D. Y. might carry his burden too, but he does it debonairly

Posted by | June 17, 2013

“As one alights from the train at Hazard and gallant Captain Bocook the conductor waves an ‘adieu’ with a smile thrown in for usury, the first word heard above the bustle and din is ‘D-Y,’ ‘D-Y,’ ‘D-Y,’ and that stands for the most popular, best known, most influential, wealthiest and most progressive man in Hazard or Perry County or perhaps Eastern Kentucky; it stands for David Yancey Combs, prince of landlords, liverymen, big general merchant, real estate dealer, land owner, coal mine operator and then some.

“All day long and sometimes all night long ‘D-Y,’ ‘D-Y,’ ‘D-Y,’ is iterated and reiterated, for everybody including the children know and like D. Y. Combs, whose popularity would put him into Congress if he’d say the word.

“So busy is he, and so engaged in conversation with here and there little coteries, that I found it difficult to get a line on him for a little sketch and it was only after I found his aid de camp, Hon. Andrew Jackson Conyers, that I found some data for this brief biography of a man so prominent and so careless of the fame I have to thrust upon him.

“David Yancey Combs was born – of course – had to be born somewhere – fifty years ago at the mouth of Carr’s Fork of the famous Combs lineage – was born a Democrat, and despite the fact that Perry County is overwhelmingly Republican, D. Y. was twice elected Sheriff; and by saving grace of his Rabelaisian humor preserved the best of order, but he cared nothing for official life and today all of his great love is centered in a little midget – Little Mary his granddaughter, aged about three, while Mrs. Combs, or “Ma” as even the boarders call her fondly, divides her affection between Little Mary and Beryl, aged about five years, the boy; and “in him is the abridgment of all that is pleasant in man,” to quote from Thos. Hood.

“D. Y. is a money maker–possesses the Midas touch–and there is not a corpuscle of the miserly in his two hundred pounds of superb mountain manhood, but upon the contrary he is the soul of generosity and hides his charity while dispensing it in many ways, not letting his left “fist” know what his fine right hand doeth.

Hazard, KY Main Street in 1913Hazard, KY Main Street in 1913, showing Lexington Boosters arriving. D.Y. Combs Hotel is the building with the white door, to the far left of the photo.

“For many years having been extensively engaged in lumber and timber and logging he became known far and wide, and when D. Y. drops into Lexington or Louisville, he can’t transact any business till the glad hand and the jest and the news and little social amenities are rushed through.

“While D. Y. is all we have mentioned he is prouder of his farming operations than all else and he raises stock of all kinds, and b’gosh he loves a hoss.

“Having leased his fields of the best coal to large coal operators, it is believed that everybody’s D. Y. is destined to be in the near future one of the richest men in these rich fields, but nobody believes that he will dress in purple and fine linen and fare sumptuously every day, for D. Y. doesn’t care a snap for all that sort of thing, being as plain and simple as the proverbial old shoe.

“Six feet, commanding, active, filled with health, and everyone at once becomes en rapport with him. Dark and tanned and swarthy, with shining jowls and merry dark eyes sparkling, a voice winning in strength and music, dark hair close cropped, clean shaven, with here a jest, there a bow to some of the reclusive set, then a magnetic touch of his index finger under the dimpled chin of a blushing or laughing sweet sixteen, this man of magnetism makes his rounds scattering joy and fun and sunshine.

“In moments of repose there is an interesting touch or suggestion of melancholy; a momentary reminiscence or a faint adumbration that D. Y. might carry his burden too, but he does it debonairly and masterfully.

“Once in a conversation when he was off his guard and didn’t know that I was a newspaper man, he said that a new enterprise which I had mentioned, he was not asked to take stock and to my surprise he said rather low: “I’ve got a little bunch of enemies.” I was astonished and now that I know him still better it causes me not only surprise but wonder. What boots it a little bunch of enemies when compared to the friendship of children?”

—from “The story of Hazard, Ky. – The pearl of the mountains,’ by Louis Pilcher, Citizens Print. Co., 1913
online at www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~kyperry3/Pearl_ofthe_Mountains.html

Louis Pilcher had a long and varied career as a newspaperman behind him by the time he wrote ‘Pearl of the Mountains.’ Here’s a short bio on his earlier years from ‘A history of Jessamine County, Kentucky: from its earliest settlement to 1898,’ by Bennett Henderson Young:

‘The Nicholasville Democrat,’ an eight column folio, was established in June 1888. At that time it was the property of Louis Pilcher, the present editor and proprietor, and his brother Thomas Fielding Pilcher. After a short time a job printing plant was established. For eight years its office was in the old historic building, erected by Judge Wake Thomas F Pilcher and his brother. Louis Pilcher assumed the management of the paper.

The former assisted in establishing the ‘Lexington Argonaut.’ He did his first newspaper work on the ‘Lyceum Debater,’ afterward on the ‘Central Courier,’ and was for five years the correspondent of the Cincinnati and Louisville dailies.

He was one of the promoters of the ‘Lexington Advertiser.’ Later he edited the ‘Nicholasville Star.’ In 1895 he established ‘The Coming Nation,’ which absorbed the ‘Illustrated Kentuckian,’ and these two were merged into the ‘Argonaut.’

He afterward founded the ‘Blue Grass World’ and then returned to his present position as editor and proprietor of the ‘Nicholasville Democrat.’

Mr. Pilcher has had a wide experience as a newspaper man. In the Cleveland campaign he did work on the ‘Louisville Courier Journal,’ paragraphing and producing comic articles with Donald Padman. He was horn in Nicholasville on July 11, 1855 opposite where the newspaper office now stands.

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