Harlan County Round-up: Shared memories of Appalachia’s spirit

Published 4:49 am Wednesday, January 26, 2022

A round-up of all things Harlan County…

Doug Clem, formerly of Harlan County who now lives in Texas, called to comment about a column written about fossil fuels and to say he’s not a big fan of former President Trump. That’s OK. We’re all in this nation together, so to each his own. Thanks for calling.

Clem said he remembers the days when, if memory serves me correct about our conversation, that he delivered the Harlan Enterprise newspaper way back when. Picked up the newspapers in an alley in the back of the building. Clem said something about the New York Times once owning or being printed at the Harlan paper. I’d have to do some digging to confirm that, but wouldn’t that be something — the NY Times in Harlan. Probably not much of a market for that kind of newspaper these days in our neck of the woods.

Saturday I think it was, Wayne Murphy called. He grew up in Harlan County, but lived in California for many years before retiring, moved back home. Seems a lot of people do that — can’t blame him one bit for choosing his hometown roots over California living. If you ever walk the streets of San Francisco, watch your step…

Anyway, Murphy said there was a thriving African-American community at one time in Harlan County; kids attended a high school that is no longer in existence since the Brown v Board of Education struck down the nonsense that is “separate but equal.”

As I said to Murphy, it would be nice to know more about those days and places so as to record them in the pages of this newspaper, first draft of history for Harlan County.

A question Murphy had which I would like to know more about is what happened to the trophies earned by that African-American high school, which I think he said was in the Evarts area though I could be wrong. That’s a good question — if you tear a high school down, what happens to those trophies, all triumphs for the school as much as the community. If anyone knows, please send me an email at miles.layton@winchestersun.com (I don’t know the password to my Harlan email account) or just call me at 252-302-1288.

In other news, I wanted to share this about Jim and Martha Blair, whose biography I started last week. Long story short, they both did pretty well for themselves by reaching up from humble beginnings to raise a family, obtain a quality education and serve the community. They both are very passionate about their lives spent in Appalachia, perhaps the same as we all are.

“Our hearts have always been at home in Appalachia,” Martha said.

Jim earned a college degree from Berea College, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and he served in various administrative positions throughout the years. Martha studied nursing and became an accomplished nurse.

Stories I recall about the couple — their house burned down a couple of years back, so they had no photo albums chronicling their lives. That’s sad. I think Jim said the house was the parsonage for Sunny Acres First Christian Church of God. Jim said that instead of taking a preacher’s salary all those years he was at the pulpit, he asked the church just to buy/pay down the parsonage.

“I was probably the only pastor that ever paid the church to preach,” he said. “I was never a salaried pastor; felt like my job was to serve the church because God gave us the church as a foundation, so the salary should go back to the Lord. The Man upstairs has more money than all of us, so he takes good care of the church.”  

I like that quote.

On that note, send church briefs my way — email those and I’ll be sure to publish them such as this one:

Gospel singing planned
There will be a gospel singing featuring the Bakers and The Hagers at The Well, located in Dressen, on Saturday, Feb. 12, 6:30 p.m. The Well is located in the former home of Dressen Church of God.
Pastor Sharon Stewart invites everyone to attend.