Columbia Adair County

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Columbia and Adair County, Moments in Time

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Columbia Adair County

An Article Entitled, Columbia and Adair County, Moments in Time authored by Mike Watson. Mr Watson presented this presentation before the Columbia-Adair County Chamber of Commerce, April 10, 2018

Columbia Adair County

This was an untamed wilderness, by our standards, two hundred and twenty-nine years ago when the first settlements were made here in what is now Adair County. Stout, fearless woodsmen and women made their way her under the direction of Col. William Casey and carved out a new life in this Eden of the West.

One mile from this spot a stockade or station was erected and inhabited by a Methodist minister, Rev. John Tucker, and his family, along with a handful of others. Rev. and Mrs. Tucker met untimely deaths at the hands of those who did not wish them here. That didn’t deter the settlers, it alarmed them for a time, but the flow was not stemmed.

Early Formations

Green County, our parent county, had been formed in 1792 soon after Kentucky statehood; it was a large, sprawling region destined to be cleaved multiple times to create new counties, Adair being one of these, in 1801.

Columbia might not have become the county seat, but it was an ideal location. Two game trails crossed on the nearby hill, where our historic courthouse now sits. Buffalo, the largest animals in this region, crisscrossed that hill as they roamed, and the ages-old trails were appropriated by the settlers and became the our primitive highways.

There was good water, springs and streams, so settlement was inevitable. Three men obtained title to the tract of land—Daniel Trabue, Creed Haskins and William Caldwell—and founded the town, which was named Columbia. And we were off…


Business boomed in Columbia. There were shops of various types, a factory that made nails, an integral component for a growing community, nearby grist mills, and more. A post office was established by 1804, called Adair Court House, but soon changed to Columbia Court House, and eventually Columbia. John Field was the first postmaster, a merchant, and the first jailer, for from the beginning there was need for such an institution. Crimes of varying degrees will eventually emerge in any location where there are three or more people gathered. From petty theft to horse stealing, from swearing on the Sabbath to public brawls, from trespass to murder, we had them all. But generally the peace was kept.

A paper mill was located on Greasy Creek, then in Adair, now Russell County, which operated for many years, producing various grades of paper that was used locally and also shipped down river to Nashville and beyond. Tobacco, corn, whiskey, hides and various other products were shipped to New Orleans via the Green and Cumberland Rivers and with the coming of steamboats, trade goods were shipped back to Adair County, primarily through Creelsboro.

Nearly every large landowner practiced self-sufficiency, producing almost every item needed to operate a household and farm. that not used was sold to others. Many men operated a distillery for their personal use, and for sale to neighbors, some distilleries produced on a large scale. No stigma was attached to this venture in the pre-Civil War days.


Roads were rough and was travel slow, but a trip from the outreaches to the county seat could be made in a few hours by horseback. A day by wagon. Once each month Court Day was held. This was a day for the court to meet and conduct business therefore the town was full of men and boys, trading, etc. Horse racing was a common sport and the first race tract was located just over the Russell Creek in what is now White City. Men would bring racing stock from as far as Louisville, Lexington and Nashville to race here. Big money was won, and lost. The horse industry flourished in this county from the earliest days and continues to do so today.


Education was important to our founders. The Adair Academy came to be known as Robertson’s Academy, for the Rev. Samuel Best Robertson, long-time head of the school. The Academy was located on High Street. Students came to attend the school from all across the region, and boarded in town. Students included Samuel Bell Maxey, Preston H. Leslie, and others. Many became practitioners of the law, medical doctors, and entrepreneurs. The Academy would morph into the Presbyterian College and was conducted under the direction of the Transylvania Presbytery. After that it was a Male & Female College and eventually became the Columbia School System. In the early 1870’s the Columbia Christian College was founded and grew stronger each year. Then came Lindsey Wilson Training School, supported by the Methodist Conference as well as the general population of this and surrounding counties.

Civil War Era

During the Civil War Columbia was location of a Union Army camp, Camp Boyle, and during the war many thousands of men were stationed here. being in a direct line between the railroad at Lebanon and the Cumberland River. Attorney and judge, Thomas E. Bramlette, resident of Columbia, was made a Colonel in the Army and later elected Governor of Kentucky. There were numerous incidents here and a skirmish along Burkesville Street. The courthouse narrowly escaped being burned by John Hunt Morgan’s forces. The Baptist and Presbyterian churches were used as hospitals for the sick soldiers as well as many other buildings and homes in and near town.

And all this came to pass here because buffalo trails crossed. Early settlers saw the significance of the location, a cross-roads for new civilization.

Did you know? 

That within the bounds of Columbia there was erected a pillory and stocks? 
That there is a complex cave system that runs under the entire area?
The first electricity produced for the town was at Feese’s Mill?
There was a ‘wake-up call’ every morning at 3 a.m. when a tin bugle was blown?

Columbia Adair County

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

Ghostly Actions

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Ghostly Actions

Mike Watson presents his article entitled Ghostly Actions

Ghostly Actions

The Melson Ridge area of Adair County was once called Barger Ridge, so named for the family that settled very early in that vicinity, but is long extinct here. Melson Ridge, as it came to be known, became home to the descendants of later settlers from Russell County, who bought farms in the mid-1850s, and their descendants are still living here today. William and James J. Melson, brothers, were the patriarchs of this family. James J., commonly called “J.J.” was twice married and had children from both unions. A slave owner, he fought with the Union Army during the Civil War Between. Though he held slaves, he believed in the sanctity of the nation as a whole.

First Incident

James J. served in Company G, 12th Kentucky Infantry and often stopped off at his home for rest and food with fellow soldiers while his regiment was on the move. The family cook was an older black woman named Mariah. Family lore says she read tea leaves, which was always an adventure of sorts for the young people, who swore she was always correct in her readings. During the war she would read the leaves and say, “The Massa will be here tonight.” And with no other confirmation, she would start cooking for a crowd. Sure enough, every time she made the prediction J.J. and a group of men would ride up, sometime in the evening or night. On these occasions shelled corn would be put out in a trough for the horses.

The Melsons

The Melsons were my relatives, both by blood and marriage. Noma Cape, sister of our maternal grandfather, married Haskin Melson, son of old. J.J. by his second wife, Agnes Higgenbottom, better known as “Granny Agg” to my mother and her sisters. Haskin and Noma were “Aunt Nomie” and “Uncle Hawk.” They did not have children of their own to grow to adulthood, so doted on their nieces.

My own aunt, Ella, the eldest of her family, often spent time with the Melsons on their farm, which was located only about one-half mile from her parents. She often told of three ghostly encounters from her youth.
Ella stated that on several occasions when she and her sisters and/or cousins would be spending the night with their Aunt Nomie and Uncle Hawk, just after dark, and after supper, an audible chewing or grinding sound could be heard in the yard in front of the house. They believed it was the sound of the Civil War soldiers’ horses eating corn from troughs that had long ago been removed from the yard.

Second Incident

She also told of an incident that happened to her and Aunt Nomie. She was a young teen at the time and Aunt Nomie had taken her upstairs in the old log house to find some particular item, not now remembered. While in the big room upstairs, they looked at several items that had belonged to the then long-deceased Melsons. One of these items was a huge ironstone meat platter, one that could hold an entire country ham, and had been used many years by the family.

When they descended the stairs to the main floor, the stair door was closed and would not open. As was the fashion at the time, there was no door knob, but a wooden “button” with a nail through the center and nailed into the door frame. This button could be turned to prevent the outward swinging door from opening when it was supposed to be closed. They had left it open when going up and no one else was in the house that day—Uncle Hawk was in a far field hoeing corn. Aunt Nomie said they should go back up to the top of the stairs and sit a while, which they did. After a few minutes they went back down and the door was open. Later, Aunt Nomie said she believed that Granny Agg didn’t like them looking at her things and locked them in to show her displeasure.

Third Incident

The third incident known to have taken place in the Melson house is known to us only from the story told by Aunt Nomie. She told that when Granny Agg was older, and after the former slave Mariah had died, she intended to use the colorful aprons of Mariah to make a saddle blanket for herself. The story goes that she had stitched several of the aprons together and then set up her quilting frame to quilt the saddle blanket. Once she started to work at quilting, the big frame would rock back and forth of its own accord. At first she didn’t pay much attention, but the action continued. Fearful, she finally unraveled her stitches, folded the aprons and put them back in the drawer from which she had taken them, stating flatly that Mariah didn’t want her aprons used for such a purpose and was showing her dissatisfaction.

The Melsons mentioned above, as well as Mariah, who remained the rest of her life in the household, are buried in the old Melson Graveyard.

Mike Watson, 2017

Ghostly Actions

Ghostly Actions

Wiley Watkins Deposition

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Wiley Wellington Watkins Deposition, April 16, 1869

Wiley Wellington Watkins Deposition, April 16, 1869

Ulysses Grant, Courtesy
The  Library of Congress,

The Deposition of Wiley Wellington Watkins, April 16, 1869

In the 1868 election, Republican Ulysses S Grant defeated Democrat Horatio Seymour of New York. Though the popular vote was relatively close, Grant decisively won in the electoral vote count. Kentucky went for Seymour. In the Kentucky 8th congressional district race for the U.S. House of Representatives (which included Laurel County in the nineteen counties of this congressional district at the time), Democrat George Adams was re-elected in his race against Republican Sidney Barnes. Barnes contested the outcome of the election and filed suit claiming voting irregularities in many voting precincts. Included in the contested precincts was the McHargue Precinct in Laurel County. My great-great grandfather, Wiley Wellington Watkins (1814-1896), was the precinct clerk and was one of many voting officials in the 8th district deposed as part of this suit.

Adams prevailed in this contested election. This legal case was recorded in the “MISCELLANEOUS DOCUMENTS of the HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES FOR THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FORTY-FIRST CONGRESS, 1869-70”. Several Laurel County voting officials were deposed and their depositions were recorded in this publication. The publication is part of the public domain, has been digitized and is available on-line and easily accessible using the advanced search methods of Google books search engine.

The court records give insight into the passions of the era shortly after the Civil War.  The “radicals” referred to in the testimony are the faction of the Republican Party that Grant belonged to that advocated a strong reconstruction platform.  Democrats were anti-reconstruction and advocated states rights.  Watkins’ deposition allows us an insight into his personality and political leanings that were heretofore unknown.  The following is a transcription of his testimony.

Submitted by:
Mark Anderson Watkins
Wadsworth, Ohio
December 14, 2009

The link to Google Books is here for the full Congressional Series Set containing the Court Case.

The deposition of Wiley W. Watkins, taken at the court-house, in the town of Manchester, Clay County, Kentucky, on Friday, the 23rd day of April, 1869, to be read as evidence for contested in the matter of contest pending and undetermined in the forty-first Congress of the United States between Sidney M. Barnes, contestant, and George M. Adams, contestee.

By contestee Adams:

Question. State your age, your place of residence, and the voting precinct in which reside and vote. —

Answer. I am nearly fifty-five years old. I reside in Laurel County, Kentucky. I reside and vote in the McHargue precinct, in said county.

Question. State the names of the officers of the election in the McHargue precinct, at the November election, 1868. Also state the politics of each of said officers at and before said election, and state how each of said officers voted in said election.

(Contestant Barnes excepts and objects to the taking of the deposition of Wiley W. Watkins, and all other depositions taken or to be taken at this place by contestee, because contestee Adams has not served contestant Barnes with a legal notice of the time and place of the taking of said deposition; and because contestant Barnes, on the 10th day of April, 1869, and previous to the notice of contestee to take deposition at this place, served contestee with a legal notice to take depositions in the town of Somerset, Pulaski County, Kentucky, to commence on the 20th day of April, 1869, and continue from day-to-day until the 26th day of April, 1869 ; and because the taking of the depositions at this place, as above stated, is at the court-house in the town of Manchester, Clay County, Kentucky, and sixty or seventy miles from Somerset, Kentucky, where contestant is now taking depositions under the notice served on contestee, on the 10th ‘lay of April, 1869 ; and because contestant is not present, and has no opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses; and because the evidence to be taken at this place, under contestee’s pretended notice, is illegal and incompetent evidence.—S. M. Barns, by his attorney, Clark.)

Answer. Larkin Jackson and Edward Hopkins were the judges, James McHargue was the sheriff, and I myself, Wiley W. Watkins, was the clerk. Jackson, Hopkins, and McHargue were all radicals, and at said election voted the Grant ticket for President, and Barnes for Congress. I am a Democrat and voted the Seymour ticket for President, and Adams for Congress.

Question. Give the names of several persons who were Democrats and voters residing in said precinct at and before the November election, 1868.

Answer. Hugh Elliott, Charles Kirby, Jonas Ohler, John Humphleet, George Taylor, and others I could name if necessary.

Question. Please state whether or not any certificate of any kind was appended to said poll-book and signed by the officers of said election; and if so, state whether the same was written on the poll-book itself, or on a separate piece of paper and attached to the poll-book by wafers or otherwise. State the facts.

(Contestant Barnes excepts and objects to the above and last question propounded to the witness, because the evidence attempted to be elicited is secondary in its character and not the best evidence, and is illegal and incompetent evidence.—S. M. Barnes, by his attorney, Clark.)

Answer. There was no certificate written on the poll-book, nor on a separate piece of paper and attached to the poll-book by wafers or any other way.

Question. Are your certain of this?

Answer. I am.

Question. Do you know how wafers came to be upon the poll-book when it was returned to the clerk’s office? If so, please explain.

Answer. I know the poll-book was folded up and wafers was stuck on the poll-book to seal it together; outside of the poll-book was a piece of paper put around the poll-book, and it sealed with wafers. That is the condition it was in when it was delivered to the sheriff.

Question. Do you remember what oath was administered to the officers of said election before they entered on the discharge of their duties as such? and if so, please state the terms of said oath.

(Contestant Barnes excepts and objects to the above and foregoing question propounded to the witness, because the matters and things attempted to be elicited are not relied on by contestee Adams in his answer to Contestant’s notice of contest, and because the same is illegal and incompetent evidence.—S. M. Barnes, by his attorney, Clark.)

Answer. The oath was for us to conduct the election according to law, was about the terms of the oath.

Question. Was that all the oath?

Answer. That was all of the oath.

Question. Are you certain of this? If so, state why you are certain.—

Answer. I am certain because we had no book to take the oath out of. We just held up our right hands and took the oath I have mentioned.

Question. Are you or not certain that the oath administered to said officers contained nothing about supporting the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Kentucky, or about having been engaged in sending or accepting a challenge to fight a duel?

(Contestant Barnes excepts and objects to each and all of the above and foregoing answers and questions in regard to the officers of the election being sworn, and the terms of the oath, and what the oath administered contained, because the same is not relied on by contestee Adams, and because the last above named question is leading, and suggests to the witness the answer desired, and because each and all of the above and foregoing questions and answers are illegal and incompetent evidence.—S. M. BARNES, by his attorney, Clark.)

Answer. I am certain the oath contained nothing of the sort.

Question. State whether you have ever held any offices by an election of the people of your county. If so, what offices, and state how long and when you held the same.

Answer. I held the office of constable in my district, I suppose about ten years. A portion of the time I was appointed by the county court, and a portion of the time elected by the voice of the people. I was constable when the war begun, and held it for some time afterwards.

Question. Are you or not acquainted with John F. Young, who resides and votes in the Raccoon precinct, in Laurel County, and do you know, either of your own knowledge or from general reputation in the neighborhood in which he lives, what party, during the war, the said Young adhered to and belonged to and acted with—Union, Democrat, or rebel? if so, please state.

(Contestant Barnes excepts and objects to the above and foregoing question, because the matters and things attempted to be elicited, is illegal and incompetent evidence, and secondary in its character.—S. M. Barnes, by his attorney, Clark.)

Answer. I am well acquainted with the said John F. Young; I do not, of my own knowledge, know what party he acted with during the war; but from general reputation, he was a rebel; John F. Young stated in my presence that he was a rebel, but whether it was during the war or since I don’t remember.

Question. State where the election in November, 1868, was held in the McHargue precinct.

Answer. It was held in a workshop, called Henderson’s workshop at McHargue’s ; I suppose the workshop is about eighty yards distant from the McHargue dwelling-house, and on the opposite side of the road.

Question. State whether or not the officers of election met that day at the dwelling-house of William McHargue, and from there adjourned the election to the workshop, and whether or not any public proclamation was made of the change?

Answer. They met at the dwelling-house and made no adjournment from there to the workshop that I know anything about; there was no public proclamation of the change made either at the dwelling-house or at the shop.

Cross-examined by contestant BARNES:

Question. You-have stated in your direct examination, that John F. Young, who was clerk of the election at the Raccoon precinct, in Laurel county, at the November election, 1868, said in your presence he was a rebel; how far did you live from said Young during the war, and how far do you live from him now?

Answer. In time of the war I lived about ten or eleven miles from where he lived; and I now live about the same distance from him.

Question. Was said Young ever in the rebel army, or does general reputation say that he ever belonged to said army?

Answer. If he was ever in the rebel army I don’t know it; and general reputation don’t say that he ever was.

Question. Was or not said Young during and since the war, a peaceable and quiet citizen?

Answer. Yes, sir; he was, so far as I know.

Question. Do you know, of your own knowledge, that said Young was clerk of the election at the Raccoon precinct, in Laurel County, at the November election, 1868?

Answer. I do not.

Question. Do you know who was the county judge of Laurel County at and before the November election, 1868? if so, please state who he was, and to what political party he belonged and adhered to, at and before the November election, 1868, and for whom did he vote at said election.

Answer. William T. Mooren was county judge; and belonged to the radical party at and before said election; don’t know how he voted at the November election, 1868.

Question. You have stated that the officers of the election, at the McHargue precinct, were only sworn to hold the election according to law at the November election, 1868; now please state whether or not you remember the precise words that were used when you and the other officers of said election were sworn as officers of said election.

Answer. I don’t know that I remember the precise words, but I remember pretty near the precise words, I think.

Question. Did you or not, as one of the officers of said election, feel yourself bound under the oath which you took at said election, to hold said election according to law ; and did you or not. together with the other officers of said election, discharge your duties as officers of said election under the oath which you took, to the best of your ability; and was or not said election fairly held, and free for all who desired to vote who were legal voters at said precinct?

Answer. I felt myself bound, under the oath which I took, to hold said election according to law; the vote that was taken at said election was taken freely and fairly.

Question. Was the place where the election at the McHargue precinct was held at the November election, 1868, in sight of the McHargue house?

Answer. Yes, sir; it was in plain view of McHargue’s house.

Question. Do you believe that any voter of said precinct who desired to vote, was deprived of voting at said election on account of said election being held where it was, instead of at the McHargue house ?

Answer. I don’t believe that they were.

By contestee Adams:

Q. State whether your duties, as constable, frequently took you, during the war, into John F. Young’s neighborhood?

Answer. Yes, sir; I was there during the war several times.

By contestant Barnes:

Question. For whom did said Young vote, at the November election, 1868?

Answer. I don’t know who he voted for.

Question. Does he or not claim to be a Democrat, and claim to belong to that party?

Answer. I think he claims to belong to that party; and further saith not.

One day and forty miles.

{Did you know? Clay County was at one time a powerhouse of wealth due to the counties huge salt production?} Salt was vital before refrigeration to ensure food could be preserved with the mineral. Clay County was fortunate with the presence of bountiful salt wells.

White Shotwell Feud

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The White Shotwell Feud of Corbin Kentucky

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Location of the White Shotwell Feud of Corbin
White Shotwell Feud

The White Shotwell Feud of Corbin Kentucky

The last bit of today’s sunlight slowly crawls up the back wall of the living room as it gazes through the closed curtains. As night fast approaches, my mind wonders as to what the worst could bring after what happened all day today. The cracking of black powder pistols and rifles have only about an hour ago finally subsided. As the sunlight disappears, the night sky becomes deathly quiet. I can still smell the aroma of spent black powder as it burns my nostrils, reminding me of a burnt match. The sounds of frogs in the creek nearby can now be heard, chirping out their mating calls.

Twelve unrelenting hours of gunfire and chaos have come to a close, giving a false sense of hope and security. All the residents, who have decided to stay, have been closed into their homes hiding behind furniture trying to avoid the stray bullets that have been unleashed all day. As I lay here hidden, I begin to have hopes that maybe the onslaught is over. Out of the dead silence a terrific deafening explosion can be heard, shaking pictures off the walls and sending glass from the window flying across the room.

The Chaos

I raise my head in what seems like an eternity to see if I could figure out what has happened. As I peek out the window in the dusky dark the sun is leaving a faint orange glow as it disappears behind the horizon. I can now see the White’s Store, across the street, lying in a rubble of shattered wood and glass. A hail of bullets begin, coming from hidden gunman, taking aim at anything that moves or shows a shape of being someone. Gazing out dumbfounded, my mind wanders back to remember what had started all of this chaos. I chuckle to myself when I realize it had all started from a forbidden love affair.

A loud repeating beep and I am suddenly awakened by my alarm, letting me know it is time to get stirring, awakening me from my evening nap. As I think back on my dream, the details of this feud that told to me by my grandfather comes back in detail in my memory. This feud really did happen. It did involve the overpowering of the city by armed factions. Several people were killed, a store was blown up and it would end up with the Kentucky State Militia sending troops to the city, invoking martial law. It would also cause the militia to place Gatling guns at strategic points at each end of town. The feud would cause tension across several counties as family member factions became embroiled in the feud.

The Whites and the Shotwells

The beginning of this particular feud was started when Rolla White insisted on visiting the daughter of James Shotwell. Shotwell had no intentions of allowing this relationship to happen. Shotwell was a long-time resident of Corbin and his family roots were from Rockhold, just south of the city of Corbin. The disagreement started when James ordered Rolla White from his home and stated that Rolla was not to see his daughter again. This disagreement would fester and the fatal shot that would kill James Shotwell would occur on January 16th of 1901. The shooting would happen close to the old L&N Railroad Depot but closer to the Hagans Store (Hall Watson today).

Reports from the incident shows the short exchange of words before the shooting started close by the L&N Railroad depot. The depot at that time was not located where the newer depot is now. The depot in 1901 sat farther north past the railroad and 25 underpass that is there now. There were four railroad tracks that left town and very near where the new bridge is now the tracks split into two sets of double tracks with a space between them. The depot sat in this space between the tracks almost under where Master Street crosses over with a bridge. The saloons of Corbin sat on the east side of the tracks facing the depot.

The Participants

At the time of the shooting, Rolla White was twenty-three years old and fresh out of the army and the Spanish-American War in the Philippines. White had just recently been decorated from injuries he sustained in that war. White served as a member of the 22nd Infantry during his service. Although Rolla was not a resident of Corbin, his brother owned E.R. White’s Store which sat between the depot and Hagan Store.

James Shotwell, just prior to the incident, had a wife, three daughters and four sons. There were other cases in the past, and later on, with feuds and killings that involved the Shotwell family. Two of these cases involved the killing of Sheriff Henry Hartford and the City Police Judge Moffitt. It would not go so well in this feud for the Shotwell faction.

Once the exchange of words between Shotwell and White began, the incident escalated into the shooting. They moved closer to the Hagan store when White would pump five shots (balls) into Shotwell’s gut. Shotwell would die later from these injuries. Immediately after the shooting, White went to his brother’s store and contacted authorities by telegram of the incident. As Shotwell was carried home the Shotwell boys came back and began taking random shots aimed at the White store. At one point Rolla was in danger of being lynched had not his brother come to his defense and saved him from certain death.

Involvement of Authorities

After the sheriff of Whitley County was notified, he gathered a posse and proceeded from Williamsburg to Corbin with the intention of arresting White. Sheriff Sutton, who was the Whitley County Sheriff at the time, made the trip on horseback during January, one of the worst months of the year. The Sheriff was traveling along a road that was treacherous at best. It would take nearly a day to make the trip. When he arrived in Corbin he would witness a scene of chaos.

At Corbin, the White Store had been dynamited and was a wreck. Two people had been killed by a shot through the head, one woman and one man. The dead woman was a well-known in Corbin named Susan Cox. The dead man was identified as Sutton Farris, a painter by trade. The explosion from the dynamited store had also injured three other people who had been passing by the store during the explosion. The injured were Hadley Brady, Percy Cooper and an unidentified traveling man.

Governors Decision

Sheriff Sutton attempted to arrest White and he, along with his posse and the Whites, were threatened by members of the Shotwell faction. The threats posed such a threat to the sheriff, the posse and the Whites that the decision was made to contact Lexington and ask for troops. The sheriff knew they would not get out of there alive unless they asked for help. The Shotwells were also guarding the roadways, trains and buildings so escape was impossible.

Understanding the crisis, Governor Augustus E. Wilson immediately ordered troops to Corbin. Sheriff Sutton felt it wise to wait for the troops to arrive before attempting to remove his prisoner.

Colonel Roger Williams from the Kentucky Second Regiment and eighty hand-picked men from the Lexington Infantry along with Lieutenant Henry Hutchinson and ten men from the A Battalion equipped with Gatling Guns were dispatched to Corbin on a C&O train. The infantry’s orders were to enact martial law, bring the city back to order and arrest all parties involved with the uprising. By then the faction had also grown to include some of the McHargue family. The McHargues had also backed the Shotwells in previous altercations in the past.

State Militia

When the state militia arrived at Corbin, martial law was declared immediately, Gatling Guns were positioned and manned at strategic points of the city and armed infantry took control of the streets. Sutton and Rolla White were to begin their exodus to Williamsburg in order for White to stand trial for the shooting of Mr. Shotwell. Along the route to Williamsburg, while on the train, the prisoner would have been seized and lynched had the sheriff quick thinking and his removal from the train prior to the attempt by the Shotwell members.

Arrested the next day were, John Shotwell, Charles Shotwell, Paris Shotwell, Robert Shotwell, Wes McHargue, Sam McHargue, Rich McHargue and Bee Shotwell. From the list of those arrested, only two men would be sentenced. The rest would receive mistrial except White. Rolla White would be acquitted in his involvement in the shooting.

The Shotwells who were arrested in the feud were allowed to attend their father’s funeral under the guard of the militia and deputies. James Shotwell was buried in Rockhold. After the funeral the detainees were put on a train to be taken back to jail. The remaining Shotwell faction threatened the militia, the deputies and the posse.

The Aftermath

Once Rolla White was released he went to Middlesboro in Bell County and then on to Whitesburg in Letcher County. A feud gathering of over one hundred people gathered at the Gray Depot, (Gray Ky today). Plans were made to go to Whitesburg to capture the released prisoner and enact justice on White. The group traveled to Letcher County but Rolla White was never found and would live out the rest of his life and retire and die in Tennessee. He worked at a home for veterans before his death.

Charles and John Shotwell both received life sentences after having three separate trials for their part in the White/Shotwell feud. They would serve their sentences in the State Penitentiary in Frankfort. The case would be appealed by the brothers shortly after they arrived but the appeals court judged the original sentence to be proper and legal. Charles Shotwell’s sentence was commuted early due to his contraction of “Consumption” (what is known today as tuberculosis).

Paris Shotwell would receive a life sentence in 1902 for the killing of Hiram Baker on Christmas Eve of 1901. Paris was pardoned of this crime in 1909 and was released from prison. After his release, Paris killed Deputy Sheriff Jones a few weeks after his release. It was a unique situation that the then Governor Wilson had to issue a reward for the capture of a man who he had pardoned only a few weeks prior.


John Shotwell would be pardoned on April 26th of 1906 but was charged with violation of his parole shortly afterwards and an arrest warrant was issued for his arrest. Governor Wilson would also offer a five hundred-dollar reward for his capture after the suggestion came from Whitley County Judge Browning.

During the first attempt to arrest John he was found eight miles from Corbin. John shot Sheriff W. B. Croley and deputy Zeb Ward and vowed never to be caught alive. Shotwell then fled to Tennessee and killed three more deputies in Tennessee when they attempted to arrest him. He received five gunshot wounds in a successful arrest and he was placed in the penitentiary. He died in the penitentiary after vowing to never return.

The White/Shotwell Feud would carry on later for some time as the Earls/Curd Feud before it finally died away into history.

Note of Corbin

Author Marty Wyatt

{Did you know? The Nibroc Festival of Corbin is the name “Corbin” spelled backwards?} Rumor has it the mayor was trying to find a good name for the festival and was discussing it while getting a haircut. The Corbin calendar was showing in the mirror and Nibroc was created.

Staying at Grandmas

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Staying at Grandmas
Staying at Grandmas

Staying at Grandmas House

I remember when I was growing I would get to to stay all night at Granny and Papa’s house. I always looked forward to the visit. Granny always had things cooked and left on the stove because she was afraid someone would go hungry by chance. Granny and papa had both lived through the depression and had known what hunger was. Papa had his own version of how things should work (most of them leaving me scratching my head now however).  I remember there weren’t any street lights or utility lights anywhere but Papa had sufficed and put a big green porcelain light globe nailed up in a tree beside the road and the house and in the globe was a huge clear glass light bulb. It didn’t put out much more light than our led flashlights do today. I believe he had it just for the bugs to fly around! After dark you could walk about five feet away from the light and you were in total darkness. He always made sure it was on before dark though.

Now when we would get to grandma’s,  it would be during the day and we would play in the “Branch”, (that was what the creek was called behind the house),  all day if it wasn’t too cold. On the weekends the cars would be pulling up and the back doors would be opening up before the car even got stopped as my cousins would bail out of the back seats. All of us were heading to the branch first thing.  we would play in the water all day catching minnows and crawdads and building mud dams. At suppertime, Granny would call out for you to come in. She had a huge closet she called a chifferobe where she kept clothes and canned stuff in. It seemed to me to be as big as a bedroom inside of it. It had a faint light in the middle of the room with a string you pulled down to turn the light on. Most times it had a cord plugged into the socket going to her sewing machine.

Inside the chifferobe were blankets, all kinds of canned items from the garden that year, any size, shape or color of clothes, shoes, socks, coats and sweaters all stacked on shelves or hanging from racks. The first thing we had to do was change clothes and get washed up. Now getting washed up involved taking a dish pan of water that had been heated on a coal stove and mixing cold water that had been drawn from the spring that was on the bank across the one lane dirt road in front of the house. It had a wooden lid built around the spring and you lifted a door and got the water out. That was Papa’s two main chores would be to get water in and bring in coal and kenneling for the fire. I liked to help him but most of the time I just gathered eggs from the nests scattered all around the place. Papa always thought they laid better if they ran loose.

Staying at Grandmas House

When the water was just right to wash in, we would gather close to the stove and hide behind a sheet hung up and we washed off. Granny had to wash your back, neck and the backside your knees. Then you got dressed in a clean set of clothes she had gathered for you, most of the time different shoes too. We would find out later they had originally belonged to all of our cousins, but not on purpose. Grandma would wash our clothes that we came in with and they went to the chifferobe. So you walked around with all your cousins clothes on after you changed to eat supper. Of course your cousins ended up with your clothes too. I remember being at school and a cousin would call out “Hey, you got my shirt on. Where did you get that?”. Of course it came from grandmas.

We would gather around a dinner table that looked about twenty feet long when I was little and ate all kinds of homemade and homegrown food. Granny always made biscuits in one huge pan and called it biscuit bread. (My Aunt was the one who made the regular biscuits and Papa called her “Dough Roller”). We would eat till we were full and couldn’t move and then everyone went to the living-room to watch TV while papa got the stoves ready for the night. Papa would sit with us for a bit if he was caught up. It was during one of those times that all of us finally got a solution to the Bonanza Genealogy Puzzle.

You see, for a long time Granny had thought if something was on TV then it was true and most definitely real. Papa, being a self-proclaimed Cartwright expert, knew better. Well Granny always thought that Hoss, Little Joe and Adam were the real sons of the Old Man Cartwright. Papa had tried for the longest time to convince her different but she just knew he was wrong. I mean it is on TV and it has to be real, or so she thought. She also thought that he was trying to convince her Cartwright was trying to deny his legitimate sons. She thought that was the most terrible thing that Cartwright had boys and papa was trying to claim that they belonged to someone else. This conversation had gone on a long time and always ended up in the past as a stalemate. On the fatal night in question we were watching Ponderosa and Granny looks over at Papa during a tender time in the show, and said defiantly “See there John, Old Man Cartwright can’t deny them boys, they look just like him”.  Papa looked at her and gave in saying “Yup your right Sib!” He winked at me after he said it. So that settled that huge question then and there. After Ponderosa and Gunsmoke and maybe a western or two, it was time for bed.

Staying at Grandmas House

Papa had bedded the stoves down with slack coal and he had gotten the stoves hot before he banked them. Banking the fire involved putting very fine coal on top of the fire in the stove so it would have coals to start up again in the morning. You would be sweating when bedtime came around.  Granny would put you in a huge bed, most of the time with your brother or a cousin or two, and pull the blankets up on. You had to kick the covers down to your feet as soon as she left because it was so hot. Granny’s beds had goose feather mattresses and pillows. When you got into bed the mattress and pillow would wrap around you as you sunk in. The pillows were so soft, it is just hard to describe. The quilts and blankets were all hand-made by Granny and were made from any piece of scrap she could round up. Seems like she would pile six quilts on top of you at bedtime. You would be sweating when you went to bed and the house would cool off during the night. You would reach down and pull a blanket on you. As the night progressed you would keep dragging another quilt till all of them were piled on top of you and you couldn’t roll over for the weight of them. Then you would put another pillow over your head toward morning and it would eventually be to where only your mouth was showing.

Early in the morning you would wake up by the rooster crowing (somewhere between 5 or 6, because he was on fast time) and you would wake up to the smell of breakfast cooking and papa’s poking at the stove. Papa always got up about four am to chunk up the stoves before leaving to check on the neighbors. We would lay there for a while and you could feel the house warming up. When you felt the heat starting to hit your face it was about time to get up.

Now getting out of bed involved a mad rush to the stove. You see the house would be warm but the floor wasn’t. When the covers came off you would be sweating. Jumping onto a freezing floor with wet feet didn’t mix well either, thus the dash to the stove. Hitting the floor with sweaty feet would freeze your feet to the floor if you stood still. So I would jump out of bed and go straight toward the stove and a warm stove. You could see the red tint to the pipe when you got there. I would stand there almost against it and move farther out as it warmed up. Then it was off to the kitchen to start the day!

Author, Marty Wyatt

Staying at Grandmas House

{Did you know?} Kentucky has had an active feud in every county of Kentucky and some counties with multiple feuds. The Hatfield/McCoy was made famous because it involved two states and ended up in Federal Court. It was by no means a comparison for some of the other feuds which were more costly, lasted longer and involved more bitterness, with one becoming an assassination in Frankfort of a governor.

Staying at Grandmas House

Give Us Five to Grow On!



Staying at Grandmas House

Name Calling

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An Article About Nicknames or Name Calling

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All of my uncles had nicknames and were name calling everyone.

Name Calling

My various uncles and family from my father’s side of the family have left me with many memories of antics, habits, sayings and just chance moments that leave me to chuckle as much now as they did when they occurred over the previous decades. Each one warrant a separate article to include their deeds and antics and the article would would be filled with hilarious recounts of their lives. It seemed to be a time of a more relaxed period and people always seemed to have more time to sit back and crack a joke in an attempt to see who could cause the most laughs.


As I grew up there were a ton of these chance encounters that still bring a smile to my face and a chuckle to my belly. Although many of my uncles and father are now gone on, I can still recall many of these laugh sessions from all of my uncles who became gleefully known as, Uncle Fuzzy, Mutt and Jeff, Soda Box, DuWat and a variety of others. I could not tell you what occurred to cause all of these nicknames but you can be assured that they can be contributed to some life event that was so funny to my Papa John that it deemed a nickname to be pinned.

Name Calling

My Grandmother, Sylvia, was affectionately known as “Sib”. Granny’s sister, Aunt Jennie, had passed away when her children were still small. “Aunt Jen’s” husband had also passed on about four years earlier so their kids were without their parents and ended up going to separate family members to live. My grandmother took in Harold, who we always knew as “Fuzzy” (actually a cousin but always felt like an uncle). This ritual grew to include all the grand-kids who had nicknames like, Chigger, Mink-eye, Coonie, Dough-roller along with a humorous collection of others that were steeped in some hilarious act that had been done at some point.


One of the most memorable of these names was “Wool”, a nickname my grandfather pinned on my cousin. The nickname came from an attempt to keep him out of a room that contained all of Granny’s glass what nots. Granny had moved them to a bedroom to keep him from breaking them. Wool always thought they were toys and was constantly in search of them. They tried keeping the light off in the bedroom so he wouldn’t go in there but that didn’t work. They had tried everything to keep him out of the what-nots and nothing seemed to work. Papa decided one day to hide behind the door and say WOOL in a low scary voice just enough so my cousin would stay out of the room. That worked and he never entered the room again. From that day forward he became known as “wool”.


Uncle Fuzzy was a couple of years older than my dad so he grew up more as a brother to my aunt’s and uncles than a cousin. Well Fuzzy had a whole new concept in how life was to be lived and boy was he a character! Granny and grandpa always grew a huge garden to feed all thirteen kids. The responsibility of working the garden fell upon the entire household. Fuzzy didn’t think it should work that way.

He also knew how to convince my father (dad’s nickname was Sam, don’t know how they got that from Sandlin). Fuzzy would talk dad into sneaking out of the garden and coming back to the house for an old-fashioned pillow fight. They got in trouble quite a few times for that after busting pillows and tearing up the room. I was told by an uncle that his nickname came from one of these pillow fights and him being covered in goose feathers from the stuffed pillows of the time. Papa said he was Fuzzy and from that day forward he carried that nickname.

Name Calling

The best one I heard on Fuzzy was when he was older and he drove a school bus. While waiting on the kids to load on the bus one day, Fuzzy picked up a can of black spray paint and began spray painting his shoes, or as he called it, polishing them. One of the younger schoolkids came up and asked him what he was doing. Fuzzy answered by saying “Why I am polishing my shoes”. The little boy was intrigued with the new process and asked to have his shoes polished with the paint. Fuzzy proceeds in polishing the kids shoes with the black spray paint and the little boy was on his way. The next day when the kid came to the bus he had a sour look on his face.

Fuzzy asked the little boy what was up with the sour face and the boy said bluntly “You got me in big trouble”. He went on to relate “them was my brand new shoes you spray painted and mom is highly upset with me and you both.” Fuzzy looked confused as to why there was an issue with the polish job and the ill feelings and answered back “Why that is how we always polish our shoes, I leave a can of paint lying around just to touch them up with”.

Mutt and Jeff

My family seemed to always look for the best in people. They always seem to find humor in what everyone did and made life enjoyable. It always made you wonder what would happen next. They also accepted people for who they were and how they behaved , acted or reacted to life. Often times life with them was more like one of those television shows from long ago. (The television shows is another group of stories in itself.) Two of these characters led to a nickname that was pinned on another of my uncles and another cousin, Mutt and Jeff.

All of my uncles were extremely tall with very long arms and legs. My youngest uncle was probably one of the tallest. His constant companion was the exact opposite and was rather on the shorter side. They were inseparable when young and papa nicknamed them Mutt (the shorter cousin) and Jeff (the taller of the two) after the comic strip that featured Mutt and Jeff. Mutt is known by his nickname till today (even though the nicknames got reversed)and no one even knew who you were talking about when Mutt was called by his real given name.


My youngest brother was called DuWat when he became older. He had worked around heavy equipment and didn’t hear well at all. I was talking one day in front of papa while we were goofing off one day. One of my family mentioned something that my brother had said a lot. Papa asked me who had said whatever it was we were talking about. I responded with my brother’s name. Papa said ” Oh you mean old DuWat”. I asked Papa why he called him that. His idea was for me to ask my brother what time it was. I did and my brother looks back with a puzzled look, not hearing what I had asked him, and answered “Do What?”. I cracked up and Papa had a big smile on his face then. Another great name from Papa.


Dough-roller was my aunt’s nickname. The name had come from her days growing up in my grandparent’s large family of thirteen kids. She was the biscuit maker for the family. Papa would always ask where the Dough-roller was. Another uncle was from Texas and he was Cotton-Picker. He always talked about things and everything was that cotton-picking this or that cotton-picking.

Name Calling

There were many nicknames for my family and many require a large explanation as to why they came about. My papa pinned names to everyone but it was all in fun to make each day happy and something to look back on. I hear the nicknames mentioned today and have to smile. In a certain way my papa left a legacy to remember him by. These traits were passed down to uncles and aunts because it was always a joy to be with them.

Everyday was funny and you were assured a belly roll from some funny phrase from one of them. Simpler days were these and oftentimes I look back with a bit of sadness. Sadness on the way they were then and what each day brings now. I think we all need to stop and pause for a moment and bring a smile to someone’s face. It is well worth the small amount of time dedicated to that. Who knows, we may be remembered by these deeds when we are left only as a memory to everyone.

Author; Marty Wyatt

Name Calling

Papas Coal Fired Pig

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An Article About Childhood Memories of Knox County Kentucky

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Papas Coal Fired Pig

When we were growing up, me, my uncle and my younger brother had an age gap of about three years apart between the youngest to the oldest. My uncle was the oldest and my brother was the youngest. Papa called us the three outlaws, I am sure we earned it if you knew about some of the things we got into at his house. He would shake his head at some of the antics we schemed up. As I think back, I realize that we did get into a lot but if you looked around at the times (and what the grown ups in the neighborhood were doing)  it really wasn’t that bad compared to everything else. Not only that, everyone said we were just so cute. During those growing up years, the grownups were doing things like gambling, drinking and racing cars.

It was by a stroke of luck that papa’s house sat right at the end of the of what was called the “Straight” , or if speaking of the area in its proper name,  “Rossland Straight”. Rossland was the community we lived in. Named for the owner of a long forgotten mine and landowner called Mr Ross. The area, during the mining days, was referred to as “Ross’s Land”.  When we grew up, Rossland was the self-proclaimed weekend neighborhood drag race track. And all of this was free. (It was actually the main road but everyone knew to watch for races coming at them on the weekend). At the beginning of the straight was an area of flat bottom land with trees covering it and that was called “Poker Valley”.

Now “Poker Valley” created a ton of races. Poker Valley was a wooded six acre section of bottom land that the grown men of the area stayed at to play poker all weekend. It was covered with brush and the police couldn’t see anyone. If they did there were so many ways out of there it was impossible to catch anyone. All of this is gone now (Forest Products now sits on what was Poker Valley) but certainly not the memories of the days and the excitement. We would always end up at papa’s on the weekends for the free races and weekend events. We would set in papa’s front yard and watch one race after another all day beginning on Friday night and ending sometime on Sunday, according to how many contestants entered the races.

What would start the races was the card games. You see the gamblers would get to drinking and playing cards and brag about how fast their cars would run and then it would be on. Of course the spirits they consumed would make them believe they were larger than life and made for an even better race. So according to how many players were at the games would determine how long the race would last because everyone had to race every car there.

These races were awesome! They were the muscle cars of the late sixties and early seventies and they were for sure all muscle. Sitting in my papa’s front lawn with all the aunts, uncles, cousins and even some stragglers, all of us kids would pick our favorite racer and root them on, hoping to be the winner. At the end of the weekend, when everything was over with, we were all excited and we had all week to talk about the race and what happened and who was the fastest and who had the best car. Now while the grownups were having their fun with all the excitement, we would also get into things in between the breaks in the races.

One event that sticks hard in my mind happened at the hog lot. You see, it was the fall of the year and papa had been getting his coal pile built up for the winter. It was cool at night and papa probably had about a half ton stocked up. He had some block coal in the mix but it was mainly slack coal for the most part. The slack coal was used to bank the fires at night.

Papa had been busy that day and in between races we went to the hog lot to mess with the hog. My baby brother threw a block of coal into the hog lot trying to torment the hog and everyone were surprised when the hog began to eat the block of coal. “Wow! This is amazing” is all any of us could say. “My turn, My Turn” we all called out. So we began to take turns,  each one throwing a block of coal into the hog lot and listened to the crunching sounds as the hog consumed the coal blocks  as if it were pieces of peppermint candy or some other rare treat. We would run down and catch another race and then back again when they were open to feed the hog. Back again for another race. This went on for about two and a half days of feeding the hog and watching races. Finally on Sunday it was time to go home.

Mama and Papa were out in the yard and they were seeing us off when Papa said all of a sudden “That’s why your mama was washing your hands all weekend” “Where did my coal pile go to”. We all began to explain how the hog was starving and how we found something he liked to eat and how we all helped him out and so on and so on.  Papa just stopped us in our conversation and just walked away, shaking his head explaining to us how we had fed the hog half of his coal pile over the weekend.  The last thing I remember he said was, “If you tried to cook sausage from that hog, it would turn out as charcoal” as he walked off laughing.

Author; Marty Wyatt

Papas Coal Fired Pig

{Did You Know? Kentucky ceased to exist as a name or state after the three original counties were formed.} Lincoln, Jefferson and Fayette counties replaced the county of Kentucky after Virginia divided the territory into these counties. When Kentucky became a state it was once again called Kentucky.

Papas Coal Fired Pig

Dix Headwaters

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Dix Headwaters, an Article on Brodhead Ky

A fictional story based on a true story

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Dix Headwaters


Dix Headwaters

    The story written below in itself is fiction, it never happened to me personally.  The folklore and legend have been handed down over the years and forgotten for the most part. Whether you choose to believe the legend is based purely on your point of view and opinion.  The event that has caused this folklore is fact. It did happen and it was recorded. That fact cannot be denied. Whether this is  legend  or just a myth, the fact that this part of history is brought to everyone’s attention and will not be forgotten is my most important goal.

The event can be copied to here from a newspaper or journal that was written with haste and the story would be boring. This is my attempt at bringing the event to life and in terms that you can feel, hear and connect with so it will never be forgotten. This is a legend from Rockcastle County from the headwaters of the Dix River that happened in the mid  1700’s. The area, according to distances documented  in journals from the 1700’s, places it directly at Brodhead.

Dix Headwaters

“Bob Bob White”  Bob Bob White” a gentle voice resounds through the forest, bouncing from tree to tree and then carries across the peaceful meadow that is standing ahead.  The meadow is standing full of cane poles and clad with Lazy Susan. Their bright yellow petals sway in the gentle breeze as the dark brown center turns to and fro as if hiding from me reminding me of a female flashing her dark brown eyes at me and then turning to look at the ground only to glance back again. This area is full of the local Quail running around with their little white tufts atop their head. It has a small dot in the tuft of feathers that resembles a dark eye as he walks through the grass almost unafraid of me.


Taking a slow walk through a peaceful forest and listening to the wildlife and the sound of running water relaxes me and relieves me of the everyday pressures of the real world. It is as invigorating as a hot tub to me and once complete leads you to a point of relaxing exhaustion. This happened to be one of those outings today.

The pressure at work had kinda gotten me down with everyone wanting answers. It had made me realize I had gotten into the rut of the technical world and I needed one of my forest trips to bring me back to my roots and my peaceful state of being. I compare it to drinking a cup of coffee that slowly gets cold before you have time to drink all of its contents. You have to reheat the coffee and it revives the flavor and spice of the drink. My quests do this for me. The peacefulness brings me vigor and patience to finish my everyday work.


Up over my head dance three small Gray Squirrels playing their games with each other. One squirrel would run to the end of a tree branch and jump to the next tree, stopping to flicker his tail as if daring the other to try it. The smaller squirrel would set for a moment appearing to build his courage and off he would go to duplicate his playmate. Chattering back and forth to each other as if to tell what each one had accomplished they run back to the same tree to go through the same routine.

As I walk along listening and watching the squirrels, I noticed the ground was getting softer as I came closer to the river bank, the mud oozing between my toes feeling like softly melted ice cream with its cool touch. I wondered to myself why I had decided to wear my leather sandles as the mud fills my feet. I find it to be a comfortable feeling and welcome my once rash decision on shoe selection.

More Visitors

Plodding slowly through the mud patch, trying to enjoy every moment of my miniature mud bath, a brown rabbit jumps from a patch of lilies she had been feeding on and gently hops over to a hollow log a short distance away from me. Entering the dark log, the rabbit sets just out of view and the gentle glow of her eyes flash out as she turns, reminding me of two firefly as they cast their eerie green glow. I keep watching for the rabbit to move as I casually stroll along the river bank and eventually I am looking across my right shoulder waiting for her to appear when suddenly I get the fright of my life!

The Fright

From nowhere, it seems, a loud and sudden “Flap, Flap, Flap” and the continuous clatter of clicks whistles and coos come from under my feet as a beautiful pheasant jumps in the air flapping his beautiful barrage of colorful feathers and taking flight, leaves me with numb legs and a flushed face from my adrenaline rush. My heart starts to slow down from the shock of the encounter when I notice the sun heading down the horizon. I know it is time for me to start back if I am to be back out on the road before dark.

Looking around for direction, I know i have to go right to get to the clearing I parked my car at. I spy a gently rolling incline to my right that appears to open up into a clearing and I head in that direction. As I walk toward the gentle hill I cross a patch of wild onions along the way. The gentle aroma rising from my feet reminds me of Granny’s kitchen and her home cooked recipes that were chalked full of the small garden onions grandpa raised in their garden. For a brief moment I felt my eyes tear up from the pungent aroma.

A Ghost from the Past

Reaching the incline I start to scamper up, as a barrage of small flat stones begin to slide under my feet and tumble to the bottom of the hill, making the effort double what it should be. For a moment I thought I heard some unintelligible sounds of some forgotten language and I stop for a moment. Hearing nothing more I blame the stones and continue my ascent. Finally after what seems like an hour of two steps forward and one step back I reach the top of the hill.

What awaits me is a clearing protected by the stone cliff and a small flat meadow with a stream of fresh water gushing from the rock cliff in the far side of the meadow. Beautiful green grass covers the small meadow as I peer upon its beauty. A scratchy throat reminds and tempts me to drink from the fresh mountain spring and I head over that way. I reach the crystal clear spring and stoop down with cupped hands to sample its soothing relief that has been brought on by the rough climb up the hill. The small pool of water reflects a perfect picture of my ruffled hair and sweaty brow. I peer at it for some time and get up to look around.

The Messenger

From my present view, I can see all around the entire area that surrounds this peaceful plot for what seems like a mile square. Although it is thick with forest all around me, I can see the clouds clearly as well as all along the course of the river that winds like a great snake through the meadows below. My mind wanders back to the days of the colonists and I begin to daydream and place myself as if I am some great trailblazer leading a group of settlers out west. “This is where we camp this day” I think to myself. “This spot offers security from the bottom land below with a steady source of water for the group” I explain. My throat is still dry and it brings me back to reality and out of my daydreams.

As I head back for another drink of the crystal clear water as the sun gently hides itself behind the horizon. I heard a sound as I walk but blamed it this time on the wildlife that were certainly surrounding me I thought. I listened hard and could make out the words that I did not understand.  “tsiluga ahutsi Unvsa” I heard from the empty air around me, “tsiluga ahutsi Unvsa” again I heard as a gentle breeze blows my sweaty hair back from off my neck. “Must be the wind” I thought as I stooped down at the spring now before me. The water running down from the stones creates a cool breeze that feels like air conditioning.

The Message

From behind me I now clearly hear the words “tsiluga ahutsi Unvsa”. Blowing it off again, I cup my hands and grab a handful of the clear water, causing ripples in the small pool and disturbing the reflection. I drink deeply of the water and stare at the pool to see the reflection slowly coming back. Suddenly I am horrified as I see the perfect picture of an Indian with tomahawk raised, war paint smeared across his face in bright red with solid black stripes of paint blending into the red. His eyes were glowing red as if he was out for blood!

My heart stops as I jump up and look behind me, ready to defend myself. As I turn full face expecting to encounter something I have never experienced, I find myself staring into the now darkening shadows of evening setting in.  “tsiluga ahutsi Unvsa” I hear plainly this time as the smell of meat, tobacco and alcohol is blown into my face. My heart was racing and the only thing I could think was “Flee!”. That I did, all the way back to my car.

The True Story

Arriving home that night, I was so scared at my encounter. It would be a day or so before I would investigate to find out what had happened in that area. Upon researching the subject, I found out that the traveling church from Virginia that ended up settling in Garrard County near Lancaster. The travelers had traveled along this old trail in the mid to late 1700’s. A small group of them had decided to camp at the area that Brodhead would become later on.

Some of the group decided to camp there that night. Instead of making the long nine mile trip to Crab Orchard they wanted to rest. The main group of settlers advised against this but it fell on deaf ears. That night the group  that camped at Brodhead were slaughtered by Indians. Only one man survived it. The words I had been hearing were Cherokee words. “Kill them Prisoners” it was saying.

Author, Marty Wyatt

Dix Headwaters