learned by now, these cities and towns about which we had read were the only places anyone lived. To our surprise, we came to a pine covered hill and entered the unique town of Bisbee, Arizona, which is built on both sides of a canyon. It is the center of another copper mining district.
We journeyed on to Douglas, another copper mining center which is said to be the third largest city in Arizona and gateway to Sonora, The Treasure House of Mexico. So that we could say when we returned home that we had been out of the United States; we went over into that equally desert looking country. The only thrill I got, was seeing hollyhocks, as I had taken special note of flowers that grew in every state we passed through.
An hour and twenty minutes later we were undergoing inspection at the Arizona border at the same place where we had turned off Highway 70 to drive into Mexico.
I must tell you about passing an Indian village somewhere in the mountains we passed through. I feel quite sure it was after we went over Mount Hutton--I hadn't gotten over the excitement enough to make note of it. About all we saw was a shed made of four posts with a thatched roofs. Nearby was a school with a display of Indian curios. From the border we headed for Deming Court and obtained the same room we had as we went west. At Deming, we had traveled 438 miles toward our return trip home.
We left next morning at 5:35 and drove 390 miles to Odessa, Texas, where once again we stayed with our kinfolks. The next day, July 15th, we continued on to Sweet Water, Texas, where we veered south on a new road through Breckenridge, a clean, prosperous looking oil town with larger trees than we had seen westward, and some lakes to enhance its surroundings.
We passed through Albany to Abilene; the countryside was hilly and pine covered. It was a very hot day; we wondered where the grass grown prairies with fat cattle were that we had seen in pictures in geography books. We had not realized how big Texas was and that we had to be patient because that part of Texas was ahead of us. We stopped in Weatherford for lunch, the cost 75 cents. At 5:30 P.M. we stopped in Ft. Worth to have our oil changed; then we traveled on to Dallas where we stayed in Camp Dallas that night for $2.00. Throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area, we saw those prairies and grazing cattle.
The next day, we traveled Highways 1 and 67 and noticed the cleanliness of the countryside with palm trees set around culverts. We were on our way to Greenville, Texas, where we stopped and had the car greased for 75 cents and bought 12 gallons of gas for $2.16. Our breakfast cost 25 cents. A welcome sign read, " The Blackest Soil and Whitest People." This was true of the soil, for it was as black as east Kentucky coal.
Near Brashear, we bought some grapes, cantaloupes and a water melon and stopped at a roadside park and ate them. It was 11:30 A. M. when we got to Texarcana, where we had our first blowout. We had the tire changed and proceeded on our way. Suddenly we were climbing onto a bridge; and Ophelia said, "I wonder if it is a toll bridge?" When we reached the top of the climb, we saw that it was. We were in a predicament: not one of us had a cent in change! A $25.00 travelers check was presented, but the collector couldn't cash it. A filling station was near the end of the bridge on the other side."Maybe I can get the money there. Once when I was out of money, I borrowed some on my courtesy card, I wonder if I can do it here," Ophelia said. Luckily, we did get the check cashed, returned to the toll station, paid the bill and moved on.
Leaving Texas behind, we entered Arkansas and spent the night in Little Rock at Traveler's Court for $2.50; Our supper cost $1.20; nine gallons of gas cost $2.16.
Next morning we were off to an early start and was soon crossing White River where "Fish Frys" were advertised. The bridge toll was 50 cents. Before we left this state, we had seen another first, rice fields. Green, vine‑clad trees looked more like ours at home. Before long, we were astride Arkansas and Tennessee in the middle of the Mississippi River, which we understood was the line between the two states.
We stopped in Memphis for breakfast, 60 cents, and were speeding our way home on U. S. 70, the Broadway of America. Toll for crossing the Tennessee River bridge was 60 cents, the most we paid for a single crossing on our entire trip. We stopped in Jackson, Tennessee, and bought 11 gallons of gasoline for $2.59.
We had a most delightful drive through an area of waving shade trees. Lebanon, Tennessee, was a very pretty town. We stopped in Nashville about 3:30 P.M. and purchased 7 gallons of gas for $1.71. Another blinding rain came up, and we drove on slowly. Many cars were stranded at the roadside. We stopped at Cookville, Tennessee, at the East End Supper Club, our room for $2.00 was very nice, food was 50 cents each.
The next morning at 6:20 A.M., we drove to Knoxville where we spent the remainder of the day and night visiting with my sisters Ellen and Eunice and my only brother, Bronson. The next day we went by Norris Dam; I was much interested in what we saw. I thought how truly the prophecies of Daniel are being fulfilled in our day. He said, "Many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall increase." We returned to the main highway and were homeward bound. At 1:20 P.M. we were motoring over a short stretch of Virginia that borders on Kentucky and feasted our tired eyes on the grandeur of our own beloved, green hills. At Pineville, Kentucky, Daphne left us and boarded the train for Berea; Ophelia added 10 gallons of gas $2.25. Prices and expenses of 1937, when compared with those of 1970, make an extreme contrast!
We crossed Pine Mountain with more interest and concern than we otherwise would if we hadn't crossed Mount Hutton. We read the speedometer as we ascended the Cumberland side; when we were at the foot on the other side in Letcher County, it was 8 miles.
At ten minutes of 6 P. M., July 19, 1937, we arrived at the place where we started July 1st. The speedometer read 33,062. We had driven 5,003 miles on this, my first "honest to goodness" vacation. We were happy to be home. On this very day one year later, there was "moaning at the bar" when my beloved pal sister "set out to sea!" (Her sister Dora, wife of Marion's brother Willie died July 19, 1938. WHY)
When I returned and took over my household duties, I was checking my silverware, as all good house wives do, and found one of my best four tine, silver plated, table forks missing. At dinner when all were present, I inquired but no one spoke. I saw some fleeting glances from one to the other. The countenance on the face of my young son indicated he knew, but, he didn't say. Finally, I found out he had wired it to a pole to gig fish. When it did
show up, it was so twisted and bent that it could never serve its former use.
The climax of this year came later, to be exact, August 13, 1937, when I became a grandmother. Jesse Davis Turley III was born. This and my vacation were enough excitement for one summer.
From 1937 To 1970
Thus far, I have tried to present our beginnings and firsts but from here on, it will be more about what followed and I will conclude with the present, 1970. It is quite a gap to be spanned. It will include another "first" which I was about to omit and don't want to leave out.
That "first" was having stepped my foot on a carpeted church at Smithsboro. It was rebuilt after it collapsed while it was being moved from its original site. I am happy to report it is self- supporting. Its members all tithe. This is another example of how far we have come in the 20th century. I suppose self supporting churches are quite common throughout our nation. I have been in churches in Arizona and Louisville, Kentucky, and have noticed many changes have taken place. (Originally, the church which was moved from Smithboro had been supported in part by out of the area donations. WHY)
About noon October 16, 1957, my husband and I were on our way to Lexington, where we would stay that night with George W. Stewart and his wife, our daughter Ophelia. Then, we were to go next day to Louisville, for a short visit with our daughters, Audrey and Erma Lee, and their families. Then, George, Ophelia, Marion and I were going on a western vacation.
On the October 19th, at about 8 o'clock in the morning, George and Ophelia picked us up, and we were on our way. George was our chauffeur on this trip, which will be described in less detail than my first one.
George was not a driver to fool around; when we stopped for the night near Rolls, Missouri, he had covered 476 miles. We could hardly believe our eyes when we arrived in Oklahoma. It was so green for it to be October 20th. We got a thrill too when we rolled onto Will Roger's Pike where the toll $1.45 and onto Turner Pike at the other end where the toll $1.40; it was fun driving them.
We came to the end of our 1,000th mile, George let Ophelia under the wheel while he took a rest. She drove for 16 miles before we stopped for the night in Elk City, Oklahoma.
In Texas before we passed a military reservation, we had come an 100 miles on a four lane highway with wide spaces between them. We could put miles behind us fast. As we neared Amarilla, we saw a vast level plain. Again, George gave Ophelia the driver's seat.
We entered Texico, New Mexico, about noon, and encountered higher elevations. One by one, George and Ophelia began to talk about their ears popping; it never bothered me.
We crossed the Rio Grand River at 4:30 p.m. and our 500th mile that day and stopped for the night at about 6 P.M. in Socorso. The elevation was 7,600 in the vicinity of Cibola National Forest. Snow came down thick and fast on October 22nd. Driving was slow going, most of it in middle of road on a mountain. Finally, we got off of the mountain and entered Arizona at about 10 o'clock A.M.
We were in Springerville, Arizona at 10:25 and drove on to Show Low, the nicest town we came to after we left New Mexico, and proceeded through a pine forest on a beautiful road until we came to Cedar Canyon. It was a rugged country, indeed.
Salt River Canyon is an earth formation beyond description; the bridge over Salt River was marked as 3,800 feet. Then, it was onward through Tonto Forest. We passed through Globe and Miami on a new highway over Mt. Hutton which has cut it down to a nice grade. One would never think it the same mountain we went over in 1937. At Superior we left the mountain behind. It was warm and sunny; the kind of weather we expected to find in Arizona. We got to Phoenix at 3:35 P.M.; because of George's driving, we arrived much earlier than we were expected.
On Monday morning, October 28th, at about 7 A.M. we were on our way, to Los Angeles, California, amid a down pour of rain--at which the Arizonians always rejoice. The rain was grand for we were going through 93 miles of desert. Our elevations went down instead of up. We were now at 22 feet above sea level, traveling through a desert. Vineyards, date and citrus orchards stretched for miles. At 12:35 P.M..George had driven 300 miles. Later, we stopped in Beaumont; our next stop was in L. A. where we visited our son Wallace and his family.
In L. A. we went to the Pacific Ocean and saw its gentle waves lapping the shore; our Creator decreed the bounds that they may not pass, Psalm 104:9. Gulls slitted through the air with their heads turned toward the sun. We were told this was their habit; I wondered if there was a reason for the birds' action.
As is usual on such trips, time was limited. We were offered the choices of going to Dizney Land or Knott's Berry Farm; we chose the latter, which we didn't regret and I recommend to anyone going to L. A. It is quite a show place: good food and entertainment. Oh, so many things to interest everyone, particularly how one family cooperated to establish this business.
You will see, too, the prospector, his equipment and his donkey, and can pan for gold. In a great measure it depicts pioneer days in California. They even had a woman wearing a white sunbonnet picking the banjo; the tune was "Love Somebody." I'm sure some old timers in our hills have heard the song.
There was a church you could enter, a door unfolded and a life‑sized Christ appeared and quoted some Scripture. I wondered if this was pleasing to our Lord. Yet, that is one the things, going on in our world.
We returned to Phoenix and stayed from October 22nd until November 5th. It was a different looking city than the one we had seen in 1937.
I want to tell you about some of the interesting places we went on this vacation, and the things we saw. A visit to our West is worth time and money one would spend. We have a great nation! See the West if you can. The Grand Canyon is wonderful and most colorful! I have a theory of my own about how the Grand Canyon was formed which is quite different from that of scientist's. I suppose it would be classed as one woman's opinion, as we hear often these days "one man's opinion."
We went to Sunset Crater, that was said to have erupted about 1610. (not sure I'm giving right date) The black sheets of lava are piled some distance along the way, like ice after and ice tide but not quite as thick as ice sheets. It was interesting to see.
Montezuma's Castle, an Indian habitation, is carved out of an almost perpendicular cliff. If you happen to be there when the exhibits are open, you would see marvelous things: a gold bar from the days of the California gold rush in the shape of a root and perhaps 15 or 18 inches in length, all kinds of mounted animals and reptiles from foreign countries, valuable jewelry, and gems. I don't recall everything at this time to tell about, for there was much more to see.
On November 5th, at 8:35, we were on our way home by the southern route. Our first stop for lunch was at a Wright Memorial. Before this we passed a radar station. Then, we were in New Mexico on highway 70; we went through Lordsburg, the Silver City, and crossed the continental divide at 2:30 P.M. We stopped about 5 P.M. at Mission Motel in Los Cruses and spent the night--a good place to stay.
We entered Texas about 7 A.M. on a four lane highway which was as smooth as butter. We went through Tornello, Texas, in country so level that one could see the road 10 miles ahead. Yellow, white and purple flowers grew along the roadside. We arrived in Odessa, Texas, at 2:45 P.M. where we stayed with relatives and attended an ice show.
We left Odessa November 10th. Texas has the nicest roadside Parks of any state I have seen. It rained most all day, but we saw lots of pretty fall colored flowers. We stopped for the night in Dallas. The next day George was not feeling well, and Ophelia did the driving. We stopped early in Texarkana because Ophelia had driven in rain all day. We drove the next day in a downpour, passed through Little Rock, and stopped in Humbolt, Tennessee, where it rained all night. We awakened to a sunny day; the first time in three days. This day, we did more stopping than any other time on the way home. I like to read markers along the way, if I can get the driver to stop. George and Ophelia wanted to keep going. Then, we were on Route 31W in Kentucky, more relaxed than usual on our homeward stretch.
The Turbulent Years
The years, as do the decades, dart like a weaver's shuttle. As our second decade of work at Carr Creek Community Center receded,
we found ourselves standing on the brink of a new era with little,
if any, consideration for the old. Scarcely anything was routine, so rapidly new ways and new things were being introduced.
We had already become used to the bulldozer taking the place of the maddock and hoe for road building, and were acquainted with the thunderous window rattling roar of dynamite blasting cliffs along the base of our mountains. This was done to carve out an automobile road that would link our community with our county seat, Hindman. This road shortened the distance almost 25 miles. These roaring blasts did not compare with a jets breaking the sound barrier which shook the whole house.
Radio made its debut and became commonplace; we delighted to hear the friendly voice of Lowell Thomas, "Good evening everybody," which gave us the news, good and bad, and a perspective about what was going on beyond our mountains. "The Amos and Andy Show" was popular in those early days of radio. Banjo picking and old songs with which many of us were familiar, fascinated our youth. This we called progress and we accepted it. These were but a beginning of what we have seen up to the year 1970.
Now, television claims more of our attention than radio ever did. In my estimation, our youth are being introduced to things they would be better off not knowing. They most certainly are exposed to crime, whereby their hearts are hardened, and should any be inclined, they are versed in its technique. To reminisce is to see how far we have come and where we put our emphasis for living our lives. The Bible says, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you". Matt.6:33
GOD grant that we may profit from our mistakes! Progress has its pitfalls; yet, we go willingly and blindly into change, for better or for worse and never once remember the adage, "Be not first by whom the new is tried, nor last to lay the old aside." Compare 1940, to 1970; Think of what has happened between these years. Disaster, disappointment, and discouragement prevailed, not only in our community, but the world has been shrouded in darkness. We had to look on while our gym and manual training equipment went up in smoke and flame. It was sickening when we consider the time and effort involved in securing them. Who can forget July 7, 1942. That morning there was continual lightning and thunder; streams and creeks rose until they covered our bottoms from mountain side to mountain side. The flood took with it all buildings etc. in its path. I remember well, Clarence Francis was called into military service, but he was granted a delay to help his mother clean up. Soon after, they disposed of their property. I considered their decision a wise one. The whole of the town of Sassafras, Kentucky, suffered loss, and cleaning up the mess was terrific.
Preacher Watson Combs saw his church building and smoke house, with many pounds of pork and other food, wash away. Only one house
up stream from Carr Creek Community Center washed away. It left vegetation along our creek festooned with quilt squares and other cotton material. Today plastic containers and other rubbish of
modern living are seen after a tide in our creeks and rivers.
A few people built houses on the hillsides; others ventured to stay and experience more of the same. It instilled into us a deeper appreciation for the "Flats".
Good roads gave us an outlet and enabled busses to transport children from our hollows and creeks to school. One of the busses, in the early years of our road, left all of those coming to Carr Creek Community Center something to remember. A bus coming down from school, failed to negotiate the curve at the point. It plunged over an all but perpendicular cliff, fell about 125 feet, and turned upside down when it landed. Fortunately, it was not filled to its usual capacity: a driver and sixty students. Miraculously, no one was killed or seriously injured. Only one girl was carried out unconscious, another girl had a hunk of flesh gouged out of her shoulder, and another walked around in shock as white as she will ever be as a corpse. These things were only the beginning of what would befall us.
It was another 7th, which happened to be December, that shocked not only our community but the nation. The report of the bombing of Pearl Harbor came, December 7, 1941. The result not only affected those called into service but also our schools. Our able bodied sons, some of our teachers, and our principal were drafted into military service. Before that horrifying conflict, World War II, ended we had four sons serving at the same time. I no longer wanted to die, as I did when as child I heard war stories, but I committed my sons to the Lord and prayed for them. I was gratified when they all returned home safely. Three of them served overseas; one participated in D Day. Not all the "boys" from our community returned; Iota Johnson, a cousin; and a neighbor, Johnny Amburgey, were on the casualty list and their bodies returned.
Many of our people made their first exit from the mountains to assist in the war effort. With money they earned, they bought war bonds and stamps. One girl made the remark, "I would do anything to bring my brothers home". They did come home but one had an empty sleeve.
While our home fires were burning low, our high school was moving forward. We had our 225th graduate in 1944. A total of 117 boys and 108 girls had graduated from Carr Creek High School; many went on to college and others into profitable professions. Our school is now controlled by the county which hires teachers and staff. We no longer have teachers solicited from the outside our county as we once needed to do when the school was controlled by Carr Creek Community Center. The county has built a lunch room which serves good meals; for this, we are most thankful. Attendance grows by the year, and four rooms have been added to our high school. I don't suppose our nation as a whole has ever before had so much in common. I wonder if our efforts were thus united to take the good news of the Gospel to all the world that greater results would be accomplished. We are living in Perilous Times!
I Wonder Why
I wonder why our forefathers came
To this vast wilderness in sun and rain,
Over foreboding mountains steep and high
To establish homes with no one nigh
While savages stalked around
And ferocious beasts pawed the ground
Seemingly, only brave men would have tread
Yet, many brave women shared their beds.
Thus a wilderness was tamed,
By men in our state named
Collins, Amburgey, Mullins too,
Francis, Breeding, Combs, to name a few.
Honorable men, mountain men, so called,
From east Kentucky's mountains walled:
Cornett, Calhoun, Smith and Day,
Jones, Pigmon, Duke and Hays
Men of renown their greats and grands
Were known as they moved on to other lands
Of which the became a part
But to their homeland belonged the heart.
Our mountains of east Kentucky ever dear,
They nourished, clad us, through many a year;
Their beauty will ever be cherished, so rare,
No matter where they go seldom compare.
Many represent little Knott
Which in their youth meant a lot;
Even endeared, thinking of Mother and Home,
Yet, time makes changes no matter where we roam.
In Memory, those mountains will ever remain
As vividly as the sun and rain
Where the dust of our loved ones lay
To be resurrected on Judgement Day.
Those East Kentucky Mountains, Most Beautiful
Those east Kentucky mountains, most beautiful of all I've seen
Exceed in beauty that of blue grass green.
Those towering mountains protected us from storm,
And shielded us in valleys forlorn.
I greet you my beloved mountains from atop Mount Pine;
You are beautiful beyond compare in autumn time
When the Master Painter strews His colors rare
Autumn of nineteen sixty-four, was most gorgeous in memory,
I'll ever cherish and adore,
And thank the Creator that I lived to see it
If I never live to see such any more.
Do you remember our Lord went to the mountains to be alone
After he was surrounded by loved ones with hearts of stone.
He went there to pray to the Father, no doubt--
The true comforter, we need day in and day out.
My east Kentucky mountains, my homeland in youth and age,
I now no longer see, I was forced to leave by Uncle Samee.
But in your bosom, lie my loved ones most dear,
Where I too as dust will return some year;
Together we will sleep, awaiting Judgement Day;
If the Lord tarries His coming, for it to be this way.
My homeland friends and loved ones are you prepared
To meet our Lord unashamed and in peace?
The following are notes from the random writing of Arlena Francis which was not included in the draft which was sent for me to edit. Apparently, either she or J. D. Turley Jr. intentionally left it out of the final manuscript. I felt it might be of some value to a future reader/researcher. (William Henry Young)
1. Arlena used I. A. Bowles' History of Letcher County as a reference for Kentucky history.
2. She relates that the post office at the forks of Troublesome was McPherson; after Knott County was "struck off" the counties from which it was created, McPherson became the county seat and was renamed Hindman for then Lt. Governor Hindman.
3. She mentions that "some say Lewis Hays was the first clerk. I know Robert "Rob" Amburgey was among the firsts. Also, "Little" Madison Pigman, among the first sherries. Judge Lilly was the circuit judge in those early days."
4. Her mother told her that Jimmie Richmond had a store in Hindman and brought the first calico obtainable. Also, that he moved to Whitesburg where she, Arlena, met some of his descendants during WPA days, "when my daughter Audrey was supervising work there."
5. Her mother's father had migrated from North Carolina after the Civil War. "entering Kentucky through the Breaks of Big Sandy, the 'Grand Canyon of Kentucky,' trudged on to an area known as Trace, where he acquired a large tract of land on which grew large trees, one a poplar some 8 to 10 feet in diameter, and when cut the stump was referred to as the 'big stump,' yet the chief memory of those days was that they had nothing to eat but bread and water--typical of the rough times many of the new- comers experienced."
6. She mentions the following families she remembered from her early life on Trace: Nichols, Day, Calhoun, Adams, Collins, Frank Perkins, Pigmon, Jones, Craft, John Combs the first state representative from Knott County--I worked for them for fifty cents a week--, George Childers, Paton Duke whose two sons were the first native medical doctors, Granville Howard, Mack Hughes, Chick Allen who was the postmaster in the late 90's, John Bailey, and Manford F. Kelley.
"John Bailey, an attorney, came along about the early 90's and built a home about where the educational building is now located...and built a ramshackle sort of hotel, livery barn...on around the branch where Paton Duke lived...which never amounted to much while he had it or afterwards."
7. Shade Combs took it (the Bailey hotel) over...he had two sons who with Dave Wooten and Sim Combs, whose mother Delphia, lived somewhere on top of the mountain in the Clear Creek/lotts Creek
area, formed a Ku Klux Klan...others may have been involved too. (They) proceeded to do what that notorious clan was reported doing in other localities--which greatly perturbed the citizens of Hindman to take up arms against them. But the clan evaded them by going to Jackson to gamble, drink and cavort. Those were not young boys but intelligent men, some courting very respectable young women of our vicinity. On one occasion Sim was in jail, and one morning he broke away and started running down the street. Elijah Hix saw him...caught him before he got shot, no doubt, saved his life. Lige, as he was called, was full of compassion and ready to help the underdog."
8. In a rambling piece of writing, she reveals the fact that the Freeland Park family, whose daughter was bitten by a snake, lived near the spring near the top of the Irishman Creek road. (See the section about Irishman for this story.)
9. Professor George Clark came to Hindman from Greenup County.
10. Paton Duke was one, if not the oldest residents in Hindman when Knott County was formed.
11. Jeptha Watts, son of Thomas Watts and Nancy Higgins Watts was the first sheriff of Knott County. "He served in that office for two terms, eight years. He was born in 1849 and died at the age of 83 on June 1, 1933 in Georgetown, Illinois. He was married to Marinda Pratt a sister of Wilburn Pratt of Leburn, Kentucky. Mr. Watts moved to Illinois where he farmed for many years. He left a daughter, Polly Ann Esterling of Morgan County, Kentucky, and Sally, the wife of S. D. Maggard. (I assume that she meant Sally was also the daughter of Jeptha Watts.)
Jeptha had eight brothers: Squire, John V., Tom, Jim, Silas, Elhannon, George and Allen Watts. Two sisters: Harriet Campbell and Vina Pratt.
The descendants of this family living in Knott and adjoining counties number hundreds. Two of these descendants are Rube and Jennings Watts.
12. Arlena states when she was a girl there was only the Methodist Church in Hindman. "The Dukes were Methodists, and "John Duke's
wife who had a voice TV could use, often led prayer meetings, and she could be heard praying all the way down in the street, when the Methodist Church was upon the hill."
Arlena reported that "a Baptist by the name of Hornsby, had a series of services there, no doubt conducted in the court house, and Cindy Hays Clark and her cousin Eva Hays Duke, affiliated themselves with the Baptist and were baptized in the creek at the lower end of Hindman. I still see them in my mind's eye, as they stood mid-stream dressed in white."
She also reported "that soon after the above event...an elderly man, from where I do not know, not even his name,
preached on the courthouse steps, and said "John the Baptist has not come, but was still being looked for."
13. She makes a more specific comment in her notes about when John Mullins came to Carr Creek, "John Mullins Sr. came to Carr when there were but three houses on Carr. His son John Jr. was 23 years old, and they lived in an old Indian shack near the mouth of Irishman." This information came from Matilda Mullins, the daughter of Samuel Mullins and the granddaughter of John Mullins Sr.
14. There are two forks of Irishman Creek; Arlena states, "The Maddens lived on the right hand fork, and the Mullins lived on the left fork. Tol(bert) Ashley lived between the two Madden families. Again, this information is attributed to Matilda.
15. The following is an account of Solomon Everage as was related by Arlena "...of all the stories told about people belonging to the first settlers...that has interested me is one which must not be generally known about Solomon Everage...A lady by the name of Sudie Knight came to Carr Creek Community Center, who became interested in the history of our mountains and interviewed many of the older folks then living in Letcher, Perry, and Knott counties...1928 to 1930 if not longer...began publishing The Mountain Magazine. In which I find the following article in the April issue, "A Comrade of the War of 1812." Which story relates the devotion of Sol Everage, a veteran of the War of 1812, who was the son of Mary Everage...the second wife of William Cornett." The following is a summary of the story:
When peace was declared and the troops ordered home, a man by the name of Love had cut his foot and was unable to walk. Only officers had horses; Love was a private. He was sitting on a stump watching his company march by on their way home. As the soldiers passed, they asked what he was going to do. He replied that he couldn't do anything that he would be at the mercy of the Indians. Sol Everage stopped, got him on his back and carried him for three days. Once an officer on horseback stopped Sol and ordered him to put Love down. Sol refused and replied, "When he put this man down I will kill you." The officer passed on without offering any assistance but bothered the two men no more. Everage and Love made it home. Later Love sent Everage a message if he would come west where he was that he would make Everage a wealthy man.
Sudie Knight heard this story from Lorenzo Dow Huff of Knott County, whose grandfather was a veteran of the War of 1812. It was also told by Dixon Cornett of Sassafras, whose grandfather John Cornett was Solomon Everage's step-brother.
Arlena believed this Sol Everage was the same man who is reputed to have asked Misses Stone and Pettit to come to Hindman. If this is true, Solomon Everage of the Hindman Settlement story would have been closer to 100 years old when Page 91
he was reputed to have walked barefooted to Hazard to invite the "Quare Women" to Hindman. There is no doubt that the Sol Everage of the Knight account is the son of Mary Everage. There is no doubt that Arlena knew him and his family background; she says, "He raised some fine daughters, and I've known him and most of his kin to the great, great generations...he was a humble man, lived his life in his own way...which may have seemed peculiar to some."
16. Arlena has the following to say about feuds, "Fortunately, our county suffered no such feuds as Perry with the French and Eversoles...the Hatfields and McCoys...there was some trouble on Carr's Fork near the head with men from Letcher in which Dick Vance was killed, and it was said Claib Jones, who lived at the site of the present housing project, was involved."
17. The first killing I recall hearing about in our town (Hindman) was that of Linville Higgins, who was shot a little ways up the left hand fork (of Carr? of Troublesome?). His family lived on the head of Irishman mountain where Freeland Parks lived afterwards and raised his family.
18. Arlena wondered where early settlers got money; then, from I. A. Bowles, History of Letcher County, she recorded the following: January 14, 1867, Auditor's Report: red fox, $5412; gray fox, $2576; wild cat, $388.50; wolves, $20.50. "There I concluded was a source of a few pennies for the hunter."
19. Arlena has a high regard for J. S. Bell, a Missionary Baptist who came to Knott County in the 1930's from Tennessee. She attributes him with having Knott County voted dry. She does have him share this honor with Virginia "Jenny" Napier, "because she had a son...whom she hoped to bring up in the fear and admonition of the Lord."
She lists the churches that J. S. Bell started as: the Mousie Baptist Church, where a converted drunkard, Rush Sloan, became the pastor' a church on Dark Hollow; the Smithboro Baptist Church where J. S. Bell was succeeded by Jesse Bourne.
20. The Maddens occupied most of the land below Samuel Mullins on Irishman Creek.
21. John Mullins Sr. bought land for John Jr. from a man named Davis.
22. John Mullins Sr. raised his family on the Trace Fork of Irishman.
23. "John Mullins Jr. lay sick in bed, and the outlaws, fanning out into the eastern part of Kentucky, removed him to the yard and without pity or mercy shot him in cold blood." This John Mullins Jr. is actually John Mullins III, for he is the son of
John Mullins Jr. the son of John Mullins Sr. the Revolutionary soldier.
24. Willie Combs on Irishman Creek, "lived to see his grandchildren grow to manhood and womanhood."
Then Arlena tells of the farewell dinner Willie's granddaughter Belle gave her friends before she left her family home on Irishman Creek. She says, "I am sure there was a tug at the heartstrings because they had heard the graves of their loved ones would be moved to one common site of some nine hundred and more which separated them to the extent that none (would) want to come back to look at the site of their childhood home..." Arlena writes a poem for this dispossessed granddaughter of the old settler: