A Trip to Harlan County, Ky. [The American missionary. / Volume 46, Issue 9, Sept 1892]

REV. L. E. T

 We left the train at Rose Hill, Va., and after taking breakfast at the hos-
pitable home of the owner of much of that portion of the valley, we started
over the mountains. There is only a bridle path from Rose Hill, the road
being from Penningtons Gap, Va., but we went that way in order to visit a
part of the county in which my companion, an agent of the Kentucky Lum-
ber Company, is interested.
 I thought I had already seen mountain roads at their worst, but this was
beyond any former experience. We had crossed the mountain by eleven
oclock and came to the Martins Fork lumber camp, where we found about
a dozen men engaged in getting the logs out of the mountains and into the
river. This work was formerly done by the workmen of the company, but
it is now let to an energetic young man who has left his farm in Powells
Valley to engage in lumbering. His wife has charge of the domestic ar-
rangements of the camp, and cares for the men in a way that makes them
envied by the other workmen who are not so fortunate in their boarding
place. There are five children at the camp, and the parents made arrange-
ments for sending one little girl to Williamsburg when school opens in Sep-
tember. There are no school privileges there, and the surroundings are dis-
couraging indeed to the few who think of better things. The most of the
people seem perfectly contented, however, and do not care to join with the
people of Powells Valley in making a road over the mountain. When they
must go out with a team they follow the valley about tw~nty miles either to
Roast, Ky., or Pennington Gap. We met five brothers at the camp, strong,
resolute looking men, who have been raised in this narrow valley, not one of
whom can read or write, though they are accumulating some property. Another
brother, a fairly rich man, was killed a few years ago by some of the outlaws
of the Howard faction in the Howard-Turner feud.
 After a good dinner, something worth going miles for here, we started
over Big Black Mountain. I thought the Cumberland Mountain steep, but
I would have said this was impassable were it not for the hoof-prints in the path
and the remembrance of the saying of a United States cavalryman who had
seen service among the Rocky Mountains, that a horse can go anywhere a
man can, if the latter does not use his hand. After a hard climb, we rode
along the ridge for about a mile, with here and there a glance down into
some clearing and upon the little cabins among the cornfields, dismounting
finally for a scramble down the mountain over a series of rough stairs made
by the outcropping strata. Here for the first time I found the natural
obstinacy of the mule an advantage as I leaned against the bridle rein in
my descent. I also found, however, that even a mules obstinacy cannot
always be depended on.
 At the foot of the mountain we struck Caterns Greek, which we followed
about eight miles. We rode along the valley, first on one side of the stream
and then on the other, by tiny log cabins hardly higher than the surrounding
corn, and afterwards by quite comfortable looking houses, and in sight of
good wheat-fields. Twice we passed little log mills with one set of mill
stones, that made me think of the mill in one of Craddocks stories. We
stopped under a great ledge to drink at a spring that poured into a little
basin hollowed out beneath. Here George Turner was shot as he
was drinking, by Wilts Howard, who had followed him on a horse
forcibly borrowed from the pastor of the Presbyterian Church at the Court
House. Turner had just strength enough to crawl behind a rock and fire
once at Howard before he died. He was dead when those who had heard
the firing came to the place. About three miles below we crossed the creek
at Geaghers ford, where James T. Middleton was shot from. an ambush on
the hill above. He was prosecuting some men for acts of lawlessness, and
he was shot to get him out of the way. Two of those who shot him are now
in the penitentiary, one for twenty years, and one for life; one is still await-
ing trial and one has escaped.
 Just at the town we crossed Clover Fork, and passed the house of the
father of the Turner boys who were parties to the feud. Although this is
not more than two hundred yards from the Court House, a Mr. Bailey was
shot here one morning, and one of the boys wounded, by a volley of Win-
chester balls poured into the house as the inmates were coming out. We put
up at a low rambling hotel where we were very comfortably situated, and
where we met the pastor located here and other citizens of fhe place. After
our long ride, the supper of fried chicken, corn bread, hot biscuit, coffee and
buttermilk was eaten with a relish.
 The next morning we started up Clover Fork through about the best
farming land I have seen in the mountains. The valley is only about three
hundred yards wide, and the mountains rise up on each side so nearly per-
pendicular that the sides cannot be cultivated, but the soil yields fine corn,.
wheat and grass. The road for the greater part of the way follows the river
and the banks are arched over with rhododendron bushes of great size, and
by trees hung with wild grape vines. It is along this road that Mr. Warner
passed when he went through this country, previous to writing his South
and West articles now collected in the volume bearing that title. Among
other things of much interest, he mentions the rhododendrons which he was
fortunate enough to see in full bloom. It is now long past the usual time of
flowering, but we caught occasional glimpses of the daintily roseate blossoms
in the cool, damp recesses of the rocks. The mountains tower above the
road sometimes in threatening cliffs, but more often covered with dense
forests of oak and chestnut and poplar. The ridge of Big Black Mountain is
2,200 feet above the stream.
 The lumber interests are manifest in the logs scattered along the river and at
the openings in the mountains, where small creeks come down, and the former
shallows in the river are cut off with brush downs, so the logs will be confined tothe main channel and float more readily when the rise comes. Eight miles
above the town we come to the mouth of Yocums Creek, where we make
inquiries of two girls just unhitching their horses from the ploughs in a large
cornfield, for the missionary sent here this summer by the American Mis-
sionary Association. He is visiting his brother, a Williamsburg Academy
student, who has been sent to teach the free school about five miles above.
We go home with the girls to dinner, and are welcomed by the mother who
tells us to light and hitch our horses in the shade. After dinner and a
little talk about schools with the men gathered at the corner store, we leave
an appointment for Saturday afternoon and return to town. On the way
back we particularly notice, because the children are going home, the little
log school-houses, mostly without glass in the window openings, the little
ones carrying their blue backed spellers in their hands. The State has
appointed more modern text-books for the free schools, but the people cling
to their own school-book of the past with its pictures and moral tales of
the bad boy in the apple tree, the unfaithful friend, old dog Tray, and the
vain milk-maid.
 At night we meet the people in the bare little church, and are glad to
see many who rise on the invitation and make their profession of faith in
Christ. They listen attentively, though the small boys go out and come in
at will. The next day we visit around the town in the interests of the Acad-
emy, and find a number who are anxious to avail themselves of its privileges.
Again we hold a meeting and preach to an attentive audience. The next
day we return to Yocums Creek, and go to the store and find some of the
men and some of the women of the vicinity assembled to talk about the pro-
posed A. M. A. school and church. A subscription list has already been circu-
lated, and something over five hundred dollars subscribed, and we have a small
appropriation with which to build, but from what we have already seen and
what we learn now, we find that neither subscriptions nor appropriations are
 Within half a mile of the mouth of the creek there are two school districts
with over eighty pupils in each district, and a mile and a half away there is
another with over ninety pupils. The schooljcommissioner is anxious to set
off these dis.tricts in one centering here, and to contract with us for the teaching of the school. Within five miles of the proposed site of the school-
house there are over five hundred children of school age. A house capable
of holding at least three hundred pupils is necessary, and we quickly draw
plans and make estimates. My companion, who has been the prime mover
in all this work, tells the people they must furnish all the material, lumber,
iron\vare, paint, etc., for the school-house and teachers home, and land suf-
ficient for school grounds. At the slightest calculation this will take a thou-
sand dollars. Our missionary, Mr. Higginbotham, introduces me and I
explain the interest of the A. M. A., and the manner and conditions of its work.
Brother Selton follows, speaking of the need of schools and churches, and
of the results of the work of the Association in Williamsburg, citing as an
example our missionary, a bright, consecrated, Oberlin theological student,
and his brother, still a student at the academy, and now winning golden
opinions as a teacher in the district above. He urges the people to take
advantage of the present opportunity, and offers to stand responsible for my
promises on behalf of the A. M. A. A committee is appointed to canvass
for subscriptions, and the people are asked to co-operate with them. Finally,
that we may begin work at once, we ask for six men to guarantee the raising
of the necessary amount on the part of the people. Two good men come
forward and call out one by one their neighbors and friends, until six strong,
substantial men stand in our midst and say, ~We will guarantee that the
necessary amount shall be raised. We pledge ourselves as far as we are
able to do so, and a little further, and make arrangements with a mill owner
to deliver the bill of lumher on the ground and take the subscriptions, mostly
in logs, for pay. After selecting the site, two acres of beautiful bottom land,
near a cool spring, and taking a bond for the same, we say good-bye and set
out on our return, feeling that a great work has been begun, and the first steps
taken towards the redemption of Harlan County from ignorance and sin.
 The joy of the people is pathetic to witness. They have for a long
time been sick of the misrule and riot of former days, but have not known
how to go to work to remedy their condition. They are able to do for them-
selves to a greater or less extent, but have not moved on account of their
ignorance as to what to do. The same thing extends to their domestic life.
Men who are worth several thousand dollars, and have good farms and money
in bank, live in a rude, rough way, because they do not know any other way.
One such man says, God knows we need all the help we can get. Work
here will be true missionary work in every way. Many of the men we have
met are homicides. One honest, kindly looking young man tells how his
father was shot and his own hired man killed in his door-yard, before he
took a Winchester and joined in hunting down the outlaws. A comfortable
looking cabin is pointed out to me where my friend says a man lives who
killed one of the outlaws. The latter had killed his father, and was then
under bonds for trial. A colored man was approached by the outlaw with
an offer of a hundred dollars if he would kill the son or give information as

to where the latter slept. The negro gave the son warning, when he pro-
cured a pistol and shot the outlaw on sight. He was promptly cleared by
the jury and is one of the most respected of the citizens of the county.
 The next day, Sunday, we stayed in town and visited the V. P. S. C. E.,
and gave its members counsel and encouragement. A meeting was held at
night, after which we had the encouragement of one young man, the editor
of the local paper, coming to our room for prayer and counsel.
 The next day we started back over the mountain, and found on reaching
Powells Valley again, that the remnant of the band of Harlan Countys out-
laws had broken into a Virginia jail and liberated some prisoners and now
were engaged in robbery, two men having been stopped on the road and
relieved of their valuables within a week. A number of rough looking
strangers were loitering around, and it was intimated that this might be a
train robbery, but we were spared this experience and reached home in
safety to write this long letter as an appeal for more help for Harlan and its
7,000 people.