IOOF and Knox County

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The IOOF and Knox County Kentucky

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IOOF and Knox County
IOOF Hall, from Wikipedia

IOOF and Knox County

The IOOF, The Three Link Fraternity

My legs feel like rubber bands as I climb the side of a huge mountain in Bertha Hollow in Knox County, in search of another abandoned cemetery where one of my family line is reportedly buried. The undergrowth is thick as I come upon a freshly cut road that circles through what first appears to be old stumps covering the area above and beyond me.

As I get closer I see the road has actually been cut through what is an old cemetery, pretty much lost in time. What first appeared as stumps begin to show themselves as old tombstones faded with age and covered with lichens. Some of the stones are broken, some crumbled while others are almost entirely covered with the leave debris that has accumulated over the many years of being neglected.

Dragging myself through the mess, I begin to take down information and record it in my diary from the stones as they come before me. I immediately recognize the names as past citizens that worked, lived and died while working for the North Jellico Coal Company, one of Kentucky’s largest coal corporations that began in the late 1800’s and operated into the early 1900’s.

An almost forgotten name from the past, at least for this area, began this company and is a name I have been researching for some time now.The late James Breckinridge (J.B.) Speed started the North Jellico Coal Company to fuel a major market for coal needed for steamers, heating, electricity and the huge railroad markets. The J.B. Speed College of Engineering at the University of Louisville carries his name as well as Speed Hall at Union College in Barbourville.

The tombstones here at this neglected cemetery are all that remains of an area that comprised several thousand citizens and would later be made into the North Jellico voting precinct in the early 1900’s. The town would include a white and colored school, several churches, a sawmill and a mining company. There was also a fraternity located there that at one time surpassed the Masons in membership many years ago.

As I continue my recordings of the burials, I notice strange markings on a couple of stones that are foreign to me at the time. I would research these later when I complete the work here today. Many of the tombstones we run into have symbols and markings that have a huge impact on researching our past.

One of these symbols is IOOF and a number sometimes listed below it (for instance 367.) Almost always is a carving with three chain links connected making an individual chain of three links. Three letters sometimes are placed individually into each link, F, L and T. The letters stand for Friendship, Love and Truth. The numbers that are sometimes listed below the symbol would have been the lodge number the deceased was a member of.  

The three chain links came to the fraternity being recognized as the Triple Fraternity or Three Link Fraternity. The fraternity was first began in 1851. The symbols on the stones were important during their time because it identified an individual as a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

The IOOF would provide services to its members such as burials, helping the sick as well as the care of orphans and various other necessary basic humanitarian needs. These services were not a part of our social fabric during these early years because of the lack of life insurance and public programs that are in existence today brought on by the Great Depression

Early settlers and citizens struggled at best to provide for these services and many would be left out if not for the early fraternities, The IOOF being one of these main contributors. Funerals, the care of widows and the education of orphans were services few people were capable of supplying.

The IOOF pooled their funds from memberships and dispersed these funds for expenses as well as time donated by their members. Many women were involved as well. The fraternity was one of the first to admit women. The female portion of the fraternity came to be called the Rebekah’s and belonged to the Rebekah Camps, another part of the IOOF.  

Many of the cemeteries and orphanages were owned and operated by the IOOF with some still in existence today, especially in Western Kentucky. Pineville, in Bell County,  had one at one time. Bertha, in Knox County, had an IOOF Lodge that began in about 1894 until it closed in the early 1900’s. A deed recorded in Knox County shows J.B. Speed heeding the top floor of a building to be used for the fraternities lodge.

The deed stated that if the lodge closed the property would revert back to J.B. Speed. When members of the IOOF would pass away, a declaration was made, almost always in local newspapers. It would also be recorded into the lodge records.

Many articles can be found that witness the work done by the organization. One article relates a fourth of July parade in Barbourville (1915) that describes a few thousand people who attended the parade that year. At the turn of the century, the Odd Fellows was the largest fraternity in the United States, surpassing the Masons in membership. During this period the Odd Fellows would often combine their lodge in conjunction with the Masons.

This was what happened in Barbourville in the Lawson Building. An article in the newspaper relates the story of a time capsule that was placed in the cornerstone of that building. The capsule contains records from both the Masonic Lodge and the Odd Fellow lodge as well. The beginning of Social Security and life insurance began to take away the importance of the Odd Fellows and the fraternity began a period of downsizing for many years.

This was brought in large part due to the Great Depression and the inability of many members to pay dues. Although the Odd Fellows are now in a state of growth, many people do not know what they did in the past, and in most instances don’t know that the Odd Fellows even exist. The IOOF played a large part in creating the idea of what Social Security and life insurance would become today.

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was created in Baltimore Maryland. Thomas Wildey and four other gentleman from the English Order, establishing the Washington Lodge 1. The organization was formed to help in what was then a huge yellow fever epidemic. It was set up for visiting the sick, burying the dead as well as education of the orphans left behind in the epidemic.

In the event of liquidation the members received what they had initially put into it. That is one of the reasons why many lodges have very little history to find. When the lodges shut down the original owner would regain the title in the property.

A memorial stands in Baltimore to Thomas Wildey to honor his accomplishments. The monument has a set of orphans playing at its feet. Thomas Wildey had grown up as an orphan himself and gave back to those less fortunate through his works. Many guilds hold members of certain crafts.

The IOOF was a guild of odd or different crafts. From a compassion of the betterment of humanity came forth an organization that would give hope to many where no hope existed. It is this drive for compassion that drives the IOOF int the future.

Author Marty Wyatt

IOOF and Knox County

{Did you know? Kentucky’s shortest serving governor was William Goebel.} Goebel served four days after being shot by an assailant.

Gray Kentucky History

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An article on the history of Gray Kentucky

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Gray Kentucky History
Gray Kentucky History

Gray Kentucky History

This article is about of my hometown that involves a post office, a castle, a judge, a law Suit, a Louisville capitalist and a place called Brafford Store. Hope you enjoy it and learn a great deal of our heritage.

Brafford Store and a Post Office   

Brafford Cemetery sets upon a high hill and is lush and green during the summer and spring. The sun beams down upon the gravestones in the summer with the trees off in a distance and unable to shade most of the plots. The cemetery is very well-kept with an overseer and is mowed regularly. There are large empty areas between the new stones and the older ones and one must wonder why this is. It is as if there are two cemeteries that were later combined, and they were.

The new area in the cemetery was once the location of the church that sat there and the older area was the cemetery that sat below it on the hill. The newer part of the cemetery was started just before 1906. In 1906, a newer church had been built and as years went by it came to be called Rossland Church.  Mary Victoria Surgenor Dizney described how she was giving birth to her son, Edward Dizney, while the first church meeting was in session. Edward Dizney was born in 1906.

Rossland Church

The Rossland Church was donated by the Brafford descendants. The Old Rossland Church is listed as a Kentucky Historical Site and bears the distinction of being one of the first historical sites in Knox County to be recorded. It still stands at Rossland but is in dire need of restoration. 

A newer church has been built on the main road and the old church stands idle.  The old church and the cemetery was at one time the center of a forgotten area once named Brafford Store. At one time a thriving agricultural area, little is left of it other than two separate cemeteries, an old run down church, some forgotten people and the small communities of Gray and Rossland.

Brafford Store

Gray Kentucky and the Rossland area surrounding it was once part of a town that was called Brafford Store. Brafford Store had a U S Post Office that was located at Alfred G Brafford’s general store in the early 1800’s and therefore carried his name. A G Brafford was the first postmaster of the area that lay between the Barbourville and Lynn Camp post offices.

Lynn Camp lay between McHargue Cemetery and Collier Hill. The second postmaster at Brafford Store was Thomas Balton Dizney with his wife Rebecca Donaldson as his assistant, beginning their service sometime before 1872 after returning from a trip to California and the gold rush there.

The Tavern

Apparently the post office worked as a tavern, general store and a restaurant. Newspaper articles of the time period speak of Rebecca Donaldson Dizney cooking for patrons in the 1880’s.   Alfred Brafford was a descendant of Lafayette Brafford, a revolutionary soldier who gained his plantation from a military grant from Virginia for his service to the nation. Many land grants were paid in this way. The amount of land was based on your rank in service and the length of time you served. Military grants for Virginia soldiers were granted in Virginia’s territory of what would become Kentucky.

The earliest land records show the property that comprised Brafford Store and the surrounding area was once part of a huge plantation composed of at least one to two thousand acres owned by Moses Foley Sr.  Moses Foley was a preacher and a founder, from the late 1700’s into the 1800’s, of many churches from Virginia (Holston River), Tennessee and Kentucky and was one of the early founders of the First Baptist Church in Barbourville.

The Squire

Several of his sons would establish churches of their own. Squire Foley would start one at Indian Creek.  Moses Foley J started as a minister at Crab Orchard.    Moses Foley Sr. married Elizabeth Green, the daughter of Elizabeth Lauderdale Green. The Lauderdale’s and Maitlands are the descendants and original owners of the Thirlestane Castle in Scotland. Moses would become his mother-in-law’s administrator and therefore had access to huge amounts of capital. Through his descendants the Foley property would eventually be divided and the different farms sold or settled by the heirs, with the Foley home place becoming the area called Indian Creek.

The Foley Family Cemetery is located at Indian Creek and it now bears the name “Chance Cemetery”. One of Moses Foley’s daughters, Winnifred, would marry Pearson Duncan and the area of Brafford Store would be formed from that estate. Parks Daniel “P D” Brittain would marry one of the Foley/Duncan heirs and he would become the cornerstone of the community.

A Judge

P D Brittain lived near Brafford Store and would become the first Knox County Circuit Court Judge traveling from one place to another, bringing his own staff along and holding court. About 1850, Knox County decided to establish the Circuit Court Judge position because of the time it took to travel to Barbourville for court and other business. Brittain married Melinda Foley, granddaughter of Moses Foley.

The title Circuit Judge came from “Riding the Circuit”, an imaginary circle that covered the outskirts of the county, a practice that became customary in the early days. Circuit preachers would do the same thing, traveling from one church to another to have services. P D Brittain was buried at Rossland “Brafford Store” and his grave was soon forgotten as well as his work for the county.

Brittians Resting Place

His final resting place was discovered and made known in the summer of 2011. He lies beside his wife Melinda Foley Duncan Brittain in what is now called the Phipps’s Cemetery. The children of the county attorney, a Tidwell, who assisted him in his work are buried nearby, a testament to old days forgotten.

The School

P D Brittain’s home place became the first graded school for Gray after Brittain’s death, a huge building sitting upon a hill that overlooked his vast estate.  Forest Products now sits across the street from where the old school once stood. Parks Brittain was the son of Levi Brittain, and grandson of Nathaniel Brittain, a soldier who died along with his brothers in the Revolutionary War. Levi’s brother, George Brittain, is referred to as the “Father of Harlan County”

A Louisville Capitalist

 In 1883, articles of corporation were filed and recorded for The North Jellico Coal Company at Rossland. The officers were James Breckinridge “J B” Speed of Louisville, W. N. Culp of Louisville, John P Byrnes of Louisville, William E. Grinstead of Louisville, A. P Speed of Louisville, Ancil Gatliff of Williamsburg and Green A Denham of Williamsburg.    J B Speed and John P. Byrnes were owners of a coal shipping yard on the Portland Canal in Louisville. J B Speed held many companies including one of the first cement plants. He was an owner of what would become Louisville Gas and Electric.

His relative was the United States Attorney General under Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. Speed’s family was instrumental in keeping Kentucky from joining the ranks of the Confederates. Speed Hall is named for J B Speed for his donations there. J B Speed’s wife also donated money to Union College in Barbourville and Speed Hall is part of their campus. Speed’s estate started the Speed Art Museum in Louisville. Speed’s son-in-law would become an officer for the company later on but would soon leave after becoming an ambassador to Germany.

The Executives

W. N Culp was an L& N Railroad executive. William E. Grinstead was an investor in the tobacco market among other things.  Ancil Gatliff started Cumberland College and the Bank of Williamsburg during his career. The formation of the corporation started a huge community near Gray and at Rossland and Indian Creek. The company was instrumental in Gray Kentucky History. The company embarked upon a land buying binge in 1883 that would amount to about 4 billion dollars in today’s dollars.

The Mines

The mine at Bertha and Wilton were state of the art with an electrical plant for power, air compressors for machinery and electrical powered rail cars to haul the coal to the mining tipple. The mine was union and provided their employees and families with a commissary, churches, housing, a paycheck, a doctor, as well as a white and a colored school and almost all of the other comforts needed survival. The camp had an I.O.O.F. lodge and was eventually made a voting precinct. A railroad spur was brought in on the south boundary and north boundary.

J T Gray

These were good times for a land that had struggled for many years.   When the mining camp was worked out, James Tillman Gray, a son of the founder of Gray Kentucky, took over and worked at what they would call “Robbing the coal”. This was a term used for cleaning out the last remains of the leftover coal. These were the dangerous times for coal mining.


The only remnants of the old camp today is a cemetery that is almost completely overgrown and difficult to access. A few homes that set at the mine and some memories that fade each day are all that is left. A law suit  would cast doubt upon the proper ownership of the first  settlers of Gray proper.  Upon Melinda Foley’s death the bulk of her estate went to her sister’s son. William Gray’s child inherited the estate but it was administered by his grandmother until her death. Winnifred once tried to change the will which would cause some problems later on. The Gray descendants established a town which was named Gray after Colvin Gray.

Gray Kentucky History

Melinda inherited her huge estate from  Pearson Duncan. She had been taking care of him and his wife and her mother, Winifred Foley Duncan. Melinda and her sister were step children of Pearson Duncan but he claimed them both as his daughters. The deed executed on his death was recorded but only part was recorded and handed back to her. Only after P D Brittain died would the unrecorded remainder of the deed be found. All these factors would cause a lawsuit to be filed around 1900. The lawsuit was to establish the legitimacy of the deed and paternity. It also decided if a portion of a recorded deed be held legit. It also answered whether a brother was entitled to any of the estate.


At one time there was concern that the lots sold in Gray proper were not legal. This threatened to put the community in jeopardy. This was settled in court but was re-filed again in appellate court. The final court proceeding held the first judgment to be proper. Gray would begin to thrive from that time on. Only the downturn in coal sales would begin to bring it where it is today.


The town of Gray has had up and downs. At times the existence of the town itself have been questioned but it has always bounced back.  Ghost towns exist around her and have come and gone several times while the hills whisper their silent secrets. You just have to take the time to listen closely if you want to hear them. There are people who have come and gone in our community. Many of their accomplishments and struggles have been forgotten. Lest not that we forget.

Author, Marty Lain Wyatt

{Did you know? Gray at one time had a whiskey distillery. (Parks Brittian, P. B., Farris once had one in the town of Gray.}

Gray Kentucky History

Lynn Camp

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Lynn Camp and Lynn Camp Station of Knox County

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Kentucky History and Genealogy Network, Inc. Map showing the location of Lynn Camp
Kentucky History and Genealogy Network, Inc.

Lynn Camp and Lynn Camp Station:

“Breaking The Myth”

As Kentucky counties took shape and land settled, once flourishing towns and villages disappeared leaving only traces of where they once stood. To understand the meaning of the hints that show up while researching these records and tidbits, close attention must be given to the many things that shaped these areas. Little things, like old maps that show where roadways and railroads navigated, will give a researcher a better picture of what things were “back in the day”. The wording of names, information written on census records, the names of post office personnel and especially the location of the taverns play an important role in discovering the true meanings of what is read. Lynn Camp is one village that taunts a researcher with double talk and mysterious clues. Thanks to a gentleman named John “J. K.”  McClary and a Civil War event that happened at Lynn Camp in 1862 the story comes to life. Further research also documents Lynn Camp’s true location.

Corbin has been described as the original location of the town of Lynn Camp but this is incorrect.  Corbin was known as Lynn Camp Stations or simply Lynn Camp after 1870 because Lynn Camp’s Post Office had ceased to exist after the Civil War ended, closing sometime after 1880. It is uncertain when the post office at Lynn Camp started but it was noted on a map drafted by the postal service as a mail stop over point in 1839. The post office of Whippoorwill near Corbin was located in Laurel County based on postal records. Further confusion about Lynn Camp’s location was the fact Lynn Camp was also an election precinct in the early years.  The precinct took in the area east of Woodbine as well as northern Knox County to very near Barbourville.

The northwest county boundary between Knox and Laurel County has also been moved three separate times to include Lynn Camp in Knox County at one time period and then later to include Lynn Camp into Laurel County. This county transfer see-sawed back and forth about four times.

Lynn Camp’s location is important because it gives a clue to the location of where sixteen Union Soldiers were imprisoned by Confederates for killing some marching soldiers belonging to the rebels. Lynn Camp is among some of the earliest settlements, the site of a very early tavern and post office, and ranks along with Flatlick and Stanford – to list a few. Lynn Camp lay along close to the Wilderness Road between Woodbine to her southwest, Barbourville to her southeast and a forgotten place called Raccoon Springs to her north. Raccoon Springs was near Campground in Laurel County and is on maps dated 1793. The Post Office was simply called Raccoon.

The maps of the 1860’s show the railroad completely bypassing Woodbine and the area of Corbin, running north to south but west some miles distant from Woodbine and Corbin area as well as the town of London. The old wagon road ran north to south through Woodbine, bypassing Corbin to the east and also bypassing Lynn Camp with three roads converging at Raccoon Springs. The other roadway (Old Barbourville Road) passed from Cumberland Gap through Flatlick and Barbourville through Lynn Camp and on to Raccoon Springs. Raccoon Springs had four roads converging near Laurel River suggesting a major bridge across the Little Laurel River. Along these roadways the small villages were, more often than not, locations of taverns and usually the post office would be located there as well.

Taverns were the focal points for traffic and the center of the villages. They offered food, lodging, general merchandise and supplies and mail service. The taverns offered liveries for horses and their carriages as well as feed and water for the horses.  Many had fenced lots to put livestock in pens for farmers taking stock to bigger markets.  Taverns were usually spaced about ten miles apart. Roads were rough at best and traffic averaged about one to two miles an hour. Ten miles would be about one days travel and taverns were used as stopovers as well as stagecoach stops. The owners of the taverns were usually financially well off or would be later because of the trading and lack of competition. Many taverns were used for public meetings.

The tavern owner at Lynn Camp in 1850 was Stephen Colyer. Collier Hill at Gray carries the legacy of his family and descendant’s name sake. In 1850, according to United States Postal Service, Stephen Colyer, born in 1814, was the postmaster of Lynn Camp. Stephen “S D” Colyer came from Rockcastle County, the grandson of John Colyer. John was a revolutionary soldier from Virginia according to his wife’s request for a pension. Stephen purchased his property from Samuel Ward, born 1826, and Elizabeth McHargue Ward of the McHargue Church area (McHargue’s Mill).  The property bought by Colyer had been part of Samuel Ward’s mother’s estate. It is unclear if Colyer bought the tavern or actually built it afterwards. Stephen operated his tavern himself until his death. Olivia, his wife, operated the tavern until the property was transferred to her children.  The property was sold to James Tillman “J T” Gray after Olivia’s death. A county sale shows Hugh H. Colyer, son of Stephen Colyer, as a plaintiff in a judgment that resulted in its sale in 1910. The deed description on the court auction states the property began at the Hazel Fork branch of Lynn Camp Creek where the bridge crossed the creek.  Colyer’s boarding house would take in a gentleman in 1860 that would later become well-known in his native town of Mt Vernon in Rockcastle County.

 K. McClary would serve as deputy sheriff in Rockcastle County under the term of Sheriff Lewis and be elected a State legislator for one year. He served for many years as master commissioner of Rockcastle County. McClary was also an attorney at Mt Vernon, trying some cases in Lincoln County as well. Prior to all his later accomplishments, McClary would make an appearance in Knox County and leave a mark on history. Mr. McClary and J. R. Joplin, both men of Rockcastle County, operated a store in the Colyer Tavern at Lynn Camp during the 1860’s. It was in 1862 and a meeting with some Union Soldiers that would intrigue Civil War researchers for many years to come.

In 1862, ten miles from Barbourville along the Wilderness Road, a group of sixteen Union Soldiers were being held as prisoners, accused of bushwhacking a band of Confederate Soldiers marching through the area. The group was being accused of hiding in the woods and shooting and killing the marching “rebels” as they marched by. The group swore their innocence of the crime. The rebels had been coming to the store at Lynn Camp and getting food and had consumed almost all the food available there. One of the prisoners was McClary’s relative uncle George “Hog eye” Thompson. Some of the other prisoners were Harv King and his sons. Another prisoner was Campbell Damron from Somerset who was an uncle to the Langford Boys of Mt Vernon. The Langfords were well-known in Rockcastle County and their relatives ran the first tavern in Mt Vernon. George told McClary at his store that they had not eaten in several days and were starved. Later on that day McClary raked up what was the only food available which was some cornmeal and potatoes. He cooked them up and placed them in baskets for delivery. McClary had received permission to visit the prisoners and took a black servant from Mrs. Colyer’s tavern by the name of James Colyer to help him.

Both men embarked one mile south of Colyer’s Tavern to the prisoner’s camp at “Robber’s Hill” about midnight. They met no resistance as they found the prisoners asleep. After awakening them the prisoners ate all the food and then bragged “that it was the sweetest bread and Irish Potatoes they had ever eaten”. McClary then held about an hour conversation with them, not believing he would ever see them again. He departed and went back to the tavern. He would see his uncle a few days later and find out their fate. Hog Eye Thompson said they had all been shot at “Cumberland Ford” or Pineville as we know it today. Thompson was released and would move to Missouri, returning every year thereafter to visit his family in Kentucky. It was rumored that Harv King’s brother along with some others hung six Confederate Soldiers as revenge for his brother’s death in a tree close to the Hackney Tavern at Livingston.

The census records of 1860 show Stephen Colyer listed as a Tavern Keeper. His wife is listed as Olivia. At the bottom of his household is a black male by the name of John Colyer, all collaborating Mr. McClary’s story. Census records from 1860 show Stephen Colyer owning seven slaves. Ada Gilbert, a resident north of Gray at Collier Hill, now lives on and owns a portion of the one hundred sixty acre plantation where the tavern once stood. She has furnished a very early photo of the tavern and staff. The old cemetery sets across the field from her home on a hill.

The railroad did not run through the area that is now Corbin until the Cumberland Branch was added that came in from the east in the 1880’s. The town or city of Corbin early on was mentioned as Lynn Camp Station, a train stop next to Lynn Camp Creek where the North or Southbound steam engines took on water. Only later in the 1880’s would it be called Lynn Camp after the Lynn Camp post office was gone. It was referred on some instances as the Lynn Camp Stations, plural meaning more than one station, probably signaling another station close by. Some of the properties sold in Corbin during the rush years were called “at Lynn Camp Park”.

All the postmasters for Lynn Camp, beginning in the 1830’s and until at least ten years after the Civil War ended, lived north of Gray at the Laurel County line very near McHargue Church. The area was a town, a post office, and one of the earliest taverns that existed in northern Knox County and deserves credit as a historical place in Knox County History both for the age and significance of the early tavern and because of the Civil War Event.  Now on to find the place once called “Robber’s Hill”. I don’t know, maybe tomorrow?

Author: Marty Wyatt

{Did you know?, The city of Corbin is unique in that it actually lies in three counties, Knox, Laurel and Whitley Counties.}

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