They used outlaws and anything they could get

Posted by | February 1, 2018

Jenkins, KY didn’t come into existence by steady settlement over a period of years. Jenkins was planned and built by Consolidation Coal Company [Consol] for men who came to mine its coal– what was to become known as the best coal in Kentucky.

Mrs. G. C. Johnson: I came from Pikeville. My husband was here–he worked in the store. I came to Hellier by train and got off at 8 o’clock, and got on a hack — a thing with four seats in it, driven by mules and had a driver. And it took until 5 in the evening to get here.

two couples in Jenkins KY 1916Photo caption reads: Two couples sitting on steps. Circa 1916.

We come up here right in the creek. I was the only woman on the hack and there was a big keg of beer. They had to bring beer in here for all those people. They had to have their beer.

On Cove Avenue are the oldest houses in Jenkins. They were built in 1911 when I first came here, and the architect and the head man in the office and the auditor and I all lived here on Cove Avenue. I lived in the first one. They all lived here until they began to build the houses around High Street, then they began to move off and move in those houses. Then they built the next row of houses right below and there wasn’t any school or church or anything in that area, but the old Jenkins Hotel, where the Bradley-Johnson apartments are now. The hospital was the second building above that.

They hadn’t started the dam when I came here and the water we had was from deep wells. You could let it set up over night and then roll the skim off of it and then they put in a dam and that was the first good water we had. The machine shop was where it is now. The recreational building was where the depot is now, just a boarded-up building, and they had all their recreations and preaching services here because there were no churches.

Jenkins KY damThe store building was right between where the post office and the library is now. You see, the water comes out of the dam and goes under there and there was a branch, a little walk, where you could cross it. There were the office buildings. Where Dr. Perry is was a hill. They graded all that down before they built on it. After I came here, they began to build a sewer down Main Street. The railroad came in here in 1913. I left here in 1912 and had to go back to Hellier the way I came.

Consol had a saw mill. They had an ice plant right above where Wilfong’s store is now. A little make-shift ice plant and the man that made the ice was Limon Goodson. That is where the Christian Church is now. It was a little make-shift bakery and they made bread. They would go in with a shovel and they would bring a dray— a wagon with two horses— over from the store.

That’s the way they delivered their groceries. They would go over there and put a clean wrapping paper in the bottom and shovel it in with a shovel. There wasn’t any bread wrapping or anything. That’s where you got your bread. There wasn’t any dairy at that time.

loading coal in Jenkins KYThe superintendent at #1 mines when I worked there was Walter Shunk. He stayed there for about two years and then the fellow that took his place was A. B. Thomas. Then they had several different men until they got hold of another Thomas and he stayed here for five or six years, W. H. R. Thomas. When I came here, John G. Smith was manager of the whole thing. He stayed somewhere because his wife wasn’t here.

I had four children. Williams was my first husband’s name. He worked at the store. He worked for $45 a month and we paid $4.50 for house rent and coal.

Consol would pay their expenses to get in here and then after they went back to work, they would pay them back.
The Elkhorn Hotel was located in Mudtown and I can’t think what the name of the one where the Bradley-Johnson apartments are now. I lived on this hill, you know, where the Griffin house was and I would carry soup to the hotel and they kept the dining room door locked until they got a meal on the table and when they would unlock that door, it sounded like a stampede of horses. Food was scarce and so was a place to board.

Anyone that had an extra bed was supposed to keep somebody. I kept Harry Moore and Jimmy Hughes for ever so long. They used outlaws and anything they could get. There were a lot of foreigners that couldn’t speak a word of English, and an interpreter would come in to tell the clerk what they wanted.

Recreation building interior, circa 1916, Jenkins KY Photo caption: Recreation building interior, circa 1916. Sign on column says, “Please don’t spit on the floor.”

I had one friend that said she spoke seven languages. Her brother had a store here then and there used to be a store they called Begley’s about where Ransom Jordan’s garage is. He owned about three acres in there and they wouldn’t sell it to the company and they had their own little store. The company didn’t want the people to buy there either.

These fellows came in and they were trying to jew her down. But they turned around and spoke in another language, “now we can get that down at Begley’s cheaper.” But she knew what they had said. When her brother came in, he said, “I feel like slapping you. If you would keep your mouth shut, you would learn a lot.” She spoke their language and they didn’t know it. They had said that to each other, and she thought it was too good for her to keep so she told them what they said.

Interview with Mr. and Mrs. G. C. Johnson

The History of Jenkins, Kentucky
Compiled In Honor Of The Sixtieth Anniversary Homecoming Celebration 1912‑1973
Sponsored By The Jenkins Area Jaycees
Elizabeth Wassum Dramczyk, ed. Charles Dixon, project chairman


One Response

  • Kelli Harvey says:

    I am trying to research information involving the Depression Era about my grandparents. I was hoping to find some more photos and information about the coal towns, she always spoke of.

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