Appalachia, Big Sandy River, C&O Railroad, coal, Consolidation Coal Company, Cumberland Mountains, Devil John Wright, Devil Judd Tolliver, Hazard Herald, history, James A Garfield, Jenkins, John Fox Jr., John W. Wright, Kentucky, Kentucky River, Letcher County, Little Elkhorn Creek, Little Shepherd Amphitheatre, Logan Banner, Nick Dann, photos, Pound Gap, Rocky Branch, Shelby, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, Virginia, West Virginia
Here is a bit of history for Jenkins, Kentucky, based on a newspaper account provided in 1928:
Nestling in the valley of the Little Elkhorn, within “a stone’s throw” of the famous Pound Gap, is Jenkins, one of the few great mining towns of the world. The term “mining camp” cannot rightly be used when speaking of Jenkins, because it is not a “camp” in any sense of the word, but rather a city built by the great Consolidation Coal Company for the accommodation of its thousands of employees.
Never was a city planned more carefully, says the Hazard (Ky.) Herald. The men in charge of the construction work were chosen from the top of their respective professions, and the building of the plant was carried out to a plan with the health, safety, education, sanitation, convenience and enjoyment of life by the miners, as its chief object cost was a very secondary consideration.
Twenty years ago this spot was a wild mountain farm, owned by that famous mountaineer, John W. Wright. His home, a hewn log affair, stood near where the Methodist church has since been erected. For miles in every direction the unbroken forest swept away over hill and down valley, some of which had slept undisturbed since the beginning of time.
The mountaineers, on their seldom made visits to this wild region, would look up at the rugged mountains, like giant sentinels guarding the gates of another world, and wonder, what good could ever come of such a land. At night, the few settlers were lulled to sleep by the hoot owl’s call and awakened in the morning by the yelp of the fox.
Then one day news spread over the hills that Wright had disposed of his lands and that a great town was about to be built by some men from “away off yonder.” Surveying parties were camped on the Kentucky river, and along Elkhorn. Railroads were pushing into the hills from the east and west. Farmers, on their way to mill or meeting, would stop and ask questions of the engineers, learn all they could of the town that “they had heard was going to be” and then hurry home to toll the news to their neighbors, adding to the story until it becomes a fanciful fairy tale.
The roars of explosives soon were heard for many miles, children at first would run screaming to their mother [illegible line] skirts asking to be told what it was they had heard “away over yonder,” while old women smoked their pipes and wondered if “Garfield was coming up the Sandy again.”
Coming into wild, rugged country like the head of Elkhorn, and laying off and building a city was a feat worthy of the greatest engineering skill, and that was the sort employed by the Consolidation Company.
The nearest railroad was still miles away. Everything needed in construction must be freighted across the Cumberlands, over roads almost impassable by wagon. For 12 months preparation for this gigantic plant went on before the actual construction work began. Roads were graded across the mountain by Pound Gap and a lumbering concern was induced to build their narrow gauge railroad from Glomorgan to Rocky Branch, leaving only about five miles that supplies must be transported by wagon freight. The Pound Gap country was a beehive of activity. Freighters were so numerous on the road that it took the best part of a day to make the trip from Jenkins to Rocky Branch and return. Every few yards the driver would be forced to turn out so that another could pass.
Hundreds of carpenters, masons and helpers were at work building houses. The houses they constructed were of a type foreign to the coal fields across the mountains in Virginia. A giant power plant was built, the water of Elkhorn were harnesses to create the power to run the greatest mining plant in the south. The dam built across the stream has formed one of the most beautiful lakes in America, it has been stocked with fish and lined with row boats for the recreation of the coal miners and their families.
Every home was built for convenience and comfort. Sanitation was provided and each house was wired for electricity. Word went out into the mining camps close by in Virginia that the “Jenkins company” would not tolerate kerosene lamps in their houses and required that their employees use electricity for illumination. These “other camps” were forced to remodel their plants in keeping with the pattern on which the great Consolidation plant was built, until today, the old order has been replaced with the new throughout Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky: thanks to the lead of the Consolidation Coal Company.
Jenkins is well lighted; has an excellent water system; fire department and paved streets in the business section. Many beautiful homes line the handsome drive, skirting the lake. These, unlike the ordinary mining town houses, are set well back from the driveway in park like lawns, well shaded with grand old oaks and other native trees.
Some of the most substantial business buildings to be found in the Cumberland region are here in Jenkins. Among these are the recreation building, housing a drug store, hotel, post office, Western Union office, barber shop, pool room, printing office, and drink stand. The First national Bank building is the most beautiful building in Letcher county; vine-clad with clinging ivy gives it the appearance of having grown there.
The most widely known business institutions in Jenkins are the Consolidation Coal Company store, the First National bank, the Jenkins Steam Laundry, the Modern Pressing Shop, Nick Dann’s Auto Sales and Repair Shop, and the numerous businesses housed under the roof of the mammoth recreation building. The town is on the Kentucky state highway and is served by the C. & O. railroad system from Shelby junction.
Source: Logan (WV) Banner, 2 October 1928.