EVERY CREEK’S A STORY IN CLINTON COUNTY
Ridge hikes and crossroad chats yield a bumper crop of legends down near the Tennessee border.
By Howard Hardaway —Louisville Courier-Journal, no date, 1930s
The ‘New Era’ is Clinton County, Kentucky’s only newspaper. W. H. Nunn has been the publisher for a number of years. He tells a story on his predecessor of forty years ago.
“Tom Neat, of Adair County, was running for office in a district that included Clinton,” Mr. Nunn relates. “The editor of the New Era opposed him. Tom decided to beard the lion in his den. During a speech in the Albany Court House Tom called on the editor to stand up.
“Take your dirty little sheet and fight me,” Tom challenged. ‘It won’t amount to a damn, because I can stand on the court house steps and spit all over its circulation.”
Howard Hardaway, b. 1898, referred to himself as ‘The Old Hiker.’ “I’ve learned,” said the Louisville, KY native in a May 1959 interview with Alabama newspaper ‘The Florence Times,’ “that the most interesting places are not right on the road. On the back roads, at the little country stores where the road crews gather for a quart of milk and a moon pie, that’s where you find some real historians.”
His writing career started from his habit of going up to Canada each summer for a one-day hike. The Louisville Courier called him in and wanted him to write up some of his experiences. He averaged several pieces a year for the journal and some for other publications at the time of this interview.
Those same court house steps on which Tom offered to stand and spit were treated with indignity once by Uncle Marion Gibbons of the Duvall valley neighborhood. Uncle Marion, in a holiday mood, rode his horse up the steps and into the hall of the court house. This was a bit too informal. The presiding judge called Uncle Marion before him and assessed a $10 fine. The prisoner before the bar fished out his roll, peeled off a twenty, and handed it over to the judge.
“I’m afraid I haven’t change,” admitted the judge.
“Oh, that’s all right,” Uncle Marion waved it off. “Just keep the change. I enjoyed it all so much that I think I’ll go out and do it again.”
Albany has good fresh spring water. Down at one edge of town a large lake is formed by a sheet of water that gushes from below a broad shelf or rock. From the lower end of the lake the water flows by a flume to a flour mill. The water has also been used to generate electricity for town use.
East of Boiling Springs, where Clinton County thrust a long narrow wedge between Wayne County and Tennessee, “happy oak” used to stand on the State line. In days gone by, when one State was wet and the other dry, purveyors of mountain dew would meet their customers on the line at the oak tree. Should an officer of the law of one State be present, the lawbreaker would merely keep on the opposite side of the oak tree-out of the officer’s jurisdiction.
Passing northward through a mountain gap at Doc Powers’ place. I started down the valley of Koger’s Creek by a narrow trail that is passable only by horseback or afoot.
“There have been wagons up there,” I was told later, “but not for a longtime.”
And, yet people live up there, and apparently live very well. The farms up in the gap look well-tended and prosperous.In this neighborhood is a cave, a “bottomless pit,” known as Georgie’s Hole. No one knows the depth of the vertical shaft.
Georgie was the name of an old woman who lived hereabouts many years ago. Georgie and her husband “got their backs up” at each other. They couldn’t seem to patch things up.
One day, out in the pasture, Georgie is said to have maneuvered around so that she got her old man with his back to the hold. A quick shove – and Georgie was a willing widow.
Georgie’s Hole and its story has served as a warning to Clinton County husbands for 100 years to patch up differences quickly with the wife – or else stay away from bottomless pits.
Rolan, at the junction of Koger and McIver Creeks, was the scene of an exciting episode in the lives of two preachers of a century ago. These two preachers, having heard of certain cults or of individual prophets laying claim to ability to foretell events, including the exact date of the earth’s dissolution, became conscious of such a knowledge within themselves.
They traveled afoot, warning and exhorting. On the very eve of the fateful day they covered a wide territory and held numerous meetings. The last night caught them far from home, weary and footsore. Where Rolan now stands they found a haystack and climbed into it.
During the night, from some unexplained cause, the haystack caught fire. The glare and heat aroused one of the sleeping prophets. “Wake up, John!” he yelled. “The Judgment Day is come – and look where we are!”
Once back on the ridge trail, I passed a score of log or box houses along the boundary between Clinton and Wayne Counties and came to the narrow bridge of land where four trails cross. From here Duvall Creek flows off to the south while Gap Creek leads northward to Alpha on the Monticello-Albany Road.
Thanks to a short ride with the young schoolmaster at Savage, I got back to Albany just as supper was being placed on the table. An unexpected feature at the home where I found lodging was a big batch of ice cream made by the hand of the landlady’s son. I required one fish of it for every ten miles of walking; that is three.
My sixteen-hour day had me ready for the feathers before 9 o’clock.
‘The Florence [AL] Times,’ May 3, 1959, Pg. 1, “Hiker Proves He’s Half the Man Grandpa Was,” by Lorene Frederick