The flood trapped people before they knew what was upon them

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 15, 2017

The Mountain Eagle


The death list of the terrific storm which swept Letcher County Sunday night has mounted to sixteen, with reports coming in which indicate that it may reach twenty.

Property damage cannot be estimated. Homes are destroyed, livestock and poultry drowned, and whole farms practically ruined. The fury of the flood far exceeded anything that has ever hit this area in its history.

Numbers of the dead have been found, but searchers are still at their gruesome task of tearing into drifts along the banks of the streams in hopes of finding bodies. Loved ones anxiously await some word from the searchers.

Mrs. Nannie Collins, on Rockhouse, died after her family had to be moved out of the home on account of rising water, but she was already at the point of death, and it is thought that the flood did not contribute to her death.

The bodies of the little Boggs child and Breeding child have not been found yet; but, so far as reports here go, all others have been recovered.

Pine Mountain storm in Letcher County KYOriginal caption reads: Letcher County, Kentucky. Thunderstorm on Pine Mountain.

The storm has left desolation in its wake. A large number of homes that escaped the death toll do not have food or clothing, except as it is furnished by neighbors, the L. & N. railroad and the Red Cross.

Train service has been cut off, telephone and telegraph service is practically destroyed, and the North fork of the Kentucky River is in a world by itself. The extent of the storm cannot be determined.

Nobody is going hungry, so far as is known. There is enough food in the valley to last several days, and arrangements have been made by which more supplies can be brought in through the Big Sandy valley if they are needed before the train service can be restored.

Volunteers are busy with rescue and reconstruction work everywhere, and a heroic effort is being made to heal the wounds inflicted by the angry storm.

Red Cross headquarters at Washington, D. C., volunteered help; and the local committee, under the direction of Chairman C. H. Burton, is furnishing aid wherever a need can be found.

Elsiecoal was the first place to be reached. The work there was turned over by Mr. Burton to Dr. Collier, railroad surgeon, who is taking care of the situation at that place.

All mining work has been stopped, and many men are out of employment. It is estimated by the operators that the work will be held up from a few days to several weeks, depending upon the extent of the damage at the different places.

The greatest loss of life and property was in the heads of small streams. It appears that the rain Sunday night came in cloud-burst fury, flooding the narrow gorges and trapping people before they knew what was upon them. It is in these isolated places throughout the county that the greatest suffering will result, men who are studying the situation say.


Letcher+County+KY floods appalachia appalachian+history history+of+appalachia

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We have canned 113 cans of corn and several beans

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 14, 2017

Fletcher, N.C.
Dec. 12, 1932
Mrs. Rosalee Gibson, Vonore, Tenn.
Dear Mother,

I had a letter from Seth this morning. I was glad to hear from you all. This leaves us all very well, hoping it will find you all the same. I have just neglected to write as I should have. And I think you all have been slow enough about it.

You know how we neglect those things. I am so busy now that it looks like we cannot come before Christmas. We are going to try and come between Christmas and New Years. The school will be closed that week. And I have so much work with the churches before that time that I just cannot come. But I hope we can get the money and the time to come then.

My church work is doing about as usual. I am going to quit one church the first of the year. That is the Hominy Church which pays me $50 per month, then I do not know what I will use for money. The other churches do not have money. I hope you will have a good Christmas. We hope to know when the day passes. That will be about all with us. Grady is sure that Santa is coming to see him. Santa brought him a wagon last week.

Carrie is getting so fat that she cannot wear her dresses. She may have to come to see you with a sheet wrapped around her. She weighs 138 lbs. I think I will have my teeth pulled and see if I will get fat. Otas is doing fine in the Army. Willard is still working at the dairy. Carson works with him part of the time. Estella, Fred and Grady are all in school. Neither of them have missed a day or been tardy during this school term.

I have said about all I know to say. I sure hope you will take care of yourself and get strong. You should not worry about any of your sorry kids. We are not worth worrying over. We have not forgotten you. And I hope you will not think so just because we do not write often.

I hope money is plentiful and everything lively with you all, for it sure is not that way here. Times are very hard with most everybody here. We do not have any corn this year. We have only one hog to kill. It is not large. Our cow is almost dry. We do have canned goods and some friends, I hope. So I guess we will not starve. We should not grumble about things to eat and wear. Have Seth to write us a long letter and tell us all about things..

Be cheerful and enjoy life as best you can. I sure hope you can get strong and live many happy years yet. I think of you often and pray for you. I hope we can come about the 3rd of Jan. But I am not saying so for sure. You know that it takes money to buy gas, and I do not know just what to use for money. May God bless you.

Your Son as Ever, M.L. Lewis

1939 pressure cooker

A 1939 model pressure cooker from a kitchen in Flint River Farms, GA. Taken by Marion Post Wolcott for the Farm Security Administration.

Tuxedo, N.C.
Sept. 12, 1933
Mrs. Rosalee Gibson, Vonore, Tenn.
Dear Mother:

I am writing this letter hoping that you all will get. I cannot think I am as guilty of not writing as you accuse me.

I think that I have answered every letter that I have received from you all. I confess that I do not write as often as I ought to. This leaves us all well hoping it will find you all the same. I sure was glad to hear that you are getting along good.

I do not want you to worry about us not writing more than we do. We will try and do better. We are made to wonder why you all do not answer when we do write. I do not know whenever we had heard from you until yesterday. We sure were glad to hear.

We have moved from Fletcher to Tuxedo. Tuxedo is eight miles south of Hendersonville on the Greensville Road, about three miles from the S.C. line. I have been preaching to this church for three years part time. I am here now full time.

Willard is working in the mill. Carson will go to work soon. We have been very busy since we moved yesterday as a week ago. We have canned 113 cans of corn and several beans. We have a pressure cooker and a can sealer. We used tin cans for our corn. We have about 600 qts. in all canned.

Estella goes to the Flat Rock School. It is about 4 miles away. She goes on the bus. Fred and Grady goes here at Tuxedo. We think that we will like to live here. The Fletcher Church hasn’t got any pastor yet. I have no idea who they will get. Willard has him a girl here. I guess they will marry. Otas was with one of the C.C. Camps near Bryson City. But he was called back to Fort Bragg about two weeks ago.

We are living in a six room house. It has two stories. We will soon have a sink and a bathroom. We have a good basement. We have two halls and two porches. Yes plenty of room. I wish you could be with us I think you would enjoy it. We live just across the highway from the church. Times is some better here than they have been.

The mill here is running good. Still it is hard to get a job as so many are still out of work. Well I will close by promising to write more often, and by asking you to do the same. I have addressed this letter to my Mother, but it is for all.

M.L. Lewis


One Response

  • Granny Sue says:

    It sounds like mothers never change! Always fussing at their children to write or call more often. At least today we have email and facebook so it’s a little easier to keep in touch. I thought the part about having a can sealer was interesting. Can you imagine doing that today in your kitchen?

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The Klan comes a calling

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 11, 2017

Forest City, N.C.
August 15, 1928.

Dear Friends,

You have been vouched for as a man who is thoroughly American, Protestant to the core, a law abider and lover of our Constitution, and one who has had the welfare of our country close to your heart. As such you are invited to attend a Lecture on “Americanism” by Dr. W. Earl Hotalen, a Lecturer of National reputation, at


Dr. Hotalen will appear in Asheville under the auspices of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. If your only source of information regarding the Klan has been obtained through the Newspapers, many of which are unfriendly to us due to lack of information regarding our Organization, then you have no doubt a biased opinion toward the Klan and the principles it espouses.

pitch letter from Ku Klux KlanNow, just be fair and come out and hear our side. Dr. Hotalen will have some facts and statistics to present that will astound you.

If you wish, bring a good Protestant friend whom you can vouch for. You will be under no obligation in attending this meeting.

Yours very truly,
Amos C. Duncan
Grand Dragon
Realm of North Carolina
Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Inc.

Ku Klux Klan pitch letter sent to Edgar M. Lyda (1873-1956), who was Chairman of the Buncombe County Commissioners and Finance at the time he received it.


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Who Was Here When I Got Here

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 10, 2017

The following are reminiscences of the Cloverdale, GA community by Brody Hawkins, who was born there in 1927 (d. 1998) and lived there all his life.  These are his memories of the families who lived in Cloverdale when he was a child.

When I got here, we had three doctors in the community, Dr. Middleton, Dr. Gardner and Dr. Bunk Payne. We used Dr. Middleton.  Middleton and Gardner were jealous and would run most doctors out. They let Payne stay because he treated venereal diseases.  He doctored them with mercury compounds. The treatment was as bad as the disease, but that was all there was to treat it with. Also, Payne would doctor our livestock.  Back then all the doctors did that.

As the painted barn says, this is about 10 miles from Sequoyah Caverns (in Valley Head, AL), north of it on Highway U.S. 11, very close to the Dekalb County, AL and Dade County, GA border. That places the barn squarely in the neighborhood of Cloverdale.


Dr. Spencer Middleton and I go back a long ways.  I’m known to most people as Brody, but my real name is Ernest Middleton Hawkins. I was delivered by Dr. Middleton, who told my daddy that the delivery was free if he would name me after him.

When I was young, Dr. Middleton came by our house on his way to see Ben Hogan’s wife.  She was having her eighth child.  He lived on the place now owned by Charles Morgan.  Ben lived about a mile off the main road.  The branch was up and Daddy told me to go with Dr. Middleton and carry his bag.  When we got to the house, we could see old Ben sitting back in the house.  He chewed tobacco, dipped snuff and smoked a pipe all at the same time.  Hound dogs came bailing out from under the house and started biting us. Doc said, “Son, hand me that pistol grip shotgun out of my bag.

I handed it to him and he started shooting dogs.  Ben came out on the porch and said, “Doc, would you just kill all of a man’s dogs?”

Doc said, “If you don’t get these dogs off of us; I will shoot you, too.”

He shot dogs as long as he saw them.  He had a 410 over and under 14″ barrel gun. That family later left here and I have never heard of them again.

At that time, over half the people couldn’t or wouldn’t pay the doctors.  Dr. Middleton said he never sent a bill. They paid if they could.  Dr. Gardner, however, would go to see people about paying. He would say, “Hey, fella, could you help me a little on your bill?” If they said, no, he would ask them about giving him a calf or a hog or something. He once took ten gallons of sorghum for a baby case.  Dr. Gardner delivered six babies for one family I know and they never paid him a penny.

I remember going to get Dr. Gardner at two in the morning to deliver Buddy Howell’s baby.  Doc lived in the house where the Coopers live on Cloverdale Road.  He told me to put my mule in the barn and I rode with him in his car.  I remember going to the post office and seeing Doc Gardner pulling someone’s teeth while they were sitting on the fender of his car.  Doc would come by the post office and get his mail and he would throw the junk mail in the old pot-belly stove unopened.

Dr. Gardner got killed when a train hit his car at the railroad crossing just below our house.  He lived alone and they had a hard time finding any relatives. When a committee went in to inventory his property, they found $57,000 in the house behind the piano.


2 Responses

  • David W. Goode, Sr. says:

    Brody Hawkins was my uncle, the brother of my mother, Katherine Hawkins Goode. I love this barn. We drove by it just a few weeks ago going to the old Beene Family Cemetery where dozens of my family are buried, including Brody.

  • “He chewed tobacco, dipped snuff and smoked a pipe all at the same time.” – Classic

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A national treasure almost lost forever

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 9, 2017

Maxine Broadwater was just 5 years old when she helped her brothers destroy the glass negatives so they could turn their late uncle’s photography studio into a chicken house. Luckily for us they didn’t finish the job.

Leo J. Beachy (1874-1927) is thought to have taken ten thousand photographs a year on five inch by seven inch glass plates of the people and places in his beloved Garrett County, MD between the years 1905 and 1927. Perhaps 10% of his output survives today. It’s astonishing to consider that by the time he gave up his teaching career at the age of 31 to pursue his passion full time, he’d somehow found ways to prevent his multiple sclerosis from slowing this pace. He’d wrap his arms around people’s backs to be dragged from camera to developing room, and had a special wagon outfitted to carry photographer and rigging.

Leo J. Beachy with children

“I have taken medicine by the barrel and as for doctors… I’ve been drugged by the allopaths, rubbed by the osteopaths and bilked by the quack-o-paths. They have doped me with caster oil, rubbed me with sweet oil and soaked me in hard oil. I’ve slept with my head to the north for polarity, and between a pair of electric sheets and with a bundle of shingles for a pillow, for cedaracity. In fact I’ve tried everything from sooth sayers to the ouija board. Now if you know of anything new, just trot it out and I’ll put it through the paces.” Leo Beachy, 1923.

Fifty years after she dumped her uncle’s glass plates into a nearby creek, Maxine Broadwater was given about 2,700 Beachy negatives that had been gathering dust in a neighbor’s shed. Broadwater has devoted the decades since to preserving those images of children, farmers and small-town Appalachia.

“When I was a child, I did exactly what I was told. I’m hoping Uncle Lee forgave me for that, I’m trying to make it up to him now,” she said.

The pictures have been celebrated since their discovery. William Stapp, curator of photography for the National Portrait Gallery, praised them as “entrancing pictures, composed with naive charm” in his essay for the 1984 book, “Maryland Time Exposures, 1840-1940.” And a 1990 Spread in LIFE magazine exposed Beachy’s work to the world.

“When I first saw [the photographs], what struck me was how unposed and natural his portraits where, not anything like I had seen or associated in my own mind with what photographs looked like at the turn of the century,” said Adele Rush, executive producer of ‘Images of Maryland,’ an hour long special aired several years ago by Maryland Public Television about the work of six great Maryland photographers.

Finally The Maryland Historical Society acquired the Leo Beachy Collection of Photographs. The collection includes 2,000 postcard prints, and 200 glass-plate negatives.


Related posts: “Photographer Doris Uhlmann”

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