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Life and times of Clifton Branham, part 3

Clifton Branham ran away from home when he was 12 years old. He returned to the area near Pound, Virginia, when he was 16. His folks were surprised to see him. He learned that his father had bought a piece of land and built a house on the top of Cumberland Mountain.

Our mountain area was wild and sparsely populated in the years following the Civil War.
Continue reading Life and times of Clifton Branham, part 3

Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts Building Renovation Update

Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts barrel vault ceiling with plaster removed. A full 3-D scan of the main metal roof super structure begins Aug. 13 and the overall analysis of structural integrity is estimated to take two weeks.

The aggressive work pace continues on the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts (KCA) building in preparation for shows to resume Sept. 1, after a major roof fire on June 13.

This week’s progress update includes:

Plaster Removal from Barrel Ceiling: Plaster removal began July 23 and was completed today. Structural engineers have determined approximately 75% of the metal roof decking will need to be replaced. A full 3-D scan of the main metal roof super structure begins Aug. 13 and the overall analysis is estimated to take two weeks. Based on visual indications, the main damage seems to have occurred on the roof decking and roof covering, not the roof super structure. Continue reading Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts Building Renovation Update

Life and times of Clifton Branham, part 2

Jadon Gibson

In the weeks leading up to the hanging of Clifton Branham in Wise, Va., in 1903, the doomed man spent hours writing about his life.

Clifton was born on Cabin Branch in Letcher County, Ky., in 1861.

“It was the year the Civil War broke out that I was born,” Clifton wrote. “Two of my brothers were in the war. My father was a farmer but when the war came along it got him into it too. He was captured and taken to Camp Chase. He was kept there until the end of the war.” Continue reading Life and times of Clifton Branham, part 2

The Life and Times of Clifton Branham

Jadon Gibson

Branham last man hanged in Wise County, Va.

There wasn’t much suspense leading up to Clifton Branham’s trial for killing his wife. There were eye witnesses to the shooting and even Clifton admitted to the killing.

Clifton was a guitar player and Wise County Sheriff Wilburn Killen allowed him to have his guitar in jail. He played it often in the weeks leading up to his hanging. When he wasn’t picking the guitar he was busy writing. Unlike his incarceration in the Kentucky State Prison in Frankfort where he became a heavy reader, Clifton spent a lot of his time in the Wise County jail with pen in hand. Continue reading The Life and Times of Clifton Branham

Sgt. Alvin York – East Tennessee Sharpshooter

Jadon Gibson

In the early morning hours of October 18, 1918, American forces in the French forest of Argonne were in a nearly impossible position.

The American offensive was attempting to push through the German defense to the Decauville Railroad, a major supply artery to the motherland.

As the sun burned away the morning mist, the “All America” 82nd Division was bombarded by artillery and heavy fire from entrenched German machine guns lining the tops of hills in three directions. Continue reading Sgt. Alvin York – East Tennessee Sharpshooter

The Tomb: A Mystery Dinner Adventure

Presented by The Bluegrass Players

Join our expedition as we uncover the mysteries of The Tomb in this hilarious and mind-boggling tale.

All proceeds go to benefit the Spotlight Acting School and its mission to never turn a student away regardless of their available financial resources.

Mediterranean Chicken Kabob over a bed of Long Grain Rice.
Finger length Potatoes
Summer Salad
Lemon Meringue Pie

Children’s Meal:
Chicken Nuggets
Macaroni and Cheese
Lemon Meringue Pie

Fri Aug 17 6:30pm
Sat Aug 18 6:30pm

Cumberland Gap retrospect

Jadon Gibson

A scant 132 years ago, in June of 1886, Harper’s Magazine published an article titled, “Through Cumberland Gap on Horseback”, written by James Lane Allen.

In the article Allen wrote of the incalculable mineral and timber resources of the tri-state region and described his impressions of the Gap where he slept beneath the shadows of the Pinnacle.

“It was late in the afternoon when our tired horses began the long, winding, rocky climb from the valley to the brow of the pass.<!–more–

“As we stood in the passageway of Cumberland Gap, amid deepening shadows of the twilight and the solemn repose of the landscape, the air grew thick with ghostly utterances – primeval sounds, undistinguishable and strange, of creatures nameless and never seen by man; the wild rush and whoops of retreating and pursuing tribes; the slow steps of watchful pioneers; the wail of dying children and the songs of homeless women; the muffled tread of routed and broken armies, all the sounds of surprise and delight, victory and defeat and hunger and pain, weariness and despair, that the human heart can utter.

“Here passed the first of all the white race who led the way into the valley of the Cumberland; here passed that small band of fearless men who gave the Gap its name; here passed the long hunters; here rushed the armies of the Civil War; here has passed the wave of westerly emigration, whose force has spent itself only on the Pacific slopes; and here in the long future must flow backward and forward wealth beyond the dream of avarice.”

Alexander Arthur read the article and within days he rode into the area by horseback on the pioneer route from Bean Station.

He recognized the vast resources available and returned to England to secure working capital. The American Association was formed.

Arthur knew a transportation network had to be built. Early in 1888, he and his subordinates contracted to have the railroad from Knoxville to Cumberland Gap laid and August 1, 1889, was set as the completion date.

Road crews worked along the 65-mile stretch and tunneling work began on both the Kentucky and Tennessee sides of Cumberland Gap. A crew comprised of hundreds of white laborers, blacks, Italians and a hodgepodge of other nationalities, were hired and began excavating beneath Cumberland Mountain.

Tents and houses were quickly put up. Stores, saloons, sawmills, blacksmiths, hotels and boarding houses were built. They prospered due to the influx of workers and it resulted in a new town that took its name from the famous pass, Cumberland Gap. Within two years a dozen other towns were spawned in the immediate area.

The year 1889 was prosperous with the tri-state area a beehive of activity. In addition to tunneling and railroad work, Middlesborough was being laid out and built.

Thousands of adventurers and seekers of fortunes came to Cumberland Gap and to Middlesborough on the opposite side of the mountain. Engineers, scientists, capitalists, historians, writers, actors, con men, gamblers – men and women in all walks of life converged on the area of new development.

The directors of the first World’s Fair considered `the valley near Cumberland Gap’ as the site. Although included in the final vote, the area of the historical pass was not selected.

When it appeared the Cumberland Mountain railroad tunnel project would fall behind schedule Arthur considered running a temporary rail line over the top and through the saddle of the Gap. This was forgotten when the 7/8’s mile tunnel was completed on time.

Arthur was on hand the night of August 8, 1889, when the crews digging from both sides of the mountain met beneath the gap. It had taken 18 months, a monumental task. The moderately new highway tunnels beneath Cumberland Mountain took much longer to complete.

In 1889 the two crews worked from opposite sides and met midway beneath the mountain, setting off a massive celebration that sent nearly everyone on a spree. Train whistles screamed and rifles and pistols shot into the air. The saloons in Middlesborough and along Cumberland Mountain in Virginia were busy with revelers.

The western tip of Lee County, Virginia, reaching up to the Pinnacle became known as Hell’s Half Acre. Drinking, gambling, carousing and debauchery were rampant. Officers couldn’t maintain order because violators would step from one state jurisdiction to another.

It was a dangerous time as highwaymen lurked along the mountain and held up and, at times, assaulted those passing by.

Crossing the gap through Hell’s Half Acre became so hazardous that few ventured across without being well armed. Many people discontinued use of the road and chose to hike through the railroad tunnel instead although several lives were lost in doing so.

The tragic financial collapse of the 1890’s brought on by the failure of the Behring Bank of England and the panic of 1893, shattered the dreams of many area promoters and businessmen. Alexander Arthur and the American Association had a pipeline to the Behring vaults and when the bank was hard hit financially the foreign investment stopped and the tri-state area began its downward spiral.

Middlesborough became a ghost city whose population shrank from 10,000 to 2,000. Half-built industrial plants were left sprawled over the area. The magnificent, newly-erected, 700-room Four Seasons Hotel in Harrogate, on the present site of Lincoln Memorial University, was razed and sold for salvage.

The importance of coal to a growing industrial system and the new railway system to and through the Cumberland Gap passageway, led to stability in the tri-state economy for awhile.

In addition to its rich history, the mountainous tri-state area of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, is one of the most beautiful in the United States.

The magnificent twin tunnels beneath Cumberland Mountain and the four-laning of Highway 25E and Highway 58 has led to a large increase in traffic through the region – signaling an era of new prosperity.

*Jadon Gibson is a free-lance writer from Harrogate, TN. His writings are both historical and nostalgic in nature and can be read regularly at Don’t miss a single posting!

Pearl Bryan didn’t deserve it! conclusion

Jadon Gibson

Alonzo Walling went on trial for the murder of Pearl Bryan on May 20, 1896, following the conviction of his accomplice Scott Jackson. Walling became Jackson’s worst enemy after they were captured, pointing out evidence sufficient to hang Jackson.

“One night a bunch of us dental students were drinking at Wallingford’s Tavern and Scott asked the group what poison would be the quickest in killing someone,” Walling told detectives. “The students mentioned three alternatives, hydrocyanic acid, prussic acid or a large dose of cocaine. He chose cocaine because he could buy it legally without a prescription and it was accessible right around the corner at Koeble’s.” Continue reading Pearl Bryan didn’t deserve it! conclusion

Pearl Bryan didn’t deserve it! part eight

Jadon Gibson

Scott Jackson and Alonzo Walling turned on each other as more evidence surfaced against them. They were both trying to save their own skin. The detectives were able to piece the case together and were sure the two were in it together. The detectives learned that Pearl’s head was thrown in the Ohio River although Louis Ross and Sam Phister, students at the Ohio Dental College, said it was commonly felt at the school that her head was thrown into one of the large furnaces at the school. Continue reading Pearl Bryan didn’t deserve it! part eight