Kentucky Kin

In Bell County, Kentucky (near Cumberland Gap), Partins are as common as Smiths and Jones in most communities! William Partin (about 1760-1834) and his seven sons moved to a very remote valley about 1810. DNA tests have verified that William was connected to Dolly Patron’s ancestors. (Ignore the spelling. Many of my kin used the “Parton” spelling in the early days. Most could not read or write before the Civil War.) William Partin’s descendants intermarried with Masons, Gibsons, Turners, and Lees, with few leaving the area before World War II. I’ve spent 50 years researching the Partin family genealogy, and will share more about that later.

Several times in the 1950s, we made the long trip to Bell County on the old two-lane U.S. Route 25 (winding through Dayton, Cincinnati, Lexington, and every other town in between). We visited many relatives on these trips. My grandmother’s sisters Mary and Grace lived together in a small house a half mile up an unpaved log road. Early on, we had to leave our car at the paved road and walk up the lane, crossing a creek on a couple large planks. They were lined up parallel, so Uncle Dewy could drive his log truck across them.

Mary and Grace would rise early to fire up their cast iron wood stove. They retrieved water in pails from a spring up behind their cabin, and would spend a couple hours creating a genuine country breakfast from scratch: biscuits and gravy, eggs, bacon or ham, potatoes, ice tea, and coffee.

When I was about nine years old, I recall entering the kitchen to be welcomed by this vast spread and inquiring, “Do you have any Post Toasties?” Dumb, I know! I later gained a tremendous appreciation for these fabulous country breakfasts.

An Aside

Almost my entire life has been spent on U.S. Route 25 (a.k.a. “Dixie Hwy.”), which ran from Miami to Detroit. I was born in Lima, attended BGSU, taught in Toledo, returned to Bowling Green for 25 years, then moved to Hendersonville, NC. Route 25 was the main street through every one of those communities. It was a major migration artery throughout the 20th Century. Kalida was a few miles off.

On a later Kentucky trip, we visited a small coal mine still in operation (see attached photos). A cousin still worked in one of
those small non-union mines. He showed me a video he took in the mine. He spent his shift lying on his back in a 27” high shaft, driving bolts into the ceiling to prevent cave ins. They still happened though.

He reported most of the miners eventually suffer from black lung disease, as it is so hot in the mines most of the guys don’t wear their safety gear. It’s a rough way to make a living.

My grandfather Partin was killed in a coal mine accident in 1929, when a coffin-sized slab of slate crushed him. His widow was given $300 and a month to vacate their mining camp cabin. It is a tragic story, and I plan to share more about Dad’s challenging childhood later. Fortunately, my grandmother would never let Troy go into the mines.

Strip mining has taken the place of deep shaft mining in this region, as it is more economical. The massive damage strip mining has inflicted on these beautiful mountains is deplorable and sad. The water issues are devastating and will affect generations to come.Coal_Tipple Coal_Mine_car